BOSTON -- Yes, we still have to get through all of Spring Training, but it's never too early to project the 25-man roster the Red Sox will take to Seattle for Opening Day on March 28. The most intriguing battles for the defending World Series champions should be behind the
BOSTON -- Yes, we still have to get through all of Spring Training, but it's never too early to project the 25-man roster the Red Sox will take to Seattle for Opening Day on March 28. The most intriguing battles for the defending World Series champions should be behind the plate and in the bullpen. Here is a positional breakdown of what the roster could look like when the Sox officially begin their title defense:
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Catcher (2):Christian Vázquez, Blake Swihart
Carrying three catchers wasn't easy from a roster management purpose last year, so the Red Sox plan on going with two this year. The guess here is that Sandy Leon will be the odd man out, which would leave Vazquez and Swihart in competition for the starting spot. Leon's offense was nearly non-existent last year, and the Red Sox think that Vazquez and Swihart are still at the stage where they are improving defensively. One way Leon survives is if Vazquez or Swihart can be used as a trade chip to fill another need on the team, like a late-inning reliever.
First base (2): Mitch Moreland, Steve Pearce
The Red Sox love what they have here, which is a non-glamorous yet effective platoon made up of two professionals. Moreland will typically start against righties, with World Series Most Valuable Player Award-winner Pearce looking to continue his role of crushing lefties. Pearce proved last year he can also hit righties, so there could be occasions he will serve as the designated hitter when J.D. Martinez is in the outfield. Moreland and Pearce are both solid defenders.
Second base (1): Dustin Pedroia
Once again, Pedroia is on the comeback trail. The hope is that this comeback goes a lot better than last year, when he played just three games. The fact the Red Sox didn't sign or trade for a new second baseman indicates the club is at least cautiously optimistic Pedroia can at last put his left knee woes behind him. Pedroia has passed all his tests in the offseason, but the real test will be going through Spring Training and a Grapefruit League schedule.
Third base (1): Rafael Devers
The 22-year-old left-handed-hitting slugger could be Boston's breakout player in 2019. Devers admitted he wasn't in good enough shape last year, and it cost him stints on the injured list and led to some slumps. He finished strong -- remember the homer off Justin Verlander in the American League Championship Series clincher? -- and could be ready to take the next step in his development.
Shortstop (1): Xander Bogaerts
The Red Sox love what they have in Bogaerts, which is a solid run producer at a premium position. The only question surrounding Bogaerts is whether this will be his last season in Boston. The 26-year-old is a free agent at the end of 2019, well, unless he signs an extension before that.
Outfield (4): Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Martinez
Without question, the Red Sox have the best collection of outfielders in the game. Betts is a force in every facet of the game. Benintendi is an emerging star who stands out at the plate and in the field. Bradley's defense is superb, and he can be dangerous with the bat. Martinez, who will primarily be used as Boston's DH, is as fine an all-around hitter as there is in MLB.
Utility (2): Eduardo Núñez, Brock Holt
Nunez is a threat from the right side of the plate and can play second base, shortstop and third. A right knee injury impacted his offense last year, so be prepared for an uptick at the plate. Holt is invaluable, considering he can play every position, aside from pitcher and catcher. He also has a professional left-handed bat.
Starting pitcher (5): Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez
This group is fronted by a pair of aces in Sale and Price, while Porcello is a dependable pro and the Red Sox think Eovaldi and Rodriguez could break out this year, although Eovaldi might have already done that in the postseason last year.
Relief pitcher (7): Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Steven Wright, Tyler Thornburg, Brian Johnson, Colton Brewer
The bullpen is Boston's biggest question mark. Key setup man Joe Kelly signed with the Dodgers, and closer Craig Kimbrel remains a free agent. Barnes, Brasier and Wright could all be in competition to be the closer, or perhaps manager Alex Cora will elect to go with matchups. The Red Sox think they might have something in Brewer, a hard-throwing righty who was acquired from the Padres in November. If Brewer can improve his control, Boston thinks he could come out of nowhere much like Brasier did last year. Hector Velázquez and Brandon Workman will compete with Brewer for the final spot in the 'pen.
So this is our 25-man roster for now. Check back for updates as Spring Training evolves.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.