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Spring Training Nonsense…

…so the Blowhard has recently written about three of the four major sports teams in the local area, perhaps it’s time to cover the remaining one…the Boston Red Sox?

I know, it’s early in Spring Training and the team is puttering along (not meant to be a bad thing…just that Spring Training is too long…and…who cares what their record is in the spring anyway?!).  But we may as well get a look at all of the players in camp to see what they have.  What do we mean by “all”?  Welp, every player on the 40 man roster, every player on the non-roster invite list and…every player that has appeared in a Spring Training game as of the day this piece is written.  Yup, I did just say that last sentence.  Once again, you’ve been warned.

Of course, the 25 man roster is pretty much already all set.  Just a minor tweak here and there, specifically in the bullpen I would say.  But it can’t hurt to take a look at everyone that is in FLA anyway…because, well, I have nothing better to do at the present time.

Let’s get to it, in usual Blowhard fashion, we break down the roster by position (numbers in parenthesis next to the players on the “prospects” line are what each player is ranked by Redsox.com):

Starting Rotation:

Locks:  Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez

DL:  None…yet

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  None

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Darwinzon Hernandez (#4), Mike Shawaryn (#13) Denyi Reyes (#19), Kutter Crawford (#20), Jhonathan Diaz (#30)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Chandler Shepherd, Dedgar Jimenez, Kyle Hart

Comments:  Doesn’t get any simpler than this.  There has been some scuttlebutt about Eovaldi ending up in the bullpen, specifically as the closer.  But the Sox didn’t throw him 68 mil over 4 years to do that, I can make you that promise.

Sale and manager Alex Cora can rave about Darwinzon all they want.  But he’s quite some time away from the majors.  Besides, being #4 on the Red Sox’ prospect list isn’t anything to be fired up about.  What, do they have one prospect on Major League Baseball’s Top 100 prospect list?  Just one of a hundred on most lists out there.  Unimpressive…an understatement, I know.  But I suppose we can hold out some hope, at least for him.  The numbers on the rest of the “prospects” tell you that we probably don’t ever need to talk about them again.  But we will see…

Dedgar may not actually be flotsam…yet…since he is only 22.  But he isn’t even among the Sox’ top 30.  So I suppose that should automatically give us some pause.  Shepherd and Hart are 26, so their time has likely passed.

With the contracts of Sale and Porcello expiring after this season, the Sox better figure something out throughout the year and into the next offseason.  I’m hoping that they won’t be replaced in 2020 by anyone in the section immediately below.  I’m sure they won’t…but there’s not exactly anything promising coming up from the minors anytime soon either.

Then again, news has come out that Sale and the team are mutually interested in a new contract.  We will see what comes of that.  It will be interesting to see the particulars if that gets done.  Sale has been “underpaid” for years, by baseball standards.  He has not exactly been durable, often wearing down in the second halves of seasons.  Dominant when healthy, can we expect that going forward?  Not sure.

Would I give him a new contract?  Hell yes!  But would aim for a shorter term.  If they could get him at 3-4 years, even if the money is somewhat silly, I’d do it.  Once again, not much in the farm system.  And a dominant Sale for even 150 innings could be worth it.

Did you also hear though?  E-Rod is in the “best shape of his life” and looks electric!  He’s ready to take the next step!  Sigh…those “feel-good” Spring Training stories…gotta love them…

Swingmen:

Locks: Brian Johnson

DL:  None

Suspended:  Steven Wright

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Hector Velasquez, Marcus Walden

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  None

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Erasmo Ramirez, Josh A. Smith, Domingo Tapia, Daniel McGrath, Josh Taylor

Comments:  I am making this an official category for when Sale and/or Eovaldi and/or E-Rod spend their obligatory time on the DL.  Maybe Price too, if he needs another “mental break”.  Hey, he seemed to finally break through in the playoffs last year.  But I’m not guaranteeing the page has officially been turned on him heading into this season.  Just call me skeptical, that’s all.

In any event, none of the aforementioned five starters are likely to get anywhere close to 200 innings, with the possible exception of Porcello.  So there will be starts available for this group of guys that aren’t really good enough to start but won’t have key roles in the bullpen either.

Actually, Wright may be the only one that can be considered for either.  But can you ever really trust a knuckleballer?  I would as the #5 starter on this kind of team, I will admit.  General Manager Dave Dombrowski has thrown his name into the mix at closer.  Although Wright pitched well both starting and relieving last year when healthy, I don’t think anyone wants closing games to be part of his repertoire.  Then again, I wrote this paragraph before his suspension came down.  So the point is now moot…until July anyway.

Johnson sticks because he is out of options.  And even at 28 years old now, the Sox may want to try to salvage his former status as a “top prospect”.  Most of the year he will pitch mopup though.  He’s useless out of the bullpen and has proven that time and time again.  If he’s on my roster, he is starting games.  There is no room for him for that on this team, but he will be the official #6 guy in 2019 I would predict.

Velasquez and Walden have options, I think anyway, so they will be on the outside looking in.  I’m sure we will see them at some point.  Walden is actually having himself another fantastic spring thus far, for whatever that is worth.  I’m sure we will see Erasmo at some point as well.  But he’s on a minor league deal.  So they can start him in the minors.

If we see Smith, Tapia, McGrath or Taylor at any point, that will likely spell trouble.  It’s doubtful they actually see starts if they are up, but they have been both starters and relievers in the minors, so that is why they are listed here.

Bullpen:

Locks: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Tyler Thornburg, Brandon Workman

DL:  Carson Smith, Zach Putnam

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Bobby Poyner (#22), Colten Brewer (#23)

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Travis Lakins (#17), Matthew Gorst

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Brian Ellington, Trevor Kelley, Adam Lau, Jenrry Mejia, Mark Montgomery, Dan Runzler, Daniel Schlereth, Hunter Smith, Jordan Weems, Ryan Weber

Comments:  Sssssooooooo…Craig Kimbrel is no longer here.  And for the regular season, that could be kind of important.  Machine Gun Joe Kelly is no longer here either.  But despite how well he pitched in the postseason last year, I could care less.  Because the fact of the matter is he still stinks.  Even late season 2017 wunderkind Austin Maddox is no longer here.  I think he’s out the whole 2019 season, but I can’t really find him anywhere.

So this is what we are left with.  Yikes!!  Kimbrel was not good in the postseason last year and can be shaky at times in the regular season.  But he is by far a better option than any of the jamokes on this list.  He is still out there.  I would consider bringing him back.  But that ship has sailed apparently.

Dombrowski has been touting Barnes, Brasier, Thornburg and Wright as potential closing options.  Really?

Barnes is barely an 8th inning guy.  Brasier had like 30 great innings last year, and most of his earlier appearances were low leverage, though he did pitch well enough in the postseason, I will allow.  Thornburg has missed the better part of the last two years with injury.  We’ve already talked about Wright…and he’s no longer an option now anyway.

Not ideal.  And completely uninspiring.

The way the “locks” have been summed up thus far, looks like 11 spots.  Wright was my eleventh initially.  But his suspension allows Workman to get one of the last spots.  Why?  Out of options, velocity supposedly up, blah, blah, blah.  Now who is #12?  Who knows?  Poyner or Velasquez I suppose would be the front runners…or Walden if he keeps doing what he’s doing.  He is becoming Mr. March, I guess?  A DL stint or two could affect things of course.

I can’t believe Carson Smith is back after he got hurt (again) last season by throwing his glove against a wall or something and then blamed Cora for pitching him and/or warming him up too much.  I guess that shows you how much demand there was for him.  That being said, if he ever gets healthy, he could possibly be an asset.  Same goes for Putnam.  But we won’t see them until the summer I would bet, at the earliest.

Lakins got some buzz for a possible call up late last year, but as a #17 prospect, I am not sure we can be too excited.  The fact that Poyner and Brewer are listed in the Top 30 is scary enough.  Gorst isn’t even listed as an “official” prospect, but I put him here because he jumped up three levels last season and pitched fairly well…including 20.1 scoreless innings in his middle stint in AA in Portland.

The last group?  Mejia is interesting enough.  But he hasn’t pitched essentially since 2015 with his own suspensions.  Worth keeping an eye on for now, but that’s about it.  Weems is interesting only because he spent the first 5 plus years of his minor league career as a catcher.  Now is 26 years old, but has only pitched for 3 years.  Many of the rest of the names listed here have some major league experience.  But I don’t think any of us should be excited to see them in a Sox uniform this summer.  They can help the Pawtucket Red Sox all they want though.

Next:  The bats

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Week Fourteen…

So I know this is generally a football pick column…and it will be eventually…but we would be remiss if we didn’t give some comments on the Boston Red Sox re-signing of Nathan Eovaldi earlier this week.

For a quick refresher, this is what we wrote about a month ago:

“…The way Major League Baseball is trending, with “bullpen games”, the Sox technically don’t have to do anything here next year.  WHAAAAAAAT???!!  WHAT ABOUT EOVALDI??!!  Nate Eovaldi has a special place in my heart for the way he pitched in the postseason this year.  He always will.  Especially that relief appearance in Game 3 of the World Series…in a game they actually lost.  What an effort though.  A guy with past arm trouble and free agency looming could have easily begged out of that game at any point…even at the beginning, seeing he had pitched in relief the first two games.  He didn’t and became somewhat of a legend.

But give him 15-20 mil a year for 4-5 years?  I’m not so sure about that.  Seems like a risk.  Past arm problems.  But more importantly, past mediocrity.  44-53, 4.16 career heading into his age-29 season.  Love the guy to death.  But I think I am passing…”

Has my opinion changed?  Actually, no.  All around.  Still will love the guy, no question.  But not backing up the Brinks truck for him.  Above all, he just hasn’t taken the ball enough in his career.

Turns out ol’ Nate got right about in the middle of what we had mentioned, about 17 per.  A lot of dough seemingly just to reward someone for one postseason.

On the surface, this must slot Eovaldi into the 3rd or 4th slot in the rotation for 2019.  Chris Sale and David Price go 1-2, Eovaldi and Rick Porcello go 3-4 and Eduardo Rodriguez would be 5.  Steven Wright, Hector Velasquez and Brian Johnson give you 6-8 depth.  Can’t complain about that staff on paper certainly.

The salaries?  Listen, the Sox can spend whatever they want.  We know this.  John Henry ain’t hurting for funds.  BUT…Price 31, Porcello 21 plus, Nate 17, Sale 15…heavy.  E-Rod probably gets a nice bump in arbitration as well…because…everyone always does in that process.

Some have speculated that maybe Eovaldi may close this season, what with the likely departure of Craig Kimbrel.  Unlikely.  Good closers may approach the 17 mil per.  But we don’t even know if Nate can be a good closer…he’s never done it.  And with his injury history, not sure the Sox should even consider it.  Despite his bullpen efforts in the postseason last season.

One thing it does tell me?  Either Sale or Porcello will be allowed to walk after the 2019 season.  And you heard it here first:  The Blowhard believes that there is a greater likelihood that Porcello will be back in 2020 than Sale.  Sale is clearly the better pitcher.  By far.  But with his health history, will they shell out probably over 25 million per for that uncertainty?  Heading into his age-31 season?  Not so sure.  The team babied him more than ever last year.  And he threw a mere 158 innings.

As mediocre as Porcello can be, he takes the ball every turn.  He will also be heading into his age-31 season.  The Sox may be willing to give him another 20 plus for a few years than 25-30 plus for Sale over likely more seasons.

Sounds silly, but let’s see how it plays out.

In summary, we obviously don’t love the Eovaldi deal.  Just a little too much risk for me.  But it’s not my money.  And after dissecting things a little more, it may not be completely insane.

Again, let’s see how all this plays out in 2019.

And if they win another World Series, I guess who gives a rat’s ass?

As for football:

Carolina (-1.5) at Cleveland 

Carolina has lost 4 in a row and is 1-5 on the road.  I really want to pick the Browns here.  But…I can’t…

Carolina 23, Cleveland 20.

New York Jets at Buffalo (-3.5)

Brutal.

Buffalo 17, New York Jets 13.

New York Giants at Washington (-1.5)  

Mark Sanchez.  And Josh Johnson.

Nice!

I know, Odell Beckham Jr. is not playing.  But it shouldn’t matter.  Let’s also talk for a second about Colin Kaepernick.  Washington is taking a lot of heat for signing those aforementioned stiffs over Kaep.  Welp, I can see both sides.  First off, a team would really have to change a great deal of their offense to sign and play Colin.  And with a mere four games left, is it worth it?  Johnson may be the literal definition of “journeyman”.  But he has a history with Redskins coach Jay Gruden.  That does matter, unfortunately.

One thing people fail to consider is the fact that Kaepernick is actually not very good.  And now he hasn’t played since 2016, where he “led” the Niners to a 1-10 record in his appearances.  Sure, there are so many bad backup QB’s in the league, he probably deserves a job somewhere.  But we have also heard, and maybe inaccurately, that he has had opportunities to sign…and they weren’t for enough money to his liking so he passed.  Yeah, this last point could be bogus.  But I’m not ruling anything out with this guy.

Bottom line, Kaep still stinks and hasn’t played in two years.  He’s probably good enough to hold a clipboard on some team…if he wants to.  But would it really make a difference in Washington?  That’s for everyone else to decide, not me…

New York Giants 20, Washington 13.

Atlanta at Green Bay (-5.5) 

Let’s now see if it was Mike McCarthy or Aaron Rodgers.

Green Bay 38, Atlanta 24.

New Orleans (-8.5) at Tampa Bay

After that dud last Thursday against the Cowboys and the early season loss to the Bucs at home, this feels like some kind of hurtin’ is about to be put on.

New Orleans 45, Tampa Bay 20.

Baltimore at Kansas City (-6.5) 

Are the Ravens someone to worry about as we head toward the playoffs?

Baltimore 37, Kansas City 34.

New England (-8.5) at Miami 

The Pats…and Tom Brady, in particular, have been putrid down in Miami in recent years.  Even though the Dolphins ain’t very good, they will most assuredly keep it close.  I almost want to pick them to win.  But the Pats need this one.

New England 30, Miami 24.

Indianapolis at Houston (-4.5)

If you asked me last week, I would have picked the Colts here to end Houston’s 9 game winning streak.  But not after that putridness against the Jags a week ago.

Houston 34, Indianapolis 28

Denver (-5.5) at San Francisco

The Broncos are still in the mix…amazingly enough.  Losing Manny Sanders will hurt.  But not this week.

Denver 27, San Francisco 17.

Cincinnati at Los Angeles Chargers (-14.5)

The Bungles are cratering.  Seems like too many points here though, even for the Chargers at home.

Los Angeles Chargers 34, Cincinnati 20. 

Detroit (-2.5) at Arizona

I read something Saturday about Matt Patricia’s “father-son” relationship with Chandler Jones.  I was moved.  Really.  But maybe it’s because I read it right after I smoked some synthetic weed and ran shirtless to the local police station.  Oh wait…

Detroit 24, Arizona 14.

Philadelphia at Dallas (-4.5)  

Winner of this one takes the NFC East in my opinion.  Although…maybe not.  Before I looked at the remaining schedules, I had a feeling that the Eagles were ready to make a run.  Then I saw they play at LA Rams and then at home against the Texans after the Cowboys (finishing against the Redskins in Washington).  While the Cowboys play the Colts, Bucs and G-Men.  Advantage:  Dallas.

Dallas 27, Philadelphia 24.  

Pittsburgh (-11.5) at Oakland

The Steelers should win this game pretty handily.  But the way they are playing, who the hell knows?

Pittsburgh 38, Oakland 31. 

Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) at Chicago 

Can’t say I’m completely on the Bears’ bandwagon.  Whatever.

Los Angeles Rams 34, Chicago 24.

Minnesota at Seattle (-3.5)  

The Seahawks will be rolling into the playoffs.  The Vikes aren’t impressing anyone.  ‘Hawks are at home.  We are all pumped and jacked!!

Seattle 31, Minnesota 20.  

Week (against the spread):  0-1

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  103-90

Season (straight up):  122-71

American League Awards

Major League Baseball will start handing out the hardware for the 2018 season next week.  The Gold Glove awards have already been announced.  Doesn’t seem right that Ian Kinsler won one after that ridiculous throw set the Red Sox up to eventually lose Game Three of the World Series.  Or at least didn’t seal up the win for the Sox.  But since that was the only game of the Series that the Sox lost and it kind of was an epic game to boot, I suppose we can let him enjoy that award as he tries to find another team to employ him in 2019.

The finalists for all the major awards have also been announced.  The Blowhard has his opinions, and the finalists in real life won’t necessarily be the finalists in this “vote”.  We will list out our picks like it was a real ballot.  Meaning, 10 choices for MVP, 5 for Cy Young, etc.  And let’s please remember, the postseason results don’t count.  Real life ballots are finalized once the regular season ends.  This will be important to remember when we look at Manager of the Year (spoiler?!).  Anyway, let’s get on with it:

Most Valuable Player:

  1. Mookie Betts, Boston
  2. J.D. Martinez, Boston
  3. Mike Trout, LA Angels
  4. Alex Bregman, Houston
  5. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
  6. Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
  7. Khris Davis, Oakland
  8. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
  9. Justin Verlander, Houston
  10. Blake Treinen, Oakland

Now, it looks like I am a homer here, but how J.D. wasn’t a finalist in real life is beyond me.  Sticking his big bat in the middle of the Red Sox lineup clearly made a colossal difference this year.  They didn’t have that bat there in 2017 after the retirement of David Ortiz at the end of the 2016 season and the whole lineup seemed to suffer.  Ask Betts himself, who had a huge 2016 and 2018 and a subpar 2017.  I’ve been tempted to give Martinez the award, but I can’t overlook Mookie’s defense, nor his superior OPS and general all-around season.  I know, it’s not J.D.’s fault he’s a DH…well, I guess it is since he ain’t that great defensively.  But he WANTED to play more outfield, so I guess there’s that.

There will be at least one person upset that I put Trout third.  Mikey may still yet be the best player in baseball.  But again, for those who don’t remember, I am an advocate for giving the MVP award to the “most valuable” instead of the “best player”.  You will see from the list above that there are no players from bad teams and only one (Trout) from a mediocre team.  I know, these guys are only one of nine on the field at the same time.  And it’s hard to “carry” a baseball team by yourself.  But look at the difference J.D. seemed to make in the Boston lineup and maybe one player can?

Bregman was the best everyday player on a 103 win team this year.  Seems like fourth is a good spot for him.  Especially when considering the rest of his lineup.  Last year’s MVP, Jose Altuve, did not have the same year.  Carlos Correa, George Springer and Marwin Gonzalez’s numbers were way down in 2018 as well.  Ramirez is a finalist in real life.  But he was putrid the last six weeks.  So he’s no better than fifth here.  Almost put him behind Lindor as well.  Davis’ average was subpar, but his other numbers were all pretty damn good.  Think someone from the A’s should be recognized.  After all, it’s only seventh in my vote.

Pitchers round out the Top Ten for me.  As you know, I don’t love pitchers in the MVP vote, unless they are extremely dominant.  But I did not have a good feeling about putting any more hitters in here.  Jed Lowrie?  Nelson Cruz?  Mitch Haniger?  Xander Bogaerts?  Nope, nope, nope and…nope.

Went with Snell eighth.  Wished he threw a few more innings, but he was quite dominant for a surprising Rays team.  Verlander seemed like a good choice next.  More on these two later.  Treinen?  You know my general disdain for relief pitchers.  But his numbers are hard to ignore.  9 wins as a closer too.  That tells me that he wasn’t just coming in for a ninth inning with a three-run lead and an easy save all the time.  He must have entered more than a few tie games.  I could be wrong.  But that’s what it tells me anyway.  Plus we like having two guys named Blake in the mix.

Cy Young:

  1. Justin Verlander, Houston
  2. Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
  3. Corey Kluber, Cleveland
  4. Chris Sale, Boston
  5. Blake Treinen, Oakland

Why Verlander over Snell here, after having the reverse in the MVP race?  Welp, for one, the Cy Young is not intended to be the “Most Valuable Pitcher”.  This award is generally given to the best pitcher, period.  And Verlander made 3 more starts than Snell, pitched 33 1/3 more innings, had 69 more strikeouts and had a better WHIP (.902 vs. .974).  That offset Snell’s ERA advantage (1.89 to 2.52) for me.  Snell was probably more “valuable”, simply because Verlander also had Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers, etc. on his staff to help carry the load while Snell had…Ryan Yarborough?

Kluber was once again a horse for the Indians.  His numbers were also up there all around, though his ERA (2.89) was a full run worse than Snell’s.  So that puts him third.  Sale had this thing wrapped up in July…then pitched like 20 innings the rest of the year.  Unfortunately had to penalize him for that.  We talked about Treinen already.  Again, when there are deserving starters with great numbers, it’s hard to recognize a reliever in this voting.  But again, his numbers can’t be ignored.  Similar to why we had Craig Kimbrel fifth last year.  Have to recognize dominance when it’s out there.

I liked Treinen’s overall game better than Edwin Diaz’ 57 saves, but Diaz would be in the “second five” if we had one.  Cole, Luis Severino, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco may have been part of that group as well.

Rookie of the Year:

  1. Miguel Andujar, NY Yankees
  2. Gleyber Torres, NY Yankees
  3. Shohei Ohtani, LA Angels

These were the three choices this year, with all due respect to Daniel Palka and his 27 dingers and the aforementioned Yarborough and his 16 wins.  Andujar was the one with the full season and the better overall numbers so he gets the nod for me.  Torres came up like a whirlwind and then cooled as the season went on.  He played about 75% of the games so that gives him second.

Ohtani may have been the most EXCITING rookie…not to mention the one with the most hype in years.  But he simply didn’t play enough.  He DH’d almost exactly half the games (82) on a normal regular season schedule.  And threw up some pretty impressive numbers for that time…including 22 pinch-hitting appearances.  Throw in the 10 games he pitched and you could probably make a case for him to win the award.  And if he did, I wouldn’t argue.  But as much as I hate the Yankees, I can’t penalize those guys for playing more…and also playing important positions in the field.

Manager of the Year:

  1. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay
  2. Bob Melvin, Oakland
  3. Alex Cora, Boston

I will be the first to admit that I underrated Cora this year.  I thought he was just a “clubhouse” manager.  Meaning, the Sox’ talent won the games and that Cora just had to manage a clubhouse full of egos.  As the year went on, I realized he was more than that.  Then in the postseason, that like we said above, does not count toward this award, he pulled ALL the right strings.  Literally ALL of them.  Starting with the construction of the rosters for each round, down to every in-game decision.

But although he had the 108 wins and gained more appreciation from me (and most assuredly many others) throughout the year, how can anyone not vote for Cash?  The Rays won 90 games.  Think about that for a second.  Sure, they didn’t make the playoffs.  But they were behind two 100 win teams IN THEIR OWN DIVISION.  Look at that roster.  They had Blake Snell and…Wilson Ramos?  Mallex Smith?  Ummmmm…no one really of relevance.  Even a guy that usually is a key piece to their team, Kevin Kiermaier, had a putrid year.  The team traded guys like Chris Archer at the trade deadline, per usual.  And they won 90 friggin’ games.  Plus, don’t overlook the new trend “Cashie” started…the “opener”.  Yarborough won 16 games and only started 6.  Lot’s of second and third inning entrances.  At the beginning of the year, teams and players laughed at Cash for doing this.  By the end, many teams were copying him.  Ask Craig Counsell and the Milwaukee Brewers, who worked some of that all the way to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Melvin gets second for winning 97 games with a team that had loads of power (and strikeouts), good defense a great closer, a good bullpen, yet only one real starter himself (Sean Manaea).  He had to roll Edwin Jackson out there for 17 starts for Chrissakes!  Jackson actually pitched well, but what was this, Jackson’s 20th MLB team?  Being in a division with a 103 win Houston team, as well as a Seattle Mariner team that was right in the mix until late in the year.  Seems to me he earned second for this one.

Next:  The National League

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