Sunday, October 26, 2014

Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- Post season Edition

As the World Series unfolds and the minor league seasons are nearly two months in the rear view mirror, it is time to rank the prospects on the fertile Red Sox farm.  First two notes that have a direct bearing on our current top ten.  Three more players have graduated as prospects because they are no longer rookie eligible.  They are Mookie Betts ( the #1 prospect for most of 2014), Allen Webster,  and Christian Vazquez. Later on this off season, we will do a ranking and discussion of the numerous graduates of the last year or so.   All three of these players have been in our top ten, so this ranking will look different than the rest of 2014.

Additionally after much back and forth, it has been decided the RSM rankings will include Rusney Castillo, the recent Sox signee from Cuba. Some rankings do not include Castillo because  the 27 year old has a number of pro seasons in Cuba under his belt.  Others do include Rusney because he will be rookie eligible in 2015, and RSM decided to follow this route.  Castillo, like other prospects, still does need to prove his ability to play in the majors.

The lines we will refer to for hitters are HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for pitchers it is W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP.  The team(s) listed after the player are the teams he mainly played for in 2014.  The number in the { } is their August 2014 ranking.

Here are the current top prospects for the Boston Red Sox as ranked by the Red Sox Maineiacs.

1. Blake Swihart, C - Portland-Pawtucket  {3} After knocking on the door to #1 for months, the graduation of Mookie leads to Swihart grabbing the top spot.  In his first year at AA at age 22, Blake's offensive improved more and more as the year progressed.  His final line at Portland was 12/55/.300/.353/.840.  He was promoted to AAA in time to play in 18 games for the Paw Sox with a line of 1/9/.261/.282/.659.  He will begin 2015 back at Pawtucket to get more AAA exposure.  The dynamic of the two young Sox catchers Swihart and Christian Vazquez will be fascinating to watch.  Vazquez has all ready proved to be a Gold Glove caliber big league catcher with a questionable bat.  Swihart is an outstanding hitting prospect, but at each minor league stop his defense has gotten better and better.  Blake, as does Vazquez, throws out around 50% of would be base stealers.  Toss in the fact Swihart is a switch hitter, and very capable from each side of the plate, and it will be an interesting decision.  Will the Sox trade one of the young catchers this winter?  Several pundits suggest the Sox consider Swihart the most unlikely prospect to be traded, even more the Betts or maybe Bogaerts. And Vazquez is penciled in to be the Sox starting catcher in 2015.  I think both catchers will be in Fort Myers, and before 2015 is over Swihart will join Vazquez in Boston.

2. Rusney Castillo, OF - Pawtucket-Boston {NR} The only decision harder than whether to rank Castillo at all, is where to put him.  Rusney looked very impressive in his short September audition.  Especially considering he had missed about  1 1/2 years of playing time while extricating himself from Cuba.  He showed home run power, although the scouts feel he has only 15-20 HR per year pop, and he is athletic and fast ( although he did not look as blazing fast as advertised, I thought). With the current Red Sox outfield jumble, anything is possible, but I think that one of the spots is Castillo's to lose.  After getting some at bats in winter ball, it will be fun to see just what the Sox have here.

3. Henry Owens, LHP - Portland-Pawtucket  {2} Owens slips behind Blake Swihart (and newcomer Castillo) for one main reason.  With little to separate the top few players, Owens's lack of dominance at AAA cost him.  His line at Portland was a dominant 14-4/2.60/126-47/1.12 in 20 starts.  Owens did not pitch poorly at AAA, but his line was 3-1/4.03/44-12/1.16 in 6 games.  As I said, very respectable AAA numbers, but I think the 4.03 ERA shows Owens could use another half season or more at AAA. There is still every reason to believe Henry Owens will be a strong starter in the majors.

4. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP - Portland  {11}  Rodriguez was of Baltimore's top pitching prospects and he was the return when the Sox sent Andrew Miller to the Orioles at the July 31 deadline.  Eduardo's big seven spot jump up our rankings are attributable to two things.  First when the August rankings were posted Rodriguez had just been acquired and he was not completely familiar to Sox Nation.  Secondly, and more importantly, Rodriguez caught fire after joining Portland from Bowie.  For the Sea Dogs he made 6 starts and pitched 37.1 innings.  His line was 3-1/0.96/39-8/1.02.  Rodriguez has electric stuff, and he is considered to be a top of the rotation big league pitcher. As a matter of fact it is about a 50-50 split among big league scouts on who is a better prospect: Henry Owens or Eduardo Rodriguez. And if the Red Sox truly are looking for impact trades, yet want to keep Bogaerts, Betts, and Blake Swihart, the way to entice other teams may start with the Sox inventory of left handed pitching.  That may mean either Owens or E-Rod lead a trade package (not to mention the Sox have three more left handed starters in our Top 15).  It may just be possible the addition of Rodriguez may make Owens expendable in a big deal.

5. Rafael Devers, 3B - DSL Red Sox- GCL Red Sox {6} This 17 year old began his pro career this year by destroying the Dominican Summer League to the tune of 3/21/.337/.445/.984 in 28 games.  He also had 6 doubles and  3 triples.  He was promoted to the Gulf Coast League ( unusual for an international signee of 17) and continued to hit. In 42 games the line was 4/36/.312/.374/.858.  But the numbers are really secondary, the scouts all rave about his approach and easy power.  They are especially impressed because Devers shows opposite field power, unusual for a youngster.  The last international prospect of Devers' ilk was Xander Bogaerts.  Xander was 18 when he played in the DSL and the next year skipped the GCL to play at Greenville at 19, and then at age 20 he split a year between Salem and Portland.  Unless the Sox keep Devers in extended spring until June to play at Lowell, Greenville is the most logical place to begin 2015 for Devers.  He would be a year ahead of Bogaerts pace.  Can Devers make it to Hadlock Filed in 2016 at age 19?  Something to keep a long term eye on.

6. Manuel Margot, OF - Greenville-Salem {10} The speedy plus defender has always been considered a potential five tool player.  But the power was just presumed as Margot hit only 5 home runs in his first two pro seasons combined.   But in 2014 at age 19, Manuel began to show the power with 12 home runs.  His combined line at his two class A stops was 12/59/.293/.356/.818 in 420 AB. Margot also had 25 doubles, 5 tripes and 42 stolen bases. Margot may begin 2015 back at Salem, but he is very likely to see Portland next season.  Unless.....again Margot is the kind of player the Red Sox could load into a big deal without touching the top of the top of their farm.  But if he is not traded Margot could land on top of this list in his own right by this time next year.

7. Brian Johnson, LHP- Salem-Portland {5}  The fact that Johnson slipped back two spots is no knock on him at all.  In fact, you make a very good case for Johnson as high on this list as #2.  Johnson in fact had the best numbers of any pitcher in the Sox system in 2014. His combined A-AA line was 13-3/2.13/132-39/0.97.  Johnson also was recalled to Pawtucket to pitch in the Governor's Cup playoffs and helped the Paw Sox to that championship.  And just as impressive as his numbers was an uncanny ability to pound the strike zone and repeat his delivery pitch after pitch.  Johnson will begin '15 at AAA and there is a real possibility that with a fast start there (or maybe even a great spring camp) Johnson will surpass all of the young starters who auditioned in Boston in 2014 an grab a rotation spot for the big club.

8. Matt Barnes, RHP - Pawtucket-Boston  {13}. Barnes is perhaps the most mercurial prospect on this list.  His career outcome could range from top of the rotation starter to bullpen ace (closer?) to not having a substantial MLB career.  Barnes gets more swing and misses in the strike zone than any of his AAA compatriots.  As he did in Portland in 2013, Barnes did not overly impress in the first half season at Pawtucket.  But a much better second half lead to a line of 8-9/3.95/103-46/1.29, not a bad AAA debut season at all. This earned Matt a September call up to make his big league debut.  Barnes was used exclusively in the bullpen for 9 innings, in which his ERA was 4.00.  There is some speculation that Barnes could spend 2015 in the Sox bullpen to add another power arm, but still with an eye to have Barnes be a starter in 2016 and beyond.

9. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP Pawtucket-Boston {4} Ranaudo falls down the Top Ten due to his somewhat lackluster big league innings during his MLB debut.  Anthony was voted the International League Pitcher of the Year with a line of 14-4/2.61/111-54/1.20.  Over three different recalls, Ranaudo made 7 starts for Boston with a MLB line of 4-3/4.81/15-16/1.40.  The knock on Ranaudo at the big level was the lack of a put away pitch which not only led to the more walks than strikeouts, but also contributed to the 10 home runs allowed. I think it is possible Ranaudo's stuff seem to lag in Boston because of fatigue.  The most innings pitched in one season by Ranaudo had been 139 in 2013 and 127 in 2011.This year Anthony pitched in 138 AAA innings and 39 more for the Red Sox, totaling 177.  It will be up to Ranaudo in spring training to show his stuff can be better at the highest level, as he should be competing for a job in the Sox rotation with other kids, mostly Allen Webster.

10. Garin Cecchini, 3B-LF - Pawtucket-Boston {14}.  Garin moved back up into the top ten based on an improved end of his AAA campaign and some impressive at bats and plays at third base for Boston in September. Known for his on base prowess, Cecchini's BA was only .263 and his OBP .341 at AAA.  It is likely Garin needs entire full season at Pawtucket.  But with a stronger second AAA year, Cecchini could still force his way into the Sox third base ( even if the Sox pursue Pablo Sandoval as rumored, the Panda could move to first or DH after 2015) or left field picture.

11. Deven Marrero, SS- Portland-Pawtucket  {9}.  In both stops in 2014 Marrero wowed everyone with his Gold Glove caliber defense. But the question for Deven has always been his bat.  At Portland his offense came to life hitting 5/39/.291/.371/.804.  That type of line would assure a long successful big league career.  But after 68 games at Portland, Marrero  was promoted to AAA where the offensive questions returned. His AAA line was 1/20/.210/.260/.545 in 50 games.  So in 2015 Marrero will return to Pawtucket and see if he can replicate the Portland numbers, and boost his stock in an attempt to push Xander Bogaerts off shortstop or create a trade market for his own services.

12. Trey Ball, LHP - Greenville  {20}.  2014 was Ball's first full pro season, and the 2013 first round pick (seventh overall) put up two seasons in one.  In the first part of the South Atlantic League season, Ball pitched ineffectively with an ERA over 7.00.  But in the second half, Ball, who turned 20 in June, pitched much better with an ERA in the 3.00's.  The entire season must be chalked up to an initial pro experience of a kid one year removed from an Indiana high school.  The best comment I have seen recently about Trey Ball was a comment from an opposing team's scout who called him a "Henry Owens starter kit".  Ball could begin 2015 back at Greenville, with a promotion to Salem before the year is out.

13. Michael Chavis, SS - GCL Red Sox {18}.  This year's Red Sox first round draft pick came out of the very highly regarded Georgia high school baseball scene.  Chavis was considered one of the best if not the best high school hitter in the 2014 draft.  Chavis hit .269 in the GCL, and was reportedly very impressive in the fall instructional leagues.  Chavis is not likely to stick at shortstop, but his bat will be plenty good enough to play third, or perhaps second where his bat would be well above average.

14. Michael Kopech, RHP - GCL Red Sox {19} . Kopech joins Ball and Chavis in moving way up our second ten, based largely on their pedigrees as first round picks over the last two drafts.  Kopech only pitched 13 2/3 innings in the GCL, as the Sox always baby their newly drafted high school pitchers. Kopech, though, is a fireballer who can hit 98 on the radar guns.  Kopech also comes from fertile amateur territory, Texas.  Many a pitcher have come from the Texas high school scene.  To name one how about Josh Beckett.  All right, come out from under your desk. If Michael Kopech can have a 13 year MLB career with 138 wins, pitch his team to a pair of World Series wins , and hurl a no-hitter the Red Sox will be very happy with their investment.

15. Edwin Escobar, LHP -Pawtucket-Boston {12}.  The Giants are probably quite pleased with trading Escobar (and Heath Hembree) to Boston for Jake Peavy.  Peavy has helped the Giants into the 2014 World Series.  But Escobar is the fifth lefty starter in our Top 15, very enviable depth for any organization.  Recently someone compared Escobar to Felix Doubront in abilities.  If Escobar can surpass Doubie in work ethic and consistency, I would sign up for another go a round with a lefty pitcher of that talent.  There is a split opinion on whether Escobar is a MLB starter of bullpen guy.  Either way, Edwin could be of use to the 2015 Red Sox, or another trade chip this winter.

16. Sean Coyle, 2B-3B - Portland {15}. Coyle opened 2014 as the Sea Dogs third baseman in his AA maiden season.  Coyle had been a second baseman strictly before that, but uber-propsect Mookie Betts was manning second. After Mookie was promoted to Pawtucket, and then Boston, Coyle returned to second.  But the real highlight to Coyle's season was that he avoided (largely) the injury bug which had threatened to derail his highly regarded prospect status.  Coyle's line in Portland was 16/61/.295/.371/.883. Despite his diminutive 5'8" height Coyle has always hit for power, his 16 was his best pro output, though ( and third in the Sox farm for '14).  Coyle is another prospect who could be packaged this off season.  Pure speculation, but Coyle is from Philly, could he be one of the chips to the Phillies in a Cole Hamels deal?

17. Sam Travis, 1B- Lowell-Greenville {21} The Red Sox 2014 second round draft pick was an outstanding power hitter at Indiana University with 31 home runs in three collegiate seasons.  He started his pro career at Lowell with a line in 40 games of 4/30/.333/.364/.813.  On August 2, three weeks before his 21st birthday, Travis was promoted to Greenville.  In 27 games there, Travis continued to hit  with a line of 3/14/.290/.330/.826.  Travis will likely begin 2015 at Salem, but with his advanced college pedigree, a jump to Portland is not out of the question.

18. Travis Shaw, 1B- Portland-Pawtucket {16} Shaw began 2014 in Portland for his third season in AA.  But a red hot start for the Sea Dogs to the tune of 11/37/.305/.406/.954 in 47 games earned his first trip to AAA.  Shaw started slowly as he adjusted to the higher level, but settled into the Paw Sox lineup with a line of 10/41/.262/.321/.752.  Shaw's 21 home runs on the year led the entire Red Sox system.  There is still some question if the 2011 ninth round pick is really a legitimate MLB prospect.  Shaw will likely return to Pawtucket to begin 2015 in will likely be a pivotal year to answer the question of legitimacy.

19. Wendell Rijo, 2B- Greenville {17}  The most important number for Wendell Rijo in 2014 was 18. That was the age of the Dominican second sacker as he held his own against older competition  in the South Atlantic League.  Rijo spent the entire season in Greenville with a line of 9/46/.254/.348/.764.  Rijo also stole 16 bases in his 111 games.  Rijo seems to be on target for a 2015 start at High A Salem at age 19.

20. Bryce Brentz, LF- Pawtucket-Boston {26} Brentz's star has dimmed in many quarters, but he has the right handed power so elusive in today's game.  A leg injury kept Brentz out of the Paw Sox lineup from May to late in the season, limiting him to 63 AAA games.  But in those games he hit 12 home runs and had an OBP of .341. That injury may really have cost him his last really good shot to grab a job in Boston, while Brentz was on the DL the big club was in need of corner outfielders and recalled players like Alex Hassan and Corey Brown because Brentz was not active.  In the Governor's Cup playoffs, Bryce made a play that will long be remembered in Rhode Island.  Playing left field ( where he had played since returning from injury, instead of original right field spot), in Game Four he threw out what would have been the series winning run at the plate for the Durham Bulls in bottom of the 10th inning.  The Pawsox went on to win in 13 innings and won the Cup in Game 5, 4-1.  After the Cup Playoffs, Brentz was recalled to Boston for his MLB debut.  In September he hit .308 in 26 AB's with no home runs.  Brentz still has a future as a MLB outfielder, but with the Red Sox crazy quilt outfield situation going into this winter, it may not be in Boston.

21. Steven Wright, RHP - Pawtucket-Boston {30}  The most puzzling"prospect" in the system.  Wright turned 30 in August, but of course he is a knuckleballer.  This means despite his advanced age for some one to be considered a prospect, he could still have a 10 to 15 year MLB career ahead based on other successful knucklers of the past.  Despite a more limited audition with Boston in September     ( 21 innings yielding a 2,57 ERA), Wright out pitched most if not all of the other starters promoted from Pawtucket during the season.  The Red Sox rewarded Wright with a start in the last week of the season.  If the Sox bring in two starters to front Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly, Wright should be in competition for the the fifth spot.  If Wright goes on to a long successful career, it would be the final chapter in the Red Sox saga of Lars Anderson.  The Sox acquired Wright from Cleveland at the July 31 trade deadline in 2012 for Lars, the one-time super Sox prospect.

22. Luis Diaz, RHP - Salem-Portland {22}.  Another one of many Sea Dogs from 2014 on these rankings.  Diaz was recalled to Portland after a stellar performance at Salem, where he continued to shine.  The combined 2014 line for the 22 year old was 9-7/3.54/111-44/1.28.  Look for Luis to return to Hadlock to at least begin 2015.

23. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP - Greenville {24}. The 20 year old second round 2013 draftee spent the entire season at Greenville. In 140 innings and 25 starts, his line was 11-8/3.72/102-29/1.21.  Stankiewicz was recently described by one unnamed Sox official as maybe the most likely big leaguer from the crop of lower minor league pitchers.

24. Nick Longhi, 1B-OF - Lowell {UR} Longhi was drafted by the Sox in 30th round in 2013 out of a Florida high school, Longhi was regarded as a difficult sign and he dropped many, many rounds from where he would have gone.  But Boston did sign him at the deadline, and Nick was beginning to shine at Lowell in 2014 when an injury cut his season short.  In 30 games his line was 0/10/.330/.388/.829, at age 18. Longhi will likely start 2015 in Greenville, and is a name to watch on this list for the future.

25. Henry Ramos, OF- Portland {25} Another player who early in 2014 was really making a name in the Sox system for the first time before an injury ended the season.  In his AA debut, Ramos was playing a strong right field and put up a line of 2/23/.326/.368/.799 in only 48 games.  This was by far the best offensive year for Ramos since being drafted in 2010 out of Puerto Rico.  Look for Henry to begin 2015 back at Portland at age 23, with a quick promotion to AAA possible if he repeats the 2014 numbers.

26. Simon Mercedes, RHP- Salem {UR}. Other than a brief 11 innings at Lowell, the 22 year old Mercedes spent the year at Salem.  His combined line was 5-10/441/79-41/1.45.  Many feel the bullpen will be the future home for the fireballer, maybe even as soon as next year, maybe at Portland.  Some scouts feel if the transition to the pen takes, Simon could reach the majors quickly.

27. Heath Hembree, RHP- Pawtucket-Boston {23}. The second minor league pitcher received from the Giants for Jake Peavy in July.  Hembree was being groomed by San Francisco as their future closer.  Heath had 2.70 ERA for the Paw Sox in 7 games and 4.50 ERA for Boston in 10 innings.  Hembree may well be in the mix for a Boston bullpen job in 2015, but he is being considered more of set up guy rather than closer.

28. Drake Britton, LHP - Pawtucket-Boston {UR} Unranked in August but in the Top 20 earlier in 2014.  Britton suffered through a mediocre (at best) year at AAA, with a 5.86 ERA and more walks than strikeouts 37-38).  But Britton is a lefty who throws very hard, so Boston recalled him in September anyway.  In September he pitched in 7 games, 6.2 innings and had an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 1.05.  If Drake can come to spring training and throw strikes he still could be one of Boston's lefties out of the pen in 2015.

29. Alex Wilson, RHP- Pawtucket-Boston {UR} Another reliever who fell of the rankings in August due to poor Paw Sox season.  But Wilson also pitched well for Boston in an even longer audition than Britton or Hembree.  Wilson pitched 18 games and 28.1 innings for Boston and he put up a line of 1-0/1.91/19-5/0.88.  Those numbers should put Wilson at the front of the line for a Boston bullpen spot.  But it may depend entirely on how Ben Cherington rebuilds the pen from the outside first.

30. Cody Kukuk, LHP- Greenville-Salem {29} The talented lefty who in the past has had off the field questions and command issues, came out blazing at Greenville.  3-0/1.8/29-12/1.25 in 5 starts.  He was promoted to Salem and did not fare as well. In 78 innings his line was 4-7/5.26/87-71/1.81. Cody turns 22 in April and will begin again at Salem, with the hope he does what he did when he began 2014 with a repeat at Greenville.  At least some have compared Kukuk's ceiling to Jon Lester.  The Red Sox will not give him up Kukuk any time soon.

Here are another dozen prospects who were considered or just fell short of our top 30.

* Javier Guerrera, SS - GCL.  19 year old Panamanian 2012 signee

* Noe Ramirez, RHP- Portland. 18 saves , 2.14 ERA for Sea Dogs closer

* Alex Hassan, OF - Pawtucket.  Only healthy 40 roster player not recalled in September to Boston.

* Derrik Gibson, IF-OF- Portland- Seventh round pick in 2008 may have revived his career with a combined AA/AAA .290 BA and .368 OBP

* Jake Cosart, RHP - Lowell.  Brother of Marlins' Jared, Jake was drafted this year after only one year of pitching by the former college infielder. Very hard thrower.

* Justin Haley, RHP-Salem-Portland. Reached AA for first time.

*Carlos Asauje, 2B-LF- Greenville-Salem. Carlos is being groomed as future utility player. He had a combined line of 15/101/.310/.393/.927, some of the very best numbers in the system.

* Joe Gunkel, RHP- Greenville-Salem. 3.47 ERA combined in both stops for '13 8th rounder.

* Jordan Betts, 3B- Lowell. Another Betts! No relation but the 18th round draft pick this year from Duke hit 10 home runs for the Spinners.

* Anderson Espinoza, RHP The fourth rated international prospect in this year's crop chose to sign with Boston for $1.8 mullion.  The 16 year old is 6'0" 170 pounds but throws a 98 mph heater.  He will begin his pro career in 2015.

* Danny Mars, OF- Lowell-Greenville. The sixth round pick in 2014 has one plus asset: his speed.

* David Chester, 1B-DH- Salem-Portland.  The combined line for the big slugger, including his first stop in AA was 10/46/.228/.305.690. More contact, and even more long balls are needed for Chester's pro career to progress.

There are 42 names throughout the Red Sox system.  We will watch this winter to see how many are shipped away in what should be a fascinating Red Sox off season.

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

Come join the Maineiacs for a Sunday Night Baseball live chat
Live Blog Sunday Night Baseball Live Chat Yankees @ Red Sox

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.