Many of the Boston Red Sox' question marks lie behind the plate and at the corner infield positions.
Perhaps the biggest question of all is the contract situation of the team's top slugger, Rafael Devers. The 25-year-old should be the face of the franchise for years to come, but the lack of traction on a potential extension has raised some red flags.
On the other side of the infield, it's only a matter of time until we see top prospect Triston Casas make his MLB debut. Where will this leave Bobby Dalbec?
And as for the catcher position, longtime Sox backstop Christian Vazquez is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2022 season. Is there any chance he re-signs, or will Boston move on from the 2018 World Series champion?
Let's take a look at Boston's corner infield and catching situations for 2022 and beyond.
Rafael Devers, 3B
2021 stats: .279/.352/.538, 38 HR, 113 RBI (156 games)
Contract status: Signed for one-year, $4.6 million in 2021. Arbitration-eligible through 2023. Free agent in 2024.
Outlook for 2022: Devers took another step forward in his young career with his first All-Star selection and Silver Slugger award. He was Boston's best hitter with a career-high 38 homers and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him top that mark in 2022.
But as Devers prepares to resume his role as arguably the most fearsome hitter in the Red Sox lineup, it's impossible to ignore his current contract situation. Devers and the organization reportedly have made "zero progress" on a contract extension this offseason. That makes the entire left side of Boston's infield a giant question mark with shortstop Xander Bogaerts likely to opt out of his deal after the 2022 campaign.
Expect Devers' to become even more of a focus point once the MLB lockout concludes. It'd be a surprise -- and a mistake -- for the Red Sox to not lock up their prized slugger before the start of the new season.
Bobby Dalbec, 1B
2021 stats: .240/.298/.494, 25 HR, 78 RBI (133 games)
Contract status: $575,000 for 2022. Under team control through 2023.
Outlook for 2022: Dalbec scuffled at the plate for most of last season after crushing eight homers in 23 games in 2020. He started to find his groove in August, however, when he hit .339 with seven homers and followed that up with a six-homer September.
If Dalbec can carry that late-season success into 2022, he should have no problem finding a consistent role on the Red Sox' roster. But with top prospect Triston Casas set to take over at first base sooner rather than later, Dalbec might be forced to switch positions or embrace a spot on the bench.
Christian Vazquez, C
2021 stats: .258/.308/.352, 6 HR, 49 RBI (138 games)
Contract status: Signed three-year, $13.55 million contract in 2018. Free agent after 2022 season.
Outlook for 2022: Vazquez's power disappeared last year after he blasted seven homers in the shortened 2020 season and 23 in 2019. More importantly, the usual defensive stalwart took a slight step back behind the plate. That regression appears to have caught the attention of Boston's front office as it attempted a trade for Jacob Stallings earlier this offseason and quickly re-signed backup catcher Kevin Plawecki.
If Vazquez can return to form as one of the game's top backstops next year, perhaps the Red Sox will consider re-signing him. As of now though, it seems much more likely that 2022 will be Vazquez's final season in Boston.
Kevin Plawecki, C
2021 stats: .287/.349/.389, 3 HR, 15 RBI (64 games)
Contract status: Re-signed to one-year, $2.25 million contract on Dec. 1. Free agent after 2022 season.
Outlook for 2022: Plawecki made an impact both on and off the field in 2021. The backup catcher not only hit a solid .287 in 64 games, but he also brought the team together with its official postseason anthem, "Dancing On My Own."
His presence in the Red Sox clubhouse clearly was valued as the organization wasted no time bringing him back on a one-year, $2.25 million contract this offseason. He'll return as a reliable backup for Vazquez and a quiet leader behind the scenes.
Triston Casas, 1B
2021 stats: .279/.394/.484, 14 HR, 59 RBI (86 games between Double-A Portland, Triple-A Worcester)
Contract status: Signed full-slot deal worth $2,552,800 after 2018 MLB Draft.
Outlook for 2022: One of the most exciting storylines of the 2022 Red Sox season will be the potential call-up of the team's prized prospect, Triston Casas. The left-handed-hitting slugger raked at Double-A, Triple-A, and in Tokyo for Team USA in 2021. Often compared to five-time All-Star Freddie Freeman, Casas is considered the future of the franchise at first base.
Casas only spent nine games with Worcester last year, so that's where he'll likely play for most of the 2022 campaign. That said, there's a strong chance he could be called up to The Show sometime during the summer like fellow top prospect Jarren Duran was in 2021.