As the 2011 spring rolls on, there is a tremendous amount of excitement brewing up here in Beantown. And make no mistake about it, as much as the city is captivated by the respective playoff runs being made by the C's and B's, the Red Sox World Series chances are paramount here. And as the season is set to begin, I will start the blog by previewing every position for the Red Sox in the coming season. To start it off, here is the preview for catchers. Enjoy.
As a Red Sox fan, I have been spoiled for the better part of the last decade at this position. For the rest of the league, this has been one of the weakest positions in the lineup. However, the Red Sox have had the luxury of having a rock in Jason Varitek behind the plate for the better part of their amazing run since 2003. As for last year, as Varitek's work load has finally started to catch up with him physically, the Red Sox were able to turn to Victor Martinez, whose presence in the lineup made up for his limitations behind the plate. However, as this year begins, the Red Sox enter the season with a new face starting in the line up, as Martinez left for Detroit via free agency in the offseason.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is entering the season as the Red Sox starting catcher, is perceived as the weakest member of the lineup, and rightfully so. However, I will not be so quick to decide that he will be a total dud this year. After all, Salty is only 26 years old, and only a few years ago was one of the top prospects at the position. Strangely enough, the reason he has spent a solid chunk of his career in the minors isn't because of his lack of offense, or even throwing batters out. The reason he's been spending time on the farm the past few years is actually because he was struggling throwing the ball back to the pitcher. Now that he has figured this crucial part of the game out, I think he can be a solid player in this league. In 2007, his rookie year with the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves, he played in 93 games while batting .266 and hitting 11 home runs and 33 RBI. These numbers, while they don't jump off the page, looked like a solid start for a player in their rookie year. If he could have progressed naturally through the years following 07, I think we would be looking at a guy who would be a solid starter, maybe a one or two time All-Star, for the next 7-9 years. However, that didn't happen and I'm not crazy enough to believe he will play up to that level. Here are my predictions for Saltalamacchia in 2011.
.268 BA, 9 HR, 54 RBI, .356 OBP, .437 SLG, .793 OPS, 106 Games.
With these numbers coming out of the nine spot, the Sox should be satisfied with this stop gap until they find their true catcher of the future.