As opposed to grading each individual player based their performance this season, I want to talk the absolute bests and the absolute worsts of the 2016 Boston Red Sox. These selections were based off of pre-season expectations vs. actual performances, each player's statistics from this season, and how I felt about these players while I emotionally suffered through the ups and downs of being a diehard Red Sox fan this year.
Most Valuable Player: Mookie Betts
Just as many people suspected, Mookie Betts was right in the thick of things for the MVP race. He has grown to become a well above average outfielder, handles the bat just about as well as anyone in the majors, and for the second straight year was the team's leading base stealer. Regardless of how ridiculously high the expectations were, there’s no way in hell anyone thought Betts could instantly become a 30-100 guy while finishing 2nd in the AL batting race. We all knew that this is what he had the potential to do, but going from .291 with 18 homers to .318 with 31 bombs is a huge leap that nobody could’ve expected. Betts finishing 2nd in the majors in Wins Above Replacement just goes to show how much he meant to this team.
Least Valuable Player: Rusney Castillo
Many people have forgotten that coming into spring training, the starting job in left field was Rusney Castillo’s to lose. And boy did he ever lose it. Rusney struggled just to hit .200 in spring training, and just a week into the season was demoted from the bench to Triple-A Pawtucket never to be seen again. In 103 games in Pawtucket, Castillo hit .263 with just 2 home runs. I’ll never be able to accept the fact that we paid $72 million for that. Yes, Pablo Sandoval could easily but slotted in here. However, after last season nobody expected much from Sandoval. In Rusney’s case, the BBC outfield was supposed to be the next big thing. Thus, Rusney Castillo seemed like the most appropriate selection.
Best Hitter: David Ortiz
After announcing that this season would be his last, Big Papi went out with a bang. In one of the best seasons of his career, Ortiz hit .315 with 38 home runs and 127 RBI’s. I’d love to say that this was a feel good story, but it wasn’t. Everyone knew this was what Papi has done his entire career and he was not going to accept anything less. Without Big Papi, there is no chance the Red Sox could’ve made it as far as they did this season. Therefore, fans have a legitimate reason to be scared about replacing him. There is no doubt that this offense is not nearly as scary without David Ortiz right in the middle of it. As for Dave Dombrowski and the men in the front office, they have their work cut out for them.
Worst Hitter: Travis Shaw
Unlike our least valuable player, I wanted to go with someone who spent some significant time at the big league's. Statistically speaking, Shaw was the obvious choice here. He trailed all the teams regular players in batting average and RBI’s, finished 2nd on the team in strikeouts, and was not nearly the power threat that every Sox fan was hoping to see. I think the expectations of 30+ HR’s and 100 RBI’s coming into this season were far too high to begin with, but good god this man’s swing has more holes than the 2015 Patriots offensive line. Major League pitching quickly adjusted to Travis Shaw and Travis Shaw has not yet adjusted to Major League pitching. Hopefully this will change in 2017.
Best Pitcher: Rick Porcello
It’s almost so obvious to the point where it’s not even worth explaining why Porcello was the ace of the Sox staff this year. Ricky P started strong and only got better as the season went on. 22 wins in 223 innings with a 3.15 ERA is far more than anyone was expecting after 2015, a season in which he earned himself the nickname “Porcellblow”. I personally guarantee that not one person is calling that that today. Cy Porcello sounds better anyway. The fact that he was the #3 starter coming into this season just seems ridiculous now. There’s only 2 questions surrounding Porcello going into 2017. Can he sustain his success, and will he get the ball on Opening Day? If you ask me, I’d say yes and hell yes. But we’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out in March. For now, let’s just appreciate the amazing season that Porcello just put together.
Worst Pitcher: Clay Buchholz
This one definitely required the most thought. Of course everyone wants to see David Price slotted in here, but that just wouldn’t be fair. Price was certainly the biggest disappointment; however, at the end of the day he had a better season than Clay. By the time August 1st came around and Clay Buchholz had not been traded nor designated for assignment, I truly began to question the intelligence of Dave Dombrowski. Luckily, he was able to turn it around in the second half. Regardless, due to Joe Kelly’s success in the bullpen, it’d be hard to argue a case in which any other pitcher was worse than Clay this year. (Except for Fernando Abad, but he was so irrelevant to this season that he’s not worth talking about.)
Most Overrated: Jackie Bradley Jr.
I understand that he hit 26 HR’s, went on a 29 game hitting streak, and started for the American league All-Star team. However, JBJ gets a lot more credit than he deserves. Everyone just assumes he is the center fielder of the future despite the fact that he can be the worst hitter in the lineup for long periods of time. Following the end of his hit streak, Jackie hit just .236 with 109 strikeouts. I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I’m looking for out of my center fielder of the future. I will admit that he has made a lot of progress since his original call up in 2013, but that doesn’t justify leading the team in strikeouts when you’re supposed to be an on base guy out of the 9 spot.
Most Underrated Player: Dustin Pedroia
Pedey has been a mainstay in this lineup for nearly a decade now and does not get the appreciation he deserves. After only playing 91 games in 2015 due to injury, Dustin had a phenomenal season that flew under the radar because of David Ortiz’s final season and all the young studs he was surrounded by. Pedey collected over 200 hits for the first time since his MVP season back in 2008, tied for the team lead in batting average at .318, and played the final weeks of the season with a torn meniscus without saying a word. If that’s not a badass, I don’t know what is.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Benintendi
Had to give Benny a shoutout because he showed what he’s capable of and I am beyond excited to watch him play next year.