By Brian Maloney
With Spring Training slowly winding down and the regular season just about to begin, it is officially time to examine the Boston Red Sox, as well as meet the players that fans will attach themselves to this season.
So, with that being said, NoontimeSports.com will feature five in-depth articles this week that examine the various positions and players that will make up the 2011 Red Sox team.
First Base – Adrian Gonzalez will own this position for the majority of the season. If he is truly healthy then he could conceivably start possibly 155 games, but again, he must remain healthy. His “stroke” is clearly built for Fenway Park and the ridiculous proclamation by ESPN’s Jon Kruk is that he could go for 50 home runs and 50 doubles, but in all seriousness, his theories may not be so crazy, since he could finish the year close to those prospective numbers.
His primary backup will most likely be Kevin Youkilis, who is moving from first to third base this season. Also, Jed Lowrie will step in a the hot corner at times, but due to his various Spring Training innings at first, consider his role to be more of a defensive replacement than a nine-inning situation.
Potential starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia also has some experience playing first, so he may make a rare start in the infield if he is hitting well and also if Jason Varitek needs some playing time behind the plate.
There are also a handful of players that will not be on the opening day roster that could contribute if injuries or poor play occurs, such as Lars Anderson who has been a top prospect in the system for a few years now. Fans got a taste of what he was like last season, so look for a longer look this year. He sort of hit a snag in his development at Pawtucket last year, but should he get off to a quick start in AAA, then most likely he will see more time in Boston this spring and summer.
Also, Aaron Bates is still in the system, though not on the 40-man roster. He is often considered a commodity mold, so don’t be surprised if he makes an appearance this summer as well. The top first base prospect in the system is Anderson, so certainly be prepared Sox fans if Boston gives him some playing time this season.
Starter: Adrian Gonzalez
Backups: Kevin Youkilis, Jed Lowrie and Jarrod Salalamacchia
40-Man Roster: Lars Anderson
Possible Replacement: Aaron Bates
Hot Prospect: Lars Anderson
Third Base: Kevin Youkilis makes his triumphant return to the other side of the diamond this year. He is another player that seems to be in the lineup every day, so we can only expect more of the same. It is a pretty safe bet that he finished the season with an average around (.300).
Look for the ultra-utility man Jed Lowrie to be the primary backup too, with nobody else on the roster having spent as much time at the hot corner. Although, should anything happen on the injury front between Lowrie and Youkilis, expect the club to dip into players at Pawtucket or Portland for relief.
The Sox have seen Oscar Tejeda and Yamaico Navarro last season and one would think that these two are the best choices to be brought up. Both are young, as well as inexperienced, but have tremendous upside, especially on the defensive end.
The Red Sox do have a very good emergency option at third base in Hector Luna, who was signed to a minor league contract during the offseason, yet he would need to be added to the 40-man roster, so some finagling would need to occur to make this happen.
Drew Sutton was also signed to a minor league contract and may also see some playing time at third in an emergency, so he is another name to remember this spring.
Last year’s first round pick, Kolbrin Vitek is the most highly rated of them all, but he is still a few years away from playing in Boston, so most likely he is expected to maybe reach Portland by the end of the summer.
Along with Navarro and Tejeda, Sox fans should also be on the lookout for Will Middlebrooks. A converted shortstop that is finally beginning to fill out his frame and has the potential to be a September call up.
Starter: Kevin Youkilis
Backup: Jed Lowrie
40-Man Roster: Oscar Tejeda, Yamaico Navarro
Possible Replacement: Hector Luna and Drew Sutton
Hot Prospects: Kolbrin Vitek, Yamaico Navarro, Oscar Tejeda, Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini
(Credit SoxProspects.com for research on the prospects. Seriously, check this site out, best Sox resource out there.)