Now, for my other major interest outside of work: The Boston Red Sox.
CATCHER: Jason Varitek
Varitek is my favorite player. That being said, he is not the same player he used to be. He is getting older and his bat speed is diminishing. Last year was a terrible year but he looked okay this Spring. He provided a home run in the first game of the season last night. I would expect him to have a better year this year, but maybe not as good as in previous years. He will still provide solid defense and continue calling a good game.
FIRST BASE: Kevin Youkilis
Last year, Youkilis continued developing into one of the more consistent hitters in the game. He is in the prime of his career so I don't expect him to improve much but he should be good for another .325-30-100 season while getting on base at a good clip. His defense is great and he should be considered a candidate for a Gold Glove as well as MVP.
SECOND BASE: Dustin Pedroia
The breakout star of the team, Pedroia has been with the Red Sox for two full years and in that time won Rookie of the Year, MVP, a Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove. He will continue to improve. He is a ton of fun to watch and very intense. We are witnessing the beginning of a great career.
SHORTSTOP: Jed Lowrie
Lowrie reminds me a lot of Pedroia, but with a little more power. He is an exceptional defender and a potential All Star. He won't be as good as Pedroia, but he will be a very good player.
THIRD BASE: Mike Lowell
Lowell is on the downturn of his career. He was injured for much of the season last year but will continue to be an effective player for the short term. He has lost a step on defense and may need to be substituted for occasionally but he should improve on last year's numbers. 2007 is in the distant past though.
RIGHT FIELD: J.D. Drew
You never know what you will get with Drew. If he stays healthy, he makes the game look incredibly easy. When he's hurt, he's maddening. I think he will be healthy for the greater part of the season and will turn in similar numbers to last year.
CENTER FIELD: Jacoby Ellsbury
I hope he improves on last year. He just needs to be more consistent at the plate. He is one of the most exciting players in the game on the base paths and in the field. He just needs to get on more often. He should break the Red Sox stolen bases record this year.
LEFT FIELD: Jason Bay
A full season in Boston should do him well. He is a good hitter but is not as flashy as the man he replaced, Manny Ramirez. No matter, Bay is professional and plays the game with respect. He will easily hit .280-30-100.
DESIGNATED HITTER: David Ortiz
With any luck, he is healthy and dangerous again. If so, Boston will have a very good season and challenge for the AL pennant. If not, they will have to rely heavily on their pitching.
BENCH: George Kottaras, Nick Green, Chris Carter, Rocco Baldelli
Outfield depth is pretty deep, but Kottaras and Carter do not have much major league experience. Kottaras is there to give Varitek the occasional day off. Green had a great spring but has not performed well in the majors. Baldelli, if healthy, will be a great addition to the team.
STARTING ROTATION: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny
Beckett should be back to his 2007 form when he almost won the Cy Young Award. Lester has developed into one of the top left-handers in the game. Matsuzaka is unhittable when his command is on. He just needs to stop nibbling at the corners so much and throw his hard stuff. Wakefield will continue to give league-average results. Penny, if healthy, is a huge boost to the rotation and he looked healthy this Spring. If not, John Smoltz will be ready midseason to add another boost.
MIDDLE RELIEF: Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez, Justin Masterson, Takashi Saito
One of the deepest bullpens I have seen in the Red Sox. All of them are hard-throwers with consistent command. This will be a very strong bullpen.
CLOSER: Jonathan Papelbon
The enigmatic closer returns. Papelbon is one of the best in the game. Hopefully they will keep him around.
The AL East is a tough division with the Yankees and Rays both stocking up. The Red Sox will be in the thick of it all year as long as injuries do not slow them down. If Penny and/or Smoltz pitch to their history, the starting rotation is one of the best in the big leagues. The bullpen is deep. Defense is a big strength. The only issue is whether they will miss Manny Ramirez on offense. My gut says a little.