The assignment is to name five Red Sox players who are being overlooked/underrated as we enter the 2023 season, but that description applies to virtually the entire roster.
For better or for worse, Chaim Bloom basically constructed the All-Overlooked team this winter. People are sleeping on Justin Turner because he's 38, or Nick Pivetta because he was terrible against the division, or Chris Sale because he has barely pitched in three years, or Alex Verdugo because he has yet to make the leap, or ... you get the picture.
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But even within that broad group, it's still possible to narrow it down to five players we feel could make bigger impacts this season than fans are expecting. Your list could easily differ.
1. Chris Martin, RHP
The bullpen was bad last year. Like, second-worst ERA (4.59) in the American League bad. And its primary issue was an inability to throw strikes. Bloom addressed that by cutting ties with every wayward arm (Matt Barnes, Hirokazu Sawamura, Austin Davis, et. al.) and replaced them with strike-throwers.
No one defines that characteristic more thoroughly than Martin, who recorded nearly 15 strikeouts for every walk last year, good for best in the majors. The 36-year-old posted a 1.46 ERA after being traded to the Dodgers, and the Red Sox expect that he'll fill the role they once envisioned for Barnes. A second lockdown eighth-inning arm alongside John Schreiber completely alters Alex Cora's late-game calculus, transforming it into much simpler arithmetic.
2. Christian Arroyo, 2B
Every summation of Arroyo must start with two words -- "When healthy..." -- and this will be no different. When healthy, Arroyo feels cut from the same cloth as former batting champ Bill Mueller. He's a threat in the lower part of the order who consistently barrels the ball while exhibiting a flair for the dramatic.
With Trevor Story likely sidelined for the first half, at least, Arroyo should open the season as the everyday second baseman. Arroyo has played the equivalent of one full season with the Red Sox since 2020, batting .273 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs in 158 games.
What his numbers don't take into account is all the time he has spent rounding back into form after returning from this or that injury. Still only 27 years old, he's just hitting his prime.
3. Adam Duvall, CF
Duvall was one of the last additions of the offseason, which automatically gives him a leftovers kind of feel. But at his best, he can hit in the middle of a lineup. Two years ago, he smashed 38 homers and led the National League with 113 RBIs. The former All-Star also won a Gold Glove.
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The Red Sox are asking the 34-year-old to play center field, which probably doesn't suit him over the long haul, but we have a solution for that next on this list. He may never hit for average (.230 lifetime hitter), but he brings pop to a lineup that desperately needs it, and he should be fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his wrist.
He could easily end up outproducing some higher-profile and more expensive free agents from this winter's class.
4. Ceddanne Rafaela CF/SS
When the Red Sox surprise us, there's often an unexpected boost from a rookie to thank. Think Jacoby Ellsbury in 2007, Xander Bogaerts in 2013, or Rafael Devers in 2017.
Rafaela has all the tools to be that guy this year, though he'll almost certainly open the season at Triple-A Worcester. Compared by some to Mookie Betts (albeit crucially without the former MVP's selectivity at the plate), Rafaela is already considered a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder by rival evaluators, as well as an above-average shortstop.
Blessed with quick hands, excellent speed, and surprising power, the 5-foot-8 Rafaela might be the most electric player in the system. He needs to refine his offensive approach, but at some point in 2023, he'll reach Boston, and don't be surprised if he makes an impact.
5. Trevor Story, 2B/SS
Out of sight, out of mind, but don't close the book on Story contributing this season. He underwent a bracing procedure to secure the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow in January, avoiding Tommy John, but is still looking at a four-to-six month rehab. The Red Sox aren't planning on his return before the All-Star break, but half a season out of Story could still transform the club on both sides of the ball.
He played elite defense at second base last year even with diminished arm strength, and in May he showed what he can mean to an offense when he slammed nine homers with 32 RBIs. Add superb baserunning instincts and tremendous all-around athleticism, and Story may yet play a role, even if we have to wait a bit to see it.