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Spring training hasn’t even started yet, but the 2019 Boston Red Sox lineup is essentially set in stone. By and large, the Red Sox are basically bringing back the 2018 World Series champions and daring them to do it again. However, there are still a few roster spots up for grabs and a few interesting prospects could take said positions. Without further ado, here are four players who could make their major league debuts on the 2019 Boston Red Sox opening day roster.
Relief pitcher Travis Lakins is easily the most likely candidate to earn a spot on the Red Sox Opening Day roster. Initially selected in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Lakins spent the first three and a half years of his career as an unremarkable starting pitcher. However, Lakins switched to the bullpen midway through 2018 and immediately become one of the Red Sox most pro-ready arms.
Since converting to a reliever, Lakins posted a 1.21 ERA with an impressive 8.92 K/9 between Portland and Pawtucket. While his peripherals suggest he was getting a little lucky (3.06 FIP, .185 BABIP), Lakins still showed he belongs in the majors. His starting experience is a major positive, as he’s capable of pitching more than one inning of relief at a time. In today’s day and age, that’s an invaluable skill set. Boasting a high-90’s fastball and a nasty cutter, Lakins could earn a spot as an early arm in the bullpen.
Travis Lakins has a better shot of making the Opening Day roster, but Michael Chavis is undeniably a better prospect. Initially selected as the Red Sox first-round pick in 2014, Chavis probably would have made his MLB debut last year were it not for a PED suspension. However, the corner infielder returned from his suspension with a vengeance, recording a .298/.381/.538 slash line and a 158 wRC+ in 41 games between Portland and Pawtucket.
He’s close to being major league ready, but the Red Sox have no reason to rush him along. Chavis plays first and third base, and the Red Sox are already set at both positions. Rafael Devers is a considerably better hitter, while Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce combine to create a first base logjam.
Chavis could make it as a second baseman, as the Red Sox don’t really have a great option if Dustin Pedroia cannot play. Chavis was a shortstop in high school, but his limited range prevented him from playing the position in the minors. He wouldn’t be a great defensive second baseman by any means, but he can’t be worse than Eduardo Nunez. It isn’t likely, but the Red Sox could decide to get weird with it and throw Chavis into the fire at second base.
Part of the reason the Red Sox didn’t splurge on an expensive closer is that they know they have Durbin Feltman waiting in the wings. Boston selected Feltman in the third round of last years’ MLB Draft, which is relatively early for a pure reliever. However, Feltman was absolutely worth the selection, as he was considered by just about everyone to be the best pro-ready reliever available by a wide margin.
Feltman showed off that promise during his first minor league season. Pitching in 22 games, Feltman recorded a sterling 1.93 ERA, 1.10 FIP, and an absurdly good 13.89 K/9 to go along with a 1.93 BB/9. Feltman climbed through the ranks fast, pitching in all three levels of Single-A ball and never showing signs of struggle.
Feltman will almost certainly be a part of the 2019 Red Sox, but he might not be there for the start of the season. For one, Feltman isn’t on the 40-man roster. If he debuted with the Red Sox, the organization would need to make a corresponding roster move. Additionally, Feltman hasn’t even reached AA yet. His stuff is nasty, but he needs to face more advanced hitting before jumping into the majors. Look for him to join the major league roster in mid-May.
This one is the longest of long shots. Hernandez is on the 40-man roster, so the Red Sox could bring him up with minimal effort. However, Hernandez probably isn’t ready for a major league role quite yet. The lefty has a mid-90’s fastball which would probably rest in the high-90’s if he came out of the bullpen. Additionally, Hernandez has a nasty set of complementary pitches outlined in our scouting report.
The Red Sox are hoping Hernandez pans out as a starting pitcher. He has the pitch tool for the job, but he lacks the command required. Because of this, some are saying the Red Sox might convert him into a high-leverage reliever. I’m on the record of saying that is a bad idea, but I’m also not the one in charge of making that decision.
Even if the Red Sox decide to make Hernandez a reliever, he probably needs more time in the minors. Hernandez finished the 2018 season with the Portland Sea Dogs but only pitched six innings at the Double-A level. He’ll probably need more experience against more advanced bats before he’s ready to make major league contributions.
Who has the best chance to make it on the Opening Day roster? Let us know in the poll below:[mytwitter url=”https://twitter.com/bosoxunfiltered/status/1094617374651834368″]