The Boston Red Sox are coming off of back to back last place finishes that have been full of disappointment. Veterans underperforming, young guys not living up to their full potential, managerial conflicts with other players, the list goes on and on. But for these three guys I'm about to list, 2016 is certainly an important one. It certainly is "Make or Break" time.
1. Jackie Bradley Jr. (.213 average with 14 home runs and 83 RBI in parts of 3 seasons)
Jackie Bradley has, without a doubt, one of the best gloves in baseball. There isn't a single fly ball that I don't think he can get to if hit in his general direction. His first step is outstanding, his eyes are great, and he's quick to the ball. However, his nonchalant play style could bite him in the butt as he goes for a lot of over the shoulder, basket-style catches. We haven't seen that so far, but it could happen. Also, the bat hasn't gotten there yet. While we caught glimpses of it last year, JBJ still isn't a consistent hitter. But boy when he catches fire, he's a very exciting player to watch. Jackie finished last season with a .249 batting average (in a more impressive fashion than Hanley's), upping that from his .198 in 2014 and his .189 from 2013. Entering his fourth year, Jackie seems to have solidified himself a spot come Opening Day, but if the offense doesn't come around, 2016 could be his last season in Boston.
2. Xander Bogaerts (.281 average with 20 home runs and 132 RBI in parts of 3 seasons)
After an impressive showing in 2013, where he came up huge at times in the playoffs, Xander's production took a huge decline in 2014. He posted a .240 average with 12 homers and 46 RBI. His production, then, skyrocketed in 2015 where he barely missed the All-Star Game and finished with a .320 average with 7 homers and 81 RBI. It isn't as big of a year as it is for other guys, but Xander needs some consistency in his game to just prove whether or not he's legit.
3. Rusney Castillo (.262 average with 7 home runs and 35 RBI in parts of 2 seasons)
Rusney Castillo will be entering year 3 of a 7-yr/$72.5 million contract and has yet to prove to me that he's ready to play major league baseball. He's shown glimpses of power, speed, and fielding, but he's just not been that great. His plate vision is weak, his baserunning intelligence is also quite low and he gets caught stealing/picked off WAY too much for a guy with his speed. Not to mention that he often takes the worst route imaginable to catch a fly ball.
Rusney is just one of those guys that I hope works out because he's getting paid a good amount of money. He's been a AAAA player at best (too good for the minors, not good enough for the bigs). Get him a good coach to help him work on discipline and he could amount to something special. But if he doesn't perform in 2016, I could certainly see him being dealt next offseason if not at the July 31st deadline.