Ok, here is Part II of my Red Sox 2010 Preview, position by position. Today, we are going to look at the outfield, DH, and bench. So, let's get it going.
LF - Jacoby Ellsbury
So, Ellsbury moved from center to right this year to supposedly give him less wear and tear on his body. Yeah, probably this is more likely in that Ellsbury just had a very poor year defensively in center last year. Now, this is generally assumed to be correct. UZR shows him as being poor in center, but excellent in left (albeit in a very small sample size). I am of the belief that instincts can come to you better the more you play if you work at it. So, I think Ells would have been much better this year defensively. However, Cameron IS a great defensive center fielder already. Can't really complain about that in truth. But make no mistake, this was done more for defensive purposes than anything else. Anyways, his defense should definitely be a nice step up from Jason Bay, who really has no defensive instincts whatsoever. So, that won't be an issue. Offensively, projections have him hitting about where he was last year, maybe a shade higher. It comes down to about a .360/.415/.775 line or so. I like the uptick on his OBP and tend to agree with that. I also think he may just have a slight bump in his SLG from that .415 number. Just natural increase as he gets older. BABIP looks fine for him. He generally has a high BABIP which makes sense with his speed. I don't see that changing too much. So, maybe more of a .360/.425/.785 line is where I am pegging him. That would be an extremely good lead off hitter when you add in his speed. It should be a solid year for him. And maybe, just maybe, he really breaks out and goes nuts. I can see that happening (but am not predicting it as I don't like to do that).
CF - Mike Cameron
Lots of variation among the projections Mike Cameron. Bill James and Marcel have him in the .760 OPS area, while CHONE thinks he is going to age and age hard. I tend to believe that he will end up more lilke the former projections. I see a .325/.430/.755 line from Cameron this year. Lots of K's, a few walks, some homeruns. But, the guy IS 37 years old. You can't ignore that. Oh while we are talking about projections, the "Fans" projection on fangraphs has him showing at .336/.461/.797. That is funny. I don't see that happening. I would LOVE for it to happen, but I find it unlikely. Anyway, the offense isn't what bought a two-year deal for Cameron. That would be his defense. Why that gets a two-year deal for a 37-year-old is beyond me, but hey, they can afford it. He will make his money with that glove and I will be happy about that.
RF - JD Drew
Oh, the man that radio talk shows love to hate and internet web sites love to love. Drew had a really, really good year last year. I mean, seriously good year. Look really close at the numbers. A .392/.522/.914 line is fantastic for a right fielder with really good defense and baserunning. He played in 137 games as well which is good enough for me as well. He is what he is and what he is a good baseball player. So, how will he do this year? That is the question. Projections, much like Cameron are across the board. None are bad, but all are varying degrees of good. It averages out to a .375/.465/.840 line. If Drew stays healthy for the majority of the season (that would be 130 games or so), then this is a good line to me. I think he could hit better than this in fact. He has the ability. When he has been healthy he has almost always been better than that actually. Therefore, I think he will be in the range of a .380/.480/.860 line. Probably a few less RBI than last year. Probably a few less HRs. Basically we will get another quality JD Drew season. Can you ask for anything more?
DH - David Ortiz
Now comes the real challenge of the lineup. Papi had an awful first two months last year as has been very well documented. We all know it. The question remains, will he have that same issue this year? Will it last all year? Is he done? These are the questions that the Red Sox season really hinge upon. If Papi is good and hitting strong (and he doesn't need to be Herculean as he was in the past), then this Sox team should make some serious noise. If he doesn't, then playoffs are a real long shot in this tough division. Projections show Papi at about .365/.490/.855. If those numbers actualize, then watch out American League. That will be the start to a really strong season for this Red Sox team. I tend to think he will hit this with a bit more platooning (Mike Lowell, can you hear me now?). Give him more time off against lefties and put in a nice righty who can kill lefties (Yup, still paging Mike Lowell) and this will be a ridiculous position. I think that that is what will end up happening in truth. I do not think Papi is done. But, I know he isn't superman anymore. He is an aging power hitter who will have one more nice year.
Ok, the bench should be interesting. Bill Hall, Jason Varitek, Jeremy Hermida, and Mike Lowell comprise the bench for now. This could all change if Lowell is traded. At that point, maybe someone is signed off of free agency? I can't imagine that they will call someone up from the minors. I believe the intent is to put Lowrie at Pawtucket to start the year where he can play full time. But, anyway, back to the talk of the projected bench (as I do not think that they will end up trading Lowell right away if at all). This is a very solid bench. It is a bit of a problem that Hermida isn't a right handed bat, but he is definitely a decent to potentially very good hitter. If anyone gets hurt, he is more than capable of handling the full time role. Hall is a great back-up for all around, especially if he can handle shortstop. That really is the question. He hasn't played there in three years or so, but if he can play that position, the Sox are good. Hall also is the guy who hit 30 HR's three seasons ago. He has potential to hit the ball VERY well. Varitek, as I outlined a bit in the catcher position, should get some decent time behind the plate. I expect maybe 60 starts for him there. That will keep him fresh and his bat should stay in play nicely. Lowell, well, if he is on this team, it is a good thing in my opinion. He may not be too happy, but I cannot imagine he would make too big of a stink about it. That just doesn't seem like him. I hope it isn't. If it is, well, then that IS a problem. But, for now, it has to be hoped that he can handle 300 ABs or so this year because I think that that is about where he will finish between filling in at 3B, 1B, DH, and pinch-hitting. So, all in all a pretty nice bench. One of the strongest the team has had in a while in truth. Not much speed, but during the regular season, a bat is preferred over the speed. That can be found towards the end of the season (see Dave Roberts).
Ok, that finishes up part II of the preview. Part III will include the pitching staff, starters as well as bullpen.