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Could the 2014 Red Sox be the first team since the 1999-2000 Yankees to
repeat as World Series Champions? (photo Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

While the Spring-Training tents haven’t yet been folded and Opening Day is still ten days off, it’s never too early for some pre-season prognostication.

And what a difference a year makes when forecasting the potential fortunes of the 2014 Red Sox roster.

At this point last year, the pundits were all too quick to tar the Olde Towne Team with the long-shot label, citing Boston’s miserable and divisive 2012 campaign under the often-incongruous auspices of one-and-done punching bag Bobby Valentine.

But then, spring sprung new life. A new manager. A resurgent starting rotation. An unexpectedly dominant surprise closer. Another banner season from ageless David Ortiz. Triumph after tragedy. The slow snap of 162 pieces falling into place, ending with another World Series parade through the streets of Beantown and down the Charles.

So what are the chances Boston could become the first repeat World Series champion since the 1999-2000 Yankees?

Here are three reasons why the Sox could make it two in a row in 2014:

1. No Starting Blocks: Even with the departure of veteran righty Ryan Dempster — who chose to sit out the second half of his two-year deal this season due to family and physical reasons — the Red Sox deck of starting-rotation cards remains intact, albeit shuffled into a new order: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz. Last year Lester shook off an abysmal 2012 to earn his “ace” stripes once again, going 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA, while Lackey persevered admirably despite receiving meager run support in his starts and Buchholz was lights-out and hands-down the early AL Cy Young Award leader until neck and shoulder issues sidelined him until the fall. Despite some inconsistency and control issues, Doubront performed well in his second full season and Peavy was a welcome addition to the squad during the playoff push. With Chris Capuano and Brandon Workman ready to slide from a relief role into the rotation in order to mitigate any potential injuries, the Red Sox starting corps looks solid once again.

2. How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm?: As good as the 25-man roster might look at the outset of this season, there’s also good reason to get excited about the depth of the Red Sox farm system down in Pawtucket, Salem and Portland, which is loaded with up-and-coming talent all over the diamond. From pitchers such as Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, Drake Britton and Anthony Ranaudo to infielders Garin Cecchini and Brock Holt to outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. — assuming he loses the starting centerfield job to Grady Sizemore — there’s plenty of potential reinforcements chomping at the bit to make their mark and help out the big-league team in 2014 in much the same fashion that Workman, Britton, Xander Bogaerts and Jose Iglesias (who was traded to Detroit as part of the Peavy deal) did in 2013.

3. Bullpen Bounty: While the Red Sox starting rotation for 2014 looks much the same as it did last season — aside from the absence of Dempster, which could turn out to be a case of addition-by-subtraction for the Sox anyway — the Red Sox relief corps could be an even more effective safety net this season. By shedding dead weight (Andrew Bailey, Joel Hanrahan, Alfredo Aceves) and bringing in fresh new arms in RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Capuano and RHP and potential setup or closing (should Koji Uehara struggle or get injured) candidate Edward Mujica. When you add the new arms to an already established group of talented stopgap hurlers such as southpaws Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller and righthanders Workman, closer Uehara and setup man Junichi Tazawa, you’ve got plenty of ammo left in the tank if one of the starters gets shelled or manager John Farrell is simply looking to lock things down from the sixth or seventh inning on.

Keep the Faith. Drink the Dirty Water. Follow me on Twitter: @jan_doh

Jan-Christian Sorensen 3/21/2014 09:08:00 AM Edit
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