Saturday, March 16, 2013

Weekend Update: Spring Training Story Lines

With Opening day just over two weeks away the Red Sox team continues to take shape.  Here's an update on the Spring training story lines.

1. According to John Farrell Big Papi has responded well to rest and medication and is hopeful to start taking batting practice possibly as early as Monday.  It's too early to tell if he's on his way back, but at least the news is positive so far.  At this point Papi is going to start the year on the DL.

2. Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to produce and impress, but his momentum for making the team seems to have cooled off.  The only question remaining is will he start the year at AA or AAA.  Selfishly I hope he starts at AA so I can take in an early Sea Dogs game and watch him play, but AAA is more likely after the spring he's had.  JBJr's most impressive play of this week came from the defensive side of the ball while playing CF.  He caught a fly ball with the bases loaded and the runner from 3rd faked like he was going to tag and go, so JBJr threw behind him to 3B and almost got him for a double play.  The play showed off two of his best attributes his strong arm and his natural instincts.

3. Alfredo Aceves will start today vs. the Rays in Port Charlotte.  John Lackey is going to pitch in a minor league game in order to avoid pitching against an AL east rival and also to avoid the bus trip.  So Aceves gets the start.  The start today comes on the heals of a Nick Cafardo report that the Rangers are interested in Aceves.  The report says that the Red Sox are not interested in trading any of their bullpen depth with injuries to Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales.

4.  Stephen Drew- In my roster predictions in the comments section of the last spring training update I assumed that Drew would be healthy and the Opening Day starting SS.  Shame on me for not recognizing the DREW factor.  It should have been clear right away that this injury is going to affect him 6 months longer than any other baseball player, including little leaguers.  I'm not trying to be insensitive to concussions and head injuries, but this guy is going to be on the DL to start the season and this will be a recurring theme all year long.   We've been Drewed again...thank goodness he's on a one year deal not a five year deal.

5.  Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster were outrighted to AAA Pawtucket this week.  They along with the knuckleballer Steven Wright will make up what should be a good starting rotation.  De La Rosa showed flashes of brilliance early in Spring Training but it was Webster who was more consistent and more dominant.  Both guys will make an impact in one way or another this season for the big club.

6. Since Tuesday the Sox have shown a little more pop with the bat.  Jarrod Saltalammachia continues to hit the ball hard this spring.  He's hitting over .400 and he hit a two run homer last night.  Will Middlebrooks has been hitting the ball with authority this week including a bases clearing double with the bases loaded.  With Shane Victorino coming back from the WBC (Puerto Rico elimintaed the US) the Red Sox will start to employ a more regular lineup as we get near the end of spring training.  I think we'll see Pedroia hitting 3rd more often.  Mike Napoli who has had a very good spring will probably hit clean up.  This team will score enough runs to compete.  The key question will be the...

7...Starting Pitching- This has been the most encouraging part of the spring so far, but remember spring training can sometimes be deceiving.  Here's what I think is real and what may be a spring training facade when it comes to the rotation.  The Jon Lester turnaround is real, period. Will that produce a 20 win season? Maybe.  That will depend on things out of his control like run support and bullpen help, but he will pitch must better under Farrell/Nieves.  His other problem will be going against other teams aces.  It's no secret that the Red Sox offense has raked against poor pitching and struggled against the top starters.  If he doesn't get run support he won't be good enough to win 1-0 or 2-1 every time out.  Clay Buchholz will have a season reflective of a #2 starter.  Ryan Dempster will become a 6 inning pitcher when the games start for real.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think his spring training success has some people's expectations too high.  Same with John Lackey.  I'm not saying he's not going to be good, but there will be growing pains early in the season, but he'll get better as the year goes on.  Felix Doubront is rounding in to form and I think he will repeat his success of last year.

8.  The Yankees continue to be desperate for corner infielders, but they did sign Brennan Boesch this week after he was released by the Tigers.  He should be able to help them...well a left handed hitting monkey could hit a few homeruns to right in the new Yankee Stadium.

Opening Day is 16 days away. I for one can't wait for the games to start for real.

Update: Thanks to the Deacon for mentioning Bryce Brentz and his "comeback" from a shotgun wound.  I meant to include that as a new story line but I ran out of time.  Here is a nice read from Pete Abraham about Brentz and his game yesterday.  The thing that stuck out to me is that he already talks like a big leaguer.


8 comments:

  1. One potential spring training story ( non-story?) has not happened, at least until yesterday, because the player shot his chances in the foot (figuretively, literally in the leg ). Bryce Brentz, who has an outstanding chance of playing along side Jackie Bradley in the Red Sox outfield for years to come, finally got into a Sox game and promptly homered off Luis Ayala of the Orioles.

    Brentz has a week or two of minor league camp, with a cameo or two with the Sox, to show he has the stuff to be a member of Ben Cherington's "next great Red Sox team"

    Bradley will likely get to Boston first based on this spring, but I bet Brentz is the starting RF for Boston by 2014.

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  2. I thought that I had read today that Brentz was supposed to be in Port Charlotte but I see from the box score that he didn't play. But, some of the other young players in the organization had a good day including Jose Iglesias, JBJr and Ryan Lavarnway. I enjoyed listening to the game today in the car. Joe Castiglione, John Risch and Dave O'Brien seem to spend a lot more time talking about the young players on the team and the story lines surrounding the team than Don and Jerry do during spring training.

    Another prospect, who is further away than Brentz, Blake Swihart had a big 2 out 2 rbi double. Jose Iglesias also had two hits including a triple.

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  3. Roster Update:
    According to Pete Abraham on boston.com John Farrell indicated that the Red Sox will not keep 3 catchers in order to use one as a DH. With Salty having a good spring with the bat it appears as though Salty and David Ross will be the two catchers. Ryan Lavarnway does seem to be heating up with the bat a little bit in his last two games, but looks like he'll be at AAA with Dan Butler who was sent down yesterday along with Alex Wilson.

    Here's the latest roster projection:
    Catcher (2):
    Salty
    David Ross

    First Base(1):
    Mike Napoli


    Second Base (1):
    Dustin Pedroia

    Shortstop (1):
    Stephen Drew-if healthy...if not...
    Jose Iglesias

    Third Base (1):
    Will Middlebrooks

    Utility (1):
    Pedro Ciriaco

    Outfield (4):
    Jonny Gomes
    Jacoby Ellsbury
    Shane Victorino
    1 of the following:
    Ryan Sweeney
    Mitch Maier

    DH/1B/OF (1+1 keeping a spot warm for Big Papi)
    2 of the following:
    Daniel Nava
    Mike Carp
    Lyle Overbay
    Mauro Gomez

    Rotation (5):
    Jon Lester
    Clay Buchholz
    Ryan Dempster
    Felix Doubront
    John Lackey

    Bullpen (7):
    Joel Hanrahan
    Andrew Bailey
    Andrew Miller
    Koji Uehara
    Alfredo Aceves
    2 of the following:
    Daniel Bard
    Junichi Tazawa
    Clayton Mortensen

    Disabled List:
    David Ortiz
    Craig Breslow
    Franklin Morales
    Ryan Kalish
    Possibly Stephen Drew

    I don't know if it's the right move or not but it's starting to look like Tazawa is going to be at AAA to start the year. Farrell seems to like Mortensen and if you have any chance at all to get Bard back to what he was than he has to be on the team to start the year.




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    1. Barry, I think you have laid out the options nicely. There is also a connected issue, along with who starts the year on the 25 man roster, is the 40 man roster's limited space. A week or so ago, Barry brought this up as a reason for Sweeney not making the team. But as he has pointed out now, either Sweeney or Mitch Maier seem to be the only backup candidates who could cover CF at all and RF competently. Neither of these two are on the 40 man roster. And yes, I hear all of you Jackie Bradley, Jr. fans screaming that he could cover CF, RF, or any other field. You are absolutely correct, however JBJr is also not on the 40 man roster, so any moves made to get Sweeney or Maier on the 25 also apply to Jackie.

      As far as the DH/1B/OF one plus one holding Papi's spot, Lyle Overbay is also not on the 40 man roster. He is by far the best fielding first baseman, but not really an outfielder. Gomez despite last year's disastrous attempt to play 3B, is only a first baseman ( OK, he is really just a DH). To me that leaves Carp and Nava. Although Nava has an option due to passing through waivers last year, apparently. I do not know if Gomez has an option or not.

      As far as pitching goes I agree Farrell seems to love Mortensen and he has pitched well this spring and last season. It would be a crime and likely harmful to the pen to send Tazawa, who may be the best pitcher out there, to AAA. But I suppose it is possible. Bard's performance over the next 2 weeks may decide a spot between he and Tazawa, the loser being optioned to AAA. Personally, I would take Texas' offer for Aceves (if there truly is one as speculated) which is probably for a prospect or two, and keep all of Bard, Tazawa, and Mortensen. Clayton would become the long man in place of Satan. This would also remove Aceves from the 40 if the kids in return are not advanced enough to need the spot themselves.

      The next bullpen question down the road is how in the hell do they fit Breslow and Morales on later??

      Back to 40 man roster. I only see these limited candidates to put on waivers and remove.

      Alex Hassan--very likely
      Dan Butler--Possible, could very well lose him to a team looking for a backup catcher.
      Mauro Gomez-also a likely candidate for some smaller market AL team needing some pop at DH or off the bench.
      Drake Britton- very unlikely, hard throwing lefties would get grabbed by someone

      Short of trading someone ( Aceves, Ciriaco,Nava/Carp, Lavarnway) for a non 40 man roster prospect, or 60 day DL for one of Ortiz, Morales, or Breslow ( which right now seems unnecessary) these are the options.

      I would say cut loose Hassan to make room for an OF, and Overbay does not make the team partially because of the 40 man crunch.

      One last quick point, since Ciriaco missed a recent game with back issues, you may want to add to Barry's projected roster behind Ciriaco's name: if on DL replaced by Brock Holt.

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    2. Getting JBJr and Brentz on the 40 man roster this year will be interesting. I assume both of them have jumped Hassan on the depth chart so that opens up a spot for one of them. Christian Vazquez development this spring has probably made Butler expendable also. Five catchers is a lot to have on the 40 man roster, especially when you have Napoli for emergency situations.

      Britton's OUI situation certainly has made his spot uncertain, but I think you are right about his potential as a hard throwing lefty making his spot safe. Other than that there doesn't look to be a lot of flexibility right now. Of course injuries will come up and some one will go on the 60 day DL at some point.

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    3. Perhaps Drake Britton's spot on the 40 man roster is in jeopardy after all or perhaps he can be put on the 60 day DL with dropthesoapitis... Here's an update from Gordon Edes from espnboston.com

      http://espn.go.com/boston/mlb/story/_/id/9072674/2013-spring-training-drake-britton-boston-red-sox-prospect-faces-jail-time-dui

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  4. Since we are Red Sox MAINEiacs, I thought I would throw this note from the Sunday sports bogs/columns on Stephen Drew. He is still feeling concussion symptoms and has been referred to nationally known sports concussion expert, Dr. Mickey Collins from the University of Pittsburgh. (here comes the MAINE part...). Collins grew up in Hermon, and when I was in my last couple of years of high school his dad, Ned Collins, was one of my teachers. Ned also helped out with the basketball teams, and I remember Mickey as about a 4 or 5 year old running around the gym. Damn, am I old or what?

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    1. Cool Maine connection!! And yes you are old :)

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