Last season, the worst-to-first Red Sox proved all the pundits wrong in winning their third championship in 10 years. Of the 43 ESPN baseball experts, just four thought they’d even making the playoffs after finishing in the AL East basement the year before.
A year later, how do the Red Sox fare in ESPN’s annual pre-Opening Day predictions? Of the 44 people prognosticating this year, 14 have the Sox winning the AL East (31 percent), 25 penciled them into a wild card spot and five picked them to miss the postseason altogether. The Rays are the popular choice to win the division among ESPN’s experts (25 off 44; 56 percent).
Just two of the 44 polled (4 percent) -- our own Joe McDonald and ESPN Radio’s Peter Pascarelli -- predict back-to-back championships for the Red Sox. Three others picked them to reach the World Series but lose.
In the predictions for individual awards, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was the leading vote-getter for AL Rookie of the Year, followed closely by Yankees righthander Masahiro Tanaka.