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It’s time to be BOLD folks! The 2021 Red Sox are basically expected to be an average to maybe above average team. Most projections put them to finish with low to mid 80’s wins and a 3rd or 4th place finish in the AL East, most likely missing the playoffs. But I say, this team has quite a long list of players that are unproven, in a new situation, or have made some changes recently that translates plenty of opportunities for players and the overall team to exceed those expectations. Let’s make some optimistic #BoldPredictions for the 2021 Red Sox.
Kiké Hernández hits above .270
This may not sound bold, considering you would hope the projected leadoff hitter would hit above .270, but Hernández is a career .240 hitter, and the last time he hit above .260 was in 2015 when he hit .307 in 76 games for the Dodgers. Alex Cora has quite a bit of faith in Kiké, as he announced early that he would be the leadoff hitter, and a successful Spring Training line of .327/.450/.592 shows that he’s more than capable of putting up a career year.
Bobby Dalbec hits 40+ HRs
This is really only bold in the sense that Dalbec just needs to hit enough to get the at bats to reach 40 Home Runs, as the power itself is not in question. Dalbec likely only needs to hit above .230 to stay in the everyday lineup, but that also depends on how the overall season is going for the Sox. If they are out of contention you may as well play the young guy to see what he can do, but in the thick of a playoff race maybe a .230 hitter is untenable in the lineup. But considering the bar is pretty low, and that Cora also worked Dalbec into the 3rd Base rotation pretty frequently in the Spring, it seems likely that Dalbec will be given a long leash to show his bat plays in the bigs.
Jarren Duran leads the team in triples
But Duran isn’t even making the Opening Day Roster! Well this is easily explained 2 ways. First of all, Jarren Duran is one of the fastest players in the MLB getting around the bases. In the minors he had 11 triples in 2018 and 8 triples in 2019, both years leading the entire Red Sox organization. Second of all, the current Sox lineup is bereft of speed. Right now the projected stolen base leader is Xander Bogaerts, who usually falls in the 10-15 range per season. So it’s likely that Duran will only need about 5 triples to lead this team, which is something he is capable of in half a season.
JD Martinez will lead the team in batting average
After a disappointing 2020, and the return of JD’s in game video review, I think JD has a full turn around season and becomes one of the best hitters in the game again. He’ll fall closer to his 2018 line of .330/.402/.629, but maybe with a little less power, focus on making solid contact and settle into the 3rd spot in the lineup.
Adam Ottavino will lead the team in saves
Well this sounded a lot bolder before Matt Barnes’s positive Covid test, but then swings back to being bold again now that Barnes is rejoining the team. So while Barnes will likely open as the closer, I think Ottavino takes the role slowly and then runs with it, putting Barnes back in the dominant setup role he thrived in in previous seasons. While Ottavino doesn’t have much experience closing out games in the bigs either, his dominance against right handed batters (.615 OPS career vs .792 OPS career vs lefties) means he’ll likely get some chances in the 9th against right handed batters. Some early success in that role could lead to a permanent role in the closers spot.
Nick Pivetta leads the team in strikeouts
Again this prediction is based on two separate factors. The first being Pivetta himself, who in 406 MLB innings averages 9.6 strikeouts per nine, an impressive feat for someone who had a 5.40 ERA in those same 406 innings. But after an impressive audition in 2 starts in 2020, and some impressive flashes during Spring Training, Pivetta will be given every chance to take the #5 starter spot and run with it. If he can continue his past strikeout performance, while cutting down on the issues that plagued him in the past he has the potential to put up solid mid-rotation numbers. The second factor is that coming off a shortened 2020 season and the overall health of the other starters on this team, who exactly is pitching enough innings to lead the team in strikeouts? Eovaldi, Richards and E-Rod all have varying past health issues that could force them to miss a chunk of starts, and while Martín Pérez will probably be counted on to make his regular turn in the rotation, he’s not a high strikeout pitcher, averaging 5.9 strikeouts per 9 innings in his career.
Martín Pérez leads the team in innings
This again is based more on health than anything else, as Pérez’s likely only competition for this is Pivetta, and while I can make the bold prediction that Pivetta puts it all together to become a solid starter, the more likely outcome is probably not as positive. Pérez has been a workhorse for most of his career, with previous season highs of 198, 185 and 165 innings, so projecting him to pitch the most in 2021 is not much of a stretch, and honestly one I hope I’m wrong about but only because the rest of the rotation is unexpectedly healthy.
Connor Seabold is in the rotation by August
Tanner Houck may be the first expected call up, and is already expected to take a turn in the first week, I think it’s Connor Seabold who will be the most impressive starting pitcher called up from the minors this season. He may have only pitched one official inning in Spring Training this year, but he struck out 2 and showed an uptick in velocity (reaching 95mph) and an impressive changeup to prove to the Sox he’s nearly MLB ready. As I stated a few times before, there are a lot of question marks health wise wit the starters, so there’s a good chance reinforcements will be necessary as we get later in the year. I think Seabold gets a chance early and runs with it, holding a solid spot in the rotation in the late summer months.
The Red Sox will have a top 10 minor league system
This will depend on when Duran gets called up, but with already acclaimed prospects like Triston Cases, Jeter Downs and Bryan Mata, possible fast risers like Duran and Gilberto Jimenez and Seabold, and the #4 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft, the Red Sox are in a position to quickly climb the charts for Farm System Rankings. The missed 2020 minor league season has thrown all prospect ranking systems out of whack, as there were no games and no real in-depth scouting of players at the Alternate Sites. So a lot of players scouting reports are out of date, Duran being a perfect example of this. While there’s rumors of improved power and small sample sizes in Winter Leagues and Spring Training, there’s no consistent statistic to point to that shows Duran has indeed improved his power potential. All these factors will lead to a drastic rise in perception of the Sox farm system, which will be another feather in the cap of Chaim Bloom, and a continuation of his reputation for building strong farm systems.
The Red Sox Finish 2nd in the division
I’d love to put 1st instead of 2nd, but there’s a difference between bold predictions and wishful thinking. While the Yankees have a couple question marks in their rotation, their lineup and back end of the bullpen are as strong as ever. That being said, the rest of the division is pretty much up for grabs. The Rays have their usual collection of youth, reclamation projects and who’s this guy’s on their roster that somehow keep chugging out 90 wins, and the Blue Jays definitely won the offseason adding George Springer and Steven Matz among others to an already impressive roster. But I honestly think the odds-makers are sleeping on this Sox team. If the veteran Sox hitters (JD, Bogaerts, Devers, Vazquez) fall back into their 2018 numbers, the young players show consistency and a little improvement (Verdugo, Dalbec, Cordero), and the new veterans respond well to new roles and a new home ballpark ( Hernández, Renfroe), this team has the potential to put up impressive offensive numbers. The question mark is the pitching, but Bloom has built quite a bit of depth behind the top 5 starters, and even recently added some depth bullpen pieces with the signings of Héctor Rondon and Tyler Olson. A few things need to break the Sox way, but it’s not unrealistic for this team to be deep in the playoff hunt when September rolls around.