The Red Sox roster is official. Some new names, so old names. Some fan-favorites, some not-so-favorites. Some veterans, some rookies (well, not actually).
With 25 names locked into the Opening Day roster, here's 25 predictions for each of them. Some aren't too far-fetched. Others are so fearless you're going to have to read them twice. (Maybe three times if you don't think I'm making any sense.)
Ellsbury will be traded near the deadline. I said "fearless," right? Ellsbury's name has been mixed into trade rumors for a couple of seasons, but now might be the right time. With Carl Crawford on board, Ellsbury is expendable. He brings some tools to the table, but nothing more than Crawford. With prospects like Ryan Kalish on the cusp, Ellsbury could bring back quite a haul in talent.
Pedroia will hit the disabled list -- again. I would like to say Pedroia will be perfect this year. He'll hit .407, with 30 home runs and 25 stolen bases with exceptional defense ... but that's just not going to happen. Pedroia seems healthy -- and he probably is -- but I get the feeling he'll see DL time again. It won't be anything too severe, but he'll be out at some point and the Sox will feel the effect of his loss.
Crawford will become the sure-fire face of the franchise. This may sound like a weak prediction, considering it's hard to measure the "face of the franchise," but it will be unquestionable by the end of the year. Move over, David Ortiz. Take a back seat, Youk and Pedey. Crawford is going to be on top. T-shirt sales will reflect that and everything else will, too.
Gonzalez will hit more home runs by any Sox since David Ortiz in 2006 (54). There's a lot of high expectations for Gonzalez. While I don't think he'll live up to all of those (50 home runs? Not quite), he'll still play very well. He'll hit 35-plus home runs and be an MVP candidate. Sox fans will love him.
Youkilis' defensive problems at third base will be a radio topic by season's end. Youkilis is looking forward to going back to third base, but how's he going to be by August? Something tells me his defense isn't going to be that great there -- really, it's never been that amazing at third -- and you'll hear people asking, "Can we move Youk to another position?"
Ortiz will lose his starting DH job. Ortiz won't be horrible this season, but he's not going to be good enough to be the designated hitter night-in and night-out. At some point, Ortiz will have a platoon-mate. I don't envision it being anyone within the organization -- although it could be someone like Lars Anderson (crossing my fingers) -- but Ortiz will need a partner in crime. Ortiz hit just .222 with two home runs against lefties last year.
Drew will rebound, but retire at season's end. Drew is going to have a good season. But just when everyone thinks, all right, come on back, J.D.! He'll say, "Nope, I'm done." Drew will have one last hurrah and be out the door when the season is over. He's a talented ballplayer, but he's one of the few athletes in pro sports that doesn't need to drag out a good thing.
Sox fans, for the most part, will love Salty. It's going to take some time, but Saltalamacchia is going to be a fan-favorite. He's going to hit the ball pretty well and he's going to fill Jason Varitek's shoes nicely. He won't have a .900 OPS, but he'll do enough to keep his job and win over some critics.
Scutaro will be in the running for a Gold Glove. I don't really care about Gold Glove awards -- they essentially mean nothing. But, in the end, it's a nice feather in the cap. Scutaro will flash a great glove this year and show people (Derek Jeter included) how the shortstop position is played. By the way, this means Scutaro will keep his job all season.
Lester will win the AL Cy Young award. I feel like I've said to start the last three seasons, but now is the time. Lester will win the Cy Young and New England will rejoice. Lester was put on the map last year as one of baseball's best. This year, he starts making his case for even more than that.
John Lackey will be good. I just think that statement alone is shocking and fearless. But yes, after a somewhat lackluster season last year, Lackey will rebound in a big way. Behind Lester, Lackey will be Sox's second-best pitcher. Yeah, you heard me.
Buchholz will be the 2011 version of the 2010 John Lackey. Buchholz was good last year, but he wasn't great. While some people think he's turned a corner, he's going to take a step back this year. He got very lucky in 2010 and it's not going to be as easy this time around.
Beckett will lash out and be a media monster. I like Beckett, but if he continues to struggle, it's not going to be pretty. It's going to come out in the media and bad things will be said. The media will press him and his Texan attitude will show. It could get ugly.
Dice-K will be the team's third best starting pitcher. Matsuzaka is going to break out and be pretty darn good. I promise it. He'll be an All-Star and, hopefully, all the Dice-K hate will cease. People will see he has good stuff and he can get outs. Come the playoffs, he'll be the team's No. 3 starter.
Papelbon will be an All-Star (sidebar: and make a ton of money in the offseason). Paps might have had a tough spring, but the guy will be great during the regular season. The Sox could trade him, but I think he's going to stick around throughout the season because the Sox will realize they can't afford to lose him via trade.
Bard will see spells of wildness, but still be the same great setup man. Bard will be fine. He's solid. He'll go out and throw 98 mph and the Sox will be comfortable with him. Nothing too out of the ordinary here.
Wake will start less than 15 games. If this prediction does come true, it'll be the fewest number of starts for baseball's old player since 2002. Which, if he's doing well in the bullpen, isn't a problem. The real issue? We're going to hear about his displeasure for being in the bullpen ... quite a bit.
Jenks will finish with a 4.00-plus ERA. Jenks will not be anything special. He'll have his days, but he's certainly not going to be a reliable, every day reliever like Bard. The Sox will be pleased if Jenks just doesn't have any off-the-field issues. That's a win for the organization.
Wheeler is going to be Wheeler. OK, kind of vague, but consider this: Wheeler's ERA has been under 3.35 for the last three years. It'll be like that again. The 0.86 WHIP in 2009 was not a fluke. Wheeler is a good reliever and will be one of the most reliable options out of the bullpen for Terry Francona.
Albers won't last the season on the big league roster. Albers has impressed this spring, but let's remember he's a reliever. He's also a 28 year old who has put up below replacement-level production in his five years in professional baseball. He'll have his moments -- like every reliever -- but will be out of Boston at some point.
Reyes will ... ahh, just look above. Everything I wrote about Albers is the same for Reyes. I'm rooting for the big guy, but the Sox will have better options later in the season.
This will be Varitek's last season. If I wrote this column in 2008, I would have said the same thing, but this is it for Captain. He'll see the performance of Saltalamacchia and be able to bow out with grace, dignity and honor. Varitek will forever be a hero in Boston and he'll go out in style.
Cameron, like Ellsbury, will be traded at some point this season. Cameron is a great fourth outfielder for the Sox, but there are teams out there that would love to put him to use in a bigger role. The Sox won't want to part with him, but when you can get a good haul for a fourth outfielder, you take it. Especially an aging outfielder in the last year of his contract.
McDonald will last the season on Boston's roster. Unlike a few of the above, McDonald will last the year with the Sox. McDonald is a versatile player and is cheap. The Sox love that. He'll continue to raise his Cult Hero status and be happy riding that pine. McDonald might be expendable, but he'll end up seeing the entirety of the year with the Sox.
At no point will Lowrie replicate his small-sample results from 2010. Lowrie is a solid ballplayer, but a lot of people are in love with what he did in 2010 -- which was very little. He hit nine home runs in the last two months of the season. But with Scutaro having a good year, Lowrie will be a bench player for the majority of the season. He'll do that well, but he's not going to be what some Sox fans want.