FORT MYERS, FL. (CBS) – As Spring Training gets underway down in Fenway South let’s take a look at each roster spot and the one question that goes with it as we get ready for the 2016 Red Sox season.
We’ll start with the pitching rotation and bullpen:
1. David Price – Can the 5-time All-Star and 2012 Cy Young award winner live up to his – year, $217-million contract? The 30-year-old has made 30-plus starts in 5 of the last 6 years and his numbers last year: 32 GS 18-5, 2.45 ERA, 220.1 IP 225 K show no signs of him slowing down.
2. Clay Buchholz – This question has been asked over and over again: can Clay Buchholz reach 200 innings as a starter? Clay has “ace” stuff and showed he has toughness by gutting through a must-win start in the 2013 World Series. However, 189 innings is the most he’s registered (2012) in his 9-year big league career. He’s thrown 170-plus twice. At 31, it seems unlikely he’ll be able to do it again. The solution? Plan accordingly. When he’s on, he can be lights out. Hard to find these guys. So, if you’re Dave Dombrowski and Mike Hazen you simply get ready for 2016 knowing you’ll need to fill the number two spot with 180 innings from Clay and someone else. Also, realize that this won’t be a Pedro-Schilling-Lowe-Wakefield-Arroyo 2004 year. You’ll need at least six starters.
3. Rick Porcello – Can the number three starter make 25-to-30 starts and win 10-to-15 games? After being handed a monster extension, the 27-year-old Porcello made 28 starts and was a disappointing 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA. He had a first half of 5-9 with a 5.90 ERA and was better in the second half at 4-6 with a 3.53 ERA. However, he has to be better.
4. Eduardo Rodriguez – Can E-Rod repeat or better his 2015 rookie season? He turns 23 the first week of April and his head seems to be in the right place. His 2015 was solid: 21 games started, 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA. 121.2 innings pitched while allowing 120 his with 37 walks, 98 strikeouts and a 2.5 WAR. Solid numbers, but year two will be harder as teams will have a beat on him.
5. Joe Kelly – Will he remain a starter or will he eventually become a part of the bullpen? Has he figured things out? Kelly started the season 2-6, but finished 8-0 over his final 9 starts in August and September. He’s got the stuff, but hasn’t shown the consistency to be a reliable starter. If he can’t, he may be on his way to the bullpen.
6. Craig Kimbrel – Over his first 5 full seasons in the bigs, Kimbrel has averaged 45 saves and has been an All-Star 4 times. Can he come to a major market and continue that success? The Sox gave up a bundle of very good prospects to get the 27-year-old from San Diego which gives you an indication that they feel nothing but confidence that he will be great here too.
7. Koji Uehara – Can Uehara handle the set-up role in his age 41 season while coming off a major injury? He’s notched 72 saves, great numbers, and a World Series title in his three years in a Boston uniform. He didn’t pitch after August 7th due to a broken right wrist last season, so you have to be concerned. However, on paper, he should slide into that set-up role behind Kimbrel quite nicely, unless age catches up to him.
8. Carson Smith – Can Smith grab the 7th-8th inning role and put up the type of numbers he did last year in Seattle? The Texan was mighty impressive in 2015 with the Mariners as he notched 92 strikeouts in 70 innings of work. The Sox gave up Wade Mikey to get him, but they obviously like him a lot. Could be an under-the-radar pick up.
9. Junichi Tazawa – Will the innings he’s logged catch up to him this year? He’s averaged nearly 70 appearances in each of the past 3 seasons. Eventually it catches up to any reliever. If he can maintain what he’s done then he’s another valuable weapon in the 6th-7th-8th inning role.
10. Robbie Ross, Jr. – Can he duplicate his 2015? Ross ended up having a good first season in Boston. Had some rough patches, but settled down to finish with a 3.86 ERA. Will be the top lefty out of the pen.
11. Tommy Layne – Can he be consistent enough to remain up in Boston all season? Was inconsistent last season, having a real good May and July, but struggling in other months, particularly in the second half. John Farrell must find the right spots for him.
12. Steven Wright – Can he be the jack-of-all-trades type of pitcher the Sox would love to have? Wright was 5-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 2015. He started 9 games and will take the all any time any place. He’s thrilled to be in Boston and the Sox love having him. If he can sustain some consistency, he would be a huge help.