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Answering Questions on the 2015 Red Sox

Daniel Shoptaw, of Cardinals Conclave, does a yearly series he calls "Playing Pepper". He poses a few questions to bloggers of specific teams on the upcoming season. For the second year in a row, I was one of the Red Sox bloggers who participated. Here is our question and answer section:

C70: What are your thoughts on the team’s off-season? Did they do what they needed to do?
PP: I think the Red Sox offseason was a success and a case can be made that they had the best offseason of any team in the majors. Their major needs were offensive and they addressed that, especially in the outfield. Hanley Ramirez is that right handed power bat that they need,Rusney Castillo has looked impressive and all indications point to him being a regular All Star caliber type of player. Third base was also an issue last year and the Red Sox filled that hole with Pablo Sandoval. I think Pablo is a very good player who landed a superstar contract. My fear is that he will try to live up to that contract instead of just playing his game. Carl Crawford tried to become a home run hitter in Boston because he felt his contract required that. That is always the concern when a player leaves his original organization for the first time and signs a contract that is bigger than what his numbers justify.
The Sox added depth to their pitching staff and this actually started last season during their fire sale. However, the Red Sox will go into the season without a true ace. This is uncharted waters for this organization.This is the first season since 1997 that the Red Sox don’t have that #1 guy in the rotation. The Red Sox did add depth in their rotation. Rick PorcelloWade Miley and Justin Masterson are all quality pieces. I think this bodes well for a successful regular season. I do think you need that ace for the postseason though. It will be interesting to see if the Sox go out and get one before the trading deadline if they appear to be postseason bound.
C70: What do you expect out of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig this season?
PP: Joe Kelly is slated as the #5 guy in the rotation and I think he is going to excel there. I don’t think many teams have a guy with Kelly’s abilities at the bottom of their rotation. The issue will be his durability. He has yet to throw more than 124 innings in a season.
Allen Craig is a man without a spot right now. The outfield is loaded. Hanley Ramirez is slated for LF. Rusney Castillo is slated for CF and then you will have a battle in RF between a very motivated veteran in a contract year in Shane Victorino and the future in Mookie Betts. Unless there are a ton of injuries I don’t see Craig getting any significant time in the outfield. Then there is first base, Mike Napoli is the starter and I think Napoli is due for a big year. He has battled sleep apnea for year and it was so bad last year that he would have to be taken out of games because he was so fatigued. He had major surgery in the offseason to correct the structure of his face which will allow him to get quality sleep. All reports are that the surgery was a success and he feels like a new man. Craig appears to be on the outside looking in.
C70: Has it been tough following the roller-coaster of this team over the past few years?
PP: A World Series title sandwiched between two last place teams has definitely been different. Even though the 2012 and 2014 teams finished in last place and had horrible seasons they had very different vibes about them. It was embarrassing and depressing being a Red Sox fan in 2012. The Sox just came off one of the worst collapses in baseball history, Theo Epstein bolted for the Cubs, Francona was “fired” and then personal information about him was leaked by the organization, Bobby Valentine was the manager. The confidence in the organization was real low. The baseball people weren’t running the team anymore. It was a clown show. 2012 played out just like everyone feared. It was awful to watch. The 2014 team just had a bad year. Everything that went right in 2013, went wrong in 2014. They couldn’t stay healthy, guys who had great years in 2013, struggled in 2014. The Sox went with a youth movement and it didn’t work out. The offense was anemic and clearly they weren’t a great team. Despite that, you still had the glow of the 2013 team and you felt the future was bright. It is not a model that teams are going to sign up to follow, but the two last place finishes have enabled the Red Sox to build up depth in their organization. Eduardo Rodriguez is a left handed pitcher in their organization, he is rated as the 3rd best in the organization and 29th best in all of baseball. He is projected as a top of the rotation type of guy in the very near future. The Red Sox acquired him last year from the Orioles for Andrew Miller. The Red Sox don’t make that trade if they are having a great season. That was just one move of many. Is it tough? Going through it is tough, but the Red Sox are in better shape now because of those two last place teams.
C70: What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?
PP: The obvious pick is Mookie Betts just like Xander Bogaerts was last year. That didn’t work out too well. I am going to go away from the obvious and pick Rick Porcello. It will be interesting to see if he gets the Opening Day start. He is the de facto ace and I think that he may just embrace that role and finally find the consistency he has been lacking so far in his young career. The talent is definitely there.
C70: What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
PP: I think the Red Sox win 90 games and win the AL East. The AL East is not bad but it isn’t great either.. There is not a bad team in the division but there isn't a great one.  I think the Red Sox will be good and are built for the regular season. They have question marks like all teams but I think they have less questions than the rest of the teams in the AL East.
C70: What do you like best about being a Red Sox fan?
PP: The importance of the Red Sox is what I like most about being a Red Sox fan. Every game is an event, every transaction is analyzed to death. It is like 162 straight Saturday afternoons in the world of SEC Football.

You can check out the rest of the Red Sox bloggers and their answers to their questions here.

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