By: Jake Perda
As we are now just 9 days away from the Red Sox first game of the 2017 season, this seems like an appropriate time to reflect on how the roster looks. Unlike most writers, I don’t want to use this time to write about players who may not be in the lineup on Opening Day, or may not even crack the Major League roster. I want to write about the players who will be carrying our team for the next 7 months. Not only do I expect these players to compete for the most coveted piece of hardware that baseball has to offer, a World Series trophy; I expect them to take home the most individual honors that we’ve seen from any Sox team in a long time.
Of course it all starts with last years AL MVP runner-up, Mookie Betts. In his first full major league season in 2015, Betts shook off a slow start and went on to hit .291 and finish 19th in the American League MVP voting. While we all found this encouraging, I don’t think anyone in Red Sox Nation predicted Mookie to have the breakout 2016 that he ended up having. In case you need to be reminded, Betts hit .318 with 31 HR’s, 113 RBI’s, and a .897 OPS. It’s rare enough to see a player this young putting together 200+ hit seasons. When you factor in the power numbers that Mookie was producing in the process as well as the constant recognition that he receives as the best defensive player in the Majors, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he isn’t an MVP finalist nearly every season. 2017 should be no different.
As far as the Cy Young Award goes, the Red Sox have at least 3 different potential suitors. The man most likely to win this award would have to be Chris Sale. Yes, Chris Sale is on the Boston Red Sox. The man they call “The Condor” has been in the top 6 in the AL Cy Young voting in each of the last 5 seasons. After watching him rack up 10 K’s in just 6 innings against a lineup consisting of the Yankees Opening Day starters, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be there again. Then there’s David Price, a 1-time Cy Young Award winner and 2-time runner up. He’ll start the year on the disabled list, but if he can come back and pitch like he did with Toronto in 2015, you never know. Crazier stuff has happened in baseball. Last but not least, we have Rick Porcello. Right, the guy who won the award in 2016. Isn’t it great that the 2016 AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG AWARD WINNER is just an afterthought in the 2017 rotation? If/When Ricky P repeats as the 2017 Cy Young winner, we’re all going to look like idiots.
Don’t even get me started on the man who’s considered the favorite to take home the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year Award. You can call him Benny Baseball. You can call him Benny Biceps. You can call him ⅓ of the #FlowBros (Don’t forget about Robbie Ross Jr.). It doesn’t matter what you call him, Andrew Benintendi hits the baseball like few others can. Benny’s shown that he can hit for average, and he’s spent the spring showing off his newly developed power stroke. You can’t find a hole in his swing, you can’t find a flaw in his appearance, and there is absolutely no shortage of confidence to back it all up. Maybe this is the man crush talking, but I’d even say that if he doesn’t finish AT LEAST top 3 in the AL ROY voting, something has gone terribly wrong.
One greatly underestimated aspect of this team is it’s defense. Looking around the diamond, there’s a lot of potential Gold Glove winners. If you listen to The 12-34 Podcast (If you don’t you’re dead to me), then you know that Alex and I see Christian Vazquez as a sneaky candidate for the award at the catcher position. At first base, we have the 2016 Gold Glover Mitch Moreland. Up the middle, there’s Dustin Pedroia, who wins the award just about every year that he says healthy, and Xander Bogaerts, who was a 2015 Gold Glove finalist. At the hot corner, we have the great Pablo Sandoval, who is totally not fat and who I’m absolutely positive will be a defensive ASSET (Pablo Apologists, that one’s for you). Finally, we have the Killer B’s in the outfield. You can pretty much pencil Mookie in for the Gold Glove after last year. JBJ will be in good shape as long as he can stay away from the uncharacteristic errors that he made in 2016. As for Andrew Benintendi, he has proven to be more than serviceable out in left, but he has yet to give me reason to believe that he can win a Gold Glove. The home-run robbery in Tampa Bay was great and all, but that was negated by the ball lost in the Fenway lights against the Yankees and allowing a runner to tag up from first and advance to second on a fly ball during the ALDS. Sorry, Benny.
Lastly, the Silver Slugger award is a Boston Red Sox specialty. With David Ortiz gone, I wouldn’t rule out Hanley making a push at the DH position. Xander Bogaerts has taken home the award for AL shortstops each of the last 2 years. Pablo Sandoval might as well be mentioned here too because of how great he is (Apologists: 2, Jake: 0). And as always, we have Mookie Betts taking home the award because there’s no award that he can’t win. Also, I’m not saying that Andrew Benintendi is going to win the award, but don’t sleep on this kid.
In conclusion, I would like to put together a final count of the potential awards this team could win with a list of the players who may be accepting them. Note: I’m only going to put players who are universally recognized as a threat to win the award.
MVP: 1 (Mookie Betts)
Cy Young: 1 (Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, probably not David Price)
Rookie of the Year: 1 (Andrew Benintendi)
Gold Gloves: 4 (Mitch Moreland, Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts)
Silver Sluggers: 3 (Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts)
World Series Trophy: 1 (THE Boston Red Sox)