Commentary

Fourteen predictions for 2014

Updated: December 30, 2013, 6:30 PM ET
By ESPNBoston.com

It will be hard to top 2013 in Boston sports. Anything could happen, as anyone who's been a New England sports fan knows. In that spirit, here's what our beat writers are predicting for 2014:

RED SOX

sox1. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts makes the All-Star team as a rookie: The buildup for Bogaerts eclipses that of any Red Sox position prospect in recent memory, and that includes Nomar, who was ranked the 10th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America in 1997. Jimy Williams tried to keep the pressure off Garciaparra in spring training that year, said he'd bat at the bottom of the lineup. Instead, he hit leadoff, swatted 30 home runs, led the league in triples with 11, stole 22 bases, was named an All-Star and won the AL Rookie of the Year Award. The bar has been set high for Bogie, but he already showed in October that he can handle it.

2. Jon Lester signs a five-year, $125 million contract extension: Four pitchers in Red Sox history have had six seasons or more in which they made at least 31 starts: Roger Clemens (8), Cy Young (8), Luis Tiant (6) and Jon Lester (6). Lester has won 15 or more games in five of those seasons, and he enters his free-agent year at a time when teams have never been more willing to pay enormous premiums for top-of-the-rotation starters. Lester will be the same age John Lackey was (31) when he signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Sox, and he had elbow issues. It will take at least a five-year deal to keep Lester from testing the market, and an average salary of $24 million per might be conservative.

3. David Ortiz, who begins the season with 431 career home runs, says he plans to play until he hits 500: Ortiz has never made a fuss about hitting 500 home runs, but now that he is this close, there's no reason for him not to stick around until he does it. He already is politicking for a new contract beyond next season. -- GORDON EDES

CELTICS

celtics4. Rondo returns in late January, C's stay in hunt for Atlantic Division title: Rajon Rondo returned to full-contact activities earlier this month and is ramping up toward game action. While he's been coy on a possible return date and even hinted recently it might not be until February, here's guessing he jumps back into the fray next month (maybe that Jan. 26 visit from the Brooklyn Nets?) and his infusion ought to help an inconsistent Boston squad stay in the mix in the Atlantic Division (especially with all the injuries and struggles plaguing their division rivals).

5. The Celtics make the second round of the playoffs: It's hard to forecast in December how this season will play out, and there's always the chance that Boston stumbles a bit (as it's done lately) and sets its sights on the lottery instead. But let's assume the Celtics find a way to win the Atlantic Division (and maybe beef up the roster at the trade deadline; resuming that Omer Asik pursuit?). Do any teams other than the top two seeds in the East scare you? They shouldn't, and Boston could find a way to win a first-round series against another middle seed. -- CHRIS FORSBERG

PATRIOTS

pats6. Patriots will play in Super Bowl XLVIII: Our boldest prediction of the bunch, we'll put our confidence behind the Patriots making it to New York (technically East Rutherford, N.J.) for an appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII, which would be their sixth trip to the ultimate game under Bill Belichick. The path won't be easy, as there is a very real possibility they'll have to play at least one road playoff game, but this team has shown itself to possess a certain resilience that can make the difference between an early exit and an extended postseason run.

7. Talib, McCourty will highlight player extensions: The Patriots secondary has played well throughout the 2013 season, led in particular by the play of safety Devin McCourty and cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib, 27, set to become a free agent this offseason, has become the team's go-to option to shadow opposing wide receivers and a popular player in the locker room. McCourty, 26, a captain this season, is among the most dependable players on the roster. While he isn't due for free agency until next offseason, the Patriots will ensure that both secondary players stick around for multiple seasons by inking them to new deals. -- FIELD YATES

BRUINS

bruins8. Bruins will win the Stanley Cup: Despite a flood of injuries, the Bruins are on pace for another deep run through the Stanley Cup playoffs. Backed by the solid play of goaltender Tuukka Rask, they will reach the finals for the third time in four seasons, earning a rematch with the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Only this spring, it will be the Bruins hoisting the Cup.

9. Rask will be a top Vezina Trophy candidate: It's likely that Tuukka Rask will be named to the Finnish Olympic team in the coming days, so it could be a successful season both personally and from a team standpoint for Rask. He'll play the most he's ever played in his career, but by the time the summer arrives, he'll look back and realize this season was a career year for him. -- JOE McDONALD

REVOLUTION

revs 10. Andrew Farrell will have an All-Star-caliber season for the Revs: If Farrell felt the pressure to perform after the Revolution traded up to take him first overall in the 2013 SuperDraft, he hardly showed it. Not only did he earn the starting right back spot out of camp, but he started all but two games there. The rookie defender regularly displayed the same speed, technical ability and toughness that made coaches and technical directors alike salivate at the combine. Look for Farrell, after a full 34-game season under his belt, to be even better in 2014. -- BRIAN O'CONNELL

COLLEGES

11. Massachusetts will produce more than one Dancer come March: With UMass back in the Top 25 for the first time since 1998 and Harvard cruising along at the bottom of the "others receiving votes" list as the calendar flips to 2014, it looks as though more than one of the state's seven Division I men's hoops schools will have a shot at March Madness. And though the Crimson and the Minutemen are the most likely Big Dance participants, don't count out Boston University.

12. A Flutie will play quarterback for the Eagles: OK, this one may be a bit of a stretch. After a record-setting high school career as a passer, Troy Flutie -- son of Darren, nephew of Doug and ESPNBoston.com's Mr. Football for 2013 -- is committed to BC as an athlete. Flutie finished his Natick Redhawks career with an MIAA-record 9,014 passing yards and 112 touchdown passes, including a single-season record 47 as a senior. So while Steve Addazio could still convert him to another position, it doesn't seem out of the question that the Eagles coach might at least try him out under center once Chase Rettig has moved on. -- JACK McCLUSKEY

HIGH SCHOOLS

13. Putnam will repeat as Division 1 basketball state champions: Western Mass has never had three straight Division 1 state champs, and nobody has won back-to-back titles at the MIAA's highest level of competition since Newton North's star-studded backcourt of Anthony Gurley and Corey Lowe led the Tigers in 2005-06. But frankly, if defending D1 state champ Putnam doesn't repeat in 2014, it will be a disappointment. The Beavers graduated just one player, all-state forward Kayjuan Bynum, from its title-winning squad of 2012-13, and they added four transfers over the summer. One of those transfers -- sophomore Tyonne Malone -- already has Division I offers and has not disappointed yet in a Putnam uniform. The Beavers are playing the state's best defense right now, and they're doing it all without returning all-state forward David Murrell, who is recovering from an ankle injury. In fact, they just rallied in overtime to beat a team from Brooklyn that features two Division I commits in its starting lineup. The fact that they're dominating like this without a full cast should tell you all you need to know.

14. Malden Catholic will wins its fourth straight Super 8 title: The Lancers entered the 2013-14 season as the No. 2 team in our Top 25 poll to top-ranked Austin Prep. The Cougars and MC faced off at the Garden in last year's title tilt, and we expect nothing short of a rematch this year. But in that matchup, we expect for experience to win out, with the Lancers on a historically dominant run. A potential regular-season duel between the teams at this weekend's Christie Serino tournament could give us a glimpse of what's to come. -- BRENDAN HALL

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