January 1st- a day for crowded gyms, groggy mornings, and unrealistic resolutions. It’s also a day to think about possibilities. There’s 365 days left; out of all the things that could happen, what actually will? Looking at the Sox, there’s so many ways this year could turn out. For all we know, Wade Miley will win the Cy Young. Prognostications are always difficult, especially months before the season even begins, but I figure it’s worth trying. Maybe I’ll look like a psychic by the end of the year.
- Travis Shaw will establish himself as the everyday first baseman.
With his performance in 2016, Shaw will convince Dave Dombrowski that he doesn’t need any hired help at first. After hitting .270 with 13 homers and 36 homers in just 65 games in 2015, expect Shaw to take full advantage of increased playing time.
- Koji Uehara will retire.
The time has come. At 40-years-old, injuries are finally catching up to Koji. Given that Craig Kimbrel looks to be the team’s closer for the next several years, Koji will wrap up an excellent career this season.
3. Xander Bogaerts will be selected for the All-Star game.
Bogaerts is somehow still only 23-years-old- the kid just keeps getting better and better. It’s not often that a guy hits .320 and doesn’t make the All-Star game, but that happened to Bogaerts last year. He’s not getting snubbed again.
4. Mookie Betts will finish in the top 10 of AL MVP voting.
There’s obviously a lot of hype around Mookie, but I think at this point, he’s proved there’s good reason for it. After a slow start, Mookie hit .311 after the All-Star break and made several eye-popping catches. Since this Sox team will be more competitive and receive greater national media recognition, he’ll finish much higher than last year (19th) in the MVP ballot.
5. Pablo Sandoval‘s weight will be a problem, but Hanley Ramirez’s won’t.
It’s unfortunate that this has been a big story, but the weight of two of the team’s big-money acquisitions in 2015 continues to be an issue. While I believe that Hanley’s transformation is genuine, I just can’t imagine the Panda without a belly.
6. Jackie Bradley Jr. will finish with a better batting average than Chris Young.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Though he still struggles for consistency, Bradley Jr. showed us that he’s a major league quality hitter last August, when he hit .354 with five homers and 23 RBIs. Young is expected to take away a large chunk of Bradley Jr.’s playing time, but I expect Jackie to make the team, earn some at-bats, and cash in on his chacnes. At this point, the incredible defensive plays he’ll make are a give in.
- The Sox will have an 11-game winning streak.
Pretty random, yes, but this team does have a number of streaky players. A few hot streaks are going to coincide at some stage, and an 11-game streak (yes, exactly 11 games…) will be the result.
- If the Cubs don’t win the World Series, the Red Sox will.
The fact that the Cubs are a very good team seems irrelevant to most. The curses of Steve Bartman and the Billy Goat are simply too strong, they say. Well, 2016 is a new year, and as the Sox showed the world 12 years ago, no curse is so strong that it can’t be broken. If the Cubs are damned for another season, the Sox will take the crown.