Sunday, May 29, 2016

2016 MLB Draft Preview- The Red Sox Perspective

  The annual MLB draft is a three day affair which will commence on June 9.  This year the Red Sox pick number 12 in the first round. These are the teams that pick ahead of Boston:

1. Philadelphia
2. Cincinnati
3. Atlanta
4. Colorado
5. Milwaukee
6. Oakland ( first AL team to pick)
7. Miami
8. San Diego
9. Detroit
10. Chicago White Sox
11. Seattle

This is not considered a deep or overly talented draft.  And there is no consensus number one pick or any definite expected order to any of picks ahead of Boston.  Among the issues with the top of the first round in this draft is that the most plentiful type of players available are high school pitchers.  Many teams do not like to use picks on the volatile arms of the high schoolers, preferring to wait until late first round or second for these picks.  But there is a dearth of college pitching in this draft, so the high schoolers may go earlier than expected.

Despite the lack of a consensus top four or five picks, there are some players who are off the board early in every mock draft out there.  Let's take a thumbnail sketch look at some of those names.

Players who will definitely gone by pick #12:

AJ Puk, LHP Univ. of Florida.  Considered the best college pitcher available.  Despite there being no consensus number one, Puk is going first to the Phillies in at least 80% of the mock drafts I have seen.

Kyle Lewis, OF Mercer. Lewis is another player under the Phillies' consideration at the top of the board.  The plus power hitting center fielder is unlikely to drop below number three.

Jason Groome, LHP Barnegat, NJ HS.  Months ago the Phillies were thought to be grabbing this local kid at the top. But the bugaboo of taking a high school arm number one is in play here.  In the mocks Groome rarely drops below Atlanta at three, although I have seen one with Groome at six to Oakland.  One very slight asterisk as far as Groome definitely not going at #12.  In the last few days Groome has put out on social media, he is a life long Red Sox fan and it would be a dream to pitch for Boston. Could Groome and his people try to ask for a big enough dollar amount to push him to his desired #12?  Seems unlikely.

Mickey Moniak, OF La Costa Canyon, CA HS  He has all the tools except maybe power, which could come.  Usually mocked from four to seven.

Corey Ray, OF  Louisville.  One of the top two or three college bats available.  Ray seems a lock to go in the top five.

Nick Senzel, 3B Tennessee. Considered by many to be the most advanced college hitter in the draft. In this volatile draft I have seen him mocked from two to ten, but never slipping to #12.  If he did I
think the Sox would pounce on him quickly.

Players Unlikely to be at #12

Delvin Perez, SS Puerto Rico. Some consider Perez as talented as anyone in the draft but has major immaturity issues, which could cause him to slide.  In one mock draft I actually saw him go by Boston into the mid teens.  But on the flip side he has been consistently linked with Milwaukee at five.

Riley Pint, RHP Overland Park, KS HS  After Jason Groome, usually the next high school pitcher off the board.  Almost always in the four to seven range, although more recently I have seen a couple of nines to the Tigers.

High School Pitchers:

Including Riley Pint, there are a group of four other high school pitchers that the Red Sox are rumored to be interested in:

Braxton Garrett, LHP Florence, AL
Forrest Whitley, RHP San Antonio, TX
Matt Manning, RHP Sacramento, CA
Ian Anderson, RHP Clifton Park, NY

These four are listed in approximate order of how they are usually mocked.  Garrett being the least likely to get to #12(#11 is as low as I have seen him mocked).  The other issue with any of these hurlers is whether or not the Sox would go the high school pitcher route.  At least one report I have read said they would not, but another specifically listed these four as targets.  One other note Whitley, especially and Manning are rumored to be Yankee targets at #18.

Mocked to the Sox:

Here are several names that have been linked to Boston in various mock drafts from various national sources.

Zack Collins, C Univ. of Miami.  Collins is known to have plus power from the left side, but there is a split decision on his defensive prowess.  Most scouts feel he is a 1B-DH in the making.  A few feel he could stick at catcher with some work.  Think Kyle Schwarber, but a notch or two down in the power department.  In almost every mock ( he went #11 in one) he is available at #12.

Nolan Jones, 3B Bensalem, PA HS.  This might be a reach for at #12, but more than one report has Boston very interested.  Jones is a lefty hitter, considered one of the better pure high school bats in the draft.  Jones usually rates or mocks in the low 20's, so if Boston wants him, he should be there.

Taylor Trammell, OF Georgia HS.  The blazing fast left handed hitter is committed to Georgia Tech, but is expected to sign.  Other than his mock to Boston at 12, his next two highest spots were 16 & 18.

Bryan Reynolds, OF Vanderbilt  Reynolds went undrafted out of high school in 2014 and then as a freshman at Vandy, helped lead them to a CWS title.  The switch hitter has put up three solid offensive campaigns for the Commodores. Again, Reynolds is usually rated ten or twelve spots (or more) below 12.

Zack Burdi, RHP Louisville In its most recent mock draft Baseball America had Burdi at #12.  Burdi is the closer at Louisville and has a fastball that routinely hits 100.  Some scouts feel Burdi could join a major league bullpen this season, maybe even straight out of college.  But if Boston takes the fireballing righty at #12, when for example has him rated as the #39 prospect in the draft, the members of Red Sox Nation who closely follow the farm system are gonna be pissed.  It is fervently hoped by all Sox fans the team does not finish poorly enough to merit another #12 pick for a good long time.  This pick should not be used to try to fill a current need in the Boston bullpen. But on the flip side if the Sox like Burdi the next two Boston picks are at #51 & #88. He is unlikely to be there then.

There seems to be a common thread in these mocks, which is the Sox (other than maybe Collins) reaching down the board for a player they may rank higher than others.  Or it may very well be the Red Sox are playing their cards so close to the vest, that none of the "experts" have any damned idea what the Sox will do.

Three more names to watch for:

Blake Rutherford, OF Chaminade, CA HS.  This left handed hitting high schooler is often mocked in the range of 8-10, ahead of Boston.  But if he slips the Sox would likely be interested in his plus across the board skills.

Dakota Hudson, RHP Mississippi State.  His fastball can touch 97, and his command has improved this year over the first two MSU seasons.  His mock spots are usually right before or after Boston.  I have not seen Hudson linked directly to Boston, but a college arm, which are few in this first round would seem to be intriguing.

Cal Quantrill, RHP Stanford. Son of Paul. Cal was expected to be taken at or near the top of this draft, but last year, three starts into his sophomore season, Quantrill hurt his arm and required Tommy John surgery and has not yet returned to the mound.  The Tommy John surgery patients in recent years have still be taken in the first round, but not always as high as #12.

As the next week and a half passes on towards draft day, I will continue to update any rumors connected to the Red Sox and their first round pick.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Thoughts on the Red Sox with 26.54% of the Season in the Books

There have been many columns and blogs this week commemorating the "quarter pole" of the 2016 Red Sox season.  Since the actual quarter of 162 games is 40 1/2 games, it is very difficult to get thoughts published between the top and the bottom of the fifth inning of game 41.  But here are some observations on the suddenly red hot Red Sox team after 43 games.

* Jackie Bradley, Jr.: Maybe JBJ is all that needs to be said and move on.  Jackie, who I said in my pre season picks I still believed could hit .280-.290,  is well on his way.  As JBJ sits on a ongoing 26 game hitting streak he is slashing .342/.411/1.035 with eight home runs, ten doubles, and four triples. JBJ cannot stay this hot (can he?), but that .280-.290 is starting to look too low.  And be honest, if you were told with a week to go to Memorial Day weekend, JBJ would have one fewer RBI than David Ortiz your immediate response would have been " oh, Big Papi has collapsed as a hitter in his age 40 season".

* Big Papi has most assuredly not fallen he is on a historic pace for a 40 year old batter. He has a line of 10-34-.311/.391.  Of course, with each heroic game Papi is asked why are you retiring?  But here is the dilemma: Do you keep begging Ortiz to come back until finally his offensive production does fail, as it surely would eventually. What is wrong with going out on top?

* There is nothing wrong with David Price. Price began his Red Sox career in  a most "non-aceian" way.  But whether it was Dustin Pedroia mechanical tips or just another of a string of poor Aprils in Price's career, the turnaround has seemingly begun.  The big win in KC after dropping the first two of the three game series was an example of an ace stepping forward.

* There is paucity of free agent pitchers this coming winter, who usually constitute the trade deadline rentals.  Even though the conventional wisdom is Dave Dombrowski will trade for another starter, preferably a # 2, the Sox rotation improvement may have to come from within.  I know this is easy to say after he pitched a no-hitter into the seventh yesterday, but I still think Joe Kelly turned a corner in his eight game winning streak last August-September.  Kelly and hopefully a healthy Eduardo Rodriguez may be the additions needed to this rotation.

* Hanley Ramirez can play first base, ladies and gentlemen.  And Hanley is playing with such joy and hustle, he has been a true pleasure to watch day in and day out.

* Xander Bogaerts is very likely one of the five best players in the American League right now.  When you factor in his defense along with 4/24/.339/.392 while leading the league in hits, he had better be the starting shortstop for the AL in the All Star game.  Go vote now.

* Mookie Betts while hitting home runs along the way, the two he hit yesterday make nine for the campaign, has not reached the offensive level expected ....yet.  In a lineup with six regulars hitting .300 of above, Betts is at .276.  When some one tells you players like JBJ and Ortiz cannot keep up their torrid paces, point out to them that players like Betts, Ramirez, and whomever is playing left field can certainly pick up whatever slack may come.

* Left field may be the one "open" spot going forward.  Brock Holt had started 2016 capably, but as his record shows when he plays every day, his numbers tail off.  Blake Swihart, after losing his catching job to Christian Vazquez, returned to AAA where the Sox groomed him to play left field along with catching.  With Brock Holt now on the concussion DL, Swihart was recalled this weekend to play left field in a platoon with Chris Young. If Swihart does not grab the job and Holt returns to his utility role, do not be surprised if by sometime in late July or August that the left fielder for your Boston Red Sox is Andrew Benintendi.

* Travis Shaw has been everything the Red Sox could have asked for when they pushed Pablo Sandoval aside and made Travis the starting third baseman.  He is hitting 6-29-.313-.364 and has fielded third base surprisingly well.

* Craig Kimbrel has come as advertised (after a couple of early season bumps), but if Carson Smith is looking at a Tommy John or some other extended injury the bullpen becomes a possible concern.  Especially if Koji should realize at some point is he is 41.

* As a card carrying member of the John Farrell needs to go club (I had May 1 in the firing date pool), it is evident if this young team continues to pile up wins and plays with the exuberance they have exhibited so far, the manager is not going anywhere.

* In my pre season picks, I somewhat reluctantly picked the Red Sox to win the AL East, and I have no reason to change my mind (except for being much more confident in the pick).  As a matter of fact, I still feel Baltimore's pitching will cause them to slide back and the Yankees are even older than I thought, Toronto is playing so poorly they have slipped behind New York and the Rays are well playing like the Rays. For several years in a row the AL East has been considered to be a complete toss up and all the teams expected to be bunched together.  But each season one of the teams pulls comfortably in front.  The team with the best chance to that in 2016 is Boston.

Let's enjoy every minute of the remaining 73.46% of the 2016 regular season.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sunday Night Baseball Live Chat 5-8-16

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- May 2016 Edition

After the completion of the first month of another season of minor league baseball, RSM presents another of our monthly in-season rankings of the Red Sox farm system.  There was no jockeying of position in our top seven from April, although there were many superb performances from the group. There is more shuffling below the top seven, including one player cracking the top 25 who was not in our pre season top 40.

As always the team listed behind the player is his assignment as of May 1 and the number in {  } is the previous month's ranking.  There are two slash lines used, for hitters: HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for the hurlers it is W-L/ERA/WHIP/K-BB.

Here are the top 30 kids in the Sox system ranked for May:

1. Yoan Moncada, 2B- Salem {1}.  In 2015 as a newly signed international free agent, the Sox kept Moncada in extended spring training to ease him into American baseball.  Yoan did not debut with the Greenville Drive until May 18.  When he did begin in Low A ball, he struggled until the All Star break, and then excelled in the second half.  In 2016 with Salem, there has been no such slow start. Moncada ended April at 0/9/.316/.450/.868. In addition Moncada had a half dozen extra base hits and sixteen stolen bases.

Despite the presence of Dustin Pedroia at second base in Boston, and much speculation that Moncada will be moved to another position because of Pedey, at this early point in his pro career, Moncada has played only second base.

Moncada certainly seems to be pace to reach Portland this season.  Based on his numbers the earliest promotion could come in May, and at the latest around July 4th.

2. Andrew Benintendi, OF- Salem {2}. If Moncada is knocking on the door to Hadlock Field, Benintendi is kicking in the front gates.  Last year's number one Sox draft pick is shredding the Carolina League to the tune of 1/22/.360/.426/1.066.  In 89 at bats through April Benny also had ten doubles and six triples. That means over 19% of his at bats resulted in extra base hits.  Benintendi also went through a stretch of 48 swings at the ball without a swing and miss ( the "miss" that started this streak was actually a check swing that Benintendi was ejected arguing over, before he had a clear swing and miss the streak had arrived at 60). Andrew ended April with an ongoing batting streak which had reached nineteen games, tying the all time Salem Red Sox record. Despite public pronouncements from Dave Dombrowski and other Sox execs, that a promotion is not near, if Benintendi continues this level of hitting in May, it seems unfathomable that he will not be a Portland Sea Dog any day now.

3. Rafael Devers,3B- Salem {3}. Devers is the only one of the super prospects who has struggled to begin 2016.  His April line was 2/8/.138/.242.504.  The one bright light in that meager line is the two home runs.  Devers is perhaps the one prospect for Boston who has the capacity to develop into a pure home run hitter. So the glimpse of home run power in April was encouraging.  There have been questions about Devers' ability to remain at third in the big leagues, so another encouragement has been his steady defensive play, according to manager Joe Oliver, while the bat struggles.  Unlike the two teammates ranked ahead of him here, Devers who'll play the entire 2016 campaign at age 19 (young for the Carolina League), is ticketed to spend all year at Salem.  Do not be the least bit surprised if Rafael ends his year  with numbers similar to 2015: 11/70/.288/.329/.773.

4. Anderson Espinoza, RHP- Greenville {4} The eighteen year from Caracas, Venezuela has continued to wow baseball personnel with his at times dominating pitching. One less than stellar game has inflated the ERA but his line is through five starts: 1-2/4.50/1.18/24-8.  The win was the first pro win for Espinoza due to the  strict innings limit imposed by Boston in 2015. So far this year Espinoza is being limited about five innings per start.  The 97+ fastball with excellent secondary pitches are still being flashed by Anderson.  The 24 K's, in only 22 innings, are only two strikeouts behind the system lead.  Espinoza only pitched 58 innings in 2015, so do not be surprised if his 2016 innings limit will be in the 100-115 range.

5. Sam Travis, 1B- Pawtucket {5} Travis, who impressed so strongly in the Red Sox spring games, has continued by putting up a very strong first AAA month. In April Travis hit 2/14/.289/.326/.760.  Sam also collected a half dozen doubles.  Travis is certainly positioning himself for a mid season call up to Boston if an injury should create an opportunity.  There had been talk of trying Travis in left field, but that has been put on the back burner while the Paw Sox have been training both Marco Hernandez and Blake Swihart in left field.

6. Brian Johnson, LHP- Pawtucket {6}. With Henry Owens' inability to grab even a temporary spot in the Boston rotation, Johnson could be next up.  With both Joe Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez in the middle of minor league rehabs, the next opportunity may be awhile though. Johnson has been off to an okay start to his 2016. 1-2/2.25/1.50/20-11 in four starts.  Johnson does seem healthy after an elbow scare which curtailed his 2015.

7. Michael Kopech, RHP-XST {7}.  Kopech still has not pitched in 2016 after breaking his pitching hand in a spring training off the field fight.  At this point his return is not imminent.  Only his long range ceiling and some top 100 prospects in all of baseball mentions last winter are keeping him from falling a few spots.

8. Michael Chavis, 3B-Greenville {9}. The decision to have Chavis repeat a level at Greenville, where he could be the clear cut starting third baseman was off to a great start. Chavis, who hit only .223 in 2015 for the Drive, put up an April of 3/14/.356/.415/.992.  Chavis' .356 was second to only Benintendi's .360 in the system. But unfortunately in late April, Michael injured his left thumb ligament and is on the disabled list, awaiting a verdict on a possible surgery. If Chavis should need the surgery and misses a substantial amount of 2016 it could set back the progress that been exhibited here in April.

9. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF- Greenville {10} Luis "Ax" Basabe is off to a very strong season at Greenville:3/10.259/.286.743.  The three home runs tied Basabe for third in the system with Michael Chavis. Ax also had five doubles and a triple.  Basabe also stole four bases without getting caught.  There is school of thought that the Sox were willing to trade Manuel Margot to San Diego not only due to Andrew Benintendi coming along but also because of Basabe.

10. Travis Lakins, RHP- Salem {13}.  Hidden among the very tall shadows cast by several of the super prospects playing in Salem is this 2015 sixth round draftee from Ohio State. After pitching just two innings for Lowell in '15, the Sox jumped Lakins all the way up to Salem out of spring training.  Lakins has not disappointed: 3-1/2.16/1.28/26-10, he lead the system for April in wins, strikeouts, and innings pitched in his five starts. Of the pitchers who have not yet reached AA or AAA, Lakins could be the one who comes through the system the fastest.

11. Nick Longhi, 1B- Salem {14}.  Another name lying in the weeds at Salem.  This 2013 draftee after hitting .330 at Lowell and .281 at Greenville the previous two seasons, began his High A career at: 0/16/.292/.354/.724.  The sixteen RBI was third for the Sox system in April.

12. Pat Light, RHP- Boston {12}  Light made his major league debut on April 26 after being recalled to help fortify an overused Boston bullpen.  In one inning of work he allowed two earned runs on two hits and a walk.  Light has since returned to AAA, where he continues to work on mastering his control of his very substantial fastball.  If Light's fastball can be harnessed, he is a definite candidate to help the Sox pen this year and going forward.

13. Marco Hernandez, U- Pawtucket {17}.  As the Sox look for an additional utility player to help the big club, Hernandez has emerged as a leading candidate.  After giving the middle infielder some play at third, Marco has now been playing some left field at AAA. Despite yo-yoing  between AAA and Boston, Hernandez had a strong April: 0/5/.333/.396/.855.

14. Deven Marrero, SS- Pawtucket {8} The former first rounder falls six spots down our list due to two factors: no clear path to a regular job in Boston and a terrible offensive April.  Marrero has always had the sterling defensive reputation, the question has been his bat.  April did nothing to answer that question: 0/6/.212/.264/.523.  When Boston needed infield bench help in April they recalled both Josh Rutledge and Marco Hernandez over Deven Marrero.  Nuf said.

15. Roniel Raudes, RHP- Greenville [24} Raudes is the second youngest player in the entire South Atlantic League, at age 18 years 3 months.  The youngest, of course, is Anderson Espinoza.  And if not for the presence of Espinoza in the Red Sox family, Raudes would likely be the most talked about young pitching phenom. His April line was 2-1/2.65/1.29/13-5. The Nicaraguan righty does not have the electric fastball of Espinoza.  Raudes' game is pounding the strike zone, he locates his upper 80's fastball as well as a plus curveball and change.  The pair of eighteen year olds are likely to spend the entire season at Greenville. It could be a lot of fun watching them come up the ladder together.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Red Sox vs Yankees Sunday Night Baseball Live Chat 5-1-16

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