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What does 2017 have in store for the Red Sox? Here are a few predictions

Mookie Betts hit .318 in 2016.Jim Davis/Globe Staff/File 2016

Spring training starts on Feb. 14 and it won’t be too long before Red Sox players start showing up regularly at Fenway South for workouts.

What does 2017 have in store for the Sox? Here are a few fearless (and probably soon to be regretted) predictions:

Mookie Betts will win the MVP: Mike Trout was a deserving winner in 2016. But a full season of hitting third or fourth will allow Betts to surpass even Trout.

It won’t be easy. Trout had a .991 OPS last season and a 10.6 WAR. But if Betts helps carry the Sox to 95 wins, hits 30 homers, steals 30 bases and drives in 125 runs, it will be hard to deny him.


As good as Betts has been, he has not come close to his peak. As the David Ortiz Era ends, the Mookie Betts Era begins.

The Sox will score at least 800 runs: Even without Ortiz, the Red Sox will have a high-powered offense. A full year of Andrew Benintendi will make a big difference, as will improved season-long consistency from Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.

A DH platoon of Hanley Ramirez and Chris Young has tremendous potential, as does the idea of using Mitch Moreland at first base against righthanders.

There is no replacing a player like Ortiz. But the Sox can replace a good chunk of his contributions with better performances from as many as four spots in the lineup.

They do not need another bat, least of all another righthanded hitting DH type. Better to save their money for in-season acquisitions as needed.

Pablo Sandoval will be pretty decent: The Red Sox ignored all the warning signs when they signed Sandoval and so far have thrown away $37 million. It was a bad signing and it’s unlikely much will change that.


But it would be foolish to suggest an accomplished 30-year-old player can’t rebound and become a helpful player again.

Sandoval had an .811 OPS and contributed to three World Series champions while a member of the Giants. Red Sox third basemen had a .686 OPS last season, the worst in the American League. It’s hardly unreasonable to think Sandoval can do better than that.

By all accounts — and photos — Sandoval has lost considerable weight and has regularly worked out at JetBlue Park since his shoulder surgery.

Sandoval is an easy target and condemning him is a good way to appeal to the knucklehead element of the fan base. But the Red Sox are struck with his contract and people should come around to the idea that Sandoval could actually help the team.

The bullpen will need help: The Sox bullpen looks deep. It’s really not and will be more of a weakness than a strength at first.

Craig Kimbrel is fine as the closer and will benefit by being with the same team for a second consecutive season. But new set-up man Tyler Thornburg has had one full year in the majors and will be transitioning to a new team and league. Matt Barnes was effective last season but that was his first full season as a reliever. Fernando Abad wasn’t deemed worthy of the playoff roster last season and Joe Kelly is unproven as a reliever.

Kelly looked good in September, no doubt. But don’t fall into the trap of overrating performances in low-pressure situations against expanded rosters.


Carson Smith’s return to health will be a major factor for the Sox. Whenever he’s ready, maybe in May, the Sox will need him.

Drew Pomeranz had a 4.59 ERA with the Red Sox in 2016.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Drew Pomeranz is going to be an issue: We know there was a medical issue with him that was hidden by the Padres and enraged the Sox once they found out about it. MLB offered to rescind the trade, so clearly the issue was a significant one. Pomeranz was then shut down for eight days in September with a sore forearm.

We also know Pomeranz threw a career-high 174⅓ innings last season if you count the playoffs.

That’s a lot of red flags.

Pomeranz probably should be allowed to build up slowly in spring training and perhaps pitch out of the bullpen at first. But because the Sox traded away Anderson Espinoza to get Pomeranz, they’ll feel obligated to start him.

This is all trouble waiting to happen.

Dustin Pedroia’s leadership will be in view: Until now, Pedroia has been a leader by example and a good one. His personal standards are so high that teammates naturally try to emulate him.

But with Ortiz gone, look for Pedroia to take on a larger public role and become a voice of reason in difficult times. He’s the most tenured player on the roster by a long shot and that form of leadership will be needed.

David Price will bounce back: Price was 17-9, made every start, and threw 230 innings. He was valuable but certainly not to the extent hoped.


It’s common for star players to struggle a bit with a new team then perform better in the second year. Price also will benefit from the presence of Chris Sale.

Price very badly wants to win in Boston to prove his decision to sign with the Red Sox was a wise one.

Blake Swihart batted .258 in 2016.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Blake Swihart will become the catcher: The Sox will go to camp with Sandy Leon as the expected starter. Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez will compete to back him up.

But don’t focus too much on who starts on Opening Day. Swihart caught only six games in the majors last season and 15 with Triple A Pawtucket. He will need some time to get back in form and could emerge as the everyday catcher during the season.

Swihart is only 24 and still a prospect. There’s a reason the Sox have refused to trade him.

Xander Bogaerts will hit 30 home runs: His slugging percentage has gone up the last two years and that trend will continue. Bogaerts is only 24 and still growing into his power.

The Sox will get 8-10 starts from somebody not in the organization right now: The Sox don’t have enough pitching beyond their Big Three given the uncertainly surrounding Pomeranz. Whether it’s injuries, underperformance or both, they’re going to need a starter.

Trading Clay Buchholz made financial sense given the ramifications of the new collective bargaining agreement. But eventually they’ll come to regret it. Maybe they already do with Eduardo Rodriguez tweaking his right knee pitching in Venezuela.


Marco Hernandez will play more than you expect: The infielder is more than holding his own in the Dominican Winter League. His four homers are tied for the league lead. Hernandez needs refining but there’s a lot of talent there and the Sox need lefty hitters.

Here’s to a fun year of watching baseball.

Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.