Saturday, April 30, 2016

Twenty Three Down, One Hundred Thirty Nine to Go

Here’s some thoughts, reactions, and over-reactions to the Red Sox after twenty three games:
  • My god, the Braves are bad. Who’s worse - the 2016 Braves, or the Indians in Major League? Couldn’t you see Mallex Smith waking up outside this spring in Florida, still asleep in his bed, only to get up and win a wind sprint in his pajamas, thus making the team? It’s clear that an entire rebuild is underway in Georgia, but usually teams that are completely rebuilding play a bunch of young guys and see what they’ve got. Not only are the Braves horrible, they’re horrible AND old. Who in Hotlanta is going to watch Nick Markakis, Jeff Francoeur, Jim Johnson, and A.J. Pierzynski this season? They had to have woken Pierzynski up in a Mexican brothel in late February to tell him he was being invited to spring training, a la Jake Taylor. Unfortunately for the Braves, I don’t see Pierzynski beating out an infield single for the pennant this year. It was inexcusable that the Red Sox didn’t sweep that rotting carcass of a roster, especially since the game they lost was at home.
  • Speaking of the game we lost to the worst team in baseball, bad Aprils are nothing new for Red Sox fans and Clay Buchholz, but take a look at the following infographic, courtesy of @Joncouture:

After beating the Yankees last night, the Red Sox are now 13-5 in games that Buchholz doesn’t start, and 0-5 in games that he does start (I believe I also heard last night that the Red Sox are 14-5 in games that Brock Holt starts in LF, while he scored the winning run and gunned out Starlin Castro at the plate last night). How much longer do we sit back and wait for Buchholz to figure it out? If Ryan Hanigan can keep working with Henry Owens, does Eduardo Rodriguez replace Buchholz when he comes back, and Clay goes to the DL? Yes, Clay usually figures it out as the weather warms up, but this Sox team is firmly in contention. How many May games do we throw away waiting for Clay to find his rhythm?

  • David Ortiz’ two-run blast into the monster seats off Dellin Betances last night was one for the highlight reel. I’m just trying to soak up every last Big Papi at bat, wall banger, and big fly that we get while it still lasts. I mean, did you see that gold medallion he was wearing last night? That thing has to weigh twenty-five pounds and cost over $100,000. And how about Papi motoring it to first base last night to beat out an infield single against the shift? Or after his go-ahead two-run shot when he went and hugged a bunch of kids in the stands? The man does whatever the F he wants. To do what he is doing at his age in a pitcher-dominated era is incredible. And then there was this:

That ball boy is looking for Ray Finkle.....and a clean pair of shorts. We’ll always love Big Papi.
  • Henry Owens threw just the fourth quality start in thirteen games started in his major league career last night, which wasn’t a surprise given the Yankee’s struggles against southpaws this season. Alex Speier had the following observation:
    Owens is for sure a tall, weird looking, slop throwing lefty. I think the jury is still out on whether or not he’s going to be able to consistently get major league hitters out. Owens is going to have to improve his 2016 39.5% first-strike percentage and overall 53.4% strike percentage. 
  • It strikes me how many different styles of pitcher the Red Sox currently have in their rotation: you’ve got the aforementioned tall lefty slop-thrower in Henry Owens, you’ve got a knuckleballer in Steven Wright, you’ve got the sinker ball specialist in Rick Porcello, you’ve got a couple hard throwing lefties in David Price and soon to be Ed Rod, and you’ve got a meatball specialist in Clay Buchholz. They may not be the best rotation in major league baseball, but you’ve got to admit there’s a lot of variety here.
  • I continue to be encouraged by the Red Sox bullpen. Matt Barnes has now gone four outings spanning 6.1 IP with only 1 ER. Barnes is consistently hitting 98 MPH on the radar gun and seems to be building confidence. Koji Uehara has spun three straight scoreless outings over 3.0 IP without giving up a hit. His season-long WHIP is down to a microscopic 0.677. And Craig Kimbrel came in and shut down the ninth without a problem last night. The Red Sox bullpen outperformed the vaunted Yankees pen last night.
  • This oral history of the 2006 Doug Mirabelli trade from The Hardball Times is a delight for Red Sox fans. From Theo’s story about calling Josh Beckett (instead of Josh Bard - wrong Josh B in his contacts list) in the middle of the night to mistakenly tell him he had been traded, to the airplane pilot’s wonder at who Doug Mirabelli was that they were getting airspace clearance over every major American city on the way to Boston. Enjoy!
  • Should the Red Sox have re-signed Rich Hill? The lefty’s unbelievable late season performance as a starting pitcher for the Red Sox was widely believed to be a fluke, but to start 2016 Hill has taken the mound for five starts, has compiled a 2.42. ERA, with 37 strikeouts and only 9 walks. He has a 12.8 K/9 rate! Of course, I’m not sure where he would fit in the Red Sox rotation, since it would be hard to supplant David Price, Rick Porcello, or Eduardo Rodriguez, and Steven Wright has been good. The Red Sox couldn’t have known Clay Buchholz would be this bad. However, the Red Sox had a starting pitcher who has already racked up half a win by himself this season staring them right in the face and they let him go. Still the right call?
All for now. Let’s win the series against the Bronx Bombers tonight. Stay tuned for another Red Sox Maineiacs live chat for this week’s Sunday Night Baseball game.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Night Baseball Live Chat Red Sox @ Astros 4-24-16

Welcome to the first Red Sox Maineiacs live chat of 2016! Come join us as we discuss the end of Celtics/Hawks game 4 and then the Sunday Night Baseball game between Boston and Houston.
Live Blog Red Sox @ Astros Live Chat 4-24-16

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fourteen Games Down, One Hundred Forty Eight to Go

The sample size is growing for the 2016 Red Sox. It's still incredibly early, but some things are becoming more clear two and a half weeks into the season.  So here are some more reactions and likely still over-reactions.

1. The catching situation has had a seasons worth of ups and downs already.  Let's start with the positives. All three catchers are healthy, unlike last season.  Christian Vazquez and all his defensive intangibles are as advertised and he seems to have kickstarted the starting rotation, especially Rick Porcello.  That can't be denied.  Blake Swihart's ability to block balls in the dirt is improved from last season and he is going to be a very good offensive player at the MLB level.

I do have a problem with the way that the Red Sox handled the catching situation though.  The Red Sox have a very talented young player in Blake Swihart, who John Farrell himself said in spring training is the starting catcher.  Then 7 games into the season he's sent back down to Pawtucket after missing a crucial foul pop-up in a loss to the Orioles.  Swihart's defensive deficiencies were a problem, but when you send him down after having a bad game without giving him a chance to get back on the horse and bounce back from that adversity it makes it seem like you're putting all the onus for a bad start on that young kid.  The Red Sox win now approach is very real, but at what cost? I hope the Red Sox didn't set this talented youngster back a couple seasons with how they handled him.

Having a veteran back up catcher can be an important asset for a good team, so I understand the Red Sox wanting to keep Ryan Hanigan.  But, in the long run a tandem of Vazquez and Swihart behind the dish will make the catching position very strong for years to come.  If Swihart can catch 30% of the time and play some 1B/LF/DH while Vazquez handles the majority of the catching duties that is the ideal outcome to this situation.  For those in Red Sox Nation who now want to trade Swihart I have a message for you: SHUT UP!

2. Rick Porcello seems to be pitching with a lot of confidence right now.  If he continues to pitch this way it will give the Red Sox a solid number two starter behind David Price.

3. John Farrell is going to blow out the Red Sox bullpen by Memorial Day at the rate things are going. His overuse of Junichi Tarawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel is concerning. The good news is that the Red Sox are playing a lot of close games so they need to use their best pitchers to try and win.  These things do have a way of evening out if they play a stretch of games that are not close they may get the extended rest that they need.  The return of Carson Smith would go a long way, but with the way that Farrell is using the bullpen he will be on the surgery table by the Fourth of July.

4. Joe Kelly's injury is a shame and it appears that he'll be out a couple of months, but after watching his first two starts and they way the team is shaping up wouldn't it be smart to bring Kelly back as a reliever? He could be that 5th guy out of the bullpen that could pitch middle relief and set up.  His stuff would certainly play well out of the bullpen.  With Steven Wright pitching well and Eduardo Rodriquez on the road to recovery Joe Kelly should be moved to the bullpen.  He has the potential to be the next Wade Davis.

5. Xander Bogaerts left last night's game with tightness in his quad, but after the game John Farrell said that he may not miss any games. Let's hope that is the case. However, it may be start with a day game after night game to sit Xander out on Thursday to make sure he doesn't miss an extended period of time down the road.

6. Jackie Bradley Jr. seems poised to have a really solid season.  He just looks so much more comfortable at the plate and of course he could play CF in his sleep.  If he can get on base consistently out of the ninth hole in the lineup that would be such a weapon for this team.

7.  It's been mentioned on here before that Jerry Remy is doing some of his best work this season, but it bears saying again.  Jerry has been phenomenal this year.  Perhaps with some of his families off the field issues behind him and having things in the booth shaken up with Dave O'Brien replacing Don Orsillo he really seems to have refocused on analyzing the game which is what he's best at.  Keep up the good work Jerry! On that note, David Eckersley is so fun to listen to.  I'm not going to say that he should replace Jerry full time, but when we do get some Eck it is so entertaining.

Also, Dave O'Brien seems to be settling in and doing a good job.  Red Sox fans have a soft spot for Don Orsillo, rightfully so, but you can't deny that Dave O'Brien is good at his job. Understandably, he seems to forget that he's not on radio any more while announcing Red Sox games.  There was one home run that the Blue Jays hit in Toronto that he was still calling as being high and deep when we could already see that it landed in the upper deck and about three seconds after it landed in the seats he said that it was gone.  It was kind of funny, but overall Dave is very good.

8. John Farrell's job is being scrutinized on a daily basis, which is nothing new in Boston, but I just have a sneaking suspicion that Dave Dombrowski is still evaluating him on a daily basis and if he continues to get out managed regularly and cost the Red Sox wins he's going to get fired.  If the Red Sox could pull out a good 8-2 stretch it might put some of that talk to rest.

9.  Big Papi is off to a great start. I still can't believe that this is his last season.  We've been spoiled to watch such a great hitter for so long.  Enjoy every game that we have this season with Papi in the line up.  Soak it up Red Sox Nation because we'll be telling our kids and grandkids about it for the next fifty years.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Portland Sea Dogs Trip: Cousin Jason's Recap

The Double-A affiliate of the Sox opened their home schedule on April 14th. Cousin Jason with his kids in tow took in the first Friday nigh of the season at Hadlock Field. Thanks to Slugger's Reading Challenge sponsored by the Sea Dogs, the free tickets earned by Cole and Cooper were the impetus for this early season trip to see the Dogs and their opponents, the Hartford Yard Goats. Which begs the question what exactly is a Yard Goat? Thanks to the future Colorado Rockies and the future Sox, the Cousin's were treated to nearly 2 full games worth of action, as the game lasted 17 innings tying the franchise record. Unfortunately the Goats pushed 3 across in the top of the 17th to take the 5-2 win. You can blame this one on the Cousin's if you want as we left after the 16th so we could get the boys home before midnight, Cole did have Little League practice on Saturday morning after all. After a quick pit stop at Dunkin' Donuts to get beverages for the trip north we managed to make it back to Pittsfield around 11:30. Interestingly in doing some research on the Yard Goats I found that they are going to play at Dunkin' Donuts Park once it is complete. The other thing to note from this is that we took in 16 innings of baseball and still got home before midnight. The 6:00 start helped but more importantly the first 5 innings were played in an hour. The highlight of the night came when Cole retrieved the foul ball that was rocketed off the bat of Yard Goat 2nd Baseman, Michael Benjamin, onto our backpack in the nearly empty section in front of the Tony C skybox. The Sea Dogs announced the nights attendance as 4,443 but there were not nearly that many people in attendance especially as the innings wore on. Which made for a very relaxed experience for the Cousin's which is perhaps why the boys (mine) were able to last through 16 innings. 

Now onto some thoughts and comments on the action on the field, especially those players in Deacon Art's RSM Top 40 Prospects list. There are several Sea Dog pitchers on Art's list that did not appear in the game but here are links to their stat pages anyways, (#19 Ysla, #21 Buttery, #22 Jerez, and #39 Wilkerson).

I'll begin with Art's #16 prospect, Teddy Stankiewicz, who was the evenings starter. I was quite impressed with Stankiewicz after seeing him in person. The 6'4" righty worked from ahead in the count the entire night, got roundball outs, and induced weak contact for the first 5 innings giving up only an infield single, with a low 90s fastball and a decent curve. In the 6th, Stankiewicz fatigued and gave up back to back hits to start the frame but battled through the inning giving up only a single run. The big righty reminds me a bit of Josh Beckett not only from his delivery but also from his arsenal although Stankiewicz stuff is not as sharp as Beckett's. However, at 22 it is easy to see Teddy as a solid mid to back end of the rotation starter in the big league's. 

Art's #18 prospect is 2nd Baseman Wendell Rijo. As Art mentions, Rijo is only 20 years old as he begins his AA career, which you can see in his discipline at the plate and his ability to work counts. However, as his 8th inning wall ball double proves that he indeed has some pop in his bat, he also came around to score the tying run that sent the game to extra innings. Rijo's work in the field left a mark on this former middle infielder, he was sure handed with an accurate arm. He was not flashy but very solid, especially for a 20 year old playing a couple of levels below the big leagues and at that age with his skill set it is easy to see him in the big leagues before we get to 2020. However, it is probable that Rijo makes it to the bigs with a different franchise given that Dustin Pedroia is signed through 2021 and Yoan Moncada is most certainly ahead of Rijo at 2nd Base. 

Art's #31 prospect is Centerfielder Henry Ramos. As the Deacon mentioned in his post, Ramos has been setback the last 2 seasons by injury, which struck again just 2 days after our visit to Hadlock when the Sea Dogs placed him on the 7-day DL. My impression of Ramos after seeing him was one of meh, he showed a nice arm in CF but nothing about him at the plate stood out to me. Here's hoping that he can get healthy and prove me wrong as he is still only 24.

Art's #32 prospect is reliever Chandler Shepherd. After seeing Shepherd hurl 3 sterling innings in relief (innings 9-11), it is easy to see why he was expected to be drafted higher than the 13th round in 2014. He showed excellent command, a low to mid 90's fastball and an very nice changeup in giving up one hit and striking out 5. Shepherd is a name to watch as he could quickly move up the Deacon's rankings and even in the organization itself. 

Three names not on the Deacon's rankings that I want to make mention of as Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin, Third Baseman Jantzen Witte, and Reliever Heri Quevedo. I'll start with Witte, which you can see from his profile has been called up to Pawtucket thanks to this hot start with the bat in the Eastern League, despite going hitless in our visit. He did draw a walk, showed good plate discipline, and was smooth in the field. I bet Manager Carlos Febles wishes he hadn't run for Witte in the bottom of the 9th as he replacement Jose Vincio came up empty in a couple of plate appearances later in the game.  At 26, Witte may be beyond prospect status but could be a MLB role player before it is all said and done. Quevedo is also probably not in the prospect range but he did throw 5 innings in relief after Shepherd and despite being in plenty of trouble in the 12th and 13th he managed to keep the Sea Dogs in the game thanks to a game-tying run in the bottom of the 13th from Lin. Quevedo also threw the aforementioned pitch that Cole got his foul ball on. Of all the non-pitchers for the Sea Dogs, I left most impressed with the Taiwanese shortstop. Lin put up 8 solid at-bats in this marathon and had 3 hits a run and RBI to show for it. More so I was impressed with the arm and glove of the shortstop, again he was sure-handed and showed a strong arm. He also made several fine plays charging in on grounders. In this Sox fan's opinion this is another name to watch as he could make it onto the Deacon's rankings, if not the organizational ladder as his progress is blocked by Xander Bogaerts with the Sox and Devin Marrero in Pawtucket. A name from the Goats that deserves a mention is Catcher Jackson Williams. Hitting out of the 8 hole, Williams went 4 for 7 with 2 doubles, 2 runs scored, and 3 RBI. At 29, Williams is certainly not a prospect and probably will not make it to the majors but he was the lynchpin for the Goats victory on Friday night with one big hit after another. In fact, Williams was called up to AAA Albuquerque the very next day.

Overall, this was a great trip to Portland on a cool April night and left the Cousin's ready for a return trip later this season.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Beware the First Inning Run

       Sunday was another game with another first inning run allowed by a Red Sox starter ultimately culminating with another loss. While Stephen Wright settled down and ended up twirling a quality start with a good line (6.2IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K), the first inning runs (one unearned via an error by Dustin Pedroia) were too much to overcome in a 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays.

Red Sox starters have now allowed first-inning runs in their last four consecutive games. As I stated in my reactions post after game two, it seemed like the 2015 Red Sox played the entire month of April from behind, and this troubling trend seems to be continuing in 2016. So I decided to dive into the numbers for the first 35 games of the 2015 season and see if I could confirm that this was a problem early on for the 2015 Red Sox and not just a figment of my imagination. I also wanted to find out what effect if any allowing first inning runs had on win/loss record, and see if I could discover any other trends or observations. Here’s what I found:

Boston Red Sox 2015 - 1st 35 Games
Date Runs in 1st Starting Pitcher W/L Final Score
4/6         0 Buchholz W 8-0
4/8          0 Porcello         L 4-2
4/9         0 Masterson W 6-2
4/10 0 Wright           W 6-5
4/11 0 Kelly W 8-4
4/12  7 Buchholz L 14-4
4/13  0 Porcello         W 9-4
4/14   0 Masterson W 8-7
4/15 2 Miley L 10-5
4/17   0 Kelly W 3-2
4/18   0 Buchholz L 4-1
4/19   2 Porcello          L 8-3
4/20 0 Masterson W 7-1
4/21        0 Miley W 1-0
4/22 1 Kelly L 7-5
4/23 0 Buchholz L 2-1
4/24 0 Porcello        W 7-5 (10-7, 1st place in AL East)
4/25 2 Masterson L 5-4
4/26 0 Miley L 18-7
4/27 3 Kelly W 6-5
4/28 0 Buchholz L 11-8
4/29  0 Porcello        W 4-1
5/1         1 Masterson L 3-2
5/2         0 Miley L 4-2
5/3         2 Kelly L 8-5
5/4         2 Buchholz L 5-1 (12-14, last place AL East)
5/5         0 Porcello         W 2-0
5/6         0 Masterson L 5-3
5/8         1 Miley L 7-0
5/9         1 Kelly L 7-1
5/10 0 Buchholz W 6-3
5/11 0 Porcello         W 5-4
5/12 3 Masterson L 9-2
5/13 0 Miley W 2-0
5/14 0 Kelly W 2-1

The 2015 Red Sox allowed first-inning runs in 12 of their first 35 games, or 34.3%. This number is actually lower than I thought it was going to be, but allowing first-inning runs in one out of every three games is not the ideal recipe for success. Especially where in 8 of those 12 games, the Sox allowed multiple first-inning runs, capped off (or crapped off) with Buchholz allowing 7 on April 12. And here’s where it really gets painful: the Red Sox’ record in those 12 games where they allowed first-inning runs? Try 1-11. Ouch. I suppose it makes sense that the team to score first wins most major league games, but I would think teams could mount a comeback more than 9% of the time. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

RSM Red Sox Top 40 Prospects- April 2016

The last time we ranked the prospects in the highly regarded Red Sox system was at the end of the 2015 season. At that time we ranked the top 40 going into the off-season.  As suspected then, there are massive changes on the list since then.  Six players were traded: Manuel Margot (4), Javier Guerra (7), Garin Cecchini (21), Logan Allen (22), Carlos Asauje (29), and Jonathan Aro (31).  All but Cecchini and Aro went to the Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel. Three others used up their rookie eligibility in 2015 and graduated from the list: Henry Owens (3), Travis Shaw (10) and  Heath Hembree (34).  Finally five others who were ranked in the 30's on this list have slid behind some other promising kids are not in the top 40, at least for now: Bryce Brentz (starting another season on the Pawtucket DL), Edwin Escobar, Simon Mercedes, Sean Coyle (who has a glimmer of hope if he can stay healthy and hit for power in his second AAA season), and 2015 draftee Tate Matheny.

That makes a total of fourteen players removed from our last list, including four in the top ten. So, of course, that means fourteen new names on this April list, one as high as number thirteen. The team listed after each player is the opening affiliate assignment for 2016, the number in { } is their ranking at the end of 2015.

RSM does not proclaim ourselves as scouts or experts, our rankings come from following the ever increasing amount of information on the farm, and from some trips to Hadlock Field.  These are rankings as fans who closely follow the next crop of Red Sox kids.

One last note, in our rankings one of the factors we weigh somewhat more heavily than other lists is how soon a player may be able to contribute in Boston.  Especially now where a majority of the prospects are in the lower levels of the system, this factor is not the most important but it may explain the rankings of some of the players.

1. Yoan Moncada, 2B- Salem {1}. For now Boston is taking a conservative approach with Moncada, and the other top of the list uber-prospects, and are moving him one step up the ladder. The switch hitter had an outstanding second half of 2015 at Greenville, after an adjustment to baseball and life in America earlier on.  You could choose any of the top four prospects as the best, and as a group are all rated in the top 40 prospects in all of baseball.  Salem is beginning the year rated as the most prospect laden team in all of minor league baseball (as ranked by and we will meet a number of Moncada's teammates as we go down this list.

2. Andrew Benentendi, OF- Salem {6}. The 2015 first round draftee is the first player on this list that gets a little spike from the "helping the big league club sooner rather than later" factor.  Despite this being his first full pro season, many in the game are speculating Bennie could be in Boston by September if not sooner. The same jump taken in 2015 by the Mets' Michael Conforto. Benentendi did not tamp down these expectations on Opening Night when he went 4 for 5 with two singles, a double and triple.  With the seemingly failed attempt to take the left field job in Boston by Rusney Castillo, there could be an opening for Benentendi at some point. If not in 2016 certainly by next year.  It should be a race to see who between Benentendi and Moncada goes to Portland first this season.

3. Rafael Devers, 3B- Salem {2}.  You are beginning to see why Salem will be so good to begin 2016.  Devers who will play the entire season at age 19 is every much a top prospect as the two rated ahead of him.  As a matter of fact some national rankings this winter had Devers as the best prospect in the system, and a top 20 in all of MLB.  Devers, a lefty hitter, has a power stroke with 11 home runs and 70 RBI in the South Atlantic League at age 18 last year.  Devers could also join the race to Hadlock with Moncada and Benentendi, but since he is younger, could spend the entire campaign in Virginia.

4. Anderson Espinoza, RHP- Greenville {5}.  With the possible exception of Yoan Moncada, Espinoza is the most deservedly hyped prospect in the system and perhaps in all of baseball.  He begins the low A season at age 18, an age when most players would still be in the Dominican Summer League or the Gulf Coast League. But Espinoza blew through both of those leagues at age 17 and finished 2015 making a start for Greenville.  The lanky right throws in the upper 90's and also has or is refining a plus curveball and change up.  Due to his age, Anderson is expected to pitch the entire year at Greenville. Espinoza pitched only 58 innings in 2015 and the Red Sox are expected to hold his innings this year to 100 or a little more.  But if he completely dominates hitters in the SAL like he did in 2015, he could force a promotion to Salem before 2016 ends.  He began the season looking like he may still dominate: five scoreless innings allowing only two hits.  Anderson has said he would like to make the big leagues at the same age as his idol, Felix Hernandez.  King Felix debuted for Seattle at age 19.  Could Espinoza possibly make it to Boston before the end of 2017? It will be fun to watch.

5. Sam Travis, 1B- Pawtucket {8}.  The consensus of the national rankers this winter was Boston still has a top rate system (rated between 4 to 6, usually), but the ranking is based on the big four and then the system thins out.  Travis is making every effort to turn the big four into a big five.  The 2014 second round draft pick was a spring training invitee to the big camp based on his .310 batting average combined for 2014-15 from Lowell to Portland.  Travis took the opportunity to impress the brass.  Sam hit .469 with a OBP of 1.147 leading the team for the spring with 13 RBI.  But more important than the numbers was the work ethic shown.  His intensity was compared over and over to that of Dustin Pedroia.  His spring earned him a promotion to AAA less than two full years from being drafted from Indiana U.  If an injury should occur in the Sox first base/DH area, Travis could likely make his MLB debut.  There has also been talk of trying Travis at third or left field in AAA, since there are potential openings there in Boston.

6. Brian Johnson, LHP- Pawtucket {9} If not for ill-timed left elbow tightness, Johnson who made his MLB debut last July 21, would have likely pitched from July 21 on in the Boston rotation and would have graduated from this list.  But Brian begins 2016 recovered from the elbow issue and is the pitcher on this list who is the nearest to helping Boston.  Johnson does not have the stuff of a top of the rotation pitcher, but throws tons of strikes every start, and is considered the kind of pitcher who could spent a decade in the back part of any MLB rotation.

7. Michael Kopech, RHP- XST {11}.  By nearly every rating this off season Kopech was ranked as the number five prospect in the system and received some mentions in some Top 100 prospects in all of baseball lists.  Three factors push Kopech down to seven on our list.  First, the incredible spring by Sam Travis. Secondly, Brian Johnson is nearer to big league ready. Finally, and most importantly, Kopech created another setback himself.  After receiving a fifty game suspension for a using a banned substance in 2015, this spring he broke his pitching hand in a fight with a unnamed roommate.  Kopech's 2016 debut will come no sooner than May and the hard throwing righty will likely be returning to Greenville, where his abbreviated 2015 was spent.

8. Deven Marrero, SS- Pawtucket {12}. Marrero, who possesses a golden glove, but a questionable bat is blocked in Boston by shortstop Xander Bogaerts.  Even though, Marrero will be the regular shortstop at Pawtucket, he will also get starts at second and third to prepare him for a possible stint in Boston as an utility infielder.  Marrero could also be a trade chip if another MLB team has a need at shortstop due an injury (St. Louis?).

9. Michael Chavis, 3B- Greenville {13}. Chavis is returning to Greenville after spending all of 2015 there.  He htt only .223, but the projected power hitter did have 16 homers.  His return to Grenville is less about the Sox being down on Chavis, and more about breaking the third base logjam of 2015.  Both Rafael Devers and Chavis spent all of 2015 in low A, meaning Chavis often DH'd.  This year with Devers at Salem, the 2014 first round pick can play every day at third.

10. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF- Greenville {25}.  This 19 year old Venezuelan outfielder makes a big jump up our list.  In 2015 he hit only .248 at Lowell but led the Spinners in runs, home runs, total bases, walks, and steals (15).  He and his twin brother were signed on their 16th birthdays by Boston.  How Basabe handles his first full season assignment will help determine how bright his prospect star will be.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Two Down, One Hundred Sixty to Go

Here are some very early reactions, and probably some over-reactions, to the 2016 Red Sox
  • The 2015 version of the Red Sox would have rolled over and lost 9-1 after getting behind 5-0 early like they did last night. It was very encouraging to see this year’s club flash some grit and fight back to take the lead in the game. Perhaps even more encouraging was how they did it: with smart situational baseball. They drew the smart walk, made the crafty base running play, and hit sacrifices when they needed to.
  • Noe Ramirez and Robbie Ross Jr. are just not good enough against good teams when these games really matter. Ross looks like he and Pablo Sandoval spent the offseason bellying up to all-you-can-eat buffets. 
  • Matt Barnes is right on the edge between being a guy I want to see more of in the 7th and 8th innings, and a guy who should probably be sent back to AAA for more polish. When he gears up that big frame and fires a 95 mph fastball for a strikeout, he looks like a closer. But he still walks too many guys and his secondary pitches still aren’t sharp. I’m cheering for you, Matt. We need you.
  • I really hope the 2016 club doesn’t fall into the same horrible habit of giving up first inning runs that the 2015 team did. It seems like we played the entire month of April from behind last year. Buchholz looked truly awful yesterday. We need him to find his stuff in a hurry. Maybe he needs to grow out some gross hair and a wispy goatee?
  • Blake Swihart looks ready for a full time major league catching job. He looks like he spent the offseason lifting weights and filling out his frame. He looks much stronger than when he first got thrust onto the big league roster last year when Ryan Hanigan couldn’t stop breaking his fingers. It also appears that Swihart spent some time blocking balls in the dirt this offseason, which was an area in which he had to improve. Swihart was second in the majors with 16 passed balls in 2015 in a part-time role, behind only Russell Martin who had to catch R.A. Dickey every five games. But last night Swihart made several nice stops behind the dish to keep the runners locked where they were, even if the Remdog thought Marlon Byrd (sneaky good pickup by the Indians) should have made it to second on two of those balls in the dirt. I’ve also been impressed with the maturity in Swihart’s batting eye at the plate. He came up in the 6th with two runners on and got the bunt sign from Butter, even though he only had two sacrifice bunts in all of 2015. To Swihart’s credit, he didn’t lunge out at the first pitch he saw to try to get the bunt down. Instead, he pulled the bat back from his bunting stance three times and drew a key walk to keep the inning going instead of giving up the out through a sacrifice. Oh, and I know technically Rajai Davis was safe at third base last night, but Swihart threw that ball approximately 245 mph right on the money. What a seed. I’m buying every piece of Swihart stock I can get my hands on.
  • Speaking of the Remdog, Jerry Remy is on his game. He was good in 2015, and he was very sharp last night. I enjoyed his analysis of Hanley’s swing adjustments, Holt’s baserunning play to score in the 6th, and his opinion on the Chase Utley rule. Remy and Dave O’Brien don’t have the rapport that Don and Jerry had yet, but Remy seems to be all-in on being a top notch analyst this year.
  • Brock Holt is a good baseball player. His defensive versatility to move from LF to 3B and not miss a beat is so valuable. He works counts and he drew a big walk last night. His baserunning play, which I’ve already mentioned about five times, was the kind of play that a winner makes. He even poked one out of the yard last night. The guy is just always up to stuff.
  • Good luck getting a fly ball to drop between Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts this season. What a weapon it is to know that these guys are going to go get everything.
  • I can’t believe how much money and how many more years remain on Pablo Sandoval’s contract, who is the league’s highest paid and heaviest late-inning defensive replacement. Although I might be willing to forgive Ben Cherington for this horrific contract since he did have the good sense to not break up this Betts, Bogaerts, Blake, and Bradley core.
  • Hanley Ramirez getting his opposite field swing going is a beautiful thing. I love everything about Hanley’s start to 2016. It was a small gesture, but I liked how Hanley came over and patted Clay Buchholz on the butt and said something to him when Clay was getting yanked in the fifth last night. It was one of many signs I’ve already noticed this year that this team’s chemistry seems to be good. I think it was telling when Hanley said he feels back at home in the infield. He seems like a guy who likes to be in where the action is rather than out by himself in the outfield where it’s easier to check out. Barry might want to go back and delete his comment where he predicts Sandoval will have a better year than Hanley. And this is coming from a guy who once wrote an entire post defending Joel Hanrahan.
  • Anybody who says baseball is an old monolith of a sport that isn’t changing and adapting to the modern world isn’t paying attention. It’s not your father’s game any more, let alone your grandfather’s game. The MLB is taking measures to protect its star players, similar to how the NFL has changed its rules to protect its quarterbacks. And I can’t say I blame them. It’s the smart, prudent move for a league working to stay popular with the next generation of fans. The collision between old school take-out-the-shortstop, collide-with-the-catcher, all-while-having-a-huge-lip-full-of-dip and new school instant replay challenge decisions, protecting defenders on the base paths, and pace of play initiatives continues to be a fascinating subplot to the 2016 season. 
  • Speaking of the Chase Utley rule, count me in favor of it. John Gibbons may think I need to wear a dress. Jerry Remy might disagree and say the rule takes out an intimidation factor that creates added pressure on middle infielders that has been a part of the game since time immemorial. But if an Indians player goes hard to break up a double play tonight and instead of sliding to the bag he slides at Xander Bogaerts and breaks every bone in his leg, I would want that player suspended, let alone called out along with the baserunner. Protect the players.
  • Lastly, this doesn’t have anything to do with the Red Sox, but that John Gibbons quote about “tomorrow we’ll have to show up wearing dresses” is the kind of quote that has legs, no pun intended. We haven’t heard the end of that quote. I can already hear the keyboards clacking away with hot take think pieces all over the country using the quote as an example of how macho man-first our society still is, connecting this attitude to the gender wage gap, and maybe even a think piece connecting the quote’s implied culture to a country which might be heading towards its first ever female president, even if she wears pantsuits instead of dresses to work.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Opening Day!

Opening day 2016 is finally here for the Red Sox.  It's a time of great optimism in New England.  Even though the white stuff is still falling in parts of the region the beginning of baseball season means that spring is here and summer is right around the corner.

Let's use this post as our running diary for opening day.  We'll keep updating all things Red Sox in the comments section as information becomes available.  The starting lineups, the weather report and other information will be posted as it becomes available. Here's a look at the weather report in Cleveland today  It appears as though it will be cold but playable in Cleveland today.

Here's my prediction for today's batting order, admittedly this isn't an extremely difficult prediction at this point, but there may be some differences in the order itself.

RF Mookie Betts
2B Dustin Pedroia
SS Xander Bogaerts
DH David Ortiz
1B Hanley Ramirez
3B Travis Shaw
LF Brock Holt
C Blake Swihart
CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

SP David Price

Game 1 of 162 is seven hours away! Let's go Red Sox!!

Brandon's 2016 MLB Predictions

MLB Predictions 2016

AL East
  1. Toronto - A full year of Tulo and Marcus Stroman carries the Jays to consecutive AL East crowns for the first time since the Yankees won back-to-back in 2011 and 2012.
  2. Tampa Bay* - While they’re not Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob DeGrom, we saw last year what can happen when a team surrounds a lights out rotation with adequate hitting. Watch out for the Rays.
  3. Boston - The Sox get off to a rocky start with a tough April schedule, but fight back to third place by the end. Youth overcomes potholes when it’s all said and done.
  4. Baltimore - Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Chris Davis mash the hell out of the ball, but their roster has too many holes to fill with Showalter magic.
  5. New York - So many potential ticking time bombs on this roster. Will the three-headed bullpen monster ever actually happen? Can Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez repeat their deal-with-the-devil 2015’s? I say no.
AL Central
  1. Minnesota - Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton, and the young Twinkies capture a playoff spot a year early, just like the 2015 Astros
  2. Kansas City* - The magical run continues for the Royals because of their brand of putting the ball in play, running like hell, and clamping down the 7th, 8th, and 9th with their pen
  3. Chicago - This team will be in it right until the end. Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, and Todd Frazier are too talented for this team to fall too far
  4. Detroit - A bullpen upgrade brings the Tigers back into contention, but it’s not enough in the loaded AL Central
  5. Cleveland - Potential for a stumble and a fire sale by July.
AL West
  1. Houston - Potential to be better in 2016 than they were in 2015.
  2. Oakland - Seem to always outperform low expectations or underperform high expectations. Expectations are low entering 2016, so I’m expecting surprise playoff contention
  3. Texas - A bit of a step back after an overachieving 2015
  4. Los Angeles - One of these years, they’re going to get some balance in that roster behind Trout. It’s not this year.
  5. Seattle - Mariners have the worst record in the AL in 2016, and it’s not close.

Wildcard Game - Kansas City over Tampa Bay
Divisional Round - Houston over Kansas City
Toronto over Minnesota
AL Championship - Houston over Toronto

Manager of the Year - Kevin Cash
Rookie of the Year - Jose Berrios
Cy Young - Marcus Stroman

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Deacon Art's 2016 MLB Predictions

Another baseball season is upon us and again I will try to navigate the mine field of the MLB and present my predictions.  The parity which has set into major league baseball in recent years has made this an even more difficult challenge, but it is still as fun as ever.  Here are my predictions with a comment, of sorts, for each team and then some other thoughts about 2016.

*= first wild card  **= second wild card

American League


1. Boston -       Boston Baseball Begins Betts-Bogaerts Era
2. Toronto-       Price Exchange Rate Unfavorable to Canada
3. New York-   We Used to be Winning, We Don't Win Anymore
4. Tampa Bay-  It's Okay to Have Dreams as Long as You Do Not Believe in Them Too Much
5. Baltimore-    Duke has Recreated '77 Red Sox


1. Cleveland-        Total of Tito's Tribe Titles Ties Lou Brown
2. **Kansas City- Window is Still Open in KC
3. Minnesota-        St. Paul's Kids are on Target- for 2017
4. Detroit-             Even with Another Upton for Verlander
5. Chicago-           Hey Kid, Get Off My Lawn


1. Houston-        Astros Used to Have Cable, Now They Have Direct TV
2. *Texas-          Second Best Team in Texas Gets Last Laugh
3. Seattle-           Seattle Settles for Third- They're Settlers....It's What They Do
4. Los Angeles-  Big Ol' Fish
5. Oakland-         Get 'em Outta Here, Get 'em Outta Here

AL Wild Card Game: Texas over Kansas City behind Yu Darvish

ALDS: Texas over Houston           3 games to 2.
             Cleveland over Boston      3-2

ALCS  Texas in Six Games

ALCS MVP  Rougned Odor

AL MVP   Mookie Betts
Cy Young: David Price ( by a hair of fellow lefties, Cole Hamels and Chris Sale)
Rookie of Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas
Manager of Year: Terry Francona
AL HR Champ: Miguel Sano
Comeback Player of Year: Hanley Ramirez