Sunday, May 3, 2015

Red Sox vs. Yankees Live Chat 5-3-15

The Maineiacs are chatting live tonight during the Red Sox and Yankees game on Sunday Night Baseball. Come join us!
Live Blog Red Sox vs. Yankees Sunday Night Baseball Chat 5-3-15

Saturday, May 2, 2015

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- May 2015 Edition

The first month of the 2015 minor league season is in the books and it is time to update our rankings of what may now be the best system in minor league baseball.  Most major coverage of minor league ball had the Sox at number two behind the Cubs. But with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell promoted to the big leagues the Sox may just be the best in all of baseball.

With one exception our rankings look a lot like April in the top 20, with some changes and shuffling in the lower third.  As usual the number in { } is the previous month's ranking and the slash line for hitters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for pitchers W-L/ERA/WHIP/K-BB.  Team listed is their April 30 assignment (and that matters in a couple of cases).

1. Blake Swihart, C- Pawtucket {1} The best prospect in the system is off to a hot start at the plate, with a line of 0/11/.338/.392/.774, and he has been even better hitting left handed with a BA of .390 and a OBP of .457.  And behind the dish, Swihart has acquired another month of AAA experience. And the big news for Blake is that month may be all he gets in AAA, because late in the evening of May 1, he was recalled to Boston to replace the injured Ryan Hanigan (who fractured a knuckle on his throwing hand). With Hanigan expected to be out for a "significant" period, Swihart has an opportunity to grab the job.  The spectrum of possibilities range from Swihart flourishing and keeping the job for a decade to not being ready and returning to Pawtucket while the Sox acquire another veteran catcher.  We will see right now.

2. Rusney Castillo, OF- Pawtucket {2} Rusney and the player at number three both spent April in neutral gear but for different reasons.  Castillo, as has been the case several times all ready in his brief career in America, was injured.  Castillo injured a shoulder diving for a fly ball. He returned to active duty on April 29 as a DH at Pawtucket. Consequently Rusney had only 16 AAA at bats in April.  It would seem he must put together around a month of so of regular playing time before his expected promotion to Boston occurs.

3. Yoan Moncada, 2B- XST {3} Moncada spent the entire month of April in extended spring training without his expected assignment to Greenville.  Apparently this has nothing to do with his ability to handle the South Atlantic League, the Red Sox are just being cautious and allowing Yoan plenty of time to adjust to playing and living in the States.  With the Drive all ready having a loaded infield (we will meet all of them on this list), it is possible when Moncada leaves XST he may be assigned to a higher level than Greenville.

4. Manuel Margot, OF- Salem {7} This is the biggest change in our top twenty.  The original draft of the May rankings still had Margot at seven.  But with his pedigree and performance in April it just screamed out top five prospect.  In April Margot hit 1/7/.324/.377/.891 with nine stolen bases as Salem's leadoff hitter.  The other news on Margot is that Philadelphia sent senior advisor Charlie Manuel to Salem to scout him in regards to a Cole Hamels to Boston deal.  Peter Gammons as far back as January stated he thought a package of Margot and Henry Owens would be the best return the Phillies could hope for.  If Margot's May matches his April, he very likely by June will be in Portland or atop the Phillies prospect rankings.

5, 6, & 7. Brian Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, LHP- Pawtucket {4,5,6}.  Three fifths of the Paw Sox rotation each move back a spot due to Margot's jump.  They do stay in the same order in relation to each other.  Johnson and Rodriguez were both outstanding in April and continue to deserve to be ranked ahead of the more ballyhooed Owens.  Johnson's line was 3-1/0.86/1.00/24-9 in four starts totaling 21 innings pitched.  Eduardo's was 2-0/1.93/0.70/16-1( that's right one walk in April) in three starts for 18  2/3 innings. Owens's numbers do not match the other two, especially in the control department: 1-1/4.29/1.43/19-17 in four starts.  Owens will continue to work on repeating his delivery, a challenge for taller pitchers sometimes.  If another starter is needed in Boston due to injury or otherwise, Johnson and Rodriguez would seem to be the leading candidates.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Red Sox Stuff 5/1

We've entered the second month of the season and it feels like the Red Sox are in a much better position to compete for the division title this year.  The offense has looked much better.  Hanley Ramirez has made them better singlehandedly, but the whole line up is much deeper this season.  They've still struggled to hit at times with RISP and with two outs, but if feels like it won't plague them all season long like it did last year.

The Red Sox start their second series against the Yankees tonight. This one is at Fenway.  Since the last meeting a few things have changed.  After that first series it appeared as though the Yankees were on their way to last place for the entire season.  I still think that's where they'll end up, but as of right now they're in first place.  Masahiro Tanaka has gone on the DL with a forearm/wrist strain since they last met.  That's seems like just the beginning of the end for him.

Here are a few of the key topics (stuff) for the Red Sox going into this weekend's series:

1. Starting Pitching is still hot topic #1.  On the fifth trip through the rotation Clay Buchholz was terrible and Rick Porcello was excellent.  Supposedly after Tuesday nights game, presumably on Wednesday some time there was a meeting that took place between John Farrell, Juan Nieves, Ryan Hanigan, Sandy Leon and the pitching staff.  According to reports read by this blogger, they discussed pitch selection and the need to make opposing batters more uncomfortable in the batter's box.  You saw some immediate results during Porcello's start when he pitched inside to a number of batters helping him reclaim the outside part of the plate and he threw some fastballs intentionally up in the zone to change the hitters sightlines.  Hopefully Masterson, Miley and Kelly will follow suit.

Red Sox vs. Yankees Live Chat 5-1-15

The Maineiacs are doing a live chat tonight while the Red Sox take on the first place Yankees at Fenway Park. Come join in!
Live Blog Red Sox vs. Yankees Live Chat 5-1-15

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Red Sox Franchise Four

We've all had the discussion: who’s the best guy to ever wear the Red Sox uniform? Well, how about a slightly new one: who are the top four? This is one of the better water cooler discussion-starters I’ve heard in a while, so I thought it would make an interesting blog post.

I saw a tweet today for a promotion that is running where fans vote for every team’s Franchise Four - the four greateast players in the team’s history.

Here’s the ballot from for the Boston Red Sox. The only criteria given is this:”VOTE FOR THE TOP FOUR PLAYERS IN BOSTON RED SOX FRANCHISE HISTORY.” It’s up to you to decide what makes a “top” player. Is it statistics? Longevity? Championships? Fan Appeal? Dominance? You decide:

Red Sox Stuff

The Red Sox are roughly 1/8 of the way through the 2015 schedule, but there's so much talk going on around the team, the AL east and all of MLB it feels like it should be Memorial Day already.  Speaking of Memorial Day that is usually the time when teams starting looking to make trades to improve their teams.  The old adage was two months to assess, two months to fix and two months to play, could that philosophy be changing this year? Rob Bradford took a look at that this morning. Early season trades are just one hot topic following the Red Sox right now, let's take a look at a few of those topics:

*These are my thoughts, gut feelings and opinions, so feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.

1. When talking about the Red Sox right now how could we start with anything but the starting pitchers. Look, they've been bad (they have the worst era in the AL), but have they really been as bad as people are making it out to be? Let's take a look, again not a lot of stats here, but just some thoughts from a guy that hasn't missed a game yet this year. We are exactly four trips through the rotation with 20 games being played and each guy has made four starts.

 Clay Buchholz- 3 out of his 4 starts have been acceptable.  His stats are greatly skewed by the 10 runs he gave up at New York.  With the exception of '13 Clay is typically a slow starter and he gets better as the weather gets warmer. I feel like an OK to good start will allow him to only get better as the season goes on. Even if he takes his annual 15 day stint on the DL. A good start tonight would be big for Clay. So far he's been very good against the Phillies and Rays, two of the worst offensive teams in baseball.  The Blue Jays lineup is as good if not better than the Orioles, against which Clay was OK. My head tells me that tonight is going to be a bad matchup for Clay, but my heart says he has 7 innings with 3 runs or less in him tonight, and that would be a great jump off going into May for Clay.

Rick Porcello- The contract extension that he signed right before the season will work against him all season long, he might as well change his first name to "20 million dollar pitcher". Rick has also had one very bad start that has swayed his stats. His five inning 8 run performance vs. the Orioles.  His other three starts have been as advertised. He's also the only starter to go 8 innings in a game so far this year. Yes his 6 home runs allowed to start the season are a lot, but he's also notorious for having bad April's. This April it looks like he's overthrowing a little bit, once he gets into the rhythm of the season we should see his sinkerball start to take over.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Thoughts Entering an Important Series with the Orioles

The Red Sox are taking on the Orioles in a weekend series at Fenway Park. The Sox and Orioles will play each other 7 times in the next 10 games, four at Fenway Park and three at Camden Yards. I expect these to be close ballgames between two good teams. Here is a list of thoughts heading into game one tonight, in no particular order:

- Smokin' Joe Kelly starts tonight for the Sox. While Porcello has had two nice outings to start his Red Sox career, it's Kelly who is the most exciting pitcher in the Red Sox' rotation. Kelly has more electric stuff than any other Sox starter, and when he is able to harness it, look out. On a staff of pitchers who pound the bottom of the zone and induce groundouts, he is a rare guy who can make batters swing and miss. Plus, who doesn't love the swag of a young guy coming into 2015 who hasn't done anything remarkable in his career claiming he is going to make a run at the Cy Young award? The Orioles lineup will be a tough matchup for him. I hope he responds with another crisp outing.

- The Red Sox are starting a stretch tonight where they play nobody but other AL East teams through May 10.  That's 22 straight games against AL East competition - 7 against the O's, 6 against the Rays, 6 against the Blue Jays, and 3 against the Yanks. Throw in the 3 we already played against the Yankees and we'll be 25 games into the AL East schedule in just over three weeks from now. The danger of the front loaded AL East schedule is in two decisions the Red Sox have made concerning roster construction: the decision to roll the dice with a rotation of #2-#4 starters and waiting for the trade deadline to potentially add an ace, and the decision to wait on the top two prospects on the RSM Prospect Rankings - Blake Swihart and Rusney Castillo in favor of two veterans who might not be more than league average. If the rotation can't get it done through this 22 game stretch, and if Hanigan and Victorino clog up the lineup and the Sox stumble to the bottom of the AL East, there will be a lot of angry members of Red Sox Nation. On the flip side, this Red Sox team as currently constructed has won the first three series of the year. There's no reason to think that this team can't win 5 or 6 out of the upcoming 7 series against the AL East and stake their claim as the #1 team in the division. If that happens, and the Sox still have a deal to make for an ace and still have Swihart and Castillo to supplement the roster, then Benny C and company will be giving Koji high-fives all around the office.

- Speaking of Koji, watching him close down the 9th on Tuesday against the Nationals with a clean inning and two strikeouts was like watching a graceful figure skater after watching a bunch of four year olds trying to learn how to skate falling on their butts with their legs akimbo. Koji and Taz are the only two guys in the Sox pen who have strikeout stuff. The rest of the guys - Craig Breslow, Tommy Layne, Robbie Ross, Edward Mujica, Anthony Varvaro, Alexi Ogando - fool nobody and miss very few bats. Koji (18.00 K/9 after one inning) and Taz (12.27 K/9 after 3.2 innings) are the only two averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Ogando is just barely at 9.00 K/9, and the rest are somewhere between 8.31 (Mujica) and 5.79 (Ross). Good bullpen pitchers these days need to be able to come in and strikeout at least one guy per frame. The end of every game when we're holding on to a close lead is going to be akin to walking across a thin sheet of ice on a cold Maine pond.

- I think it's safe to say that this offense, along with the Blue Jays and Tigers, is one of the top three offenses in all of baseball. Mike Napoli and David Ortiz haven't really gotten going yet, and we're already piling up runs. This team is going to blast bombs all over Fenway all season long. With the dynamite young duo of the Mookie Conster and the X Man doing young, precocious things on the regular, this is an exceedingly watchable group.

Feel free to add your own thoughts heading into the upcoming Orioles series into the comments section below and we'll get some banter going up in here.

Go Sox!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- April 2015 Edition

It is the start of a new baseball season and it is time for a new ranking of the prospects in the loaded Red Sox system by the Maineiacs.

Last October we did a post season ranking of the top 40, and as we begin anew, six of the top 34 are no longer in the Red Sox system:

# 9 Anthony Ranuado (traded to Texas for Robbie Ross, Jr.)
#28 Drake Britton (designated for assignment- picked up by the Cubs)
#29 Alex Wilson (traded with Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit for Rick Porcello)
#33 Alex Hassan (DFA'd, has gone from Boston to Oakland to Baltimore to Oakland to Texas)
#34 Derrik Gibson (signed with Orioles as minor league free agent)

None of these players made the major league roster coming out of camp, although Ranaudo was recalled today (April 15) for a start for Texas.  And got shelled.

The sixth player no longer in the organization is #30 Cody Kukuk.  He will be joining Wild Thing Ricky Vaughn in the California Penal League, or maybe the Kansas affiliate.  In all seriousness, Kukuk, whose career had been revived in 2014 after some off field issues including DUI, ended his career this winter.  Kukuk and four others were arrested and charged with Aggravated Robbery for an armed home invasion in Kansas, near his home in November.  Three of the suspects were arrested in Kansas, but Kukuk and one other fled and were arrested in Long Beach, California. Such a waste.

The following list of players will include their current ranking, position, the assigned team to start the season, and their ranking from last October.

Here the best of an organization rated near the top in development by nearly all the ranking systems:

1. Blake Swihart, C- Pawtucket {1}.  The entire outlook and expectation of the reigning number one Boston prospect may have changed with the season ending elbow injury to fellow young catcher, Christian Vazquez. Throughout Swihart's minor league career the Sox have patiently moved him up the system .  He spent entire seasons in Greenville (2102) and Salem (2013).  In 2014 it looked like he would spent the whole season in Portland, but after shining at AA, on August 4 he was promoted to Pawtucket and spent about a month at AAA including the Governor's Cup playoff run.  Before Vazquez's injury, it was expected Swihart would spend nearly the whole year in Rhode Island.  And even though the Red Sox (correctly so in my mind) have stated their intention not to rush Swihart, the timetable certainly has changed.  Depending on how his additional AAA experience goes, expect to see Blake in Boston anywhere from Memorial Day to August 1.

2. Rusney Castillo, CF-RF- Pawtucket {2}  Rusney barely hangs on to the two spot over his Cuban countryman, who will be at #3.  Castillo at age 27 with much Cuban baseball experience is not the typical "prospect", but when he returns to Boston he is rookie of the year eligible. The assumption is Castillo is one injury to the incumbent Boston right fielder, Shane Victorino, from claiming that spot as his own.  But the question is becoming is Castillo himself injury prone.  He is currently on the DL after hurting his shoulder diving to make a catch, and was also injured in spring training and last fall in the Arizona Fall League.  The deciding factor to leave Castillo at #2, was one factor in our rankings is the ability to help the big league team this season.  It is very much expected Rusney will have an impact on the 2015 Red Sox.

3. Yoan Moncada, 2B- XST {N/A} Here is the shiny new toy of the Red Sox system, and a very good case could be made to put him at the top of these rankings right now.  The 19 year old infielder sparked a bidding war after getting the necessary approvals after leaving Cuba.  His talent and his age made him a very attractive target.  The Red Sox spent $63 million dollars to win the bidding ($31.5M to Moncada and a matching penalty to MLB for being over their international pool).  Moncada is considered a  true five tool player, with plus abilities in power, speed, throwing, etc.  The Red Sox left Moncada in extended spring training to help him further adjust to playing in this country.  Moncada, who tripled in his first XST at bat, is expected to be assigned to the Greenville Drive soon.  The Red Sox have said they will leave him at second base to begin his career, but at his size ( around 6/2" 215) down the road Moncada could be a corner infielder or corner outfielder.  Yoan has stated his goal is to be in the big leagues in a year.  Best case scenario would have Moncada reaching Portland later this season, and onto AAA in early 2016.

4. Brian Johnson, LHP - Pawtucket {7} For the moment Johnson has pushed ahead of his fellow left handed starting prospects.  From John Farrell's effusive praise all throughout spring training, to Johnson still starting games for Boston in the last week of camp, to his assignment as Opening Day starter for the PawSox, all signs point to Johnson as one of the first candidates to get a shot at the Boston rotation as the year progresses.

5. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP- Pawtucket {4} Rodriguez also was outstanding for Boston in the spring games with a 1.17 ERA in 7 2/3 innings.  This included a nine up nine down outing against his old team the Orioles. E Rod is still the pitcher in this system with the most likelihood of being a number one or two starter. And in 2015, he could also be a fireballing arm out of the Boston pen, as they come down the stretch.  Baltimore is likely to regret trading Rodriguez, within the division no less, for a long, long time.

6. Henry Owens, LHP- Pawtucket {3} Consideration was giving to listing Johnson, Rodriguez, and Owens as 4A, 4B, and 4C because they are that close.  Owens slipped back behind the others due to a so so spring and more to his 4.03 ERA at AAA last year in six games after a 14-4, 2.60 ERA at AA.  There is still a lot to like here, as Owens continues to fine tune his delivery and stuff against more developed hitters.

7. Manuel Margot, CF- Salem {6} Along with newcomer Moncada, here come the next wave of prospects.  Margot is an outstanding defensive center fielder and with his speed stole 42 bases in 2014.
In 50 at bats late last season after being promoted to Salem he hit .340.  If Margot puts up some numbers like that in his first 100 or so at bats at Salem this year, he will be playing for the Sea Dogs by June or sooner.

8. Rafael Devers, 3B- Greenville {5}  After Moncada, this is the best power prospect in the system.  At age 17 he shredded the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League.  After turning 18 last October, Devers will start this year at Greenville.  If Devers continues to pile up the offensive numbers in the South Atlantic League, he could make the jump to High A this year at his tender age.  This is a player who could make the big leagues at a similar age as Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts.

9. Matt Barnes, RHP- Pawtucket {8}  Barnes is beginning the season in the rotation in Pawtucket, but all of the buzz around Barnes this spring is the possibility of his being a member of the Boston bullpen sooner rather than later.  Barnes, who can get the fastball up around 97, would give the Red Sox pen a high octane arm they currently lack.  The potential  need in Boston may make the decision, but Barnes also has the stuff to be a major league starter.  Matt is very well in for a very interesting 2015.

10. Michael Chavis, 3B- Greenville {13}  Last year's number one draft pick is another of the recent power prospect additions to the system.  Part of a loaded infield at Greenville, Chavis will share time between third and DH with Devers, and soon should be joined by Yoan Moncada.  Michael began his Greenville career with a home run and game winning double in the opener.

11. Deven Marrero, SS- Pawtucket  {11}  Marrero began 2014 in Portland where he had finished 2013 and put up much better offensive numbers the second time around.  Deven will try to pull the same trick again at Pawtucket.  His '14 AAA numbers suffered in comparison to Portland's.  So Marrero is back at AAA again, and if he can make the same year to year improvement that he did in AA, he will be a definite big league shortstop.  That is because his defense is all ready top notch.  With Xander Bogaerts manning shortstop in Boston, Marrero could make himself into a strong trade chip come July.

12. Garin Cecchini, 3B-1B-LF- Pawtucket {10}. The big story for Cecchini as he begins his second campaign at Pawtucket is the Red Sox intention to play him at other positions besides third.  Cecchini has always had a sweet swing, if can produce some more power at the plate and become more versatile in the field, the big leagues may not be far away.  But maybe not in the crowded Boston lineup.

13. Trey Ball, LHP - Salem {12}  The number seven overall draft pick in 2013 stumbled badly in the first half of his Greenville season going 1-7, 7.27 ERA in eleven starts.  But in his next eleven games he went 4-3 , 2.70 ERA.  This second half earned Ball a promotion to High A Salem, after many observers felt he would return to Greenville.  Ball, who will turn 21 in June, is only one rung below the Sea Dogs, where he could appear next year.

14. Michael Kopech, RHP-Greenville {14} The second first round pick from the '14 draft will also start his first full minor league season at Greenville.  The extremely hard throwing righty, who was drafted from a Texas high school, will begin the process of adapting the fulll season grind of pro ball.

15. Javier Guerra, SS- Greenville {31}  This shortstop was signed as an international free agent in July 2012 from Panama.  He had a strong showing in '14 in the Gulf Coast League.  His defense is ahead of his bat at this point, but there is promise offensively, due to his plus rated bat speed.

16. Travis Shaw, 1B- Pawtucket {18} Shaw is another player who excelled for Boston this spring. In 23 at bats Shaw hit .304 with a home run ( which came off former Sox relief ace, Andrew Miller).  With no obvious open spot in Boston, Shaw will have to pile the stats at AAA and see where that takes him.

17. Sam Travis, 1B- Salem {17} Despite the strong Red Sox system of recent years, the one thing they have not produced (with the possible exception of Xander Bogaerts) is power hitters. Several have been added recently and Sam Travis is one of these power hitting prospects.  2014's second round draft pick from Indiana University could move up through the system quickly, and Portland should be on his radar before this summer is out.

18. Sean Coyle, 2B-3B- Pawtucket {16}  Coyle gets his first taste of AAA as 2015 begins joining fellow prospects Marrero, Cecchini, and Shaw to form an all prospect infield at Pawtucket.  Despite his small stature Coyle has been a home run hitter, and AAA will be a test to see if he can continue with double digit long balls.

19. Wendell Rijo, 2B- Salem {19} At age 18 Rijo was first or second in a handful of offensive categories for the Drive.  Still in his teens, Rijo has been promoted to High A Salem.

20. Bryce Brentz, OF- Pawtucket {20}  Brentz hangs onto the top 20 due mostly to his major league readiness.  With the crowded Boston outfield and sitting behind his Paw Sox teammate Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley, Jr. on the depth chart , Bryce must hope another big league club will trade for him.

21. Edwin Escobar, LHP- Pawtucket {15}  Currently on the DL, Escobar is likely to be converted to a reliever full time this year.  He is a power arm that could help the Boston pen this year.

22. Henry Ramos, OF- Portland {25} To see how the Sea Dogs fortunes are likely to fall in 2015, this is the first Portland player on our list.  Ramos, while not a top shelf prospect is athletic enough to have a big league career.  Since his 2014 was cut short by injury, his return season in Portland will be a key to his chance for that big league dream.

23. Nick Longhi, 1B-OF - Greenville {24}  Another member of the loaded Greenville infield, Longhi had put up a .330 average at Lowell last year, when his season was also stopped by injury.  Still only 19 with a strong season at Greenville, Longhi could rapidly rise on this list.

24. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP- Salem {23} The second round pick in '13 joins fellow '13 draftee Trey Ball to form the nucleus of the Salem rotation.

25. Stephen Wright, RHP- Boston {21}  The knuckleballer began 2015 in Boston but returned to AAA after Joe Kelly was activated from DL.  At age 30 and throwing the knuckler, it is very hard to judge where to put Wright on a "prospects" list.  At the moment, he is Boston "sixth starter" while he spends time in Pawtucket awaiting any emergency call for a spot start.

26. Carlos Asauje, 2B- Portland {37}  Asauje put up a strong 2014 offensively at Greenville and Salem. He is sometimes overlooked as a prospect, because he is all ready seemingly being groomed as an utility type player.  Another .300+ average season in AA could enhance his standing.

27. Luis Diaz, RHP- Portland {22} Diaz was promoted last year on June 16 to Portland, and he wound up making thirteen starts each for Salem and the Seas Dogs.  With a full rotation at Pawtucket, Luis returns to AA.

28. Anderson Espinoza, RHP- unassigned {40} Espinoza was signed to a big money international free agent contract last year and will make his Red Sox system in 2015, likely in the Dominican Summer League.

29 & 30 Simon Mercedes and Pat Light. RHPs- Portland {26} and unranked.  These two hard throwing pitchers both entered the Sox system in 2012, both with some fanfare, Mercedes as a highly regarded international free agent, Light as a  first sandwich round draftee.  Both have been used as starting pitchers, at Salem in '14 Mercedes made 14 starts, Light made 22.  Mercedes has made several relief appearances, Light only one in pro ball.  But they both were assigned to Portland and both are being converted to relief pitchers full time.  Light has hit triple digits with his fastball and Mercedes  can also be a power arm in short relief stints.  An absolute best case scenario would have one of these pitchers join the Red Sox bullpen as a much needed power arm before 2015 is out.

Before we wrap up here are two more interesting players.

Yoan Aybar, OF  Mr. Moncada was not the first Yoan signed by Boston.  Aybar was signed as an international free agent in July 2013  and made his debut in the DSL last summer, hitting. 271 with twelve doubles and nine triples.   The young Dominican outfielder is a player to watch way down on the radar.

Finally the RSM favorite

David Chester, 1B-DH- Portland  The hulking first baseman joined Portland mid way through the 2014 campaign.  Chester hit seven Sea Dog home runs, giving him 48 for his Red Sox minor league career.

Our list shows the strength of the organization is nearly big league ready with twelve of our top 21 on the Paw Sox roster.  The next wave is also coming with five each for Salem and Greenville, with a sixth, Yoan Moncada likely heading for Greenville soon.

In May we will once again look at the players after the first month of the minor league season.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast 4-12-15

Welome to the first edition of the Red Sox Maineiacs Podcast for 2015. Brandon and Barry come to you live from Barry's shed as Friday night's Red Sox/Yankees marathon unfolds in the background. The guys talk about all the early season story lines and react to the roller coaster extra-innings affair.

Random Thoughts on Opening Week

With one more game to go on the first road trip of the year, here are few thoughts about the first five games.

With the 4-1 start the Red Sox are off to their best start since 2006.  Now the skeptics may say the Sox have not been challenged playing two clubs that may well be last place teams (you can book that for the Phillies, I still think the Rays will be last in the AL East).  But a component of any successful season is to beat up on the weaker teams.

If the Red Sox can maintain the fast start it could be very beneficial to grabbing the AL East lead. A look at the Sox schedule has them playing 31 games through May 10 (barring postponements). The schedule shows six inter league games: the three already played in Philadelphia and the three games with the Washington Nationals to begin the home campaign, starting tomorrow. The other 25 games through May 10 are all with the AL East opponents.  Seven are with Baltimore (all in April), perhaps the other top contender for the division (and defending AL East champs).  And six with each of the other division rivals (three home and three on the road with all).  Throughout the rest of May, June, July, and August the divisional games are sprinkled here and there, then the end of the year mirrors the beginning. From August 31 through the last day, October 4th,  25 of 31 are in the division ( the other six are three versus the Phillies at Fenway and the last series of the season is in Cleveland for three).

The offense has so far been close to as advertised.  The cold April weather has cut into some of the power (and may have caused the only loss of the year, by the wind robbing Hanley Ramirez of a potential game winning grand slam in the second game).  The depth also came as advertised, especially in New York, where Brock Holt came off the bench Saturday and contributed four hits and three RBI while playing center field.  Backup catcher Sandy Leon also showed off his arm, which actually compares favorably to the injured Christian Vazquez, by throwing out speedy Yankee Brett Gardner trying to steal second by plenty.  Warmer weather and the ending of a slump or two (hello, Mike Napoli) will boost this offense even more.

After a 8-0 Opening Day win in Philadelphia there was already a glow over Red Sox Nation and this was made even brighter that night when the Red Sox unexpectedly announced a contract extension for Rick Porcello.  The terms of the extension were four years, 82.5 million dollars.  Porcello is already signed for this year at $12.5M, so in effect he is now signed for five years at $95M. A signing bonus of $500,000 followed by annual salaries of 12.5M, 20M, 20M, 21M, 21M.  There is of course risk signing any pitcher (or player for that matter), but the parameters of this deal fit the Red Sox' philosophy and Porcello's needs to a T.  The Sox have stated over and over they prefer not to give big money to pitchers over 30.  They also have shown a propensity to raise the annual amount in order to shorten the term of the deal.  Examples include Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Ryan Dempster.  This contract takes Porcello to age 30, meeting the Sox wishes to pay for prime years not 30+ seasons and allows Porcello to become a free agent at age 30 and likely cash in big if his years in Boston have been productive.

Porcello is really much younger than a lot of fans realize due to his already pitching six seasons in Detroit. Porcello just turned 26 last December 27th.  Porcello is two years younger than the top two finishers for the 2014 AL rookie of the year, Jose Abreu and Matt Shoemaker.   If you look at the Mets young pitching phenoms, Jacob DeGromm (the '14 NL rookie of the year) is six months older than Porcello and Matt Harvey is just three months younger.  Porcello has won ten or more games in all of his six seasons in Motown.  The only other pitchers to have six seasons of double digits wins before age 26 are Dennis Eckersley and Bert Blyleven- two Hall of Famers. Porcello is the right kind of guy to sign to the type of contract just agreed to.

One time through the rotation of course screams small sample size, but all five pitched well. Led by the  Opening Day seven shutout innings from Clay Buchholz and yesterday's seven inning one hit performance from Joe Kelly.  Porcello, Justin Masterson, and Wade Miley all gave good opening outings as well.  Miley, in particular, could be very interesting just based on his pace on the mound.  And even with Miley's reputation for being a ground ball pitcher, he had 183 strikeouts for Arizona in '14.  The only lefties with more K's in the NL last year were Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, and Cole Hamels.

Speaking of Hamels, will they or won't they? Will the Red Sox trade for an "ace" later in the season and will it be Hamels?  The results of the current five man rotation, as well as the Pawtucket rotation's progression, will in large part answer these questions.  One thing is perfectly clear, if it is Hamels, there is no way in hell Philadelphia is getting Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart.

If the very, very early games mean anything is it possible the Sox will not miss the injured Christian Vazquez nearly as much as feared?  I have already mentioned Sandy Leon's arm as a backup and the starter Ryan Hanigan has been very strong behind the plate and okay at the plate adding in a number of walks to boost his OBP (Hanigan is only three walks shy of AJ Pierzynski's 2014 total for Boston).

The bullpen. Well.  The 19 inning marathon Friday night/Saturday morning in the Bronx was caused by a failure of current closer, Edwin Mujica and two blown saves by eventual winner Stephen Wright. But Wright is already back in AAA and it is quite evident that Mujica is not going to be this team's closer for long (if ever again).  The rest of the bullpen pitched very well that game and they ALL got to pitch.  The reports are real closer Koji Uejhara will be activated for the home opener.  His performance at closer will go a long ways in determining how the year goes and/or how soon the Sox bring in or bring up additional bullpen arms (Matt Barnes?).  The more immediate question is who goes when Koji is activated.  The likely candidates seem to be one of Robbie Ross, Jr. and Tommy Layne.

Tonight's game in New York is the first ESPN Sunday night game of the year for the Sox, and then back home for the Fenway opener versus the Nationals, the consensus pick as the best team in baseball, but who are off to a 1-4 start.   After Washington comes the long AL East stretch mentioned above.  Here's hoping for the continuation of a strong start for the Sox.