2015 Outlook: A middle infielder by trade, Betts made his first professional start in the outfield with Double-A Portland in mid-May. By late June, he was manning the outfield for the Red Sox. Although there were certainly growing pains defensively, Betts fared well against big league pitching as a 21-year-old, finishing with a .368 OBP and an exceptional 88.3 percent contact rate. He struck out just 10 more times than he walked and smacked five homers, giving him a career-high 16 for the year across three levels. With Rusney Castillo expected to serve as the primary option in center and Shane Victorino (back) expected to be healthy for spring training, Betts' role in the field heading into 2015 is uncertain. However, manager John Farrell said in December that Betts was the leading in-house candidate to bat leadoff for the team this upcoming season, which helps ease concerns about his playing time. The spot atop the order should prove fruitful for stolen bases and runs scored.
2015 Outlook: The Red Sox jumped headfirst into the Cuban market last season, signing Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal in August. This is the richest contract ever to go to a Cuban signee, but the time of the signing and Castillo's perceived defensive value are the primary reasons there's such a gulf between his contract and those of Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes. Boston believes Castillo can be a plus up-the-middle defender, which makes him unique among his highly touted countrymen. Unfortunately, spring training brought about more questions than answers, as a left oblique injury sidelined Castillo, leaving Mookie Betts in the driver's seat to open the season as the starting center fielder. Castillo will now start his season with Triple-A Pawtucket, and while that obviously dampers his prospects, a trade or injury could open up an everyday job with the big club. The Cuban outfielder previously got a cup of coffee with Boston in September, slashing .333/.400/.528 with two home runs and three steals in 40 plate appearances. The key thing to take from this limited sample is that Castillo can contribute in home runs and steals as soon as he gets regular at-bats. A 20-20 season is within reach if he can find his way to an everyday role, but playing time concerns have been exacerbated with his season starting in the minors.
2015 Outlook: Bradley demonstrates how quickly a player's value can turn in the game. Two seasons ago, he parlayed a dynamite spring training into a major league job and a ton of buzz about his future with the Red Sox. But it turns out he wasn't capable of making the jump from Double-A to the big leagues after all, and was sent down to Triple-A Pawtucket to finish the season and continue his development. Alas, 2014 was a worse season at the major league level for Bradley, as his strikeout rate spiked to 28.6 percent while his ISO dropped to a miniscule .068. His defense remained excellent, but he's been bypassed by multiple outfielders, both from the outside and from within the Red Sox organization. It will take multiple injuries on the big league roster to create substantial playing time for Bradley, who very well could spend much of 2015 in Rhode Island.