10 Reasons to Watch the Rest of the 2014 Red Sox Season

It's been an eventful week for the Red Sox - knowing that the 2014 season was pretty much in the tank, the front office made a series of drastic changes to completely overhaul the team. To recap, here's who they traded away:

  • Jon Lester
  • John Lackey
  • Jonny Gomes
  • Jake Peavy
  • Felix Doubront
  • Andrew Miller
  • Stephen Drew

...and here's what they received in return:

  • Yoenis Cespedes (outfielder)
  • Allen Craig (outfielder/1st base)
  • Joe Kelly (starting pitcher)
  • Kelly Johnson (utility infielder)
  • 3 promising pitching prospects
  • A "sandwich" pick in next year's amateur draft
  • A player to be named later (who undoubtedly won't be that good)

Even though the chances of the Red Sox making the playoffs are almost non-existent (less than 1% according to both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus), it could actually be an interesting couple of months. There is no doubt that Red Sox management will use the remainder of the season to evaluate the new additions and young players that were already in the system. Those that perform well will have a good chance of being on the team next season and beyond. With that in mind, here are ten questions regarding the 2015 Red Sox that could be answered in the remainder of this season:

  1. Is Yoenis Cespedes the Sox next All-Star outfielder? On the plus side, he's an athletic freak who can hit for power (something the Sox were sorely lacking) and has a cannon for an arm. On the minus side, however, he doesn't hit for a high average and he tends to lose focus in the outfield. Will the positives outweigh the minuses?
  2. Is Brock Holt for real? Without a doubt, the best story of the season thus far has been Holt (let's just give him the 10th player award now). Billed as a "B" prospect destined to spend his career as a journeyman utility infielder, he has maintained the highest batting average on the team while playing every position on the field (except for catcher). Has he been playing over his head for three months or is he a viable everyday player?
  3. Can Xander Bogaerts play short-stop? Entering the season, expectations for the prize rookie were sky high. While he's fallen short of those expectations, there are still reasons to be optimistic about his long term prospects as a hitter. First off, he's only 21 years old (most players at that age are sharpening their skills in the minor leagues). Second, despite a prolonged slump in June and July, his overall offensive numbers are still decent (he's one of the few players on the team with a positive offensive WAR). His defense on the other hand has been a concern - he started the year at short-stop but was so bad that the team brought back Drew (Bogaerts was moved to 3rd base - he wasn't much better there). Now that Drew is gone, Bogaerts has a second chance to show that he can be a major league short-stop.
  4. Which young pitchers (if any) can be part of the starting rotation? The Red Sox already had a slew of pitching prospects, and they just added 3 more and Joe Kelly (he's technically not a prospect, but he's only 26 years old). None of them are going to be capable of replacing Lester as the staff ace (or even Lackey as the #2 starter), but can any of them emerge as part of the rotation?
  5. Is Will Middlebrooks the 3rd baseman of the future? Middlebrooks burst on to the scene in the Spring of 2012. Since then, however, injury or inconsistency have kept him out of the line-up. With Bogaerts moving back to short-stop, Middlebrooks should see a lot more playing time.
  6. Can Jackie Bradley hit enough to stay in the lineup? The Sox other prized rookie, Bradley, has played spectacular defense but hasn't hit for either average or power (not that he projected as a power hitter). He appeared to be on the uptick going in to the All-Star break, but by July 31st his average had dipped back to .224. If he can't hit closer to .250, he's probably better suited as a 4th outfielder.
  7. Who is Allen Craig? Red Sox fans have seen plenty of Cespedes over the last 3 years, but Craig is more of an unknown. The numbers point to him being an above average right-handed hitter with a little bit of power and a mediocre defensive corner outfielder. Will be interesting to see what our eyes tell us.
  8. Who will be the starting corner outfielders? With the additions of Craig and Cespedes to go along with Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava, the Sox suddenly have a glut of corner outfielders. Cespedes should get one of the starting jobs, but the other spot appears up for grabs.
  9. Where does Mookie Betts fit in? Now that Bogaerts has graduated to the major leagues, Betts is considered the system's top offensive prospect. At his natural position, 2nd base, he's blocked by Dustin Pedroia. He's recently been playing as a corner outfielder (with mixed results), but there's suddenly no room there either. Perhaps he takes the center field job from Bradley... or perhaps he's packaged with a pitching prospect or two in a trade that brings back a staff ace.
  10. Is Christian Vazquez ready to be an everyday major league catcher? Like Bradley, Vazquez is considered an elite defender who may not hit much (despite some initial success, his career minor league numbers suggest he's won't be much of a hitter). The good news for Vazquez is that catcher is a position that teams will overlook a player's offensive short-comings if he can provide great defense... He just needs to show he can hit a little - anything north of .200 will do.