Saturday, May 25, 2013

2013 MLB Draft Primer Notes

There is no doubt that the MLB annual draft of amateur talent is not as sexy as the NFL or NBA versions, which are full of college players all ready well known to much of the sporting public. But with the advent of live televised coverage of the first two rounds of the baseball draft on the MLB Network the last few years it is easier to follow along.  June 6 is this year's draft opening night.

And for we Red Sox fans this year's draft is the "reward" for the terrible finish to the 2012 season.  The Red Sox will pick at #7, which is the first time they have picked this high in 20 years.  At that time the Red Sox took high school outfielder Trot Nixon.  Only one other time in the entire history of this draft, which dates back to the 1960's have the Sox drafted higher than 7, a #3 which was pitcher Mike Garman.  And since the Red Sox front office and the fans hope to not draft this high again for a long, long time it behooves the Sox cash in on this year's #7.  Later on we will discuss some of the names most associated with the Sox number 7 pick so far.

This is the order of the top ten picks in 2013:

1. Astros

2. Cubs

3. Rockies

4. Twins

5. Indians

6. Marlins

7. Red Sox

8. Royals

9. Pirates

10. Blue Jays

Based on the consensus of a number of different rankings and mock drafts, here is a list of the expected top baker's dozen players to be considered in the top ten picks.  Not necessarily in order, but instead in three groupings of players:

" The Top Three"

1. Mark Appel     RHP   Stanford Univ.
2. Jonathan Gray  RHP   U of Oklahoma
3. Kris Bryant         3B     U San Diego


Next Five College Players

1. Colin Moran       3B      UNC
2. Sean Manaea*   LHP    Indiana State
3. Ryne Stanek      RHP   Arkansas
4. Braden Shipley  RHP   Nevada
5. DJ Peterson      3B/1B   New Mexico

Top Five High School Players

1. Kohl Stewart     RHP     Houston, TX
2. Clint Frazier        OF      Loganville, GA
3. Austin Meadows  OF     Loganville, GA
4. Trey Ball            LHP     Indiana
5. Reese McGuire     C       Washington


There have been another name or three mentioned near the end of the top ten, but this is the consensus top dozen.  The reason there are thirteen names in our top dozen is the same reason there is an asterisk by the name Sean Manaea.  He is a hard throwing lefty who absolutely dazzled the Cape Cod League last summer. He left there in the running to be the overall top pick in this draft.  But his junior season at Indiana State had not matched the Cape results, and then came whispers of  hip soreness.  Then as the scouts flocked to his start last week, he was scratched with "left shoulder soreness".  At this point, unless he can pitch again before the draft he may plunge down the draft, maybe out of the first round.

As far as the top three, nearly everyone expects Appel and Gray (or Gray and Appel) to be the first two picks, with the Cubs gladly taking whoever Houston does not.  Despite the long standing need for pitching in Colorado, Bryant is such an outstanding power hitter that the Rockies will take him. There is only one seemingly plausible scenario that could upset this apple cart.  There are more and more rumors that Houston may try to cut a deal ( technically illegal, but still done) with someone other than the top 3 to save some slot money for later in the draft.  UNC 3B Colin Moran is the most oft mentioned candidate.

But as we try to narrow down on the Red Sox options we will assume the top three are out of their reach.  But rest assured if any of these three make it to #7 by some fluke, the Red Sox will say thank you very much and grab them.  In addition to the Top 3, there are two other names on the list who generally are considered lower than #7 picks, unless a team looking to cut a below slot deal takes them earlier than expected. The two are Reese McGuire and DJ Peterson.  The Sox are not expected to be the team to cut that type of deal with them.  And assuming the Red Sox do not risk their high pick on the injured Manaea ( which is a low probability, but not entirely out of the question, I think), that leaves us with seven names for the Sox to consider.

Colin Moran
Ryne Stanek
Braden Shipley
Kohl Stewart
Clint Frazier
Austin Meadows
Trey Ball

There have been two schools of thought floated by the draft gurus about Boston.  One is they want a college pitcher, almost no matter what, because high school picks are riskier and a college pitcher taken this high could be big league ready in two years or so.  The other school of thought is this once in a  generation ( hopefully) high pick must be cashed in on the highest ceiling prospect no matter of risk.  Kind of an all in attitude. I personally subscribe to this approach.

Our list of seven includes only two college pitchers, and in his latest mock draft, Keith Law of ESPN has Boston taking Ryne Stanek.  Without the injury, Stanek has followed a similar path to Manaea.  He was considered in the top four picks, but a so-so junior season has raised some questions.  The scouts say he has overpowering stuff, but has command issues and some mechanics that need some refinement as well.   One report I read recently said he may have a bullpen future (although most say a #2 or #3 starter is his ceiling) and the scout compared him to Daniel Bard.

Braden Shipley is intriguing due to the "freshness" of his arm.  He was a shortstop until last year when he began to pitch as a sophomore in college. He is described a extremely athletic and throws around 96.

As far as the high schoolers, Kohl Stewart is a Texas schoolboy pitcher/quarterback who has a full ride to Texas A&M as a QB.  Most scouts feel despite the high regard for Appel and Gray, that Stewart is actually the best pitcher in the draft.  Jim Callis of Baseball America, for one says Stewart is the guy most coveted by Boston. ( But he mock drafts them as taking Frazier- Stewart to the Twins)

The two high outfielders ( and yes there are both from the same town in Georgia, but different high schools) Frazier and Meadows have both been considered top 5 type prospects.  Frazier in particular is considered to have off the chart bat speed.  Meadows has stumbled a bit in his senior year, and at this point Frazier is considered the better of the two.  Frazier is another name rumored to be on Houston's radar as a possible below slot signing at #1.

Trey Ball started his senior year with the scouts split 50/50 if he should be drafted as a power hitting outfielder or power pitcher.  His fastball has risen to around 93 this season and almost all now see Ball as a pitcher.  A Henry Owens who throws harder as one scout called him.


So if the top three go as expected, which other three will be off the board for Boston?  Let's check some speculation.

4. Twins.  Two rumored paths here most often.  One is the Twins will cut a below slot deal with Reese McGuire.  The other is the player the Twins really, really want here is Kohl Stewart.  The McGuire deal would be a boon to Boston, as most people feel if Stewart does not go here he will make it to 7. I am not sure the Twins will want to overpay to get Stewart.

5. Indians-  Two names also mentioned here Colin Moran and Braden Shipley.  The fact that Manaea and Stanek have slipped hurts the Red Sox because those two could have been the 4/5 picks pushing the entire list of 7( except Stanek) names down to Boston's pick.  I think Cleveland would be desperate for pitching, but Moran is the name heard most often.

6. Marlins. This could be a big break for Boston as almost all expect the Marlins to cut a deal with some one down the board, likely DJ Peterson, or even someone further down the board.  Shipley is mentioned here some, but I bet the Marlins cheap it out here

So at this point 12 days before the draft, I think the Sox are leaning towards Clint Frazier and it looks like he could be available.  If Kohl Stewart makes it to them, I think it would be a close, close decision between those two high schoolers.  Worse case the Twins take Stewart, the Tribe plucks Moran, and Marlins man up and take Frazier, I think the Sox would lean to Braden Shipley.

This has gone on longer than the first round may take, but any other names or changes that bubble up between now and June 6 we will discuss it here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Red Sox Place Victorino and Middlebrooks on DL

Repeat after me, Alfredo Aceves was banished to Pawtucket weeks ago, and he is never returning to pitch for the Boston Red Sox again.  There is a better chance of Jose Iglesias starting at third base for the Red Sox that Alfredo ever gracing the Fenway pen again.

Wait, what? who?? when??? where???

Today after nagging injuries to both players, the Red Sox disabled both Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks with hamstring and lower back injuries.  Neither necessarily required the 15 days, but in an attempt to get both guys healthy and to get enough bodies on the roster, they have been DL'd.

To replace them the Red Sox recalled Alfredo Aceves, mostly because of the pounding the bullpen took last night. To replace Willie Middle, the Sox called up and installed as the starting third baseman none other than Jose Iglesias ( he of one professional game at third--earlier this week at Pawtucket.)

Aceves, it is suspected is here due to the crunch on the staff, and due to the fact he is on the 40 man roster ( plus Franklin Morales, who may be ready to help pitched 5 innings for the Sea Dogs just yesterday.)  In a day or so, the conventional wisdom is that Jackie Bradley will be up to replace Victorino for the duration of the DL stint.

In addition the Sox activated David Ross from the concussion DL and sent Ryan Lavarnway back to AAA.  Based on the lack of playing time, even against some left handed starters this past week or so, it seems to me the current Sox brass is becoming less and less enamored with Lavaarnway.

If it ever stops raining Iglesias is in the lineup tonight batting ninth and playing third.  If Iglesias gets two weeks of so of at bats while Middlebrooks is out, and he hits with any competency the put Jose at shortstop cry may begin anew.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My Favorite Moment of the 2013 Red Sox Season

After Koji Uehara finished off a 1-2-3 eighth inning last night, he stampeded his way through the Red Sox dugout with his delightful KOJI HIGH FIVES routine.  Only Shane Victorino was sitting up on the rail, minding his own business.  That's when Uehara uncorked a vicious arm slap leading to the best facial expression ever.  I love the mix of horror and glee on Vic's face.  It's as though his arm hurts like a bitch, but he still can't help but love that crazy, messed up Japanese dude.  Enjoy:


Koji embodies all that is good about the 2013 Red Sox.  After the lifeless group of underachievers playing here a year ago, Koji is a breath of wild, exciting fresh air.  It's as if last year we (as in all of Red Sox Nation) were dating a woman who had the looks of a 9, but was heartless and cold and shallow and no fun whatsoever to be around.  This year, RSN gets to date a solid 7, but she is funny and smart and vivacious.  And we are so much better off for it.

Also, I have ripped the NESN player bio segment many times so far this season, but I loved Koji's bio last night.  For anybody who may have missed it, Uehara's favorite food is....wait for it...a McDonald's Filet 'o Fish!  Seriously?!?!?! Has anybody ever had a Filet 'o Fish? It tastes like a straight up patty of hot garbage covered in cheap cheese and watery tartar sauce.  But somehow it fits Koji perfectly.  I imagine him reaching out of his car to give the drive thru employee a hand-killing high five, then tearing into his filet 'o fish with enormous bites, cackling maniacally, and peeling out of the McDonald's with cheap fish burger flying all over his face and car.  I love the guy.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Maineiacs Monday Chat...on a Tuesday but, hey it's the Sox and the Bruins

Friday, May 17, 2013

Early...Really Early Trade Deadline thoughts

As the Red Sox deal with some struggles in the month of May confidence remains high in Red Sox Nation.  This team still appears to have what it takes to compete in a very even AL east.  As Memorial Day gets closer the evaluation period of what this team has and what it needs is starting to become more clear.  With that being said let's take a look at a few areas that this team will need to strengthen if they want to remain in contention for the duration of the season.  Keep in mind that the Red Sox are not likely to give up much in the way of minor league prospects.  However, there may be a few moveable parts on the major league roster and a few minor leaguers who could be used as chips to acquire depth pieces, but I don't expect that they'll make any big time splashes this season as they keep an eye on 2014 and '15 as the years the front office really expects them to compete for a World Series title.

Here are three areas where they may look to add to the team through trades:
  1. Bullpen- With Hanrahan being out for the season and Bailey being injury prone this team still has plenty of talent at the back of the bullpen to be successful.  However, with over use being a concern with pitchers like Uehera and Tazawa they would be smart to add some depth to the middle relief/set-up corps.  A dependable veteran type pitcher would go along way towards stabilizing the bullpen.  A few players already on the 40 man roster will also play a role in this.  Franklin Morales could be a valuable piece to the bullpen if he gets healthy and returns to his 2012 form.  Injuries to the bullpen make it unlikely that they will try to get him stretched out to be a starter (more on that later).  It is now pretty clear that Daniel Bard will never be a major factor in the Red Sox bullpen again.  The only questions remaining with him are how long can they afford to keep him on the 40 man roster and can they use him as part of a trade to get any sort of decent major league player?  Rubby de la Rosa is a possibility, as a player already in the system, who could be a major influence as a set up man or closer by the end of the year.  He'll need to master his command in order for that to happen.  
  2. Outfield- So far Shane Victorino has proven that he was a worthy signing, surprising many who follow the team.  However, it is clear that with his reckless style of play he is certain to miss chunks of time with injuries.  This makes outfield depth, especially defensively, a concern.  They could use a veteran who is capable of playing all three outfield positions well and capable of contributing with the bat.  Jackie Bradley Jr (who is on the 15 day DL at Pawtucket currently) may very well still be a factor this season.  Bryce Brentz and Jeremy Hazelbaker are both proving to be options if needed.  Both of them would need to be added to the 40 man roster. Daniel Nava and Mike Carp have been very good so far this year, but will it last? Brentz and Bradley Jr. are a big part of the future, but for this season they could use a major league veteran to fill out their outfield depth.  Someone like David Murphy would be a good fit, but Texas may not be willing to part with him. 
  3. Starting Pitching- The starting pitching has been very good so far.  Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester look like All Stars this year.  Ryan Dempster and John Lackey have been able to meet expectations so far.  Felix Doubront has been the weak link, but he's young and still has plenty of talent.  Let's not give up on him too soon.  However, the depth of the rotation doesn't look to be as solid as we may have thought in spring training and early in the season.  Let me be very clear though, the Red Sox have a lot of promising young starting pitchers at AA and AAA.  Allen Webster, Steven Wright, Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes and Rubby de la Rosa are all pitching well to very well in the minor leagues.  The AA starters have been extremely impressive.  I have a hunch that Brandon Workman may provide a boost to the major league staff before the end of the year and Ranaudo could be a factor in the bullpen a la Jonathan Papelbon.  I don't expect any of these players to be included in a trade, but I also think that this year's team could use a veteran starter who could bolster the back end of the rotation.  
Extra Thoughts on trades in 2013:
  • Who could the Red Sox give up in a trade to get some of these pieces back (I'm sure you're all asking yourselves that question)?  The Red Sox seem to have tradeable depth at catcher and shortstop.  They could trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Stephen Drew off the major league roster if they feel that Ryan Lavarnway or Jose Iglesias are able to fill those spots or they could trade Lavarnway or Iglesias if they don't think they are ready.  Deven Merrero could also be trade bait because of their SS depth in the minor league system.  That's unlikely though.  Michael Almanzar, a corner infielder at AA has seen his value rise as he has resurrected his career and he may be someone they look to include in a trade for the right player.  A young, talented, hard throwing left hander like Felix Doubront could be a valuable trade chip, but they'd have to get a good return. 
  • Any major trades would have to include Jacoby Ellsbury, but again that is highly unlikely.  For one he is not producing well enough yet to get the type of return they would want. 
  • If Daniel Bard could turn himself around he could be a throw in type player that a low payroll team may take a chance on or an organization like the St. Louis Cardinals, who have had some success with reclamation projects, may take a chance on him.  
  • Major league fringe players like Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Carp and Clayton Mortensen could be traded for players of similar ability, but with different skill sets. 
  • Alex Wilson has pitched well this year and while the Sox may not want to part with him other teams may find him desirable.  Andrew Miller has also pitched well lately and with Craig Breslow and perhaps Morales coming back he may be available as a trade chip. 
  • Ben Cherington may not wait until the trade deadline to try and strike a trade.  He could try and pull off a late May trade like the Byung Hyun Kim trade of 2003.  Sometimes it is easier to swap major league players prior to the trade deadline.  Most sellers at the trade deadline are looking to rebuild with prospects which the Sox don't want to part with this year.  An early trade may make more sense, so Ben Cherington should look to strike soon.  Then if they are still in contention in late July they may consider (strong emphasis on may) trading off some of their prospects.  Or they may take their chances with waiver trades in August, which they've had pretty good luck with in recent memory.  
  • The possibility does exist that this team may not be in serious contention come late July if that is the case the Red Sox will have plenty of pieces that they could trade off without hurting their chances of competing in 2014 and '15.  Players like Stephen Drew, John Lackey, Craig Breslow, Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehera, Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury and a few others could bring back valuable building blocks for the future.  I don't think that they would want to get rid of the key veteran leaders that they acquired this past offseason like David Ross, Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli.  They want those guys to be around to mentor some of the young players that they have on the way.  But, if the LA Dodgers blow their doors off again anything can happen. 
  • Who's untouchable on the major league team? Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks (no other 3B options in the system), Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Junichi Tazawa and David Ortiz (for iconic reasons, "this is our fu%$ing city", and because he continues to produce) are all proving to be valuable core players that they want to continue to build around.  
  • Who's untouchable in the minor leagues? Jackie Bradley Jr, Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa, Bryce Brentz, Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Christian Vasquez, Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart and Henry Owens appear to be untouchables.  Borderline untouchables are Deven Merrero, Garin Cecchini and Sean Coyle.  
Is it too early to think about trades? Do you disagree with any of our evaluations? Let's hash it out in the comments section...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Maineiac Monday Live Chat 5-13-13

Welcome to another Maineiac Monday live chat!  Join the Red Sox Maineiacs tonight at 8 to chat live about the Bruins and Leafs game 7, and a Red Sox season that has run off the rails.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

These are the Times that Test Fan’s Souls

There we were last Friday afternoon, riding a major-league best 20-8 start to the season, boasting a lock-down back-end bullpen, and avoiding any significant injuries.

You know the rest.  

We got swept by the Rangers (note: the Rangers own us.) (another note: I use “we” like I am on the team.  And I don’t care).   Andrew “I am a walking, talking DL trip” Bailey got sore biceps.  The “Joel Hanrahan is good, the hate needs to stop, he is going to be an all-star caliber closer for us, he throws great gas” bandwagon that I’ve been driving hard  on this site and on our Twitter account careened off the road, crashed into a tree, and burst into flames.  There were no survivors.  We damned near had to use Ryan Dempster in a relief role on Monday night.  Then last night David Ross and Will Middlebrooks collided going after a pop up in a play that was a little too reminiscent of the Adrian Beltre and Jacoby Ellsbury collision for my liking.  Both left the game.  As of this writing, they are both day-to-day pending recuperating time for Ross and MRI/CT Scan results for Willie Middle.  

Baseball seasons are long (submission for Captain Obvious statement of the year).  Teams always deal with injuries.  Good teams have good depth and good teams have role players step up to keep the train rolling while guys rehab (I hate to give them any credit, but our rivals in Gotham have stayed in contention all season through an injury plague of biblical proportions).  But it is especially tough when these things come in bunches.  We will now see how this Red Sox team reacts to their first stretch of bad luck in 2013.  Because let’s face it, our 20-8 start was a delicious combination of good luck, chemistry, Boston Strong karma, and legitimately good baseball.  But it’s not going to all be rainbows and candy canes.  These are the times that try baseball player’s souls (bonus points to anybody who can correctly identify the source of this post’s title without Googling).

But it might not all be bad news.  Here are some silver linings:
  • Say it with me now: Allen Webster.  The kid is super nasty.  He gets his second start of the season tonight, and if it goes anything like his first start did, or how his season at AAA has gone, he may be there until October.
  • The Webster call-up, coupled with the taxation on the bullpen, gets Felix Doubront out of the rotation.  The most effective that Doubront has ever been as a pitcher in a Red Sox uniform was when he was working out of the bullpen.  He never showed that he could be anything more than a decent starter with fairly good stuff who could not pitch with efficiency in the rotation.  Now he doesn’t have to worry about efficiency.  He can just fire the hell out of the ball for one or two innings at a time.
  • Maybe taking a seat on the bench for four or five days will be good for Will Middlebrooks.  It will be bad for the Red Sox lineup, especially defensively, but Middlebrooks has been visibly pressing at the plate and could use some time off.  Here’s hoping he uses the time to relax and find some feel good mojo again.  The dude just seems to be gripping the bat too tight and swinging at everything.
  • Maybe Ryan Lavarnway will end up getting another shot in the big leagues and maybe, just maybe, he’ll make the most of it this time.  Here’s a good piece on Lavarnway by Tim Britton at the Projo.  Apparently, he has been working with his old hitting coach and feeling like his old self.  Here’s hoping that if Lavarnway is called up that Salty will never again have to hit right-handed this season.  In fact, I think Salty should abandon the charade that he is a switch-hitter and just call himself a full-time left-handed hitter.
  • Maybe the Red Sox will find that Junichi Tazawa has the stuff to be a full-time major league closer.  Bailey and/or Hanrahan will get the job back this year when they get healthy, but for the long haul they may have a long-term answer under their nose.  Tazawa throws strikes (as opposed to Hanny) and seems to never get hurt (as opposed to Bailey).
  • None of the injuries are season ending injuries.  And with the possible exception of Middlebrooks, none of the injuries are to truly irreplaceable players.  As I said above, as long as Middlebrooks only misses a few days or even two weeks, it might even be good that he gets to sit out a little while.  If he misses a month or more, then forget we ever had this conversation.
  • Our record is still 21-12, folks.  I think if you had told any of us on April 1 that our record on May 8 was going to be 20-12, we have have taken it in a nanillosecond.  We are ahead of the game to this point.  We could be Jays fans (are they cursed?).  Or even Rays fans for that matter (do they exist?).
I don’t know about you, but this has been cathartic for me.  I feel better about settling in tonight to watch a Red Sox team trying to work their way through their first stretch of bad luck in 2013.  Now if I can keep myself away from the negativity on our Twitter timeline, I should be all set.  Fat chance.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Maineiacs Monday Live Chat Twins at Red Sox 5-6-13

Saturday, May 4, 2013

RSM Top Red Sox Prospects- May 2013 Edition

With the new season only one month old, there is not a ton of movement in our rankings from April.  A couple of Sea Dogs starting pitchers have pushed a pair of shortstops  out of the top 12.  And there is  a shuffle or two from the fifth spot down.  There have been hot start for players who probably deserve a higher ranking.  But one great thing about the Sox system, there are at least 15 players ( maybe more!) on this list below who could be accurately described as " Top Ten" type prospects, and who would be in a less deep system.

The number in brackets behind the player's name is April's ranking and the slash lines used for hitters are:

HR/RBI/BA/OBP

For pitchers the slash line used is:

W-L/ERA/K to BB/WHIP

All stats thru May 3rd

1. Xander Bogaerts, SS - Portland {1} Bogaerts got off to a somewhat slow start ( by Xander's standards) attributed by some to some missed ABs due to his World Baseball classic participation. Of late Bogarts has lifted his stats to 2/11/.303/.373.  Recently Xander tripled in three straight games. And in a signal that his pitch selection is improving, he has all ready walked 11 times this year in 23 games. In 2012, he also played exactly 23 games for Portland and walked once!

2. Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF - Pawtucket {2}  All of Sox nation knows how JBJr's March and April went while playing for the Red Sox.  Since going down to AAA Bradley Jr.'s line is 0/4/.302/.400, so Bradley Jr. is still putting up big OBP numbers and will still be an outstanding big league outfielder, possibly before 2013 is over.

3. Allen Webster , SP- Pawtucket {3} Third player on this list who could easily be a #1 guy on many team's list.  Webster who made his major league debut in a spot start vs. KC in April was very solid and easily could have had the win.  At Pawtucket, Allen has followed a sterling spring training by rocketing out of the gate. His line after 4 starts is 1-0/2.70/26-6/0.90. With his fastball in the upper 90s and his great sinker, the clamor has all ready begun to bring Webster's act to Boston full time not just in a cameo role.

4. Matt Barnes, SP- Portland {4}- Barnes seems to be adjusting to AA, after a rough start or two. In his last outing he struck out 10 in 6 IP.  His stat line for the Sea Dogs is 2-1/6.75(mostly due to that bad first start)/27-8/1.75( that bad one inning start again).  If Barnes slides down this list at all in months to come, it will be more likely because of increasingly strong performances from guys below him not due Barnes' AA performance.

5. Bryce Brentz, OF- Pawtucket {6}- Brentz bumps up one spot on the list as the power hitting right fielder has put up a line of 5/20/.257/.324.  One down note is his 25 K's vs. only 9 walks.  Brentz will be in competition with JBJr for a call up to Boston this year if the Sox have an injury in the pasture. This close proximity to big league readiness, pushes Brentz ahead of the next group on the list.

6. Henry Owens, SP- Salem {7}-This tall, young lefty is one guy really, really making a push to climb these ranking even higher.  After a fantastic spring training, Owens has gone to high-A Salem and continued to dominate.  His line after 5 starts is 2-1/2.08/30-8/0.88.  Much to comment on there, 30 strikeouts in only 26 innings, a WHIP of under one, but the keynote speaker is the ERA.. Last year at Greenville, Owens had a very strong year, but with an ERA of 4.87.  Henry in the early going has cut his ERA more than in half!  Even though Owens will not turn 21 until July 21st, do not be shocked if Owens makes his Hadlock Field debut by that 21st birthday.

7. Rubby De La Rosa, SP- Pawtucket {5}  The two spot drop by Rubby really is a combination of the very cautious handling by the Sox post Tommy John surgery and strong starts by Brentz and Owens. Rubby is still very much a top of the line pitching prospect.  He has been held to 12 2/3 IP in 5 games. Expect the organization to turn De La Rosa loose more and more as the year progresses.

8. Garin Cecchini, 3B- Salem {9}  Last month we mentioned that Cecchini could place himself in the future 3B Sox conversation with a big 2013.  Well, he certainly has blasted out of the gate.  He has put up the best offensive April in the system.  His line is 3/15/.389/.481.  Garin has scored 19 runs and has 10 steals in 13 attempts. His outstanding OBP is very reminiscent of JBJr's 2012, also at Salem.  Since Jackie was drafted as a college player, and Cecchini out of high school,  Garin may not be promoted to AA as soon as JBJr was.  But if Cecchini puts up an OBP of nearly.500 for another couple of months, do not bet against it.

9. Blake Swihart, C- Salem {8} Similarly to his 2012 in Greenville, Blake got off to a slow start for a week or two, but is picking up the pace of late.  His line is 0/8/.264/.329.  Despite no home runs yet, of Swihart's 19 hits six are extra base hits ( 2 doubles and 4 triples).  Those triples may be a sign of the possibility of Swihart eventually moving away from catching.

10. Anthony Ranaudo, SP-Portland {15}  The fans in Portland may have seen Ranaudo pitch at Hadlock in 2012 as well, but they most definitely are NOT seeing the same pitcher. After being bothered by a nagging groin injury in 2012, Anthony is healthy and he has been dealing. The 6'7" LSU product has a pitching line in 5 starts of 4-0/1.00/30-6/0.78.  In his last April start, Ranaudo took a perfect game into the sixth.  Very highly regarded by all of baseball since his early LSU days, when healthy, this is one guy who could surpass every other pitcher on this list in terms of an outstanding MLB career ( yeah, even Webster). Three of the Dogs starters are on this top 12 ( and a fourth in the honorable mentions), so get to Portland to see these guys (hopefully on YOUR trip to Hadlock, you will cash in the 80% chance to see a future star.....but today for my first 2013 visit....well knuckleballer Charlie Haeger did pitch 5 innings and K'd 8 in a 2-1 Dogs win in his start.)

11. Brandon Workman, SP- Portland {13} If not for Ranaudo, Brandon Workman the 2012 Red Sox minor league pitcher of the year, would be starting off for a repeat award. Workman did top Ranaudo in the perfect game attempt, Workman took a perfect game into the 7th inning in his last April start. His line so far is 4-0/2.73/34-6/0.71.  It could be a sprint between Ranaudo and Workman to see who gets called to Pawtucket first.  As I said above go to Portland and see the numerous great young stars on the currently first place Sea Dogs.  But in the case of these last two guys, unless you live in Rhode Island, you had better hurry.

12. Ryan Lavarnway, C- Pawtucket {12}  These next couple of months could really decide if Lavarnway has a Red Sox career in front of him.  This April he IS hitting again after a lackluster (Pawsox) to abysmal (Boston) 2012.  His line is 2/12/.333/.435.  His OPS is .953.  If it is true the Red Sox are sniffing around to replace Salty ( as ESPN's Buster Olney recently reported on a WEEI visit) a rejuvenated  Lavarnway might be an OK mate with David Ross behind the dish, though not an ideal platoon with two righty hitters.  Keep an eye on this.

The rest of the Top 12 contenders

13. Deven Marrero, SS {10}- Salem -Currently on DL with minor hamstring issue

14. Jose Iglesias, SS Pawtucket-{11} Despite hitting 3 home runs, his BA/OBP is only .227/.271

15. Christian Vazquez, C - Portland {16}This rifle armed receiver has also hit 2 bombs with a .392
OBP...anything close to that and here is your 2015 Red Sox starting catcher.

16. Alex Wilson, RP {14} -Boston  A definite candidate to graduate from this list soon.

17. Brian Johnson, SP- Greenville {17} High 2012 draftee has 2.30 ERA in first 4 starts

18. Sean Coyle, 2B {NR}- Salem  A red hot start of 7/12/.313/.370 with 19 runs scored his pushed this diminutive second sacker back onto the radar..could be heading further up the list

19. Drake Britton, SP- Portland {19} Fourth young gun for the Sea Dog rotation has 30 K in 30IP

20A. Travis Shaw 1B- Portland {NR} Again this year Shaw is an absolute on base machine with a OBP of .414 and has reached base in every game this year.

20B. Michael Almanzar 1B-3B - Portland  This guy rates a post of his own soon, but the general story is he was a big bonus baby from the DR at age 16.  He then did absolutely nothing until last year when he blossomed at age 21 at Salem by hitting .300 with 12 long balls.  Still a youngster, 2013 could lead Almanzar ( who like Shaw is the son of a former big league pitcher) to a big league career after all.

One last player note is on the RSM favorite son, David Chester.  The big first sacker has gone from Lowell in 2012 to this year's Grenville Drive.  He has shown his prodigious power by smacking 4 homers and 18 RBI.  His BA is only .247 but with a OBP of .368. We will keep you posted on Mr. Chester.

I apologize again for the brief moment of bitterness about my trip to Portland today.  I might have enjoyed Charlie Haeger's actually very strong outing more if Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez, and Travis Shaw had not also enjoyed the day off!  But hey there is no crying in baseball.  Right?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Is Clay Buchholz Throwing Spitballs?

By now, most Red Sox fans have heard the news that Toronto commentators and former major league pitchers Jack Morris and Dirk Hayhurst have accused Clay Buchholz of cheating in his start on Wednesday night by buttering up the baseball with a foreign substance:

Before we dive into this story, here’s a few words from the leading authority on greasing baseballs:

 

Morris and Hayhurst’s comments have led to a mostly hilarious war of words between Toronto’s former-major-leaguers-turned-commentators and Boston’s former-major-leaguers-turned-commentators Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley.  Here’s what Rem Dog and Eck had to say during Thursday’s pre-game show:

Gordon Edes posted a good write-up of the issue yesterday evening with quotes from Morris, Farrell, Buchholz, Salty, and Ross.  It’s a fascinating read.

So is Buchholz buttering up the balls?  Or is he just using the rosin allowed to all pitchers? Is he loading up his hair with vagisil? Or is he just wearing a shirt he hasn’t washed in three years?  I have no idea.  I’m just a guy who watches games on TV from his couch.  But here are some thoughts on the issue, in no particular order:
  • The first thought I had when I heard about this story breaking was about our comments in our live chat on Wednesday night.  There was a stretch in the middle innings when Buchholz walked a batter or two and Barry made a comment that his pitches were moving so much that he couldn’t control them.  Spitball-type movement? Maybe.  
  • Also in our live chat on Wednesday, we talked repeatedly about how filthy Buchholz is.  And by filthy, we meant the movement on his pitches, specifically his two-seamer and his change-up.  But also filthy in terms of his hair, scraggly pre-teen beard, and porn stache.  It would be pretty easy to load that hair up with some substance, rub his hands through it (which he was seen doing repeatedly), and get some extra movement on the ball.
  • Random Side Note: Buchholz may be filthy and wear a shirt he hasn’t washed in three years, but he gets to go home every night to this:

Life isn’t fair.
  • To me, the best defense of Buchholz that I heard from anyone was from David Ross.  Ross said, “I touch the ball as much as Buch does and I know when a pitcher is messing with the ball.  He’s not putting anything on it.  And that shirt he wears is about 40 years old”.  Since Buch is only 28 years old (I’m 19 days older than Buchholz.  Excuse me while I go stare wistfully out the window and wonder what has happened to the passage of time whilst a singular tear runs down my cheek...and I’m back), apparently he’s wearing a shirt made twelve years before he was born.
  • Check out this picture from Hayhurst’s twitter feed:

  That looks pretty damning to me. Buchholz and Farrell claim he had nothing but rosin on his forearm, but isn’t rosin a chalky white substance? I don’t see anything chalky on his forearm, only grease.  If is was rosin, why wouldn’t he be loading it on his entire hand instead of only his fingertips that grip the ball?
  • The main argument that Remy and Eck keep making is that somehow Morris and Hayhurst are unqualified to make these claims.  Eck has dismissed Hayhurst’s claims by saying he is a “career minor leaguer who shouldn’t be getting any play” and Morris’ by saying, “Jack Morris is a guy that can’t even make it to the Hall of Fame yet, and he’s chirping over there - zip it”.  Eckersley needs to look up the term “ad hominem”.  Making a counter-argument by attacking the character of the speaker rather than addressing the argument itself is fallacious and counter-productive.  Morris and Hayhurst could be the worst pitchers in the history of the major leagues and still be able to see when a guy is greasing up his hands and getting a foot of movement on his pitches.  If, you know, that’s what happened.  I better stop right there before Eck starts attacking my character or credentials.
  • Salty’s response to Morris in Edes’ article is baffling.  According to Morris, Salty responded to Morris’ claims by saying, “it gets dry in Boston.  I’ve seen him put water all over his pants”.  Really?  It gets dry in Boston?  If that’s really what Salty said to Morris, then that’s not only the dumbest response I’ve ever heard, but Morris was absolutely in the right to doubt him and respond, “Salty, this isn’t my first f***ing rodeo”.
  • I give Morris credit for not just hiding in his press box and making his claims.  He went right up to John Farrell, Salty, and Ross and confronted them face-to-face.
  • Buchholz’s responses in Edes’ article are baffling, too.  Buchholz says, “Loading up with what, rosin?  I get wet from my hair.  Are they talking about the stains on my shirt?”.  Buchholz goes in three different directions in three consecutive sentences.  Seems kind of fishy, that’s all.
  • I also find it hilarious that Salty called out Vicente Padilla for throwing a spitball last year in Edes’ article.  According to Salty, “I’d see Padilla get water from the back of his head, and the ball would sink six inches or so”.  If I was Salty, I’d be looking into the witness protection program about now.
  • Nobody from the Jays dugout ever asked the umpire to check the ball or Buchholz.  Now, it’s unclear whether John Gibbons actually has coherent thoughts during the game or whether he is even watching the game, but still.  You would think somebody would be noticing from field level if Buch was loading the ball or getting absurd movement or rotation on his pitches.
  • Until Buchholz is proven to be cheating or told to stop from an umpire or Joe Torre or Bud Selig or Major League Baseball, I hope the hell he keeps doing what he’s doing.  He’s 6-0 and has looked like the best pitcher in baseball so far in 2013.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Red Sox Maineiacs Live Chat Tonight at 7:00pm!

Join us as we chat live during a busy night of Boston sports. We'll be talking about the Red Sox as they take on the Blue Jays, the Bruins as they open their playoff run against the Maple Leafs, and the Celtics as they try to hold onto their playoff lives against the Knicks:   

The Hanrahan Hate Has Gone Too Far

Scene: Big Joel Hanrahan lumbers out to the mound to pitch the 8th inning last night in Toronto.  The Red Sox are behind 8-7 at the time.  This is Hanrahan’s first appearance since being placed on the DL for a sore hammy.  Suddenly, the Red Sox Maineiacs‘ twitter time line blows up (all tweets are paraphrased):

“OH GOD HEART ATTACK HANRAHAN, WHERE’S MY WINE?!!?!”
“Why is Hanrahan in a high-leverage situation in his first appearance back from the DL?”
“I would have gone with Koji here. Can’t trust Hanrahan.”  

Big Hanny rocks and fires hot cheese at 97+ to his first batter J.P. Arencibia.  Arencibia responds by cracking a scorcher for a single.  The tweets continue:

“Hanrahan sucks.”
“Oh god, here we go again!”
"GAHH I CAN'T TAKE WATCHING HANRAHAN PITCH"

Hanny Hard Stuff deals to Maicer Izturis, who sac bunts Arencibia to second base.  Hanrahan jumps off the mound to field the bunt and makes the put-out. His hammy appears fine.  Tweet:

“Fielding that bunt was a good test for Hanrahan’s hamstring. Actually throwing strikes would be a good test for his arm.”

Hanny Heater rocks and fires to Colby Rasmus, who hits a routine grounder to second base, only it scoots on the turf and gets by Dustin Pedroia.  This would have been an easy out in any ballpark in the majors with a grass infield.  Arencibia scores.  Twitter erupts:

“F***ing Hanrahan! What a sack of s***!”
“Put a pair of goggles on Hanrahan and he is Eric Gagne
“Hanrahan should absolutely not be allowed anywhere near a close game”
“If anybody needs proof why Bailey should keep the closer job, this is #exhibitA”
“Hanrahan should have stayed on the DL”

Han the Man then gets Munenori Kawasaki (who looks like a 7th grader and wears a breathe-right strip on his nose for crying out loud) and Brett Lawrie to end the inning.  If you’re scoring at home, The Hanra-hand grenade gave up one legit single, one turf single, and recorded three outs.  He threw 97+ mph, looked rusty with his slider, fielded a bunt, and escaped with only one run given up.  Twitter reacts as though it were the worst outing by a Red Sox reliever since Vaughn Eshelman toed the rubber (I actually have no idea if Eshelman was bad out of the pen or not, I just wanted to fulfill a life-long dream of working Vaughn Eshelman into a blog post).

I don’t get it.

Joel Hanrahan is a prototypical end-of-the-bullpen guy.  He’s big, he throws 97-98 mph, and he doesn’t seem to get overly-emotional.  He hasn’t done a great job of hitting his spots consistently this year, but he’s throwing gas.  To me, the amount of hard hit balls off of him is puzzling.  I would like to see him continue to develop a secondary pitch to keep hitters from sitting dead red, but what else do you want for makeup of a bullpen guy?  The Twitter Haters love to call Hanrahan a goggles-less Eric Gagne...but is that really an insult?  Let’s remember, Gagne has the third most saves (55) ever recorded in a single season.  Gagne won the 2003 NL Cy Young as a closer! He was sixth in MVP voting that season...again, as a closer! Hanrahan and Gagne are both the kind of horses you want throwing at the end of games.  The key is to own these pitchers before their careers careen off a cliff, as they usually do (Gagne, Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Broxton, etc.).  I’m just not buying that Hanrahan is falling off a cliff.  His stuff is still just too damn electric.

Let’s take a quick stroll through Hanrahan’s appearances this season, to try to find where all this hate is coming from:

April 1 - 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 K, 0 BB, 12 pitches, 8 strikes
April 3 - 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 21 pitches, 14 strikes (Save)
April 5 - 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K, 1 BB, 16 pitches, 8 strikes (Save)
April 8 - 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 K, 0 BB, 16 pitches, 10 strikes (Save)
Total: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 K, 1 BB, 65 pitches, 40 strikes, 3 saves, 0 blown saves

Clearly, through four appearances, Hanrahan was lights out.  Here comes the stinker:

April 10 - 0.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 1 K, 2 BB, 1 WP, 32 pitches, 18 strikes, (Blown Save)

The Red Sox had a 5-3 lead when Big Hanny entered, and a 8-5 deficit when he left without finishing the 9th inning.  But if you remember (and I sure as hell do), Hanrahan had a chance to close out the win with the bases loaded still ahead 5-4 with Nate McClouth at the plate.  The 2-2 pitch was a goddamned strike, but Salty The Incompetent flipped his glove around and caught it awkwardly, leading to a called ball three.  With a 3-2 count, Hanrahan threw another strike that Salty had to reach across the plate for.  The ump called ball four and the wheels completely came off from there.  But if Salty knew how to play the catcher position and receive a pitch correctly, Hanrahan would have saved this game too (albeit in ugly fashion) and he might still have his job regardless of his DL trip.  Three days later, Big Joel walked two batters without recording an out, was replaced, sent to the DL, and probably lost his closer job for good (that is until the inevitable Andrew Bailey injury.  Sorry, I had to).

Where does this go from here?  It seems as though John Farrell will elect to keep Andrew Bailey as his closer.  I have no problem with that.  Bailey is an all-star closer who has been lights out this year.  Hanrahan could be one of the best 8th inning guys in the majors if he gets a little tighter with his command and secondary pitch(es).  But I hope to hell the loud Hanrahan haters out there in Red Sox Nation tone it down some.  How about this for an idea?  Let’s support the guy.  Let’s realize that we have a potential bullpen stud here before we deride him to the point his confidence evaporates a la Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, or Daniel Bard.  So the next time Joel The Hammer Hanrahan takes the bump, I’ll be cheering for him to shut up all the haters.  If you call yourself a real Red Sox fan, you should too.