by Maura Foley
Red Sox fans said farewell to David Ortiz, a legendary designated hitter and one of the best clutch hitters in baseball history. However, although the team will miss Ortiz, the future looks bright for Red Sox Nation. A group of young and eager players appear ready to take the next step and lead the franchise to future success .
Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are among the up and coming players that have been essential to this year’s season. The Red Sox, overall, have one of the youngest teams in baseball and while this may not seem to be a strategic move, it seems to be working to their advantage. Although they may not have the experience that Ortiz has, the team as a whole is very well rounded in all areas of the sport.
One player specifically that fans should look out for is Mookie Betts. He is only 23 and is in the conversation for the Most Valuable Player Award for this season. At the plate, Betts has the highest batting average on the team at .318. This season, Betts was the second in the American League in batting average, fourth in runs batted in, and had over 30 home runs. These statistics are unheard of for a player of his age. If Red Sox fans are looking for a void to fill after the departure of Ortiz, Betts is a prime candidate.
Once Papi leaves, the Red Sox will have to change their line-up. Ortiz has been a model of consistency in the middle of the line-up for the past 14 years, and it is critical that the Sox find the talent to fill this soon-to-be empty void. Hanley Ramirez will remain at first base and could possibly become the new designated hitter providing at least some of the power that Ortiz has been good for on a yearly basis. Ramirez, along with Betts, is forecasted to be a prominent force in the third and fourth spots of the line-up. Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts have been a solid one-two punch at the beginning of the line-up, and this combo isn’t going anywhere.
To fill out the rest of the line-up, the Red Sox have many young rising stars such as Jackie Bradley in center, and Andrew Benintendi in left field. With this new line up, the Red Sox may have to now focus on new ways to score runs, without depending on Papi’s big hits. There will be a lot of speed in this line up, so more stolen bases and aggressive base running can be expected.
While finding other ways to score runs is necessary, there is still a need for someone to step up and deliver those clutch hits from the designated hitter position. However, that player may already be on our team. Hanley Ramirez started this season as a first basemen, where he did extremely well. However, at the age of 32, the Red Sox may start thinking about his future and opt to give him some more rest, similar to how they handled Ortiz.
A likely scenario for the team going forward is to move Ramirez to DH and look to replace him at first base. A viable candidate for first base is Travis Shaw, who appeared in 145 out of 162 total games for the Red Sox this past season. Even though he only hit .242, Shaw is just 26 years old and has the potential to be a proficient first basemen in this league. It is likely that the Red Sox will look for another first basemen to go along with Shaw.
One struggle from this season the team should focus on next year is their pitching depth. While they will look to add some more pitchers, a diamond in the rough is Rick Porcello. At 27 years old, he is just about to enter the prime of his career. He led the majors with 22 wins this year; the most wins by a Red Sox pitcher since Josh Beckett in 2007. Porcello, along with David Price, is a great start to build a great pitching rotation for years to come.
General Manager Dave Dombrowkski announced that Manager John Farrell will return next season. However, GM Mike Hazen departed to take a job with Arizona Diamondbacks, so the Red Sox front office will undergo some upheaval. Expectations from the front office and fans remain extremely high, and the Red Sox have the young talent to build on this year’s run to the playoffs.