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The Red Sox’s Ascent: Why the Red Sox are legitimate American League contenders

Coming into the 2021 MLB season, the Red Sox sought to find a balance between a full scale rebuild and contention. However, at the end of April, the Red Sox find themselves exceeding their own expectations—they are sitting atop the AL East. The Red Sox are a well balanced team and will ultimately continue to surprise many in 2021.

Although the Red Sox are reloading their farm system with talent, they still have a strong core of players at the big league level, even without Mookie Betts. Xander Bogaerts has emerged as one of the best shortstops in the American League, and continues to establish himself as one of the most offensively productive shortstops in baseball, hitting for power and average in the middle of the lineup. Rafael Devers is another player who has continued to progress. He has improved his play at third base while also hitting for elite power early in the 2021 season. He hit seven home runs in the month of April. Additionally, 2018 free-agent acquisition J.D Martinez has regained his pre-pandemic form and is hitting .353 with seven home runs through his first 22 games of the season.  

Younger Red Sox players have also played well. Alex Verdugo, who the Red Sox acquired in the deal that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers two winters ago, is hitting .353 through his first 22 games of 2021. He has also played tremendous defense, demonstrating elite defensive abilities in all three outfield positions. Additionally, despite a streaky start to the season, first baseman Bobby Dalbec has shown flashes of brilliance both in the field and at the plate. In particular, he has shown the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field, a trait that will serve him well in the big leagues.

Offensively, the Red Sox rank first in the MLB in batting average, first in OPS (on base percentage and slugging percentage), and second in runs. Perhaps most importantly, the Red Sox rank 21st in strikeouts. Their ability to consistently put the ball in play has served them well, as they have found ways to manufacture runs. While other teams such as the Yankees wield lineups filled with sluggers from top to bottom, the Red Sox have effectively used advanced sabermetrics (this term refers to the analysis of baseball from an empirical perspective) to put together a productive offense.

The Red Sox have also pitched fairly well in the month of April. Nathan Eovaldi has shown flashes of dominance, despite struggles at Fenway. Garret Richards has also pitched extremely well on the road, but has struggled at Fenway. The Red Sox’s most consistent pitchers have been Eduardo Rodriguez and Nick Pivetta, both of whom have pitched consistently well at home and on the road. The back end of the bullpen has also pitched well. Adam Otivano has locked himself into the 8th inning role, while Matt Barnes has established himself as the closer. Both have been dominant. Red Sox fans can look forward to the pitching help that is on its way, as Red Sox ace Chris Sale remains on the disabled list (DL).

While the Red Sox certainly need to plan for the future, they are not a team built to sit in the basement of the Al East. Boston is a legitimate playoff contender that has found a way to win night in and night out. If the Red Sox are willing to go out into the market and add pitching at the deadline, they will ultimately make a run in the postseason. While some may argue that it is too early to make such predictions, I am buying the 2021 Red Sox.

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