Patterson’s Week 11 MLB Rankings

The baseball season is fast approaching the All Star Break.  This means teams are starting to figure out whether they will be buyers or sellers when the trade deadline rolls around.  At some point this week, I will tell you who the All Stars should be and I will also introduce you to who the buyers and sellers will be come late July.  Until then, enjoy the Week 11 Rankings:

1) Philadelphia Phillies (1)

With all the hype around bringing in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt it has been the home-grown Cole Hamels that has been the most impressive this season.  Hamels is 9-2 with a 2.49 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP.  If I had to make the decision, Hamels would be the starter for the National League in the All Star Game.

2) Boston Red Sox (2)

Even with all the wins over the past week, the Red Sox have been stung by the injury bug this week losing Jed Lowrie, Carl Crawford, and Clay Buchholz to the 15 day disabled list.  Marco Scutaro is hitting over .400 in Lowrie’s absence.  JD Drew has had a knack for getting hot in June in years past when someone has gone on the DL. With Crawford out, there is no better time than now for JD to get hot.

3) New York Yankees (6)

Derek Jeter landed on the disabled list being just 6 hits shy of 3,000. Even as a Red Sox fan I will most definitely be cheering him on when he gets that coveted hit.  I have long said the steroid scandal of the late nineties and early 2000’s wouldn’t bother me unless Jeter or Griffey were named as users.  Jeter is clearly on the back nine of his career, and I think people should start to recognize how awesome he was during the course of his career.

4) Milwaukee Brewers (5)

The Brewers are finally showing the potential that I had seen in them in the preseason when I predicted they would win the NL Central.  They already have an awesome offense and now their pitching staff has rounded into shape with Yovanni Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, and Zack Grienke.  John Axford is 19-21 in save opportunities as well.  The Brewers have close to zero weaknesses.

5) Cleveland Indians (8)

The Indians fired hitting coach Jon Nunnally on Sunday.  The Indians are in first place by one game and their offense has been underperforming.  Shin Soo Choo and Carlos Santana have been especially disappointing but help is on the way as Travis Hafner is off the disabled list.  Players aren’t happy with the Nunnally firing saying they don’t understand why he is fired when the team surprised everyone to this point by being in first place.  I side with the players here.

6) San Francisco Giants (7)

The Giants have lost four in a row (three to the lowly A’s) and are now only a half game up on the Diamondbacks in the NL West.  The Giants are the only first place team with a negative run differential in all of baseball.  With Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez out, Pablo Sandoval has very little protection in the order.  The Giants will not be in first place for very long.

7) Arizona Diamondbacks (11)

Earlier in the season I remember bashing Justin Upton and the Diamondbacks front office because GM Kevin Towers said that if the Red Sox wanted Upton they would have to give up Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, and Daniel Bard.  (I wrote this in my Week 3 rankings).  I would not move any of those guys 1 for 1 for Upton let alone all three.  But an update on Upton:  He is hitting .302 with 12 home runs and 38 runs batted in with 13 steals.

8) Atlanta Braves (4)

Jason Heyward came back from the disabled list this week and it looked as if the Braves were starting to get healthy again.  But to say that Heyward is in a sophomore slump would be putting it mildly.  He is hitting just .215 with 17 runs batted in through 50 games.  At least he has 7 home runs.  The Braves desperately need to get him going.

9) St. Louis Cardinals (3)

The Cardinals are in a bit of a funk for the first time this season after getting swept by the Nationals.  They have lost their vice grip on first place as the Brewers have leaped frogged over them.  Of the 72 games they have played this season, the Birds have gotten only 36 quality starts.  Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse account for 17 of those.

10) Tampa Bay Rays (12)

James Shields now has 5 complete games this season and we are still 3 weeks away from the All Star Break.  Last year Roy Halladay led the majors in that category with 9.  The next closest pitcher was Adam Wainwright with 5.  Shields truly has been remarkable this first half of the season and is deserving of a spot on the All Star team.

11) Detroit Tigers (9)

All year I have been on the Tigers because I felt Miguel Cabrera was shouldering the offense on his own.  Well Victor Martinez is hitting .329, Alex Avila is hitting .305 with 41 runs batted in, Jhonny Peralta is hitting .303 with 11 home runs and 43 runs batted in, and Brennan Boesch is at .295 with 10 home runs and 38 runs batted in.  Finally it looks like Miggy has support in the batting order!

12) Texas Rangers (10)

After starting the season 7-0, Alexi Ogando has fallen on hard times in his last two starts getting absolutely rocked.  Earlier in the week he lasted 1.2 innings giving up 6 runs on 6 hits in a losing effort against the Yankees.  Today against the Braves he lasted just 5 innings in a losing effort.  Are the wheels coming off already for the 27-year-old converted reliever?

13) Cincinnati Reds (13)

Last season MVP Joey Votto hit 37 home runs.  To this point in the season he has just 9.  He is still hitting .327 and has 43 runs batted in but the lack of power has to be a concern for the Reds.  If he can find the home run stroke again, he and Jay Bruce (17 home runs so far this year) would be a mini murderer’s row.

14) Toronto Blue Jays (17)

The Blue Jays announced that they have re-signed shortstop Yunel Escobar to a 2 year $10 million deal with club options for 2014 and 2015.  Escobar has been consistent for the Blue Jays so far this season hitting .281 with 8 home runs, 26 runs batted in, and 42 runs scored.

15) Seattle Mariners (14)

Bill Simmons tweeted it best yesterday when he pleaded with the Mariners GM to make a trade for some offense.  Their top 3 pitchers are pitching lights out (Hernandez, Pineda, and Bedard), they have called up their top prospect who is also a top prospect in all of baseball (Dustin Ackley), and Ackley has already homered in just his second big league game.  They are just 1.5 games out of first place and should definitely be buyers at the deadline.

16) Colorado Rockies (18)

Last week I argued with myself about whether Paul Konerko deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.  This week’s edition of “An Argument with Myself”? Does Todd Helton deserve a plaque in Cooperstown.  In 15 seasons, Helton has 2300 hits, 342 home runs, and 1269 runs batted in and is a lifetime .324 hitter. His best season was in 2000 when he led the league in batting average (.372) RBIS (147) and hits (216). He also led the league in on base percentage, slugging, total bases, and OPS.  Helton would get my vote over Konerko even though Konerko has a ring.  And yes, Helton is in.

17) Pittsburgh Pirates (16)

The Pirates continue to get solid starting pitching from Charlie Morton (7-3 3.21), Kevin Correia (8-6 3.60) and Jeff Karstens (4-4 2.54).  With each week that passes, I become more and more surprised that the Pirates are still around the .500 mark.

18) Washington Nationals (24)

Going into Sunday the Nationals have won 8 games in a row which includes a sweep of one of the best team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Second baseman Danny Espinosa hit a walk off home run earlier this week.  Espinosa is hitting .233 with 12 home runs and 41 runs batted in on the season.  If he can work on that average, he has the potential to be one of the top second basemen in the game.

19) New York Mets (19)

While all the talk has been centered on Jose Reyes, I completely forgot that the Red Sox let Jason Bay walk as a free agent after the 2009 season only to have the Mets sign him to an $80 million deal over 5 years.  Bay is currently hitting .222 with 2 home runs and 13 runs batted in.  I don’t know if this is a curse of the Mets type of situation or “I’m sure glad the Red Sox didn’t resign that guy” type of situation.

20) Chicago White Sox (21)

Speaking of busts.  Adam Dunn signed a 4 year $56 million deal with the White Sox this offseason.  Dunn has not been able to figure out American League pitching to this point however.  Dunn is hitting .182 with 7 home runs and 29 runs batted in.  Paul Konerko has been just the opposite hitting .327 with 19 home runs and 56 runs batted in.  Remember that Hall of Fame discussion?  If Konerko can keep these numbers up he will be joining Helton.

21) Los Angeles Angels (22)

The Angels released Scott Kazmir this week eating $14 million in salary.  Kazmir was getting rocked in the minors and it was evident that he was not going to factor into the Angels plans this season.  I remember when Kazmir was a stud on the then Devil Rays.  My how times have changed.

22) Baltimore Orioles (20)

What happened to Nick Markakis?  I remember a time when I longed for him to patrol right field at Fenway Park.  This year he is hitting just .256 with 5 home runs and 26 runs batted in.  Markakis was once a player Orioles fans saw as the future of the franchise.  It now looks like that future has come and gone and the Orioles still haven’t made up any ground in the American League East.

23) Florida Marlins (15)

With the Marlins in an absolute freefall losing 17 of their last 18, manager Edwin Gonzalez called the staff and team into a private meeting in the clubhouse letting them all know he was quitting.  It wasn’t that long ago that the Marlins were a top 5 team in baseball this season.  Count me as shocked that they have been as awful as they have been lately. He is the second manager to lose his job this year.

24) Oakland Athletics (27)

The Athletics called up Rickie’s little brother, Jemile Weeks late last week.  I had been calling for this move for quite some time seeing that the Athletics have zero offensive fire power and are especially lacking from the infield positions.  Through 11 games Weeks, is hitting .325 with 3 doubles, 3 triples, and 6 runs batted in.  Since the AL West is wide open, the Athletics have a shot of getting back into the race.  If they do, Weeks will be a large part as to why.

25) Kansas City Royals (26)

While the Royals have some of the best young prospects in baseball, they are all offensive players.  Hosmer, Moustakas, Butler, and Gordon will all help put runs on the board.  But the problem with the Royals is the lack of pitching.  Their best starter is Jeff Francis and his ERA is 4.83.

26) Minnesota Twins (29)

The Twins are slowly starting their ascent up the rankings.  After spending the first 2 months of the season teetering between the 29 and 30 spots, they are 8 games back of the Indians in the AL Central, have won 6 in a row, 8 of their last 10, and are 13-3 in June.

27) Los Angeles Dodgers (23)

Dee Gordon was called up by the Dodgers earlier this week.  He is the top prospect in the organization and is the son of ex-Red Sox Tom “Flash” Gordon.  With how fast the young Gordon runs, it won’t be long before he will be called Flash as well.  Through 11 games, Dee is hitting .326 with 4 stolen bases and a triple.  Gordon has game changing speed that will add an element of excitement to the Dodgers, an organization that could use all the excitement it can get.

28) San Diego Padres (29)

Anthony Rizzo has been unable to bring his hot bat to the major league level.  After tearing the cover off of the ball in the minors, Rizzo is hitting .148 through 9 games.  But in his 4 hits, he has a single, double, triple, and a home run.

29) Chicago Cubs (28)

The Cubs will clearly be sellers when the trade deadline comes around.  The problem is Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano’s contracts are albatrosses and the Cubs are tied into them for at least 2 more years.  The Cubs have the potential to be very bad for a very long period of time.  As if they haven’t been like that already, seeing that they haven’t made it to the World Series since 1945.

30) Houston Astros (30)

Hunter Pence is scheduled for an MRI on his hyperextended elbow Sunday.  If the Astros lose him for any extended period of time, I am going to have to start ranking them with the Triple A teams.

I can be followed on Twitter at ScottieNTCF

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How Sweep It Is!

Believe it or not I actually do have a social life to attend to once in a great while.  Because of the social life, I was unable to post about the games over the weekend.  In case you missed it (and I doubt you did) here is a mini recap of the weekend.  And what a great weekend it was for Boston sports.

Celtics Bust Out Brooms in NY

In Game Three of the first round series between the Celtics and Knicks, the only competition on the court was between Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in who could hit the most three pointers and have the most points.  Pierce had 38 points hitting 6 of his 8 threes and Ray-Ray had 32 points hitting 8 of his eleven threes.  Rajon Rondo was able to run around the court at will and posted a triple double with 15 points 11 rebounds and 20 assists.

Game Four saw the Celtics lead throughout the game before putting on the finishing touches on a 101-89 victory being the only team in the NBA to sweep the first round this year.  Garnett led the way in Game 4 with 26 points and 10 rebounds.  If you missed either of these two games, you didn’t miss much as the Celtics dominated right from the opening tap to the final buzzer.

In hindsight this series ended when Chauncey Billups went down with a knee injury at the end of Game 1.  Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudimire never looked to be on the same page.  Toney Douglas was no match for Rajon Rondo.  Landry Fields laid perhaps the biggest egg in the history of postseason sports.  This was a guy that was a first team all rookie and he stunk the place up in all 4 games.  The Celtics will wait for the Heat to polish off the 76ers before starting round two.  The extra time off will provide the aging roster with some rest and also buy time for Shaq to get healthy.

Horton Hears a Who: Bruins Lead Series 3-2

Nathan Horton scored 11 minutes into the second overtime of Game 5 to put the Bruins one win away from advancing to the second round.  At this time last week, the idea of the Bruins making it out of the opening round was a joke.  But over the last three games they have played with heart and that is all you need to win in playoff hockey.  Michael Ryder continued his great play with the save of his career bailing out an out of position Tim Thomas in the first period of the game.

Speaking of Thomas, the man stood on his head in Game 5 with 44 saves.  Chief among those saves was a vintage Thomas move of sliding across the crease saving a one timer on a 2 on 1 break in overtime.  How he saved that puck, I have no idea.  All I know is the my heart was in my throat.  Radio personality Michael Felger has been asking when Tim Thomas was going to steal a game in the playoffs.  He got his answer with Thomas’ legendary effort in Game 5.

Lastly, how stupid is Max Pacioretty?  The man loves his Twitter account like no other.  This time he took to tweeting a derogatory remark about Brad Marchand’s nose.  Marchand responded by being the third star of the game and playing with as much energy and hustle as anyone could ask for.  Pacioretty has already promoted enough bulletin board material for the Bruins, and he just doesn’t seem to get the message.  There will be nothing better than the Bruins winning the series Tuesday night in Montreal in front of 28,000 screaming Canadien fans.

Sox Shut Down Angels

Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey both shut out the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend combing on 16 innings without giving up a run. The Sox now have a five game winning streak going and are showing everyone they are in fact who everyone thought they were going into the season.  In the last nine games, the starting rotation has an ERA of 0.88.

Carl Crawford also hit his first home run as a member of the Red Sox and has shown signs of coming out of his season opening funk.  Once Crawford gets going, and he will, watch out.  The Red Sox will be unbeatable.  Mark my words. The Red Sox can keep their winning ways going as they will travel to Baltimore and open up a three game set on Tuesday.

All in all it was a great weekend in Boston sports.  Let’s hope the run extends into late June!

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

Fever Pitch…ing

Amazing! Shocking! Flabbergast-ing?(if thats a word)

All three words could be used when describing the Red Sox off-season moves. 

The Red Sox have no doubt put themselves in position to climb back atop the AL East and they did it in aggressive fashion. Theo and Co. wasted no time targeting the people they wanted, and did whatever it took in getting them.  There was a definite need in this lineup for some pop once Martinez and Beltre left or were assumed gone.  In come Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.  I don’t have to get into what these two bring to the lineup, that is not my focus.

I really want to look at the pitching of this team, because believe it or not, that is what they needed the most!

In case you don’t believe me, here are some offensive stats for the Red Sox last season. In the true spirit of “the rivalry” I will include the Yankees stats as well.

Rankings reflect both AL and NL:

Batting avg.- Boston 7th  NY- 8th

Slugging% – Boston- 2nd  NY- 4th

On Base%- Boston- 4th  NY- 1st

Stolen Bases- Boston- 25th  NY- 12th

HR-  Boston- 2nd  NY-3rd

Runs- Boston- 2nd  NY- 1st

To recap, Boston’s offensive numbers were just as good and in a lot of cases better than the Yankees. Stolen bases will improve with a healthy Jacoby and even though Crawford can’t run against Varitek anymore he can still face Jorge’s squirt gun for an arm. When you think of the players that contributed to these statistics it is even more impressive, Darnell McDonald and  Ryan Kalish are the first two that come to mind. With the injuries throughout the lineup this team will no doubt be able to repeat and exceed last seasons numbers.

Pitching last season was not as great. Here are the rankings for how the Red Sox staff, yes the Yankees too.

ERA- Boston- 22nd  NY- 15th

Complete Games- Boston- 22nd  NY- 24th

WHIP- Boston- 16th  NY- 11th

Wins- Boston 10th  NY- 3rd

Opposing Batting Avg- Boston 17th  NY-12th

K/BB Ratio- Boston 22nd  NY- 16th

As you can see, and I realize you didn’t need these stats to know that, the Red Sox pitching staff was the problem last year. I love what the front office did with the bullpen. Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler have been closers and have pitched in big situations before. To help with the middle innings Boston acquired Matt Albers who was 1st among relievers that pitched more than one inning in a game. Albers will eat up middle innings and believe it or not he pitched some quality innings for the Orioles last season, yes I know that sounds like an oxymoron. I am praying that another lefty arm comes into the fold, one not named Lenny Dinardo. Sorry Lenny but the only thing cool about you is that we are kind of eskimo brothers, TRUE STORY.

With Beckett and Lackey into their 30’s a strong bullpen will no doubt help to keep them healthy, especially in the early part of the season. I full anticipate a strong comeback from both veterans.  The further development or Lester and Buchholz will be the key to this whole team. Big statement but no truer words have been spoken.  If Beckett and Lackey return to form and these two young pitchers improve on last season, this rotation will return to a top-tier unit. The fifth spot of the rotation will likely go to Dice-K by default by I would personally like to see FDub, yes that is his new name, start the season in the rotation this year.

Red Sox Nation seems to be back to full force and the expectations could not be higher in Boston. I am asking Santa for a lefty reliever for Christmas, what are you asking for?

It’s Called Ownership

45-3.  118-116. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez vs.Russell Martin and Mark Prior.

Welcome to the last two weeks of the great Boston-New York rivalry, the greatest rivalry in all of sports.  A rivalry that has been owned by Boston over the last three weeks.  Paul Pierce chuckles at the notion that the Knicks-Celtics are a rivalry.  He fails to understand that it is not a rivalry of two teams but a rivalry of two cities, or regions.  Maybe it started with the Red Sox-Yankees, and then on to the Patriots- Jets/Giants.  I don’t know much about hockey but I would think that the Bruins and Rangers being Original Six teams would constitute a rivalry in the NHL.  The bottom line is that no matter how the teams in their respective sports compare in the win-loss column, the two cities will forever be bitter rivals.

Last Monday night the Patriots embarrassed the Jets in the national spotlight on Monday Night Football 45-3.  Tom Brady shredded a team that many pundits had soaring to the Super Bowl behind the young Mark Sanchez and the genius coaching of Rex Ryan.  The Patriots delivered a “hard knock” that sent the Jets into a tail spin, and have many of those same pundits wondering if the Jets will even make the playoffs.

That weekend the Red Sox started their off season of dominance by trading for Adrian Gonzalez and later in the week signing Carl Crawford.  While the Red Sox were out making moves, the Yankees were learning that ace Cliff Lee was taking approximately $48 million less to pitch in Philadelphia (technically another win for Boston). On paper the Red Sox have a greater lineup than the Yankees.  On paper the Red Sox rotation is far superior to that of the Yankees.  The missing piece for the Yankees last year was pitching and they missed out on the number one guy on the market, while the Red Sox acquired the top two everyday players on the market.  It’s understood that no games have been played yet, but the feeling of sheer ecstasy is sublime as a Red Sox fan.  The disgusting feeling in the pit of Yankee fans stomachs is not enviable.

Tonight the Celtics came back and won a very exciting NBA game with Paul Pierce drilling a step back mid range jumper over Amare Stoudimire with 0.4 seconds left.  Amare would later hit a three that didn’t matter because he couldn’t get it off in time pushing the Celtics win streak to 11 games.  Granted the Knicks look like they can be contenders this season.  But tonight the Celtics reminded them that they have a long way to go.  The Celtics started their 4th string center tonight, Semih Erden, against one of the top five big men in the game and the C’s still won.  4TH STRING CENTER!  There was no Perkins, no Shaq, and no Jermaine O’Neal to body Amare.  But the Celtics still came out on top because, at the time of this writing, they are the best team in basketball. Just like the Patriots are in the NFL and just like the Red Sox look to be going into the 2011 season in Major League Baseball.

Welcome to life as a sports fan in Boston.  Fans in New York, Philadelphia, and maybe Chicago can attest to how much of a high you feel when your team is on top of the sports world.  Few can say how great it is when your city owns the rival city in a certain sport.  And even fewer can say how great it is to have utter dominance in every major sport. (Sorry, McKeon and Tazzi, hockey just can’t reach that echelon of major sport just yet)

At this very second, Boston owns New York.  At this very second every Boston sports fan should appreciate this because if you truly are a Boston sports fan you know this feeling won’t last for long.  New York is as competitive a sports market there is and they will get their revenge and have their time.  But right now, Boston is the capital of the sports universe.

Welcome to Boston Carl Crawford!

Let the Carl Crawford love fest begin in Boston. Red Sox fans everywhere have an added pep in their step this morning. When Red Sox fans woke up this morning, they learned that their team swooped in and shocked the baseball world by signing Crawford to a 7 year 152 million dollar deal.

I don’t know if I am more excited about Crawford actually being a member of the Red Sox of if I am more relieved that the Sox don’t have to deal with facing him anymore. Crawford was a thorn in the side of Boston with his grand larceny on the base paths. Crawford is a .300 hitter who steals 50 bases a year, plays great defense, and is simply the man.

Along with the trade that landed the Sox Adrian Gonzalez, the Sox have to be odds on favorites to win the World Series in 2011. The Red Sox lineup now has limitless options and are as potent as they come in Major League Baseball. While Gonzo looks to be locked into the 3 spot, Crawford can bat leadoff, fifth, sixth, or hell they can bat Crawford third behind Ellsbury and Pedroia with Gonzalez fourth and Youk fifth.

Whatever the case may be, the Sox solidified being contenders over the next four years at the very least. The pitching staff of Lester, Buchholz, Beckett, and Lackey are under Sox control thru 2014. From an offensive standpoint the Sox have Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youk, Gonzalez, and Crawford all locked up thru 2014.

There is no doubt it is once again great to be a Boston sports fan. Tim Thomas has been standing on his head, the Celtics feature five Hall of Famers, the Patriots have the best quarterback to ever put on a jersey in NFL history. Now the Sox have made the biggest splash in team history with two enormous moves in the span of five days.

The Red Sox have shifted the power of the American League. They are now the Evil Empire. To be honest, I have no problem with that and am happy to see the Sox competing with the Yankees checkbooks. Finally Red Sox fans have been rewarded for their undying loyalty.

It is a wonderful day to be a member of Red Sox Nation.

Boston Red Sox Offseason 2011 (continued)

In a previous post I took a look at the Red Sox pitching situation heading into 2011.  In this post I will look at how Terry Francona will fill in his lineup card in 2011, and what options Theo has to look at over the winter.  I will write this post as if it as an actual lineup opposed to doing a position by position look at the Sox.

1) Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury

Putting Jacoby in left last season was a failed experiment.  I was very outspoken and against it from day one. I didn’t understand the fascination with Mike Cameron at all.  Forget what the computers say, I trust my eyes and my eyes tell me that Jacoby is a very good center fielder with great range.  Some believe that Jacoby will be a trade chip that would land a Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez.  I think that would be a mistake.  Keep Jacoby in center and in the lead off spot.  He has game changing speed and is an exciting player.

2) Second Base: Dustin Pedroia

This is as set in stone as it gets.  Pedroia will be coming back from his foot injury that sidelined him most of last season.  There is nothing scarier than a motivated Pedroia and that’s what the Sox will have when he reports to Fort Myers in the spring.

3) Left Field: TBA

The Red Sox have Mike Cameron, Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava, and  Darnell McDonald under contract for next season I believe.  While Kalish, Nava, and McDonald were great in a fill-in role last season, if they are called into full time duty for the Sox this season, they will be in trouble.  I fully expect the Sox to make a huge run at Carl Crawford.  Crawford has long been a favorite of mine and I would love to see him in Red Sox apparel. Crawford has shown he can hit 20 home runs.  We know he is a grand larcenist on the base paths.  He is also a solid defender.  I am the biggest advocate to bringing him to Fenway.

Other options: Jayson Werth, Hideki Matsui, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer

4) 1st Baseman Kevin Youkilis

Like the rest of the Red Sox lineup, Youkilis will be returning from an injury that shelved him for the rest of the 2010 season.  There have been reports that Youk will be working out at third base this off season in case the Sox go out and make a splash in the first base market.  The Sox are sure to inquire about the availability of Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder. There are also several free agents of interest at the position.  I do find it very likely Youk will move across the diamond next season.

Free Agent options: Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Derek Lee, Carlos Pena

5) Catcher: TBA

It will be in the Sox best interests to bring back Victor Martinez.  He put up great numbers last season while missing an entire month.  Martinez is a free agent and is sure to command top dollar on the open market.  The Tigers are reportedly already showing high interest in Victor, which will only drive up the bidding for the Sox.  Personally, I believe he is worth 3-4 years at about 15 million per.  If the Sox are unable to resign him, they might be forced into putting Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the dish.

Free Agent options other than Victor: John Buck, Matt Treanor, Yorvit Torrealba, Rod Barajas

6) Designated Hitter David Ortiz

Whether Ortiz likes it or not, the Sox will be picking up the team option they have on him for the 2011 season.  1 year at 12 million is very fair for Ortiz given his age and his production.  Ortiz isn’t getting any younger but continues to hit 30 home runs and drive in close to 100 runs a year.  Whether the Sox do decide to restructure his contract or just pick up his option, Ortiz is a sure bet to be in the Sox dugout in 2011.

7) Third Base: TBA

Adrian Beltre had a career year last season with the Red Sox while managing to be the only one to remain healthy all season (and knocking two guys out Elssbury, Hermida).  Beltre is expected to decline the 10 million dollar player option he has for 2011.  I would love to see the Sox bring Beltre back but the problem is his representation is Scott Boras.  Boras is known to command top dollar for his clients, and he usually gets it.  Ideally, Beltre will resign with the Sox for 3 years 45 million.  If Beltre leaves, the Sox have in-house options.  They can either move Youk across the diamond or they can move Jed Lowrie to third.

Free Agent possibilities: Miguel Tejada, Brandon Inge, Aramis Ramirez

8) Right Field JD Drew

Many Red Sox fans will be grateful that this is Nancy Drew’s last season as a Red Sox.  Many fans will be calling for Ryan Kalish to play right field full time.  I myself will sit back and enjoy JD’s last season in Boston.  I will appreciate that he was huge for the Sox in the post season when it mattered most.  The man makes the game look so easy with his sweet swing and his range in the outfield.  Yes, it is maddening that he grounds out to second base 3 times a game. But there is just one season left and then it will be Kalish’s time in Boston.

9) Shortstop Marco Scutaro vs Jed Lowrie

This will be an interesting battle to watch in spring training.  Marco Scutaro put together a solid season with the Sox in his first year in Boston.  He made more errors than I was comfortable with but overall I had no gripes with Scutaro’s play.  Lowrie caught fire toward the end of the season and had many calling for him to man the shortstop position.  Lowrie has always been solid when healthy, the problem is he is never healthy.  Whether its a wrist, mono, or who knows what Lowrie is worse than JD Drew when it comes to injuries.

The Bench:

Ryan Kalish– No Red Sox endeared themselves to the Fenway Faithful than Kalish.  He reminded the fans of a man named Trot with his all out play, cannon for an arm, and knack for hitting grand slams.

The Sox would love to bring back Bill Hall.  But Hall is likely to go out and test free agency seeing if there is a place where he can be an everyday player.

If the Sox are able to bring back Victor Martinez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be the backup. If Salty gets the starting gig, there will be a spring training battle between Mark Wagner and Dusty Brown.

Mike Cameron still has one year left on his deal as does Darnell McDonald. The Sox will need a back up corner infielder and here are some names that would fill that void: Jorge Cantu, Jim Thome, Mark Kotsay, and Brad Hawpe.