Many Boston fans have found excitement outside of the Boston Red Sox to start the season. All eyes have turned to the attention of the Boston Celtics and Bruins who have begun their quests for duck boat parades. The Sox find themselves with a not-so-iconic start to the season as they stand 9-9 on a year filled with many ups and downs.
The team has struggled to find an identity just about a tenth of the way through the year and quite frankly the fans are wondering if they’re in tune for yet another dry year of missing the playoffs. Between the roller-coasting offense and middling pitching staff we don’t know what to expect for the team this season.
Despite the sluggish start to the season, there have been quite a few surprising starts. When looking at the tape, you’d be pretty surprised at how well these three players have been.
Under-the-radar Red Sox player 1: Catcher Reese McGuire
First of all, it’s hard to catch anyone’s attention when you’re splitting games as a catcher but 28-year-old Reese McGuire has silently popped off as one of the best hitters to start the 2023 season. The Seattle native has made the most of his appearances this season, notching eleven hits, three runs, and only nine strikeouts in eleven games played. To the surprise of many, McGuire has the highest batting average for all active players on the team with an average of .393 and four RBIs.
Sure, McGuire has rightfully so faced much scrutiny on and off the field as many are calling on his counter-piece Connor Wong to become the full-time catcher for the Sox but I’d beg to differ. Wong hasn’t had much of an impressive start to the year, in thirteen games played, Wong has a batting average of .171 with six hits, zero home runs, and ten strikeouts.
One of the concerns McGuire has faced throughout his career has been the issue of throwing players from the plate.
Although the defensive challenges faced, it’s hard to ignore what McGuire has done for the team offensively with time being split on the field.
Under-the-radar Red Sox player 2: Relief pitcher Josh Winckowski
The Red Sox bullpen has been silently coming together as the season has progressed. The bullpen sits top 10 in the majors in striking out 65 batters with a team ERA of 3.24 through 17 games.
One of the relievers who deserves his flowers is Josh Winckowski. The team has called upon Josh Winckowski in seven games where he has allowed only three runs, ten hits, and three walks. The reliever has been dealing with 11 strikeouts and a record of 1-0 the while on the hill.
Arguably Winckowski has been one of the most reliant pitchers in the pen for the team sporting an ERA of 1.93 in seven outings. Through 14 innings pitched Winckowski has showcased an outstanding WHIP rate of 0.93 on the mound for the team.
The work from Winckowski has come to the aid of the Red Sox pitching staff and many must question if manager Alex Cora will continue to call upon the reliever in dicey moments.
Under-the-radar Red Sox player 3: Right Fielder Alex Verdugo
With the absence of Bogaerts, the team had to turn to another core piece to support the face of the franchise in Rafael Devers and that player is Alex Verdugo. The team has been waiting for Verdugo to take that next step as a player for the clubhouse and maybe he has.
The 26 year-old had an electric moment last night when he finsihed the night three for five including a walk-off RBI single to win the game for the Sox in the bottom of the tenth inning. “Dugie” has been my favorite player to watch and arguably the best player for the team batting .338 with 23 hits, 14 runs, and six RBIs in just 18 games played. Verdugo has been active among the bases with two doubles, a triple a home run, and a stolen base as well.
Alex Verdugo stole just one base last season… so this is very nice to see.
He looks so much more athletic this season.
Gliding in RF and moving well on the basepaths. pic.twitter.com/exIHwzKdge
— Tyler Milliken ⚾️ (@tylermilliken_) April 16, 2023
Viewing 99 from the Pesky Pole may become a regular thing. The team has shown the 26-year-old respect by shifting him to right field, which is one of the hardest places to field the ball at Fenway Park. Verdugo has been a defensive magician with zero errors, a forced double play and acquiring an assist while playing in right field.
There have been some brighter spots under the radar to start the year for the Boston Red Sox and as the year moves on we will find out whose performances will make the most impact on the team.