Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Truck Day! / Questions Going Into Camp

Falling only behind your wedding day and the birth of your kids in a Sox fan's life, Truck Day is when all the equipment is loaded up at Fenway and makes the long trip to Florida

Here is the list of what will be loaded onto the truck, according to the team:
20,400 baseballs
1,100 bats
200 batting gloves
200 batting helmets
320 batting practice tops
160 white game jerseys
300 pairs of pants
400 T-shirts
400 pairs of socks
20 cases of bubble gum
60 cases of sunflower seeds


Riveting stuff, I tell you! Riveting! But why 100 more t-shirts than pants? Hmmm....

Yeah, it's a little goofy. But when you live in New England and two feet of snow is sitting on the ground, you take your signs of spring where you can find them.

But it does mean that we can start speculating on the Sox and what is in store for them in 2016. Here are three questions to keep in mind:

1. How will Ortiz perform in his last year?

2016 marks the end of the prolific career of David Ortiz. I am not sure what the Sox will do without his bat; he has failed to hit 25+ HR only twice in the last 13 years and 90+ RBI three times. But that is a question for later this year. For now, what can they expect from Ortiz in 2016/ Here's a projection from Baseball Reference

30 HR | 91 RBI | .513 SLG | .863 OPS | 64 R

Slightly beneath the totals of his last three seasons but not too far off. If Ortiz holds true to form, he should generate most of this offense in the second-half of the year. But the Sox are going to miss hit bat. I am not sure who on their team right now would come close to these numbers as a DH.

2. Will David Price solidify Boston's pitching rotation?

This is the single biggest question for Boston. If their new ace can elevate Boston's starting pitching to even average levels, the Sox should be a playoff contender. Here is the projection in 2016 for Price, again courtesy of BR:

13-8 | 3.09 ERA | 195 IP | 192 K | 43 BB | 1.128 WHIP

Even that basic projection would have made Price the best pitcher on Boston's staff in 2015. Personally I think he is more likely to grab between 16-20 wins thanks to Boston's run production and improving defense. And that kind of anchor in Boston's rotation will make the rest of their staff better. Especially Porcello, who I think is due for at least a .500 season this year.

3. Who will be the starting catcher?

This is going to be the most interesting position to observe during Spring Training and in the regular season. The Sox have two young starting catchers in Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart. Vazquez has the better arm and defense but Swihart likely has the better bat. Of course, with Vazquez making his return from Tommy John surgery and missing the 2014 season, he won't start the season in Boston. But his talent is undeniable.

If Vazquez is okay and plays well in AAA, then the Sox face an interesting question. They have Ryan Hanigan on contract through this year with a 2017 option. They won't carry three catchers on the main roster. Could the Sox possibly consider trading Vazquez or Swihart during the season to fill a need? Or would they rather have two young, talented, controllable catchers on the roster heading into 2017 and beyond?

It's a tough question. But I think Swihart will be your starting catcher and if Vazquez gets back into form, Dombrowski may use him as a blue-chip trading piece to fill a vital need. Even though most Boston fans would hate to see that happen.

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