...and is shaping up to be pretty much the same as the team that just won the World Series, and I'm A-OK with that. Time to take a quick inventory of what we'll see in 08, because I see a few UPGRADES, in some case, without even making a change in personnel: CF - Ellsbury was such a spark plug. Coco's defense is great, but Jacoby has better speed and a better arm. Offensively, Ellsbury looks a lot like Damon, slapping and slicing hits away, hooking them down the line, and reaching on any remotely slow rolling infield ball. He's going to be a HUUUUUGE upgrade over Coco, who if they keep, will be a really great 4th outfielder for this team. LF - That's right, Manny's an upgrade over Manny He had an "off" season this year and admitted himself he never felt right. Has time caught up with him? Maybe, but if you take away his April (slow start) and his August (injuries), he's the same old Manny. So if healthy, he'll be back to being Manny. RF - Drew brokeout in the playoffs and that's going to take a lot of pressure off of him. Obviously, this guy can be a great player, and even his absurd $15 million per year salary will slowly look less absurd as other players get increasingly absurd deals. So, money aside, I expect Drew to have a much better regular season and be a much better hitter in the 5 hole or the 6 spot (if Lowell does return) SS - See above. Lugo broke out much earlier than just the playoffs, he was a .280 hitter after the AS Break, his OSB was still paltry, but if he can get back to his career averages, his speed on the base path will be a weapon and he will be an above average player in the 9 spot. PITCHING: #2 STARTER: DICE-K - An upgrade over Schill (or himself, depending upon how you view it) He should improve, and hopefully we more consistently see the pitcher we saw in the middle of the summer (June & July) who was pretty dominant. #3 STARTER: BUCCHOLZ - By all accounts, has ace potential. Call me crazy, but I think we'll see a more consistent pitcher in Buccholz next year than we did in Dice-K this past season. #4 STARTER: SCHILL - Schill quietly had a sub 4 ERA in 150 IP this season, not too shabby. His BAA went from .288 down to .252 after the AS break (and his little vacay). Likewise, his ERA was 3.34 after his stint on the DL. #5 STARTER: LESTER - Sorry Wake, prepare to get moved to the pen. I love Wake, we all do, but his health and his inconsistency prevent me from believing for a second that the Sox could be reserving a spot in the rotation for him. He had a 5.25 ERA post AS break and has missed a lot of time the last two years. Lester gets his spot, end of story. So, looking at Lester, what should we expect? In his MLB career to this point, he's 11-2 with a 4.68 ERA. Not too shabby a start, particularly when you consider in 06 his body was being attacked by a vicious disease and in 07 his body was just recovering from it. Towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, we began to see him recover some of the velocity he had lost and show the signs of being the potential #1 or #2 pitcher the organization once envisioned him as. At worst, he's a solid 5 for you next season. At best, he probably is a good 3, who grinds out wins and gives you a low 4s ERA. On top of that, he's a great story, truly inspiring and you are reminded of it every time he takes the mound. I can't describe how electric it was watching this guy pass a few feet in front of me at the parade last week. EDIT: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20071106&content_id=2294391&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb Potentially a 6-man rotation? I was calling for that last season, I'd be completely for it again this year. It benefits 5 out of the 6 guys(Wake, Schill for age, Dice-K for effectiveness on days rest, Buccholz and Lester for IP/youth), with only Beckett being the one guy who you'd feel like it was unnecessary for. THE PEN - This is the spot that needs the most work...Delcarmen has settled into a role, he's been steady. Oki's playoff performance shows that the season was no fluke. The wild card is Craig Hansen. If they can undo whatever they did to F this kid up and he develops into the flame throwing kid with a nasty slider they drafted him as, the bullpen would be tough to beat.