Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reactions to the Lester-Cespedes Trade

Thoughts about the Jon Lester trade, in no particular order:
  • We at Red Sox Maineiacs have been banging this drum all year long, so allow me to do it again: WHAT THE HELL ARE WE THINKING LETTING THIS GUY WALK OUT THAT DOOR!??!?! The Sox Brass should be ashamed that they couldn’t get a deal done to extend Jon Lester. Do I need to re-hash all the reasons why? That he was smack dab in his prime? That he was a durable workhorse? That he was proven to thrive in the Boston market? That he raised his game on the big stage of the postseason? We should have locked this guy up long ago. Guys like this don’t grow on trees. 
  • For those of you hoping the Sox will open the check book and re-sign Lester this winter, I have some nice AOL stock I would like to sell you. Yes, the Sox have a ton of cash to spend this winter. Yes, Jon Lester has said he would consider re-signing in Boston this winter. But what makes you think that the Sox Brass is going to change their minds about going to 6 or 7 years for a 30-year-old pitcher this winter? And what makes you think Jon Lester isn’t going to get what he deserves: a long, ace-money contract.
  • Here’s where this gets a little weird: I like this trade! I hate the fact that Lester has probably thrown his last pitch as a Boston Red Sox, but at this point he is going to free agency, so the Sox had to move him now. I was resigned to the fact that we were going to get Matt Kemp from the Dodgers or a bundle of prospects from somebody else. But to get an all-star outfielder in Yoenis Cespedes signed through 2015 with the biggest power arm and one of the biggest power bats in baseball? Not bad. In fact, when you consider how much of a train wreck the Sox outfield has been this season and is likely to continue to be next season, this is a good addition for the Sox.
  • We get to say “Yo-ee-nis” a lot for the next 14 months!
  • Let’s talk about Cespedes: He burst onto the MLB scene when he defected from Cuba entering 2012, with Youtube videos of Cespedes showcasing superhuman-like feats. 

  • He backed up the videos by mashing 23 homers, stealing 16 bases, carrying a .861 OPS, and earning a  3.9 WAR, good enough to finish second only to Mike Trout in AL ROY. In 2013, Cespedes actually cranked more HR (26 to 23), but was down in just about all other offensive categories. He was a free-swinger in 2012, but in 2013 he took that to new heights, striking out 137 times and walking only 37 while lowering his WAR from 3.9 to 1.6. Entering 2014, there was a lot of talk about how MLB pitchers had “figured out how to pitch to Cespedes” and how Cespedes needed to shorten his swing and make adjustments.  Oakland coaches contended his swing was fine, it was his pitch selection that needed work. Whatever his problems were, Cespedes was abysmal in spring training this year, hitting about .130 while juggling all the advice swirling around him. In yet another example of why spring training stats aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, Cespedes has gone on to have a good season and getting selected to the All-Star team, where he won his second consecutive home run derby. He’s still swinging away, as his K/BB is 80/28, but his WAR is back up to 3.0 this season, he’s already mashed 17 HR,and he carries a .767 OPS. Oh, and he can uncork throws like this one: 

  • How will Cespedes fit into Boston? Well, in case you were wondering here are the OPS stats for the players who have most commonly been manning the outfield for Boston this season: Jackie Bradley Jr: .604, Jonny Gomes: .683, Daniel Nava: .658, Shane Victorino (in only 30 games played): .685, Grady Sizemore: .612, and yes the Slap Weasel at .772.  That a gluttony of sadness, folks. There’s more pop in a bottle of Brut than our outfield this season. Cespedes will immediately become our best outfielder, and becomes capable of launching 35 homers next year (several over the monster) after escaping the Oakland Yard Where Homers Go To Die. He can become our best power hitting outfielder since Manny Ramirez. An Ortiz/Napoli/Cespedes 3-4-5 trio next year looking pretty freaking good (if you don’t mind watching approximately 2,546 strikeouts next season).
  • And, ah yes, I almost forgot. Any Red Sox acquisition must be wrung through this wringer: will Cespedes be able to perform in the fishbowl of media that is Fenway Park? In this case, the yapping heads who are sure to bring up this point ad infinitum (I can hear the sound of Shaughnessy’s keys already clacking away on this article) might have a case. Cespedes has only known the Oakland clubhouse, which is renowned for being a carefree, let your freak flag fly kind of atmosphere. I’m not sure how much media scrutiny or scorn he has faced on the Bay. When Cespedes inevitably has a 0-16 slide with 9 K’s, the gaggle of Globe geese will pounce on him quickly.  Here’s hoping he can handle it.
  • What will the Red Sox 2015 rotation look like? Lester is gone, Jake Peavy is gone, Felix Doubront is gone, and sitting here about three hours short of the deadline, word is John Lackey is going to be gone too. Is our 2015 rotation Buchholz, De La Rosa, Webster, Ranaudo, and Workman? No doubt the Sox will look for a pitcher in return for Lackey or sign one or two this winter...right?
  • What else will Benny C and the Brass do before 4:00pm? Check back for updates in the comments section!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

2014 July Trade Deadline Preview

Today we stand a dozen days until the July 31 trade deadline. Even after the Red Sox beat the Royals  in the first post All Star Break game, they still stand at a very disappointing 44-52 at the bottom of the mediocre AL East.  Because of this poor standing, it is not clear if the Red Sox will be buyers or sellers, or some combination of both, at the deadline.  The Sox brass may not even have decided this internally yet, and the games between now and July 30( the Sox are off on deadline day) may determine their status.

Even if the Red Sox try to bring in some veteran help (not likely at this point), in other words be buyers, there are up to three current players who could be moved just to make room for some of the kids.

Last year in our July deadline post, we took a look team by team across MLB, to look for candidates to come to Boston.  This year the multitude of speculation involves which players will leave Boston, and in nearly every case for minor league prospects.  With just twelve days to go there we have heard only four or five names as possible major leaguers coming to Boston.  They are:

Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee, LHPs, Phillies.  Lee has been rumored to be on the Red Sox radar for years, he was mentioned in the RSM 2013 deadline post, and he is available.  But he has been injured for a lot of '14 and he is owed about $52M through 2016.  Hamels' name has cropped up in recent days, as insurance if the Red Sox cannot sign Jon Lester. Hamels and Lester have had similar careers, and the theory goes since Hamels has 5 years $90M remaining (on his original $144M deal), that his amount nearly matches what the Sox want Lester to take.  The drawbacks are twofold: Ruben Amaro, Phils GM. has stated he is not looking to shop Hamels, but would deal him for a package of three top prospects.  That is problem #1, to replace Lester it would cost players like Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, etc..( there is some talk Philadelphia wants two of these guys for Lee, too). Then after trading the package of kids there is problem #2, no guarantee Hamels can pitch in Boston.  Although I will grant you Philly is no warm and fuzzy fan base.  Hey, John Henry, just SIGN JON LESTER.

Allen Craig, 1B-OF, Cardinals.  His name first arose when the rumors of Jake Peavy to St. Louis surfaced.  The Cards are also looking to move some vets to make room for kids like Oscar Taveras and others.  But I do not believe St. Louis will do Craig for Peavy straight up.  If the Sox include a kid pitcher the deal is possible.  But, Craig's 2014 stats are down a lot, and he is also a bad defensive outfielder.  I do not think this is likely to happen.

Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres. This right handed hitting outfielder could have helped more a month or two ago.  The idea would have been then to help fill in for injured Shane Victorino and/or platoon in center with Jackie Bradley, Jr.  But tonight, Victorino is returning (although certainly no lock to stay healthy), and with his recent uptick in offense, JBJ needs to be in center nearly every day.  If the Sox surge in the next two weeks, Denorfia could be added to the mix.

Marlon Byrd, OF, Phillies.  Everything I just typed about Denorfia applies here, except for the fact Boston has all ready seen the sneaky good Marlon Byrd in 2012 and may not want to do so again.

Now onto the more likely action for Boston at the deadline. The moving of some of their veterans. The Red Sox began 2014 with 13 players who were potential free agents after this season.  Three have all ready moved on (Grady Sizemore, Chris Capuano, and AJ Piersynski), the remaining ten make up the list of likely players to be traded.  There are seven pitchers and three position players.

1. Jon Lester.  Without getting into the long list of very good reasons the Red Sox should SIGN JON LESTER, for deadline purposes there are three Red Sox management options.   First, SIGN JON LESTER. Second, ride out the rest of 2014 without an agreement, hoping to catch fire in August and September ( this would lead to two other post season options: lose him for a single draft pick or SIGN JON LESTER then).  The third July option if the Red Sox management is absolutely sure they cannot or will not be able to SIGN JON LESTER, they could trade him.  This would enable the Sox to get a return of more than a solitary pick in next June's draft.  But do not expect a haul like the Cubs got for Jeff Smadarjiza or like the Rays could get for David Price.  Both of those pitchers are signed through 2015.  The teams who could deal for Lester would only get two months of his service without a new deal. One other rumor out there is for the Red Sox to trade Lester now, and then when he becomes a free agent the Sox could SIGN JON LESTER.  I think that is next to impossible, if Lester gets to free agency in any manner, some other team (Yankees) will pay tens and tens of millions more than anyone including Boston. SIGN JON LESTER!!

2. John Lackey.  Lackey is a free agent to be in name only.  His original deal with Boston is up after 2014, but the much publicized year that Lackey has to pitch for the minimum $500,000 is actually a club option for 2015.  His free agent deal with the Sox included a clause stating if he missed time due to an elbow injury, the one year at league minimum  option would be in effect.  His Tommy John surgery causing him to miss '12 set this in motion.  This option will definitely be picked up.  This could make John Lackey the most attractive trade chip Boston has, either now or this winter.  If he is traded now, the receiving team has Lackey for the rest of this year and all of 2015.  And at $500,000 in '15 every single team in baseball could more than afford him.  Lackey could ( especially if Boston throws in a bullpen guy) bring a package similar to the A's gave the Cubs.  Maybe even one useful current big leaguer and a top prospect.  But trading Lackey now ( as with Lester) likely waves the white flag on 2014 ( although frees up another sport for a AAA starter).

3. Jake Peavy.  Here is the A1, top of the heap certain lock to be traded before July 31.  Peavy has pitched better than his one win on the ledger would suggest.  But he is a free agent after this year, and is in no way part of the 2015 Sox blueprint.  Jake has to be moved now to make way for Brandon Workman ( or Anthony Ranaudo or Allen Webster).  A week or two ago it looked like Peavy was gone to St. Louis.  This rumors have cooled, although I still consider St. Louis a possible Peavy landing spot.  The most recent reports I have read consider the Brewers, Angels, and Pirates the "finalists". Milwaukee was the first rumored suitor I had heard more than a month ago.  Peavy will go, likely to the NL where he could thrive for any contender down the stretch.  My guess is Pittsburgh.

4. Koji Uehara.  The Sox could have easily the best closer available at the deadline if they shop Koji. This to would seem to wave bye-bye to 2014, but there at least three good reasons to pursue this. First,  Uehara would be 40 next April, if the Sox brought him back on a new contract.  Secondly, this would give the Sox a chance to audition a younger internal option at closer. Maybe Junichi Tazawa or even one of the Pawtucket starters.  Thirdly and most importantly, there are contending teams out there who could use closer upgrades (Tigers, for one) or overall bullpen improvement (A's, Orioles, Dodgers, and others).  A very good player or two could be acquired by a contender for a Koji rental.  Remember the last time Koji was traded for two kids it was for Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis.

5. Andrew Miller.  According today to Peter Gammons, Miller is the player the Sox are getting more calls on then any other player on their team.  With nearly every team in baseball in some sort of contention, at least for a wild card, there are likely two dozen teams who could use Miler, maybe even as a closer.  If Boston could two or three of those teams in a bidding war, who knows what the return may be.  The flip side is Miler is only 29, and has been blowing hitters away.  Perhaps they should be signing Miller to a new deal to help the 2015 Sox charge back to the top.

6. Burke Badenhop.  For most of this year, the ground ball specialist has pitched very effectively.  As a two month rental, Badenhop would help any contenders pen.  Just do not expect more than a Grade B prospect in return.

7. Craig Breslow.  One of the most sought after commodities at the deadline by contenders are lefty bullpen specialist.  Breslow fits the bill, and the vet had a great ALDS and ALCS just last year.

8. Jonny Gomes.  Probably the second most likely vet to go.  The Sox outfield is crowded and with Victorino's return,   Brock may take over left field.  But from the buyer's point of view, Gomes still pounds left handed pitching and has the reputation (and resume) of being a leader for a winning team. Two teams all ready linked to Gomes are Kansas City (who last found out first hand Gomes pounds lefties and can win games) and Seattle.

9. David Ross.  Of this whole list of ten, Ross is by far the least likely to be traded.  David has an important role on the 2014 Red Sox.  That is to mentor and teach Christian Vazquez, the young catcher.  Ross may well be re-signed for 2015 to have that same role to Vazquez and /or Blake Swihart.

10. Stephen Drew.  This is  a player who needs to be moved out of the way as soon as possible.  This is now being admitted by even most of the ardent proponents of bringing Drew back when he was on the free agent market.  Xander Bogaerts needs to be the shortstop for the next two months, so the Sox can decide once and for all if he can handle that position.  Several other players fates are intertwined in this decision.  The Tigers are one contender still lacking are real big league shortstop, and there are others who could use an upgrade.  The question is with Drew's poor 2014 offensive numbers, is he an upgrade.  If the Sox eat some money they should be able to move Drew.

Besides the free agents a few other names have been mentioned.  Will the Sox cut bait on Will Middlebrooks?  Now is not the prime time due to his injuries perhaps,and the Sox keep hinting they do not want to give up on his right handed power.  Jayson Stark, ESPN, threw out Junichi Tazawa's name but with so much of the  bullpen on the free agent to be list, that seems unlikely.  Nick Cafardo has reported the Sox have taken several calls on Mike Napoli.  But again with right handed power so scarce, and with Nap signed through 2015, he is a building block for next year and Boston would need to get a major offer to move him.

Check back to this post over the next 12 days to see any action on the Red Sox trade front and commentary on that action.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Red Sox at the All Star Break

As the All Star Break ends, we will take this time to look back on the 2014 season so far ( oh, c'mon take your hands away from your eyes) and look forward to the remaining 41% of the campaign. Yes, 41%, even though the All Star Break is often referred to as the halfway mark of any baseball calendar, this year's Boston team has all ready played 95 games, leaving only 67.

First as we look back, lets identify what has gone wrong in 2014. ( Yes, I know that I could shorten the post by just typing "everything" and stopping right there.) Here are the five things I think have most adversely affected the '14 Sox.

1. Shane Victorino's injuries and absence from the lineup.

Some other observer's might actually entitle this as missing Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order.  I felt that Victorino was the best chance the Sox had to internally fill in for the Yankee #3 hitter.  But due to a series of hamstring and back  woes, Shane has appeared in only 21 games.  Even though the Sox by late May found their leadoff man, (Hello, Brock Holt), Shane would have lengthened the lineup, and along with Jackie Bradley,Jr. would have created the best defensive outfield in baseball. A quick return to the lineup (and the ability to stay in it for the rest of 2014)  is one thing needed for this Sox team to make any miracle run in '14.

2. Dustin Pedroia's offensive "decline"

It is very likely Pedey played all of 2013 injured after hurting his thumb on a headfirst slide in first on Opening Day.  And since Pedroia underwent another hand MRI in April of this year, he may be playing hurt again. But the numbers clearly show Dustin is in a 4-5 year decline in his power numbers.

Home Runs

2011     21
2012     15
2013       9
2014       4 (YTD)

Slugging Average

2010         .493 ( 75 games injury shortened year)
2011         .474
2012         .449
2013         .415
2014         .381 (YTD)

In the first five years of Pedey's career his OPS exceeded .800 each year, since 2012 his annual OPS is .797, .787, and so far in '14 .729.

Pedroia has seven years to go on his contract.  Will he play out the deal as a great defensive second sacker, who can only slap singles and doubles?  At this point, Pedroia should not be hitting third, in a better lineup he maybe should be down around seventh.

3. Clay Buchholz's "malaise".

After missing the last 60% or so of 2013 and barely helping out any in the championship postseason, Clay was handled with kid gloves this spring by the Sox.  And he flopped. He pitched in the rotation from Opening Day to Memorial Day, and after a May 26 start vs. Atlanta, in which he lasted three innings, Buch's ERA was 7.02 ( and all of his other numbers were just as bad).  At that point the Red Sox came up with some leg injury for Buch and put him on the DL.  After his return Clay had strung together a few good starts. In the final game before the break in Houston, Clay looked like the Buch of early 2013   ( when he was 9-0 with an ERA of 1.71 through June 8) by spinning a complete game three hit shutout , with 12 strikeouts with no base on balls.  This will be the Buchholz needed from here on out. ( Yeah, I know it was only Houston, but still, it's a start).

4. AJ Pierzynski's failure to hit enough to overcome his poisonous clubhouse presence.

Look, everyone knew going in, AJ was not a cuddly character.  But he had hit (although he drew walks at a next to none pace) throughout his long big league stint.  These were his numbers for the previous two seasons.

2013 Texas     17 HR 70 RBI  .272  BA .297 OBP .722 OPS
2012 Chi WS  27 HR 77 RBI  .278  BA .326 0BP  .827 OPS

But for Boston in 72 games his line was 4-31-.254-.286-.633

There was nothing wrong with gambling AJP could give you one more year like the previous, but the Sox lost the gamble, plus it was time to see what Christian Vazquez can do behind the dish in the big leagues.  This could be a classic case of addition by subtraction.

5. Failures by the "young vets".

Specifically I am thinking of Felix Doubront, Will Middlebrooks, and Daniel Nava (not so young in age, but in big league experience).  Nava was hitting so far under the Mendoza Line in April, that he was unexpectedly sent to AAA.  If the Grady Sizemore experiment had taken root, Nava might still be in Rhode Island.  Nava has hit better of late, since returning, and hopefully will help coming down the stretch ( if he can find playing time in the crowded outfield). In 2013 from May into August, Doubie had finally seemed to put it together with sixteen straight quality starts. But 2014 brought more of his inconsistency and in ten starts his record is 2-4 with an ERA of 5.17.  He now resides in the bullpen( or the doghouse) and has lost his rotation spot to Rubby De la Rosa, Brandon Workman, or some other young pitcher to arrive later.  For the third year in a row, Will Middlebrooks has had his campaign derailed by injury.  The tantalizing right handed power still seems to be there, but you cannot hit the long ball if you cannot stay in the lineup.  In 2014, Will has played only 21 games (same number as Victorino) and in 82 PA he has a line of 2-9-.197-.305( and one of those homers came in the home opener).  With a flood of young infielders arriving in (or knocking on the door to) Boston, Will's Boston tenure is teetering on the edge.

Now onto a look to the immediate future and five things to watch for in the remainder of 2014.  If all five of these factors succeed to their maximum, the Sox may just have one last kick in them to try to climb into the playoff picture.

1. The best starting rotation in the AL East ( with only the Tigers and maybe the A's better in the whole AL).

The Red Sox all ready hold this distinction based on the first 95 games.  Here is what they need to be even better ( and perhaps carry the offense if needed).

* Jon Lester to match his All Star beginning to 2014.
*Clay Buchholz to pitch similarly to his start of 2013.
* John Lackey to continue to perform like he has in '13 and '14 since his TJ surgery.
* Rubby De La Rosa to continue to develop and have sometimes dominating starts(as he has)
*Brandon Workman and/or Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster to grab the fifth spot after Jake Peavy is traded this month.

2. Continued progression of the kids.

And this includes the pitchers mentioned above.  First and foremost, find a way to get Xander Bogaerts back to his hitting ways of April and May (not to mention last October). Let Jackie Bradley, Jr. play every day in center field, and watch his bating average rise as it has since June.  Plenty of playing time is needed for Christian Vazquez (as well as plenty of "classroom" with David Ross and the veteran pitchers). Lots of outfield repetitions for Mookie Betts, along with playing time (if not in Boston, then back to AAA).  Somehow figure out a way to get some big league time for Will Middlebrooks and Bryce Brentz, if either power hitter can get healthy enough.

3. David Ortiz' pursuit of 500 career home runs.

No not this season, but the second half of 2014 may determine how easily Big Papi can reach the still magic mark.  Ortiz with twenty bombs before the break sits at 451(one behind Yaz).  He will be 39 in November.  His pace for 2014 would place him at 34, or 465 total.  In other words if he hits 34 this year, his 2015 year would have to be the same ( he would need 35.) If Big Papi could hit another 20 this year, putting him at 471, he would have a more reasonable chance to get 500 in 2015.  Of course, there is always 2016.

4. The alignment of the infield/outfield.

I listed the position of infield/outfield as one because so many players are being used in both.  The only set spots are first(Mike Napoli), second (Pedroia), and probably CF (JBJ).  When (if??) Shane Victorino returns, that may leave only left, short, and third in flux.  The nominees for those spots are Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Brock Holt ( who sure as hell plays somewhere), Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Nava, and Will Middlebrooks ( not to mention Garin Cecchini, Bryce Brentz, Alex Hassan, Deven Marrero, et al).  This will be fascinating and may be intertwined with #5.

5. The trade deadline.

With two weeks from today to go, the Sox status as sellers/buyers (both??) is unclear.  A few vets are likely to be moved just to make room for the gluts referenced above.  This includes Jake Peavy( a lock to go), Johnny Gomes, and maybe (hopefully) Stephen Drew.  If the Sox collapse further in the next two weeks, all bets are off and damned near anyone could go.  RSM will have much more on the deadline in a upcoming post very soon.

To wrap up let's take a look at the remaining schedule. The Sox are 43-52, 9 1/2 games out in the AL East.  The Sox are also 8 games out of the second wild card spot, but they are behind every team in the AL except Houston and Texas in that wild card hunt. Here is a list of games left with each team.

Toronto          13   (6 H, 7 A)
Tampa Bay    10    (3/7)
New York       9    (6/3)
Kansas City     7    (3/4)
LAA                7    (4/3)
Baltimore         6     (3/3)
Houston           4     (4/0)
Seattle              3     (3/0)
St. Louis          3     (0/3)
Pittsburgh        3     (0/3)
Cincy               2     (0/2)

A few quick thoughts:

* Only six left with the currently first place Orioles, could make it hard to catch them with a lack of head to head meetings.

* All eight remaining inter league games are on the road.

* A 32 home/35 away split

* 38 of the last 67 are versus the AL East, 13 of these coming up after opening the post break at Fenway against KC.  And then besides six with KC and the Pirates, the rest of September is all AL East games.

52 of the last 67 are against the AL East, KC, and the Angels, all teams the Sox would need to pass for a post season spot.

Red Sox Nation certainly did not enjoy the pre- All Star Break portion ( damn, "the first half" sure rolls of the keyboard much easier) of 2014. But with a little luck, one way or another (a revival and pennant push, or instead watching the kids and an early start to 2015) the remainder of the World Championship defense campaign should bring some interesting scenarios to the Hub.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Red Sox All Star Prospectus 2014

Since the All-Star game selection show will take place on Sunday night and fan voting ends in approximately 48 hours, I figured now would be a good time to roll out the All Star Prospectus for 2014. Much like all of my past efforts on the RSM site (March Madness Baseball Bracket), I seemed to have forgotten about this mid-season write-up I’ve done. Anyway, better late than never. In this post, we will look at the potential for AL All-Stars based on each team needing a representative and estimating who will end up as the top vote getters. We will also discuss the prospects of the Sox to make the squad.

34 players will make the AL All-Star team for the game to be played at Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins on July 15th. The 9 starters and the 34th Man Selection will be determined by the fans.

Major League Baseball released its final update prior to the close of fan voting today, if the voting stays as is the AL will run out an interesting starting group in 2 weeks.

C Matt Wieters, Baltimore
Right out of the gate, the AL is probably going to cost a deserving All-Star a roster spot as Wieters leads Derek Norris of the A’s by just under 180,000 votes with Brian McCann of the Yankees just under 500,000 votes behind. Wieters has been injured most of the first half of the season playing in only 26 games, yet is in line for his first ever All-Star starting nod. Norris has been fantastic in the first half yet is a platoon player with John Jaso, while McCann has been sub-par in his first season in the AL.
1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Cabrera, arguably the greatest right-handed hitter ever, has a comfortable lead of nearly 1.5 million votes on White Sox rookie sensation Jose Abreu. While the slugging Cuban has set the baseball world on fire in the first half, Cabrera who was the starting 3B for the AL last year should pack his bags for Minnesota.
2B Robinson Cano, Seattle
Even with the move from New York to the West Coast and the smaller market of Seattle, Cano has a comfortable lead of nearly 875,000 votes over Ian Kinsler of the Tigers. 2B is possibly the most talented AL position with the likes of Cano, Kinsler, Jose Altuve of the Astros, and the Red Sox own Dustin Pedroia. While all would be deserving all-stars, Cano’s history as well as a strong 2014 for the surprising Mariners makes him the pick.
3B Josh Donaldson, Oakland
Donaladson building off his 2013 campaign with strong first half leads by a wide margin of nearly 1.2 million votes over Adrian Beltre of the Rangers. While it is safe to assume that Donaldson will be the starter, Beltre and even perhaps Kyle Seager of the Mariners have put up equally as good if not better first half’s of the season.
SS Derek Jeter, New York
Call this a lifetime achievement vote a la Cal Ripken in 2001. While Jeter has put up respectable numbers in his final season, this is another starter that will likely cost another deserving player a roster spot. Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox who trails by nearly 600,000 votes has been the best AL SS most of the first half while Alcides Escobar of the Royals, Elvis Andrus of the Rangers, and Jose Reyes of the Blue Jays have all put up numbers better than Jeter.
LF Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland
CF Mike Trout, Los Angeles
RF Jose Bautista, Toronto
In the OF, Bautista and Trout are safely in as they are currently the top 2 vote getters each with more than 4 million votes. Cespedes however only leads Melky Cabrera of the Blue Jays by just over 12,000 votes with Adam Jones of the Orioles and Michael Brantley of the Indians both within striking distance. It would not be shocking to see either Cabrera or Jones end up as the 3rd OFer based on the voting patterns of fans in Toronto and Baltimore. While a case could be made for Cespedes, Cabrera, Jones, and Brantley for being the 3rd OFer, Cespedes may have the weakest resume at the plate but his stellar defense throughout the first half could be the difference.
DH Nelson Cruz, Baltimore
Cruz has a comfortable margin of nearly 1 million votes over Big Papi and should end up with the starting nod, the Orioles fans do love to vote for all-stars. Apparently Cruz’s PED suspension of last year has impacted the fans less than Cruz’s 25 HRs. Meanwhile, Victor Martinez of the Tigers has put up the best season for DH’s.
C Salvador Perez, Kansas City
Kurt Suzuki, Minnesota, Mike Zunino, Seattle, Yan Gomes, Cleveland, Dioner Navarro, Tampa Bay, Derek Norris, Oakland, John Jaso, Oakland
The selection of the back-up(s) at catcher is going to be a complete crapshoot. We’ll go with Perez as the pick. Although Suzuki as perhaps the lone hometown representative and Norris would not be surprise picks. Needless to say, neither of the Red Sox backstops received much consideration. How long until Christian Vazquez is in Boston?
1B Victor Martinez, Detroit, Jose Abreu, Chicago, Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto
Mike Napoli, Boston, Brandon Moss, Oakland, Albert Pujols, Los Angeles, Joe Mauer, Minnesota, Billy Butler, Kansas City, James Loney, Tampa Bay
Even though he has played DH all season, Victor Martinez is listed here as he has put up a monster first half, so too have Abreu and Encarnacion. Despite putting up a solid 1st half, injuries derailed Napoli’s candidacy.
2B Jose Altuve, Houston, Ian Kinsler, Detroit
Dustin Pedroia, Boston, Brian Dozier, Minnesota, Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles, Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay, Gordon Beckham, Chicago
As we mentioned above, 2B might be the most talented position in the AL. Altuve, who leads the AL in batting average and steals, easily makes the squad while Kinsler has quietly put up a very nice season to make the roster. Despite his recent hot streak, Dustin Pedroia does not have enough to make the all-star team this year.
3B Adrian Beltre, Texas, Kyle Seager, Seattle
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay, Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland, Brock Holt, Boston, Yangervis Solarte, New York
Beltre should probably be the AL starter and most likely would be if he had not spent time on the DL in the first half. Seager has been tremendous, especially at home and of late to help him onto the AL roster. Wunderkid Brock Holt despite his almost nightly heroics, came onto the scene too late to garner enough attention to make this team.
SS Alexei Ramirez, Chicago, Alcides Escobar, Kansas City
Erick Aybar, Los Angeles, JJ Hardy, Baltimore, Elvis Andrus, Texas, Jose Reyes, Toronto
Ramirez has cooled off from his tremendous April but should still make the roster based on his overall body of work, although Escobar and even Erick Aybar have both put up seasons worth of being on the all-star team. Despite flashes of all-star ability, Xander Bogaerts does not have enough to make the team.
OF Michael Brantley, Cleveland, Adam Jones, Baltimore, Melky Cabrera, Toronto, Jacoby Ellsbury, New York
Alex Rios, Texas, Nick Markakis, Baltimore, Brett Gardner, New York, Coco Crisp, Oakland, Dexter Fowler, Houston, George Springer, Houston, Leonys Martin, Texas
OF is always the hardest position for us to handicap, mostly because of how many players will be taken at the position. It is conceivable with Nelson Cruz being the DH that John Farrell can shuffle is line-up to move Cruz to the OF if need be. With so many other worthy candidates, we’ll take just 4 backup OFers. Brantley, Jones, and Cabrera could all end up starting in which case Yoenis Cespedes would join this list of back-ups. Ellsbury is the last addition and an interesting one for Red Sox fans. Despite having good numbers, Ellsbury does not immediately jump off the page as an all-star, call this a pick to thank Ells for 2 World Series titles. Rios and Springer could also find themselves in the Twin Cities in 2 weeks. The Sox OF ineptitude has been well documented, as such none received consideration.
Masahiro Tanaka, New York, Felix Hernandez, Seattle, Yu Darvish, Texas, Mark Buehrle, Toronto, Scott Kazmir, Oakland, Grant Richards, Los Angeles, Jon Lester, Boston, Rick Porcello, Detroit, Koji Uehara, Boston, Greg Holland, Kansas City, Glen Perkins, Minnesota, David Price, Tampa Bay
John Lackey, Boston, Jesse Chavez, Oakland, Corey Kluber, Cleveland, Sonny Gray, Oakland, Yordano Ventura, Kansas City, Chris Archer, Tampa Bay, Jered Weaver, Los Angeles, Jason Vargas, Kansas City, Phil Hughes, Minnesota, Max Scherzer, Detroit, James Shields, Kansas City, Chris Sale, Chicago, Sean Doolittle, Oakland, Cody Allen, Cleveland, Fernando Rodney, Seattle, David Robertson, New York, Joakim Soria, Texas, Dallas Keuchel, Houston, Dellin Betances, New York
Another position that is hard to handicap based on how many relievers will be chosen and which starters will be available. The easy choices are Tanaka and Hernandez. Darvish, Buehrle, Kazmir, Richards, Lester, and Price should all make the team. Especially, Price as being selected as the lone Devil Ray. However, any of them could be left off the roster as well to make room for other worthy starters. The relievers are another crapshoot, but Perkins as the lone Twin should get the nod along with Holland and Koji. An interesting name that gets squeezed out is Dellin Betances of the Yankees with his 76 K’s in only 48 innings.

So there you have it the RSM All-Star Prospectus for 2014. Obviously, given the season to date the Red Sox can only muster 2 pitchers on the roster.

RSM Top 20 Red Sox Prospects- July Edition

With another month in the books of the 2014 baseball season, it is time to unveil another ranking of the rich Red Sox farm system.  

First some housekeeping notes.  With this year's amateur draft taking place in June, a new crop of potential Red Sox stars of the future are now eligible for our list, and there are some of the '14 class here.

Also two members of the recent rankings have graduated.  With the recent strong MLB performances and taking into account the total career innings pitched in the big leagues by both Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa we have moved them up from the list of prospects ( despite De La Rosa's return to AAA).  The rookie limit of innings is 50, and Workman has pitched over 80 innings between 2013 and 2014, while pitching in 29 games with nine starts.  Rubby, counting his games with the Dodgers in 2011, has appeared in 30 games starting half of them.  De La Rosa has pitched 105 big league innings.

As with other months the line used for batters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for pitchers it is W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP.

1. Mookie Betts, 2B-OF- Boston {1} For the second month in a row Betts is the #1 prospect and also for the second month is a row, Mookie has been promoted.  Mookie is now with the big club, making his major league debut on June 29th at Yankee Stadium. A year before his big league arrival Betts was playing at Greenville in Low A.  At this point only four of his Greenville teammates have even reached AA: Brian Johnson, David Chester, Jayson Hernandez, and Kyle Krauss.  Mookie played 23 games at AAA and reached base in all of them.  There is no guarantee Betts will stick in Boston for now, but he was not brought up to sit, and if he hits he will stay, maybe for good. His combined line for AA and AAA was 8-48-.345-.437-.957 with 21 doubles, 4 triples, and 29 stolen bases.

Betts was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.  In other words, if Mookie had gone to Univ. of Tennessee ( as he committed to do), he would have been in this year's draft. And, Mookie very, very nearly ended up in school.  The Red Sox had signed their top picks in 2011 including Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, and Jackie Bradley, Jr..  But Boston had saved some cash to sign one of the athletic, tough to sign high schoolers.  They had a target in mind: Senquez Golson, a Pascaguola, Mississippi two sport star committed to Ole Miss.  The Sox threw big cash his way, and Senquez.....declined and went on to Ole Miss.  At the very last hour (or less) before the signing deadline, Boston turned to another high schooler who had been leaning toward college and had not agreed on any Boston offer.  That was Mookie Betts, who agreed to $750,000 after Golson turned Boston down.

Golson went to Ole Miss to play his two sports.  One is football, and with Golson's elite speed he plays cornerback, and has started twenty games from his freshmen to junior years.  He played baseball his first year at Mississippi, hitting only .204 in 22 games.  He sat out his sophomore year to concentrate on spring football, but attempted a baseball comeback this spring.  But Senquez pulled a hamstring in the preseason and after missing 1 1/2 months, he did not make the team.  His stated intention is try baseball again next year.  He was not drafted at all in this year's baseball draft despite being eligible.

2. Henry Owens, LHP- Portland {2}.  Owens through June has a pitching line of 10-3/2.25/95/37-1.04 in 15 starts.  Owens has made strides in commanding his pitches and has cut down on his walks. For example on June 14th, Owens pitched 6.2 innings while allowing six hits and one run, he struck out seven with no walks.  That ended a four game stretch of starts where Henry gave up only two runs in 36.2 innings, for an ERA of 0.49.  Owens, who has been selected to play in the Futures All Star game, is knocking on the door to Pawtucket.  Moving a Red Sox starter ( Jake Peavy?) would make room for a Paw Sox starter in Boston, and open a spot for Owens in AAA.  Expect Owens to move up no later than right after the Futures game.

3. Blake Swihart, C- Portland {3}.  The top three remain the same as June, and any of the three would be the number one prospect for many, many other MLB teams.  After getting a chance to see Blake in person in June at Hadlock, I seriously considered him for the top spot.  As mentioned last month, Swihart's power game seems to be developing.  Earlier this year, Blake was hitting home runs from the right side, but lately the switch hitter is adding blasts from the left side. His line is 9-42-.296-.348-.830 with 14 doubles, 3 triples and 4 stolen bases.  His nine home runs match the entire output of his previous three seasons combined.  In addition, and maybe more importantly, Blake has thrown out over 50% of would be base stealers.

4. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP- Pawtucket {8}. Based on Anthony's season long dominance at Pawtucket, and red hot June, Ranaudo has moved to the front of the Paw Sox starters.  Anthony's line for the year is 9-4/2.35/81-42/1.16.  For June he was even better 4-1/1.47/28-10/0.82.  From May 15 through June 25 his ERA was 1.29 and he added another seven shutout innings on June 30.  Despite the wonderful outings by Rubby De La Rosa while pitching in Boston, do not be surprised if Ranaudo gets the next call from Pawtucket.

5. Allen Webster, RHP- Pawtucket. {7}. Ironically, even though Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa got the first recalls to pitch in the Red Sox rotation, Ranaudo and Webster have had the best years at AAA.  Webster is 4-4/2.92/81-35/1.23.  

6. Garin Cecchini, 3B-LF- Pawtucket {4}. Despite a pair of brief stops with Boston in June ( and garnering his first big league hit), June was a cruel month for Garin.  Known for hitting and especially on base skills, his numbers for June were 2-9-.197-.278-.767, lowering his BA for the year to .255.  Late in June the Red Sox had Cecchini play some games in left field in AAA, as they seemingly have with every infielder in the system.  

7. Brian Johnson, LHP- Portland {12} One of the big risers this month.  Johnson has been outstanding since arriving in Portland.  His AA line is 7-1/1.67/51.17/1.03.  His only loss was on May 25, and Johnson in that game pitched seven innings and allowed only one run.  Counting his time at Salem, Brian is 10-2 with a 2.33 ERA. He pounds the strike zone, usually around 70% strikes thrown.  Do not be shocked if Johnson ends up being in the Red Sox rotation long term, over some of the guys ahead of him now.

8. Matt Barnes, RHP- Pawtucket. {9}  While Barnes still lags behind the other Paw Sox starters in stats and experience, Barnes showed improvement in June: 2-2/3.42/18-4/1.33, all improved numbers over April and May.  Matt might be setting up for a repeat of 2013, when the second half of his year was much better than the first.

9. Christian Vazquez, C- Pawtucket. {10} While continuing to be called defensively major league ready now by baseball people everywhere, Vazquez's bat seemed to come to life in June.  After finishing May with no home runs and only ten RBI, Vaz's June line was 3-9-.29-.368-.848.  By no later than the July 31 trade deadline, it would seem AJ Pierzynski's Boston days are numbered.  And it is time if not beyond time to try Christian Vazquez behind the dish at Fenway.

10. Deven Marrero, SS- Portland { 11}.  The sweet fielding shortstop continues to dazzle with glove, but his bat has been noteworthy at Portland as well.  The June 16-23 Eastern League Player of Week sizzled in June at the pace of 3-11-.368-.441-.993.  This hot June brought his overall line to 5-39-.293-.374-.811 with 42 runs scored.  Any numbers within 20% of those, and meet your Red Sox shortstop of the future( sorry Xander), maybe even by 2015.

11. Rafael Devers, 3B- Red Sox DSL team {20}.  The only thing wrong at all with Devers is the fact RSM never should have had him as low as #20 in June.   The 17 year old finally got to play in the Dominican Summer League.  In 99 at bats in June, Rafael's line was 3-21-.343-.451-1.006, including six doubles and three triples.  Reportedly the Sox are in the process of moving Devers up to the GCL, with perhaps a delay in obtaining the proper work visa holding up the deserved promotion.

12. Manuel Margot, OF- Greenville  {13} One of the five teenagers on this list, Margot is having the most success at the highest level.  Margot who has been the everyday center fielder all year at Low A has a line of 6-28-.271-.338-.755 and he has 25 steals.  It will be interesting to see if Margot keeps up his stats as he completes his first full season minor league campaign.

13. Sean Coyle, 2B-3B- Portland {18}.  Coyle has always hit and hit for power when healthy, but for the last six or seven weeks, Sean has been on fire.  His seasonal line is 9-38-.361-.440-1.052. Six of the home runs came in June and he raised his OPB with June's .450.  Coyle has replaced Mookie Betts' bat in the Portland lineup and now Coyle has been rewarded by being chosen to play in the Futures Game, replacing Betts.

14. Michael Chavis, IF- GCL {NR} The 2014 Red Sox first round draft pick (#26 overall) has signed but not yet made his first pro appearance.  Last year when the Sox picked #7, their sights were reportedly on Georgia HS outfielder, Clint Frazier, but Cleveland grabbed Frazier at #5.  Chavis, also from Georgia, compares very favorably to Frazier at the bat according to area scouts.

15. Michael Kopech, RHP- GCL {NR}.  The other top Sox draftee (#33 overall) has also signed and is awaiting his GCL debut.  Both Michaels- Chavis and Kopech- are a long ways from Boston, but will be two to keep our eyes on.

16. Travis Shaw, 1B- Pawtucket  {16}.  Shaw seems to be settling in to AAA, hitting four home runs with 14 RBI in 47 games.  One number that shows room still needed for improvement is his AAA OBP, which is only.290.  Shaw is normally up around .400 in OBP.  Shaw played a game at third base this week for Pawtucket (where he began his minor league career) in the never ending attempt by the Sox to create positional versatility. 

17. Wendell Rijo, 2B- Greenville {15}. The youngest player on the list not drafted this June.  Rijo will not turn 19 until Sept. 4 (about the last day of the minor league season).  Despite his age, his line for the year is 3-19-.262-.350-.740 with 34 runs scored.

18. Luis Diaz, RHP- Portland {28}.  The 22 year old from Venezuela arrived in Portland to replace Mickey Pena who was suspended by MLB for 100 games for a drug violation.  Diaz, who was having a strong season at Salem, has been even better in his three Sea Dog starts.  2-1/1.80/11-4/1.12.    In his AA debut, Diaz allowed one hit in six IP.  From the start of 2013 through June 2014 Diaz has an ERA of 2.41 in 180 innings.

19. Trey Ball, LHP- Greenville {19}. Ball's struggles, number-wise, continue in the South Atlantic League.  During June Trey's line was 0-3/6.17/16-7/1.84, which was actually an improvement over his earlier numbers.  One year removed from high school in Indiana,  Ball will be a long term project.

20. Sam Travis, 1B-Lowell  {NR}. The third 2014 draftee (second round, #67 overall) in the top 20.  But unlike Chavis and Kopech, Travis could move rather quickly up the ladder.  A college slugger from Indiana Univ., Travis was considered one of the top power skill sets in the draft.  Projected to be limited to first base lowered his draft status.  But as always, the Sox are talking about trying Travis at third and left in addition to first.  In His first 11 games at Lowell, Travis' line is 2-6-.273-.273-.705.

Now for five just out of the Top 20

21. Bryce Brentz, OF- Pawtucket {14}  Bryce has been on the DL since May 15 with a pulled hamstring, which he re-aggravted during a Fort Myers rehab.  This MIA has caused Brentz to slide down our rankings.  But much more importantly for Brentz ( any maybe the Red Sox)  while Bryce was on the DL, the Sox needed a right handed bat for the outfield and that would have been the perfect chance for Brentz to show he belongs in the show.  This could turn out to be a missed opportunity that may never come around again.

22. Henry Ramos, OF-Portland {17} Ramos, who made his debut on this rankings last month based on a line of 2-23-.326-.368-.799, has also moved back due to being on the DL.  A left tibia stress fracture has kept Henry idle since June 6.

23. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP- Greenville {23} The 2013 second rounder pitched the best game of his pro career on June 11th.  Teddy pitched seven shutout innings allowing on two hits with 6 K's and no walks.

24. Joe Gunkel, RHP- Salem {30} In 2013 the Red Sox took Gunkel in the 18th round out of West Chester (PA) Univ. Last year pitching at Lowell, Joe was 3-0 with five saves and an ERA of 1.35.  Gunkel began '14 at Greenville and put up a line of 3-0/2.28/62-11/0.72.  He was promoted to Salem and so far in two starts Joe is 2-0/2.38/7-4/0.97.  Despite his relatively low draft slot, if Gunkel continues to put those stats he will get someone's attention.  He has ours.

25. Derrik Gibson, OF-IF- Portland {NR}.  The zombie prospect has arisen.  Gibson was taken as a Delaware high school shortstop in the second round of the 2008 draft, 77 overall, by the Red Sox.  In 2009, Derrik had a solid .290 season, after splitting 2008 between the GCL and Lowell.  At the end of 2009 he was the tenth rated Red Sox prospect. And then the speedster's bat just went away.  In 2010 at Greenville he hit .230 and .240 in '11 at Salem.  As Gibson joined Portland for the 2012 campaign at age 22, he was at least moving up the system.  But he has been at Portland ever since. In 2012 he hit .225, which he raised to .250 in 2013, but he only got into 88 games( mostly at second and shortstop) in '13.  Gibson, who has no power at all, was being bypassed by brighter prospects. But then 2014 happened, and again Gibson is at Hadlock field for the third year.  But still only 24, the Sox (stop me if you have heard this before) moved the speedy Gibson to center field. Gibson, who is currently residing as the Dogs lead off hitter, exploded in June for a line of 1(the sixth HR of his career)-11-.404-.505-1.066.  The .404 was the highest BA in all of AA for June, and you read the OBP correctly, Gibson was on base more often than not in all of June. Gibson atop the potent Portland attack has scored 38 runs this year, 14 in June. Is Gibson still a real prospect??  Well at 24 he is still young enough, if he could get to Pawtucket this year and continue to rake it would help his cause.  Being able to play all over the diamond and with his speed, Gibson could at least have a future as a utility player.

Four more names to re-visit.

Drake Britton and Alex Wilson- Both pitchers have been converted full time to the pen, and both really struggled in June ( Britton has been poor all year.)Britton's ERA is 5.06 and Wilson's is 6.08.  If the Red Sox need a bullpen arm from AAA, would they really recall one of these guys or just bring up a AAA starter and stick him in the Boston bullpen.

Alex Hassan- The Paw Sox outfielder was recalled to Boston for a brief stint early when the Sox needed a right handed bat.  Unfortunately for Alex he was actually slumping at the time and seemed overmatched.  In late June Hassan has been red hot at AAA with a June line of 1-13-.367-.414-.818, maybe he will get another shot later this year.

Steven Wright- The knuckleballer will be 30 on August 30, so maybe not a real prospect, but knuckleball pitchers have a different baseball age than other players.  Wright was on the DL until June but since his return is 3-1/2.43/37-8/1.00.  Not out of the realm that Wright could pitch for Boston this year.

And finally the David Chester update.

The big news on the big man's front is David Chester is now a Portland Sea Dog.  He was recalled after leaving the Salem DL, and made his AA debut on June 10. Chester went 3 for 4 with a double and two singles and one RBI.  For June Chester went: 2(including a game winning Grand Slam)-13-.304-.360-.747.  The question will be can Chester keep his BA and OBP anywhere near these levels. At Salem his BA was .220 with a OBP of .323.  The big man has power, as I can testify after seeing Chester crush a rope to dead center at Hadlock for a three run double.  Best of luck to our man, Chester.

And that is it until August, when we will see if any of the names on this list are traded by Boston in a deadline deal.  Or will the Red Sox bring in even more prospects in exchange for some or the current Bosox players.