It's safe to say that we were fairly disappointed fans last season, not just because the team went 78-84 for last in the East, but also performances from some pretty key guys were just piss-poor at best. Even with the second half surge and the outstanding numbers at the end of the season, it's safe to say that David Ortiz could've been even better than he gave (.273 with 37 homers and 108 RBI). The list goes on from just Papi, as Hanley was awful, Panda too, even Pedroia and his 93 games played disappointed us. But for these two guys, I expect to see some great improvement.
The first guy is Right-Handed Starter, Rick Porcello. Porcello posted a record of 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA.
(Maddie Meyer, Getty Images/North America)
The look of Porcello in the image above tells the entire story. If I had to describe his 2015 campaign with the Sox, it'd be disappointing. But he was pitching lights out down the stretch and really looked like he placed down some building blocks for 2016 and beyond. After the All-Star Break, Rick went 4-6 with a 3.53 ERA and was a real innings-eater as the Sox made their late surge that fell short.
But all in all, there is nowhere to go but up for Porcello next season, as he posted a career-low in wins (9) and tied a career-low in ERA (4.92). And with his borderline-dominant stretches he had, I can see him bouncing back and being a key contributor as a back-end starter for Boston. I'm not saying he wins 17, 18, 19 games, but he's won 14 before, who's to say he cannot do it again? I know I previously had him going 11-9 with a 4.26 ERA in a prior article, but I've since had a change of heart and can seriously see Porcello building off of last season and going 14-8 with a 3.84 ERA and becoming the "Most Improved Pitcher" for the Sox in 2016.
Bold Prediction: Porcello wins 16 games and has a sub-3.50 ERA and improves his worth in the Sox rotation, potentially becoming the 3 or even 2 starter.
The position player who I see having a great comeback campaign is Christian Vasquez.
(Jim Rogash, Getty Images/North America)
Playing a single game can help Christian improve on his 2015 season, as he missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery that he had last March. But 2014, offensively, wasn't that great for the young defensive stud catcher. He hit .240 with 1 homer and 33 RBI in 55 games. But give this kid 350-400 at-bats, and he will certainly improve his hitting. Even if he doesn't, who cares? He is a defensive wizard behind the dish, more so than Blake Swihart. And in a lineup where you're expecting offense from at least 7 spots, you can afford to take a chance on Vasquez JUST to keep his glove in the field.
With some extra at-bats, I see Christian Vasquez improving in every category. I see him finishing 2016 at .265 with 7 homers and 55 RBI if he plays in 120 or more games.
Bold Prediction: He hits .290 and forces the Sox to make a move where Blake Swihart is going elsewhere, leaving very serviceable Ryan Hanigan as his backup.