After a fun 2021 season, the Boston Red Sox are hoping to take the next step in 2022.
It seems like the team has a pretty high ceiling, but in order for Boston to challenge for the 2022 World Series title, a few key players are going to have to have strong seasons.
Today, we’re going to talk about three players who will be X-factors for Boston in the upcoming season.
Whether the team has a successful or disappointing 2022 campaign, it’ll probably have a lot to do with these guys.
3. Jackie Bradley Jr.
The Red Sox made a shocking move shortly before the lockout went into effect, as they traded Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Jackie Bradley Jr.
Jackie Bradley Jr. is headed back to the Boston Red Sox in the deal for Hunter Renfroe.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 2, 2021
Bradley is going to be an interesting player to watch in 2022.
He’s coming off of a brutal 2021 campaign, so there’s really nowhere for him to go but up.
The 31-year-old is going to have a pretty big void to fill with Renfroe’s departure.
Renfroe was a key piece to the puzzle for Boston in 2021, as he posted an OPS of .816 and homered 31 times.
The Red Sox would be thrilled to see that type of production from Bradley in 2022, but that might not be a realistic expectation.
Instead, there should really be just one goal for Bradley going into the season (which has been the same goal for him throughout the majority of his MLB career): to simply be an average offensive player.
The rationale is simple: Bradley is such an elite defensive outfielder that he merely needs to be an average hitter in order to be a net positive.
For his career, he averages a defensive bWAR of about 1.6 per 162 games, and he also averages around 11 Defensive Runs Saved per 162 games.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 15, 2018
That’s elite production, which makes it pretty easy to understand why he simply needs to be a serviceable hitter in order to be a solid asset for an MLB team.
But that’s easier said than done, as Bradley has had some extremely difficult offense seasons throughout his career.
Most recently, he posted an OPS of .497 and OPS+ of 34 in the 2021 season.
In 2022, the Red Sox will hope to see some different results.
2. Matt Barnes
For better or worse, Matt Barnes is likely going to be a huge part of the Boston bullpen in 2022.
It’s up to him whether or not that’s going to be a good or bad thing for the Red Sox.
Barnes earned an All-Star selection in 2021 after a stellar first half of the season.
In fact, as late as August 4, he had a 2.25 ERA and 2.08 FIP.
But everything changed for the righty over the final couple of months of the campaign.
He was virtually unserviceable by the time the season ended.
Over his final 16 appearances in the regular season, he got shelled to the tune of a 10.13 ERA and 7.86 FIP.
His struggles were bad enough for the Red Sox to leave him off their ALCS roster.
The 31-year-old is going to have a lot to prove in the 2022 season, and only time will tell which version of him shows up.
1. Chris Sale
The 2021 season was Chris Sale’s first after Tommy John surgery.
He made nine starts in the regular season and added three more in the playoffs.
There were some positives, but there were also some red flags.
While he did pitch to a 3.16 ERA in the regular season, most of those outings came against weak opponents.
And when it came time to face quality opponents, he often wasn’t very sharp, including the postseason.
Wander Franco extends his on-base streak to 32 games with a home run off Chris Sale! 💪 pic.twitter.com/DNdDKdSQDs
— Fantasy Baseball Today (@FBTpod) September 2, 2021
That’s going to be something to keep an eye on because Boston is likely going to need Sale to look like his vintage self in 2022.
It’s not too late for Red Sox to potentially add a high-end starter this offseason, but if they don’t, Sale is probably going to have to pitch like an ace to help anchor the rotation.
It’ll be interesting to see how much gas he still has left in the tank.