Opinion

What to Watch For in Boston Red Sox Spring Training Opener

While it is just college kids playing against minor leaguers, there are some storylines to monitor in the Boston Red Sox spring training opener

Baseball is finally back! Sure, it’s just minor leaguers playing against college kids, but it’s something. The spring training opener typically isn’t much to get excited about, but there are quite a few interesting players to watch in the Red Sox spring training opener.

Boston Red Sox Spring Training Opener: What to Watch For

Swihart at Catcher

The Boston Red Sox have three catchers on the 40-man roster, and none of them have minor league options. Because of this, it’s probable that one of the Red Sox catchers will be traded prior to the start of the 2019 season. Boston needs to make a decision, and Blake Swihart’s spring training performance will go a long way in determining who will get the boot.

According to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Swihart will earn the start at catcher for the spring training opener. The Red Sox didn’t trust Swihart to catch last year, primarily because of his shoddy defense. Swihart has the best bat of the trio but he needs to prove himself as a serviceable defender. If he can do that, then he should solidify himself as one of two catchers on the 2019 Boston Red Sox.

Darwinzon Hernandez

Anyone following my off-season writing or listening to the Red Sox Unfiltered podcast knows that I like Darwinzon Hernandez. The lefty enters the season as the Red Sox fourth-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline. Hernandez has a tantalizing fastball and fantastic secondary pitches which give him a remarkable ceiling.

Unfortunately, Hernandez cannot find the plate with any regularity. The 22-year old struggles with command and his high walk rate could push him into a bullpen role in the major leagues. He’s a young player and has plenty of time to fix his control, but he’ll need to show some signs of improvement in 2018. Hernandez is already on the 40-man roster and Boston could choose to throw him in the bullpen sooner rather than later, especially with Boston’s current bullpen outlook.

Mike Shawaryn

Mike Shawaryn might have the lowest ceiling of Boston’s top pitching prospects, but he offers the safest floor. The right-handed hurler spent 2019 between Portland and Pawtucket and is one of the most pro-ready arms in the Red Sox system. He’s not yet Rule-5 eligible, so he’s not on the Boston Red Sox 40-man roster. Barring a miracle, Shawaryn will not break camp with the Red Sox.

However, he could make his way into the majors in 2019. The Red Sox have a great starting rotation, but they don’t have much depth should injury strike. Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez are capable of making spot starts, but neither player is an exciting option. Should calamity strike or the Red Sox just want to test out their depth, Shawaryn could make his major league debut in 2019. This is his first time with a bright spotlight, and a strong spring training could make him the Red Sox top minor league starting pitching depth.­

Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com
(Sept. 21, 2018 – Source: David Maxwell/Getty Images North America)
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