20 February 2011
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Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP John Lackey, SP Josh Beckett, SP
Clay Buchholz, SP Jon Lester, SP
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
When the Red Sox decided to let Victor Martinez walk this winter, many (including myself) were concerned that they wouldn't be able to replace his production. Defense wasn't V-Mart's specialty, but he called a decent game and was a switch-hitting .300 hitter with 20 HR power and 100 RBI potential.
Those guys don't grow on trees - especially at the catcher position.
But then the Sox added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to the lineup and suddenly, the combo of Tek and Salty didn't seem so bad. But now that Sprint Training has begun, I've been hearing all kinds of great things about Saltalamacchia. He spent the winter training with catcher's coach Gary Tuck and with Spring Training now underway, players and coaches alike are saying he looks like a "mini-Varitek."
As it turns out, Salty is now living out his dream scenario. There's always going to be pressure when playing in Boston, but with so much star power around him and one of the best catchers in the game as his partner behind the plate, all the pieces are in place for Saltalamacchia to finally live up to his potential.
Back in 2007, Salty was a hitting .300 in Double A and featured above average defense and a little pop... but since then he's struggled to stay healthy and has hovered under the .250 with his hitting. Bill James predicts a .249 BA and 12 HRs through 334 Bs (110 G). I'm hoping he can do a little better than that, but with limited stats and playing time to look at, it's really anyone's guess.
I do agree that he'll play more than Tek when all is said and done, but one thing that'd going to hurt him is hitting at the bottom of the lineup. Opposing pitchers are going to attack the 8th and 9th hitters, knowing that once the lineup turns over, they're going to face, Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez, Youkili and Ortiz...
That said, I'm Hoping Tito tells Salty to focus on getting on base. The Sox don't need him to hit 20 home runs or drive in 100 runs. All they need is for him to get on base ahead of the big guns. If he does, that the rest will be gravy.
Bottom Line: We've got a ton of catching talent in the farm system, but no one has performed well enough (yet) to replace Tek... I'm hoping Salty is that guy... then we can call up Wagner or Exposito in 2012 without all the nail-biting.
Rob's Prediction: 350 AB, .265 BA, .725 OPS, 18 2B, 10 HR, 47 R, 40 RBI
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