The Boston Red Sox have plenty to prove heading into a new season.

They are looking to climb out of the cellar of the American League East, a place the Red Sox resided each of the last two seasons. In order for that to happen in an ultra-competitive division, Boston will need a few players to step up and turn in breakout seasons.

That’s obviously easier said than done, but some players seem primed to accomplish just that. Here are four candidates who could have a breakout 2024 campaign on the horizon:

Brayan Bello
Bello enters the season as the ace of Boston’s starting rotation with the Red Sox handing the 24-year-old right-hander the ball on Opening Day against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday. Bello’s gone through the expected ups and downs young pitchers endure in his two first seasons with the Red Sox, which encompassed 39 starts.

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That was a good learning experience for Bello, who flashed dominance on the mound at points. Over a five-start period in the middle of June last season, Bello showed his potential by pitching seven innings in four of those outings and holding the opposition to a .186 batting average. He also posted a 1.82 ERA over that stretch.

Being more consistent will help Bello take the next step and solidify him as Boston’s go-to pitcher.

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Trevor Story
Story is already an accomplished big leaguer, but the 31-year-old shortstop has yet to show his All-Star form since signing with the Red Sox prior to the 2022 season. Injuries have mostly gotten in Story’s way with Boston.

Story batted .238 with 16 home runs and 66 RBIs in his first season with the Red Sox and then only played 43 games last year as he spent the majority of the campaign recovering from an internal bracing procedure in his right elbow.

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But an offseason where he was fully healthy could pay big dividends for Story. He looks more like himself in the batter’s box this spring — he’s hit .375 with three homers and 14 RBIs — and the impact his glove can make in the middle of the diamond shouldn’t be discredited, especially after the defensive woes the Red Sox went through in 2023.

Garrett Whitlock
Whitlock already had a breakout season with the Red Sox as a reliever. Now, it’s time for him to do it as a starter.

The right-hander’s struggles as a starter are well-documented with Whitlock posting a 5-4 record with a 4.76 ERA in 19 career starts. Whitlock’s ERA as a reliever is two runs lower.

It wasn’t a guarantee that Whitlock was going to be in the starting rotation this season, but Lucas Giolito’s injury plus some strong performances this spring helped the 27-year-old secure a spot in the back end. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Whitlock puts it all together this season since he’s already had success, albeit in a different role, at the MLB level and becomes one of Boston’s more reliable arms in the rotation.

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Ceddanne Rafaela
While Rafaela earned a big league roster spot, it’s unclear exactly what his role will be when things get started for real since the Red Sox have a logjam in the outfield. But given his dynamic skillset, Rafaela sure will put the pressure on manager Alex Cora to put him in the lineup on a consistent basis.

Rafaela, who is ranked as the fourth-best Red Sox prospect by MLB Pipeline, has an exceptional glove that comes with defensive versatility as he can play both in the outfield and middle infield. The 23-year-old possesses plenty of speed, too, which could make a difference on the base paths. And then despite his slender frame, Rafaela showed pop in his bat with three homers this spring.

Rafaela appeared in 28 games for the Red Sox last season, batting .243 with two homers, five RBIs and three stolen bases. With a larger role this season and being with the Red Sox from the start, Rafaela could make a much bigger impact.

Featured image via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images