Spring Training is right around the corner! Here are a few potential Red Sox breakout candidates.
It’s been nothing but speculation and chaos surrounding the Boston Red Sox since the turn of the new year. Whether it be sign stealing, the termination of Alex Cora, and trade rumors swirling around Mookie Betts and David Price – it’s nearly time for Spring Training.
After a downward turn in 2019, the Red Sox will be looking for a couple of breakout candidates to help support a postseason run this season. As opposed to others, this breakdown won’t focus on the simple Chris Sale or Betts picks, but rather a few players that may be underlying keys to moving the organization forward this season.
Reliever / Closer – Darwinzon Hernandez
Hernandez has all the potential in the world to become a swing-and-miss starting pitcher, or a future closer that stymies the opposition. After being groomed within the rotation, the Red Sox made the internal decision to move him to the bullpen with the intentions of becoming that elite reliever they so desperately need. Last season, Hernandez posted a 3.95 ERA out of the bullpen while striking out a staggering 51 in 27.1 innings.
In 2020, Hernandez has a breakout campaign because he’s able to limit his walks and finds more consistency while on the mound. Despite a solid K/9, he walked 21 batters within the same time frame – a stat that infuriates managers as well as spectators. If Darwinzon is able to limit those numbers, he has all the ability to grow into a vital piece of the Red Sox bullpen and even inherit the closer role if Brandon Workman falters.
Third Baseman – Rafael Devers
I know, I know, I mentioned there would be no simple picks, and while Devers had a breakout season last year, this is the pure intention of stating that Rafael Devers is going to be a legitimate American League MVP candidate next season. It’s not yet clear whether or not the Red Sox will be with Mookie Betts in 2020 which may leave a huge void in the heart of Sox order to support J.D. Martinez. Following a season in which he hit 31 HR’s, drove in 115 RBI’s, and hit .311, the club will need more of the same out of their budding star.
In order for Rafael Devers to emerge as an MVP candidate, he’ll need to continue to sure up his defense (and their metrics), and continue to progress. He cut down on his K Rate from 2018 to 2019 (24.7% to 17%) and was able to stay more disciplined at the plate. If he continues to progress, Devers will continue to be a mainstay within the organization for a long, long time.
First Baseman / DH – Bobby Dalbec
If you haven’t heard of the Boston Red Sox top prospect yet, you’ll learn in 2020. Dalbec possesses all of the tools to become a feared, middle of the lineup presence to provide support to J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers. After much of the offseason was spent talking about the ability for him to reign in the first baseman’s job, it’s become more clear that the Red Sox will begin the season with some form of platoon of Michael Chavis and, the recently signed, Mitch Moreland.
At this point, Dalbec has the opportunity to make the Opening Day roster with a strong showing in Spring Training as the lack of an everyday second baseman still exists on the current roster. He’ll have the potential to blossom into the role that the Sox had hoped Sam Travis would, or will remain one injury away from a seeing significant time with the big league club. In order for Dalbec to make this leap, he’ll need to hit for average as he combined to hit only .239 access AA and AAA last season and continue to flex the power numbers that he’s posted throughout the minors – 59 HR’s over the last two seasons.
At the bare minimum, Dalbec has the potential to produce a similar spark that Michael Chavis did last season.