Sunday, June 3, 2018

RSM Top 25 Red Sox Prospects - June 2018 Edition

Since we last ranked the Red Sox farmhands at the beginning of the season, a number of things have happened to the players on that ranking.  Almost all of it has been bad.  A handful of the Red Sox prospects have had a good two months to start 2018, but they have been the exception.  The myriad of issues range from Jay Groome undergoing Tommy John Surgery to Michael Chavis still in the midst of an 80 game suspension to poor performances by both of the 2017 top draftees.  All of this turmoil has caused much shuffling in our rankings, as you will see.  In addition pitchers Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez have graduated from prospect status.

The slash line used for the hitters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS.

For pitchers the line is W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP

The number behind the player in { } is the April ranking, and the team listed is the player's assignment as of June 1.


1. Jalen Beeks, LHP Pawtucket {6}.  A combination of the issues surrounding Groome and Chavis along with Beeks' outstanding AAA season so far, makes the former Razorback the top current Red Sox prospect. A line of 3-3/2.57/80-14/0.98 in ten starts.  His 80 K's lead the International League and the Red Sox system.  Steven Wright is currently the "sixth starter" in Boston with Velazquez and Johnson also in waiting.  But if Beeks continues to dazzle at AAA do not be surprised if he get at least a spot start for Boston soon.

2. Michael Chavis, 1B-3B Portland {2}.  Nothing new on Chavis.  He is still more than a month from his suspension ending and then working himself back into playing shape.  He only hangs on to his second spot on this list due to the possibility Chavis could make an appearance in Boston in late August or September.

3. Mike Shawaryn, RHP Portland {7}. Shawaryn is making his AA debut two years after being drafted and has had a solid Sea Dogs season so far. In ten starts his line is 2-5/3.67/51-14/1.12.  His strikeout rate is lower than 2017 when Shawaryn had one of the top totals in all of minor league baseball, but still a strong K to walk ratio.  Shawaryn could reach Pawtucket before 2018 is out.

4. Josh Ockimey, 1B Portland {9}.  The power hitting Ockimey has had among the best offensive season by any top Red Sox prospect, certainly the best among AA/AAA batters.  Not only has Ockimey hit 7 homers and 26 RBI with a BA of .273, but his OBP is .379 and OPS of .855. In 2017, Ockimey was promoted to Portland on August 1. With another solid month, Josh could be looking at another promotion, this time to AAA.

5. Bryan Mata, RHP Salem {4}.  Mata has had just an okay line 3-2/3.52/23-27/1.66 in eight starts for Salem.  But Mata's numbers (and the 3.52 ERA is pretty good on it's own) need to be looked at through the prism of his age.  Mata turned 19 a month ago on May 3.

6. Bobby Dalbec, 3B Salem {10}. Dalbec is another batter having a strong 2018.  Or is he?  Dalbec is hitting just .213 with a bushel of strikeouts.  But he also has ten home runs, a dozen doubles and has an OBP of .345 through June 1. The ten home runs are all the more impressive because the Salem Sox home park is not a hitters park at all. For example Mookie Betts hit seven home runs while playing in Salem, Rafael Devers hit seven in an entire season and Andrew Benintendi hit one. Dalbec has cut down on his strikeouts of late, so maybe he can be more than an all or nothing home run hitter.  Not that an all or nothing home run hitter cannot make the big leagues these days.

7. Sam Travis, 1B Pawtucket {3}.  For the second year in a row, Travis had a brilliant spring with the big club and then when assigned to AAA, his season fell flat.  Through June 1. Sam is hitting only .220 with an OBP of .290. Travis has hit lefties at a much better clip but has been awful versus right handers.  On June 2 Travis was recalled to Boston due to injuries to Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia. If Travis cannot turn his season around with the cameo in Boston, he will soon hear Josh Ockimey's footsteps coming for the Paw Sox first sacker job.

8. CJ Chatham, SS Salem {13}.  One of the successful seasons so far by a Sox farmhand has pushed CJ into the top ten.  The 2016 second round pick, had basically his entire 2017 wiped out by injury.  Chatham began 2018 in Greenville, where he had been scheduled to begin last year.  A fast start pushed CJ up to Salem.  As of June 1st, Chatham had exactly 75 at bats at both Greenville and Salem.  His Greenville line was: 0/9/.307/.329/.742 with six doubles and a triple.  For Salem CJ has totaled: 2/12/.333/.367/.820 with three two baggers.

9. Tanner Houck, RHP Salem {5}. Last year's first round pick for Boston has struggled mightily in his first full pro season at High A Salem: 2-6/6.04/32-33/1.88.  Bad numbers across the board, as Houck reportedly is having his pitch mix altered from his college two seam fastball to a four seamer. As Houck becomes more accustomed to the new fastball, it will be very interesting to see if his second half of 2018 is better.

10. Jason Groome, LHP Greenville {1}.  The top ranked Sox prospect to begin the season was placed on the DL at the beginning of '18.  Groome had not pitched since spring training when in May it was announced he needed Tommy John Surgery. It was tempting to leave Groome at the top of this list because he is still the player with the highest ceiling on this list.  But with the timing of his TJ operation, Groome is very likely not to pitch in a regular season minor league game until 2020. This being based on a standard recovery time of 12-18 months.

11. Alex Scherff, RHP Greenville {11}.  The Texas high school fireballer began his pro career this year at Greenville and he has struggled: 1-4/5.58/28-18/1.39 in nine games.  But his most recent start was by far his best,  six innings of one run ball.  This continued a marked improvement since April ended.  In roughly 17 innings each month, in April Scherff's ERA was 9.35 and WHIP of 1.90.  But in May (before the last good start) his ERA of 3.71 with a WHIP of 1.00.  With Groome on the shelf, it is possible Scherff may emerge as the best young hurler Boston has.

12. Bobby Poyner, LHP Pawtucket {15}.  Poyner has been riding the Boston-Pawtucket shuttle since opening the season with Boston.  His numbers in the major leagues are actually better, with an ERA of 1.86 in 9 2/3 innings.  On June 2, Poyner was recalled again to Boston.

13. Roneil Raudes, RHP Salem {14}.  At age 20, Raudes is spending his second season in Salem, and he has had a decent season so far: 2-4/3.65/31-18/1.53 in nine starts.  If an opening should arise in Portland rotation, it is likely Raudes would be first in line for the promotion.

14. Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP Salem {8}. A strong 2017 had pushed Hernandez into the preseason top ten.  But his 2018 for Salem has been mediocre: 3-2/4.34/36-26/1.42 in ten games. A stronger remainder of the season could still keep Hermandez on the ascent in the Sox system.

15. Tzu-Wei Lin, Utility Pawtucket {16}.  Lin has split his season between Pawtucket and Boston.  Lin while hitting .188 for Boston in 32 at bats, is having a fine AAA season hitting .271 with an OBP of .340 with three home runs.  Lin's versatility defensively still makes him a candidate to help in Boston again before 2018 is over.

16. Brett Netzer, 2B Salem {24}. The 2017 draftee takes a big step up the rankings with one of the  strong offensive performances of early 2018.  1/23/.287/.342/.710 with nine doubles and a triple.

17. Danny Diaz, 3B DSL Red Sox.  The Dominican Summer League began play in June and in his second pro at bat Diaz hit a home run. The very highly regarded member of the 2017 class of international signees, could move up these rankings rapidly once he gets more DSL games under his belt.

18. Jhonathan Diaz, LHP Salem {NR}. The lefty from Venezuela makes his debut on the RSM rankings.  Diaz signed in July 2013 and has made a slow, steady progression up the Red Sox ladder.  Diaz has made stop at the DSL, GCL, Lowell, Greenville, and now Salem.  The smallish Diaz likely projects as a reliever, and in ten games this season has 58 strikeouts with only 18 walks.

19. Santiago Espinal 2B-SS Salem {NR}. Another first timer for the RSM rankings. Espinal has had another of the outstanding 2018 to date. 6/25/.287/.357/.848with eight doubles and a trio of triples.  Espinal was drafted in 2016 in the tenth round from Miami Dade CC South.  Espinal and /or CJ Chatham could be looking at a promotion to AA by July.

20. Travis Lakins, RHP Portland {25}. The fortunes of Travis Lakins may have taken an upswing near the beginning of June, when the Red Sox organization moved him from the Portland rotation to the Sea Dogs bullpen.  Lakins had been making three inning appearances while starting. Lakins  was being brought back from right elbow stress fractures, which ended both this '16 and '17 campaigns.  Lakins may be groomed as a bullpen "stopper", a multi inning bullpen specialist.  If Lakins takes to this his path to the big leagues could be much shorter.

21. Chandler Shepherd, RHP Pawtucket {NR}. Shepherd made the RSM rankings in previous years as a bullpen artist.  In the past off season the Red Sox converted Shepherd to a starting pitcher in winter ball.  Chandler has continued in Pawtucket's rotation during 2018. The product of the University of Kentucky has a line of 3-4/4.24/45-14/1.39 in nine games The strikeout to walk ratio shows promise for Shepherd as a starter.

22. Ty Buttrey, RHP Pawtucket {NR}. Ty has bounced in and out of the RSM top prospects list since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.  This season Buttrey has an ERA of 2.86 with 35 strikeouts only 22 innings pitched out of the Paw Sox bullpen.

23. Chad De La Guerra, IF Portland {23}. De La Guerra began 2018 with Pawtucket and failed in his AAA debut, hitting only .137 in 73 at bats. Chad, was sent back to Portland and has dominated the Eastern League: 4/16/.340/.425/.940.

24. Jake Thompson, RHP Salem {19}.  The 2017 fourth rounder from Oregon State has struggled at times with Salem with an ERA of 4.64.  But Thompson has 43 K's against 19 walks. Considering this is Thompson's first full pro season and it is at High A, there is still plenty of promise here.

25. Cole Brannen, OF XST {12}.  The Red Sox assigned their second round pick from last year's draft, from a Florida high school,  to Greenville to begin 2018.  Brannen failed the test and showed he was not ready for the South Atlantic League: 0/7/.157.246/.451.  Brannen was reassigned to the extended spring training camp on May 21, with the expectation he will join the Lowell Spinners when their season begins in mid-June.

Here are a few other names considered for this list:

Cole Sturgeon, OF Pawtucket
Rolandi Baldwin, C Salem
Joan Martinez, RHP Salem
Kutter Crawford, RHP Greenville
Kyle Hart, LHP Portland
Pedro Castellanos, 1B Greenville
Kervin Suarez, 2b Greenville
Tate Matheny, OF Portland
Antoni Flores, SS DSL
Austin Maddox, RHP Pawtucket

One last note which will effect our next rankings.  The MLB draft is June 4.  The conventional wisdom is the Red Sox will look for college players for their early picks ( 26, 64, 100).  Some names to look for on draft night at 26:

Steele Walker, OF Univ. Oklahoma
Seth Beer, 1B-OF-DH Clemson
Ryan Rolison, LHP Ole Miss

and a couple of high school possibilites:

Brice Turang, SS
Triston Casas, OF

Next time expect to see some of the 2018 draftees joining our rankings.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

RSM Top 25 Red Sox Prospects- April 2018

Another season of major league and minor league baseball is underway.  And with the new season here, it is time to again review the top prospects in the Red Sox system.  Right off the top you may notice a change in the name of the post, that is itself a bit of a commentary of the Sox organization.  In the past RSM has ranked a top 30 or even 40 prospects.  Currently by all accounts the Sox no longer are one of the top systems in all of MLB.  Not to say there are not highly regarded players still to be watched, there are plenty of them. And the move to 25 is by no means permanent. Once we get a month or two of game action and stats in 2018, the list likely will expand.

One other topic we must address before moving on to the new rankings for 2018 is Daniel Flores.   Flores, rated at #4 on our last rankings, was signed out of Venezuela last July for $3.1 million dollars at age 16.  Flores was participating in last October's instructional league and felt some lower back pain.  He was flown to Boston for examination and on October 28 was diagnosed with a very rare, aggressive form of testicular cancer. Less than two weeks later on November 8th, Daniel passed away at age 17.  Such an unthinkable tragedy.

On the new list for April the number after each payer in { } is their ranking last September.  The team listed is their assignment to begin 2018.

1. Jay Groome- LHP. XST {1}.  Groome ended his up and down 2017 season on the DL with a flexor strain in his left, pitching arm.  Groome had an upbeat off-season highlighted by having regular workout sessions with Sox ace Chris Sale.  Sale and Groome both live in South Florida in the winter and Sale reached out to Groome.  Groome also had a successful spring training, but at the end of camp, when assignments were being made it was announced Groome was again dealing with a mild flexor strain in his left arm.  The official word is the strain is mild and Groome should soon be on his way to Greenville. Hopefully that turns out to be true, a strong early season pitching for the Drive should lead to a mid season promotion to Salem.  But first Jay has to show he can stay healthy.

2. Michael Chavis- 1B-3B, Portland {2}.  More travails at the top of our rankings come from Michael Chavis. Chavis had exploded offensively in 2017 for both Salem and Portland. This performance earned Chavis an invite to Red Sox camp for the spring.  But Chavis missed all of the games due to an oblique injury, then came the real bombshell.  Chavis was suspended by MLB for 80 games due to failing a test for steroid use. So his 2018 season will not commence until early July or so.  Chavis claims to be unsure how the banned substance got into his body, perhaps a dietary supplement he ingested.  Either way, not only will he miss a half a season or more of development, but he will need to put up numbers when he does return.  Because unless Chavis continues to rake, his 2017 numbers will come under a cloud of suspicion of being steroid induced numbers.

3. Sam Travis, 1B- Pawtucket {3}.  2018 should be a very pivotal season  for Sam Travis' future with the Boston Red Sox.  Again this spring, Travis had a very big offensive output for the big club.  This year, Sam also added the home run to his arsenal.  There has never been any doubt of Travis' ability to hit big league pitching, but there is a doubt if he can hit enough home runs to hold down first base for a contending club.  So the first part of the two part riddle of Travis' future in Boston starts with his need to continue his spring power outburst at AAA. The second part is where does he fit in on Boston's current roster.  Unless there is an injury to Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland, or JD Martinez it is hard to see an open spot.  And even with an injury involving the 1B/DH/LF spots, there is a good chance Blake Swihart would get the at bats rather than Travis.  Sam Travis will be a good big league hitter, it may just not be with Boston.

4. Bryan Mata- RHP, Salem {5}. At the age of 18, Mata is eight months younger than any other Carolina League player.  And to show that does not bother him in the least, Mata began his 2018 by throwing five scoreless innings in his first start.  Mata was signed by Boston out of Venezuela in January of 2016, and in basically two years has reached high A.  Last year for the Drive, Mata struck out 74 in 77 innings pitched.  Mata is listed at 6'3" 160, which means he should have more filling out of his frame to go.  It is not impossible he reaches Portland at age 19, before 2018 is over.

5. Tanner Houck- RHP, Salem {7}.  The 2017 first round draft choice from the University of Missouri, pitched just 22.1 innings for Lowell after signing.  But in another aggressive placement by Boston, Houck jumps over Greenville and begins his first full pro season at High A Salem.  Houck will join a loaded Salem Sox rotation, as a spoiler alert we will meet the entire rotation in our top 20.

6. Jalen Beeks- LHP, Pawtucket {9}.  Although the majority of our top 12 prospects are pitchers, the one who is by far the closest to helping Boston this year is Beeks.  Jalen reached AAA for the first time during the 2017 campaign.  After dominating the EL with a 2.19 ERA, Beeks pitched solidly for the Pawsox as well throwing 95 innings with 97 K's and a 3.86 ERA.  Currently Beeks likely ranks about the fourth option behind the Sox starting five ( Wright, Johnson, Velazquez ahead of him), but depending on the timing if/when a need arises for a spot starter, Beeks could be in the discussion.

7. Mike Shawaryn- RHP, Portland {8}. Shawaryn, a fifth rounder draftee from Maryland in 2016, makes his AA debut to begin 2018.  In his first full pro season in 2017, Shawaryn split the year between Greenville and Salem.  In 150 innings pitched in the two stops, Shawaryn compiled 169 strikeouts. That was the fourth highest K total for any Class A pitcher in baseball last year.

8. Darwinzon Hernandez- LHP, Salem {16}. The 21 year old lefty pitched all of 2017 for Greenville.  He hurled 103 innings and posted 116 strikeouts. Another of Boston's numerous international signees from Venezuela, Hernandez blossomed last year after two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and a year at Lowell. A strong 2018 could put Hernandez near the front of the next wave of Sox pitching prospects, if he isn't there all ready.

9. Josh Ockimey- 1B, Portland {6}.  The power hitting first sacker made his AA debut midway through last season.  Josh got into 31 games for the Sea Dogs and hit .272 with three home runs.  Ockimey begins 2018 on the DL with what is considered a minor injury and expects to be in the Portland line up soon.

10. Bobby Dalbec- 3B, Salem {10}.  Dalbec's up and down career in the Red Sox system took a down turn in '17. He was on the DL for the Drive from May 11 to July 11 with a hamate bone injury.  But Dalbec, taken from the University of Arizona in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, has off the charts raw power.  Dalbec hopes to stay healthy and continue to hit the long balls in 2018.

11. Alex Scherff- RHP, Greenville [13}. Yet another aggressive assignment to begin 2018. Scherff was signed last summer by Boston out of a Colleysville, Texas High School.  Scherff was considered a first or second round talent with signability issues.  This caused Scherff to drop to the fifth round.  Scherff was assigned to the GCL Red Sox after signing, but did not pitch in any game in 2017.

12. Cole Brannen- OF, Greenville {11}. Last year's second round draft pick will begin his first full pro season with the Drive.  Brannen played last year with the GCL Red Sox , plus three games with Lowell. Brannen is a speedy runner and is the kind of player who is projected to be both a good hitter  and runner.  A strong 2018 could bring Brannen to the top of the offensive prospects on this list.

13. CJ Chatham-SS, Greenville {15}. Like Brannen, Chatham is a recent second round draft pick(2016).  Chatham, out of Florida Atlantic, had less than 20 at bats in all of 2017 due to injury. Chatham needs to have a full, healthy season of playing time to solidify his standing as the top middle infielder in the system.

14. Roniel Raudes-RHP, Salem {14}. Raudes pitched all of 2017 at Salem at age 19, starting 23 games.  Raudes returns to Salem this year, but with full year at High A already  on his resume and all of the strong starting pitching at Salem, a strong early season could get Roniel promoted to Hadlock Field.

15. Bobby Poyner- LHP, Boston {32}. Poyner was a non roster invitee to Red Sox training camp.  And he just kept getting batters out. In the biggest surprise of the spring, Poyner impressed new manager Alex Cora and his staff enough to make the team out of camp. A large majority of Red Sox Nation did not know much abut Poyner. But Portland Sea Dogs fans certainly knew about Poyner. Bobby joined the Dogs mid way through 2017 from Salem.  In 27 AA games Poyner compiled nine saves and an ERA of 0.94.

16. Tzu-Wei Lin-SS, Pawtucket-Boston{17}. Lin was in a spring training battle for the utility role with Boston with Brock Holt and Deven Marrero. Holt won the job and Marrero was traded to Arizona, Lin sent back to AAA. When Xander Bogaerts went on the DL in early April, Lin was recalled.  Lin, who is an outstanding defensive player, hit .268 in his big league debut for Boston in 2017. if Lin continues to show he can hit big league pitching at even that rate, he can be an asset to this Red Sox team.

17. Brian Johnson- LHP, Boston {12}.  Johnson is now out of minor league options, so he will spend all of 2018 with Boston or will need to be dealt.  Johnson began this season in the Boston rotation due to injuries to Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz.  But ERod missed only one start, so Johnson has moved to the bullpen.

18. Hector Velazquez- RHP. Boston {29}. Like Brian Johnson, Velazquez began 2018 in the Boston rotation due to injuries.  But unlike Johnson, Hector does have options left, so despite pitching very effectively for the big club, Velazquez is likely to ride the shuttle between Boston and Rhode Island all year long.

19. Jake Thompson- RHP, Salem {23}.  Thompson is yet another member of the Salem Red Sox pitching staff, the fifth in the top 19 players.  And yet again, another aggressive placement by Boston.  Jake was drafted last June in the fourth round out of Oregon State.  After signing, Thompson pitched in seven games for only eleven innings for Lowell.

20. Danny Diaz- 3B- DSL {19}.  Along with the late Daniel Flores, Diaz was considered one of the top members of last year's international free agent class. Diaz was signed as a shortstop, but is expected to play third base in the pros, beginning this summer in the Dominican Summer League. Diaz is projected to be a power hitter.

21. Pedro Castellanos- 1B, Greenville {NR}. A newcomer to our list, Castellanos was signed in July 2015 out of Venezuela.  All Pedro has done since the signing is hit. In 116 minor league games, in the DSL, GCL, and NYP League, Castellanos combined average is .332. So far Pedro only has five home runs, but is expected to develop power.  Defensively only first base (or DH) is in his future, so the hitting will need to continue.

22. Joan Martinez- RHP, Salem {NR}. The second newcomer to our rankings is also the sixth member of the Salem pitching staff.  Martinez was signed in January 2016 out of the Dominican Republic.  Since his signing, Martinez has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. And how he has pitched.  In 37 games for the DSL Sox, Lowell, and Greenville his ERA was 1.48, with 57 strikeout in 61 innings.  Martinez makes his High A debut at age 21.

23. Chad de La Guerra- SS, Pawtucket {24}.  Not selected until the 17th round of the 2015 draft, after an invite to Red Sox spring camp, De La Guerra has made it to AAA in less than three years after that draft.  Chad reached Portland mid way through last season and hit .270 for the SeaDogs.

24. Brett Netzer- 2B,  Salem {18}.  Drafted last year in the third round from UNC-Charlotte, Netzer will begin his first full pro season at Salem.  In 2017, Netzer hit .286 splitting the campaign between Lowell and Greenville.

25. Travis Lakins-RHP, Portland. {21}.  Lakins was drafted in 2015 out of Ohio State and less than two years later had advanced to AA.  But at the moment pitching talent is not the question for Lakins.  He will begin 2018 on the disabled list rehabbing from the same issue which has ended each of his last two seasons.  That injury is a stress fracture in his pitching elbow.  If this injury does not recur again, Lakins could move quickly up the chain.  But the type of injury it is and the fact it has happened more than once is certainly concerning.

Before we go, one more name to mention, This is not a new name for the RSM rankings, he has spend many, many months here.  It is lefty pitcher Trey Ball.  This season the Red Sox have moved him into the Portland bullpen.  Through last year Trey had appeared in exactly 100 minor league games with an ERA of 4.67. 99 of those appearances were starts.  In the early accounts from April, Ball's bullpen stints have been spectacular, with an overpowering fastball and throwing nearly all strikes.  More work is to be done, but could Trey Ball reach Boston's bullpen this year? Something to keep an eye on.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Cousin Jason's 2018 Predictions

AL East
Boston- Two-time defending AL East Champs will make it three in a row, Cora, Cora, Cora!
*New York- The next chapter in the storied rivalry is here, paper champs can’t catch Sox though
Tampa Bay- D’Rays play feisty ball in hopes of getting support to build a new ballpark, if you can call the Trop a ballpark
Toronto- The Jays avoid the cellar thanks to strong 2nd half once they turn to their youth
Baltimore- Bad baseball played at Camden Yards, but hey kids under 9 get to watch for free


AL Central
Cleveland- Indians are as fine as Lindor Chocolate’s
Minnesota- Twins are improved on paper, pitching staff unfortunately folds like it too
Chicago- Watch out for the South Siders...in 2020
Detroit- Tigers grow under Gardenhire’s leadership
Kansas City- Royals will regret not selling in 2017


AL West
Houston- Defending Champs showing no signs of being a one and done
**Los Angeles- Angels swim upstream in hopes of getting Trout to the post-season
Seattle- Mariners are 6th best team in AL, too bad only 5 go to the playoffs
Oakland- A’s plan to build a roster a la the Indians hits a snag, when they realize it was the team in Major League
Texas- Rangers wither in the Texas heat


Post Season
Wildcard Game: Yankees win slugfest in the Bronx over the Angels
ALDS: Red Sox sweep Indians, Astros over Yankees in 6
ALCS: Red Sox over Astros in 7


AL Awards
MVP Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
Manager AJ Hinch, Houston
ROY Willie Calhoun, Texas
HR Champion Khris Davis, Oakland 47
Comeback Matt Duffy, Tampa Bay


NL East
Washington- Nationals are so much better than the rest of the division, they might wrap up title by trade deadline
New York- Mets arms thrive under Mickey Callaway
Philadelphia- Phillies are going to be good again, not good enough in 2018
Atlanta- Braves youth movement challenges Phillies and Mets but falls short
Miami- Marlins reminiscent of Yankees pre-Jeter
NL Central
Milwaukee- Brewers Lite up division with great taste and less filling
**Chicago- Cubs use Maddon-ing push to get back to October
St. Louis- Cards are a model of consistency, but it’s not enough in 2018
Cincinnati- Reds find a way to beat out the Pirates
Pittsburgh- Pirates scuffle to basement


NL West
Arizona- D’Backs are Lovullo-ing it!
*Los Angeles- Dodgers experience garners Wild Card
San Francisco- Giants improved offense moves them out of the cellar
Colorado- Rockies succumb to thin air
San Diego- It could be worse for Eric Hosmer, he could still be in KC


Post Season
Wildcard Game Jon Lester pitches Cubs over Dodgers
NLDS: Nationals over Cubs in 6, Arizona sweeps Milwaukee
NLCS: Arizona over Nationals in 7


NL Awards
MVP Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
Cy Young Max Scherzer, Washington
Manager Craig Counsell, Milwaukee
ROY Lewis Brinson, Miami
HR Champion Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia 43
Comeback Matt Harvey, New York

World Series: Red Sox new regime faces off against the Diamondbacks and the former heir to the throne, in a 7 game series the Boston 9 comes out victorious

Brandon's MLB Predictions 2018

AL East -
1. NY Yankees - In recent years, teams that have had praise heaped on them and anointed pennants before the first pitches are thrown have not faired very well. I enjoy seeing every pundit picking the Yanks as a shoo-in for October, so I’ll join them here. Why not? It’s not like their stud acquisition has only played 125 games 3 of the 8 years of his career. Or have a first time manager who might have charisma, but when he looks at Aroldis Chapman on the mound in a tight September game, will Chapman listen to him? Will Aaron Judge be hitting .175 on May 1? Tanaka’s elbow ligament definitely won’t stop hanging by a thread for three years and come flying off his body. There’s no way this could go wrong. 
2. Boston - The Sox beat out the Twins, Jays, Orioles, Mariners, and Angels to host the wild card game. Remember just how good Chris Sale was last season. An improved young and hungry offense. It’s going to be a fun summer battling the other best teams in the AL. 
3. Toronto - The Jays are in it right down to the last day of the regular season, losing out to the Twins by a game. The Blue Jays have underperformed high expectations for years, but now those expectations are coming down while most of their exceptional talent still remains. They will be a tough out.
4. Baltimore - It’s hard to imagine Buck Showalter managing a team that is going to start a full on tank job and rebuild in a post Manny Machado world. So I think the Orioles either fire him and Dan Duquette and really start over, or they go all in on one last ride in 2018 and try to get Manny to resign in a free agency market that is suddenly unstable. Their bullpen is still the second best in the AL east, and that Machado, Scoop, Davis, Jones, Mancini, Trumbo core is still a tough lineup to get through. If Bundy and Gausman finally have a good year together, why not the birds? 
5. Tampa Bay - They find ways to win and outperform their projections every year down in Tampa. So it feels weird predicting them to crater to the bottom of the league, but their roster just doesn’t stack up to the rest of the East. I see them losing 100+ games and trading every one they can.

AL Central -
1. Cleveland - The class of the AL Central by far.
2. Minnesota - They get the 2nd AL wild card on the last day of the season over the Blue Jays
3. Chicago - The team that has a bad record but is fun to watch play all season long. Look out in 2019-2020
4. Kansas City - With one hot streak or two there’s still enough here to hang on for a while in a weak Central, but they could also have a fire sale
5. Detroit - speaking of fire sale, the Tigers have a strong case as the worst roster situation in the AL

AL West -
1. Houston - WS champs add a full season of Verlander and another year of maturity for the Altuve, Correa, Springer, Bregman core. 100+ wins.
2. Seattle - One of these years the Mariners are going to put it together and make the playoffs. Not this year. Miss out on 2nd wild card by a game or two.
3. LA Angels - As fearsome as their lineup is, and no matter how stout their infield defense is, their rotation will fall completely apart by Memorial Day and their bullpen is subpar to boot.
4. Oakland - Led by Olson & Chapman (good law firm name, or maybe a leather jacket company?), they stick around in the WC race until the deadline, then deal and play for 2019
5. Texas - Their rotation is awful, they got old in a hurry, and their prospects have consistently underperformed.

AL Playoffs
Wildcard game -  Boston over Minnesota
Divisional Series -  Boston over Houston
Cleveland over NY Yankees

ALCS - Cleveland over Boston

AL Manager of the Year - Paul Molitor

AL Rookie of the Year - Willie Calhoun

AL Cy Young - Chris Sale

AL MVP - Mike Trout

NL East 
1. Washington - replacing Dusty Baker with Dave Martinez is the biggest replacement in Washington since Rex Tillerson was replaced with Mike Pompeo. Luckily for Nats fans, the manager swap will work out much better.
2. NY Mets - Those pitchers!
3. Philadelphia - They’re a year away
4. Atlanta - They’re two years away
5. Miami - They’re a decade away

NL Central
1. Chicago - The Cubs’ pitching isn’t quite what it once was, but they’re still loaded
2. Brewers - The Brew Crew can rake. If their rotation comes along, look out. I’ve got them winning the 2nd NL wildcard
3. St. Louis - Don’t know much about the Cardinals, but I still like this Nelly song
4. Pittsburgh - This is what happens when your run of can’t-miss prospects end up missing
5. Cincinnati - The ghost of Marge Schott sends this team to the cellar

NL West
1. Los Angeles - A boring pick, but hard to go against all that talent. And Dave Roberts
2. Arizona - Our old friend Torey Lovullo goes two-for-two in making the playoffs as a manager
3. Colorado - The Rox compete but come up short of a wildcard
4. San Francisco - Their run of even year dominance is all overweigh
5. San Diego - Hey, they have Eric Hosmer now. 

NL Playoffs
Wildcard game - Brewers over Diamondbacks

NLDS - Brewers over Dodgers
Nationals over Cubs

NLCS - Nationals over Brewers

NL Manager of the Year - Dave Martinez

NL Rookie of the Year - Ronald Acuna

NL Cy Young - Noah Syndergaard

NL MVP - Bryce Harper

WORLD SERIES - Nationals over Indians - The Nationals bring a title home to D.C. while the Indians come up just short again.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Deacon Art's 2018 MLB Predictons

We are days away from another MLB season and more importantly to us here at RSM another Boston Red Sox season.  With the opener on this Thursday we will fire up our somewhat dormant site with the annual predictions for MLB. Here are my predictions for the order of finish in each division, as well as playoff predictions including the World Series winner and several of the postseason awards.  Also included will be some random predictions and a few more in depth paragraphs about the outlook on the Red Sox.
Here we go:
AL EAST
1.       Boston           Sox Hunt First Pitches- Bag First Place
2. **  New York      Aaron Boone Can't Beat Bosox This Time
3.       Baltimore      So You're Saying There's a Chance
4.       Toronto         Canada Continues Trade Deficit in Victories
5.       Tampa Bay   They Deserve to Play at Tropicana Field

AL CENTRAL
1.      Minnesota         Buxton, Sano Lead Mollyknockers to Title
2.*    Cleveland          Chief Wahoo Steps Aside in Second
3.      Chicago             Best of AL Central Rebuilding Teams
4.      Kansas City       Why did Moose return for this?
5.      Detroit               Put the Tigers in the Tank

AL WEST
1.      Houston             Tanking Turns to Title 2.0
2.      Los Angeles       Shohei-In for Second
3.      Oakland             But No Longer Door Matts
4.      Seattle               The Team That Loved Dee Gordon
5.      Texas                 Rangers Ride Bannister to the Basement
*= 1st Wild Card     **= 2nd Wild Card

Playoffs
Cleveland over Yankees in Wild Card Game 1-0

ALDS Houston over Cleveland and Boston over Twins each in four games.

ALCS Houston over Sox 4 games to 3. ( more on this later).

AL MVP :           Carlos Correa. Astro shortstop edges Andrew Benintendi.
AL Cy     :            Chris Sale
AL ROY  :           Eloy Jimenez, White Sox OF
AL Mgr. of Year: Alex Cora

NL EAST
1. Washington      Only Russian Collusion Could Keep Nats from Top
2. Philadelphia     Phillies Kids and $ Movin' On Up
3. Atlanta             GM Banned for Life, But Braves Fortunes Survive
4. New York        Same Cast--New Episodes
5. Miami              Owner Jeter has Even Less Range than Shortstop Jeter

NL CENTRAL
1. Chicago          Theo's Hall of Fame Career Continues
2. St. Louis         Best of the Rest in NL Central
3. Milwaukee      Pitching Woes Leave Brew Crew in the Middle
4. Pittsburgh       Trading Stars Makes .500 Too Much of a Hurdle
5. Cincinnati       Last Even if Scooter Hits Five Homers in a Game

NL WEST
1.     Los Angeles    A Million(s) Reasons
2.*   Arizona           Goldschmidt's Club Settles for Silver
3.** Colorado         Typical Rocky Mountain Offense & Unfortunately Pitching
4.    San Diego        Hosmer's Veteran Intangibles  Lead to ....Fourth
5.    San Francisco  But Players Do Get AARP discount at Fine Bay Area Eateries.

Playoffs
Colorado over Dbacks in Wild Card Game  14-12.

NLDS Cubs sweep Colorado, Nationals over Dodgers in five, after falling behind 0-2 in games.

NLCS More heartbreak in DC as Cubs take the series in six games.

WORLD SERIES Houston repeats as World Champions by winning a seven games series.  George Springer is the WS MVP.

NL MVP:     Bryce Harper, Nats
NL Cy    :     Carlos Martinez, Cards
NL ROY      Ronald Acuna, Braves
NL Mgr.:      Gabe Kapler, Phillies

Other Random Predictions
1. The AL wins the All Star Game held at Nationals Park in DC ( the fourth consecutive All Star game held in a NL park).  Yoan Moncada follows a Rafael Devers double with one of his own to give the AL a 7-6 win.
2. Only one MLB batter breaks the fifty home run mark this year.  Miguel Sano of the Twins hits 52.  The NL co-leaders are Harper and Kris Bryant with 47. Speaking of Harper, he does get a $400 million ten year contract as free agent, but he does not leave town and gets the $ from the Nationals.  Manny Machado also his $400 million deal by moving the the NL and signing with Philadelphia.
3. First manager to be fired is the Reds'  Bryan Price and he is replaced by Cincy pitching consultant/ESPN contributor John Farrell.
4. The Red Sox will hit more home runs than the Yankees.

RED SOX MUSINGS
Let me start by saying I really, really wanted to pick the Red Sox over the Cubs in the World Series.  Houston seems so strong on paper, and with everyone blowing smoke up the Yankees' behinds, it just seemed so Red Sox biased (which I am) to pick Boston to win it all. So I went with Houston, but here are a dozen reasons I really believe the Sox will win it all , after winning 98 games in the regular season.
1. Alex Cora.  I get that Cora is a first time big league manager, and I am not trying to lay all of the 2017 blame at John Farrell's feet.  And when I say Alex Cora, I am including his new staff as well.  Two things Cora and staff will change in this team; the atmosphere on and off the field. And more importantly a new hitting philosophy that will have the Sox hitters looking for a pitch to drive right from the first pitch of an at bat.  This hitting approach will directly effect reasons 2 through 5.

2. Mookie Betts.  Betts could have a legitimate claim to be the best player in baseball.  2017 was a year many players would die for, but for Betts it was a step back.  Mookie will not only thrive under Cora, he will become a team leader.

3. Xander Bogaerts.  Like Betts, Bogaerts reportedly is very hard on himself when he encounters on the field failure.  Xander had also become very passive at the plate.  The new regime will directly influence both of these situations.  From the day Alex Cora was hired I fully expected a revival of Bogaerts' career.

4. Jackie Bradley, Jr.  JBJ also could benefit from the new ideas and attitudes, but the best thing Boston did for Jackie was keep him in center field after a winter of trade rumors.  Look for at least a return to 2016's offensive output.

5. Andrew Benintendi.  If Betts is not the best player on this team, it will be because Benintendi is. Andrew has added about twenty pounds of muscle this winter, and looks primed for a monster season.

6. JD Martinez.  JD is even a better addition to this club than many fans realize.  Martinez was second to Mike Trout in OPS last year.  JD has been in the MLB top ten in OPS in each of his four full time seasons.  For every 162 games played, JD has averaged just under 40 home runs per.  JD Martinez is a great hitter.

7. David Price. 2017 was pretty much a lost season for the former Cy Young Award winner.  With arm woes and off the field controversies, Price was written off by many Sox fans.  That would be a mistake. Price, who was the best Sox hurler in the post season, seems healthy this spring and motivated to prove '17 was an aberration.

8. Starting Rotation.  With the possible exception of Houston, Boston has the makings of the best AL rotation. A one-two of Chris Sale and David Price outdoes any other rotation.  Rick Porcello needs to return to a semblance of the 2016 version and Drew Pomeranz  is coming off a 2016 NL All-star status and a 17-6 2017.  Drew is free agent after this year and should be highly motivated.  And with Eduardo Rodriquez having surgery to stabilize his chronic knee issues, he could blossom.  He turns only 25 in April.

9. Craig Kimbrel.  Kimbrel had one of the best seasons by any closer in history in 2017.  Kimbrel can also be a free agent after 2018 and again has every reason to be an elite closer again.

10. Rafael Devers.  At age 20, last season Devers broke in the big leagues and hit ten home runs in 222 at bats. It is very easy to see Devers hit 25-30 in a full season.

11. Depth.  If anything goes wrong in the line-up (injuries, etc.) the Sox have players like Eduardo Nunez (who will be the second baseman for the first month or two while Dustin Pedroia recovers from major knee surgery), Brock Holt, and especially Blake Swihart. The Sox hope to turn Blake into a catcher/utility player.  Wherever he plays Swihart will hit. A lot.  Also if the Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland first base platoon springs any leaks watch for Sam Travis to come up and contribute.

12. 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the one time much mentioned 1918. So in summary, yes I believe the Sox win 98 games (about a 5 % increase of 2017) and win the east and get to the ALCS (at least). They will finish a half dozen games ahead of the team in the Bronx.

Enjoy the predictions and most of all enjoy the season.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Reasons the Red Sox Can Beat the Houston Astros

First let me start by saying the Astros are very deserving favorites in this ALDS.  The Astros have a massively talented offensive lineup and good (just good) pitching.  But the Red Sox, I am sure go into this series thinking they can win.  And here are several reasons why the fan base should think their team can win as well.

1. Our ace is better than your ace. Justin Verlander has been everything the Astros could have possibly hoped for.  He has made five starts since being acquired from Detroit in late August. Mr. Kate Upton's record is 5-0 with an ERA of 1.06 compiling 43 strikeouts in 34 innings.  On the flip side, Boston's Chris Sale has struggled in September.  In five starts, Sale gave up nine home runs and had a September ERA of 3.72.  Now that is a struggle for Sale, but most major league pitchers would kill for an ERA of 3.72.  Including his less than stellar last month, Sale's ERA for 2017 was 2.90         (along with his 308 K's).  Verlander's seasonal ERA was 3.36.

Many articles out there list Verlander's expected Game One dominance as one reason Houston is heavily favored.  Now Chris Sale has never pitched in the post season, but you can bet he is looking forward to it with every fiber of his being.  There are very few pitchers in baseball as good or better than Chris Sale (Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber), but at age 34 Justin Verlander is not one of them.

2. Experience.  After 2016's unexpected three and out versus Cleveland, Mookie Betts, speaking for himself and the other young players, said how the intensity and big stage of the post season needed to be experienced.  There is little other way to really handle it. This Red Sox team is loaded with post season experience.  Here is a breakdown:

First time post season in 2017: Chris Sale, Rafael Devers, Deven Marrero, some middle relief candidates ( Carson Smith, Robby Scott, Heath Hembree)

Players who made first playoffs trip in 2016: Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Sandy Leon, Brock Holt, Drew Pomeranz, Matt Barnes, Eduardo Rodriguez, Christian Vazquez ( Rodriguez and Vazquez were on the '16 roster but did not play).

Now for some of the other pitchers ( total games and # of series)

David Price        15 Games  6 ALDS, 2 ALCS, 1 World Series
Rick Porcello     9 Games   4 ALDS, 2 ALCS, 1 WS
Doug Fister        9 Games   3 ALDS, 1 NLDS, 3 ALCS, 1 WS
Craig Kimbrel    8 Games   1 NLWC, 2 NLDS, 1 ALDS
Addison Reed    10 Games  1 each NLWC, NLDS, NLCS, WS  appeared in the last two post seasons)
Joe Kelly           14 Games  4 NLDS, 1 ALDS, 2 NLCS, 1 WS

Now around the diamond to check how many playoff series some of the offensive players have appeared in.

Dustin Pedroia       5 ALDS, 3 ALCS, 2 World Series
Xander Bogaerts    2 ALDS, 1 ALCS, 1 WS
Hanley Ramirez     2 NLDS, 1 ALDS, 1 NLCS
Mitch Moreland     1 ALWC, 4 ALDS, 2 ALCS, 2 WS ( this will Moreland's 6th post season)

Back up outfielders Rajai Davis and Chris Young also have multiple post season appearances.

This is not to say Houston does not have some experience (hello, Carlos Beltran) but this factor has to help the Sox perform beyond 2016's level.

3. Bullpen.   No matter how you slice it,  Houston's bullpen does not match up with the other AL contenders.  Houston finished tenth in the AL in bullpen ERA with 4.27.  The Astros had 21 blown saves and allowed 272 hits.  By comparison Boston's bullpen ERA was 3.15, second in the league to Cleveland's 2.89.  The Sox allowed 186 hits from their relief corps.  And while Ken Giles and Chris Devenski anchored the Houston pen, both have no post season experience.  And Devenski faltered as the season went along.

In contrast Boston's all ready dominant pen is getting even more help from Carson Smith and David Price.  If both Price and Smith match their somewhat unexpected September results, the Boston pen can be every bit as good as World Series teams of recent campaigns like the 2016 Indians and the 2014-15 Royals.

4. Lefty Starters.  If you look through all of Houston's splits they are dominant everywhere, home, away, etc.  But here may be an Achilles heel.  The Astros had a losing record in games started by left handed starters: 21-24.  Now who just happens to have at least two if not three left handed starters.  That would be the Boston Red Sox with two of the best AL lefty starters in Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz. If Houston falters versus those lefties, Eduardo Rodriguez is hanging around as well.  Now one caveat, shortstop Carlos Correa missed a big hunk of the second half, and with Correa in the lineup, the Astros are 19-13 versus lefty starters.  Still something to keep an eye on in Games One and Two.

5. Red Sox beat good teams.  This little note from Tim Britton of the Providence Journal: the Red Sox have the best winning percentage in MLB in 2017 versus teams with winning records.  And in fourteen games agains the two super powers of the AL, Houston and Cleveland, the Sox were 7-7.  The Sox took Cleveland 4-3 and after splitting the first six seasonal games, Houston won a meaningless last game of the season.

6. Sox Offense. Yes I know Boston did not hit home runs like nearly every other team this year. Yes the Sox were last in AL homers, their 168 trailed the next to last White Sox by 18.  And the Astros clubbed 238, 70 more than Boston.  But home runs do not tell the whole story, the object of the game is to score runs.  And while Houston lead the league with 896, the Red Sox were a respectable sixth in the AL with 785.

So this comment about the Red Sox offense is more about potential than season long production.  Would anyone be shocked if Mookie Betts caught fire and carried this team on his back?  Or Andrew Benintendi, Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts?  Mitch Moreland seemed to be heating up again with some long balls coming down the stretch.  And Jackie Bradley, Jr. finished the season in one of his patented slumps.  How many times has he followed a terrible slump with an out of this world hot spell.  Or if Dustin Pedroia or Eduardo Nunez are healthy enough to contribute.  Last year rookie Andrew Benintendi lead the Sox in post season BA and tied for lead in home runs and RBI.  Can Rafael Devers do that this time?

Boston has enough potential offense to win it all, but some or all must produce.

7. Underdogs. as we said at the top, Houston and Cleveland are the top dogs in the AL.  No argument about that.  That means the Boston Red Sox are the nothing to lose underdogs (okay, if the Sox are swept out of the ALDS for the second straight year, John Farrell likely has something to lose: his job). But with other teams expected to win and having a team loaded with post season experience, the Red Sox are positioned much like last year's Indians team.  Tito Francona's club was written off by all, teams were falling over themselves to get to play them.  All that happened was Cleveland getting into extra innings of World Series Game Seven, before succumbing.

So take heart Red Sox fans, here are a few reasons to have hope as the ALDS begins on Thursday.  My fearless prediction is Boston over Houston in five games.