Our panel of Curt Schilling, Rob Bradford, Cyn Donnelly, Kirk Minihane, Mike Petraglia, Jon Rish and Alex Speier - with a brief cameo by Gary From Chapel Hill - peers into the crystal ball in an attempt to see the future of the Red Sox' 2009 Opening Day roster:
1. Which incarnation of pitcher will Josh Beckett be for the Red Sox this year? Will he most closely resemble the 2006, 2007 or 2008 version?
Bradford: You have to go with 2007 with a smattering of ’08.
Donnelly: My hope is to never, ever see the 2006 Josh Beckett ever again. I think the 2007 version is more the pitcher he will be for the team.
Minihane: Tough one. I don’t think we’ll see a 2006-type season from Beckett again (5.01 ERA), but I think there are enough red flags to suggest that a 21-win season is not a probability. I’d guess a 15-9 record with a 3.80 ERA, which is pretty close to Beckett 2008.
Petraglia: Beckett is out to show he’s healthy from the start and will do exactly that. He will win 20 games and finally claim that Cy Young Award.
Rish: I expect something closer to the 2007 version. Although 2008 wasn’t as far off as some might think. Beckett made three fewer starts and pitched about 25 fewer innings last year. His walk and strikeout per inning numbers were about the same and he allowed 18 home runs. (17 in 2007) His BABIP allowed was .318 last year, the second highest in his career and well above his career number of .294. (the MLB average during his career is .297) All of this of course was before the late September oblique injury.
Schilling: He’ll finish closer to 1st in the Cy Young than 10th.
Speier: In some ways (strikeouts and walks per 9, HRs, etc.), there was surprisingly little difference between the 2007 and 2008 Beckett. So, it seems like he’s moved beyond the 2006 guy, and will split the difference between the last two years by settling in closer to a 16-win, 3.60 ERA season.
2. How many innings will Jon Lester throw this year?
Bradford: Less than C.C. Sabathia, but more than Barry Zito. I’ll go with 210.
Donnelly: I’m one of the very few who doesn’t regard Lester as highly as most. I think the 210 innings pitched last year combined with his coming back down to earth will affect his innings a lot. I’d like to see him hit 200 again, but I worry that it’s going to be more like 170.
Minihane: I’ll go with 214.
Petraglia: Because he likes nice round numbers, he will throw exactly 200- and prove to the world of skeptics that he can handle the load "the year after."
Rish: In ’08, he threw 237 including the playoffs after 163 in 2007, including the minors, majors & postseason. It’s a big jump – but my gut says the innings in and of themselves were less taxing. Lester’s threw 3.78 pitches per plate appearance last season (matching the MLB average) which was down from 3.92 in 2007. I’m thinking right around 210 again, but it’s his efficiency that will matter most.
Schilling: 220 regular season, 30 more in the postseason and win a postseason series MVP.
Speier: Why bother having the deepest rotation in the majors if you can’t give a vacation to the guy who endured the biggest workload last year? Lester enjoys two weeks in the Bahamas around the All-Star break and finishes with 200 innings.
3. How many walks will Daisuke Matsuzaka allow this year?
Bradford: Less than Matt Young, but more than Curt Schilling. I’ll go with 85.
Donnelly: 1600. Yet somehow he’ll only let 5 score.
Gary from Chapel Hill: Depends on your perspective. Too many for Red Sox fans and Tito, but just the right number for the makers of Tums.
Minihane: An even 100. And his good luck from last year runs out (4.00 ERA).
Petraglia: In true Dice form, as many as he strikes out -- 150. Kidding it only feels that way.
Rish: 90. I think he’ll be a little better in 2009, but not a lot. I think he’s always going to be a guy that walks a lot of batters. I just hope that if he’s walking them he can stay with a quicker pace.
Speier: A career-low 75, inspiring raves about his attacking style.
4. What will be Tim Wakefield’s year-end ranking on the Red Sox in: starts, wins and innings?
Bradford: Fourth in all of the above.
Donnelly: He’ll be at the tail end of all three. I sense that we could be looking at Wake’s final year in MLB.
Minihane: OK. I have him penciled in for 28 starts, 12 wins and 170 innings. I suspect he’ll finish fourth in all categories.
Petraglia: Let’s see he’s the number four starter to begin the season on a team considered to have the best staff in baseball. In honor of that great sports establishment on Causeway Street… Fours all around.
Rish: Fourth across the board. I expect Beckett, Lester and Matsuzaka to be ahead in each category.
Schilling: Third, third and fourth.
Speier: Third, fouth, third -- 29 starts, 13 wins, 180 innings.
5. How many starts will Brad Penny make this year?
Donnelly: If my voodoo doll works, none. (Hey, I’m a Clay Buchholz fan and want to see the kid up with the big team.) OK, fine. 12.
Minihane: I think he matches A.J. Burnett and makes 18 starts.
Petraglia: Fifteen -- one for each point of the perfect buck shot on one of his expeditions.
Rish: Twenty-four. I believe him when he says the shoulder feels good, but it’s a long season and with the depth in the organization I don’t think they’ll need to push him. If there weren’t as many attractive alternatives I think the number would be a bit higher.
Speier: Twenty-three -- the combined total for Wade Miller and Bartolo Colon in ’05 and ’08, respectively.
6. Will Jonathan Papelbon make the All-Star team this year?
Bradford: Yes, but Rivera will still close the All-Star Game.
Donnelly: No. I think he’ll be dominant but I don’t see him becoming an All-Star -- unless Sox fans are ballot-stuffing.
Minihane: Sure, why not? He's made it in each of his first three full seasons.
Petraglia: As long as there’s incentive for him to remind the Red Sox that he is the best and most important part of their bullpen, yes.
Rish: Yes. In my opinion he’s top 2 or 3 in the AL. Rivera, Nathan, Papelbon -- take your pick.
Speier: Yes, if only so that he can inspire the wrath of St. Louis by insisting that he should take the ball in the National League for the ninth inning, thereby displacing Jason Motte.
7. Who will finish second on the Red Sox in saves? (Delcarmen, Okajima, Saito, other?)
Bradford: Other -- Masterson.
Donnelly: Okajima. Whatever people thought he might have lost certainly seems to be coming back around.
Minihane: Luis Aponte.
Petraglia: Saito/Okajima tie for second.
Rish: Saito. Opportunities will be few and far between. Stuff and experience says Saito to me. Masterson would be my second choice.
Speier: Saito -- I’ll go with the only active major leaguer besides Jonathan Papelbon with a sub-2.00 career ERA.
8. How much will Takashi Saito earn in incentives?
Bradford: A lot. More than a lot. Whatever he can make, he will.
Donnelly: Well, we know he’ll get his million dollars for being on the active roster. He’ll most likely hit the 50-game mark if he can stay healthy, so there’s another $500,000. Math makes my head hurt; not counting the first million for being on the active roster, I’ll put him at $1.5 million.
Minihane: I've read that story six times and I'm still confused (probably not the fault of the writer -- I've needed full episodes of "Silver Spoons" explained to me). Figure a cool mil in incentives this season.
Petraglia: Saito earns a neat $1 million, matching his roster bonus.
Rish: Probably a bit optimistic –- but I’m thinking five million. The roster bonus is a given, I figure they probably won’t overuse him given the elbow, so another million for 55 or so games. Then about three million for the 30 day on the roster bonuses.
Schilling: Six million.
Speier: He scores $3 million in roster bonuses, and $500,000 in appearance bonuses. Coupled with his $1.5 million base, he’ll be the $5 million setup man.
9. When will Justin Masterson next start a game in the major leagues?
Bradford: Buchholz, Smoltz, Bowden … No Masterson in the rotation this time around.
Donnelly: When Brad Penny’s arm flies off during a side session. Sometime in June.
Minihane: June 16, 2009 (vs. Florida).
Petraglia: By the end of April.
Speier: In 2010 -– not quite Papelbon redux, but he’ll be so good in relief (again) that the Sox will be content to let Buchholz, Smoltz, Bowden and Tazawa keep Masterson in the bullpen.
10. Will Ramon Ramirez allow Red Sox fans to forget Coco Crisp?
Bradford: Does Ramon play "World of Warcraft"? Will Ramon charge a batter? Will Ramon ask to be traded? We can never forget Coco. But I do think the Royals will get the better of the trade this year.
Donnelly: No. Not even if he actually pitches successfully. Most Sox fans get that Coco needed to be moved but the Sox didn’t exactly steal Ramon Ramirez. Apples and oranges, anyway, comparing pitchers to position players.
Minihane: Are you kidding? A couple of decent outings from Ramirez and the Pink Hats will forget Coco ever existed.
Petraglia: Yes, by showing he can not only pitch but track down balls in left-center and crash into the Monster ... with his left shoulder of course.
Rish: I don’t think it’ll take long for Sox fans to forget about Crisp, but I don’t think Ramirez will have much to do with that. It’ll be Ellsbury that makes fans move on from Coco. As for Ramirez? Haven’t gotten a good read. Still waiting to see how he adjusts to the pressure of Boston compared to KC.
Schilling: No matter how good he is, you can’t forget Coco. Best defensive season of any Red Sox CF ever.
Speier: If he embraces the title of Ro-Ro, he has a shot.
11. Will Javier Lopez prove most effective against left-handers, right-handers or neither this year?
Bradford: Good question. I’m going with lefties. He’s on a one-year roll.
Donnelly: Right-handers. Javi isn’t a LOOGY no matter how many people try to make him one.
Minihane: I know he had a strange 2007 season (couldn't get lefties out but was great against righties), but I have to go with the great majority of his career on this one.
Petraglia: Lopez will be ALL right against lefties, finally!
Rish: Better against LHB. Career numbers suggest that 2007 against RHB was the exception not the rule.
Speier: It better be left-handers, since it seems highly improbably (given the rest of the bullpen) that he’ll be facing many righties this year. Worth noting: his 2008 season (2.43 ERA) was highly underrated.
12. Will the Red Sox trade a reliever? If so, who?
Bradford: Every time I look at Manny Delcarmen I see Miguel Montero. Do you think that’s a sign?
Donnelly: My crystal ball tells me Manny Delcarmen. Speaking strictly as a homer fan, I hope it’s wrong. But from a purely baseball perspective, I understand why it might come to pass.
Minihane: I don't think they will. Not any of the key guys, anyway.
Petraglia: Lopez. See above.
Rish: Delcarmen. Daniel Bard could be ready for his role sooner rather than later. I was surprised when I saw how good Delcarmen was down the stretch last season (18 games; 22.2 ip, 22 k, 9 bb, 1 hr, 0.40 era, .120/.214/.187/.401), but I think he could be moved.
Speier: Ramirez. He will not embrace the title of Ro-Ro. Maybe Daniel Bard will after he's called up to replace whomever is traded.
13. What kind of batting line (average, OBP, slugging, HRs) will Jason Varitek produce this year?
Bradford: .235 batting average, .330 on-base, .380 slugging, 15 homers.
Donnelly: One that is certain to make me mock everyone who told me he was finished ... And if it doesn’t, it will make others call into talk shows to discuss creative ways to get the “C” off his jersey.
Minihane: .242, .326, .418, 12.
Petraglia: No one has more to prove this year than the Captain. He continues his hot spring by coming out on fire and finishes with 20 homers, 75 RBIs but his average is still sub .250 and his OBP south of .375.
Rish: Better than 2008, but not by a lot. .245/.325/.380 w/ 14 HRs. I’m thinking a few less games & plate appearances. (125 & 450)
Schilling: .266, .344, .480, 17.
Speier: .255, .330, 420, 14. More interesting question: how many games does he play? I'm thinking 115-120.
14. How many passed balls will George Kottaras commit?
Bradford: Less than Josh Bard did in April of 2006 -- I’ll go with nine)
Donnelly: Ten. All year long. One for every appearance Wake makes this season.
Petraglia: Whatever is the number on the back of his jersey to replace the silly No. 68 that he’s worn in spring and with the team last year.
Rish: In ’08 Cash, had 14 passed balls (along with 20 wild pitches) & runners were 38 for 54 in SBs. In ’07 Mirabelli had only six passed balls (16 wild pitches) & runners were 35 for 45 in SBs. I’m thinking Kottaras will be more Cash like: 15 passed balls.
Speier: Twelve -– just two of which come on days when he catches Clay Buchholz, for whom Kottaras will emerge as the primary catcher.
15. Will David Ortiz finish the year ranked in the top five of American League home run hitters?
Bradford: Yes, unless Manny is traded back to the AL.
Donnelly: While I don’t buy into the whole “now there’s no protection” argument, I still worry about his wrist and his health in general. I’m going with no.
Minihane: Nope. Won't play enough.
Petraglia: Yes. Papi is thinking, "Yeah, just go ahead and doubt me!" You know he is.
Rish: Yes. I expect a solid season for Ortiz. Last year 34 home runs got you into the top five. I think Ortiz will be right around there -- mid 30s.
Speier: An even 30 homers will fall just short of the top five.
16. Who will get more MVP votes in his respective league in 2009: Kevin Youkilis or Manny Ramirez?
Bradford: Youkilis will win more games, Manny will get more votes.
Donnelly: Manny Ramirez. Because the people who vote for those things live to torment me.
Minihane: I like this question. I suspect both will get more MVP votes than Brad Wilkerson. I'll go with Youkilis, but I bet both finish in the top 10.
Petraglia: That’s easy. Kevin Youkilis because Youk will actually play hurt, play hard and not worry about silly haircuts.
Rish: It pains me to say it –- Manny Ramirez. I’ll take Youkilis on my team, but I figure Manny to be by far the best offensive player on the Dodgers who play in -- by comparison to the AL East -- a weak division. LA will win and a motivated Manny will put up numbers.
Schilling: Youk, Manny will be in Japan by midseason….
Speier: Manny. The competition in the N.L. for the award just isn’t as stiff. And remember: for all intents and purposes, he’s on a contract drive. That, and the fact that Manny will get all the credit for being the driving force between L.A.'s emergence as the best team in the N.L.
17. In which category (average, OBP, slugging, homers, steals) is Dustin Pedroia most likely to improve, and in which is he most likely to suffer a decline?
Bradford: OBP will go up (fewer pitches to hit), but steals will go down -- the success rate had to be obscene to make 20 last season.
Donnelly: Again, it sounds totally homer-ish, but I honestly don’t see him declining. I think his OBP and average will both likely climb.
Minihane: I think he'll move up in homers (20-22 range) and probably run a little less (15-18 steals).
Petraglia: His OBP will improve as pitchers work around him and walk him more. His cribbage pal Tito will want him going easy on the bases and ask him to cut back on his steals.
Rish: I think he can improve a bit in OBP. He’s walked a little less than the average major leaguer and I think that number can go up. Steals though, he could swipe more than 20, but we won’t see 20 for 21 again.
Schilling: No decline, higher average, OBP
Speier: The WBC injury seemed like something of a harbinger to me. As hard as he plays, it’s not difficult to envision a trip to the D.L. that would lead to lower homer and steal totals, even though his average and OBP go up.
18. Who plays more games at short: Julio Lugo or Jed Lowrie?
Bradford: Lugo, although it will be interesting to see if Lowrie comes in as a defensive replacement.
Donnelly: If there’s a God, Jed Lowrie. (Actually, if there’s a God a healthy and productive Julio Lugo would work for me too. But I’m going to go with Lowrie.)
Petraglia: Julio Lugo because Lowrie will be busy becoming the first prospect to become MVUP -- Most Valuable Utility Player.
Rish: Lowrie. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lugo wasn’t here by the end of the season. Lowrie has the tools to be a versatile backup, but I think he would be under-utilized in that role. Lugo on the other hand, I can’t see as the utility guy. Of course I said the same thing about Crisp this time last year and they turned out to really need him.
Speier: Lugo. Is it too far-fetched to imagine a reprise of the Ellsbury/Coco situation of a year ago? The versatile Lowrie plays more games, but fewer at short.
19. Will Mike Lowell hit a triple?
Bradford: I would tell you, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to read the Spanish version of “Deep Drive” to find out.
Donnelly: Why not? Triples aren’t always about how fast you run. He has 6 triples in his career. Seven could come in 2009.
Minihane: I know he's getting close to Johnny Kelly circa 1986, but I think he's good for one three-bagger this year. He had two in 2007, right?
Petraglia: Yes -- just to show the Red Sox that he CAN do something that Mark Teixeira can.
Schilling: Only if I do….
Speier: Cue KG: "Anything is possible." Zum beispiel, Schilling got a triple in 1999.
20. Nick Green’s games played total (major leagues) in the last four years: 111 (2005), 63 (2006), 6 (2007), 0 (2008). Which will he most closely approximate this year?
Bradford: 2007. Too many options with Lowrie and Lugo healthy.
Donnelly: Somewhere between 2007 and 2006, closer to the 63.
Petraglia: Sixty-three, because he’ll find his way in.
Rish: 2007’s six. A few more than that, but nowhere near 63. When Lugo comes back then Green goes. If they do eventually pay someone to take Lugo I wouldn’t be surprised to see another utility type brought in.
Speier: On the bright side, he will buck the four-year trend and avoid dipping into a negative number of major-league games played. I’ll peg the number at a Ricky Gutierrez-style 21 games, so closest to the ’07 total.
21. Who will finish with the higher homer and RBI totals: Jason Bay or Manny Ramirez?
Bradford: Manny, but not by much.
Donnelly: Manny Ramirez.
Minihane: Manny. But Bay will have a solid year, I think. 30 and 100 is a safe bet.
Petraglia: Manny Ramirez, if only because he has to remind Frank McCourt of what a great player he is.
Rish: Manny Ramirez, but it’ll be close.
Speier: Manny hits more homers, but most with the bases empty as N.L. pitchers run in terror from the run-producing machine. Bay shakes off a terrible mid-year decision to get dreadlocks and, batting behind Ortiz, Youkilis and Drew, drives in 120 to Manny’s 115.
22. Who will finish with the higher on-base percentage this year: Jacoby Ellsbury or Coco Crisp?
Bradford: Coco. Jacoby has some work to do in this respect.
Donnelly: Jacoby Ellsbury.
Minihane: Coco -- .356 to .340.
Petraglia: Jacoby Ellsbury, because the brass is watching. Repeat after me -- OBP is EVERYTHING.
Rish: I’m going with Ellsbury. I expect Crisp to fit in well in KC, but I think Ellsbury will look more like the early 2008 Ellsbury than the ALCS version.
Speier: Ellsbury, but by a narrow margin (.350-.345).
23. More likely for J.D. Drew: .400 OBP, 140 games, neither or both?
Bradford: I’m bullish on the facet block … both! (There. I said it.)
Donnelly: This is Drew’s year –- both!
Minihane: I think he'll have a .462 OBP in his eight rehab games for Pawtucket. Does that count?
Petraglia: OBP of .400. No one ever said Drew wasn’t one of the most deadly efficient offensive players in the game.
Rish: OBP of .400. I’m not counting on 140 games, in fact I’d be surprised if he gets there, but I think the good OBP is a very reasonable expectation.
Schilling: OBP of .400.
Speier: Even if he's healthy, no way he gets 140 games with Baldelli in the mix to destroy left-handers, but the right-handedness of the pitchers he faces helps keep him above a .400 OBP.
24. In the past two years combined, Rocco Baldelli has played in 63 games, hit nine homers and driven in 25 runs. Will he exceed or fall short of those totals in 2009?
Bradford: Exceed. Medication is magic.
Donnelly: I can see Rocco playing in 31 games, but I have a more difficult time with his doubling that. Five home runs, 15 runs batted in for those games.
Minihane: I'm kind of optimistic about Rocco in 2009. I'll go with the over on all three.
Petraglia: He will exceed them. This story could go either way in Boston because the kid with so much potential out of high school in Rhode Island knows everyone will be chanting his name every time he comes up. Here’s rooting for the feel-good outcome. And with Boston’s medical staff among the best in sports, you can bet that he will be very closely monitored.
Rish: Exceed. I think he’ll surpass all of those numbers.
Schilling: Exceed all
Speier: I see him coming up a bit short in playing time, maybe 50-ish games that’ll keep him just short of the other two stat totals. No shame in that.
25. What will be the date, if any, of Chris Carter’s first major-league home run?
Bradford: April 12. A Sunday get-away day in the warmth of Southern California. Plus, everybody knows Carter hits well in lineups with Brad Penny pitching.
Donnelly: April 26, 2009 against the Yankees.
Minihane: How about at Yankee Stadium on August 8th?
Petraglia: Opening Day. Brandon Moss redux.
Rish: Thursday 5/28 at Minnesota. As good as any other.
Schilling: April 9th off Matt Garza.
Speier: April 15th, against the A’s in front of a bunch of fans from his hometown. Three Sox will land on the D.L. due to the incredible force of his post-HR high fives.