With the hours ticking down to the official start of the Red Sox regular season, Lou Merloni offers his 2014 predictions.
Which Red Sox is most likely to have a breakout season?
"I think it’s Felix Doubront," says Merloni. "I think last year we saw glimpses of it. We saw that stretch of 15 straight quality starts. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Felix Doubront."
Which Red Sox will have the hardest time repeating their 2013 success?
Merloni says Shane Victorino will have the biggest drop off in 2014.
"Man he gets hurt a lot," says Merloni. "I think it’s going to be tough for him to duplicate the year he had."
Which Red Sox not currently on the roster will have a big impact?
The Red Sox are carrying two veteran catchers on their big league roster. We know that 'veteran' can mean 'old', which can mean 'susceptible to injury'. A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross will be the primary catchers to start the season, but Christian Vazquez figures to be the first minor league catcher to get called up in case of injury.
Which spring training struggle are you most concerned about?
"I worry about [Victorino] because he hasn’t had as many at bats," says Merloni. "He hasn’t played that much."
Which Red Sox player's performance is most important?
Merloni says it's David Ortiz.
"If a guy like Jon Lester goes down, but Clay Buchholz steps up and stays healthy, you’re good," says Merloni. "You’ve got a top of the line rotation kind of guy. But if David Ortiz goes down, you might have somebody that’s going to hit fourth for you, but he’s not going to be a four-hole hitter. He’s not going to have the same kind of presence in the middle of that lineup. David Ortiz needs to perform in the middle of this lineup."