Boston Red Sox

Five bold predictions for the 2024 Red Sox season

Expect the unexpected.

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The Boston Red Sox are set to open their 2024 season in Seattle on Thursday. Ahead of Opening Day, most MLB projections have Boston finishing last in the American League East standings for the third consecutive year.

That comes as no surprise after yet another disappointing offseason. After promising a "full throttle" approach, the Red Sox front office did little to nothing to help the club bounce back from its abysmal 2023 campaign.

We've reached the point where almost any positive Red Sox prediction can fall under the "bold" category. So as we gear up for the 162-game grind, we've formed five bold predictions that would bring some positivity to what's likely to be another forgettable season at Fenway Park.

Kutter Crawford emerges as Red Sox ace

Brayan Bello is Boston's Opening Day starter and de facto ace to begin the season. With Lucas Giolito out for the year and no improvements made to the lackluster starting rotation this past winter, the Red Sox will lean heavily on their former top pitching prospect.

While Bello had flashes of brilliance in his first full MLB season, his final numbers show he may not be ready to assume the ace role. He finished with a 4.28 ERA and 1.34 WHIP while allowing 24 home runs in 28 starts. He struggled throughout the second half of the year.

If Bello fails to take the next step, Kutter Crawford will take over the ace role. The soon-to-be 28-year-old right-hander will begin the season as Boston's No. 3 starter after a solid 2023 season.

Crawford made 31 appearances (23 starts) last year, amassing a 4.04 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 135 strikeouts and 36 walks through 129.1 innings. He picked up where he left off with an outstanding spring training that featured a 1.98 ERA, 13 strikeouts, and no walks through his first five starts.

If Bello isn't a true No. 1 arm, someone in this uninspiring rotation will need to step up. It won't be Nick Pivetta, who was only effective out of the bullpen last year. It won't be Garrett Whitlock or Tanner Houck, who would be relievers had the Red Sox done anything to improve their starting pitching. It'll be Crawford.

Trevor Story returns to All-Star form

It isn't time to give up on Trevor Story just yet. Despite the ex-Colorado Rockies shortstop being plagued by injuries and not living up to his six-year contract, he appears poised for a bounce-back season.

Story finally looks 100 percent healthy heading into Opening Day. He was among Boston's hottest hitters in spring training, slashing .380/.448/.640 with three home runs and 14 RBI through 19 games

If Story carries that success into the regular season, an All-Star selection isn't out of the realm of possibility. The 31-year-old earned two consecutive All-Star nods with Colorado in 2018 and 2019. He earned MVP votes after the shortened 2020 campaign, and in 2021 (his last full season) he had a "down" year by his standards: 24 homers, 75 RBI, and an .801 OPS.

If he stays on the field -- admittedly a major "if" -- Story will return to the Midsummer Classic.

Ceddanne Rafaela OR Wilyer Abreu named Rookie of the Year finalist

Two reasons for even the most negative Boston fans to tune into games this season are the rookies: Ceddanne Rafaela (No. 4 ranked Red Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline) and Wilyer Abreu (No. 6).

Both outfielders enter the year with longshot odds to win the American League Rookie of the Year award despite being expected to have important roles with the big-league club. Rafaela, an elite defender who can also do damage at the plate, will take over as the starting center fielder. Abreu will likely be the team's primary right fielder after an impressive 28-game stint in the majors to end last season.

The current AL Rookie of the Year favorites are Wyatt Langford (Texas Rangers), Evan Carter (Texas Rangers), and Jackson Holliday (Baltimore Orioles). Holliday will begin the season in the minors.

If Rafaela and/or Abreu are difference-makers, they should work their way into that RotY conversation. They'll be given every opportunity to do so.

Roman Anthony AND Kyle Teel make MLB debuts

The Red Sox' reluctance to spend in the offseason shows they're banking on their prized prospects to turn the franchise around. The most MLB-ready prospects in the system outside of Rafaela and Abreu appear to be outfielder Roman Anthony (No. 2) and catcher Kyle Teel (No. 3).

It wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see one or the other debut this season, especially in September as Rafaela and Abreu did last year. So to make this prediction "bold," I'm going out on a limb and saying both will make their MLB debuts. They've rocketed through the minor-league ranks and if they continue at their current pace, Boston's front office will be tempted to give the Fenway Faithful a glimpse of the future.

Rafael Devers finishes Top 5 in MVP voting

This marks the first official season of the 10-year, $313.5 million contract extension Devers signed last year. The two-time All-Star third baseman looks ready to remind the organization why they awarded him the largest contract extension in franchise history.

Devers enters Opening Day red-hot with a team-high five spring training homers and a 1.156 OPS.

We should take spring training numbers with a grain of salt, especially for an established big-leaguer like Devers. However, it's undoubtedly encouraging to see he's already in midseason form. He'll be counted on to carry the Red Sox offense again in 2024, and he'll put up even better numbers if there's protection around him in the lineup. That'll be the case if Story bounces back, Triston Casas builds off his strong rookie year, and Masataka Yoshida looks more like his first-half self.

Devers has earned MVP votes in four of the last five seasons but has never finished inside the top 10. His defense could keep him from winning the award in 2024, but he'll find a way into the top five with a monster year -- his first with 40+ homers -- at the plate.

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