Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 7/25/13
It’s around that point in the season where it’s time for me to put my fortune-telling cap on and make some predictions for the end of the year. You may think some are crazy, and others are genius, but regardless what you think, these will all 100% happen. The Red Sox will win the AL East on the last day of the season. Green Monster standings This year’s version of the AL East features some of the best teams in baseball (Red Sox, Rays, Orioles) and is sure to provide fans with some excitement as the season dwindles and games take on more meaning. There’s no more wondering if the Orioles can do it again (they have), or if the Rays can squeeze out enough offense (they can), or if Boston can rebound from a last place finish in just a year (consider it done). The Yankees are still in the picture, but have faded out over the past two months, and there’s a reason i’m not talking about the Blue Jays. Between the Rays, Orioles, and Sox’, no team appears like they will crash and burn into a fiery collapse. Now, that doesn’t mean one team won’t separate themselves from the pack, but I don’t see the separation being anything more than 4, maybe, 5 games max. The real reason I think it will take the Sox’ all the way until the last day is because of their September schedule. Even if the Sox’ gain some ground in August, 19 of their 25 games in September are within the division: seven against New York, three against Tampa Bay, six against Baltimore, and three against Toronto. This means that in order to take the AL East Pennant, you’re going to have to fight through September to get it. September 29th! Mark it on your calendars. Felix Doubront will have the most wins on the Red Sox. As of today, Doubront stands at 7 wins. The most on the team is 9 (Buchholz and Lester). Trailing by only two wins, Doubront is pitching better than anyone on the staff of late, aside from maybe Lackey. Lester had a good start against Tampa, but needs to show he can do it on a consistent basis, and Buchholz can’t earn any wins from the DL. That leaves good ole’ Felix to keep doing what he’s been doing and climb is way up the wins ladder. When you look at the run support Doubront has been getting this season, you can start to see where i’m coming from. He’s 14th in the majors at 5.17 runs per game, and while two other Red Sox starters are higher on that list (Lester and Dempster), neither are pitching quite as good as Doubront heading into the last two months. In July alone, Doubront is 3-1, with a 2.36 ERA, and 21 K’s. Will Middlebrooks will not be traded and will resume his role at 3B for Boston. His numbers aren’t pretty with a slash line of .192/.228/.389, but I know, and the Red Sox know, that Middlebrooks is far better than his numbers portray. The young third baseman has a ton of pop in his bat and has the potential to be a 30 home run guy. He struggled this year after breaking out his rookie season, but that was expected, everybody has the sophomore slump. It’s just that everybody expected him to start picking it up at a certain point, and he never did. There’s been recent rumors going around of Middlebrooks being dealt for Jake Peavy in a deal with Chicago. I find it hard to believe that the Red Sox would give up on, what was supposed to be, their starting man at the hot corner so quickly. Even with Bogaerts making noise at Pawtucket, there’s no sense in letting go of Middlebrooks. Iglesias has been struggling mightily since the second half began, but I still prefer him over Drew. Now, more than ever, might be the best time to move Will back up to the majors and bump Drew out of the starting line up. In his time at AAA, Middlebrooks has 8 home run’s and 29 RBI’s, while hitting .278. He clearly has his swing back and I bet you’ll see him back at Fenway sooner than you anticipate. Jacoby Ellsbury will hit over .310, break his own steals record, and then leave Boston in free agency. After a slow start, Ellsbury has turned it up and been tremendous. He’s brought his average up to .301 and has collected 119 hits on the Jacoby Ellsbury season. He’s healthy, comfortable at the plate, and playing on the best offense in the major leagues, so yes, I think he should be able to hit over .310 no problem. Did I mention he runs faster than anyone, ever? 37 steals on the year in 40 chances. His best effort came in 2009 when he stole 70 bases, but if he stays aggressive, I could see him surpassing that this season. John Farrell has given him the green light basically every time he touches first base, and for good reason, he’s on pace to have the best stolen base percentage of his career. But really, let’s get to the meat of the prediction here. Jacoby ain’t coming back folks. If i’m reading the vibes right, the cards don’t align for him to return to Boston. With the infamous Scott Boras on his side, Ellsbury is going to demand a top-tier contract for center fielders. It’s going to be for a lot of years, and a very large amount of dollar bills that the Red Sox will not feel comfortable giving him. The funny part is I don’t blame either side for not wanting to budge. With the Sox’ dishing out the contract to Pedroia, giving out another similar contract to Ellsbury would make it impossible for them to make any other significant signings in the future. From their perspective, your looking at a guy with an injury history and a pattern of inconsistent (but very good) play who will never have another season like 2011 again. From Ellsbury’s view, he believes he is a top dollar player and knows that there are teams with large payrolls out there willing to give him a max deal. Ellsbury has been nothing but good to this city and team since he put on the uniform. So if he must leave, I hope he gets a trillion dollars. Mike Napoli will come up short of the single-season strikeout record by 5. Don’t ask me why I chose five. Sometime’s you have to trust your gut, and my gut is telling me that the “Mark Reynolds” award will stay right where it is…with Mark Reynolds. Napoli’s swing is like if Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn’s swing had a baby. He’s only nine away from his career high (137, 2010) with a little over two months to go sitting at 128. The record is 223 set in 2009 by Reynolds, of course, and even though Napoli’s upper-cut hack will lead him close to the record, I think his beard stops him at 218, which would be good for 4th on the all-time list. He struck out 40 times in April, 38 times in May, 25 times in June (injury helped his cause), and 25 times in July so far. Only 90 more to go! Previously: Boston Red Sox trade rumors    

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

PLAYERS: Dustin Pedroia
TEAMS: Boston Red Sox
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