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Spring Training Nonsense, Part II…

Now, the bats.  As with the pitchers, we will cover everyone who has appeared in a Boston Red Sox Spring Training game.  This should be a lot of fun, as not only are their 50 players that have been on the diamond in a game thus far, there’s a handful of dudes that I’ve never even heard of.  Let’s get to it!

Catcher:

Locks:  None

DL:  None

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Roldani Baldwin (#29)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Juan Centeno, Oscar Hernandez, Austin Rei, Jake Romanski, Jhon Nunez

Comments:  Not as easy as last year, now that Swihart is “officially” a catcher again.  None of the three guys that were around all of last year can be considered locks, I don’t feel.  Why?  The Red Sox have supposedly decided that carrying 3 catchers this season is not ideal.  So one has to go.  Who?

Vazquez signed a fairly big extension prior to last season.  Then he promptly went out and underperformed during the season.  He would seem to be the #1 guy, based on the combination of decent enough offense and damn good defense.  But now that may be in question.

If you ask the pitchers, Leon would be the guy.  Great “game caller” and also great defensively.  But he simply cannot hit a lick.

Swihart still has the most upside.  Better bat than the other two.  Worst of the three defensively, though the team has said in recent months that he has made tremendous strides.

It would seem that Swihart, just about to turn 27, would have the most trade value.  But how much actually is that nowadays.  Vazquez may have some value, but I would bet the organization wants him to assert himself in the #1 role…especially since he has the biggest contract.  I know, his price is not even close to exorbitant.  But for him, it may be.

My guess is they keep the defensive-minded guys and trade Swihart for a fraction of what they could have traded him for a few years back.  But it’s anyone’s guess as to what actually happens.

Centeno and Hernandez seem to be on track to be the Pawtucket tandem.  The 4 other guys have 10 at-bats between them this spring, so I am not sure we will ever have to worry about them.

Infield:

Locks:  Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Brock Holt (INF/OF), Mitch Moreland (1B), Eduardo Nunez (INF), Steve Pearce (1B), Dustin Pedroia (2B),

DL:  Marco Hernandez (INF)

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  None

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Michael Chavis (3B-#1), Bobby Dalbec (3B-#3), C.J. Chatham (SS-#9), Josh Ockimey (1B-#25), Pedro Castellanos (1B-#26)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Tzu-Wei Lin (INF), Sam Travis (1B), Tony Renda (INF), Chad De La Guerra (INF), Mike Miller (INF), Jantzen Witte (3B), Jeremy Rivera (SS), Brett Netzer (2B), Josh Tobias (3B)

Comments:  Heavy part of the roster here.  But pretty cut and dried, to be honest.  Moreland and Pearce platoon at first, X and Raffy on the left side most of the time.  That leaves second base.

Pedroia probably thinks he can play every day.  And will likely try to talk his way into doing just that.  But it remains to be seen if he can even play ANY of the games.  That knee is troublesome, that is no secret.  And who knows if the rehab he did this winter even worked?  He’s started playing a little this spring, but we will see.

Holt looks to take most of the starts at second when Pedey can’t play.  Maybe Nunez too, but he stinks at second.  Nunez will likely play a little third against tough lefties in place of Devers, at least that’s what I would do.  Actually, I wouldn’t have given Nunez a 2 year contract last offseason, but at 5 mil, it obviously doesn’t kill them.  Holt will also play a little outfield I imagine.  So Holt and Nunez will get decent at-bats whether we like it or not.

Chavis is the teams’ top prospect, kind of a scary proposition.  Why?  He wasn’t very good his first three years in the lower minors, then hit 31 homers in 2017 after apparently finding the juice.  Which caused his half-year suspension in 2018.  He hit well upon his return and hit 4 homers pretty early this spring, so maybe he found the juice again.  But…maybe he gets caught again.  Not ruling anything out.  In any event, if he hits this year and doesn’t get pinched, he could be the Sox’ regular 1B in 2020 once the contracts of the current platoon pair expire.  And that should mean he gets major league AB’s this season.

We know who won’t be the Sox’ regular first basemen in 2020.  Sammy Travis.  Looks like the ship has sailed on that former “top prospect”.  But Lin is still on the fringe.  The team is working him all over the field, apparently trying to make him “Brock Holt Lite”.  If that excites you.

I love Tony Renda’s Red Sox career.  He was up for like a week or 10 days last summer.  Scored the winning run in a Sunday Night game against the Yankees as a pinch runner.  Then disappeared for the rest of the year.  No other appearances before or after that one.  If history repeats itself, Renda will get a World Series ring.  Beautiful, no?

The rest of the prospects are too far away and the rest of the random bodies will not likely appear at Fenway this season, so I at least hope they are all enjoying the spring.

Outfield:

Locks:  Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF), J.D. Martinez (DH)

DL:  None

Realistic additional competitors for the Opening Day roster:  Gorkys Hernandez

Actual prospects on their way to the minors:  Jarren Duran (#10)

Additional flotsam also ticketed for the minors:  Rusney Castillo, Bryce Brentz, Cole Sturgeon, Tate Matheny, Danny Mars, Cole Brannen, Jagger Rusconi, Marino Campana, Tyler Esplin, Chris Madera, Joseph Monge, Kervin Suarez, Jordan Wren, Keith Curcio

Comments:  Nothing to see here.  Could be the best outfield in baseball.  Defensively for sure anyway.  Oh, did you hear that Bradley worked with a swing coach this offseason?  We will see how that works out, but I am not expecting miracles.  Better yet, where was this swing coach over the past several years?  I would have traded JBJ after his All-Star year, as has been noted previously (probably a thousand times), but I wonder what will happen going forward?  Lots of contracts up over the next two years.  I can’t imagine JBJ will be anywhere in line for a lucrative extension.

Speaking of extensions, Mookie!  No indication he will sign one.  But I hope they are trying.  Bryce Harper only got like 26 mil a year.  Mookie will want more than that.  But the question continues to be unanswered:  Does he even want to be here long term?  No one even knows.

J.D. can opt out after this year.  No one knows if that will happen either.  With the top guys waiting into Spring Training the last two years and not necessarily getting the dough that people thought they would, maybe he doesn’t take a chance by opting out.  Especially since he is basically a designated hitter.  Sure, he is listed here as an outfielder.  But I didn’t want to do a whole ‘nutha section for one DH.  And sure, he will see starts in the outfield to appease him a bit.  But no team actually views him as one.

Gorkys may get that last spot if the Sox are serious about not carrying three catchers.  He seems to be the likely choice.  We know it won’t be Rusney.  I’ve said that he deserves another shot.  You know, since he’s making like 11 mil down in Pawtucket and has played well down there.  But there were opportunities for him to come up and contribute last season.  And never a sniff.

Bryce Brentz is back!!  We more than likely won’t see him in Boston again though.  If anyone cares.  Cole Sturgeon is a name I recognize every year in Spring Training.  Seems like he is 35 years old.  But alas, he is only 27.  And that 3-20 this year won’t help him at all.  Matheny is the son of former big leaguer (and also former St. Louis manager) Mike Matheny.  But that’s about all I really can say about him.

Nothing much to add about the rest of that list.  I am not even sure I would add anything even if I knew who most of them actually are.

That about sums things up.  Most of the team returns from last year.  Not necessarily a good thing to have little turnover.  Not necessarily a good thing to have a bullpen that looks like it does.  But it’s a long season folks.  And it should be a successful one at that.  But another World Series win?  I’m not betting on that…

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Offseason Chatter…Already?! Conclusion…

We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster.  I promise, this one will be a lot shorter!

Catchers (3):

Here:  Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez

None of these guys hit a lick this past season.  I think Swihart can hit a little, but it’s unlikely he will ever get enough at-bats here to prove it.  Leon was particularly putrid this year.  .177 average with a .511 OPS.  Wow.  That’s hard to do.  In almost 300 plate appearances no less.

But you know what?  I completely expect Vazquez and Leon to be the catching tandem next season.  They are good defensively, the pitchers love them, the manager loves them and with this overall lineup, the catchers do not really have to hit.

Swihart will most assuredly be dangled in trade talks once again.  But also once again there will likely be tepid interest.  I’m not sure the Sox will keep trying to groom him on the “super utility role”.  I suppose we will find out this winter.  If they want to truly make him that versatile, wouldn’t he play winter ball and play all over the diamond?  That would make too much sense though.

Infielders (9):

Here:  Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Marco Hernandez (UT), Brock Holt (UT), Tzu-Wei Lin (UT), Mitch Moreland (1B), Eduardo Nunez (UT), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Sam Travis (1B/LF)

Free agents:  Ian Kinsler (2B), Steve Pearce (1B), Brandon Phillips (2B)

Minors:  Tony Renda (UT)

The last of the World Series “heroes” to talk about?  Steve Pearce.  Love what he did.  But he’s Steve Pearce.  There are 1,000 guys that could play his role next year.  If he wants a one year deal for short money to match the one year left on Moreland’s contract, I would do it.  Then in 2020 maybe the team can get a real first baseman that can play every day instead of this platoon nonsense.

Who really thinks Dustin Pedroia will be ready to go Opening Day 2019?  Besides Dustin Pedroia, that is.  Pedey, you may be done.  That knee injury is supposed to be no joke.  He’s 35 years old.  At this point, I’d cut him loose.  But with 41 mil and 3 years left on his deal, that ain’t happening.  Not to mention that the manager loves him.  And he has some sort of untouchable status in the organization for whatever reason.  So he’s here…unless he really cannot play.  We will see.  At least Holt will be here to back him up, for whatever that is worth.

Hopefully Devers takes another step forward next year, especially defensively.  Nunez locked in his 5 mil player option, so he ain’t going anywhere and will likely take at-bats away from Raffy at third.

Marco missed the whole year and hopefully, he has minor league options so that he can get himself back up to speed and be organizational depth, along with Lin.  I can’t imagine Kinsler will be back, but congrats to him on the Gold Glove!  His career could be done, along with Phillips’.  I think we’ve seen the last of Sammy Travis.  Still only 25 years old, but had a poor year at AAA and his prospect days are essentially over.  Renda?  He was on the roster a few days this summer, scored the winning run as a pinch runner in a Sunday Night game against the Yankees as his only major league action this season.  And got himself a ring because of it.  Not bad.  But all of this and then being outrighted to the minors after the World Series does not bode well for any future major league prospects in Boston.

I’d say that a right-handed bat for first base, either Pearce or someone else, would be the only thing the Sox address this offseason.

Here’s another thing to consider as well:  Bogaerts is a free agent after the 2019 season.  He is coming off his best season.  26 years old, right in his prime.  He is going to want to get paid,  Several other Red Sox will want to get paid.  Scott Boras is his agent, so that means X will want to be unreasonably paid.

Would it shock anyone if Bogaerts is dangled in trade talks?

Not me.

Outfielders (4):

Here:  Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley (CF), J.D. Martinez (OF/DH)

Speaking of guys that want to get paid, J.D. can opt out after 2019 and Mookie is a free agent after 2020.  So you have these two, Bogaerts, Sale and I suppose Porcello all looking for big money within the next two years.  Again, the Sox can pay them all if they want.  But they won’t.  So are there some trade talks this offseason?  I think there might be.

And out of all these guys, I’d start with…Bradley.  Jackie has two arbitration years left before free agency.  He will be looking for over 10 mil in arbitration this year for sure.  I’d try to snow some dumb teams into overvaluing the Gold Glove and the ALCS MVP.  If you don’t want to play Benny or Betts in center on a regular basis, you can find some other guy that can’t hit and play a decent center field for a fraction of the cost.

Sure, if we want the Sox to spend 500 mil on their payroll, we keep JBJ.  And everyone else.  But you know that just isn’t happening.

Good thing that they did win the World Series this year.  Because there’s going to be some tough decisions made over the next couple of years whether they have the money to spend or not or whether we like it or not.  Be ready for some of those decisions to be made as soon as this winter.  And when you have a barren farm system, letting some good players go at the major league level because of money and contracts…well, that might not be a good combination.

Rest assured, the Sox will remain competitive, maybe even for championships.  As noted previously, they have plenty of money to spend and will spend a great deal of it.  But there could be more bodies going out the door over the next few years than we care to accept…

Opening Day Is When? Conclusion…

As promised, let’s moved on to the bats.  Apparently, the 25 man roster was finalized Tuesday, though it won’t be announced until Opening Day to make sure no one stabs themselves with a pen or trips over a crack in the pavement or something.  And…the offensive side of the ball could probably have been predicted correctly days ago by anyone who doesn’t even follow baseball.  But that won’t stop the Blowhard from making his comments below!

Overall, it COULD be a strong group and SHOULD be a strong group.  But there are some question marks on this side as well.  But we will dive into that when we go through the positions.

Once again, we will be using the 40-man roster as a base, while adding in non-roster invitees (NRI) where (if) appropriate:

Catcher (2):

In:  Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon

DL:  None

Minors:  None

Comments:  Well, that was easy.  There are only three catchers on the 40-man roster.  And one of them isn’t really a catcher anymore, I don’t think.  We will talk about that in more detail later though.  As for these two, you could do much worse.  Both are serviceable offensively and defensively.  Looks like Vasky will be around for a while for sure, as he just signed a fat extension…well, a fat one for him anyway.  Leon is never going to hit like he did a couple of years back, but he won’t kill you at the dish.  In this lineup, batting ninth, I don’t think we really care about their offense anyway, right?

Infield (5):

In:  Hanley Ramirez (1B), Eduardo Nunez (2B), Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Mitch Moreland

DL:  Dustin Pedroia, Marco Hernandez

Minors:  Tzu-Wei Lin, Sam Travis, Ivan DeJesus Jr. (NRI)

Comments:  No-brainers here as well, especially after trading Deven Marrero to Arizona a few days back.  Believe it or not, we will talk more about Marrero later.  DeJesus had zero shot at making the team in reality.  But I thought I’d give him some props in this piece since he hit almost .400 this spring.  I still have no idea why the team re-signed Moreland, not to mention giving him 2 years.  I know, Hanley is always a question mark and the Sox did not have J.D. Martinez in the fold yet.  But I think the whole world knew that JD was eventually going to sign here.  And that he was likely to spend more time DHing than in the outfield.  Thus pushing Hanley to first base…I mean, if he felt like playing the field that is.  Because you know he didn’t feel like playing first last year.  The shoulder hurt of course.  Yup.

Anyway, lots of questions here still.  Which Hanley will show up?  Nunez should be a more than capable substitute for Pedroia, then a more than capable reserve after Dustin comes back.  But he signed late.  Is there still concern about his knees?  Devers splashed onto the scene last year.  Can he take the next step?  And perhaps most importantly, will Xander finally reach the supposed unlimited potential that he was earmarked long ago for?  Or will he continue to disappoint?

My take?  Hanley will be extraordinarily average.  But that’s ok since we don’t want him to get the 497 plate appearances he needs to trigger his 2019 option.  Goodbye already, as far as I’m concerned.  Nunez will be just fine.  Devers will have some ups and downs but will be spelled enough by a few guys on the roster so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed.  Though I will say, it would not shock me that if he starts somewhat slow, he could find his way back to Pawtucket for more seasoning.  As for Bogaerts?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Plenty of people think manager Alex Cora will fix him.  I am not convinced.  Earlier in the spring, X seemed to balk at changing his approach.  You know the one where he took so many pitches right down the middle of the plate.  Maybe that has changed since it looks like he has had a decent spring.  But we will see when the lights shine for real.

Outfield (3):

In:  Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF)

DL:  None

Minors:  Rusney Castillo (NRI)

Comments:  Defensively?  Hard to top.  Offensively?  We will see.  Benny should take another step up, in my opinion.  I’m hoping Betts rebounds himself.  “Rebounds”, I know.  Betts finished 6th in the MVP vote last year.  But, in all seriousness, did he deserve that?  The Blowhard says absolutely not.  But we know he has all the tools.  Let’s hope he uses them to their full capacity again.  Bradley flat-out stinks.  He should have been traded the winter after the 2016 season after what most assuredly will be his career year.  But I suppose I’m biased.  I’ve never liked him.  Sure, his D is awesome.  But can’t Betts and/or Benintendi play center at least at 85-90% of JBJ’s ability?  I think so.  I’m also not saying that the Sox should have kept Bryce Brentz to play left…or even play JD full-time in the outfield.  I’m just venting I guess.  The 7 for 46 (.152) this spring doesn’t help either.  Rusney had a good spring and he also seems like he’s a better player than when he first got here.  But it looks like he will make his 12 mil again this year in Pawtucket.  Just another 12 mil in 2019 and a little over 14 mil in 2020 to go on his deal.  Solid.  Wait…maybe he won’t exercise that 2020 player option…ummmmm, nevermind.

Designated Hitter (1):

In:  J.D. Martinez

DL:  None

Minors:  None

Comments:  I honestly did not love the Martinez deal…though if it turns out to be a two-year deal, then it makes it more palatable.  That being said, this dude better hit some bombs.  He also better not chirp about not playing the outfield much.  And Cora better not feel pressure to put him in the outfield much.  Let the record show that he hit zero dingers in camp this year.  I’ll give him the late start.  As well as the fact that he hit over .300.  But I’ll be skeptical of this signing…unless it works out of course.

Utility (2):

In:  Brock Holt, Blake Swihart

DL:  None

Minors:  None

Comments:  I can’t really call these guys infielders, outfielders or even catchers in Swihart’s case.  These guys will play multiple positions.  Well, Swihart allegedly will.  We really don’t know if he actually can.  We know he won’t catch much.  The pitchers don’t like to throw to him.  Hard to believe he will catch at all under those circumstances.  I wonder if he will get much in the form of at-bats overall.  Cora talks about using Blake similar to the way the Astros use Marwin Gonzalez.  But 500 plate appearances?  I don’t see it.  Welp, the Sox have already done what they could to ruin his career, so I suppose they can tack on some more of that this year.  In all fairness, I suppose the team’s hand was forced with Swihart being out of options.  But still…

You were waiting for the part where we would talk more about Deven Marrero?  Here it is!  We think the Sox should have kept him over Holt.  Marrero can’t hit worth a damn.  But his glove alone was worth keeping him in tow.  Especially considering the infield defense (minus Pedroia) is questionable at best.  And Devers may be the first third basemen to have 100 errors in a season.  Ok, a little hyperbole there.  But you get the point.  Holt can play several positions half-decently, but none exceptionally.  Marrero could occupy the 25th spot on the roster and be a defensive replacement every game if necessary.  Only let him hit when you have to.  There is some value in that, believe it or not.  Holt may have been useful in 2014 & 2015.  But not so much in 2016 & 2017.  And has some concussion/vertigo issues.  We know what he is.  I would’ve moved on.

So there are the initial thoughts on the 2018 Red Sox.  Lots of talent, but also lots of injuries and lots of questions.  There’s only one more thing to say…LET’S PLAY BALL!!

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