The Boston Red Sox had a highly inconsistent offense in 2017. Boston also had the lowest home run total of any American League team. The departure of David Ortiz contributed to that, however, not one player hit 25 or more home runs for the team in 2017. In 2016, two other players hit 25-plus home runs (Moonie Betts and Hanley Ramirez). While the Red Sox had a decent offense overall, placing sixth in the American League in runs scored, the lack of power was troubling. The inability to hit the ball out of the park contributed to the inconsistent offense showcased all season long. While an ability to make consistent contact is a great thing to possess, sometimes it is better to just hit the occasional three-run homer. To address its lack of power, Boston has fielded an offer to J.D. Martinez, who hit 45 homers in 2017. However, even if Martinez does sign with the Red Sox, he alone will not provide enough of a boost to Boston’s offense.

Boston needs a full year of Rafael Devers

Going into 2017, Red Sox fans were being sold the idea of a “new and improved” Pablo Sandoval. It was a believable story at the time considering the massive amount of work he put in to improve his physical shape during his time off from baseball. That proposition quickly disintegrated as Pablo was released in mid-July due to a combination of injuries and sub-par performance. As a last-ditch attempt to spark the team offensively, Dave Dombrowski called up the team’s top prospect, Rafael Defers, to man third base. The move paid off fortunately, as the youngster hit 10 homers in 58 games- a 28 homer pace over 162 games. Among these homers was an iconic home run off Aroldis Chapman, throwing 102mph heat, going the other way, on an ESPN Sunday night baseball game against the New York Yankees. The kid has his defensive deficiencies, but he showed tremendous promise with the bat. Hitting .284/.332/.482 showed that at such a young age, he is already a threat with the bat. His production was far superior to Pablo’s .212/.269/.354 slash line. If Boston has a full season of Devers, that is a noticeable boost right off the (pun intended) bat.

Stability at the second base position

Dustin Pedroia still gives Boston good offensive production and stellar defense in his mid-thirties. The problem these days is injuries. Last season he played only 105 games, although when he did, he hit .293/.369/392 which is decent production for him, albeit slightly below what he has had in seasons past. In turn, Boston had to rely on Brock Holt, who had a terrible 2017 (.200/.305/.243), light-hitting Deven Marrero (.211/.259/.333), Marco Hernandez (.276/.300/.328) and Tzu-Wei Lin (.268/.369/.339). Dustin Pedroia will miss the beginning of 2018 after having knee surgery, so the team will need someone to man the position in his absence. This means someone like Deven Marrero or Marco Hernandez will have to step up. When Pedroia eventually returns, perhaps he should take it a little easier on the defensive end of things in an effort to stay healthy. Having a healthy, productive Pedroia would help this team a lot.

Bounceback seasons from Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez

In 2016, Mookie Betts had the following production: .318/.363/.534 with 31 homers and 113 RBI. Hanley Ramirez had these numbers in 2016: .286/.361/.505 with 30 homers and 111 RBI. Xander Bogaerts had the following production in 2016: .294/.356/.446 with 21 homers and 89 RBI. That’s a total of 82 homers and 313 RBI between them. In 2017, that total dropped to 57 homers and 227 RBI. Xander Bogaerts lost 11 home runs, going from 21 to 10. Betts and Hanley suffered in their slash lines, falling to .264/.344/.459 and .242/.320/.429 respectively. If Boston is to improve its offense in 2018, it will need significantly better performances from these two. Expecting seasons from these players like their 2016 ones might be asking a little too much, however something inbetween, perhaps even leaning a little closer to their 2016 than 2017 numbers, sounds reasonable. This would drastically improve Boston’s offense.

In all, merely signing J.D. Martinez will not solve all of Boston’s offensive problems. Boston needs improvements from many of its players from a year ago combined with full and/or healthy seasons from significant contributors like Rafael Devers and Pedroia. Only then will the team compete enough  with New York on an offensive level to allow its pitching to shine.

 

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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