Red Sox spring takeaways: Taking stock of key players entering 2021

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Justin Leger
·5 min read
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How key Red Sox players are trending ahead of 2021 season originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Spring training stats are almost entirely useless. They hardly ever are indicative of how a player will perform in the regular season.

But that doesn't mean we can't overreact to how the Boston Red Sox have fared over the last month.

Tomase: Best- and worst-case scenarios for every Sox starter

The Sox currently are 9-6 and hold a third-place spot in the Grapefruit League behind the Miami Marlins (8-2) and New York Yankees (12-4). With Opening Day less than two weeks away, we're starting to see some trends with their key players, prospects, and newcomers.

Here's a look at the Red Sox players who have seen their stocks rise and fall ahead of the 2021 season.

Stock rising

Eduardo Rodriguez

After missing the entire 2020 season due to COVID-19 and myocarditis, E-Rod is looking like himself so far this spring. The left-hander was named the Opening Day starter following an outing vs. the Minnesota Twins in which he allowed one run on two hits in five innings while striking out six. In three starts (11 2/3 innings), he has amassed a 2.31 ERA and 0.69 WHIP with 14 strikeouts.

Rodriguez isn't considered an ace, but he'll be counted on to be the anchor of the Red Sox staff until Chris Sale returns to the rotation. There's reason for optimism given what the 27-year-old has shown since returning to the mound.

Nick Pivetta

Acquired in last year's trade that sent relievers Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman to Philadelphia, Pivetta has earned himself a back-end rotation spot this spring. The 28-year-old right-hander has allowed three runs and eight hits while striking out eight through three starts (nine innings). He looked solid in his two starts with Boston in 2020 as well, allowing only two runs in 10 innings of work.

Pivetta hasn't been able to find much success at the major league level through his first four seasons, but perhaps a fresh start will be just what the doctor ordered. The Red Sox certainly hope so after what was a nightmare 2020 for the pitching staff.

Matt Barnes

Barnes is likely to start the 2021 season with the Red Sox closer job. That might make Boston fans feel uneasy following a rough year for the UConn product, but he's looked sharp in his three spring appearances. In 3 1/3 innings, he's allowed only one hit and struck out six. Sure, it's a minuscule sample size, but it at least has him winning the closer competition to this point.

Bobby Dalbec

Dalbec has been the star of the spring for the Red Sox with his breathtaking power. The 25-year-old first baseman is tied for the MLB lead with five homers and the leader in RBI with 12. The downside is his high strikeout rate (13 in 27 at-bats), but Dalbec should provide even more pop to a lineup that will score plenty of runs in 2021.

All or nothing

Dalbec in 2020

8 HRs, 39 Ks in 80 ABs

Dalbec in spring training

5 HRs, 13 Ks in 28 ABs

Variation

Double

The super-utility guys

Welcome aboard, Kiké Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez. The versatile Red Sox newcomers will have important roles in 2021 and have made a solid first impression this spring. Hernandez has a .273/.467/.545 slash line and a homer in 22 at-bats. Gonzalez is at .320/.393/.600 and two homers (from both sides of the plate in the same game) in 25 ABs.

Stock falling

Nathan Eovaldi

Eovaldi's already hitting the high 90s on the radar gun consistently, but the results haven't been there for the 31-year-old right-hander to this point. In two starts (5 1/3 innings), Eovaldi has allowed six runs on nine hits. The Red Sox will need him to figure things out before the regular season gets underway as he's slated to be the No. 2 arm in the rotation behind Rodriguez.

Tanner Houck

Houck was a revelation for the Red Sox in 2020 while the rest of the pitching staff struggled mightily. The 24-year-old won all three of his starts with a 0.53 ERA and 0.882 WHIP as well as 21 strikeouts in 17 innings. He hasn't been able to find the same success in spring training.

In three appearances (6 1/3 innings), Houck has been wild. He has a whopping 10 walks to go with six hits and six runs allowed. He was sent down to the minors on Wednesday, but expect to see him work his way back up to the major league club sooner rather than later.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Houck in 2020

0.53 ERA, 21 Ks, 9 BB

Houck in spring training

8.53 ERA, 4 Ks, 10 BB

Variation

Double

Garrett Richards

Richards was added during the offseason to provide much-needed depth to the starting rotation. The track record is there for the 32-year-old, but the No. 1 concern is his health as he's struggled to stay on the field.

He also struggled in his first two starts of the spring. In his Red Sox spring debut, he needed the mercy rule to bail him out of a disastrous outing. His second start didn't go much better.

Richards finally turned in a solid performance in his third showing. Altogether, he has a 6.75 ERA in eight innings pitched. The Red Sox will hope they're getting the Richards from that third outing as he'll be an important presence in the middle of the rotation in 2021.

J.D. Martinez

Martinez's 2020 struggles at the plate have carried over into spring training. The Red Sox designated hitter slashed an uncharacteristic .213/.291/.389 with seven homers last season. In 30 ABs this spring, Martinez has a .558 OPS and a goose egg in the home run column. It isn't worth getting overly concerned about his numbers in Fort Myers, but Martinez's ongoing power outage definitely is perplexing.