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Life After Big Papi: A Look Towards 2017

The Red Sox are in the middle of a pennant race and after a sweep of the Diamondbacks, it appears that they are back on the right track.  Obviously, the focus right now is on the 2016 Red Sox and their chances to make a run this postseason.  Offensively, they have what it takes.  The big question is whether or not their pitching can hold up especially in the bullpen after the implosion against the Yankees last week.  Before the season started, most Red Sox fans believed that a postseason birth would equate to a successful season after two last place finishes.  They’re in position to do that despite their mediocre play since June 1st.  With all of that said, it’s never too early to take a look ahead at what the future will bring.  Next year could be even better than this one!

Now, most fans would wonder how a team that is losing David Ortiz could actually be better the following season.  Big Papi has been a top five power hitter in baseball once again.  Ortiz has 26 home runs and 90 RBI this season.  He also leads all of MLB with a 1.018 OPS.  No one player can replace David Ortiz.  It’s been rumored that the Red Sox may go after Edwin Encarnacion.  He has 33 home runs and 97 RBI this year.  His production is certainly there.  However, are the Red Sox really going to want to sign him to a long-term deal considering he will be 34 by the time the 2017 season starts?  Don’t count on it.  The Red Sox don’t need to bring in a high-priced bat to replace Ortiz.  They have talent both at the big league and minor league level and the overall production of the offense will continue to improve as the Red Sox young players continue to develop.

Consider this:  Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are both 23 years old.  Their production has improved in each of the past two seasons.  Betts is a lead AL MVP candidate.  Add Jackie Bradley who is putting up solid production with 18 home runs and 65 RBI.  It would be realistic to expect all three players to continue to improve considering their age and experience.  All three of them started the All Star Game this year and they haven’t even reached their prime years yet.  OK, so that’s just three players.  What about the rest of the team?

 

 

Chances are that both Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada will be starters for the Red Sox next year.  Benintendi appears to be the real deal.  While two weeks is a small sample size, the talent is certainly there.  Surely, the Red Sox can expect better production from Bentintendi next year than they received from the combination of Brock Holt, Chris Young, Blake Swihart, and Bryce Brentz this year.  Moncada is going to working at third base for the rest of the season.  He’s regarded by many experts as the #1 prospect in all of baseball.  He’s going to be a good candidate for a September call up when the rosters expand.  He could have the same opportunity that Benintendi is getting this year if Travis Shaw continues to struggle.

You could make the argument that the Red Sox may not get the same production from Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez next year.  While they’re both getting older, they’re not showing any signs of slowing down right now.  With Pedroia, it’s always a matter of whether or not he can stay healthy.  This year, he has and is hitting .307 and he’s fourth in the AL with 140 hits.  Ramirez has had an up and down season, but he’s on pace for 22 home runs and 99 RBI this year.  Hanley will be in the starting lineup next year.  The only question is whether he will play first base or DH.  A lot will depend on the Moncada/Shaw situation there.  Oh yeah, don’t forget about Pablo Sandoval.  He’ll likely be back.  It’s very unlikely he’ll be moved with his contract.  He’ll be in the mix somewhere at third or DH.

The catching situation will be interesting.  Christian Vazquez was tagged as the catcher of the future.  Now he’s in AAA as Sandy Leon is hitting like Carlton Fisk.  Is this going to last?  Certainly not at this rate, but maybe Leon can be an every day catcher.  If that happens, what do the Sox do with Vazquez and Blake Swihart?  It’s good to have options and this team certainly has them.  They will have the ability to make some trades for some pitching.

 

Here’s a look at what the Red Sox starting lineup may look like in 2017:

  1. Dustin Pedroia 2B
  2. Xander Bogaerts SS
  3. Mookie Betts RF
  4. Hanley Ramirez DH
  5. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
  6. Travis Shaw 1B
  7. Sandy Leon C
  8. Andrew Benintendi LF
  9. Yoan Moncada 3B

Bench: Brock Holt, Pablo Sandoval, Chris Young, Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart

 

How about the pitching?  Surely, David Price has to be better next year than he has been this year.  Perhaps, he just needed a year to adjust.  If the Red Sox get a healthy Eduardo Rodriguez to go along with Rick Porcello and Steven Wright, their rotation could be very good.  In the bullpen, the Sox could get Carson Smith back to solidify the set up role with Craig Kimbrel at the back end.

In summary, the Red Sox won’t need to make any big changes to their starting lineup this offseason.  The talent is there.  The focus this offseason should be on pitching.  They may be able to use some of their talent in trades to improve the bullpen and potentially add another elite starting pitcher.  Is Chris Sale still not he table?

David Ortiz will be missed.  There’s been no player that has even made a bigger impact on the Red Sox.  However, the Red Sox are set up for many years with a lot of young talent.  This year could be just the start of some great times at Fenway…even if it’s without Big Papi.

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