The 2021 Red Sox on paper aren’t nearly as flashy as the Yankees, nor do they have the star power of the reigning World Champion Dodgers. What the 2021 Red Sox do have is a pretty solid roster from top to bottom. It’s quite remarkable the improvements made to not just the pitching but the overall roster construction. Brand new to the 2021 Red Sox, Enrique Hernandez, Marwin Gonzalez, Hunter Renfroe, Garrett Whitlock, Hirokazu Sawamura, Garrett Richards, Adam Ottavino, Franchy Cordero, and Matt Andriese bring high upside with very little financial hardship. The Red Sox are banking on breakout seasons from quite a few on the roster, but there might just be three that standout amongst the rest.
2021 Red Sox: The Breakout Kings
Hunter Renfroe signed in December of 2020 with the Boston Red Sox. A signing met immediately with snide comments from a good deal of the fanbase. Sarcastic comments such as, “so excited to get my Renfroe jersey” flooded Twitter feeds. The truth of the matter for a lot of the fanbase is anyone not named Markus Lynn Betts playing right field at Fenway is something they might never get over. Mookie’s not wearing anything but Dodger Blue for the next decade-plus, and right now, the 2021 Red Sox will be giving a good deal of right field playing time to Renfroe.
Fans that initially hated the Renfroe signing fail to realize that Hunter Renfroe has the ability to put up an above-average 2021 season for the Red Sox. Renfroe’s 2018 slash line of .248/.302/.504, 114 wRC+, and 26 home runs in 117 games was an above-average season. If Renfroe can put up numbers close to 2018, he’ll be quite the steal for the Red Sox. A right fielder with power and above-average defense is all the Red Sox can really ask of Renfroe, and quite honestly it’s something he can give to them. With Renfroe, the bottom four of the lineup, Dalbec, Renfroe, Cordero, and Vazquez all have 25+ home run potential.
As this article was being finished, Garrett Richards had a top-notch outing for the 2021 Red Sox! The first two spring outings looked less than stellar, as Richards was having trouble locating his fastball, struggling with his mechanics, and quite frankly just walking far too many hitters.
Richards had been adamant that he’d be getting back on the straight and narrow, but that didn’t mean most fans weren’t blowing a gasket given just four spring training innings pitched. Did the four innings look great? They sure did not, but the impatient fan forgets that spring training is the time to work on getting ready for a full season. What did Richards do in his most recent start? He absolutely dominated over four innings, with one hit, zero earned runs, three walks, and seven strikeouts.
Richards looks primed to have quite an impressive 2021 campaign and has pitched above average if not great seasons in the past. Richards pitched 168.2 innings in 2014, with a 2.62 ERA, 1.038 WHIP, 2.60 FIP, and a 138 ERA+. His largest sample size, in 2015, Richards pitched 207.1 innings with a 3.65 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 3.86 FIP, and a 104 ERA+. Richards has been downright outstanding at points in his career. The Red Sox can only hope now that Richards is far separated from Tommy John surgery that the ace-like brilliance he once had in Anaheim can come back, and they catch lightning in a bottle.
Anytime a fan favorite is traded, it’s usually followed up with fan outrage. The outrage was in full force when Chaim Bloom pulled the strings and traded Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals in early February. The case was made for the Red Sox to run with Benintendi for the 2021 season, however, Bloom and company did not foresee Benintendi being part of the next great Red Sox team.
What you need to know most about Franchy Cordero is what most negative Red Sox fans will talk endlessly about, and that’s his injury-plagued career. Over four seasons, Cordero has played in just 95 games, while being plagued with quad, groin, wrist, and elbow injuries. Bloom referred to Cordero’s injuries as, “a series of different injuries, a lot of which seem to have kind of a freak nature to them.” There’s reason to believe that with a healthy 2021 season, Cordero can become an amazing asset for the Red Sox, his raw power and speed is kind of unreal.
It’s not just the Red Sox that believer Cordero is destined to breakout, MLB.com believes so too, as he was listed amongst the top breakout hitters of 2021. MLB.com believes in Cordero’s 12.4% barrel rate and the fact that nine of his 12 major league home runs have traveled more than 420 feet. Cordero also hit the longest homer in Padres history with a massive blast in 2018 that sailed 489 feet. The barrel rate of 12.4% is also elite, given that only 30 major league players had a better barrel rate in 2020. Cordero’s biggest offense is his strikeout numbers but he has shown that he’s capable of lowering those numbers, as he had a 9.5% whiff rate in 2020.
Franchy Cordero could be quite a bit of fun to watch in 2021, between his speed and raw power. The 489-foot blast he hit in 2018 might just make him the only player with the type of power to hit the famed Ted Williams seat in right field at Fenway.
The 2021 Red Sox have an enormous amount of potential. Chaim Bloom has put together a fine-looking ballclub, a ballclub that can actually compete for a playoff spot. Some fans will never truly accept Bloom, and it’s a shame really because he’s working extremely hard to put together a sustainable winner while building a competitive 2021 Red Sox roster. The 2021 Red Sox roster is extremely talented, and only time will tell just how competitive, but they’re already wildly better than the 2020 Red Sox.
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