Sunday, July 26, 2015

Trading Deadline Five Days Away- A Red Sox Look

Over the last month or so instead of specific rumors of players coming to Boston (other than the Cole Hamels talk ongoing since last winter) the trade deadline discussion centering around Boston has been are they buyers or sellers?  The Red Sox train wreck of a post All Star break road trip (0-7 in Anaheim and Houston) has seemingly answered that question.  But has it?

There seems little doubt the Sox are not realistically in the '15 playoff hunt and will be looking to sell off some veteran players.  And there seems to be no reason at all to be shopping for the rental names mentioned since last off season ( Cueto, Zimmerman, Samardjiza, Price, etc.).  But rather than simply moving some veterans out of the way, Ben Cherington seems to be on the hunt to find talent (likely pitching talent) that can be acquired and controlled for seasons beyond 2015.

The one rental name the Sox reportedly still had interest in was Johnny Cueto from the Reds.  The thinking was the Sox would pay the rental price and then have two months to court Cueto to sign and stay in Boston.  This method of acquiring Cueto ended today, when he was traded to Kansas City for three young lefty pitchers.  If ( a big if) the Sox are willing to pay Cueto the  $200M plus this winter, he will now be a free agent without a draft pick loss attached (there is no way KC shells out the $ to keep him from free agency).  Something to watch later.

In lieu of any specific rumors as of yet, let's take a look a some players the Sox could trade away.

Mike Napoli: the most likely to go, but does he have any trade value?  I think a marginal relief pitching prospect could be had for Nap.  If he has a good week this week that will improve the chances of getting something.  Tampa Bay is one team listed as shopping for a bat.  Would the Sox trade within the division?  Well the first three "deadline week" deals in MLB were all intradivision deals: the Kazmir deal, the Aramis Ramirez deal, and the Juan Uribe-Kelly Johnson to Mets.  In addition last year the Sox traded Stephen Drew to the Yankees and Andrew Miller to Baltimore.

Shane Victorino: if he can get through this week healthy there may be a market for Vic.  It has been reported the Sox were finding more of a market for Victorino than for Napoli.  The Mets for one has been mentioned.  Again, as with Napoli,  this would be a small deal to get marginal prospect and free up roster space

Justin Masterson:  Even more unlikely there is any market for Justin either  but maybe some team takes a flier on him as a bullpen arm.

Daniel Nava:  The Royals have interest in Nava as a lefty bat off the bench.

Criag Breslow, Robbie Ross, Jr., Tommy Layne: Any of all three could be moved, Layne reportedly has the most interest.

Now onto some players who could bring more back in return.  Not a blockbuster trade like last July 31, but deals that could bring back an useful arm or two.

Alejandro DeAza:  If Boston was contending Alejandro would stay in Boston.  But a team that is contending could certainly use his bat and outfield defense.

Koji Uehara: The fact Koji is signed through next year, could be a positive or negative in moving him.  But for a team desperate for a closer (Toronto?) you could get a good return.  But there are other younger closers on the market: Paplebon, Kimbrel, and maybe Aroldis Chapman.

Junichi Tazawa: Taz would seem like a pitcher to hang onto for 2016 and beyond, but maybe this is time to move him before the overuse he has gotten comes back to haunt him.

Jackie Bradley, Jr.:  I think this is the wrong time to trade JBJ instead move some veteran outfielders and give him a chance to play everyday.  But in recent days there have been reports of the Giants and Royals having moderate to strong interest in Bradley, Jr.

Wade Miley: Not every pitcher dealt at the deadline is an ace.  Miley is signed for two years beyond this at a very reasonable salary.  He would fit into the middle to back of any rotation, and the teams that miss out on the big names (or cannot afford them) may come calling for Miley.

Joe Kelly and Allen Craig: the two former Cardinals more likely should have been listed in the not much of a market category(at least Craig), but some NL team that remembers their efforts in St. Louis may be willing to trade for one or both of them.

Brock Holt: this is an idea I floated as a comment to Brandon's recent post.  Find a contender with a need at second base ( KC, Angels, Mets) and see if you can get a package of two or three good players for your All Star.  Ned Yost, the KC manager, seemed to love Holt when he picked him for the AL All Star team.  Holt could play left field while Alex Gordon is out injured and move back to second when Gordon comes back.  The Sox have recalled Jemile Weeks now that Dustin Pedroia is back on the DL. In spring training the Sox were grooming Weeks as another all over the field utility guy.  Could he be a Holt replacement??

The other type of Red Sox rumor making the rounds, as mentioned above, is that the Sox are searching for younger, controllable pitchers.  One name mentioned a lot is All Star Sonny Gray of Oakland.  It seems unlikely Gray is available, although Billy Beane has traded younger players unexpectedly before.  Even if Beane would deal Gray, it seems that the package would have to include Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts.

Other places the Sox have inquired per reports are the Mets (Zack Wheeler, out until'16 after Tommy John surgery), San Diego( Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross), maybe Seattle (Taijuan Walker), and Cleveland ( Carlos Carrasco, who the Indians will at least on according to multiple reports, and Danny Salazar or Trevor Bauer).

There were two other reports I read that did not mention Boston at all, but I found interesting.  The rebuilding Braves have been inquiring all over baseball about finding a young catcher. A seperate report, talking about all of the young pitching the Braves have been stockpiling since last winter, suggested the Braves may be willing to trade 24 year old right hander, Julio Teheran.  This year Teheran is 6-5 with a ERA of 4.49 with 102 K's.  But last year he was 14-13 with an ERA of 2.89 with 186 strikeouts., and was a NL All Star.  Would Boston trade Blake Swihart for Teheran?  Would Atlanta make the deal one for one, or would they want an arm or two included? I am in the keep Swihart camp, but acquring this type of pitcher would be awfully tempting.

As the week winds it way towards Friday's deadline RSM will continue to post any updated rumors or deals right here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Eulogy for the 2015 Red Sox

In our podcast on Sunday, July 12, Deacon Art and I agreed that the Red Sox had worked their way back into 2015 playoff contention. At the time of the podcast, the Red Sox sat 5.5 games out of first place in the AL East. They had a game that evening against the Yankees, and if they could win that game they would have headed into the All-Star Break a manageable 4.5 games back. They had won 9 of their last 12 games. They had a chance to head into the break 5-1-2 in their previous eight series. Instead, since that podcast, the following has happened:
  • The Sox lost the July 12th game to the Yankees. Our dumpster fire bullpen served up a two-run homer to a rookie playing in his third ever major league game and the Sox lost 8-6.
  • The Red Sox were swept by the Angels in a four game series
  • The Angels outscored the Sox 22-4 in the four-game shellacking
  • Eduardo Rodriguez, the rookie phenom, lasted 1.2 innings while surrendering 6 hits, 3 walks, 2 home runs, and 7 earned runs without recording a strikeout.
  • Clay Buchholz is scheduled to meet with Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday. The Red Sox are calling the exam “precautionary”, but this blogger is predicting that Andrews finds elbow ligament damage, Buchholz undergoes Tommy John surgery, Buchholz doesn’t pitch again until late 2016 or early 2017, and Buchholz has thrown his last pitch as a Red Sox.
  • The Red Sox are currently 9.0 games out of first place in the AL East and their playoff probability according to Baseball Prospectus is at 9.5%.
  • The Red Sox players exhibited body language during last night’s sweep-clenching beatdown that is usually reserved for people who have recently watched their beloved dog run over in the street in front of their own eyes. John Farrell has the look of a man on death row hoping that his execution comes quickly just to get it all over with.
Folks, the 2015 season is done. Over. Finished. At least in terms of contention for a playoff spot. The Red Sox brass have to realize this. Red Sox fans, judging by Twitter, already realize this. As we approach the 2015 trading deadline, the focus of the Red Sox organization should be shifting away from “what can we acquire to help us get into the playoffs” to “what we can trade away for the long term benefit of our organization”. 

It is time to focus on building towards 2016. And yes, it is July 21. That means another two and a half months of meaningless baseball being played by a last-place team auditioning talent and stockpiling major league reps for players looking ahead to 2016. For the second year in a row. All signs point towards a third last-place finish in four years. 

So where do we go from here? The Red Sox have a number of decisions to make. Let’s run through six of them:

1. Is Ben Cherington the GM we want leading our roster construction? 
The theory of baseball roster construction and game management is changing. This is not a new story. The era of working pitch counts, drawing walks, getting on base, and paying nine figures for established aces is fading, if not already gone. The new approach is to avoid striking out, putting the ball in play, running like hell, scoring early in the game to get a lead, compiling a rotation just good enough to get through five or maybe six innings, preventing hits by emphasizing defense and shifts, and investing in a lights-out bullpen to shorten games to six or seven inning affairs. If Ben Cherington watched the 2014 playoffs, he should have seen the Royals and Orioles among other teams moving towards this approach. Instead, Cherington zigged when the market was zagging. He spent his wad on hitting, signing the two best bats on the market in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, even though Ramirez had no apparent position to play. Cherington spent the rest of his cash to extend two pitchers who had yet to throw a pitch at Fenway in Wade Miley and Rick Porcello, which has turned out to be something between a shrug and a debacle. He “addressed” the bullpen with his leftovers, patching together Robbie Ross Jr, Anthony Varvaro, Edward Mujica, Tommy Layne, and Craig Breslow. On the surface, these moves made sense. I bought into the approach this offseason. If the game was moving towards low-scoring games, then why not invest in the scarce commodity of power hitters? If the trend is moving away from nine-figure aces, then why not invest in two middle-tier starters with potential to improve? Made sense on paper. Now with the benefit of hindsight, these moves look like a GM who is behind the times, won’t learn the lessons of baseball going on around him, or is just incompetent at his job. Will Cherington learn and change tack heading into 2016 and beyond? Should we trust him to learn these lessons and modernize the Red Sox roster? Cherington seems like a smart guy, and I almost always lean towards organizational stability over reactionary firings, so if it were up to me I would keep Cherington and give him a mandate to learn the lessons going on around him in baseball and adjust his priorities accordingly.

2. Is John Farrell the manager we want leading this team?
To me, no. As I said above, I almost always lean towards organizational stability over reactionary firings, but there comes a point when the firing isn’t reactionary any more and the body of evidence overcomes the benefits of stability. The time has come. Farrell’s career record as a manager is 364-377. And that’s including the 97-win 2013 season that is looking more and more like a miracle. If 2013 is taken off of Farrell’s resume, he’s 267-312 as a manger. Assuming the Red Sox finish last in 2015, without 2013 Farrell will have presided over two fourth-place finishes and two last-place finishes. As Bill Parcells once said, “you are what your record says you are”. Farrell’s reputation as a strong clubhouse leader and voice of reason with the media is also taking a hit. Yesterday, after Sandy Leon was DFA’s, Farrell actually looked into the camera and said with a straight face, “Sandy did an outstanding job for us”. Oh really John? Leon was outstanding? What games were you watching?!?!?! I know Leon was a serviceable major league backstop and he threw out some potential baserunners, but did you watch any of his at bats? If he had gone up there and bunted every single time he could have matched his .180 batting average. Leon had about as much of a chance of getting an extra base hit as I do of being elected the next pope. Come on. When Farrell spouts such non-sensical horse manure to Red Sox fans in the midst of his ship sinking into the abyss of meaninglessness, it’s time to go. Fire him now, replace him with Butterfield if he will stay through 2015, then open up a search to find the next Kevin Cash, A.J. Hinch, or Paul Molitor. Enough already.

3. Can the Red Sox trade Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino for anything worthwhile?
There’s no way that Napoli or Victorino get any at-bats in a Red Sox uniform come August, and other teams know this. What would a team give up to get a player who will probably be DFA’d anyways? Will a team take a flyer on Napoli regaining some pop with a change of scenery, maybe to the NL? Will a team want Victorino’s veteran presence in the clubhouse during a pennant race? Maybe. But they won’t give up more than a basement prospect, which is fine. Get what you can and move on.

4. Will the Red Sox consider trading Dustin Pedroia?
I hope so. It won’t be easy seeing the scrappy captain go, and it would certainly be tough seeing Pedroia playing in a different uniform, and it might not be easy to move his 6 year/$85 million contract, but I think it’s time. At this point in his career, Pedroia is a good defensive second baseman, he hits for average, and he reportedly is a clubhouse leader. That’s fine for a player with a reasonable contract and who is willing to hit seventh in a lineup. The Red Sox took off with their late June/early July winning streak with a top three of Betts, Holt, and Bogaerts in their batting order. As soon as Pedroia has come back, the Sox have plummeted. Maybe it’s a coincidence. Or maybe Pedroia’s brashness is grating on players in the locker room. Maybe his declarations that he’s still a top-ten player is causing him to think “me first” with his approach. Maybe Pedroia thinks too much of his ability at this point in his career. Maybe having a top three of all right-handed hitters is a bad idea and Betts and Bogaerts should hit first and third respectively for the next 15 years. 

And then there’s this: of all the Red Sox players on their roster, Pedroia would probably net the biggest haul in return, allowing the Sox to continue stockpiling assets for building a team or when they need to acquire talent in a pennant race. Several of the Sox’ recent prospects have busted: Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Travis Shaw, Bryce Brentz, etc. Maybe it’s time to re-stock the upper levels.

While I was watching the Angels crush our souls over the weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that the Angels have Johnny Giavotella playing second base. The Angels want to win a title now, while Trout is still in his prime. Would they take on 6 years and $85 million of Pedroia to put their lineup over the top? Andrew Heaney looked really good on Monday. Maybe a deal headlined by Pedroia for Heaney could be worked out? Count me in.

5. Will the Red Sox consider trading David Ortiz?
Now this one would REALLY hurt. Nothing would hammer home the point that this era of Red Sox baseball is coming to a close like seeing Ortiz traded away to spend the rest of his career in a different uniform. But he’s still a productive hitter for an American League team in a pennant race, he’s a clubhouse genius, and his contract is favorable. Beyond that, I think the Red Sox would love to be able to slot Hanley Ramirez in as their DH for the future and replace his awful defense in LF. David Ortiz has ascended to the Boston sports Mount Rushmore with his presence through three World Series titles and his “this is our f***ing city” speech, but will the Sox consider moving him while he could still net some prospects in return? I can’t stomach this one, no matter if it does make sense on paper.

6. How can the Red Sox develop their young core?
Look, the Red Sox still have a very promising young core. Betts, Bogaerts, and Swihart look like cornerstones. But how can these guys be developed when they are in a culture of losing? How do you get better on a last place team with meaningless at bats? It’s tough. But once again, the Sox will look to get these three along with Rusney Castillo, Brian Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, Pat Light, and as many other young players as possible major league-level reps in 2015. I think a change in manager might help clear the air and allow these guys to focus on developing for 2016 and beyond rather than playing for a lame duck manager throughout 2015. 

As always, let’s hash out these decisions and any others in the comments section below.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Deacon Art and Brandon Podcast: The Red Sox at the Break

Deacon Art and Brandon sit down for a podcast where we talk about the Red Sox first half, the team's approach heading the trade deadline, the current series with the Yankees, the starting rotation, the dumpster fire...err, bullpen, Brian Johnson, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, and everything else related to the Sox that we can think of.

You can skip past the part where I bumble around and try to turn on the Deacon Art's microphone with faulty wi-fi while asking if he's there four times. SKIP TO THE 1:00 MARK OF THE PODCAST AND GO FROM THERE. Sorry about that folks.

Go Sox!

Go Sox!
Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast on BlogTalkRadio

Friday, July 3, 2015

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- July 2015 Edition

We have hit the halfway mark of the MLB season and the Fourth of July weekend, and it is time to once again rank the top prospects of the Red Sox organization.  As anticipated we have some changes in our top 30 this month.  Two players have graduated from prospect status to big league rookies.  They are Matt Barnes {#9 last month} and our previously number one ranked prospect, catcher Blake Swihart.  Also some of the new draftees from the 2015 June amateur draft join our list after officially signing with Boston.

As always the team listed after the player's name is his current location and the number in { } is last month's ranking.  We use two stat lines:

Hitters: HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS
Pitchers: W-L/ERA/WHIP/ K-BB

Let's meet the new number one Red Sox prospect and check out how the players are ranked by RSM.

1. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP Boston {3} Since his recall to Boston on May 28, Rodriguez has been the Sox second best starter behind only Clay Buchholz.  Eduardo began red hot with a near historic first four games, with a combination of innings pitched, few hits allowed, and strikeouts rarely seen in all the years since 1914. He ran into two tough starts versus Toronto and Baltimore, which was attributed to pitch tipping.  If Eduardo can make the mechanical adjustments to eliminate this tipping of his pitches, he should be in line to complete a strong rookie season for Boston.  This is very likely Eduardo's first and last appearance at the top of our rankings.  Three more starts or so will also graduate Rodriguez into the big league rookie season category.

2. Rafael Devers, 3B Greenville {5} The 18 year old hitting phenom's June did not match his torrid May, but he still finished the month with a line of 6-36-.305-.336-.793 for the season to date with 19 doubles and a triple.  Devers was one of the Drive members to be named to the South Atlantic All Star team.  In addition Devers has been selected to play in World vs. USA Futures Game, played as part of MLB's All Star festivities.

3. Yoan Moncada, 2B Greenville {2} The Cuban star was edged out of the second spot by his Drive teammate, Devers.  The young switch hitter with the huge international reputation is still adjusting to playing in the States.  His line so far for the Drive is 1/11/.230/.315/.634 with five doubles and a triple.  Moncada has also stolen nine bases without being caught.  It will be very interesting to see if Moncada's game heats up as the second half of the minor league season continues.

4. Brian Johnson, LHP Pawtucket {4} The day of Johnson's big league debut should be right around the corner.  With Joe Kelly now in AAA,  Justin Masterson on a game by game leash, and Rick Porcello cratering, Brian Johnson's time should be now.  Johnson, the Paw Sox only IL All Star representative (which would have been beyond comprehension when 2015 began), has continued to produce: 8-5/2.38/1.08/76-24 with fifteen starts on the year.  His June stats closely mirror his year to date numbers.  It will be a very big surprise if Brian Johnson does not make his major league debut in July.

5. Manuel Margot, OF Portland {6} Around the halfway mark of the minor league season the Red Sox made several promotions within the system (several of which we will see later on this list). The biggest name was Margot, who recovered from an injury plagued May to hit .316 with two homers for Salem in June, and was promoted to AA.  In Manuel's first 39 at bats for Portland he has not skipped a beat.  His AA line is 1/5/.282/.300/.736 with three doubles and three stolen bags.  Margot's first AA home run came in his first game at Hadlock Field.  Manuel will be the second Sox player in the Futures game.  As the trade deadline comes at the end of this month, Margot's name is sure to be mentioned in any big Sox rumors.  But in the mean time, there is now a real Sox prospect to see when the fans visit Portland.

6. Henry Owens, LHP Pawtucket {8} Owens has not produced the eye popping numbers as he has done in the lower levels of the minors.  But Henry is still having a very important year in his development.  He has now made sixteen starts and pitched 90 innings at AAA this year, along with six starts and 38 innings there in 2014. His command improved in June with 27 strikeouts versus 13 walks,  a better rate than the first two months of 42-35.  As with other tall pitchers in the past the 6'6" lefty needs to work on repeating his delivery and commanding the zone.  This is why his June numbers are encouraging.

7. Rusney Castillo, OF Pawtucket {7} Castillo continues not to be able to earn and hold on to playing time in Boston.  He has 74 at bats for Boston with poor to mediocre results. The best plan going forward for 2015 would seem to be to get as many at bats in AAA as possible for Rusney.  So far in AAA his numbers are good; 3/11/.310/.364/.824 with six doubles and eight stolen bases in ten tries.

8. Andrew Benintendi, OF Lowell {N/A} The new number one draft pick ( #7 overall) of the Boston Red Sox debuts in our top ten.  Benintendi lead his Univ. of Arkansas team to the College World Series.  His tools include hitting for power and average with better than average speed and a strong throwing arm.  He throws and bats left handed.  Andrew played two seasons at Arkansas, and he truly exploded onto the scene this season, as illustrated by his two lines in college.

2014: 1/27/.276/.368      in 225 at bats

2015: 20/57/.376/.488     in 226 at bats

Benintendi won the 2015 Dick Howser Award symbolic of the college baseball player of the year and the Golden Spikes Award for amateur baseball player of the year.

Benintendi will begin his pro career at Lowell after officially signing with Boston this week.  Benintendi, who turns 21 on July 6,  is expected to make a brief stop at Lowell before moving onto Greenville or maybe even Salem.

9. Michael Kopech, RHP Greenville {10} June was more of the same for Kopech, as the 2014 first rounder  continues to put up a very solid first full pro season.  After pitching just 13 pro innings in '14, Kopech has a line of 3-5/3.06/1.22/58-17 in 50 innings , while lighting up the guns in the high 90's regularly.

10. Javier Guerra, SS Greenville {11} The nineteen year old shortstop from Panama is just one of many recent international signees who are exploding onto the Red Sox prospect scene.  Guerra, a SAL All Star, has put up an impressive line for the season: 8/36/.271/.328/.796 with 15 doubles for the plus rated defender.

11. Deven Marrero, INF Boston {12} The recent placement of Dustin Pedroia onto the disabled list led to the major league debut for Marrero.  Brock Holt took the starts at second, but Marrero was brought up as the utility infielder.  On July 1, Marrero started his first MLB game on Canada Day in Toronto.  Through that game Marrero started his big league career at 0-6.  Marrero is a great defender and his bat as always is the question.  But didn't we say that about Jose Iglesias as well?

12. Trey Ball, LHP Salem {14} 2013's first round, seventh overall pick continues to make steady progress through the system.  Trey had an outstanding June at Salem: 3-1/1.59/1.09/19-13 in five starts. In mid-June Ball put up 15 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. This brought his year to date won/loss record to 6-6 with an ERA of 3.70.  Ball's June seems to mirror his 2014 Greenville season when a poor first half was followed by a strong second half.  July and August could be important months for Ball.

Halfway Home

The Fourth of July is often considered the halfway mark of the MLB season although with the fluid Opening Day date from year to year, it is not really the case.  But this year for the Red Sox they will enter today's Independence Day weekend at exactly the halfway mark: 81 games in the book.  Here's a few quick thoughts about the Red Sox at the halfway marker.

*Of course, the first half of 2015 has been a massive disappointment for the Red Sox.  They are in last place in the AL East with a record of 37-44.  There has been a sliver of hope in the last week provided by a 5-2 road trip to Tampa Bay and Toronto.  This has cut the Sox deficit in the division from ten games out to six.  The other four teams are all bunched within one game of each other.  Despite many stories lately about how much better the AL East is than predicted, I still consider it a mediocre group, all teams with major flaws.  This may leave the door ajar for the Sox to to walk back in. Maybe.

* Here comes the math.  In order to get to 87 wins the Sox need to play 50-31, a .617 pace.  To get to 90 wins, 53-28, a clip of .654.  That leads to two questions: can the Red Sox play over .600 ball and would that be enough to win the AL East?  Based on their first half it would be hard to imagine an over .600 winning percentage.  In addition no AL team has played at that pace so far ( Houston .580 and KC .579 are tops).  But the Sox are not without talent ( enough talent??) and they are still due for that elusive winning streak.  As to 87-90 wins garnering the title:  As of today the Orioles and Yankees are tied for first, only five games over .500 ( they both have two more games to play until they reach 81). If those teams split the next two, they would both be on pace to finish twelve games over .500 or in other words: 87-75.  So 87 might do it, but the math for Boston to get to 87 is still daunting.

* If the Red Sox are going to climb back into the thick of the AL East race it is imperative they do at least one thing.  Beat the other AL East teams early and often ( especially often).  As amazing as it sounds the Red Sox reach the halfway mark with a winning record against all non-AL East teams: 21-19.  Now not a great record but a winning one.  But even after the 5-2 trip the Red Sox are 16-25 in the division.  If the Red Sox were only one game over in the division, their record would be 42-39 The same record as the Rays and Jays have today, and same number of wins as the other two teams (and of course five more Sox wins in the division would be allotted to some or all of the other teams lessening their marks).

* David Ortiz had a slow start to his season, especially versus left handed pitching.  Is Papi washed up?  Most certainly he is not.  His three run blast in the first inning at Toronto last night gave him 14 in the first half of '15.  This puts Ortiz on pace to hit 28.  In the previous seven seasons ( 08-14) Ortiz hit exactly 200 home runs. This is an average of 28.5 home runs per year, David is on target to match that number almost on the nose.  His batting average is down and he may or may not be the Big Papi of his prime, but he is still a presence in the middle of the order.  Anyone's order.

* In the last week with Dustin Pedroia (who by the way is having his best season in years, except for hitting with runners in scoring position) on the DL and Hanley Ramirez injured, John Farrell moved Xander Bogaerts in the three spot in the batting order.  This is where the Red Sox should leave the X Man for the next fifteen years or so.  Last night's four hit game brought his average to .297 and Xander has also been driving in big runs.  My prediction for Xander for the second half is the home runs come along like the rest of his game has and he finishes with fifteen of more home runs.

* Mookie Betts is another player who is continuing to blossom right in front of our eyes.  After a dip for a month or so that caused Farrell to drop Betts out of the leadoff spot, Mookie is back at the top and he should be there just about as long as Bogaerts hits third.  If the Sox make any kind of run in the second half, Betts and Bogaerts will lead the charge, and do not forget both of these guys are only 22.

* Hanley Ramirez is never going to win a Gold Glove in left field (or anywhere else), but I still maintain almost all of the screeching over his "worst left fielder of all time" defense, has just as much to do with his offense.  If Ramirez' bat heats up as in April, and he finishes with 35-40 home runs, the clamor over his D will die down a lot.

* Clay Buccholz is an enigma.  One of the black marks on his resume is he has never pitched over 200 innings in a season.  Well he is over 100 at the halfway mark, and he is having an All Star type campaign ( although I suspect he will not make the AL team).  If the Sox flounder for rest of July, and Buch continues to pitch as he has in 2015, Ben C will have a huge decision to make at the deadline: trade Clay Buchholz or keep him at very reasonable 13M options for each of the next two seasons?  If the Red Sox continue to play as they did on this last road trip the question is moot, you keep him.  But if the Sox are still last and further behind than they are today, I think he goes to either Houston or the Cubs.

* The team ERA is still last in the AL, and this will need to addressed internally or externally if the second half is to feature a big turnaround. Buch, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Wade Miley are 3/5 of an acceptable rotation.  The need to audition Brian Johnson as soon as possible, and hope for about faces from at least one of Rick Porcello ( the biggest first half disappointment, I was thrilled when Porcello was extended, and still believe he can pitch successfully in Boston, but 2015 my be a lost season for Rick), Justin Masterson, or Joe Kelly.  Rob Bradford had an interesting post on WEEI.com stating the Red Sox were on the hunt for younger, controllable beyond 2015 pitching in the rotation and the bullpen.  I think this may be the route the Sox go at the deadline whether they are buyers or sellers.

* The end of bullpen with Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa has been very good, but with the possible exception of Alexi Ogando the rest of the pen is a dumpster fire.  If Ben is looking for young pitching, hopefully he grabs some bullpen arms with power in them.

* My prediction for the upcoming 81 games is better than the first half.  But I do not think they can play the likely needed .600 to win the division.  45-37 for a .555 % gives Boston a final record of 82-80.  I think the Sox will pull into at least the fringes of the AL East race, and will not finish last.  Some interesting games and semi-contention will at least make for a more interesting summer than we expected a couple of weeks ago.

There are always story lines in Red Sox Nation, so enjoy the rest of 2015's baseball season.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Red Sox All Star Prospectus 2015

We are merely 2 weeks away from the midsummer classic, this year being held at the Great American Ballpark, home field of the Cincinnati Reds, on July 14th. Much has been written and made about the fans voting efforts in the American League, where currently 7 Kansas City Royals are in line to start. This post will look at the potential for AL All-Stars based on each team needing a representative and estimating who will end up as the top vote getters. We will also discuss the prospects of the Sox to make the squad. 34 players will make the AL All-Star team with the 9 starters and the 34th Man selection determined by the fans. Players in bold are our selections to make the team, those in italics also were given consideration.

As this is the fourth year of the all-star prospectus, let's take a look back to see how Cousin Jason has faired in selecting the All-Star teams.

2012: 9 for 9 on the starters, 19 for 25 on the remaining roster: 28 for 34 .824
2013: 9 for 9 on the starters, 17 for 25 on the remaining roster: 26 for 34 .765
2014: 7 for 9 on the starters, 20 for 25 on the remaining roster: 27 for 34 .794

So overall, we are hitting on a little better than a 79% success rate on choosing the AL All-Star roster over the past 3 years. By any baseball statistical measurement, that is a great rate! On to this years selections:

Starters
C Salvador Perez, Kansas City
Perez is a lock to start as he leads Russell Martin of the Blue Jays by nearly 6 million votes. In fact, Perez has the most votes in the AL with a sizeable lead of nearly 800,000 over Miguel Cabrera.
1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Cabrera is the first of a few non-Royals to make up ground in the latest voting update, he currently leads Eric Hosmer of the Royals by nearly 1.3 million votes.
2B Jose Altuve, Houston
Altuve is another player gaining ground on the leader which is currently Omar Infante, the most undeserving of candidates. Altuve has trimmed the lead down to a manageable 450,000 or so and based on the outrage of the baseball world outside of KC he should be able to overtake Infante in the last week and save a roster spot for a deserving all-star.
3B Josh Donaldson, Toronto
Donaldson is the biggest mover currently in the voting world, having cut the lead of Mike Moustakas of the Royals from 1.6 million 2 weeks ago to 33,000. Based on this upward trajectory, Donaldson should get the nod and possibly even catch Perez for the most votes. Although being on Canada's team does Donaldson get his votes at par?
SS Alcides Escobar, Kansas City
Escobar is most decidedly going to be the starter as he currently has a lead of 2.6 million votes over Jose Iglesias of the Tigers.
LF Alex Gordon, Kansas City
CF Mike Trout, Anaheim
RF Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City
In the OF, Mike Trout has the 3rd most total votes and the reigning All-Star MVP will most assuredly start his 3rd consecutive midsummer classic. Cain and Gordon are also in great shape to start leading Yoenis Cespedes of the Tigers by 3.1 million and 1.9 million votes respectively.
DH Nelson Cruz, Seattle
Our final pick to over take a currently leading Royal, Cruz has got his deficit to Kendry Morales down to 286,000 votes.

Backups
C Stephen Vogt, Oakland, Russell Martin, Toronto
Brian McCann, New York
In an all-around weak position for the AL, Vogt and Martin stand above the other candidates. Vogt is the best offensive catcher in the league and Martin has made great strides since his horrendous start. Although, choosing McCann over Martin would not be a surprise.
1B Albert Pujols, Anaheim, Prince Fielder, Texas
Jose Abreu, Chicago, Mark Teixeira, New York, Eric Hosmer, Kansas City, Kendry Morales, Kansas City
Pujols has been a hitting machine over the past month and leads the AL in home runs. Fielder, while he has spent most of the year as the Rangers DH needs to make the roster because of his outstanding offensive numbers and most likely will be the Rangers lone representative.
2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland, Dustin Pedroia, Boston
Logan Forsythe, Tampa Bay, Brian Dozier, Minnesota
Kipnis has been the best second baseman in the AL this season. Pedroia was having a solid season prior to this past weeks hamstring injury. His injury will probably keep him out of the All-Star game and perhaps opens the door for Logan Forsythe of the Rays. Forsythe's versatility helps his case.
3B Manny Machado, Baltimore
Mike Moustakas, Kansas City, Alex Rodriguez, New York, Jimmy Paredes, Baltimore, Kyle Seager, Seattle, Brett Lawrie, Oakland, Pablo Sandoval, Boston
Machado has put together a very good season and could be the lone third baseman to make the roster of back-ups. However, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Ned Yost chooses his own guy Mike Moustakas to make the roster as well.
SS Xander Bogaerts, Boston, Jose Iglesias, Detroit
Marcus Semien, Oakland
Shortstop is also another weak overall position in the AL. Deacon Art made a case for Bogaerts as an All-Star a few weeks ago. Since that time, Xander has only enhanced his case. Meanwhile, other shortstops, such as Marcus Semien of the A's have regressed. Iglesias, known for his defensive wizardry, has put up a fine .330 average albeit it as pretty much a singles hitter (61 of 70 hits).
OF Yoenis Cespedes, Detroit, Adam Jones, Baltimore, Brett Gardner, New York, JD Martinez, Detroit
Michael Brantley, Cleveland, Hanley Ramirez, Boston, Mookie Betts, Boston, Kevin Pillar, Toronto, Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay, Josh Reddick, Oakland, George Springer, Houston, Jose Bautista, Toronto
Gardner has put together another fine season and could be the lone Yankee on the All-Star roster. Cespedes has taken to Detroit, putting up fine offensive numbers. Jones has also put together a fine season, although he has been slowed in recent weeks by injury. Lastly, Martinez is having a tremendous season and should give the Tigers 2 outfielders on the roster.

Pitchers
Sonny Gray, Oakland, Chris Archer, Tampa Bay, Dallas Keuchel, Houston, Chris Sale, Chicago, Felix Hernandez, Seattle, David Price, Detroit, Glen Perkins, Minnesota, Huston Street, Anaheim, Zach Britton, Baltimore, Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay, Wade Davis, Kansas City, Corey Kluber, Cleveland
Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay, Hector Santiago, Anaheim, Yovani Gallardo, Texas, Scott Kazmir, Oakland, Jesse Chavez, Oakland, Mike Pelfrey, Minnesota, Edinson Volquez, Kansas City, Ubaldo Jimenez, Baltimore, Garrett Richards, Anaheim, Clay Buchholz, Boston, Mark Buehrle, Toronto, Luke Gregerson, Houston, Joakim Soria, Detroit, Andrew Miller, New York, Greg Holland, Kansas City, David Robertson, Chicago, Dellin Betances, New York
We probably have selected too few pitchers in this year's all-star prospectus and Kluber is perhaps a wild card to make the roster. However, the reigning Cy Young winner has very solid peripherals despite his 3-9 record. Gray has been perhaps the best pitcher in the AL leading in ERA along with his 9-3 record. Archer and Boxberger have been the keys to the Rays great first half. Keuchel has been tremendous for the upstart Astros. Sale has been dominant despite only 6 wins and could be the lone White Sox representative. King Felix has been his usual, tremendous self. Price has solid for the Tigers. Perkins could be the lone Twin on the AL roster and deservedly so with his league-leading 24 saves. Britton and Street have been very good closing out games for the Orioles and Angels. Davis is another wild card, in that he is not a starter and not the primary closer for the Royals. However, for a year and a half he has been untouchable and should get rewarded by his manager with an All-Star nod.

So there you have it, Cousin Jason's 2015 All-Star Prospectus. It is a very real possibility that the Red Sox only have a single All-Star although injury plays a role in that.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Streaking in the AL East ( Or Can The Red Sox Have The Much Needed Winning Streak?)

For all of the 2015 campaign as our Red Sox have floundered ( to put it politely), the carrot that has been held in front of us is that elusive long winning streak that will put the Sox back in the hunt. The curative effect of that type of win streak may be diminishing as the Sox deficit is now nine games rather than the four or five of earlier in the season.  But the question we ask here is can this team have such a long win streak?

To look for clues to help us predict the future of this Red Sox team, we will search in three places:

1. Performance of recent poor Red Sox teams: 2012 and 2014.

2. The streaks and standings of this year's AL East.

3. The results for the past eight seasons for the team which resided in last place in the AL East on June 20.

RED SOX 2012 & 2014

Last year's Red Sox squad had one each of a long winning streak and string of  losses.  But they both had happened before June 20. From May 15 to May 25 the Sox lost ten in a row. Amazingly, they ended this streak by immediately going on their longest winning streak of the year, seven from May 26 to June 1. After the back to back streaks the Red Sox were only six games out on June 1, but from that point on never had another winning streak of more than five games.  And they only had one of these, wrapped around the All Star Game ( the middle three wins coming versus the Royals, the eventual AL Champ).

In 2012 the longest win streak was six games, but that came in April.  The only other strong stretch came at this time of year.  The won 11 of 14 from June 12-27.  The bad news for this year's Red Sox team concerning that period is the '12 Sox were 6.5 games out before the 11 of 14 and were still 6.5 games out after it.  The other interesting thing about the one hot stretch of 2012 is nine of the eleven wins were in interleague games.

2015 AL EAST

This year's Red Sox team snapped what had been their longest losing streak of the year at seven games earlier this week.  At this point in the season, the seven games is also the longest losing streak by any AL East team (although all the teams have had similar streaks).  Twice this season, the Red Sox have matched their longest winning streak. Unfortunately the longest winning streak so far has been three. From April 9-11, one over the Phillies and two over the Yankees (including the nineteen inning marathon win).  Then the recent three game sweep of Oakland at home, which temporarily raised some hopes.  Here is a list of the other AL East teams and their longest win/loss streaks of the year:

Team                   Winning Streak                          Losing Streak

Tampa Bay              5 (April 22-26)                         6 ( May 23-29)
New York               7 (June 1-9)                              6 (May 17-24)
Baltimore                6 (June 7-13)                            5 (April 20-24 & May 30-June 3)
Toronto                 11 ( June 2-14)                           5 (May 13-17)

So not only has Boston had the longest losing streak of the five similarly bad stretches, but they have not had any thing that could reasonably be called a wining streak.  All of the divisional opponents have had decent ( Rays) to excellent ( Jays) streaks.  It is not unreasonable to think Boston could have one of their own.

Standings as of June 20 AM in the AL East

1. Tampa Bay        --
2. New York          1 GB
3. Toronto              2 GB
4. Baltimore           4 GB
5. Boston               9 GB

GHOSTS OF JUNE 20 PAST IN THE AL EAST

Now we will take a look at the previous eight seasons (2007-2014) in the AL East to see who was in fifth place on June 20.  We will look to see if any or all of these teams were able to put together any type of winning streaks before or after June 20.  We will also review the finishes of those June cellar dwellers.

2014: Tampa Bay     29-46 13 GB    1. Tor.  2. NYY 1.5 GB 3. Bal. 3.5 GB 4. Bos. 7.5 GB

The '14 Rays began their best stretch of the season in late June.  From June 25 to July 6 they won ten of twelve, and then on July 12 began a nine game winning streak. From June 25 to July 26 the Rays went 20-5 cutting their deficit in half from 13 GB to 6.5.  From June 20 to the end of 2014 Tampa Bay had a wining record of 48-39.  But they still finished fourth (passing only Boston after June 20) at 77-85, nineteen games behind Baltimore.

2013: Toronto          35-36 7 GB     1. Bos. 2. O's 1 GB  3. NYY 3.5 GB 4. TB 5 GB

The reason the Jays were only one game under .500 and within seven games of the lead is because on June 20 the were in the midst of their only great streak of the year: eleven wins in a row from June 11-23.  This hot streak cut their deficit from 12 games to 5.  After June 23, the best win streak Toronto had was three, which they did several times.  In both July and August the Jays suffered through seven game losing streaks.  The finished 2013 still last in the AL East, 74-88, 23 GB Boston.

2012: Boston.  This team has all ready been discussed above, but to sum up this team had nothing to resemble a winning streak after June 20.

2011: Baltimore        33-37  10 GB   1. Bos.  2. NYY 1.5 GB  3. TB  4.5 GB 4. Tor. 8.5 GB

This Orioles team, the most recent of a number of Baltimore teams in last place on June 20, had their longest winning streak of the year ahead of them. They won six in a row from August 22-28, but by late August Baltimore had long since buried themselves with a nine game losing streak from July 4-15, which was the middle part of a horrid 14 of 15 loss stretch. The Birds finished 69-93, in last place 28 games behind the Yankees.

2010: Baltimore       19-50   24 GB    1. NYY  2. TB 1 GB 3. Bos. 1 GB 4. Tor. 5.5 GB

This O's entry buried themselves by June 20.  The only good news here to be found for explorers of winning streaks (like ourselves) is after June 20, Baltimore had seven four game winning streaks (four was their longest), and sandwiched a single loss between two of the four gamers to have one stretch in August where they won eight of nine.  This O's team also finished the year in last, 66-96, 30 GB the Rays.

2009: Baltimore       31-37   10 GB     1. Bos.  2. NYY 3 GB  3. Tor. 5 Gb  4. TB  6 GB

The best winning streaks put up by this cellar dwelling O's team was five, which they did twice.  But not after June 20, one was in late May and other was during June 20, the 17th to 21st of June.  No other win streaks at all after June 20 and a late September 13 game losing streak capped off a 64-98 finish, 39 GB New York.

2008: Toronto         35-40   10.5 GB    1. Bos.  2. TB 1.5 GB  3. NYY 5 GB 4. Balt. 5.5 GB

On June 20 ( the 21st to be exact) the Jays were finishing the worst losing streak of the year, seven games.  The Jays went on to be the best performer on this list ( more on that at the end of this post), they had a ten game win streak ahead of them, on August 30- September 9.  After June 20, the Jays overall record was 51-36. Despite this strong second half of the season, the Jays could climb no higher than fourth.  This is to a large degree because the first place Rays won 97 games and the wild card Red Sox won 95.  The Jays finished with a winning record of 86-76, only eleven games behind the Rays and only three behind the third place Yankees.

2007: Baltimore  30-41   16 GB        1. Bos.  2. NYY 10 GB  3. Tor. 11.5 GB  4. TB 14.5

What a glorious season with the Sox ten games ahead of the pack in late June (but I digress).  The Orioles again did have their best win streak ahead of them, but it was only five games in late July. Otherwise the O's limped to the finish line in fifth again, 27 games behind the AL East and eventual World Champion Boston Red Sox.

 RECAP

So is there any hope of finding a long winning streak for the Red Sox in any of these past eight  seasons? The answer as usual is maybe.  Only three of the eight entrants had a streak of nine wins or more.  The '14 Rays with nine, the Blue Jays in '13 and '08 with eleven and ten, respectively.   That is less than a 50% record (3 of 8), but there is the likelihood the numbers are skewed by several truly awful Oriole teams ( to be honest by a equally putrid 2012 Bobby V Red Sox team).  But it certainly is possible for a last place team on June 20 to reel off a win streak of ten games or so.

Now on to less good news: the eventual finishes of the June 20 fifth place teams.  Not a single one of the eight finished above fourth place.  Three fourth place finishes, the other five in last.  The same odds as having the long win streak pertain to finishing out of last place, three out of eight.  But again the chances of finishing above fourth is zero for eight.

So the answer to the question in our post title, can this Sox team have a long winning streak is likely yes ( at least a roughly 40% chance if not better).  But the evidence is even stronger this streak (unless it were to reach 20 games or some other outlandish number) will not lead to a post season berth.  But it would be worth something just to climb back into the fringes of a race.

We will finish by going back to the best team on the list of previous AL East June 20 last place occupants: the 2008 Toronto Blue Jays.  As stated above the Jays finished a losing streak on June 21, and went on to play .586 ball the rest of the way and got to 86 wins.  Getting to 86 wins in 2015 in this AL East could mean much better than the fourth place the Jays got in '08.

Now for the really interesting thing about the 2008 Blue Jays.  On June 20, the very same date this is being typed, Toronto fired their manager, John Gibbons (who of course is also their current manager, but that is another story) and replaced him with former Jays skipper Cito Gaston.   So the best team on our list above, and the only team to finish strongly and in fact ten games over .500, embarked on this turnaround after firing their manager. Hmmmmmmm.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Top 10 Reasons to Still Watch the Red Sox

As Red Sox fans wake up on this Sunday morning we have to try and swallow a five game losing streak with our coffee.  It doesn't taste good.  Optimism is getting harder and harder to muster up for each game and the proverbial (seemingly annual) tweets about the Red Sox having to go ___ and ___ the rest of the way to win 90 games are all over the twittersphere. So to say that optimism is low is a huge understatement.  But being a born and breed New England Red Sox fan that was brought up during the "there's always next year" era means that your dire straits pessimism after a loss is always followed by a rehabilitation of optimism prior to the first pitch of the next game.  (**Side note: the only time I've never been able to muster up the next day optimism, no matter how hard I tried, was after game 3 of the 2004 ALCS, and we know how that turned out.)  So with all that being said. I'm actually still confident that the 2015 Red Sox can still turn things around and even if they can't there's still plenty of reasons to keep watching this team.

Here's the Top 10 reasons to keep watching the 2015 Red Sox:

10. If you're a real Red Sox fan you keep watching/listening no matter how bad it gets.

9. There's a trend in Major League Baseball to go with relatively young former players as managers even though they don't have managing experience (we'll overlook the Miami Marlins as an outlier to this trend) and the Red Sox have an outstanding candidate to fit this mold: JASON VARITEK.  No matter how bad a season gets in any sport a coaching change can excite the fan base (usually for a short period of time). If this season continues to get worse I'll keep watching to see if Jason Varitek becomes the new manager of the Boston Red Sox.

8.  Dustin Pedroia.  His heart and hustle are still on full display and his bat has been on fire since being moved into leadoff spot.  This roughly one and a half seasons of losing has to be killing him.  But knowing that he'll never stop hustling no matter how bad it gets will keep me tuning in.

7.  The trade deadline.  Can the Red Sox get another Eduardo Rodriquez at the trade deadline? The Red Sox don't have a trade asset as valuable as Andrew Miller this time around, but they will be in a rare position to be both a seller and a buyer.  One thing is for certain.  If they're in last place they won't be trading for any rental starting pitchers like Jonny Cueto and Jordan Zimmerman.  But, they could go after a starting pitcher or two who will be under team control for a longer period of time.

6.  Rusney Castillo- This poor guy was seen as the savior while he was in Pawtucket.  He hasn't given the Red Sox a Yasiel Puig type lift.  But he still is an excellent athlete with lots of potential.  He needs to play everyday so the Red Sox can find out what they have.  Unfortunately right now it feels like he's going to fall into the Dice-K category of international bust.

5. Brian Johnson, Henry Owens and Pat Light.  With Eduardo Rodriquez pitching so well it appears that the other PawSox lefties will get their chance before the season is over too.  Especially Johnson.  I also threw Pat Light into this group, even though he throws right handed.  He was just promoted to Pawtucket from Portland.  Light was converted to the bullpen this year and it seems to have rejuvenated his career.  He throws high 90's (98+) and that's exactly the type of arm that this team needs in the pen.

4. How will the Hanley, Panda, Big Papi, Mike Napoli log jam play out. Ben Cherington successfully added a lot of talent to this roster for 2015.  This years team is a lot more talented on paper than last years.  But what became clear pretty early on in the season is that the pieces don't necessarily fit well together.  Hanley is not a left fielder.  Third base is taken by Sandoval, so Hanley can't move there.  First base belongs to Napoli (that may be the problem), so for now Hanley can't move there and when you have Big Papi at DH it's hard to rotate anyone else through that spot.  It's becoming more clear that Mike Napoli isn't going to have the big year that some people predicted.  He's a pending free agent and he had his sleep apnea surgically repaired, so the overwhelming consensus coming into the season was that he's going to have a huge year.  Well it hasn't happened and it may be time for him to go.  Keep watching to see how this turns out.  We haven't even talked about the Big Papi situation.  He seems to be heating up currently, but if the team keeps losing and he keeps getting left out of the line up versus lefties it's going to get U-G-L-Y ugly, you ain't got no alibi you UGLY!!

3B. Mookie Betts. I'm not even sure what to call that collision with the bullpen wall on Friday night, but thankfully Mookie wasn't more seriously injured. Mookie was all the rage early in the year and rightfully so, but he's now going through the Xander Bogaerts like struggles in his first full year in the majors.  To be fair it's what happens to every young player not just Xander.  Look no further than Bryce Harper as an example.  It takes time people.  But that's part of the problem in Boston.

3A. Blake Swihart. I fought my urge to put Blake at #1 on this list.  But, if I'm honest with myself he is the player that I find myself most excited to watch and I'm most disappointed on those days when Sandy Leon is in the lineup.  It's not just offense that I enjoy watching with Blake either.   He made a great throw on Friday night to throw out Jose Reyes trying to steal and his pitch framing abilities have been better than I expected.  He has struggled recently with blocking balls in the dirt.  The 1-0 loss to the Orioles where the winning run scored on a wild pitch being example #1, but he also failed to block a ball on Friday night versus the Blue Jays too.  Overall Swihart is just fun to watch.  His athleticism and strength jump off the screen.  His movements are very fluid and natural and he runs well for a catcher add that in with the fact that his swings from both sides of the plate look natural and you can see why scouts liked this guy.  If you're thinking to yourself that this guy has a huge man crush on Blake or that this will be the world's next great bromance than I won't disagree with you.

2. Eduardo Rodriquez.  The Red Sox haven't developed their own pitcher since Junichi Tazawa and they haven't developed their own starting pitcher since Clay Buchholz (or Jon Lester depending on your opinion of Clay Buchholz).  Eduardo technically was "developed" by the Orioles, but the Red Sox get credit for letting him throw his changeup his way and getting him to the big leagues.  Regardless of those semantics.  The Red Sox haven't had a young pitcher with this much excitement around them since Jonathan Papelbon.  Today will be a huge test for him versus the Blue Jays. Who have arguably the best offense in baseball, they kill left handed pitching and they are the hottest team in baseball right now with a ten game win streak.  If Eduardo shuts them down for 7 innings today and breaks two streaks, the Jays winning streak and the Sox five game losing streak.  We'll be hearing the word "ace" A LOT for the next five days.

1. Xander Bogaerts.  We've said it over and over. Xander looks like a new man this year.  He's confident and relaxed.  He's aggressive and patient when he needs to be.  He's staying even keel and avoiding the long slumps that affected him last year.  He's answered any questions about whether he can handle SS at the major league level.  All that's left to do is maintain for a full season.  Will Xander make the All Star team? The Deacon makes his case in this post. Whether he makes the All Star team in 2015 or not, the important thing is that he has taken his game to that level of being in the discussion.  Xander's season in 2015 gives us hope that all these other young players can follow the same path.  Players like Mookie, Swihart, Eduardo, Rusney, Brian Johnson, Henry Owens and don't forget Christian Vazquez.  Unfortunately for all these players to develop we are going to have to be patient, but if Xander is the guiding light for us to follow than it may just be worth it to keep watching these 2015 Boston Red Sox.