What we think we know about the 2024 Boston Red Sox on Opening Day

by 24USATVMarch 28, 2024, 9:20 p.m. 20
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BOSTON -- If you want to watch the Red Sox open their 2024 season, you better sneak in a nap at some point on Thursday. The team begins the new season on the west coast, which will lead to some late night for Red Sox fans in Boston.

First up for the Red Sox this season is a four-game set against the Seattle Mariners, which gets underway Thursday night at T-Mobile Park. First pitch is set for 10:10 p.m. EST. The late start will have many fans wondering if it's even worth staying up to watch this Red Sox team.

Unfortunately, that question will not be reserved for only late games this season. We're set for another 162-game grind where fans will be constantly questioning if this team is worth the investment of time.

The Red Sox are looking to avoid the basement of the AL East for a third straight season, and after back-to-back 78-win campaigns, the bar has been set pretty low for this team. While fans were fed lines like "full throttle" over the winter, it feels like this team is going to be stuck in the mud for at least another season.

Most fans have a pretty realistic mindset heading into 2024 though, and are just hoping that the team can claw its way back into relevancy. And that is really where the Red Sox sit, on the cusp of becoming completely irrelevant. With the Celtics and the Bruins surging toward the playoffs with title hopes, and the Patriots in the early stages of a franchise rebuild, the Red Sox are merely an afterthought. Once the most popular team in town no matter the win-loss record, the Red Sox are at the bottom of the Boston sports landscape.

Usually that would be the kick in the rear that ownership needs to invest in their team again. But no boot to the backside was felt, and following an offseason that didn't include much addition, there isn't much hope that the Red Sox can avoid being cellar dwellers again.

Who are the stars of the 2024 Red Sox?

Rafael Devers is the biggest star on the team and will be paid like one, with this year the first of his 10-year, $313 million extension. He got off to a really slow start in 2023 before getting hot in July, and finished with 33 homers and 100 RBI -- his third 30/100 season over the last four full seasons. And he did that without much protection in the lineup.

He still won't have much protection in the lineup, but at least Trevor Story is starting the season on the diamond and not on the IL. (As of this writing at least. But a lot can happen in a short span of time with Story.) We'll see if he can play, say, 140 games this season or if he'll require another lengthy stint on the Injured List. Heck, we'd take 120 games in all honesty. When he's in the lineup, Story is a legit bat with plenty of pop to provide some protection for Devers.

Triston Casas is the other legit star on the Sox, though he's more of a star-in-the-making. After he crushed 24 homers and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting last season, it's not unreasonable to think that Casas can send 30 or more out of the yard this season.

Who could be a star for the 2024 Red Sox?

Masataka Yoshida also carries a good amount of star power given his global reach, but he struggled mightily to close out his rookie season last year. Now that he's got a year of MLB experience under his belt, and now that he won't have to worry about playing the field as Boston's DH, we'll see if Yoshida can really emerge in 2024.

Outfielder Jarren Duran has the makings of a star, from his eye-popping catches in the outfield to his blazing speed on the base paths. He's really opened up about his battles with mental health this spring, and it looks and sounds like he's much more comfortable with everything right now. As long as he can avoid the injury bug, Duran should have a big season for Boston.

And Red Sox fans are going to quickly fall in love with Tyler O'Neill and his defense in the outfield. He's also built like a tank, so keep an eye out for some flexing competitions between O'Neill and Duran in the Boston outfield.

Who is going to lead the 2024 Red Sox pitching staff?

You've probably noticed that no Red Sox pitchers have been mentioned thus far. Mostly because the Red Sox don't have many pitchers.

Lucas Giolito was brought in over the offseason to eat innings and pretend to be an ace, but he got hurt and is already done for the year. So the leader of the staff is going to be Brayan Bello until his arm falls off. And hopefully his arm never falls off, because the Red Sox are really banking on him to be the ace of the franchise for the next six years.

It's a lot to ask out of a 24-year-old, but Bello at least looks like he has the makings to fill the role. He had an incredible run through the summer months last season before he ran out of gas in September. He's still working through some things and is far from a finished product, but Bello starts will be appointment viewing -- starting with Opening Day.

After Bello, the Red Sox will be relying on a lot from Nick Pivetta, who should be able to eat a ton of innings. And they have to hope that Kutter Crawford continues his development and emerges as a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy (he had a great spring), and Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck can hold things down at the backend of the rotation. There really isn't a margin of error for the rotation, which really could have used another veteran arm.

Hopefully the Red Sox aren't ravaged by injuries on their pitching staff and fans don't have to survive through a summer that has Alex Cora turning to two "openers" for a large stretch of time. But don't be shocked by a handful of bullpen days throughout the season.

Which young players will Red Sox fans fall in love with in 2024?

Ceddanne Rafaela has everyone's attention heading into the new season, and is making quite the case to be on the Opening Day roster. He can cover a crazy amount of ground in the outfield, and though he doesn't have a ton of experience in the minors, he enjoyed success at the plate at every level. He's one to keep an eye on throughout the season no matter where he's playing ball.

Second baseman Vaughn Grissom is a young player to watch when he returns from injury. Acquired from the Braves in the Chris Sale trade, Grissom should be the team's everyday second baseman for years to come. He has 66 games of Major League experience from his time with the Braves, batting .287 with five homers over two stints.

You can also add Marcelo Mayer, Nick Yorke, and Roman Anthony, as all three could make an appearance in Boston at some point. Potentially even a permanent appearance.

One name to really keep an eye on though is Kyle Teel, who is just a few months removed from being the 14th overall pick in the 2023 Draft. He played in 26 games in the Red Sox system after being drafted and reached the Double-A level, where the lefty backstop hit .323 and three of his 10 hits went for extra bases over nine games.

We should see a much bigger sample of Teel at Double-A this season, but he probably won't be there for very long.

Most of the aforementioned players should be ready to rock by 2025. It's a big reason why the Red Sox are treating 2024 as a bridge season, though they're having a real tough time admitting it.

Is the Red Sox defense going to be better in 2024?

It can't be worse, can it? We don't think so, but if that's the way the Red Sox want to take this challenge, that should be entertaining too.

The 2023 Red Sox were a historically bad defensive team. And many of the main players will be back, minus the team's lone Gold Glove finalist in Alex Verdugo, which is worrisome. Devers has led the American League in errors in each of the last six seasons, and that probably isn't going to change this year.

With Story sidelined for most of last season, the Red Sox had a revolving door at both shortstop and second base. Shortstop will have some stability this year if Story stays healthy, and second base should have some stability when Grissom gets healthy. While Story's arm strength is an issue, he's a savvy defensive player with solid range and quickness. Boston's defense up the middle should be much improved.

And the outfield shouldn't be that bad either, with Duran and O'Neill plus defenders, Rafaela showing loads of potential in center, and Wilyer Abreu possessing an absolute cannon of an arm. Just getting Yoshida out of the outfield is a big win for the Boston defense.

So, yes, the defense should better this year. But being better than last year's team won't be very difficult.

Is Alex Cora on the hot seat in 2024?

The Red Sox manager doesn't seem like a very happy camper, and rightfully so. He hasn't been given a very good team to work with, and following two straight last-place finishes, his job is pretty much on the line this season.

It certainly doesn't help that Cora is currently a lame duck manager, sitting without a contract after this season. It's extremely rare that a skipper goes into a new season without years on his deal; teams either extend their manager or fire them before it reaches this point.

So here we are with Cora, who isn't happy about his roster and likely isn't happy that he isn't signed beyond this season. Having a manager that wants to win and a front office that hasn't set him up to succeed -- or committed to him past this season -- could be a ticking timebomb for the Red Sox.

Remember when Cora left Kyle Barraclough in to give up 10 runs last season? We could get a few more spite nights like that out of the manager this season. If Cora gets to his breaking point, perhaps we'll see him pull a Costanza and drive around the streets of Boston with one of the World Series trophies tied to the back of his car.

What are realistic expectations for the 2024 Boston Red Sox?

The expectation is that the Red Sox should be better than what they've been the last two seasons. They are, after all, the Boston Red Sox.

Last year's team was "in the wild card race" for most of the summer, before the front office waived the white flag at the deadline and everyone just kinda quit on the season. Hopefully this year's team can get off to a good start and be flirting with the playoffs at the deadline again, but this time around the front office actually goes out and adds some help at the deadline. That's when we'll see if Craig Breslow is different than the old regime, or if he's just another Chaim Bloom clone.

But Breslow didn't really invest in this team over the winter, barely adding an arm to the rotation. And when that arm (Giolito) was lost for the season, he didn't even bother to replace it.

The messaging early in the winter was that ownership and the front office was going to do everything they could to get the Red Sox back to being the Red Sox. But the transaction wire says otherwise. Their lack of anything this offseason tells us this is going to be a bridge year with the focus on 2025 and beyond.

That doesn't make the 2024 Red Sox all that exciting, and it means the season could really go south in a hurry. That could make things interesting, especially if Cora makes it clear that he doesn't want to stick around anymore. But things could get real ugly too. Real ugly.

Maybe things will be better for the Red Sox this season. But even if everything goes right, chances are it will only be a little bit better. They are in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, and the Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays, and Yankees all want to win now. If only the Red Sox had that same mindset.

It'd be nice to believe that the team will remain relevant -- both in the playoff picture and in the Boston sports scene -- throughout the summer and into the early days of next fall. But it's more likely that the Red Sox will be merely an afterthought for yet another season. When they're not losing eyeballs to the Celtics and the Bruins in the playoffs, chances are the Red Sox will be losing out to binge-worthy shows, spending time with family, and watching fireflies.

Simply put, there will be much more entertaining things to do this summer than watching another irrelevant Red Sox team.

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