By: Megan Drier
The dark days of a baseball-less world are behind us, and the 2020 MLB season is here. After a long offseason following the disappointment of the 2019 Boston Red Sox, baseball is finally back at Fenway.
It’s hard to be too optimistic about a team that looks very similar to last season’s roster, minus some big names. The most notable absence is Mookie Betts, 2018 AL MVP and four-time Gold Glove right fielder, who the Sox sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a blockbuster trade this February. That same trade sent former Cy Young winner David Price to the Dodgers, a significant loss to an already shallow rotation. The offseason also saw the departure of fan-favorite Brock Holt, beloved in Boston for his work with the Jimmy Fund and hitting the first postseason cycle in MLB history to the Milwaukee Brewers.
The biggest concern going into 2020 is the pitching. In addition to losing Price, the starting rotation will also be without it’s ace Chris Sale, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March. To add COVID to injury, the Sox have had to temporarily shut down lefty pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez due to ongoing complications from his bout with the coronavirus this month, and recent acquisition Collin McHugh has decided to opt-out of the season. The absence of Sale and E-Rod leaves a rotation that was already a big question mark looking even barer.
The bullpen has several familiar faces, which would be a lot more comforting if Red Sox fans hadn’t become accustomed to blown leads by relievers last year. The Sox will likely be putting a lot of faith in Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier, with Brandon Workman as the closer. All three of these Sox veterans have had their highs and lows in recent years, but in a season so short, we better hope that they can hit a hot streak.
The key to 2020 is going to be in the offense. The lineup will need to be able to score enough per game to make up for the shaky pitching rotation, and the Red Sox have the tools to do some scoring. JD Martinez is arguably the best hitter in the order, and the most consistent. Following him in the lineup is Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, both of whom had breakout years in 2019 and have high expectations for the year ahead. Andrew Benintendi is coming off his worst season offensively and is desperate to have a breakout year. If Benny can get his bat going in that leadoff spot, the top half of the order is in tip-top shape.
The back end of the order is not looking too shabby, either. Mitch Moreland, the hottest hitter for the Red Sox last April, is looking to mimic that strong start to make a significant impact during this 60-game stretch. Christian Vazquez is coming off the best offensive season in his career by a long shot, and it would be great to see him hit at that level again in 2020. Newcomers Kevin Pillar and Jose Peraza have been off to a hot start this season going 7-for-10 combined in the season opener. Jackie Bradley Jr is another hitter off to an excellent start in 2020. JBJ has gone 5-for-8 in the first two games of the season, a good sign for a notoriously streaky batter. Add in second-year infielder Michael Chavis and outfielder Alex Verdugo, who came to Boston via the Mookie Betts deal, and you have a lineup with plenty of potential for standouts.
In a regular season, I wouldn’t necessarily bet on this Red Sox team to go too far. With a 60 game sprint and an expanded playoff, this isn’t a typical season, and truly anything can happen. All I’m going to say is: don’t let the Sox get too hot.