Red Sox at the quarter pole
McAdam: Ramirez biggest surprise so far
Biggest surprise: Hanley Ramirez
Let's face it: No one -- perhaps not even Ramirez himself -- expected his transition to first base to go this smoothly.
Ramirez has started all but a handful of games and has yet to commit an error at his new, adopted position. Even that doesn't capture how well he's played. He's scooped low throws, started double plays and chased foul balls into the seats.
Moreover, he's playing first with the enthusiasm he seldom showed in left field, or, to hear some tell it, shortstop, in his last few years with the Dodgers.
Ramirez is engaged and invested, feeling a sense of shared responsibility. No longer a disinterested bystander in the outfield, he's an interested, conscientious teammate.
Offensively, Ramirez hasn't hit for the power that he flashed in the first month of 2015. But he's begun to drive the ball more in recent weeks and his .827 OPS reflects a relatively strong start at the plate.
Biggest disappointment: Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval's season got off to an ominous start when he reported to spring training at about the same weight he was a year ago -- despite reports of an intensive offseason conditioning program.
Perhaps predictably, he had a poor spring -- both in the batter's box and at third base -- and was beaten out for the starting job by Travis Shaw.
In the first few weeks of the season, he mostly sat on the bench, little more than an expensive bit of dead contractual weight. Famously, his most memorable moment came in Toronto, when he swung at a pitch and had his belt buckle come undone, mid-at bat.
Not long after, Sandoval reported a shoulder injury, which, eventually, was diagnosed as a torn labrum, requiring season-ending surgery.
Most Valuable Player: David Ortiz
Yes, he's 40, and yes, he's only the DH. But Ortiz remains the most indispensible bat in the Red Sox lineup in this, his final (?) season.
Ortiz leads the team in many significant offensive categories, from doubles to homers to RBI to slugging percentage and OPS.
He remains the Red Sox hitter who strikes the most fear in opponents . . . and for good reason. His double-triple-homer display last Saturday against the Houston was the offensive display of the season to date and the finish -- with Ortiz driving a game-winning double for an extra-innings walkoff -- is the highlight of the year so far.
Best Breakout: Jackie Bradley Jr.
There were hints of this last August, when the outfielder enjoyed an otherworldly August with the bat, showing heretofore unknown power. But when that torrid streak was followed by a slumping September, it seemed like a mirage.
After a reltively slow start to his season in Arpil, however, Bradley has resumed that same stroke, fashioning a hitting streak that's sitting at 24 games entering the weekend. What's more, he's again adding power to the mix, with seven homers in that streak, to go along with plenty of doubles and triples.
Strangely, Bradley's defensive play hasn't been up to his usual standards. He's made two errors, misplayed some others and at times either made off-line throws, or made throws to the wrong bases.
That dip in the field is more likely an aberration. And it's safe to assume that his offensive game -- while unlikely to continue at its current pace -- is no longer a mirage.
Biggest mystery: David Price
It's possible -- likely, even -- that Price, through a series of mechanical adjustments, has figured things out and the pitcher we've seen in the last two outings (14 IP, 11 H, 3 ER, 2 BB,17 K) is the one we'll see the rest of the way.
Still, it's hard to grasp how a pitcher so talented could be so poor in four of his first seven starts. In each of those four bad starts, he allowed five or more runs.
Even stranger came the realization that Price pitched most of last year -- when he finished second in Cy Young Award balloting -- with the same suspect mechanics.
For now, Price seems to have corrected his flaws. But to put people at total ease, he'll need more than two straight solid starts.
Biggest ongoing concern: Clay Buchholz
Buchholz has been the weak link in a (generally) underperforming rotation, with precisely one quality start in his first eight outings.
Given his track record as an enigmatic pitcher, maybe that doesn't qualify as shocking. But few expected he would give up five runs or more five times in the first seven weeks of the season.
As is often the case with Buchholz, the results seem to be less a matter of stuff and more about approach. Buchholz too often lacks confidence and won't attack hitters. Instead he nibbles and works at a glacial pace, especially with runners on base.
From the Red Sox standpoint, the hope is that Buchholz figures it out and goes on one of his patented runs for 10-12 starts.
It's easy for disgruntled fans to call for his removal from the rotation. But the fact remains that, given the lack of starting pitching depth in the organization, the club, for now, lacks better options.