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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Boston Red Sox: Positive Signs for the Future

Barring a minor miracle, the Boston Red Sox will follow up on their historic 2018 World Series-winning season by missing the playoffs after uneven and even disinterested-appearing play in 2019. Despite such disappointment, there are a number of positives that emerged this year and can be taken forward as positive signs for the future.

The emergence of Rafael Devers: Still just 22, the third baseman took off like a shot this season after his first two years in the majors were rife with flashes of promise and frustrating lapses. So significant was his development, that he is a legitimate MVP candidate, getting himself into the literal best shape of his life and responding with a .314 batting average, 29 home runs, 107 RBIs, 49 doubles and 116 runs scored thus far. This has rewarded the team’s decision to hold on to him when he could have been included in previous trades, and gives them something to fall back on if star outfielder Mookie Betts ends up leaving in the near future.

Christian Vazquez seized the starting catcher role: The Red Sox have struggled to find a primary catcher since the days of Jason Varitek.  Although the pitching staff still shows better overall numbers with Sandy Leon behind the plate, Vazquez, who has been with the organization since 2008 finally grabbed the starter’s job and never let go. He keeps base runners at bat with his rocket arm, still throwing out more runners than league average, and has hit .270 with 19 home runs; production that should be surprising to even the most optimistic fan.

Is Brandon Workman the closer of the future: Riddled by injuries for years, the right-hander finally had a season of health and has emerged as a viable long-term closer candidate. He has been nearly unhittable this year, going 9-1 with 11 saves and a 2.14 ERA in 64 appearances. The paltry 26 hits and one home run he has allowed in 63 innings has been offset by 39 walks, which seem to be his only current Achilles heel. He won’t be a free agent until 2021, so while the team definitely needs to re-evaluate their bullpen for next year, they may well already have their closer in place.

Michael Chavis may be long-term solution at first base: With Mitch Moreland 33 and a free agent this offseason, Boston needs to figure out what they are doing at first base. The solution that seems to have presented itself is the 23-year-old Chavis. Although he is currently injured, he made a case for himself earlier this year, hitting .254 with 18 home runs and 58 RBIs in 95 games. The right-handed hitter set himself apart with his aggressive play in the field and tape-measure home runs. To be truly successful, he will need to work on cutting down his strikeouts, as he has punched out 127 times in 347 at-bats. However, he is young, cheap and seemingly has room to grow, so it won’t be a surprise if the position is turned over to him on a full-time basis next season.

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