HomeSportsFour reasons to be encouraged heading into the 2023 Red Sox season

Four reasons to be encouraged heading into the 2023 Red Sox season

Four reasons to be encouraged heading into the 2023 Red Sox season originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Red Sox are on the brink of their second consecutive last-place finish in the American League East. They just fired their chief baseball officer ahead of what will be a crucial offseason for the organization.

Suffice it to say, the atmosphere at Fenway Park isn’t exactly overflowing with positivity these days.

But as disappointing as they were, the Red Sox still gave fans a few reasons to think about the 2023 season with a glass-half-full perspective. The one common theme of that positive outlook? Promising young talent.

Here are four reasons to be encouraged by the 2023 Red Sox, despite their results.

As a former top prospect for the Red Sox, Triston Casas was perhaps the most hyped player on the roster entering the 2023 season. So when he experienced growing pains in April, there was understandably some disappointment.

Casas erased any doubts about his talent after the first month of his rookie season. As of May 1, the 23-year-old first baseman was hitting .291/.385/.531 with 18 doubles, 21 home runs, 57 RBIs, 54 walks and 99 strikeouts in 107 games.

Casas is the likely runner-up for the American League Rookie of the Year Award behind Baltimore Orioles star Gunnar Henderson. As of Tuesday, he leads all qualified AL rookies with an .842 OPS.

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While his season ended on a sour note due to a shoulder injury, Casas left fans with plenty to look forward to in the years to come. He’s already living up to the hype as the potential next face of the franchise alongside fellow slugger Rafael Devers.

Many had written off Jarren Duran after another disappointing season for the former top prospect in 2022. The turning point came at the end of July/beginning of August. His outfield blunder led to a Toronto Blue Jays grand slam inside-the-park, and two weeks later he misplayed two catches and collided with Kansas City Royals fans at Kauffman Stadium.

Those unflattering moments are distant memories thanks to Duran’s redemption tour in 2023. The 27-year-old was one of Boston’s best all-around players before a toe injury ended his season in August.

Duran’s speed was a game changer for the Red Sox offense. He consistently turned singles into doubles (34 in 102 games) and was a pest on the basepaths with 24 stolen bases in 26 attempts.

It remains unclear whether Duran can produce consistently against left-handed pitching. Still, his emergence is among the most positive results of the 2023 season. Barring an offseason trade, he should play a major role in the club’s eventual success in 2024.

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In 2023, “Bello Day” was born.

As part of a mediocre Red Sox rotation, the 24-year-old gave fans something to look forward to every fifth day. He leads all Boston starting pitchers in ERA (3.71) and innings pitched (148). He is second in strikeouts (127) behind swingman Nick Pivetta (166).

Bello took a no-hitter in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins in June. The right-hander has earned a reputation as a ‘Yankee killer’ due to his success against Boston’s archrival.

While he has yet to consistently show his ace potential, Bello’s first full season in the Majors was a success. He expects to enter 2024 as a rock-solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter, assuming the Red Sox find an anchor for the staff this coming offseason.

Ever since it became clear that the Red Sox weren’t going to make the postseason, the young players have been the only compelling reason to tune into games. More specifically, the tandem of outfield prospects Wilyer Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela.

Abreu, who was acquired from the Houston Astros in the Christian Vazquez trade last year along with infielder Enmanuel Valdez, has been on fire since being called up in late August. The 24-year-old enters Tuesday’s action hitting .364/.435/.509 with one homer, 10 RBIs, seven walks and 16 strikeouts in his first twenty games in the big league.

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It’s a small sample size, but one that should still intrigue Sox fans heading into the offseason. It will be interesting to see how Boston approaches its outfield situation, as there is another young outfielder who will compete for a spot on the 2024 Opening Day roster.

Rafaela is already considered an elite defensive midfielder, and he has the ability to play in either midfield spot if necessary. Although he still has issues chasing pitches out of the strike zone, the 23-year-old put up monstrous numbers at the plate for Triple-A Worcester and carried that success into his first MLB stint.

Through his first 19 MLB games, Rafaela hit .296/.321/.500 with two home runs.

If this impressive collection of young talent can build on its success next season, it will go a long way in returning the Red Sox to relevance. Of course, the only real way to shake off the negativity surrounding the club heading into 2024 is to make some big moves this winter. It remains to be seen who will make these moves.

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