Every baseball fan and people within the game will tell you spring training results do not matter and are no precursor to success or failure in the upcoming season. Remember in 2015 Mike Napoli going into a free agent season smashed home runs all over the Grapefruit League, and when the bell rang he stopped hit nearly altogether for months.
But that does not mean some observations cannot made. Spring Training results don't matter, but....
1. Hanley Ramirez can play first base. Ramirez is not going to win the gold glove, and may still not make it all the way through the season as the starting first sacker. But he is an infielder and he can handle ground balls (even with some diving stops mixed in), and he can catch the throws made to him. Admit it, all winter long you had visions of Hanley standing transfixed in one spot and literally dropping any throw that happened to hit his mitt. Hanley will be at least adequate at first, but to keep this job he will need to hit like Hanley Ramirez going forward.
2. Jackie Bradley, Jr. "looks" great at the plate. I am not even talking about numbers here although JBJ has flirted with .400 and hit two or three home runs. I am talking about the short, quick stroke that is driving the ball in all directions around the field. I am also taking note of the variance in his attack. One of his home runs came on the first pitch of the at bat, at other times he is still waiting to hit deeper in the count. I may be one of the last Red Sox fans who feels JBJ can be a .280-.290 hitter, based on his minor league credentials. But even if he hits .240-.250, he will be an asset because of his defense.
3. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are ready to become the faces of this franchise. Betts is being mentioned as an AL MVP candidate and Bogaerts will hopefully get the All-Star nod he deserved in 2015. The pair of 23 year olds have very bright futures and the future is now.
4. If spring training stats for pitchers do not really matter what are we to make of Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly? Porcello's spring ERA is 9.77 and Kelly entered today's Grapefruit League start with an ERA of 1.35 (and left it at 2.63). If fans want to throw Porcello off the bus because of his numbers shouldn't the same fans be encouraged by Kelly. The answer for now is the rotation after David Price will need to prove itself when the games begin for real.
5. David Price and Craig Kimbrel are as advertised. Nothing that has been done on or off the field this spring has lessened one iota of enthusiasm over this two key acquisitions. This pitching staff will be much better than 2015 just because of their presence.
6. No AL East team has separated itself from the pack. For that matter no American League club at all, even the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals, look like an force that cannot be dealt with by the Red Sox.
7. Pablo Sandoval looks like a player continuing his decline. Can looks be deceiving? Sandoval worked hard all winter per various reports, but the man looks fat. The man also looked fat when he was a key part of three World Championship teams in San Francisco. Travis Shaw has had a wonderful spring and according to John Farrell they are in competition for the job. If Sandoval is not starting for Boston, he is nearly useless on the bench. Can they possibly trade his bloated......contract?
8.Injuries matter. Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to miss April and new bullpen ace Carson Smith may miss one or two months at the start due to flexor muscle issue. Is this the same staff with Steven Wright starting and Matt Barnes and/or Noe Ramirez in the bullpen? We are about to find out.
9. Sam Travis is going to be a star. The Sox have what is considered a big four of prospects: Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benentendi, and 18 year old pitcher Anderson Espinoza. Travis may make it five. The Indiana U. teammate of Kyle Schwarber impressed with blazing bat in the Florida games with the big club. MLB reporter Jon Heyman recently quoted a scout from another team as saying Travis would be the next Paul Goldschmidt. The Sox will take that.
10. John Farrell is panicking before the team even breaks camp. You cannot blame him, the conventional wisdom is if the Red Sox are floundering by Memorial Day, Farrell is likely to be fired. Personally I think his leash is shorter than that. I would expect a managerial change to be made by the end of April if the team is not heading in right direction. But as much as I hope Travis Shaw is a big part of this team, a potential benching of one of your veterans, like Pablo Sandoval, on Opening Day would be a panic move. The announcement today that Brock Holt will platoon in left field to open the season with Chris Young is a double panic move. Brock Holt's numbers have always gone down the more he plays. You are misusing an asset, a top notch utility player, by trying to make him basically an everyday player. You are compounding the error by benching Rusney Castillo now. This winter Dave Dombrowski said it was time to find out what they had in Castillo. What has changed? I am all on board with the Red Sox blazing out of the gate. But you need a manager looking to lead to a team to victories throughout the entire season, not just winning enough in April to keep his job.