February 26, 2019

Street & Smith's 2019 Preview: Red Sox Are "The Best Team in The Land"

Street & Smith's 2019 Baseball Preview

AL East
Red Sox
Blue Jays

Red Sox: "After winning 108 games and cruising through the postseason, the Red Sox are the best team in the land. They should be a playoff force again."

Yankees: "Making consecutive playoff appearances is good for most teams, but not the Yankees. Not after seeing the Red Sox win another World Series. It's another title-or-bust year for the Bronx Bombers."

I want to note that one of the magazine's articles is about the diminishing workload of starting pitchers. It's titled "Progress or Pansies?" I'm surprised that no one at Street & Smith's objected to that offensive title – or if someone did, that concern was ignored. The article itself contains no homophobic slurs.

ALWC: Yankees over Twins
NLWC: Nationals over Brewers
ALDS: Red Sox over Cleveland; Astros over Yankees
NLDS: Atlanta over Nationals; Cardinals over Dodgers
ALCS: Astros over Red Sox
NLCS: Atlanta over Cardinals
World Series: Astros over Atlanta

AL MVP: Mike Trout
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole
NL Cy Young: Aaron Nola
AL Rookie: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
NL Rookie: Victor Robles, Nationals
AL Manager: Rocco Baldelli, Twins
NL Manager: Craig Counsell, Brewers

Red Sox:
Using hindsight, it's a fairly simple conclusion that the Boston Red Sox should have been the 2018 World Series champions.

They won a franchise-best 108 games and clinched the brutal American League East crown for the third straight season. They stormed through the playoffs, losing one games in each of their three series to capture their fourth World Series title in 14 years. ...

The good news for the Red Sox is most of their key players return, including one of the best outfields in baseball: a trio of 20-something talent ... [Mookie] Betts is the superstar; he's only 26 and is 1-A behind only L.A. Angles outfielder Mike Trout in the conversation for baseball's best all-around player. ...

[J.D.] Martinez was almost like another hitting coach for Boston, and his work ethic and knowledge of the game was instrumental in the club's graduation from a really good team to a great one. ...

The rotation, which posted a 3.77 mark, fourth in the A.L., remains together and is potentially dominating if Boston gets a full season from ace Chris Sale, who was limited to 27 starts due to injury. ...

The only question mark for the Red Sox, from a talent perspective, is how the bullpen takes form as closer Craig Kimbrel tested free agency and setup man Joe Kelly, who thrived in the playoffs, left for a three-year deal with the Dodgers.

But with plenty of cash and cachet, the Red Sox should be in position to make another long run in the 2019 postseason.

Bottom Line: The Red Sox did what they were supposed to do in 2018 and there's no reason they can't again in 2019. Their veterans, especially in the rotation, must stay healthy, but the offense and defense are stocked, and ownership has been willing to acquire any missing pieces in July.

Scout's View: "I'm extremely impressed with Alex Cora. He's a lot smarter than I thought he was. He's genuine and he built a relationship with players from Day One and he carried it through. This team's not a fluke. ... David Price went back to the basics and figured out things. He knew he had to get a better angle to his fastball and to use his changeup more. He reinvented himself, but he always had the right pieces. ... I'm so happy for Steve Pearce. Wasn't a high pick, continually grinds it out. .. I like Rafael Devers. He's got a chance to be an impactful bat."
The reality that blanketed the 2018 New York Yankees is that they simply weren't good enough. ...

The Yankees didn't get to the World Series. And the Boston Red Sox won it. Those are the only facts that matter in the Bronx. ...

[T]he Yankees immediately fired a salvo at the rest of the American League early in the offseason by trading for Seattle Mariners lefty James Paxton in mid-November. ... The price [three prospects, including lefthanded starter Justus Sheffield] will be worth it if Paxton can avoid injury and tap his immense potential. Staying healthy has been his primary hurdle. ...

The Yankees' rotation was the club's weakest link – and now it is again a strength with the acquisition of Paxton and the re-signing of [J.A.] Happ and CC Sabathia to join righthanders Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. With one of the most formidable bullpens in baseball ... the starters only have to get through five or six innings to have a chance to win.

Especially if New York's offense recreates what it did in 2018. Led by stars such as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees topped the majors with 267 homers and scored more runs (851) than any other cub besides the Red Sox. ...

Didi Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow [in October] and is lost until roughly midseason. .. But the club's offense shouldn't suffer much, especially if middle infielder Gleyber Torres and third baseman Miguel Andujar ... take the next step, and catcher Gary Sanchez rebounds from what was basically a lost season [.186 average] ...

There is some concern about Andujar's defense at third and whether Torres can handle shortstop every day if needed ... but Boone's most difficult task may be finding playing time for so much talent. ...

Although they have dealt away some key prospects recently, the organizational cupboard is far from bare, and [GM Brian] Cashman isn't afraid to use youngsters as trade chips.

Bottom line: The Yankees are among the most balanced and talented teams in baseball. Unfortunately, they are in the same division with the defending champion. So, theoretically, they'll have to be even better in 2019 if they want to win the division and have an easier road to the World Series, where Yankee fans believe their team should be every year.

Scout's View: "The upside in pitching makes this team so dangerous. Paxton, Severino and Tanaka give you three different looks, all with potentially dominating stuff, and then you turn it over to that bullpen. ... The Didi injury hurts in that he's such a positive influence on that club – great energy, great teammate. They need another good makeup guy to fill that void. ... Andujar and Torres had great years and are really talented kids. But Andujar has to do a lot of work with is throwing and footwork, and I think they are better off leaving Gleyber at second base."
So the MFY starters need to go only five or six innings? Umm, the starters for 28 of the 30 teams went 5.x innings per start last year, so that's normal even for teams with shitty bullpens. ... And what's up with the anti-Didi comments? One of the team's best hitters is out for at least half the season, but the offense "shouldn't suffer much"; what they'll really miss are his "energy" and "makeup".

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