Reporting Dan Roche
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FORT MYERS, FL (CBS)- In Part One of our annual “State of the Sox’ preview we took a look at the Red Sox infield for 2011. In Part Two, we take a look at the outfield…
The Sox let Jason Bay go to the New York Mets following the 2009 season. Last year, they shifted Jacoby Ellsbury from center to left field while signing veteran Mike Cameron to a two-year deal to patrol center. The idea was to upgrade the defense in both places.
Maybe a good idea on paper, but it quickly fell apart due to injuries.
Ellsbury played in just 18 games due to broken ribs that never healed. Cameron gutted out 48 games with a stomach injury and had to have surgery.
So, what did Theo Epstein do for 2011? Shocked many people around the baseball world by inking free agent Carl Crawford to a 7 year, $142-million deal. Wow. The 29-year-old will be an exciting top of the line-up addition. Last season, Crawford hit .307 with 19 HRS, 90 RBI, 110 runs, 30 doubles, 13 triples, an OBP of .356, and a slugging percentage of .495. He also stole 47 bases. And, he won a Gold Glove.
Crawford will be a dynamic addition to the Red Sox line-up and will add above average defense. I would bat him third because I think he can drive in a ton of runs behind Ellsbury and Pedroia. He’s also heading that way as a player….more power and less stolen bases. It will take a lot of the wear and tear off his body which should help him over the long haul.
One of the biggest question marks for the team as they hit Spring Training. Jacoby Ellsbury had as tough a year as any ballplayer can possibly have. He was limited to 18 games due to broken ribs, an injury that lingered all season long. It led to a battle between the player and the team’s medical staff. His teammates also questioned why he wasn’t with the team more during the year.
Many people thought Theo may trade him, but he’s here. If he can secure the lead-off spot in the line-up he has a chance to score 100-120 runs while stealing 50-75 bases. He should be more comfortable back in center field as well.
With the run-prevention experiment over, Ellsbury has the chance to settle back into his lead-off spot. He has unlimited potential and if he stays healthy, he could put up All-Star numbers.
Expect the Sox to bring him along slowly all spring making sure he is 100-percent. It would be best if he has a nice quiet camp.
JD Drew is entering the final season of a 5 year, 70-million dollar contract. Perhaps the most controversial free agent deal Theo Epstein has handed out in his Sox tenure. Theo is a staunch defender of Drew. Last year though, was an off-year for the 35-year-old. His .255 batting average was his lowest since 2002. His .341 OBP was his lowest since 1999. And, his .452 slugging percentage was his lowest since 2007.
With that said, he still can put up good numbers if he can stay healthy. However, we’ve already heard hamstring before camp even began.
I am a staunch defender of Drew. He’s put up good numbers over the course of his contract. Granted, he only plays in 140 or so games, but he’s productive out of the 6-7 hole. His defense is above average, especially in hard-to-play right field at Fenway Park.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Sox fans should love Drew is the way he performs in the postseason. He had that monster grand slam in Game Six of the 2007 ALCS against Cleveland helping the Sox to win that game, series, and eventually the World Series.
My only concern with Drew is that he hit just .202 vs lefties last season. If that continues, you may see Darnell McDonald or Mike Cameron playing against LHP’s.
Darnell McDonald, Mike Cameron, Ryan Kalish, and Daniel Nava are expected to battle for two back-up outfielder jobs in 2011 for the Red Sox.
The 32-year-old McDonald was finally able to stay at the big league level for a full season. Over 117 games, McDonald was huge for the injury-depleted outfield as he hit a solid .270 with an OBP of .336 and a slugging percentage of .429. His defense was solid as well. Look for him to secure a spot.
The 38-year-old Cameron tried to play through a stomach injury, but ended up having to have surgery. He appeared in only 48 games. Biggest question is… can he stay healthy? Terry Francona loves him, so if he proves he’s ok the job should be his.
Both Nava and Kalish provided Sox fans with many thrills in their first taste of the majors. Nava’s first at-bat grand slam was one of the best moments in Sox regular season history while Kalish showed flashes of a player that could be a 30-30 guy one day down the road.
Overall — Synopsis
What was a question mark going into the 2010 season is still that in 2011, but could be a huge strength if things fall into place.
Crawford should be great in his initial Sox campaign as he knows Fenway, the AL East, and AL pitchers. There’s no reason why he can’t put up a .300 season with 15-20 HRS and 80-100 RBI, especially if he bats third in this potent line-up.
Ellsbury and Drew are question marks. If they both put up close to their average numbers then watch out. Add in McDonald, Cameron, Kalish, Nava, and perhaps JJ Reddick and you’ve got the potential for as good a 1-5 outfield as there is in the game.