Truck day has come and gone, pitchers and catchers have reported, and the Red Sox have already concluded their first full squad workout. Baseball season is upon us.
For the Red Sox, expectations are high. The Red Sox were able to add the best pitcher in the American League in Chris Sale, while also bolstering their bullpen with the addition of Tyler Thornburg. However, there are multiple question marks on this team, including a middle of the order bat and depth in the bullpen.
Here are three players that could make a huge impact on the Red Sox this season:
1. Hanley Ramirez
This kind of goes without saying, right? Hanley strutted into camp on Thursday showing off a David Ortiz shirt, and looked to be trying to take a larger leadership role in 2017. Han-Ram has the potential to replace David Ortiz' bat in the middle of the lineup, especially after what we saw from him last season. Ramirez was able to play in 147 games last season, which is the most he has suited up for since 2012. While playing a solid first base, Ramirez hit .286 with 30 home runs and 111 RBI. Since Hanley entered the league, all he has cared about is hitting, and rightfully so. When his head is on straight, Hanley has one of the best pure bats in all of baseball. In his short time at DH these past two seasons with Boston, Hanley has shown us that he can absolutely mash the ball. If Ramirez can put up similar numbers to his 2016 season, the Red Sox will be just fine.
2. Pablo Sandoval
Again, this kind of goes without saying. In 2016, the Red Sox had a slash line of 238/304/381 at third base. Since 2014, Sandoval has a slash line of 262/309/391 and 287/339/451 for his career. If Sandoval is able to simply do what he has been doing for his entire career, the Red Sox will have a massive boost at third base. And truthfully, I am cautiously optimistic about Sandoval. Sure, he was a whale last season, but he had dropped 30 pounds and looks to be in relatively good shape. Furthermore, I think the Red Sox have a lot of confidence in Pablo, as they traded both of their other options at third base in Travis Shaw and Yoan Moncada. Would the Red Sox, specifically Dave Dombrowski, take that much of a risk on a player on a team that has World Series aspirations? I have my doubts.
3. David Price
Last season, David Price wasn't even that bad. After getting a $217 million contract, Price had some lofty expectations on his shoulders that he simply could not fulfill. He has never been that ace-like #1 pitcher that dominates in every sense of the word. I think Price took the prospect of playing in Boston for granted a little and was shaken up when he realized fans actually care here, which is a little bit different than Tampa Bay. Fortunately, this year, the Red Sox aren't looking for Price to be their #1 guy. Hell, he may not even be the #2. With some smaller expectations, I think Price can have a very solid bounce-back campaign and perhaps even threaten for a Cy Young.
4. Andrew Benintendi
'Nuff said. Benny Baseball may be the biggest x-factor for the entire team. If he bats up at the top of the order, specifically in the two-hole, he provides a better righty-lefty combo and, again, eases the burden of Ortiz' departure. By all accounts, Benintendi is an absolute stud with an edge of cockiness, which this team needs with quiet star players such as Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. According to multiple prospect rankings, Benintendi is the #1 prospect in all of baseball and looks to be the next star of the MLB. If he can live up to expectations, he could be a huge contributing member to this team in 2017.
5. Drew Pomeranz
This one may come as a surprise to many. After being traded to the Red Sox in a mini-blockbuster for top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, Pomeranz was terrible in Boston. Whether it was discomfort in his throwing arm or just coming back down to reality (he had one of the lowest ERAs in all of baseball at the All-Star Break, mind you), Pomeranz had a tough end of the season. In the playoffs, we saw Pomeranz get bumped to the bullpen, where he wasn't half bad. He was able to go multiple innings and get guys out, similarly to how the Cleveland Indians use Andrew Miller. Now, it would be stupid to compare the two, but the Red Sox would be wise to keep Pomeranz in the bullpen this season. With Eduardo Rodriguez as a budding star and Steven Wright's Cy Young caliber pitching we saw in the first half of 2016, there simply isn't a place for Pomeranz in the starting rotation right now. With a few questions in the bullpen, including depth, and his experience already pitching out of the pen, Pomeranz could make a big impact, just in a different way.