McAdam's first look at Red Sox 25-man roster
McAdam's first look at Red Sox 25-man roster
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Pitchers and catchers are due to report Thursday to Fenway South, with position players due next week.
The first exhibition games are a couple of weeks away and the start of the season is better than six weeks off on the horizon.
Still, it's never too early to take a stab at the Opening Day 25-man roster. Injuries and performance could change things between now and April 4, the start of the 2016 season.
Strangely, though, for a team coming off consecutive last-place finishes, there don't seem to a lot of roster spots up for competition. Of course, that, too, can change in the coming weeks.
But, for now...
CATCHERS (2): Ryan Hanigan; Blake Swihart
Hanigan, as dependable a backup catcher as exists in the game, is a lock. Swihart will almost certainly start the season as the No. 1 receiver, based principally on questions surrounding Christian Vazquez.
Vazquez underwent Tommy John surgery 11 months ago and has passed every test to date, including some throwing drills here. But the Red Sox are on record as saying they'd prefer to proceed cautiously with Vazquez and thus, it makes sense to have him start the year at Triple A Pawtucket.
When he's gotten enough at-bats and the weather warms up, he'll be cleared to return to the major leagues -- at which point, the Sox will have some other decisions to make. Swihart might benefit from additional development time in the minors, but not much. And eventually, the Sox are going to have to decide whether Swihart or Vazquez is their catcher of the future.
INFIELD-DH (7): Hanley Ramirez; Dustin Pedroia; Xander Bogaerts; Pablo Sandoval; Travis Shaw; Brock Holt; David Ortiz
The starting infield is set, with Sandoval, Bogaerts, and Pedroia returning to their familiar spots and Ramirez trying his hand at first.
Ortiz returns for his 14th (!!) straight year as the starting DH.
Shaw can spell Ramirez at first and fill in at third, too, while Holt is again the team's super utility choice, capable of playing all four infield spots -- and three outfield positions, too.
OUTFIELD (4): Rusney Castillo; Jackie Bradley Jr; Mookie Betts; Chris Young
The Red Sox spent the final month of 2015 mixing-and-matching in the outfield, before settling on Castillo in left, Bradley in center and Betts in right.
That alignment should be fine, though it's possible all three could move around if needed. In particular, Bradley's arm would be best utilized in right at Fenway, so he could see some time there. The goal, though, is to (mostly) keep the three starting outfielders in the same spots, so as to not create instability.
Young should be a valuable piece off the bench, capable of mashing lefties. If Castillo struggles offensively, Young could see more opportunities in left. Meanwhile, he also offers a platoon option for Bradley, though if that happens, expect that Betts would slide over to center, with Castillo in right and Young in left.
STARTING ROTATION (5) : David Price; Clay Buchholz; Rick Porcello; Eduardo Rodriguez; Joe Kelly
Barring injury -- always a possibility for pitchers, especially early in the season -- this is the Red Sox rotation, vastly improved with the addition of Price at the top.
The hope is that Price's presence will enable Buchholz and Porcelo to assume roles more in keeping with their abilities. No longer will they be expected to lead the staff.
Rodriguez is just 23 and could improve, while the Red Sox believe that Kelly turned a corner last year when he stopped trying to overpower every hitter and instead relied on his secondary stuff more.
Depth options are available, with Henry Owens expected to get further time at Triple A and lefty swingman Roenis Elias another possibility.
BULLPEN (7): Craig Kimbrel; Koji Uehara; Junichi Tazawa; Carson Smith; Robbie Ross Jr.; Tommy Layne; Steven Wright
Kimbrel, obtained in a November deal with San Diego, represents an upgrade at the closer's spot, with ageless Koji Uehara relegated to set-up man. He'll share that assignment with Carson Smith, a power arm with a deadly sinker.
There's some concern about Tazawa and his workload the last few seasons. As such, he'll be pushed back to sixth- and seventh-inning duty, and the Sox won't need to rely on him nearly as much.
Layne can be an effective lefty specialist who shouldn't be exposed to many righties. Ross is a versatile lefty, who can handle multiple innings as a long or middle relief choice.
The final spot in the bullpen is potentially up for grabs. Expect flame-throwing Pat Light, Matt Barnes and Elias to be given consideration. But Light probably needs more seasoning and Elias would give the bullpen three lefties -- probably more than is necessary.
Wright could win a spot based on the fact that he's out of options and the Sox would have to expose him to waivers to option him to Pawtucket.