Will Middlebrooks and John Farrell have plenty of optimism for the upcoming season. Things are more "upbeat' in Boston than they appeared to be last season. (Image Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

2013 MLB Preview: Boston Red Sox

After the historic collapse that ended their 2011 season, there was a lot of pressure facing the Boston Red Sox in 2012. Nothing went as planned. Bobby Valentine proved to be a disaster as the team’s manager. Jon Lester had one of his worst seasons as a professional. Daniel Bard imploded. Key injuries kept Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, and Will Middlebrooks out of the lineup for extended periods of time. Boston finished at 69-93, dead last in the AL East.

The Sox spent the winter trying to reshape and rebuild. Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, and Jonny Gomes are all new – signed as much for their production on the field as for their reputation in the clubhouse. An old familiar face in John Farrell returns to lead the team. There’s talent coming through the team’s pipeline. There’s hope in Boston again, but also an increasingly tough division to win in order to climb back to the top.

With the start of the 2013 Regular Season upon us, it seemed like the ideal time to check in with each of our team sites here at FanSided MLB and check out what our experts have to say on the upcoming season. Let’s check in with Senior Editor Steve Peterson of BoSox Injection, and see what he had to say about the team’s best and worst case scenarios, as well as what’s most likely to happen.

Best Case Scenario

Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz will carry their strong springs through to the regular season and John Lackey will have his best year since coming to Boston. Jackie Bradley Jr. will prove he’s the real deal and the outfield trio of Bradley, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and the rest of the Sox go on a giddy run that will end in a squeaker wild card berth, right where they like to be for an anything goes playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario

Papi never gets healthy, Dubront busts up the rotation and Boston has to go into scramble mode. As it turns out, Jackie Bradley isn’t ready and Jonny Gomes, pressed into full-time service in left field, takes Red Sox fans on his version of The Incredible Journey every time a ball heads to The Green Monster. Without a bona fide DH or even a lefty, righty one, two punch at the Designated Hitter spot, the offense sputters and although they’re better than last year Boston struggles to a fourth place finish behind a much improved AL East.

Most Likely to Happen

John Farrell will prove to be a great choice as manager and the Red Sox will return to respectability and a professional baseball team on and off the field. Papi will return but will miss up to 30 games and won’t have the same pop as in years past, making contact and getting his hits but far fewer bombs. Jackie Bradley will become the every day left fielder and as a rookie will have his ups and downs. Ellsbury will have a monster walk year and the pitching staff will be much better than 2012 but it won’t be enough to get them to the promised land as they finish in the middle of the pack but not in the playoffs.

Plenty needs to go right for Boston to win in 2013, starting with a big year from Jon Lester and some solid production from the rest of the rotation. Right now the bullpen appears to be a certain strength, barring an injury or an Alfredo Aceves meltdown. Ortiz’s bat will be missed in the lineup initially, but how much time he’ll miss is still an unknown so it’s tough to know how much to weigh his absence in the long run. Between Jackie Bradley Jr. (who as of this writing still hadn’t officially made the roster and should head to the minors for a week or two, in my opinion), Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, and Rubby De La Rosa the organization has a group of talented minor leaguers who could come up and help late this season. Boston does stand a chance to be competitive this season, but it won’t be an easy challenge. They could fight for the division just as easily as they could fight for the basement, though the latter appears a little more likely.

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Tags: Boston Red Sox

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