Saturday, May 31, 2014

Preview of 2014 MLB Amateur Baseball Draft

The annual baseball draft of high school and college amateurs begins next Thursday June 5 through June 7.  The opening night will be broadcast on MLB Network at 7 pm.  We will take a look at the draft from the Red Sox perspective.  They have two first round picks at 26 and 33 ( the 33rd pick is compensation for losing Jacoby Ellsbury, some consider picks 28-34, the free agent comp picks, first rounders some do not).  Their second round pick is #67 and the third rounder is at 103.

Because the Red Sox are picking at 26 and 33 instead of 2013's first rounder at number 7 overall, it of course is harder to guess who may still be available.  We have chosen to break down some of the potential first rounders into four groups, all or nearly all of these names will not be in the Red Sox range of picks.   Not a lot of detail until we get to the Sox territory, but here some names to look for on Thursday's opening hour or so.

6 Top Ten Pick Locks:

Brady Aiken   Cal HS LHP
Carlos Rodon  NC State LHP
Tyler Kolek    Texas HS RHP
Alex Jackson   Colorado HS C/OF
Nick Gordon    Florida HS SS--son of Tom and brother of Dee
Aaron Nola      LSU RHP

Not only are these players locks for the top ten, they are likely the top six picks in some order.
 Teams with first six picks:

1. Houston ( record third straight year at #1)
2. Miami
3. White Sox
4. Cubs
5. Minnesota
6. Seattle

The next group of players are:
Six players likely picked from  7 to 15  (at least)

Kyle Freeland    Evansville LHP
Sean Newcomb  Hartford LHP (yes, a possible top ten pick from America East)
Trea Turner,       NC State SS
Michael Conforto Oregon State OF ( one mock had him as high as 4 to Cubs)
Touki Toussaint   Florida HS RHP
Max Pentecost     Kennesaw State C (early mocks had him in the Red Sox range, but he is shooting up the charts, again a possible #4 for Cubs--either way higher than 26 for sure.)

Teams picking from 7 to 15 are

7. Philadelphia
8. Colorado
9. Toronto
10. Mets
11. Toronto ( comp pick for not signing 311 pick in '13)
12. Milwaukee
13. San Diego
14. San Francisco
15. Angels

We have eliminated 12 players for the Red Sox and here six more names likely to go before Boston picks.  This list is in order of likelihood to go, so the last name or two could make it to 26.

Grant Holmes   South Carolina HS  RHP
Bradley Zimmer  Univ. San Francisco  OF
Sean Reid-Foley  Florida HS RHP
Kyle Schwarber   Indiana Univ. C/1B
Jacob Gatewood  California HS SS
Michael Chavis    Georgia HS SS

If any of these six do get to 26, the Red Sox could  pick them, and if anyone from the previous six slides by some fluke they could be in play as well.  But likely, we taken 18 names off the board before Boston picks.

Teams picking 16-19:

16. Arizona
17. Kansas City
18. Washington
19. Cincinnati

Now we will discuss four names that could very well be gone by 26, but there are scenarios which could have any one or all available at 26.

Four Guys with Issues

Jeff Hoffman  East Carolina RHP
Erick Fedde    UNLV  RHP
Brandon Finnegan  TCU LHP
Tyler Beede  Vanderbilt  RHP

Without their issues all of these pitchers could have been top ten picks.  In reverse order, let's start with Beede.  Tyler, a Massachusetts kid, was the Blue Jays first round pick in 2011.  He did not sign, and as so many New England kids have done recently, he went to Vanderbilt. The power pitcher has had a strong career in the SEC, until recently.  Beede had slumped in recent starts, and for one, ESPN's Keith Law has proclaimed that due to this slump and "makeup" issues, Beede could slide all the way out of the first round. But last night in a NCAA regional game, Beede struck out 14 batters with a 93-97 mph fastball that touched 99 at times.  I still find it hard to believe Beede gets out of top 20, with makeup his only issue.

Finnegan, a 5'11' lefty from TCU issue is he missed several starts this season with left shoulder soreness.  But he returned after those missed starts, and pitched effectively.  But the scouts all ready had questions about height and now the shoulder questions.  He could drop to the Sox range, but several mocks done after the injury, have Finnegan going to Arizona at 16.

Hoffman, who was a top five lock, and Fedde, a very likely top ten pick share the same issue.  Both have had or are about to have Tommy John surgery.  So whoever picks either hurler needs to wait until some time in 2015 to have them begin their minor league career.  Nearly every( but not all) mock done since Fedde's injury has him available to Boston, not only at 26 but some at 33.  Jim Callis of MLB.com, who during his many years at Baseball America seemed to have a strong insight into the Boston drafts and farm system, did a mock draft on May 23 in which he had Boston taking Erick Fedde at 26. Fedde is a slender 6'4' 165 pound righty who the scouts say has an above average fastball and slider.  He is the first name mentioned so far to watch for at #26.  Hoffman, with the same injury, may be a different story. Hoffman is considered such a strong prospect, he is unlikely to get to Boston.  Several options mentioned for Hoffman are Toronto at 11, due to the Jays having two high picks. Brewers at 12 and Giants at 14 are candidates and at 18 is Washington who grabbed high schooler Lucas Giolito in 2012 under identical circumstances.  There is one theory being floated that Hoffman could still demand top five slot money, and this could drive him down the board to a big market team, like Boston at 26??

So we have looked at 22 names likely to be gone by 26.  Who are the teams drafting closer to Boston at 20-25?

20. Tampa Bay
21. Cleveland
22. Dodgers
23. Detroit
24. Pittsburgh
25. Oakland

Before we look at a baker's dozen of Sox draft possibilities at 26 and 33, we should mention that four teams in this group have been linked to several of the soon to be mentioned Sox candidates: Rays ( it figures), Indians, Tigers, and Pirates.  The Dodgers mostly linked to high school pitchers that are not linked to Sox and Oakland seems to be locked on Mississippi HS SS Ti'quan Forbes, who is rated in the 40's by most lists.

Reportedly, the Red Sox are looking to draft one hitter and one pitcher with the two choices at 26 and 33.  Very likely, the Sox are leaning to a college hitter and high school pitcher, but other combinations are of course possible.  Under the draft system started two years ago, each draft pick in the first ten rounds has a slotted value.  The total value of all of these picks is that's teams budget. If your total budget is $10 million, for example, you can use any part of that budget on any player. Several teams, including Boston, have taken players in the first or second rounds who will accept a deal under that pick's slot value.  This gives a team more to spend on the players in later rounds.

Here are 13 players who have been mentioned as possible Red Sox targets.

At #26

Derek Hill   California HS OF: A very athletic, plus runner and defender.  His dad is a Dodger scout, so this may be one player the Dodgers could grab ahead of Boston.  His cousin is Daryl Strawberry.  Some early mocks had Hill the pick at 26, but lately most having him gone earlier, often at 17 to the Royals.

Derek Fisher  Univ. of Virginia   OF:  One of the most athletic college position player in the draft.  Plus runner with some power, as well.  He projects as a left fielder.  He is the player most often projected to Boston at 26 in mocks, however it is by no means a lock.  Fisher predicted slot ranges from KC at 17 to Cleveland at 31( the Tribe at 21 also could grab Fisher before Boston picks).

Casey Gillaspie   Wichita State 1B:  This is my personal favorite and hope for this pick at 26.  Some mock drafts, including the most recent by Keith Law of ESPN, have Gillaspie as the Sox pick.  The brother of White Sox third sacker, Connor Gillaspie, projects to be only a first baseman, but he is considered a quality defender at first.  The Sox have a history of drafting more middle of the defensive spectrum players.  But Keith Law in his mock said he is hearing more and more the Red Sox want a college bat at 26.  Gillaspie, a switch hitter, is known for patience at the plate, a Red Sox trait, and power that projects to around a 20 HR per year guy.  The scouts who like him best compare him to Lance Berkman.  Casey is one of the players the Rays, Indians, Tigers, and Pirates from 20 to 24 are said to be in on.  If he gets to 26 I think the Sox will pounce.

Monte Harrison  Missouri HS OF: Considered by many to be the most tremendous athlete in the draft, who can also hit for power.  The early consensus seemed to be if he got to 26, the Sox were very interested.  But the spot he is mocked to the most is the Rays at 20, and he is the other player besides Gillaspie (and to some degree Hill and Fisher), that would need to get through the four teams from 20 to 24.  However in an ESPN chat yesterday, Keith Law in response to a question said he thought both Jacob Gatewood (mentioned up above) and Harrison could very well get to 26, but he had heard Boston would go in another direction.  We'll see on Thursday.

Nick Howard, Univ. of Virginia, RHP:  Howard has raced up the boards on the strength of his 2014 performance as closer for the Virginia Cavaliers. Just two weeks ago, he was ranked at around 60 to 75.  But his stock keeps rising and a week ago, Baseball America had Howard as the pick at 26.  Since then some other more recent mocks have him going as high as 22.  A number of scouts feel Howard could pitch in a major league bullpen this year.  But he has started before and pitched especially well last summer in the Cape Cod League as a starter.  Chris Sale of the White Sox joined their bullpen the year he was drafted and then become an outstanding starter the next year.  Some feel that is the path Howard could follow.

Possible picks at 26 OR 33

Luis Ortiz  California HS  RHP: His stock dipped earlier this year when he missed some games with a           "forearm strain", often code for oncoming Tommy John surgery.  But Ortiz has returned to the hill, and has pitched well, hitting 95 on the guns.  In various mocks, Ortiz has been projected as the Sox pick at either 26 or 33.  The feeling seems to be with his injury scare behind him ( hopefully), and his stock rising he may not be there at 33, and if Boston wants him it may need to be at  26.

Marcus Wilson  California HS OF: Another projectable, athletic player with blazing speed and above average arm.  Early reports had him as the 26 pick, but more and more it seems like he would be very available at 33.

Luke Weaver  Florida State RHP: One or two mocks mentioned Weaver as a backup plan at 26, if  another college arm was no longer available on the Sox draft list.  Weaver is usually ranked around 36 to mid 40's and if the Red Sox take him, I think it would be more likely at 33.

AJ Reed  Kentucky 1B: The 2014 NCAA home run leader.  Reed has plus power, which should translate to the pro game, despite some concerns over his bat speed.  Reed is also a LHP and until this year was considered more of a pitching prospect, but this year's home run surge has changed that.  He projects as a 1B only ( but with a strong pitching arm, one wonders if he could handle a corner OF role).  AJ has been mocked as the 26 pick and he has also lasted into the 40's in other mock drafts.  If the Sox miss out on Fisher or especially Gillaspie at 26 and if AJ Reed is there at 33, I bet the Sox take him.

All of the other projections at 33 are high school pitchers.  If the Sox get their hitter, especially a college bat at 26, most observers expect them to go for a HS pitcher at 33, maybe even a reach down to the board for an under slot deal.  Here are some names:

Justus Sheffield  Tennessee HS pitcher: a nephew of Gary, the Sox drafted his brother Jordan last year, but he went to Vandy.  Does not have overpowering fastball, but scouts like everything else.

Alex Verdugo  Arizona HS  LHP/OF: Sox seem to like him as a pitcher, other clubs as a OF.

Joey Gatto  New Jersey HS  RHP: His stock is rising, not uncommon for a Northeast high school pitcher.  May be a reach at 33, but likely will be gone at 67, when Sox pick again.

Michael Kopech Texas HS RHP: His name showed yesterday for the first time in a MLB.com mock draft as a possible 33 pick for Boston.  The 6'4' righty hits 97 on the gun.  A stereotypical Texas HS fireballer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Red Sox Maineiacs Roundtable #2 - Stephen Drew Edition

Welcome back to another Red Sox Maineiacs Roundtable! Today we talk about the hot topic in Red Sox Nation - the signing of Stephen Drew. The conversation starts in a structured manner in response to five questions about the Drew signing. It then devolves into chaos.  As always, join the discussion in the comments section below.

1. How will moving Xander back and forth between SS and 3B affect him? 

Deacon Art: I do think alternating between the two defensive positions is not ideal for Bogaerts, but he is a good enough hitter to overcome it.  But once Middlebrooks is healthy, he and Drew will in effect platoon.  Drew at SS/X at third versus righties, and X at SS and Willie Middle at third against lefties.  Xander is about to break out no matter where he plays.  But no matter how many times John Farrell claims Bogaerts is still viewed as a shortstop, Deven Marrero's stock rose considerably today.

Cousin Jason: Who's to say that he is definitely moving? Maybe the Sox signed Drew to play 3B? OK, perhaps that is a bit of advocatus diaboli. I think there are 3 reasons why this will not affect our favorite Aruban, sidebar, how long before Xander becomes the best MLB player to come out of Aruba? He already is? Tomorrow? By the end of this month? A quick Google search indicates that the 3 most notable former MLBers from Aruba are Sidney Ponson, Eugene Kingsale, and Calvin Maduro, all of whom were given the Dutch equivalence of knighthood. Back to the 3 reasons: 1. He is still only 21 and not that far removed from last season nor his days in the Senior League World Series when I'm sure like many of us growing up we played many positions. 2. He is a sharp tack, I was duly impressed with his postgame interview the other night when he got hit by the pitch on the hand, I think he is mature well beyond his age. 3. He is Aruban and just wants to play, he probably would catch if it got him in the line-up everyday. Of course, it could irrevocably ruin his career. Let's erase that last thought!

Barry: The answer to this question is very complex and layered. So much so, that I can't really wrap my head around it.  In the short term, Xander looked like a sad puppy dog during the game last night and he made two errors and hit into a bad luck double play. No matter what the Red Sox tell him about his bright future. He clearly took the signing personally and as a sign that they don't believe in him.  BIG MISTAKE.  The more I think about it that's the way I'm leaning.  The signing of Drew will impact the development of Bogaerts.  This is the second time that the Red Sox front office has been shortsighted in two months.  How they thought that Sizemore was going to be the CF I will never understand.  Now this? I'm losing faith in the Red Sox FO and Manager. 

My other major concern is that the group of veteran Red Sox players are turning into whiny bitches.  I can see a scenario where Gomes, Victorino, Carp, Napoli, Lackey, Peavy, Ross and Pierzynski etc. start to blame the "young kids" for the lack of success.  When it really should be the other way around.  They are the key guys that should be carrying the load and the young guys should just be contributors. If this is happening we could be in for a repeat of 2012 and I don't trust Ben Cherington to clean it up.  If it is true that Mike Carp was complaining about being in the line up last Saturday and not being told about it the night before then he should be released a la Jay Payton.   Cut his ass and bring Nava back up.  But, it seems to me that Cherington and Farrell are letting the inmates run the asylum.  "The veteran players were excited to have Drew back" was the word yesterday. You know for a fact that they've been asking for this.  If this move was made to somehow keep the veterans happy then shame on all of them.  

2. How quickly will Stephen Drew be able to hit major league pitching with consistency?

Deacon Art: This to me is the $64 question.  Fairly or not, unless or until a bigger move is made, Drew is going to be looked at as a savior.  He is not.  Will he help? I think he will.  But this afternoon on Twitter, Gordon Edes had an interesting 2013 stat.  After 59 games last year, Drew was hitting .215.  If that happens now (and with a minimal training time, it may), this move may blow up on the Red Sox.  

Cousin Jason: First off, we are assuming that he has ever done this in his career. A look at his career splits on Baseball Reference shows his monthly splits being .260, .251, .247, .259, .275, .283. So for his career he has been a bit of a streaky hitter. Last year being a strong case study as he .244, .200, and .154 in May, July, and April, .304, .277, and .267 in August, September, and June. As you indirectly pointed out in your post, he can't be any worse than Brock Holt, Ryan Robets, and perhaps even Willie Middle. I think the bigger issue with this team is the overall lack of hitting, no one is hitting over .300 and only 3 guys (Ortiz, Pedroia, and Victorino) are hitting over .270. In fact the only categories that the Sox are in the top 3 of the AL are walks, OBP, and HBP. For me, it is not the Drew's, etc. that need to pick it up but rather the studs need to get hot. Outside of Ortiz last week, this line-up has been in a funk since the word go. However, to answer your question, who knows maybe Drew has something to prove and plays like his first year in Arizona when he hit .316.

Barry: Well he's been in the big leagues for 8 years and he still hasn't figured out how to hit effectively. He's a defensive specialist. Perhaps he will prevent a few more runs from being scored, but this guy can't hit for shit.  

With the loss of Ellsbury and Victorino only hitting righty there is a need for more lefthanded bats, as proven by their record against right handed starting pitchers.  So his lefthanded bat may be helpful at times, and he may be able to help at the top of the order batting second or leadoff. Just don't expect this guy to fix their offensive problems.  How many hits did he get in the postseason last year? 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Left Side of the Infield

Here’s a post I wrote today, before the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew and slid X over to the third sack. If you just want to skip down to where I discuss acquiring Drew, I won’t hold it against you:

Will Middlebrooks hit the DL on Saturday for the second time this season, this time with a broken (fractured? what’s the difference?) finger. According to multiple reports, the finger was black, swollen, and generally disgusting. There is no timetable for Middlebrooks’ return, and finger/wrist injuries are always terrible news for hitters, especially power hitters.  Here’s guessing that he misses at least the majority of time remaining before the All-Star break.  Even when Willie Middle does return, he will have to prove that a banged-up finger hasn’t taken away the one asset he showed from time to time this season: power. And that’s probably being nice.  Take a look at Willie’s stats from 2013-2014:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 24 BOS AL 94 374 348 41 79 18 0 17 49 20 98 .227 .271 .425 .696
2014 25 BOS AL 21 82 71 9 14 3 0 2 9 7 23 .197 .305 .324 .629
3 Yrs 190 742 686 84 170 35 0 34 112 40 191 .248 .296 .448 .743
162 Game Avg. 162 633 585 72 145 30 0 29 95 34 163 .248 .296 .448 .743
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/20/2014.
This is not very good. It doesn’t exactly scream out CORNERSTONE!, but he is still young and young power hitting corner infielders don’t exactly grow on trees these days (as will become apparent later in this post).  But the numbers don’t lie. Middlebrooks has only five extra base hits this season, and is slashing a woeful .197/.305/.324.  All this on top of shoddy defense at the hot corner makes Middlebrooks’ future in some doubt. There are some who say Willie should be moved over to 1B, and some who say Willie might end up being a AAAA player. (Quick tangent: if Middlebrooks ends up being a AAAA player who is shuttled back and forth from the majors to the minors and is traded around to a few different franchises, instead of being Boston’s cornerstone third sacker, how quickly will Jenny Dell dump him? Fifteen seconds? Twenty? Maybe I’m underselling the lovely Jenny and her Dells, but I can’t see her getting married to a journeyman. This, of course, only adds to the pressure mounting on Willie.)  Of course, Middlebrooks hasn’t been able to truly show what he can do over an extended period of time without getting hurt. He has shown signs of significantly improving his approach at the plate and plate discipline this season after swinging at everything last season, which was the main reason why he spent much of 2013’s pennant chase in AAA. A strained calf and a broken finger later, Willie is forcing the Red Sox to re-think the left side of their infield mid-season.  

Let’s break down the potential options for the left side of the Red Sox infield:

Option #1: Plug Brock Holt in as the every-day third sacker, hope that Willie’s finger heals quickly, then plug Willie Middle back into the every-day 3B role as soon as he is ready and hope to see continued improvement.  The key to this plan is Brock Holt. Can Holt be more than a temporary fill-in/utility infielder in the big leagues? Let’s take a look at Holt’s stat table:


Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2013 25 BOS AL 26 72 59 9 12 2 0 0 11 7 4 .203 .275 .237 .513
2014 26 BOS AL 9 35 30 3 8 0 1 0 4 4 5 .267 .343 .333 .676
BOS (2 yrs) 35 107 89 12 20 2 1 0 15 11 9 .225 .298 .270 .568
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/20/2014.

After 107 plate appearances in a Red Sox uniform, Holt has three extra base hits. Three. His slugging percentage is almost the same as his batting average. His OPS is lower than a good hitter’s slugging percentage.  Simply put, the dude is a little slap-hitting weasel who seems to have the ceiling of Nick Punto. Could he fill in for a month? Probably. It would help if Ortiz, Napoli, Victorino, Pedroia, and Pierzynski were all raking up to their potential, then we could get by with a slap weasel in the nine spot as long as Holt continues playing average or better defense. But can we get by with Punto Jr. when the rest of the lineup is also sputtering? While it helps that Holt is a left-handed hitter (since the Sox have been somewhere between below-average to abysmal against right-handed pitching which only makes up about 66% of the league), it would help more if he were a good left-handed hitter.  And then there is the question of Middlebrooks: do the Red Sox want to fill the 3B position with Punto Light for a month, then hand it back over to Middlebrooks coming off a broken finger and already struggling in 2014? As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t be surprised if Willie Middle lingers on the DL and on rehab stints for quite a long time. Can a team with Brock Holt as their everyday 3B win the suddenly-crappy AL East?

And then there’s this: how badly do the Red Sox want to win the pennant in 2014? I know that sounds like a stupid question, of course every team wants to win every season right? Especially as defending champs, who wouldn’t want to repeat as World Series champions for the first time since the ’98-’00 Yankees went back-to-back-to-back? But still, I wonder.  I wonder if you gave Cherington truth serum if he wouldn’t admit that he would be okay with finishing 2014 with 80-84 wins, getting Xander, Bradley, Middlebrooks, Christian Vazquez, and a few of the stud arms a ton of reps, keeping the cupboard stocked full of depth, and heading into 2015 ready to really have a stacked lineup. If this is the case, then by all means lock Holt into the 3B slot for now and call it good. But if we’re aggressively chasing a repeat title, then I say we have to go with another option.

Option #2: Garin Cecchini. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal had an interesting piece on Cecchini as soon as Middlebrooks went to the DL. The piece managed to be both encouraging and depressing all at the same time. On the one hand, you have to love the confidence that Cecchini has in himself and his ability to get better defensively at 3B.  The piece contends that he has already gotten considerably better at the hot corner, and the Sox have assigned him a well-respected speciality coach to work with him daily to get better. These are all positives for the #4 ranked prospect on the Red Sox Maineiacs Top 20 for May. But, they sound like positives for 2015 or 2016, not May of 2014. The same piece also contains this little nugget: “Cecchini acknowledges that he isn’t where he wants to be. This was especially obvious last week, after the four errors in Indianapolis — two with his glove and two with his arm. For a player who has strived to be more consistent in the field, it was a frustrating series.” That hardly sounds like a guy ready to get the call up to the big leagues. Could the Red Sox say to hell with it and throw Cecchini’s left-handed hitting bat into the lineup and hope he doesn’t set the all-time record for errors by a 3B? I don’t see it.

Option #3: Stephen Drew. This is the option that seems to be garnering the most support amongst the various Red Sox scribes and blogs. As Rob Bradford claims, it would seem logical to call up ‘ol Steve-O, sign him to a one-year deal for basically whatever he wants, plug him back into shortstop, slide the X Man (Tangent: Xander acknowledged in this ESPN Boston Red Sox Blog fluff piece today that the fans want him to use “X Gon’ Give It To ‘Ya” by DMX as his walk-up music, and he might change it. Yes, yes, and YES! Sign me up! Forever and ever, that will be played in RSM live chats whenever X does something noteworthy)  back over to 3B and BLAM-O! we kill several birds with one stone: X’s lackluster defense at short gets replaced, we re-convene the left side of the infield that led us to the World Series last year, and we add another sorely-needed left-handed hitter to the lineup.  Everybody wins, right? Get Scott Boras on the phone!  

Well....not so fast. Count me among the Red Sox faithful who believe that now that we have installed Xander at SS, we should leave him there for the next decade or two. What are we going to do to X’s development if we move him from 3B mostly in 2013, to a stint at SS followed by 3B in 2014, and back to SS in 2014? By all accounts, X is an exceptional kid not just in his talent, but in his approach and mental acumen. But jerking around his position like that makes me nervous.  That has to stunt development, right? Right?

Beyond the impact on X, it seems to me a stretch that we could sign Drew off the street, plug him into the lineup, and expect him to perform up to his best 2013 levels. What if it takes Drew a month to get back into the groove of hitting major league pitching? What if he hits .145 for June? Well, in that case he would fit right in with X, Bradley, and Middlebrooks. But the point is, couldn’t Brock Holt at least hit .145 and not force X to switch positions? 

Option #4: Re-sign Ryan Roberts - HAHAHAHAHAHA

Option #5: Mookie Betts?!?!?!?!?!?!

Option #6: Trade for a 3B - obviously moot now.”

So, the questions about the Drew acquisition remain:
  • How will moving Xander back and forth between SS and 3B affect him?
  • How quickly will Stephen Drew be able to hit major league pitching with consistency?
  • Can Drew provide this lineup with some extra pop from the left side?
  • Will Drew be as good defensively as he was last year?
  • Is this a pivotal moment with Will Middlebrooks and the Red Sox?
I smell another Red Sox Maineiacs round table post coming soon!

Overall, I feel a good vibe about getting last year’s late-season left side back together for 2014. I also think Will Middlebrooks is a man who is feeling pressure from all sides to be a major league slugger, when maybe he still isn’t quite ready for that. But I also think he will be a major part of this team down the stretch, and they will be in the AL East race until the end due to the division’s unforeseen mediocrity.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Red Sox Maineiacs Roundtable Discussion 5-15-14

Welcome to the first edition of the RSM Roundtable!  Every so often, we'll pick a few burning questions from Red Sox Nation and debate them around the round table.  In this edition, we tackle five questions. As always, feel free to leave your responses in the comment section below.

Question #1. What should the Red Sox do with Jon Lester?  Extend him now? Wait until he goes through a slump?  Wait until the All-Star break?  Let him go to free agency?  Trade him at the trading deadline?  

Barry: John Farrell certainly wants to sign him to an extension.  He said on the radio pregame show last night that he wants him here long term.  I like the Red Sox philosophy on long term contracts, but I think you've got to make an exception for front line pitching.  Yes, the Red Sox have good pitchers at Pawtucket, but none of them are a sure thing. Not even Henry Owens is seen as a certain "ace"

I say sign him (but wait until the end of the year) His value is at it's highest now. As a fan I hope it stays there, but there's a good chance that it won't.

Deacon Art: The Sox should sign Lester ASAP.  Here are just some of the reasons why:

1. Proven Boston  (AL East) perfromer.  Not everyone can handle this market.
2. Proven post season ace pitcher.
3. Has never missed any time with injury, not a guarantee going forward, but a good indicator
4. Power lefty...they do not grow on trees
5. Because of the influx of young starters potentially joining rotation (and Lackey's option to pitch for minimum next year) the Sox could go to $25M per year for Lester and still reduce the amount paid to this year's rotation by 10-15M.  Peter Gammons recently suggested by 2016 25-40% of the team could be playing for under $1M each.
6. I not Lester who??  Who is at the front of the Red Sox rotation?  No one on the current rotation, unless you belive in a Buchholz resurgence or Lackey pitching like he is now until deep into his 30s.  All of hot pitching prospects are great to have, but none of them are gonna be the #1 guy right out of the gate.  Any other free agents this winter are either gonna want more $ then Lester (Scherzer), aren't as good (Shields, Masterson) or are not AL tested and injury prone (Cueto).

Sign the man.

Cousin Jason:  I am going to agree with Art and say the Sox need to sign Jon Lester immediately. I don't disagree with Barry's argument that Lester's value is currently at or near its peak, however given the list of potential replacements and the fact that a certain team from the Bronx would be willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money for Lester's service the Red Sox cannot afford to let him reach the open market.

Brandon: I’m not surprised to hear that the consensus is we should sign Jon Lester to an extension as soon as possible.  Art laid out the reasons why the Sox should be inking Lester to a long-term deal.  I’m trying to play devil’s advocate here, and I can’t really come up with a single reason against signing Lester other than the danger of signing six-year deals these days when pitchers’ elbows are blowing out like Christmas lights all over the place.  But I agree with Art - if not Lester, then who?  Who else would be worthy of a six year, $150 million plus contract?  The guy doesn’t have any holes left - he has matured in front of our eyes since being re-united with John Farrell, he commands both sides of the plate, he can still bring heat, he’s tested in Boston, he’s tested in the postseason, and he is by all accounts a great clubhouse guy who can teach the next wave of Boston arms how to conduct themselves in the show.

However, how does this work?  A lot of players don’t like to negotiate during the season.  This means I wouldn’t be surprised if a long-term deal gets announced during the All-Star break.  But if you’re in Jon Lester’s agent’s shoes then you’re texting big Jon every day to tell him to wait, wait, wait. His agent must be telling him if he waits and hits the free agent market, then they can get him the Clayton Kershaw 7 year, $180 million type contract, especially since the agent can get the Yankees, Red Sox, and other teams bidding against each other, instead of the Dodgers bidding against themselves for Kershaw. (I just looked up Jon's agent and it is the same agency as Pedroia, who inked a deal in the middle of the season, albeit in August, last season.  Not sure if this means anything.  Pedroia hitting the open market wouldn't have been quite as good as Lester last season because he would have been directly up against Cano)  Another question:  is there a period after the season when teams can negotiate with their own players who will be free agents before they actually become free agents?

So the question really comes down to what Jon Lester wants.  At this point, if he wants to sign an extension in Boston, he could make a call and probably have a deal before the end of the day.  If he wants to wait until the All-Star break, that will probably happen.  But if he wants to make as much money as he can for as many years as he can get with his last big money contract of his life (and make his agent rich in the process), then he will wait until free agency and make the Red Sox bid against the Yankees.  It’s one thing to say “sign the man”, it’s another to have the man and his agent leave years and millions on the table to do so.

Barry: #1 Let me clarify my answer on Lester. From the Red Sox FO point of view they should wait until the end of the year to sign him. Why? Because his value cannot go any higher than it is right now. I'm not even sure that a Cy Young award and another postseason like last year could make it go much higher than it is right now. It can only go down, so they might as well wait until the end of the year and perhaps it will go down a little.  Either way, I personally want the Red Sox to ante up and pay the man.

Cousin Jason: I would disagree that a Cy Young and another post season would not drive Lester's price higher. If those 2 things happen and he gets to the open market, someone will pay a huge price tag for him...the Red Sox or otherwise.

Barry: My point is that someone will pay him a boatload of money now in free agency whether he wins a Cy Young Award or not. Now if he wins a Cy Young and has a good postseason he will certainly make more money. Let's say 150 million instead of 135. Either way it's a lot of money.
His value has nowhere to go but down.

Deacon Art: Brandon, or his devil's advocate, says it all comes down to what Jon Lester wants.  If you google Jon Lester, hometown discount, you will come up with a bushel of stories from last January's Boston Baseball Writer's Dinner.  Lester said he wanted to be here (Boston) until they rip the jersey of my back. He goes on to say he not expects to have to take a hometown discount when signing before free agency, but is "willing to do so".  In spring training Lester repeated the same sentiment.  At the end of spring training, even aftr word leaked of the lowball 4 year, $70M offer, Lester stayed positive in his public comments.  At this point in time, there is no reason to believe Jon Lester wants to pitch anywhere other than Boston. 

Cousin Jason: So since we all seem to be in agreement that the Sox need to sign Lester, regardless of when that is, what would YOU offer the big lefty to stay in a Boston uniform?

Brandon: I would go up to 6 years, $150 million for Lester.  Why not?  But my question remains, is there a period after the season ends when teams can negotiate with their free agents to be before they actually become free agents?

Cousin Jason: The answer to your free agency question, appears to be a 5 day "quiet period" after the World Series in which only the Sox could negotiate with Lester.  I like your 6/150 deal, but might alter it to be something like 4 years with 2 options (team or player) for $150-160. 

Deacon Art: The 6 yr 150M is the max I would go for Lester and I think the six yers would concern the Sox more than the 150 mil.  I think the only way Lester gets an AAV of 25M( from Boston, anyway) is with a shorter deal...4 yrs 100M or maybe 4yr 110M, would be more to the Sox liking.  My personal opinion for a fair offer is 5 years 115 M ( 23m per year).

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday Night Live Chat!

 

Nick Esasky All-Stars

The title of this post is an expression I made up years ago.  It refers to a veteran player (with a couple of special exceptions) that burst onto the Boston scene, and then after only a single season, or partial season, go back out the door as quickly as they came in.  Here are the Nick Esasky All-Stars.

First Base- Nick Esasky  1989 Age 29  30 HR  108 RBI  .277 BA 154 Games

Who else to start with? Nick had had a solid six seasons with his original team, the Reds.  The highest totals in the HR/RBI/BA categories in Cincinnati were 22/66/.272 (not in the same year).  On December 13, 1988 at the winter meetings, the Reds traded Esasky and lefty reliever Rob Murphy to Boston for pitcher Jeff Sellers and 1B-OF Todd Benzinger. Esasky, an impending free agent, put up the monster 1989 campaign (including 26 doubles and 5 triples) and was expected to sign to be the Sox first sacker for years to come.  But the Braves swooped in and signed him to a (then) large 3 year 5.6 million dollar contract (my how the salaries have exploded in 25 years).  But Esasky was unbelievably only nine games from the end of his career when he signed that deal.  Nine games into 1990, with only six singles contributed to the Braves offense, Esasky had bouts of severe vertigo.  Although he was signed through 1992, Esasky never played again after April 21, 1990.

Second Base- Todd Walker 2003  Age 30 13 HR 85 RBI .283 BA 144 games

Another player traded to Boston by Cincinnati, this veteran had played seven seasons for the Twins, Rockies, and Reds.  He was traded to Boston in December of 2002 for minor leagues Josh Thigpen and Tony Blanco.  Walker, who added 38 doubles to his offensive output, helped the Red Sox get to the 7th game of the ALCS and one bad Grady Little decision from the World Series.  In that fateful ALCS with New York, Walker hit .370 with ten hits, including a double, a triple, and two solo home runs.  At age 30, it seemed Todd Walker would be with the Red Sox for several more seasons.  But Walker was a free agent, and the Sox showed little interest and on December 16 they traded for Rockies second baseman Mark Bellhorn.  Three weeks later, Walker signed with the Chicago Cubs, for about half of the amount of his Boston contract.  Todd played four more seasons with the Cubs, Padres, and A's.

Third Base- Adrian Beltre  2010  Age 31  28 HR 102 RBI .321 BA 154 Games

The top competitor with Nick Esasky for naming rights to this team.  Beltre, who broke in to the big leagues at age 19 with the Dodgers, had played 12 seasons with LA and Seattle before signing for one year 9M with Boston.  It was an attempt by Beltre and his agent Scott Boras to rebuild his value after years in the unfriendly hitters park in Seattle.  Boy, did it work.  Although Beltre has had higher totals in home runs and RBI before and since his Red Sox days, the outstanding 2010 season (including an AL leading 49 doubles) did land him the big payday.  The Red Sox had traded for another Adrian, Mr. Gonzalez, after the 2010 campaign, and planned on moving Kevin Youkilis back to third to make room at first for Gonzalez.  Little did they know then that Beltre, who got his cash from Texas, 6 years, 86M, would be going strong in the AL still, while Youkilis', who left Boston in 2012, playing days are basically over(as he tries to catch on in Japan).

Shortstop (tie)- Orlando Cabrera  2004  Age 29  6 HR 31 RBI .294 BA 58 Games

                         Stephen Drew     2013  Age 30  13 HR  67 RBI .253 BA 124 Games

How can you choose between two shortstops who were both on the field when their respective Red Sox teams won the World Series?  First let's look at Cabrera.

Cabrera came over to the Red Sox from the Expos in the famous four team deal at the last stroke before the July 31st trade deadline.  Sox icon Nomar Garciaparra went to the Cubs in the same deal, and Orlando took over as everyday shortstop for the remainder of the curse busting ride.  Although, he made eight errors with a .966 fielding %, Cabrera was steady enough.  In the post season, he hit .379 in the famous comeback ALCS win over the Yankees.  But in the World Series sweep of St. Louis, Cabrera only contributed a .235 BA. At his relatively young age, it was expected he would be a long term Nomar replacement.  But amid some murky, never explained to this day, rumors of an unsettling off the field issue, the Red Sox instead signed World series rival shortstop,  free agent Edgar Renteria (who himself would qualify for this one and done Sox career team).  Cabrera, also a free agent, then signed with the Angels.  He went on to play in the majors until 2011 with several different clubs.

Drew, the younger brother of former Sox right fielder, JD Drew(which the Red Sox fans never forgave Stephen for) was signed as a free agent from Oakland the day after Christmas 2012. Drew had been traded to Oakland during the 2012 season, by his original team, Arizona.  Drew had been a star, young shortstop with the Dbacks until a gruesome broken leg in 2010.  After missing the early part of 2013, with an injury, Drew took over as the everyday shortstop for Boston.  All year long he provided sterling defense and pop in his bat.  Throughout the championship post season, the sterling D remained, but the bat disappeared.  In 54 postseason at bats, Drew had 6 hits.  After the season, the Red Sox made a qualifying offer of 14.1M to keep Drew for one more year.  Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, declined making Drew a restricted free agent.  And as of today, May 10, he is still looking for a job.  The Red Sox have committed to young shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, and have seemingly moved on.

Left Field- Cliff Floyd  2002 Age 29  7 HR 18 RBI .316 BA 47 Games

Floyd, the 14th overall pick in the first round of the 1991 draft by Montreal, had played his entire career before joining Boston, with two teams: the Expos and Marlins.  Floyd debuted with Montreal in 1993 and played there until 1997 when traded to Florida. Five years later on July 11, 2002, the Fish traded Floyd back to Montreal. Nineteen days later, a day before the trade deadline, he was shipped to Boston for pitchers Sun-Woo Kim and Seung Song. Floyd split his 47 game Red Sox career between left and right fields and DH (the majority in left).  Among his strong offensive numbers were a .374 OBP and .935 OPS.  The Sox did not make the post season as hoped, and Floyd that winter moved on as free agent to the Mets.  Cliff played seven more big league seasons, with several stops, including the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, who played in the ALCS that year versus defending World Champs, Boston.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

RSM Top 20 Prospects- May Edition

The first month of the 2014 minor league season is over and it is time again to rank the cream of the very full crop of Red Sox kids in the minor league system.  For the first time since Xander Bogaerts hit the top spot two years ago, there was a fierce competition for the top spot.  As in the past the slash line used for hitters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for pitchers it is W-L/ERA/ K-BB/WHIP.  The number in { } is last month's ranking and the team listed is the current roster the player is on.

Here are the May 2014 rankings.

1. Henry Owens, SP{1}- Portland.  Owens hangs on to the top spot by his fingernails.  As mentioned last month Owens came bursting out of the gate in 2014.  In his first two starts he had a 6 inning complete game (rain shortened) no-hitter followed by a 6.2 innings scoreless effort.  Since then Owens has been human.  In three more April outings Henry has pitched 16 innings allowing 13 ER on 19 hits.  After allowing only 2 walks versus 18 strikeouts in the first two games, in the next three the K/BB  was 11/10. If the first three or four guys on this list put up May numbers comparable to April, Owens will relinquish the #1 ranking.  But at number one or four, Owens is still a helluva pitcher.

2. Mookie Betts, 2B {3}- Portland.  We try not to completely bury the readers with numbers for these rankings, but the numbers tell Mookie's story.  In April in his first month of AA, the 21 year old put up a line of 4/13/.430/.481/1.169.  He had ten doubles and a triple to go with ten stolen bases in thirteen attempts.  In case you think this month was a fluke, since May 5, 2013 when Betts snapped out of a slow start at low A Greenville, he has put up this line: 15/72/.361/.438/1.018 with 66 extra base hits (including the HR), 44 SB in 49 tries, 68 walks (vs. only 53 K).  These came in 125 games over three levels from Greenville to Portland. Through this April Betts has reached base in 52 consecutive games (57 counting the '13 Carolina League playoffs).  Some of his teammates are already asking publicly in the media when Betts is going to be promoted.  With a May that even remotely resembles April, Betts will not only be the top prospect in the Red Sox system, he will be challenging for the best prospect in all of MLB.

3. Blake Swihart, C {4}- Portland.  If not for Owens and Betts, this young catcher would be the Sea Dog gathering all the publicity from Portland.  The recently turned 22 year old has produced a line of 2/12/.320/.338/.858 in April.  The catcher also has two triples leading the Sea Dogs (in the only positive offensive category not lead by Mookie.) The two home runs and two triples may be a sign of emerging power, since Blake hit only 9 home runs combined in his two seasons at Greenville and Salem.

4. Garin Cecchini, 3B {2}- Pawtucket.  His fall two spots in the rankings are not really an indication of how Garin's AAA debut has gone. His Pawtucket slash line for April was 1/13/.312/.400/.790. His game may never include the long ball, Cecchini himself professes a preference for shooting the gaps for doubles (3 in April).  The real question for Cecchini is can his defense play at third base in the major leagues.  If the answer turns out to be no, or at best maybe, a position change to first base or left field maybe in his future.

5. Brandon Workman, SP {5}- Pawtucket.  Here comes the Pawsox rotation, one after the other.  Again we rate Workman at the top of this group because of two factors. First, and most importantly, Brandon has already proved to be a useful pitcher at the big league level. Secondly, there is little doubt at this time the Red Sox consider Workman the next in line if the parent team needs another starter. Now for a Brandon factoid. There have been 41 major league players with the first name of Brandon, including Workman.  At the end of the 1999 season, there had been none. All forty one have debuted in the 2000's.