Saturday, October 11, 2014

Red Sox A-Z

This is not a complete three season recap of the worst to first to worst Boston Red Sox.  This is an exercise that first came to my mind while creating some all time teams earlier this year. Check the RSM archives for the Nick Esasky All-Stars ( May '14) and the Oh Brother All-Stars ( June '14).  The thought came to me that there has never been any big leaguer whose last name starts with X.  From there I realized that left 25 other letters, to a baseball fan 25 can only mean a baseball roster.

So this is an all time Red Sox 25 man roster team made up of one player for each letter of the alphabet. I will bypass the biographical info and simply present the alphabetical list and then the same names in roster format.

A. Tony Armas
B. Wade Boggs
C. Roger Clemens
D. Bobby Doerr
E. Dwight Evans
F. Jimmie Foxx
G. Nomar Garciaparra
H. Bruce Hurst
I. Jose Iglesias
J. Jackie Jensen
K. Ellis Kinder
L. Jon Lester 
M. Pedro Martinez
N. Mike Napoli
O. David Ortiz
P. Jonathan Paplebon
Q. Paul Quantrill
R. Dick Radatz
S. Vern Stephens
T. Birdie Tebbetts
U. Koji Uehara
V. Jason Varitek
W. Ted Williams
Y. Cy Young
Z. Bob Zupcic

Now the 25 man roster by positions.

Starting Pitchers

Cy Young
Pedro Martinez
Roger Clemens
Jon Lester
Bruce Hurst


Dick Radatz


Koji Uehara
Jonathan Paplebon
Ellis Kinder
Paul Quantrill

Starting Nine

C  Jason Varitek
1B Jimmie Foxx
2B Bobby Doerr
SS Nomar Garciaparra
3B Wade Boggs
LF Ted Williams
CF Jackie Jensen
RF Dwight Evans
DH David Ortiz


C  Birdie Tebbetts
1B Mike Napoli
IF Vern Stephens
IF Jose Iglesias
OF Tony Armas
OF Bob Zupcic

Just a couple of quick notes.  Jackie Jensen, my starting center fielder, was in fact an All Star right fielder for most of his career, but did play some in center.  I decided to start Jensen over Armas, who also was more of  right fielder until he came to Boston and played center due to Dewey Evans manning right.  I also ended up with no true backup second base man, but I think Iglesias could handle it.

So here is my attempt at this exercise, I encourage others to give it a whirl.  There are many, many other good candidates.  For example after putting together this squad, even attempting to put together a true all star roster, I realized five of the seven Red Sox players with their numbers retired are not here.

If you do try, unless you want relief pitchers Daryl Irvine and Uggie Urbina on your team ( and you may), you are going to have Jose Iglesias and Koji Uehara.  There are only two I's and U's in the all time Sox roster.  The choices are limited for Q and Z as well, but there are other choices availabl

Thanks for reading the Red Sox A-Z!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Some Signs of Life Amid the Wreckage of 2014

Despite another disappointing AL East last place finish, the second in three years, there were some encouraging signs.  Here are a few positives from the long season to bring into 2015.

1. Xander Bogaerts.  I know, I know Xander Bogaerts' (along with fellow rookie, Jackie Bradley, Jr.) failure of a rookie season was supposedly the biggest reason for the Sox bust.  First of all, Bogaerts did not meet the nearly unreachable expectations of Red Sox Nation.  But, Bogaerts had the season that should have been expected for a rookie, actually slightly above average.  Xander hit 12-46-.240-.297-.356.  The average for all MLB rookies in 2014 was .236-.290-.355.  There were a group of rookies, including Xander, who hit 12 or 13 home runs.  The only MLB rookies who hit above 13 home runs were:

Jose Abreu           36
George Springer   20
Jonathan Schoop   16

However, Springer hit .231 and Schoop hit .209.  The only rookies who surpassed Bogaerts in both home runs and batting average  were Abreu and the Mets Travis D'Arnaud ( who basically matched Xander with 13 HR and .242 BA).

One other positive for Bogaerts is he now has over 600 plate appearances in the bigs.  This should more than make up for any perceived lack of ABs in AAA.  Of course it was disappointing to see Bogaerts have such an extended slump from early June ( when he was fifth in the AL in OBP) through all of July and August.  But the showing of Bogaerts and fellow rookie, Mookie Betts at the top of the order in September was very encouraging.

2. Mookie Betts.  Speaking of Mookie, he demolished AA and AAA at the age of 21( same age as Bogaerts) to the tune of 11-65-.346-.431 with 33 stolen bases.  He then put up very strong rookie numbers for Boston, 5-18-.291-.368 with 7 more bags taken.  The minor league second baseman is still learning all of the nuances of playing the outfield, but his speed and instincts have made him acceptable out there all ready.  No matter what his defensive position, there is one thing for sure, Betts is a leadoff hitter, a dire need going forward for Boston.  Betts would bring everything Jacoby Ellsbury brought to the leadoff spot, with maybe the potential for somewhat more power, and a tick or two less in the stolen base department.

This of course leads to the central question about Mookie Betts.  Is he the key trade chip this winter or is he a key piece of Ben Cherington's "next great Red Sox team"?  Personally at this point I would not trade Mookie for any pitcher, ace or otherwise( OK, maybe straight up for Chris Sale or Steven Strasburg, etc., maybe).  If the Marlins make Giancarlo Stanton available, then we'll  talk.  I think the Sox keep him and try to make a trade package from the other long list of Red Sox prospects.

3. Dustin Pedroia.  The positive for Pedey, is that he WAS hurt.  Because if his power game had deteriorated as it has and he had been perfectly healthy, that would be a giant red flag.  If the surgery on his hand lets him return to 80% or better, of his past offensive game, Pedroia is still a very good player because of defense.  I would like to see Pedroia slide down to 6 or 7 in the lineup and leave Betts and Bogaerts at the top.  There has been some talk of the Red Sox quietly shopping Pedroia to free up second base for Mookie.  This has been shot down by many reports, including Rob Bradford, who reported that Pedroia received a full no-trade clause in his long term extension signed in 2013. But what  deal would Dustin consider accepting?  A recent report from Cleveland stated the Indians may be thinking about moving Jason Kipnis to the outfield if they could find a better defensive second sacker.  Could the Sox deal Pedroia to a reunion with Terry Francona, and acquire a young Cleveland pitcher or two, not named Kluber??

4. Joe Kelly.  One of the two players acquired from St. Louis for John Lackey.  Allen Craig the other player traded to Boston has been a failure at the plate so far. ( for the stat of the week, Craig hit .128 for the Sox, John Lackey hit .133 for the Cards!). But Joe Kelly has been very impressive in his two month stint in the Boston rotation.  Kelly has almost certainly cinched a spot in the middle of the 2015 rotation. He throws hard with a fastball often in the mid to high 90's.  Joe was 4-2 with an ERA of 4.11.  Kelly may not be the ace the Sox need, but he should be a very useful starter for years to come, as the Sox control his contract through 2019.

5. The 2014 Pawtucket rotation.  All of the early season AAA starting rotation received an extended audition in Boston, except Matt Barnes ( who did make his MLB debut in September in the Sox bullpen).  Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, and to  lesser extent, knuckle baller Stephen Wright  all pitched in the Boston rotation for a longer time than was expected when leaving Fort Myers.

The conventional wisdom among the media and fans is that all of these hurlers essentially failed because they did not put up eye popping numbers and more importantly, none of them exhibited a put away strikeout pitch.

I would not argue that logic, but I do think some of them (especially Ranaudo and Workman may have been out of gas by late August and September).  But without delving to deeply into the stats, I would suggest that if none of this group is an ace, they all ( even Wright) did show the ability to be a back end of the rotation starter or a helpful bullpen arm.  Not being aces may not be what the fan base wants to hear, but there is value in developing fourth and fifth starters and power arms for your bullpen.  Even though, Rubby was probably the most consistent starter in the group, I still think he has power closer written all over him.  Do not be surprised if De La Rosa is the 2015 closer.

The other positive about this entire group is they pitched well enough to entice other teams around the majors.  Just check out the lack of starting depth for some teams around MLB.  If the Sox packaged two of these arms, as two MLB starters at minimum wage, you could have the start of an impressive big trade package.

6. Christian Vazquez.  The young catcher with the cannon for an arm, took the starting catching job in mid season and never let go. Vaz not only threw out over 50% of would be base stealers, but his work behind the plate, pitch framing, etc. was raved about by all including his manager John Farrell.   The only question is his bat, but even there Christian is better than perceived.  The average AL catcher in 2014 hit .240 with a OBP of .300.  Vazquez hit .240 with a .308 OBP. There is almost no doubt at all Vazquez is the 2015 Opening day catcher.  Normally, there would be no doubt he would be the Sox catcher for the next decade, but another catcher Blake Swihart hit AAA in August, and he is considered a much better hitter and he also throws out runners at a high %.  If the Sox decided to keep Betts and Bogaerts, would Swihart be the big chip in a big off season deal?

7. Rusney Castillo.  Just a brief mention about the 27 year old Cuban outfielder, who made a brief appearance in Boston after signing in late August for  7 years (including 2014) and 72.5 million dollars.   Rusney appears to have a power ( 20 HR type) speed combo (although not as blazing fast as first advertised).  Castillo had not played for well over a year while he defected from Cuba, so next spring may really show what the Sox have here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Red Sox in September

The Red Sox have entered September in limbo.  They are certainly not beginning a September push for the pennant, in fact shy of a Rays or Jays collapse the Sox are going to finish last in the AL East for the second time in three years (but with that third World Series championship in the 2000's in between). The usual thing for a team out of the race to look forward to is the recall and playing of the kids.  But that is where the Sox state of limbo comes in.  The Red Sox have played some of their kids all year long, and several others joined the Sox after the July 31 deadline housecleaning.  So that process is all ready well under way, meaning with the possible exception of pitcher Drake Britton, outfielders Bryce Brentz and Alex Hassan, and maybe third baseman Garin Cecchini, we have all ready seen the kids trying out of 2015...with one major exception to be discussed down the page.  So what 2015 questions may be at least partially answered in September? And to be clear there are two category of questions,  #1 who can help the Sox next year and #2 who should be included in much needed trades this winter.

The Rotation

Since the July 31 trades of Jon Lester and John Lackey the Sox rotation has consisted of some combination of Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly ( 26 year old received from St. Louis for Lackey), and Sox youngsters Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranuado ( for three starts in which he is 3-0).  For September John Farrell has announced the Sox will use all six of these hurlers in a six man rotation.  The reason for the six man rotation is twofold, to get some looks at all six and more importantly most of the youngsters are getting close to or have gone by their career innings pitched maximums for a season.

Ever the enigma, Buchholz,  Sox Nation (me included) wanted to ship him out of town, despite trading him at his lowest value.  Then in his last two starts Buch has pitched into the ninth with a shutout, finishing his latest effort with a 98 pitch three hit complete game shutout.  With his favorable contract, and the tantalizing hope he can pitch like an ace, Buchholz is likely in the 2015 rotation. The conventional wisdom is the Sox will look to bring in two top of the rotation arms this winter.  Perhaps one free agent ( James Shields or Jon Lester), another by trade (Cole Hamels, Mat Latos??).  There will be time to discuss this after this miserable season ends, but let's assume two new guys and Buchholz front the rotation.  That means only two rotation spots may be available for the young arms, and I am including Joe Kelly in the "young arms" grouping.  This will be an important September for these young pitchers, but at this moment I would handicap the field as Kelly and De La Rosa in the rotation, but with Ranaudo coming up on the outside.  Brandon Workman may be heading for a career in the pen and hopefully Allen Webster will pitch well enough to enhance his trade value.

There are two more names  who could pitch in the Red Sox rotation sometime in 2015.  Henry Owens, the best Sox pitching prospect will be pitching for Pawtucket in the playoffs.  Owens does not need to be added to the Red Sox 40 man roster until post 2015.   For this one reason alone I do not think Henry will make a major league appearance this September.  Matt Barnes is another post season AAA starter and he also is not on the current 40 man roster.  But, Barnes does need to be added this winter, so he could be added later in September, but with a six man rotation all ready in Boston, Barnes may also have to wait until 2015.

Willie Middle, Xander, and JBJ

The three Red Sox kids who have played basically the entire season (when not injured) in Boston, although Middlebrooks spent part of the mid season at Pawtucket and Jackie Bradley, Jr. is there now. To get right to point, none of these three players hit anywhere near the levels expected. Middlebrooks' home run in the home opener was his 2014 highlight.  Bradley, Jr. displayed  beyond Gold Glove prowess in center field, but except a decent July his bat stayed somnolent requiring his return to AAA in mid August, where he is still not hitting well.  I do expect JBJ to return in September, but not until the Paw Sox complete their playoffs.

Without delving into Bogaerts' actual numbers suffice to stay his RBI total is awful and his BA and OBP have plunged since mid June.  It seems like Xander has struggled all year, but that is untrue.  Until mid June Bogaerts was fifth in the AL in OBP.  The June signing of Stephen Drew and the move of Xander to third seem to throw him off his game, but his return to shortstop in August (after trading Drew to the Yankees July 31) did not re-ignite his hitting.  But Xander is still only 21, and across MLB big name prospects like Bogaerts have struggled in 2014.  A strong September for Xander could go a long way to helping his production in 2015.  A strong September for Middlebrooks will enhance his trade value, and it is doubtful how much playing time JBJ will get in Boston in September.

Mookie Betts

After totally shredding the Eastern League for Portland and doing about the same in AAA, Betts has yo-yoed between Boston and Pawtucket.  His most recent recall came a couple of weeks ago when Bradley, Jr. was sent back to AAA.  This time up Betts is beginning to hit more and more.  He has hit for power, including a grand slam in Tampa Bay, and has sprayed base hits and shown speed on the base paths. If Betts continues this type of game throughout September, and improves day by day at his new position of center field, the converted second sacker, may have surpassed JBJ to become the Red Sox center fielder of the future....if not for the recent signing of......

Rusney Castillo

The latest Cuban refugee to sign with an American team after playing for the Cuban pro league.  The 27 year old signed a seven year $72.5M(including 2014) deal with Boston last week.  Castillo has plus speed and at least line drive power, although he has added some muscle since leaving Cuba and showed unexpected home run power in his workouts for the MLB teams.  Due to his defection, Castillo had not played for 11/2 years, so the Sox had him play two GCL playoff games, and this week will join the Sea Dogs for their playoff run.  But once the rust is off, it is expected Rusney can play right away in the big leagues, and he is expected to debut in Boston this month. In his introductory presser, the Sox announced him as a center fielder.  This is what seems to intertwine his Red Sox fate with Mookie Betts. If Rusney is the center fielder of the future, Betts is not ( and vice versa).  Will September shed any light on this?  Can one of them play center and the other play right field? With the Sox having many outfielders but fewer left side of the infield answers, can either Betts or Castillo play third?  As far as Castillo goes, the Yankees for one team were scouting him with the intention of having him play second base. Or do one of these two players can dealt this winter (Giancarlo Stanton, anyone?)?

Christian Vazquez

Vazquez's arm and defense have been eye popping, his bat just so-so.  If Vazquez hits better in September will the Sox pencil him in as the 2015 everyday catcher? Or with even more highly regarded catching prospect Blake Swihart at AAA( where he will likely play for most if not all of 2015), could Vaz also be trade bait in a big off season deal?

Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig

Moving away from the New Kids on the Block September auditions, here two more players who could influence their standing with Boston in 2015.  Cespedes has been as advertised, a slugger who does not have a high OBP, but when he hits the ball it stays hit, and Yoenis had been driving in runs (key runs, too) by the bushel in his month with Boston.  He is only signed through 2015, and due to the terms of this original deal with Oakland when he came from Cuba, he cannot be offered arbitration or offered a qualifying free agent offer.  The only way to keep Yoenis past 2015 is to sign a new longer term deal, and Cespedes will not turn 29 until next month.

Allen Craig, on the other hand, is signed through 2018, and due to a recurring foot injury, he has not had a chance to play a lot for Boston, but has hit a home run.  The question September may begin to answer is are Cespedes and Craig the productive corner outfielders going forward, that the 2014 Sox lacked?  If the answer is yes, then see above RE: Betts/Castillo, if right filed is unavailable that further muddies the waters for Mookie and Rusney.  I think the Sox would prefer to play Craig at first base, but that would mean trading Mike Napoli.  There have also been some whispers of trying Craig at third.

So as you can see there are reasons to at least take a glance at the 2014 Red Sox as they meander through September (who would guessed the most meaningful series the Sox will play all month will be versus Kansas City.)

Of course, whatever answers September may or may not bring, it will usher in the post season to be followed by the Hot Stove League.  The Hot Stove is a league you can bet on your Boston Red Sox starring in.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Yankees @ Red Sox Live Chat 8-3-14

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RSM Red Sox Top Twenty Prospects August 2014 Edition

The July 31 trade deadline has come and gone, and the blizzard of Red Sox activity has added some new names to our list.  However with the exception of left hander Corey Littrell( who made a brief appearance at the lower end of these rankings a couple of months ago) no Red Sox prospects were traded.  Since the Sox were sellers, only veteran talent from the big club  left town.  Surprisingly for sellers mostly major league talent also came back in return.  

As always the line used here for hitters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for the hurlers W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP.  The number after the player in { } is the July ranking.  The team listed is that player's team as of the end of July 31.

1. Mookie Betts, OF- Pawtucket. {1}  Mookie made his big league debut, being called up to Boston in an attempt to boost the anemic Sox offense.  He was sent back to AAA on July 19, when Shane Victorino was activated off the DL.  In ten big league games, Mookie had a line of 1/2/.235/.278/.660. Not the glittering numbers of his minor league season, but it allowed him to dip his toe into the major league waters(including getting that first big league home run).  In eleven AAA games in July, Betts' line was 3/10/.319/.373/.968.  On July 31st Mookie hit a walk off home run for Pawtucket.  On August 1st Mookie was recalled again to Boston and played center field at Fenway versus the Yankees.

2. Henry Owens, LHP- Portland* {2} Owens had another outstanding month at Portland.  He started the Futures All Star Game for the USA team.  And for the Sea Dogs his line was 4-1/3.72/31-10/1.38 in five starts.  The ERA and WHIP were inflated in his last start, the only recent subpar effort .  Owens' W-L record for the year is 14-4.  The fourteen wins is an all time Sea Dogs record.  The asterisk after Portland refers to Owens' much awaited promotion to Pawtucket, which happened amid the avalanche of Sox moves on July31/August 1.  Whether we see Owens pitching in Boston this year will depend on his AAA performance and perhaps a bookkeeping issue.  Owens does not need to be protected on the 40 man roster until after the 2015 season.  If he lights up AAA will the Sox burn a 40 man spot on Owens?

3. Blake Swihart, C- Portland  {3} Like his former battery mate, Owens, questions about when Swihart gets pushed up the ladder to Pawtucket have been abounding. Swihart's game has gone to a whole new level.  While continuing to throw out around 50% of would be base stealers, his offense continues to impress.  And Blake continues to hit more home runs than ever before.  His line for the year is 12/54/.304/.358/.850.  His July line is even better: 3/12/.326/.385/.909 with eight doubles.  With PawSox catcher Christian Vazquez promoted to Boston, many observers felt Swihart to AAA would be a logical next move.  But as we have stated before in Blake's career so far, the Sox have left him at each level for a whole year.  It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

4. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP- Pawtucket {4}  Anthony continues to turn in the best season of all of the AAA starting pitching prospects (including the ones who have moved up to Boston).  His July line was a sizzling 3-0/2.66/18-7/1.10 in four starts, the most recent of which was on June 25 where Ranaudo pitching six scoreless three hit innings.  His line for the year is 12-4/2.41/99-49/1.15 in 21 games.  On August 1st, was called to Boston to pitch at Fenway against the Yankees.  The New Jersey native notched his first big league win going six innings allowed two runs on four hits.  He was returned to Pawtucket after the game due to the current roster flux in Boston.  Ranaudo will be back soon.

5. Brian Johnson, LHP- Portland {7} Is it possible that Henry Owens is not the best pitching prospect in Portland this year?  Since his recall from Salem earlier this year, Johnson's line at Portland is 9-2/2.05/78-28/1.04 in 16 starts.  His last two July starts were other worldly.  Johnson went seven innings in the first ( with 12 K's) and 7 1/3 in the next, each time out allowing only one hit.  Johnson, as a first round pick in 2012, is not some fluke.  Does he see Pawtucket this month, or does he front the Sea Dogs rotation in the EL playoffs?

6. Rafael Devers, 3B- Gulf Coast Red Sox {11} After crushing the Dominican Summer League to the tune of 3/21/.337/.445/.984, with six doubles and three triples in 28 games, the Red Sox promoted the 17 year old to the stateside GCL. For Devers' first GCL game he went 4 for 4 with a double, triple, and a walk.  In 22 games in Florida, Devers has continued to rake at a pace of 2/21/.372/.438/1.002 with seven doubles and  triple. A very good case could be made that this kid belongs at the top of this list.

7. Christian Vazquez, C- Boston {9} On July 9, after the Red Sox cut AJ Pierzynski, Vazquez made his major league debut.  In the three weeks that followed, Vazquez, as expected has wowed major league observers with his rifle arm and strong pitch framing skills.  The veteran Sox pitchers all have raved about Vazquez's skills behind the dish.  Offensively in twelve games, Vaz has four doubles and eight RBI while hitting .250.

8. Allen Webster, RHP- Boston {5} Webster continued to have a strong AAA season with a line of 4-4/3.10/100-44/1.24 in 21 starts.  Webster was recalled to pitch versus Tampa Bay and despite walking five batters, he got the win against the Rays.  However, on August 2nd, in his second MLB 2014 start, he melted down versus the Yankees and issued six more walks and lasted only 2 2/3 innings.  His next start is scheduled versus  the Angels.  Webster must harness his plus stuff, or he will be left behind by the other kid pitchers.

9. Deven Marrero, SS- Pawtucket {10} Since moving up to AAA, Deven has continued to hit nearly as well as AA, his AAA line is 0/14/.284/.330/.682 with six doubles.  Marrero's future as a shortstop for Boston may depend on Xander Bogaerts.  Now that the Sox have traded Stephen Drew and moved Xander back to shortstop, Bogaerts has two months to prove or not that he is the Sox shortstop for years to come.  If not, Marrero is likely next in line.

10. Manuel Margot, OF- Greenville {12}.  Along with Rafael Devers, Margot is the next wave of offensive prospects in the Sox system.  Margot has shown flashes of power to go with his plus speed. Manuel has eight home runs and 35 RBI to go with 32 stolen bases.

11. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP- Portland {N/A}Eduardo was the return from Baltimore for the trade of Andrew Miller.  Rodriguez was the current third ranked Orioles prospect, and may very well deserve a higher rating here.  In the pre-season some of the prospect rating services had Eduardo as a Top 60 prospect in the game.  The 21 year old 6'2" 200 pound Venezuelan had been pitching for Bowie in the Eastern League and will make his Sea Dogs debut on August 3.

12. Edwin Escobar, LHP- Pawtucket {N/A} Escobar was obtained from San Francisco for Jake Peavy. Another Venezuelan, this 22 year old, also a Top 60 or so pre-season prospect, was all ready pitching in AAA at Fresno.  Escobar had struggled some, but the PCL is a well known hitters league. It will be interesting to see how Edwin pitches for Pawtucket.  Both of these new lefties could move up this rankings quickly.

13. Matt Barnes, RHP- Pawtucket {8} A fairly steep drop down the rankings by Barnes, who has been ranked as a very top notch prospect since he was a first round draftee from UConn in 2011.  Barnes has not put up a season to match any of the other Paw Sox starters.  But in 2013 at Portland , his second half was much better than the first, and Barnes may be doing that again.  Since the AAA All Star break, Barnes has an ERA of 1.96 in three games.  On August 2nd, Matt flashed a sign of what his ceiling could be.  Barnes pitched seven no-hit no-rin innings with ten strikeouts and only two walks.  The only ball that was hit out of the infield was a fly out to center to the last batter he faced.

14. Garin Cecchini, 3B-OF- Pawtucket {6} An even bigger crash down the list by Garin.  There have always been some questions about his defensive skills, but he could hit and especially get on base.  But Cecchini has not done that enough either this year.  In July his line was 2/5/.188/.268/.580, this brought his yearly totals to 5/35/.241/.319/.650.  These offensive numbers will not get in done for Garin.

15. Sean Coyle, 2B-3B- Portland {13} The highlights of Coyle's July were appearances in the Futures Game and the EL All Star Game.  He slumped at the plate for the Dogs with July line of 3/13/.221/.276/.636.  However if Coyle can continue to stay healthy and show the long ball prowess, he will continue to push towards AAA in 2015.

16. Travis Shaw, 1B- Pawtucket {16} On July 28, Shaw hit his 20th home run of the season (AA and AAA), at that time no other Sox farmhand had 15.  Only about two dozen other minor players across the games also had 20.  With five HRs in July and a OBP of .404, Shaw is continuing to make a push to see Boston in September.

17. Wendell Rijo, 2B- Greenville {17}  The 18 year old second sacker continues to hold his own in the South Atlantic League.  In July his line was 4/14/.259/.351/.894.

18. Michael Chavis, SS{14} and 19. Michael Kopech, RHP {15}- GCL Red Sox  Both of the top two 2014 draftees by Boston are playing in Florida, and as usual the Sox break in the young guys slowly.  Chavis has appeared in 17 games, and Kopech has appeared in four, with only six innings pitched.

20. Trey Ball, LHP- Greenville {19} Last year's first round pick is starting to show signs of life.    After a real early struggle, Ball pitched his best game on July 1st.  Trey pitched five shutout innings giving up only one hit and no walks.  In July Ball's ERA is 3.30 with 21-11 K to BB, and a WHIP of 1.03.

Now for some of the other players who just missed the Top 20.

21. Sam Travis, 1B- Lowell {20}  The third Sox pick in the 2014 draft caught fire at Lowell. His line is 4/30/.333/.364/.813 with five doubles.  Travis was expected to move up this list, instead of down a spot, but the newcomers crowded Sam out of the the top 20. But speaking of moving up, on August 1st Travis was promoted to Greenville, a good test for the Indiana U. product.

22. Luis Diaz, RHP- Portland {18} Another player with a fine July, 3-2/3.44/44-12/1.11, the move down the list is only due to the new LHP's and other player's better months.

23. Heath Hembree, RHP- Pawtucket {N/A} The second pitcher received from the Giants for Jake Peavy.  Hembree, who made his MLB debut with San Fran in 2013, has been a closer in the minors.  Heath had 18 saves so far this year for Fresno and had 31 saves at AAA in 2013.  He may not be in line to be the closer in Boston, but he definitely could be a late game arm for the Sox sooner or later.

24. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP - Greenville {23} Another solid month for Teddy, and the highlight was on July 20.  He pitched 6 2/3 innings allowing only a single run on six hits, while striking out nine.

25. Henry Ramos, OF - Portland {22}  Nothing new on Ramos who still on the DL for all of July.

26. Bryce Brentz and Alex Hassan, OF- Pawtucket.  Each of the right handed hitting outfielders  saw their paths to Boston further blocked by the arrivals of Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig.  Brentz has rehabbed at GCL and Lowell recently and is expected back in Pawtucket at the beginning of August.  Hassan got his big league chance earlier in 2014, while was hitting terribly, but the Sox needed a right handed OF bat.  Ironically, since going back to AAA, Alex has been red hot.  In July his line was 4/12/.330/.388/.829 with ten doubles.

27. Derrick Gibson, OF- Portland/Pawtucket {25} This revitalized prospect continues to have a strong season and has bounced between AA and AAA recently.  Gibson starred in the EL All Star Game, hitting a home run and triple driving in both runs for the East in a 5-2 loss.

28. Joe Gunkel, RHP- Salem {24} July was a rough month for the pitcher who had never lost a pro decision.  Joe went 1-4 in July, but he did have 24 K's to only six walks.

29. Cody Kukuk, LHP- Salem {NR} This young lefty blew through the SAL in April but when promoted to Salem he crashed....until July.  A line of 3-0/2.05/35-5/1.29 looks like the youngster, who rated #19 in May on our list, has found his footing.

30. Steven Wright, RHP- Pawtucket {29} Same story, a strong seasonal line of 6-2/2.85/60-16, but exactly what do we have in the 29 year old knuckler (who turns 30 on August 30)?

31. Nick Longhi, 1B-Lowell {NR}  a youngster drafted in 2013, who would have landed about a dozen spots higher, if not for a season ending hand injury in July.  His line before the injury was 0/10/.30/.388/.829 with ten doubles.  He had reached base all four times up in the game he was injured.

32. Justin Haley, RHP- Portland {NR} The 2012 sixth round draftee was recently promoted to Portland after going 7-5/2.74/78-25/1.09 for Salem.  In his AA debut he went six innings giving up a run on six hits.

And now for our David Chester update.  His July numbers are down a little from his beginning at Portland.  In July 3/11/.253/.306/.724 with six doubles.  His overall numbers at AA are 5/24/.270/.324/.770.

Believe it or not, August is the last month of the regular minor league season.  The next ratings sometime in September will be a post season ranking.  Then during the winter we will rank the system from 1 to 50 (or so).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reactions to the Lester-Cespedes Trade

Thoughts about the Jon Lester trade, in no particular order:
  • We at Red Sox Maineiacs have been banging this drum all year long, so allow me to do it again: WHAT THE HELL ARE WE THINKING LETTING THIS GUY WALK OUT THAT DOOR!??!?! The Sox Brass should be ashamed that they couldn’t get a deal done to extend Jon Lester. Do I need to re-hash all the reasons why? That he was smack dab in his prime? That he was a durable workhorse? That he was proven to thrive in the Boston market? That he raised his game on the big stage of the postseason? We should have locked this guy up long ago. Guys like this don’t grow on trees. 
  • For those of you hoping the Sox will open the check book and re-sign Lester this winter, I have some nice AOL stock I would like to sell you. Yes, the Sox have a ton of cash to spend this winter. Yes, Jon Lester has said he would consider re-signing in Boston this winter. But what makes you think that the Sox Brass is going to change their minds about going to 6 or 7 years for a 30-year-old pitcher this winter? And what makes you think Jon Lester isn’t going to get what he deserves: a long, ace-money contract.
  • Here’s where this gets a little weird: I like this trade! I hate the fact that Lester has probably thrown his last pitch as a Boston Red Sox, but at this point he is going to free agency, so the Sox had to move him now. I was resigned to the fact that we were going to get Matt Kemp from the Dodgers or a bundle of prospects from somebody else. But to get an all-star outfielder in Yoenis Cespedes signed through 2015 with the biggest power arm and one of the biggest power bats in baseball? Not bad. In fact, when you consider how much of a train wreck the Sox outfield has been this season and is likely to continue to be next season, this is a good addition for the Sox.
  • We get to say “Yo-ee-nis” a lot for the next 14 months!
  • Let’s talk about Cespedes: He burst onto the MLB scene when he defected from Cuba entering 2012, with Youtube videos of Cespedes showcasing superhuman-like feats. 

  • He backed up the videos by mashing 23 homers, stealing 16 bases, carrying a .861 OPS, and earning a  3.9 WAR, good enough to finish second only to Mike Trout in AL ROY. In 2013, Cespedes actually cranked more HR (26 to 23), but was down in just about all other offensive categories. He was a free-swinger in 2012, but in 2013 he took that to new heights, striking out 137 times and walking only 37 while lowering his WAR from 3.9 to 1.6. Entering 2014, there was a lot of talk about how MLB pitchers had “figured out how to pitch to Cespedes” and how Cespedes needed to shorten his swing and make adjustments.  Oakland coaches contended his swing was fine, it was his pitch selection that needed work. Whatever his problems were, Cespedes was abysmal in spring training this year, hitting about .130 while juggling all the advice swirling around him. In yet another example of why spring training stats aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, Cespedes has gone on to have a good season and getting selected to the All-Star team, where he won his second consecutive home run derby. He’s still swinging away, as his K/BB is 80/28, but his WAR is back up to 3.0 this season, he’s already mashed 17 HR,and he carries a .767 OPS. Oh, and he can uncork throws like this one: 

  • How will Cespedes fit into Boston? Well, in case you were wondering here are the OPS stats for the players who have most commonly been manning the outfield for Boston this season: Jackie Bradley Jr: .604, Jonny Gomes: .683, Daniel Nava: .658, Shane Victorino (in only 30 games played): .685, Grady Sizemore: .612, and yes the Slap Weasel at .772.  That a gluttony of sadness, folks. There’s more pop in a bottle of Brut than our outfield this season. Cespedes will immediately become our best outfielder, and becomes capable of launching 35 homers next year (several over the monster) after escaping the Oakland Yard Where Homers Go To Die. He can become our best power hitting outfielder since Manny Ramirez. An Ortiz/Napoli/Cespedes 3-4-5 trio next year looking pretty freaking good (if you don’t mind watching approximately 2,546 strikeouts next season).
  • And, ah yes, I almost forgot. Any Red Sox acquisition must be wrung through this wringer: will Cespedes be able to perform in the fishbowl of media that is Fenway Park? In this case, the yapping heads who are sure to bring up this point ad infinitum (I can hear the sound of Shaughnessy’s keys already clacking away on this article) might have a case. Cespedes has only known the Oakland clubhouse, which is renowned for being a carefree, let your freak flag fly kind of atmosphere. I’m not sure how much media scrutiny or scorn he has faced on the Bay. When Cespedes inevitably has a 0-16 slide with 9 K’s, the gaggle of Globe geese will pounce on him quickly.  Here’s hoping he can handle it.
  • What will the Red Sox 2015 rotation look like? Lester is gone, Jake Peavy is gone, Felix Doubront is gone, and sitting here about three hours short of the deadline, word is John Lackey is going to be gone too. Is our 2015 rotation Buchholz, De La Rosa, Webster, Ranaudo, and Workman? No doubt the Sox will look for a pitcher in return for Lackey or sign one or two this winter...right?
  • What else will Benny C and the Brass do before 4:00pm? Check back for updates in the comments section!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

2014 July Trade Deadline Preview

Today we stand a dozen days until the July 31 trade deadline. Even after the Red Sox beat the Royals  in the first post All Star Break game, they still stand at a very disappointing 44-52 at the bottom of the mediocre AL East.  Because of this poor standing, it is not clear if the Red Sox will be buyers or sellers, or some combination of both, at the deadline.  The Sox brass may not even have decided this internally yet, and the games between now and July 30( the Sox are off on deadline day) may determine their status.

Even if the Red Sox try to bring in some veteran help (not likely at this point), in other words be buyers, there are up to three current players who could be moved just to make room for some of the kids.

Last year in our July deadline post, we took a look team by team across MLB, to look for candidates to come to Boston.  This year the multitude of speculation involves which players will leave Boston, and in nearly every case for minor league prospects.  With just twelve days to go there we have heard only four or five names as possible major leaguers coming to Boston.  They are:

Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee, LHPs, Phillies.  Lee has been rumored to be on the Red Sox radar for years, he was mentioned in the RSM 2013 deadline post, and he is available.  But he has been injured for a lot of '14 and he is owed about $52M through 2016.  Hamels' name has cropped up in recent days, as insurance if the Red Sox cannot sign Jon Lester. Hamels and Lester have had similar careers, and the theory goes since Hamels has 5 years $90M remaining (on his original $144M deal), that his amount nearly matches what the Sox want Lester to take.  The drawbacks are twofold: Ruben Amaro, Phils GM. has stated he is not looking to shop Hamels, but would deal him for a package of three top prospects.  That is problem #1, to replace Lester it would cost players like Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, etc..( there is some talk Philadelphia wants two of these guys for Lee, too). Then after trading the package of kids there is problem #2, no guarantee Hamels can pitch in Boston.  Although I will grant you Philly is no warm and fuzzy fan base.  Hey, John Henry, just SIGN JON LESTER.

Allen Craig, 1B-OF, Cardinals.  His name first arose when the rumors of Jake Peavy to St. Louis surfaced.  The Cards are also looking to move some vets to make room for kids like Oscar Taveras and others.  But I do not believe St. Louis will do Craig for Peavy straight up.  If the Sox include a kid pitcher the deal is possible.  But, Craig's 2014 stats are down a lot, and he is also a bad defensive outfielder.  I do not think this is likely to happen.

Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres. This right handed hitting outfielder could have helped more a month or two ago.  The idea would have been then to help fill in for injured Shane Victorino and/or platoon in center with Jackie Bradley, Jr.  But tonight, Victorino is returning (although certainly no lock to stay healthy), and with his recent uptick in offense, JBJ needs to be in center nearly every day.  If the Sox surge in the next two weeks, Denorfia could be added to the mix.

Marlon Byrd, OF, Phillies.  Everything I just typed about Denorfia applies here, except for the fact Boston has all ready seen the sneaky good Marlon Byrd in 2012 and may not want to do so again.

Now onto the more likely action for Boston at the deadline. The moving of some of their veterans. The Red Sox began 2014 with 13 players who were potential free agents after this season.  Three have all ready moved on (Grady Sizemore, Chris Capuano, and AJ Piersynski), the remaining ten make up the list of likely players to be traded.  There are seven pitchers and three position players.

1. Jon Lester.  Without getting into the long list of very good reasons the Red Sox should SIGN JON LESTER, for deadline purposes there are three Red Sox management options.   First, SIGN JON LESTER. Second, ride out the rest of 2014 without an agreement, hoping to catch fire in August and September ( this would lead to two other post season options: lose him for a single draft pick or SIGN JON LESTER then).  The third July option if the Red Sox management is absolutely sure they cannot or will not be able to SIGN JON LESTER, they could trade him.  This would enable the Sox to get a return of more than a solitary pick in next June's draft.  But do not expect a haul like the Cubs got for Jeff Smadarjiza or like the Rays could get for David Price.  Both of those pitchers are signed through 2015.  The teams who could deal for Lester would only get two months of his service without a new deal. One other rumor out there is for the Red Sox to trade Lester now, and then when he becomes a free agent the Sox could SIGN JON LESTER.  I think that is next to impossible, if Lester gets to free agency in any manner, some other team (Yankees) will pay tens and tens of millions more than anyone including Boston. SIGN JON LESTER!!

2. John Lackey.  Lackey is a free agent to be in name only.  His original deal with Boston is up after 2014, but the much publicized year that Lackey has to pitch for the minimum $500,000 is actually a club option for 2015.  His free agent deal with the Sox included a clause stating if he missed time due to an elbow injury, the one year at league minimum  option would be in effect.  His Tommy John surgery causing him to miss '12 set this in motion.  This option will definitely be picked up.  This could make John Lackey the most attractive trade chip Boston has, either now or this winter.  If he is traded now, the receiving team has Lackey for the rest of this year and all of 2015.  And at $500,000 in '15 every single team in baseball could more than afford him.  Lackey could ( especially if Boston throws in a bullpen guy) bring a package similar to the A's gave the Cubs.  Maybe even one useful current big leaguer and a top prospect.  But trading Lackey now ( as with Lester) likely waves the white flag on 2014 ( although frees up another sport for a AAA starter).

3. Jake Peavy.  Here is the A1, top of the heap certain lock to be traded before July 31.  Peavy has pitched better than his one win on the ledger would suggest.  But he is a free agent after this year, and is in no way part of the 2015 Sox blueprint.  Jake has to be moved now to make way for Brandon Workman ( or Anthony Ranaudo or Allen Webster).  A week or two ago it looked like Peavy was gone to St. Louis.  This rumors have cooled, although I still consider St. Louis a possible Peavy landing spot.  The most recent reports I have read consider the Brewers, Angels, and Pirates the "finalists". Milwaukee was the first rumored suitor I had heard more than a month ago.  Peavy will go, likely to the NL where he could thrive for any contender down the stretch.  My guess is Pittsburgh.

4. Koji Uehara.  The Sox could have easily the best closer available at the deadline if they shop Koji. This to would seem to wave bye-bye to 2014, but there at least three good reasons to pursue this. First,  Uehara would be 40 next April, if the Sox brought him back on a new contract.  Secondly, this would give the Sox a chance to audition a younger internal option at closer. Maybe Junichi Tazawa or even one of the Pawtucket starters.  Thirdly and most importantly, there are contending teams out there who could use closer upgrades (Tigers, for one) or overall bullpen improvement (A's, Orioles, Dodgers, and others).  A very good player or two could be acquired by a contender for a Koji rental.  Remember the last time Koji was traded for two kids it was for Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis.

5. Andrew Miller.  According today to Peter Gammons, Miller is the player the Sox are getting more calls on then any other player on their team.  With nearly every team in baseball in some sort of contention, at least for a wild card, there are likely two dozen teams who could use Miler, maybe even as a closer.  If Boston could two or three of those teams in a bidding war, who knows what the return may be.  The flip side is Miler is only 29, and has been blowing hitters away.  Perhaps they should be signing Miller to a new deal to help the 2015 Sox charge back to the top.

6. Burke Badenhop.  For most of this year, the ground ball specialist has pitched very effectively.  As a two month rental, Badenhop would help any contenders pen.  Just do not expect more than a Grade B prospect in return.

7. Craig Breslow.  One of the most sought after commodities at the deadline by contenders are lefty bullpen specialist.  Breslow fits the bill, and the vet had a great ALDS and ALCS just last year.

8. Jonny Gomes.  Probably the second most likely vet to go.  The Sox outfield is crowded and with Victorino's return,   Brock may take over left field.  But from the buyer's point of view, Gomes still pounds left handed pitching and has the reputation (and resume) of being a leader for a winning team. Two teams all ready linked to Gomes are Kansas City (who last found out first hand Gomes pounds lefties and can win games) and Seattle.

9. David Ross.  Of this whole list of ten, Ross is by far the least likely to be traded.  David has an important role on the 2014 Red Sox.  That is to mentor and teach Christian Vazquez, the young catcher.  Ross may well be re-signed for 2015 to have that same role to Vazquez and /or Blake Swihart.

10. Stephen Drew.  This is  a player who needs to be moved out of the way as soon as possible.  This is now being admitted by even most of the ardent proponents of bringing Drew back when he was on the free agent market.  Xander Bogaerts needs to be the shortstop for the next two months, so the Sox can decide once and for all if he can handle that position.  Several other players fates are intertwined in this decision.  The Tigers are one contender still lacking are real big league shortstop, and there are others who could use an upgrade.  The question is with Drew's poor 2014 offensive numbers, is he an upgrade.  If the Sox eat some money they should be able to move Drew.

Besides the free agents a few other names have been mentioned.  Will the Sox cut bait on Will Middlebrooks?  Now is not the prime time due to his injuries perhaps,and the Sox keep hinting they do not want to give up on his right handed power.  Jayson Stark, ESPN, threw out Junichi Tazawa's name but with so much of the  bullpen on the free agent to be list, that seems unlikely.  Nick Cafardo has reported the Sox have taken several calls on Mike Napoli.  But again with right handed power so scarce, and with Nap signed through 2015, he is a building block for next year and Boston would need to get a major offer to move him.

Check back to this post over the next 12 days to see any action on the Red Sox trade front and commentary on that action.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Red Sox at the All Star Break

As the All Star Break ends, we will take this time to look back on the 2014 season so far ( oh, c'mon take your hands away from your eyes) and look forward to the remaining 41% of the campaign. Yes, 41%, even though the All Star Break is often referred to as the halfway mark of any baseball calendar, this year's Boston team has all ready played 95 games, leaving only 67.

First as we look back, lets identify what has gone wrong in 2014. ( Yes, I know that I could shorten the post by just typing "everything" and stopping right there.) Here are the five things I think have most adversely affected the '14 Sox.

1. Shane Victorino's injuries and absence from the lineup.

Some other observer's might actually entitle this as missing Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order.  I felt that Victorino was the best chance the Sox had to internally fill in for the Yankee #3 hitter.  But due to a series of hamstring and back  woes, Shane has appeared in only 21 games.  Even though the Sox by late May found their leadoff man, (Hello, Brock Holt), Shane would have lengthened the lineup, and along with Jackie Bradley,Jr. would have created the best defensive outfield in baseball. A quick return to the lineup (and the ability to stay in it for the rest of 2014)  is one thing needed for this Sox team to make any miracle run in '14.

2. Dustin Pedroia's offensive "decline"

It is very likely Pedey played all of 2013 injured after hurting his thumb on a headfirst slide in first on Opening Day.  And since Pedroia underwent another hand MRI in April of this year, he may be playing hurt again. But the numbers clearly show Dustin is in a 4-5 year decline in his power numbers.

Home Runs

2011     21
2012     15
2013       9
2014       4 (YTD)

Slugging Average

2010         .493 ( 75 games injury shortened year)
2011         .474
2012         .449
2013         .415
2014         .381 (YTD)

In the first five years of Pedey's career his OPS exceeded .800 each year, since 2012 his annual OPS is .797, .787, and so far in '14 .729.

Pedroia has seven years to go on his contract.  Will he play out the deal as a great defensive second sacker, who can only slap singles and doubles?  At this point, Pedroia should not be hitting third, in a better lineup he maybe should be down around seventh.

3. Clay Buchholz's "malaise".

After missing the last 60% or so of 2013 and barely helping out any in the championship postseason, Clay was handled with kid gloves this spring by the Sox.  And he flopped. He pitched in the rotation from Opening Day to Memorial Day, and after a May 26 start vs. Atlanta, in which he lasted three innings, Buch's ERA was 7.02 ( and all of his other numbers were just as bad).  At that point the Red Sox came up with some leg injury for Buch and put him on the DL.  After his return Clay had strung together a few good starts. In the final game before the break in Houston, Clay looked like the Buch of early 2013   ( when he was 9-0 with an ERA of 1.71 through June 8) by spinning a complete game three hit shutout , with 12 strikeouts with no base on balls.  This will be the Buchholz needed from here on out. ( Yeah, I know it was only Houston, but still, it's a start).

4. AJ Pierzynski's failure to hit enough to overcome his poisonous clubhouse presence.

Look, everyone knew going in, AJ was not a cuddly character.  But he had hit (although he drew walks at a next to none pace) throughout his long big league stint.  These were his numbers for the previous two seasons.

2013 Texas     17 HR 70 RBI  .272  BA .297 OBP .722 OPS
2012 Chi WS  27 HR 77 RBI  .278  BA .326 0BP  .827 OPS

But for Boston in 72 games his line was 4-31-.254-.286-.633

There was nothing wrong with gambling AJP could give you one more year like the previous, but the Sox lost the gamble, plus it was time to see what Christian Vazquez can do behind the dish in the big leagues.  This could be a classic case of addition by subtraction.

5. Failures by the "young vets".

Specifically I am thinking of Felix Doubront, Will Middlebrooks, and Daniel Nava (not so young in age, but in big league experience).  Nava was hitting so far under the Mendoza Line in April, that he was unexpectedly sent to AAA.  If the Grady Sizemore experiment had taken root, Nava might still be in Rhode Island.  Nava has hit better of late, since returning, and hopefully will help coming down the stretch ( if he can find playing time in the crowded outfield). In 2013 from May into August, Doubie had finally seemed to put it together with sixteen straight quality starts. But 2014 brought more of his inconsistency and in ten starts his record is 2-4 with an ERA of 5.17.  He now resides in the bullpen( or the doghouse) and has lost his rotation spot to Rubby De la Rosa, Brandon Workman, or some other young pitcher to arrive later.  For the third year in a row, Will Middlebrooks has had his campaign derailed by injury.  The tantalizing right handed power still seems to be there, but you cannot hit the long ball if you cannot stay in the lineup.  In 2014, Will has played only 21 games (same number as Victorino) and in 82 PA he has a line of 2-9-.197-.305( and one of those homers came in the home opener).  With a flood of young infielders arriving in (or knocking on the door to) Boston, Will's Boston tenure is teetering on the edge.

Now onto a look to the immediate future and five things to watch for in the remainder of 2014.  If all five of these factors succeed to their maximum, the Sox may just have one last kick in them to try to climb into the playoff picture.

1. The best starting rotation in the AL East ( with only the Tigers and maybe the A's better in the whole AL).

The Red Sox all ready hold this distinction based on the first 95 games.  Here is what they need to be even better ( and perhaps carry the offense if needed).

* Jon Lester to match his All Star beginning to 2014.
*Clay Buchholz to pitch similarly to his start of 2013.
* John Lackey to continue to perform like he has in '13 and '14 since his TJ surgery.
* Rubby De La Rosa to continue to develop and have sometimes dominating starts(as he has)
*Brandon Workman and/or Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster to grab the fifth spot after Jake Peavy is traded this month.

2. Continued progression of the kids.

And this includes the pitchers mentioned above.  First and foremost, find a way to get Xander Bogaerts back to his hitting ways of April and May (not to mention last October). Let Jackie Bradley, Jr. play every day in center field, and watch his bating average rise as it has since June.  Plenty of playing time is needed for Christian Vazquez (as well as plenty of "classroom" with David Ross and the veteran pitchers). Lots of outfield repetitions for Mookie Betts, along with playing time (if not in Boston, then back to AAA).  Somehow figure out a way to get some big league time for Will Middlebrooks and Bryce Brentz, if either power hitter can get healthy enough.

3. David Ortiz' pursuit of 500 career home runs.

No not this season, but the second half of 2014 may determine how easily Big Papi can reach the still magic mark.  Ortiz with twenty bombs before the break sits at 451(one behind Yaz).  He will be 39 in November.  His pace for 2014 would place him at 34, or 465 total.  In other words if he hits 34 this year, his 2015 year would have to be the same ( he would need 35.) If Big Papi could hit another 20 this year, putting him at 471, he would have a more reasonable chance to get 500 in 2015.  Of course, there is always 2016.

4. The alignment of the infield/outfield.

I listed the position of infield/outfield as one because so many players are being used in both.  The only set spots are first(Mike Napoli), second (Pedroia), and probably CF (JBJ).  When (if??) Shane Victorino returns, that may leave only left, short, and third in flux.  The nominees for those spots are Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Brock Holt ( who sure as hell plays somewhere), Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Nava, and Will Middlebrooks ( not to mention Garin Cecchini, Bryce Brentz, Alex Hassan, Deven Marrero, et al).  This will be fascinating and may be intertwined with #5.

5. The trade deadline.

With two weeks from today to go, the Sox status as sellers/buyers (both??) is unclear.  A few vets are likely to be moved just to make room for the gluts referenced above.  This includes Jake Peavy( a lock to go), Johnny Gomes, and maybe (hopefully) Stephen Drew.  If the Sox collapse further in the next two weeks, all bets are off and damned near anyone could go.  RSM will have much more on the deadline in a upcoming post very soon.

To wrap up let's take a look at the remaining schedule. The Sox are 43-52, 9 1/2 games out in the AL East.  The Sox are also 8 games out of the second wild card spot, but they are behind every team in the AL except Houston and Texas in that wild card hunt. Here is a list of games left with each team.

Toronto          13   (6 H, 7 A)
Tampa Bay    10    (3/7)
New York       9    (6/3)
Kansas City     7    (3/4)
LAA                7    (4/3)
Baltimore         6     (3/3)
Houston           4     (4/0)
Seattle              3     (3/0)
St. Louis          3     (0/3)
Pittsburgh        3     (0/3)
Cincy               2     (0/2)

A few quick thoughts:

* Only six left with the currently first place Orioles, could make it hard to catch them with a lack of head to head meetings.

* All eight remaining inter league games are on the road.

* A 32 home/35 away split

* 38 of the last 67 are versus the AL East, 13 of these coming up after opening the post break at Fenway against KC.  And then besides six with KC and the Pirates, the rest of September is all AL East games.

52 of the last 67 are against the AL East, KC, and the Angels, all teams the Sox would need to pass for a post season spot.

Red Sox Nation certainly did not enjoy the pre- All Star Break portion ( damn, "the first half" sure rolls of the keyboard much easier) of 2014. But with a little luck, one way or another (a revival and pennant push, or instead watching the kids and an early start to 2015) the remainder of the World Championship defense campaign should bring some interesting scenarios to the Hub.