I've already written about how Red Sox ownership has the right, aggressive mindset to make this team better, but I've been realizing lately that I am very excited for next year's team. This team has so much going for it in terms of prospects, players they already have and what is expected to come in what is sure to be a barnburner of an offseason that, I believe, Red Sox fans will quickly forget this year's disappointment.
Why do I feel this way? Look no further than these three reasons:
1. The team already assembled: I think the moves the front office made at the trade deadline really boosted this team's prospects for next year, particularly on offense. Yoenis Cespedes has hit .268 with a .727 OPS since the trade and has shown considerable pop in 40 games in a Red Sox uniform. He's going to be a nice cleanup hitter to have moving forward. Dustin Pedroia is going to be coming off of his worst offensive year of his career, the first time is slugging percentage has been in the .300s (.376) since 2006. The decision to shut him down and have him get surgery will ensure he is healthy for potentially a full bounceback season. The young guys in general on this team, namely Christian Vazquez, Brock Holt and Mookie Betts will learn from their first taste in the majors and build upon their experiences. Vazquez needs to improve his offense but with his defense and acumen with the pitching staff looks to be stellar as a backstop, Holt's got to get more consistent as a hitter but the flashes he's shown this year have been intriguing and Betts has come on lately to show some great hitting aptitude. Could Betts be a future 15 HR, 30-40 SB player? I think that kind of ceiling should have Sox fans salivating.
The pitching staff is promising, especially guys like Joe Kelly, Rubby De La Rosa and, yes, even the frustrating enigma known as Clay Buchholz. I'm going to reserve judgment on guys like Anthony Ranuado and Matt Barnes for now, as they're just getting a taste of the big leagues and will benefit from an entire spring training next year and will most likely be a part of the Sox long-term plans (barring a blockbuster trade). I've loved what I've seen from Kelly and think he is a solid, back-end-of-the-rotation starter. De La Rosa has impressed in spurts, but has to be more consistent. His upside is very, very high, especially in Fenway Park (3.47 ERA). Buchholz, while being absolutely atrocious for most of the year, has been stellar lately, ripping off four straight quality starts including a masterful shutout against the Rays on Aug. 31. Like it or not, I think Buchholz's future is still as a No. 3 or 4 starter on this team, but he is definitely a project to watch moving forward.
2. The Pawtucket Red Sox: In case you missed it, the PawSox won the Governor's Cup for the second time in three years, being crowned as the best in the International League. What does this mean for the big club? It means that, if you're a Red Sox fan, you should be pumped to see these young kids come up because they know how to win and the AAA team is loaded with talent. By now, you've heard of Rusney Castillo, the speedy Cuban outfielder who was signed to big money. Castillo has impressed enough to rise through the Sox minor league system and just recently made it to the PawSox and helped lift them to this title. Fans might see him at Fenway before the year is over. The 27-year-old is the centerfielder of the future. Bryce Brentz has shown a bit of power (12 HR) at the AAA level and is a player to watch as far as an outfield piece the Sox could use (even though they have a lot of options in the outfield, but we'll see how that shakes out).
But the guy I'm most excited to see in the bigs is Henry Owens, the 6-foot-6 lefty who has been crushing it between AA Portland and Pawtucket this season, amassing a 2.94 ERA in 26 starts, including three CGs and two shutouts. All the reports about this kid has me excited. Rich Sauveur, a PawSox pitching coach, raves about the 22-year-old, saying he could be a top of the rotation starter for the big club. He's that good. Eastern League managers said he possessed the best changeup and best breaking pitch in that league when he played for Portland this season. He seems legit, and I expect him to lock down a spot in the Sox rotation next season.
3. The upcoming spending spree: Tom Werner was on Dennis & Callahan last week and said this: “I wouldn’t say that we have limitless money, but we’ve got a lot of money to spend and we’re determined to go into the free-agent market and improve the team." Well, I guess the Red Sox's frugal ways of last season's championship will be thrown to the side this upcoming offseason. It looks like the Red Sox are looking to spend some big bucks, and we all know where it's going: Starting pitching. I expect the team to go hard after two ace-quality pitchers for the top of the rotation and I'm going to predict right now those two pitchers will be Jon Lester and James Shields. I'd be surprised if the Sox went after any big-name position players. I think landing Cespedes and checking out what they have in the younger guys made the front office feel good with the offense the way it is without going hard after any big piece. There will probably be minor tweaks, but nothing major. We'll see if the team goes hard after Giancarlo Stanton, although I feel all of that speculation is simply fan-riven, especially considering the price tag he will command and the fact he just got drilled in the face by a pitch and any fallout from that. But I think the Sox are going to put up big money for not one, but two big-name pitchers this offseason.
It's a long, long offseason that's about to begin, Red Sox fans. The front office needs to take a long, hard look at this team and decide where it needs to be tweaked. But I gotta say, I'm excited about what's to come.
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