The Red Sox are looking to rebound from a dismal 2012 season. And while the team is filled with talent and leadership, these four players are most likely to have career best years in their pursuit for the playoffs. But not every player who needs a better season will succeed.
Here are five player predictions for Red Sox success:
Jon Lester will pitch his first 20-win season
Lester is no stranger to adversity. He has showed perseverance on both a personal and professional level his entire career. Yes, Lester is coming off his worst season as a major-league pitcher, but look for 29-year-old lefty to bounce back and win 20 games in 2013. And he’s hungry for it. Lester wants to prove the 2012 season was an anomaly. He’s got the drive. He’s got the talent. And he’s got the right attitude (http://bcove.me/o33wq5gu).
Jarrod Saltalamacchia will have another record season
With 17 doubles and 25 home runs in 2012, Saltalamacchia put up career numbers as catcher for the Sox last year. If he can display more patience at the plate and decrease his career high of 139 strikeouts, look for Salty to increase his batting average and have at least 75 RBIs in 2013.
Jonny Gomes will shine as best off-season acquisition
In seven of the last eight years, Gomes has posted a .322 OBP or better, and base runners are what the Red Sox need in 2013. And if his previous seasons are any indicator, Gomes becomes more consistent the more games he plays. If Gomes can master the Green Monster and hold onto the starting position in left field, look for him to quickly shift from underrated to invaluable.
Jacoby Ellsbury wins American League MVP
Like most of his teammates, 2012 was unkind to Ellsbury, but his one-year, $9 million contract will put even more hustle into the speedy center fielder’s step.
In the field, Ellsbury has made only five errors in 571 games over six seasons. His skill at playing the ricochets off Fenway’s center field triangle and aggressively running down balls hit into the gap will save runs and keep the Sox in the win column.
At the plate, his ability to get on base forces opposing pitchers to split their focus. Look for Ellsbury’s growing maturity and patience to result in more walks than previous seasons.
John Lackey will be out of the rotation by the end of May
Lackey’s best season was six years ago when he won 19 games and finished the regular season with a 3.01 ERA. Since coming to Boston, Lackey has been mediocre at best. He’s been inconsistent and didn’t pitch at all in 2012 due to reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. Even if he stays healthy, Lackey has a lot to prove. Unless his ERA stays below 4.25, look for Lackey to be playing in Pawtucket by the end of May, leaving room for a consistent arm in the rotation.
Jenny Williamson is journalism major at Florida Golf Coast University. She has followed the Red Sox since 1997 and been a baseball fan since she was three. You can follow Jenny on Twitter at @MsJenWilliamson