Monday, August 26, 2013

Survivor-Red Sox Nation ( grueling 19 game stretch ends)

Ever since it became apparent that the 2013 Red Sox were honestly gonna be in a pennant race, the dark hole in their schedule was the stretch from August 5- 25. The team would play 19 games in that time with 16 away games, with a quick pit stop at Fenway to play the Yankees three games.

That part of the schedule is now over and how did it go?  Well, the most accurate answer is the Red Sox survived.  They began the 19 games in Houston and at the time were one game up on Tampa Bay. And despite the fact at one point the lead grew to 4 games during the first road trip, the Red Sox left Los Angeles with the same one game lead ( which will be 1 1/2 games before they take the field at Fenway Tuesday night, after a 11-1 shellacking of the Rays by Kansas City today).  The Sox basically split the 19 game challenge, going 9-10.  So they did not extend their lead, but held serve and took about three more weeks off the calendar.   Here are the updated American League overall standings :

1. Detroit        77-53        --
2. Boston        77-55         1
3. Texas          77-55         1
4. Tampa Bay 74-55         2 1/2
5. Oakland      72-57         4 1/2
6. Cleveland    71-59         6        ( unreal, great job so far by Tito!)
7.Baltimore     70-59          6 1/2
8. New York   69-61         8
9. Kansas City 66-64         11   ( short of a Dodgers-like streak, they are really no longer in the race)

So the same as our post two weeks ago, as of today the one game wild card playoff game would be the Rays and A's.  At this stage as far as the AL East goes both the Sox and the Rays are in a good spot to clinch at least one of the wild cards.  Both the Orioles and the Yankees best bet seems to be catching Oakland. And yes, I will admit the Yanks are still in "the race", but I think it is the Wild card race.  It would very difficult for them to pass all of the Sox, Rays, and Orioles.  And any chance Baltimore or New York has of sprinting to a playoff berth is directly entwined with Boston's pennant aspirations.  The Red Sox have seven games left with the Bronx Bombers and nine with the Birds of Baltimore.

To elaborate on that last point, one thing that has not changed in the last two weeks is that the Red Sox must play very well ( or hopefully beat up on) both the Yankees and the Orioles.  Boston has 30 games left and 16 are with their two rivals. With New York the Sox have four games in the Bronx ( Sept 5-8) and three at Fenway (Sept 13-15)--all seven games in an 11 day period!  The Red Sox have three 3 game sets with the O's.  Six in Boston( the next three nights and Sept 17-19) and the last three games of the regular season are at Camden Yards.

One thing has changed about the make up of the remaining Sox schedule since our 3/4 pole post.  At that time the Sox had 41 games to go 21 home/20 away.  Now, with all of the August road games behind them, the Red Sox, as mentioned,  have only 30 games to go, but the split is now 18 at Fenway and only 12 on the road. and since the last five are on the road, the Sox are entering a stretch of 18 of 25 at home.

The other major, major factor in September for Boston is because they have played more games so far than their AL East opponents, they have 4 off days to rest and possibly line up pitching ( two of the off days are both during the last week on the road).  This leads us to our next topic which is Tampa Bay's schedule. ( since the Sox have ample chance to put a head to head dent in the Yanks and O's, we will look at the Rays schedule more closely than the others).

Back at the All Star break, Buster Olney of ESPN did a column on the teams with the most difficult second half sked and the Rays were chosen as the toughest.  Here are the Rays remaining 33 games.

Aug 27-29 home vs. Angels  (3)
 Aug 30- Sept 8  West coast trip, 3 in Oakland, 4 in Anaheim, and 3 in Seattle( no off days)
Sept. 9 Off day- the ONLY off day left for the Rays for the rest of the season. ( and it comes after traveling back from a long west coast trip and before hosting...)
Sept. 10-12  home vs. Boston  only games left with the Sox
Sept. 13-15  back out onto the road for three in Minnesota.
Sept. 16-23  Last home stand of the year, but it is 4 games each with Texas and then the O's.
Sept. 24-29  Finishes season with 6 game trip 3 in NY and 3 north of the border vs. Jays.

First let us look for some positives for the Rays.  They get the hapless Twins, albeit on the road. ( But Boston gets the even more hapless AL Central White Sox and Boston gets them at home). The Rays get to finish with the last place Jays, again on the road.  One other possible advantage from now until Sept.20, they have only three AL East games ( Boston), so it is possible the Sox, Yanks, and O's could beat up on each other.  But that also means at least one of those teams are winning most nights as well.

I do not see any other plusses to that Rays schedule, but here are few negatives.

1. Only three head to head games with the team they need to catch for the division: Boston.
2. The afore mentioned only one day off, this could be huge for the Red Sox.
3. From the standings above the Rays must play 5 of the other 8 contenders ( 6 if you count today's game with KC) Besides their AL East competitors they also get Texas and Oakland.
4. They still have the nearly always brutal 3 city west coast trip for 10 games in 10 days.
5. The Rays have three  4 game series.  It is seemingly much, much more difficult to sweep a four games series than a three.  This could add a loss or three to their tally, especially since two of the series are with Texas and the Orioles( granted, both in St. Pete).
6. Only 14 games at Trop and 19 on the road.

Sometimes, schedule analysis means bumpkus, but I definitely would rather have the Red Sox schedule than Tampa Bay's.

HAVE ANY OF THE 3/4 POLE QUESTIONS BEEN ANSWERED??

First we questioned the Clay Buchholz status.  Can he come back?  As of today it appears the answer is going to be yes.  Clay pitched at Lowell in a rehab games yesterday with mixed stat results, but said he felt great.  He is currently in line to pitch for either Pawtucket or Portland this Friday.  If he has no other setbacks, he could pitch after this for Boston.

A related question concerned the rest of the starting staff.  That seems to be pointing in a very positive direction.  On the recently concluded six game trip the Sox starters ERA was 1.17!  In the Dodger series both John Lackey and Jake Peavy pitched complete games and Jon Lester who won his 12th game on Saturday, may have pitched better than either John or Jake. Lester was also dominant versus the Giants.  Felix Doubront may have also hurled his best effort of the year versus SF.

The next question mark was the 8th inning set up situation.  It is no clearer than before,  Tazawa and Workman still seem to be the leading candidates.

Question number three was Mike Napoli.  And maybe just maybe, the slugger is coming to life.  Mike was 5 for 8 with 4 RBI in the last two Dodger games.  And the home run he hit at Dodger Stadium may land by Tuesday!  His rep ( and his career stats) is big Septembers and let us hope he is on track to do that again.  Also in LA, Dustin Pedroia showed signs of breaking out of his long slump at the bat     ( and remained outstanding with his glove).

The final question was the third base situation where I had admitted I was wrong to think the Red Sox were recalling Xander Bogaerts over Will Middlebrooks. Glory be, I may have hit the daily double.  Not only has Middlebrooks hit and fielded well upon his recall ( BA of .366 and OBP of .460), but uber-prospect Bogaerts also joined Boston at the start of the west coast trip.  And for the moment John Farrell is billing Xander as the SS/3B backup, after an o-fer in his first big league start, Xander has three hits including a RBI double in his last 5 AB's.  This could get really interesting, as shortstop Stephen Drew has hit well of late, too.

So here we sit Red Sox nation, 30 games to go.  In first place by 1 1/2 games over the Rays, 5 1/2 and 7 over the O's and Yanks.  I still think the division title rest on taking about 10 or 11 of the 16 games with NY/Baltimore and taking a real advantage of the next 18 of 25 being at home ( in addition the 18 are perfectly spilt into a pair of nine game homestands---none of this in for three and back on the road and back again).  I really believe with the starting pitchers catching fire and some hitters waking for their slumps, the Sox are positioned for a drive to the AL East crown, and hopefully more.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Red Sox Lead the AL Field at the Three Quarter Pole

 With 41 games remaining on the Red Sox schedule they have completed three quarters of the 2013 season. ( Or for you mathematicians out there, will be at 3/4 half way through tonight's game, leaving 40 1/2 games to go).  Here are the AL East standings as of this morning ( August 14):

STANDINGS

1. Boston                -
2. Tampa Bay         4
3. Baltimore            6
4. New York           9 1/2
5. Toronto              17

If even the most optimistic Sox fan was given this glimpse into the future on Opening Day ( or better yet on the last day of the 2012 season)  they would have jumped for joy.  Of course 41 games is still a lifetime to go ( sadly, refer back just two years ago in Sox lore), but it is still a wonderful position for the Red Sox to be in.

Toronto, of course is out ( and have been in reality since late April) and our rivals in New York are all but out  as well.  Of course, the team does not think this way, but some Gotham reporters are all ready printing articles about how it is in the best interest of the Yankees future to lose enough games coming down the stretch to put the Yanks in the top ten draft picks for 2014. ( sound familiar Sox Nation?). With about 25% of the schedule vs. the Bronx Bombers ( 10 of 41), the Red Sox hope to do their part to give New York a higher draft pick.

That leaves Baltimore and Tampa Bay as the direct challengers to Boston in the AL East.  How do you judge the Rays when the go on a 21-4 streak in July and now have lost 6 in a row and counting.  (Boston has gone 4-4 on the current road trip, so far, and extended their lead from 1 1/2 games to 4!). The longer the Sox can keep the Rays 4 or more games behind, the schedule creates a big advantage, the Sox and Rays only meet three more times, limiting Tampa Bay's head to head chances to catch Boston. The Red Sox ability to hang onto the AL East crown may largely depend on the ability to beat Baltimore.  The Sox took 2 of 3 in their last meeting, perhaps a reversal beginning from Boston's lack of success versus the Birds in recent years.

Of course, winning the division in the newest MLB playoff format is huge, allowing a team to bypass the one and ( maybe) done wild card game.  But let us take a look at the overall AL standings covering all teams in the Divisional and/or Wild card hunt.

1. Boston              -
2. Detroit               1 1/2
3. Texas                 2 1/2
4. Oakland             3 1/2
5. Tampa Bay        4
6. Baltimore           6
7. Cleveland           7 1/2
8 .Kansas City          8
9. New York            9 1/2

Five of these teams get in and as of today the A's and Rays would play the one game "series".  The Sox currently have a 6 game lead over the sixth spot, which would be out of the playoffs.  Again great spot to be sitting in.

SCHEDULE

Here is a look at and breakdown of the remaining games for the regular season for the Sox:

August 14-15 at Toronto (2)
August 16-18  Yankees at home (3)
August 19-25  Six game west coast trip three each at Giants and Dodgers.
Aug. 27-Sept. 4  Next to last homestand of the year, nine games three each with Orioles, White Sox, and Tigers

Sept5-12  Seven game trip to Yankees (4) and Rays (3)--last three with Tampa Bay
Sept 13-22  Last home stand of regular season, nine games again. 3 each with NY, O's, and Jays.
Sept 23-29 Five game ending road trip( with 2 off days counting the 23rd), 2 in Colorado and finishing with 3 in Baltimore.

That is 41 games remaining, 21 home, 20 away.  A list of games left by opponent:

10 Yankees
 9  Orioles
 5  Jays (including the next two nights- only 3 thereafter.)
 3  each with Rays, Giants, Dodgers, White Sox, and Tigers
 2 Rockies.

A few quick comments:

*As mentioned above if the Sox can dominate( or at least take each series) with the O's and Yanks, they will win the AL East.

*From Sept. 2 on the Sox play only the Tigers and the rest of the AL East( 'cept for the Rockies).

*Speaking of the Rockies series, two games with no DH in the LAST week of the season?? If this race is not decided then, Papi better oil up the first base mitt.

* Not that this always means anything, but the Red Sox have 11 game left with last place teams ( Jays, White Sox and Giants), and only two first place teams for a total of 6 games(Tigers, Dodgers)

*If the Sox can get back from next week's interleague west coast trip to San Fran and LA with lead still 4 games or better, I think their chances to win the AL East go up dramatically.

QUESTIONS GOING FORWARD

1. Clay Buchholz.  This is of course two questions ( OK, three questions)

* Will he return to pitch this season?
* Will he be anywhere nearly as outstanding as his 9-0 start if he can come back?
* is it really true the Sox cannot go all the way without Clay?

Three quick answers (opinions): Yes Buchholz will pitch again, by the end of August, and no he will not match his start, but will certainly help down the stretch.  But, if these first two answers are wrong and he shuts it down for 2013, I am in a small minority that thinks this team can win the World Series with its current rotation.  Winning the division, will be a huge step in that direction and avoiding David Price, Yu Darvish, etc. in a one game wild card playoff.  After that I think Lackey, Lester, Peavy, and Doubront can win any post season series.

2. The 8th inning.  The Red Sox have certainly found their closer,  thanks Koji, but have they have yet to find a shutdown 8th inning set up man.  Not really, Junichi Tazawa has been very good and seemingly is finding his velocity again of late,  but his penchant for giving up the longball is unsettling.  I still think Tazawa needs to be the guy, but I think Breslow or one or two of the kids can be the answer ( Brandon Workman, especially).

3. Mike Napoli.  He continues to slump and is getting ready to remove Mark Bellhorn's name from the Red Sox record book. ( Most K's in a season, 177).  Farrell has bumped him down to batting sixth.   Napoli's April lead Sox fans to believe he was something he is not.  His performance overall this year (until this most recent slump, anyway) is very close to Mike's career numbers.  Here is one thing to hang our hats on.  In Napoli's entire career, statistically his best month is September.  Let's hope.

4. Third Base.  OK, I was wrong. Will Middlebrooks got the call for now not Xander Bogaerts.  And in the very early returns, Middlebrooks seems to be slowly getting back to the 2012 Will.  This can be huge if Middlebrooks steps forward and can help provide the right handed power Napoli currently is not.  If Middlebrooks has his head screwed on straight, this is a great sign not only for this pennant drive, but for a future left side of infield of Bogaerts at SS and Will at third both suppling power.


TEAM CHARACTER

Whatever that term means this club has it.  They win so many games that look lost.  And they compete until the last out every night.  Feel free to add any other cliche here ____________________________.
This team is fun to root for and I will be doing just that for the rest of the 2013 ride.  Enjoy.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cousin Jason's Cooler Season 2 Episode 2

Welcome back to the cooler! It was great to get back in the saddle last week and write the cooler for RSM Nation to partake in. The Maine weather this week has certainly started to turn towards autumn, which means the home stretch for the Sox regular season, the start of the NFL, Fantasy Football drafts, and for 3 of the Maineiacs back to school. In the meantime, let's see what is iced down this week:

Sox Pack
1. We mentioned it last week, the Red Sox 3B conundrum. Apparently, we are still in a holding pattern with the monster platoon of Brandon Snyder and Brock Holt. Two things that jump out to me with this development, Will Middlebrooks may never play another game for the Boston Red Sox and the Red Sox truly want Xander Bogaerts to be fully developed before he makes it to the show. Let's start with Willie Middle, I refuse to believe that he would not be better than Brandon Snyder. Given that premise, how is it that he is still playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox? His star has apparently faded with the Boston front office, until the AAA season ends it appears as though Middlebrooks will remain there. Even then how many ABs will he get in Boston during a pennant race if he is not better than Snyder and Holt currently? I would wager that Middlebrooks is traded in the off-season, regardless. As for the prized possession, the Sox front office, which is way smarter than Red Sox Nation, obviously knows that pushing Bogaerts to Boston could cause damage to his Hall of Fame future. I still think that not recalling him has more to do with starting his MLB clock than anything else, along with the fact that he is not yet 21 years of age (Red Sox fans will have to wait until October 1st to buy Xander an adult beverage). His arrival after the AAA season will most assuredly take away ABs from the other 3B candidates, which further hurts Middlebrooks.
2. Stephen Drew, say loud, say proud, the Boston Red Sox shortstop is STEPHEN DREW! In a season of magical moments, other than Johnny Gomes, Drew might be the most clutch of all the Boston nine. What a big HR last night in Houston to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Jose Who? The big question with Drew going forward is do the Sox re-sign him for 2014 and beyond or do they let him walk and put Xander Bogaerts in the middle?
3. Sticking with shortstop, with Drew's play and the tremendous first start for Jake Peavy, the trade of Jose Iglesias so far ranks second in the all-time fleecing's pulled off by the Red Sox. A certain trade of Heathcliff Slocumb "If you got'em" for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe being the only one to top it. Remember when Red Sox Nation wanted to run Ben Cherington out of town last season? Me neither, the man has proved to be roster management wizard in 2013.
4. Another great question once the offseason rolls around is what will become of Jacoby Ellsbury? Ellsbury is starting to heat up with two bombs in Houston on Tuesday night. It is quite possible the Ells goes off for the final two months of the season, similar to the 2011 MVP-esque season he put up, in a push to make his nut in free agency. Is there any chance that the Sox re-up with the CF or will the fact that he is represented by Scott Boras mean he is sure to follow the cash?
5. Some issues still linger with this Sox team, despite already topping the 2012 win total, and only needing to go 25-21 for the remainder of the season to get to 95 wins, which is my personal barometer for making the post-season. Those issues include more shakiness from Jon Lester and Ryan Dempster. Speaking of Lester apparently his Temple Run tweet mentioned last week was done by his 3 year old son on Dad's iPhone, some might find this questionable but not me. Having a 7 and 4 year old, they are quite handy with the Apple products and Temple Run, so Lester gets a pass on the Tweet, however as many of his followers responded and #31 agreed, Dad needs to pitch better. I'm resigned to the fact that Dempster is what he is, a Dumpster Fire! Sure he'll eat some innings but in the post-season he is resigned to cheerleading, long relief, and mop-up duty. Another issue is Mike Napoli, where have you gone Mr. April? Napoli had an MRI on his hip earlier this week show that there has been no degeneration in the hip but there certainly has been a degeneration in Napoli's hitting of the baseball. The 1B will most definitely break Mark Bellhorn's single season team record of 177 strikeouts. Other than the Sunday night game against the Yankees, Napoli has been a non-factor for going on 3 months. If the Sox are truly going to contend in the post-season they are going to need all 3 of these veterans to get going.
6. Finally, the other issue that appears to be rearing its ugly head is the Sox relationship with the umpires. Sure, the umpiring has been questionable at best but this is a recurring theme with the Sox over the last couple of seasons. Remember Youkilis, Beckett, and Lester always bitching about pitches? Now, we have nightly someone becoming upset with the umpires like last night's ejection of Shane Victorino. Again if the Sox are going to contend in the post-season they need to stop worrying about the officiating and get it done on the field.

Random Shooters
- Cousin Jason traveled to Pat's Pizza in Augusta last night with his "little buddies" mentioned in last week's chaser. With Cousin Jason navigating, believe me that trip to Fenway came up. Always good times with the little buddies!
- Are the Kansas City Royals the most dangerous team in the AL right now? When Bruce Chen is carving you up I think so.
- Anyone else perplexed by John Farrell's move to pinch run Drake Britton last night for David Ortiz? It turned out to be a moot point, but I got to believe having a pitcher run, unless he is Usain Bolt, does not give you a huge upgrade over Big Papi. Maybe once he gets to second but, on first?
- As NESN's post game coverage starts, I wonder what Maine location is Tom Caron taking a vacation too? I also wonder, who is this Adam character Sox fans have been subjected to this week?

Chaser
We return to Friendly Fenway this week with a trip from April 18, 1991. Cousin Jason, Barry, and Deacon Art along with others traveled to Boston during April vacation to see the Sox take on the Royals. Along with our $3 bleachers seat tickets, we got a clinic put on by Red Sox pitcher Joe Hesketh and infielder Tim Naehring. As an infielder myself, I was enthralled with Naehring's presentation, especially his fielding apparatus of a batting glove attached to a piece of wood to help him with soft hands and fielding the ball cleanly. I loved the thing and made one myself when I got home. Apparently Naehring's was built with better quality workmanship than mine as my stapled on batting glove soon ripped to shreds. As far as the game goes, we got to see a doozy as Roger Clemens took on Bret Saberhagen, before his shoulder became mincemeat. Both were outstanding, Clemens gave up 3 hits over 8 with 10 K's and Saberhagen gave up 4 hits and the lone unearned run over 7 innings. Several greats were involved in this game with George Brett and Kirk Gibson in the line-up for the Royals while Wade Boggs and "The Gator" Mike Greenwell played for the Sox. Jeff Reardon, RIP, came on to save it for the Sox. The other thing I remember about this trip was that it was drizzly and overcast on the morning drive but by the end of the game we all had sunburns from the blazing sun in the bleachers.

Bottoms up, enjoy the remaining summer, and Go Sox!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

RSM Top 12 Red Sox Prospects--August 2013

With just days less than a month to go in the minor league seasons, RSM presents our latest rankings of the future members of the "next great Red Sox team".  As mentioned last month, we are now adding this year's draftees to our considered candidates for this list.  We also speculated that a name or three may be traded at the deadline.  That did not happen as two names that had appeared here in the past year or so ( Jose Iglesias and Brandon Jacobs) and one who just missed July's honorable mention list (Frank Montas) were the only names of consequence dealt.  There have been seven players promoted a level since July's list: Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Drake Britton( twice: from Portland to Pawsox to the Show), Mookie Betts, and RSM favorite son, David Chester.

Slash line used for hitters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP and for pitchers it is W-L/ERA/K-BB

Here is the August Top 12 ( with another dozen plus names thrown in) The number behind the player is July's ranking.

1. Xander Bogaerts, SS( for now)- Pawtucket ( for now) {1}.  Who else? Bogaerts was all ready the most anticipated Sox prospect in many years, and in the last month his stature is sky rocketing throughout all of MLB.  He starred in the Futures Game during the All Star festivities in NYC. His numbers at AAA have been going in a steady upward plane.  Last night ( Aug. 3), he had a 30 game streak of reaching base snapped. For the year to date, AA and AAA both, he has 14 homers, 21 doubles, 6 triples and an OBP of .392.  He has also walked 59 times.  With the trade of Iglesias, speculation is rampant that Xander will join Boston to play third base soon.  Lou Merloni has opined he believes the Red Sox will recall Bogaerts at the start of their nine game road trip in Houston.  As I write this, that trip starts tomorrow! Are we only hours from the beginning of the Xander Bogaerts era in Boston??

2. Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF-Pawtucket {2}. In some quarters, Bradley's star has dimmed due to the ascension of Bogaerts and the fact he did not shine in April in Boston.  Do not listen to those people! Bradley is very much on pace to be the 2014 Red Sox center fielder.  This is assuming the free agent departure of Jacoby Ellsbury.  Bradley can and will provide everything Ellsbury does except for the bushels of stolen bases.  Bradley has a AAA line this year of 8/26/.278/.378.  He is currently on the 7 day DL with that elbow twinge, that removed him from the July 31 Pawtucket game and set the Twitterverse aflame with what turned out to be unfounded trade rumors.

3. Garin Cecchini, 3B- Portland {4}.  Cecchini has continued to tear up the Eastern League since his promotion from Salem in late June.  At Portland his line is 2/14/.300/.413.  Cecchini also figures into the Rubik's cube future of the left side of the Sox infield.  If Bogaerts can remain at shortstop long term, the third sack may be a battle between Will Middlebrooks and Cecchini.  If Garin can keep putting up plus .400 OBP, he may well be the eventual claimant of the job.

4. Henry Owens, P- Portland {7} It is almost impossible to believe the month of July put together by Owens.  And due to that he was just edged out for third on this list by millimeter.  As Owens finished his stint at Salem in what turned out to be his last four starts at Class A, Henry spun a hitless streak of 19 1/3 innings. That is hitless, not just scoreless.  He left Salem with a line of 8-5/2.92/123-53 in 104 innings.  On August 3, Owens made his Sea Dogs debut with six scoreless innings with 11 K's vs. Bowie.  The 11 K's were a personal pro high and only 3 off the team record, I believe.  Owens is likely slated to return to Portland to begin 2014, but if he dominates the Eastern League like he did last night, he may start in AAA at age 21( during his wonderful July, Owens also turned 21 on the 21st) next year instead.

5. Brandon Workman, P- Pawtucket-Boston.  {11}  The huge jump up our list by the Texan is not only based on his future but on what he actually accomplished in Boston in July after his recall.  Brought up to help the pen, he was slotted into the rotation due to circumstances.  All he did was pitch 6 no-hit innings( in a tough Sox loss) versus the first place A's, and put up an ERA of 3.54 in 20 innings and picked up his first big league win.  At this moment, Workman is back in AAA due to needing a fresh bullpen arm after a 15 inning game, and to give Workman some bullpen experience.  He will be back very soon, and will help this year's team.. Many, if not most, scouts see Workman as a reliever in the bigs.  I have a feeling Brandon just might fool those scouts and become a very solid mid rotation starter in the future.( near future).

6. Anthony Ranudo, P- Pawtucket {5}-  Ranaudo, the LSU product, completed his year at Portland with a line of 8-4/2.95/106-40 and had a WHIP of 1.09.  Ranaudo struggled in two showcase events: the AA All Star Game and the Futures Game ( one of his hits allowed in this game was to Bogaerts).  But he regrouped after returning to Portland after these games disrupted his usual routine.  Ranaudo has been recalled to Pawtucket after spending all of last year and this at Portland.  And he will make his AAA debut tonight ( Aug. 4) in a game televised on NESN.

7. Allen Webster, P- Pawtucket {3}  Webster has been up and down in his big league trials this year
(mostly down with a 9.57 ERA).  He has also been somewhat inconsistent in AAA, largely due to some command issues.  Although Webster had a dozen strikeouts in his most recent start.  Webster possesses the nasty sinker and a 98 mph fastball, and if he can harness the control, he can still be a very effective big league starter.

8. Matt Barnes, P- Portland {9}. Barnes is the first name on this list who has not been promoted during this season ( with the days ago recalls of Owens and Ranaudo).  And at this point in time Barnes is the remaining Sea Dog starter from the Opening Day big four of Workman, Britton, Ranaudo, and Barnes.  His numbers have not been what he or the Sox had hoped for, but Barnes has been on the rise in his performance lately.  Despite an overall W-L and ERA of 5-7 and 4.38, Barnes has a K/BB of 113/37. Barnes may very well pitch an entire season at Hadlock Field, but he is in line for beginning 2014 at Pawtucket.

9. Blake Swihart, C- Salem {10} This 21 year old ( born April 3, 1992) would be a top four prospect in many, many other organizations. His line this season at Salem is 2/33/.281/.357 merited consideration for a higher ranking on this list, but there are just so many good players closer to the bigs ahead of Blake.  He is completely on target to be in competition with Christian Vazquez as the catcher of the future in Boston.

10. Trey Ball, P- GCL Red Sox {NR}- This year's Red Sox first round pick at #7 overall is just sticking his toe in the pro baseball water. So far, Ball has pitched twice for a total of 2 2/3 innings. His Top Ten ranking is based on his ceiling of a top of the rotation lefty.  For example, Clayton Kershaw was taken at #7 overall in his draft year. Just sayin'!

11 Rubby De La Rosa, P- Boston {8}  De La Rosa has just been recalled by Boston to join their bullpen. ( Rubby was recalled a month or so ago, but went back to AAA without pitching).  Hopefully this time the Sox will see how his power arm can help in the pen.  Like Webster, the one question about De La Rosa is his ability to throw strikes.  And recently his performances at Pawtucket have not been as good as earlier in the season.  Some have chalked this up to Rubby being upset at still being in AAA after pitching for the Dodgers two years ago ( pre Tommy John surgery).  De La Rosa is another of about three or four prospects who are likely misidentified by their ranking, but this system is loaded, and if Rubby's future is in the bullpen, ( and that is NOT definite) that pushes him down the list some.

12. Drake Britton, P- Boston { 14} Britton has moved up two spots on our list and he has had quite a ride since we did our July rankings.  At that time Briton was in the Sea Dogs rotation. He was recalled to Pawtucket and after making one start ( a loss), he was recalled to Boston to pitch out of the pen.  He has excelled so far, pitching 8 innings in 6 games with an ERA of 0.00.  He has also won his first big league game and has struck out 6 while walking 1.  Only some type of roster crunch could send Drake back down.  Britton should be a part of this bullpen all the rest of the season.

The Honorable Mentions:

13. Bryce Brentz, OF- Pawtucket {6} Current DL stint contributes to his slide down the list.
14. Christian Vazquez, C- Portland {12}- Streaky offensive season, overall acceptable numbers.
15. Deven Marrero, SS- Salem  {13} If Xander cannot stay at SS, Marrero is next in line.
16. Jon Denney, C- GCL Sox {NR} 2013 third rounder plus power, athletic enough for corner OF if catching does not work out.  He could be the biggest star to come out of this draft for Boston.
17. Manuel Margot, CF- Lowell {NR} Dominican with "plus-plus speed" has earmarks of solid big league leadoff man,  4 or 5 years from now.
18. Mookie Betts, 2B- Salem {17} 2011 draftee promoted to Salem in July, BA of .229 at High A.
19. Michael Almanzar, 1B-3B- Portland {15} Has a line at AA of 13/68/.268/.333
20(tie) Ty Buttrey, P- Lowell { 18} 2012 4th rounder is 3-1/2.23/17-13 in 32 innings.
20(tie) Jamie Callahan, P- Lowell {NR} 2012 2nd rounder pitched 6 perfect innings in most recent start
20A David Chester, 1B- Salem {20} Off to slow High A hitting .231 after an All Star Greenville season of 13/71/.270/.356

A few other names who have either dropped off last month list of Honorable Mentions or are a few new close but no cigars entries :

Stephen Wright, P ( Maybe he should be in the Top Ten-- but is he really a "prospect"??)
Brian Johnson, P
Travis Shaw, 1B-3B
Teddy Stankiewicz, P This year's 2nd round pick ( and the 2012 2nd rounder of the Mets) will likely be firmly entrenched on this list by 2014.
Sean Coyle, 2B
Alex Hassan, OF
Keury De La Cruz, OF

I guess that is enough names to chew over for now.  The Red Sox system is bursting with future stars and future "who knows and what ifs". Feel free to add any comments you may have about this list or  any other Red Sox minor leaguer.  We will do this again for a year end version in early September.



Friday, August 2, 2013

The Return of Cousin Jason's Cooler

As you may remember, from the end of July through September last year, I posted weekly pieces on the Sox and other random items titled Cousin Jason's Cooler. It is time to dust the cooler off for 2013!

In preparation for writing this masterpiece, I went back and read each of last year's coolers. It was nice to look back at last years Sox sucktitude especially given the way this years Boston team has been playing. I also noticed a theme, the first cooler ran near the end of July in an effort to spur the Sox and the Maineiacs website to bigger things. Similarly, the first cooler of 2013 shows up at the start of August to help Deacon Art post new content on the RSM.  Apparently, the Maineiacs become very busy once school gets out in the middle of June. Anyways, after that lengthy lead-in lets reach into the cooler and see what is good and cold this week:

Sox Pack
1. What a difference a year makes? Last year the Sox were schlepping along around .500 when August rolled around. This season as you all are well aware of it is #walkoffcity! (Credit to Tom Caron at NESN for the hashtag, #waytogoTC) In a magical season, the last two nights have been perhaps the most magical.  First, in the Wednesday PM/Thursday AM 15 inning marathon little brother Stephen Drew channeled his inner JD and delivered the Sox their 9th walk-off win of the season. Then on Thursday night the Sox, after getting shut down by Felix Hernandez for 7 innings, rallied in the 9th for 6 runs to win on Daniel Nava's base hit with an assist from interim Mariners manager Robby Thompson's pitching change gaffe. The 2013 Sox are going places! As a nice addition, while looking for the JD clip on YouTube I found this gem. I guess Stephen has been to #walkoffcity before, jump to the 1:45 mark to see the heroics.
2. While the Sox season has indeed been magical and the Sox look playoff bound, one thing that has this Sox fan somewhat concerned is the amount of work given the Sox relievers, especially Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. We discussed this briefly during our Trade Deadline Chat on Wednesday night. Of course right on cue, Uehara went 2 innings on 19 pitches, 16 of them for strikes. However, Tazawa gave up the game tying HR in the 8th. The high workload of Tazawa is especially concerning as he is starting to show signs of wearing down. In fact, Junichi has given up more HRs this season than the last 3 combined. Of course, he has also thrown more innings this season than the last 2 combined. Perhaps I am just hyper-sensitive to Tazawa as he is a member of both of my fantasy teams. In fact looking at his monthly breakdown on Baseball Reference, the number of runs, walks, and HRs allowed have been about the same each month but, if the Sox hope to go deep into the playoffs longer outings by the starters and some quality relief innings from pitchers not born in Japan would be helpful. Perhaps the arrival of Jake Peavy moving Brandon Workman to the bullpen will help alleviate some of the work on the Sox Japanese tandem. Speaking of Workman...
3. Impressive work has been turned in by the Sox young pitchers of late, especially two guys that started the year in the Portland Sea Dogs rotation. The aforementioned Workman got his 1st win on Tuesday night and turned in his third straight quality start with fellow Texas Longhorn Roger Clemens in the house to celebrate the 25 anniversary of "Morgan's Magic," more on that later. The fact that Workman has pitched so well in his three starts has some of the Maineiacs, myself included, thinking that Workman should stay in the rotation with Ryan Dempster moving to the bullpen. While, moving Workman is probably the right move given his inexperience and Dempster's history as an innings eater, it is interesting to note that from 2004-2007 working as a reliever for the Cubs, Dumpster Fire saved 87 games. Anyone else remember that Ryan Dempster broke into the bigs with the Florida Marlins? Me neither. Wait a tick, he even did time with the Sea Dogs in 1998, check it out. The other former Sea Dog that has the Maineiacs impressed right now is lefty reliever Drake Britton. #66 has been impressive out of the pen with 6 scoreless appearances to begin his big league career. Manager John Farrell has also been impressed with Britton's poise and competitiveness. Now that Britton and Workman, who started games 1 and 2 for the Sea Dogs in April, are back together in the bullpen let's hope that their early success continues.
4. Another concern for this magical season has been the Sox inability to hit quality pitching such as the Devil Rays Matt Moore and David Price along with the Mariners Felix Hernandez. While over the course of the long season there are going to be nights that the Sox do not hit, it is alarming what top pitchers, especially Price, have done to the Sox bats in the past couple of weeks. This could be the achilles heel come October, especially if the Sox and Devil Rays meet. This is something to watch over the final 2 months.
5. With the trade of Jose Iglesias for Jake Peavy (Ben Cherington, well done sir) the Sox 3B situation is influx. Will Middlebrooks whom looked to be on his way to holding down the position for a long time last season started the season on the hot corner. However, Willie Middle struggled to a sub-Mendozan .192 and has found himself in the role of Anne Hutchinson, you know banished to Rhode Island. Iglesias did a fine job for the majority of his time at 3B but showed his true colors by not being able to hit his weight over the last month in a Sox uniform. Leaving Brandon Snyder and now Brock Holt, whose swing I think looks eerily similar to Wade Boggs maybe it is just the #26, to man third. However, waiting in the wings are both Middlebrooks, whom seems to be upset that he is still on the farm, and the Sox top prospect SS Xander Bogaerts, whom has been playing increasingly more games at third for the PawSox. So the question, in fact it is currently the RSM poll question, is who will be the Sox 3B down the stretch? Do the Sox try to piece it together with Snyder and Holt, do they recall Middlebrooks, or do they hope for a Manny Machado-esque debut for Bogaerts? The other option is to perhaps make a waiver deal for a 3B, however the candidates are limited and do not offer the upside of Bogaerts or even Middlebrooks. The other Maineiacs are in the #FreeXander camp, while I believe that the Sox should bring back Middlebrooks to at least see if he can be what he was last year. Lou Merloni tweeted on Wednesday night that he believes the Sox will bring up Bogaerts on their upcoming road trip, so this conundrum may have closure early next week, stay tuned.
6. In the time that Cousin Jason has been away from the RSM site, I have managed to knock some books off my reading list. First, I finished the ESPN saga Those Guys Have All the Fun, which I began shortly after its release in 2012. Once we finally got that out of the way, I dove into the Francona: The Red Sox Years. It did not take me nearly as long to read this one, in fact I knocked it out in about three days. In a word the book was outstanding. I highly recommend it to any Sox fan, especially those that did not want Tito to leave at the end of 2011. Currently, I am nearing completion of David Halberstam's Summer of '49. This has also been an outstanding read giving a great look into Steve Buckley's favorite, old time baseball. Next on the list, perhaps I'll finally get around to Death to the BCS in time for football season.

Random Shooters
- Interesting Tweet of the Night: at 10:35 on Friday night, Jon Lester tweeted out his Temple Run score, which would have been during the bottom of the 9th. No word on whether chicken and beer was involved.
- Tuesday night the PR machine had a reunion to celebrate Joe Morgan and the 1988 Red Sox that won his first 12 games as a manager and 19 straight at Fenway on their way to the AL East pennant, in the aforementioned "Morgan's Magic." Hard to believe it has been 25 years since Jody Reed, Todd Benzinger, and company played so hot for my 11th summer on earth. Oh yeah, Roger Clemens was also on that team. The Rocket joined Joe and Dave on the WEEI broadcast on Tuesday to reminisce the '88 team and talk about other things. While Clemens may have helped Dustin Pedroia get going by urging Pedey's HR to get up on air, to me he still sounds like an arrogant SOB.
- Let's hope Jake Peavy will be lights out tomorrow in his Sox debut, got to think his experience in the NL West will allow him to overmatch the Diamondbacks. Hopefully, Peavy will be more Mike Boddicker and less Erik Bedard.
- With the addition of Peavy and if Clay Buchholz ever pitches again, the Sox should have a very nice rotation going forward. Although the stinker's of Lester and Dempster the last two nights don't bode well.
- We have a lot of fun during our live chats, our last being Wednesday night. A usual suspect missing from the chat was J-Rod, where is Mr. Richmond?
- The Cousin Jason clan spent some family movie time watching Disney's Robin Hood from 1973 tonight. This 40 year old film is a classic and anytime you get to hear Roger Miller it is going to be a good time. It did get me thinking however, with all of the baseball father/son combos in its history, why are there not more father/son/daughter combos in music history? Weird, anyways enjoy the musical styling's of "The King of the Road."

Chaser
- Let's take another trip to Fenway from Cousin Jason's past. August 6, 2003 Cousin Jason journeyed to Fenway with a few of his Pittsfield peeps. This trip was memorable for several reasons, one of the peeps 12 year old son was making his first trip to Fenway and we got lost, in both directions, thanks to Cousin Jason's internal GPS. This led to the now infamous "Yo, Buddy" being born as the mighty Edbo Miller stopped to ask a cabbie for directions by bellowing "Yo, buddy, you know the way to the T?" Of course Edbo was a high school mate of the Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield and it was his son Nickbo's first game. The fourth member of our party was Earl Anderson, a close friend of Butter's. On the way out of Boston, we got headed towards the Cape, needless to say it was a late night. The game itself was memorable for a couple of reasons, the Sox taking on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County within the boundaries of the Republic of California. The first memory of the game was an at bat by David Ortiz with Manny Ramirez on first. The count was 3 and 2 so Manny was running with the pitch, Papi proceeded to foul off pitch after pitch, with Manny running on each one. Needless to say after about the 5th foul ball Manny walked back to first, noticeably pissed off that he had to keep running, classic. The second memory was the great game-saving catch that Johnny Damon made on a ball in left-center before crashing into the wall. As far as a first game for Nickbo, he got to see Pedro throw a complete game in the 4-2 win despite giving up 10 hits and a HR from Nomah! Good times.