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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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Cooperstown 2019…

The Baseball Hall of Fame is due to announce their latest inductees on Tuesday so the Blowhard will lay his “vote” out here as well.

So it probably has been plenty clear that I am a “Small Hall” guy if you’ve ever read my Cooperstown posts.  Jack Morris and Alan Trammell recently got in through the veteran’s vote.  This year?  Harold Baines and Lee Smith.  WHAT???!!!

I have to admit, this kind of disgusts me.  None of those guys are Hall of Famers.  None.  Yet there will be more who will get in on Tuesday, and beyond, that have no business being in Cooperstown.

So now that these 4 guys are in, who is next?  Well, all the steroid guys should be in anyway.  The elite ones for sure.  Rafael Palmeiro with his 500 plus dingers and 3,000 plus hits?  I’d be on the fence about him, but he has to be automatic now.  Mark McGwire?  A third of his hits were homers, and that is nice.  But no Hall of Famer.  But he has to go in now also.  Dale Murphy, Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Don Mattingly, Dwight Evans, Jamie Moyer?  WHERE DOES IT STOP?!

Done venting.  But hopefully, you can see how ridiculous this is becoming.

This year, there are 35 names on the official ballot.  Per usual, I added one write-in of my own.

Elected:

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez-We say it every year, these guys are complete arseclowns.  Huge steroid guys.  But also indisputably Hall of Famers.  It may finally be here for the first two.  But they all should be in now.

Mariano Rivera-I know, saves can be kind of a bogus stat.  But when you are pretty much THE BEST at that position over the course of your career and likely in history, you kind of have to recognize that.

Pete Rose-Here’s my write-in again.  He’s showing up more and more now on telecasts and the like.  Colossal dirtbag of course.  But definitely a Hall of Famer.  He WILL get in someday.  But not until he’s been long dead, I can promise you that.

Fantastic careers, but falling a smidge short:

Roy Halladay-8 time All-Star, 7 time Top 5 in the Cy Young voting.  Certainly a stretch of dominance in the middle of his career.  My guess is he gets in.  But I’m not there on him.

Pretty damn good careers, but we can’t induct everyone:

Curt Schilling-Think he will get in eventually too.  But again, not for me.  Not because of his mouth or politics or tweets or any of that stuff.  But because there were too many career ups and downs for my liking.  Despite any postseason heroics.  By the way, there are 16 pitchers in Major League Baseball history that have struck out 3,000 or more batters.  14 are in the Hall.  Clemens is 15.  Schill is 16.  When C.C. Sabathia strikes out 14 guys next season he will be 17.  You can make a case for all 16 currently.  C.C.?  Ugh.  This may change down the road anyway because guys strike out all the time now.  But up until now, it may kind of show that Schill actually belongs in the Hall?

Edgar Martinez-As a DH only for the bulk of his career, the numbers have to be waaaaaay more extravagant for me to put him in.  Like say…David Ortiz-like.  And they aren’t quite that.  But Cooperstown will welcome him in real life on Tuesday.

Mike Mussina-Good pitcher for a long time.  He won 20 games in his final year.  Funny thing is, if he stuck around for maybe 3 more years and won 30 more games, the 300 wins and 3,000 K’s (ended 187 shy) would have put him in automatically.  He may well get in Tuesday as well.

Fred McGriff-The Crime Dog was a solid player pretty much from beginning to end.  But that does not make you a Hall of Famer.

Jeff Kent-His position of 2B helps him here.  But he can probably thank the SF years of batting cleanup behind Bonds for keeping him on the ballot every year.

Larry Walker-Colorado effect.  I don’t know why he keeps getting the support.  Why no love for Vinny Castilla, Dante Bichette or Andres Galarraga?  His numbers weren’t even as good as Baines’.

Gary Sheffield-I never really didn’t think too hard with him.  There’s usually a reason a great talent bounces around and plays on 8 teams.  Didn’t we all see it coming when he came up with Milwaukee as a youngster, they asked him to play third base, he didn’t like it, and as a result fired balls into the stands on purpose?

Billy Wagner-I liked Wagner better than Trevor Hoffman.  But Hoffs pitched in almost 200 more games.  If Wags stuck around for a couple more years, would he have gotten Hoffman-type support?  It’s possible.  But he’s still not in the Hall.

Sammy Sosa-Same story, different year.  609 homers are nice.  But almost half of them (292) came in a 5 year stretch…of an 18-year career.  His .878 career OPS doesn’t even compare to Jim Thome or Vladimir Guerrero, who got in last year.  Nor do many of his other career totals.

Scott Rolen-Numbers were worse than I remembered and didn’t do a whole ton after age-31.  Rookie of the Year award, 7 All-Star Games and 8 Gold Gloves I suppose gets one some love.  The .158 average in 16 games (over 5 series) in the NLDS can’t possibly help though.  The rest of the postseason numbers don’t stick out either.  Nice player, no Hall though.

Andruw Jones-If Andruw retired after his age-29 season in 2006, he may have had a decent shot at the Hall.  As funny as that sounds.  Based on both his offensive and defensive prowess.  He didn’t, however, and sunk his chances with a pretty disastrous final 6 seasons.  “Disastrous” may actually be being kind.  Jones hit 92 homers in those 6 years, but did little else, but apparently stop doing ‘roids and get fat.  And I think stop caring, but I don’t know if I can prove that.  Anyway, no.

Omar Vizquel-Omar is going to get some serious love because “well, Ozzie Smith is in and Luis Aparicio is in and Vizquel’s numbers are comparable/better…”  And sure, he deserves consideration.  Absolutely a defensive whiz at shortstop, who got better offensively as his career progressed.  He may even get in someday, perhaps by the same group who let in all these other non-Hall of Famers.  But I’m not buying in.  Here is another one though, that if he got to 3,000 hits, he may be in automatically.  He fell 123 short.  That he got even that close is due in part to the fact that he played until he was 75 years old.  Ok, slight exaggeration there, but Omar is just another decent player that is not a Hall of Famer.

Todd Helton-Colorado.  No.

Andy Pettitte-3.85 ERA and 1.351 WHIP for his career.  256 wins, but always seemingly on good teams.  We can call him Jack Morris if you want.  You know what that means…

Are these guys seriously on a Hall of Fame ballot?:

Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Miguel Tejada, Placido Polanco, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Lowe, Freddy Garcia, Vernon Wells, Ted Lilly, Travis Hafner, Michael Young, Jason Bay, Jon Garland, Darren Oliver, Juan Pierre, Rick Ankiel-I’m out of words…

Random Musings, Red Sox Style…

More bullet points!

*I know the Sox have the best record in baseball.  And maybe this alone gives Manager Alex Cora some leeway to “experiment”, if you will.  Because don’t you get the feeling he is doing that sometimes?

Well, other than with Blake Swihart…but we will chat about him in more detail later.

A couple of recent examples here.  Robby Scott has been buried in the minors all year.  He had options remaining.  But he isn’t very good either.  Cora brought him into a tie game last week in the eighth inning…when the rest of the “good” relievers were rested and available.  Scott promptly hit a guy and walked another.  Next thing you know, the game is lost.

Xander Bogaerts hurts a finger and for depth (and since the Sox were carrying 13 pitchers and only 12 position players), the team brings up Tzu-Wei Lin from Pawtucket.  Cora sticks Lin in the leadoff spot and Tzu-Wei promptly goes 0-4 with 2 K’s.  Oh, and Lin didn’t hit in his first go around here this year.  And…wait, he was at .299 in the minors?  A couple of weeks ago he was around .214.  Ok, so maybe he got hot.  But that doesn’t always translate to the majors of course.  Leadoff?!

I don’t know, sometimes it seems Cora is pulling stuff out of his arse like this often.  Like Brock Holt batting fifth in the same game as Lin hitting leadoff.  Just hope it doesn’t cost the team a game and then they lose the division by that game and as a result have to play in the Wild Card game.

*That all being said, I can’t say I have too many complaints about Cora overall this season.  Seems to be doing a pretty good job.  Of course, the league stinks.  But still…

*If there is anyone in the organization to complain about, it may be Dave Dombrowski.  The cupboard is bare in the minor leagues.  How are they going to get reinforcements for this stretch run?

Listen, I know guys like Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel are here because prospects were dealt to get them.  I also know that a proven major league player is better than a random prospect.  Many of these much-ballyhooed Red Sox prospects over the years end up being garbage.  Some are dealt before they become that.  Unfortunately, many have stayed in the Sox’ system too long and become garbage before they are moved.  But I’ll take a proven stud over a question mark most days of the week.

But damn, there appears to be less than zero left!  Their two best prospects are Jay Groome and Michael Chavis.  Groome had Tommy John surgery and Chavis got popped for PEDs.

So who is next?  Rusney Castillo?  Ugh…you just don’t hear any names for real prospects in the Sox’ system.  Does anyone have value?

I imagine we will find out over the next month or so leading up to the trading deadline.

*As for Castillo, I agree with some of the local talk radio hosts…Rusney deserves another chance in the bigs.  Well, “deserve” may be a strong word.  But have you seen the OPS’s in this lineup?

Jackie Bradley Jr., .581, Eduardo Nunez, .634, Christian Vazquez, .538…and on and on.

Can Rusney be worse?  And they are paying him like 11 mil this year anyway.  Bring him up and see what happens.

I don’t care if Bradley had three hits Sunday and Tuesday.  He has been abysmal.  And apparently has options remaining.  Yeah, the team has been winning and he plays great defense.  But enough is enough already.  Send him down to find his swing.  If he can.  I’ve said it before and will say it again:  He should have been dealt after his “All-Star” season in 2016.  Didn’t we know that’s the best we were going to get?  And that he is so damn streaky, it could only go downhill from there?  I did.  Sorry.  I did.

*If the Sox won’t bring up Castillo because they don’t want his contract to count against the luxury tax, which is what some believe, then do something else.  I say that something else is to play Blake Swihart every day for 3-4 weeks and give him a chance to get going.  Sure, his OPS of .388 is worse than everyone.  But I suppose that can happen when you are given a mere 80 plate appearances in 79 games up to this point.  While also being asked to play positions you’ve rarely played before.

I have no idea if this kid can play in the major leagues.  I have no idea why I seem to like him and really want him to play.  Perhaps because the Sox have kind of ruined his career by jerking him around?  Specifically in 2016, when he is the Opening Day catcher, drops a couple of foul balls in like the first 8 games, then they panic and dispatch him to Pawtucket (while also bringing up Vazquez, who missed the entire 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery and clearly wasn’t ready to be back in the bigs at that point).  Then bring him back up later in the year and shoehorn him in the outfield and he busts his ankle in the summer.

This year, Cora says he wants Blake to be like Marwin Gonzalez…play all over the diamond and get close to 500 AB’s.  Yup…hasn’t happened.  In fact, Cora started him at catcher in one game then kind of blamed him for the pitch selection after the game.  Yup, that’s why Jalen Beeks got hammered.  Maybe he shouldn’t have given Blake the start behind the plate for the first time this year with a kid making his major league debut on the mound?

Or maybe my affinity for Blake is not to become another highly touted Sox prospect that has stayed in the organization too long and is eventually exposed and found to have no value.  Like…

*Brian Johnson!  His ship has sailed now that he is 27 years of age.  The last guy on the staff.  On top of that, clearly does not pitch well as a bullpen guy.  Maybe he wouldn’t as a regular rotation guy either.  But why bother?  Let him go to another team.

*And…Henry Owens!  Did you know Owens was completely out of baseball for a couple of weeks in May?  Me neither.  This guy was once “can’t miss”.  Boy did he miss…

*We covered Hanley a while back.  I was happy he was gone and that hasn’t changed.  But now with all this stuff coming out about him allegedly having major drug connections and all that, he has returned as a popular topic on the airwaves.  “With the Sox looking for a right-handed bat that can hit lefties, if this proves to be nothing, why wouldn’t they just re-sign him?” and “I don’t like the Sox releasing someone because of the money (if he got enough at-bats to vest his 2019 option)”…blah, blah, blah.

Hanley has not been good for most of his career here.  And not the greatest guy to have around, drug connections or no drug connections.  So please stop it!  They should have done everything they could to make sure that option didn’t vest.  It was stupid to play him every day right at the beginning of the season.

Let’s not all pretend we loved Hanley and NEED his bat.  For most of his tenure here it was “what bat?”.

*Joe Castiglione…we love you, man.  You’ve had a nice career.  But…I don’t know.  Sometimes I just can’t listen anymore.  Last week against the Twins, he was pointing out a fact that the Twins catchers had 17 RBI’s for the year.  And was seemingly surprised that the number could be so low.  Ummmmm, at the time, the Sox catchers had combined for 19 RBI’s on the year.  Just sayin’…

*I leave you with this:  With the Sox having some key contracts expire after 2018 & 2019, as well as some of their younger players due for big raises through the arbitration process.  Not to mention that barren farm system again.  My question is this:  Is it time to start taking offers on one Xander Bogaerts?  One more year of arbitration, then free agency after 2019.  Scott Boras as his agent.  A career that hasn’t taken off as many expected.

X has been decent.  But does the team break the bank to keep him under the circumstances?  Especially with the pitching staff in total flux over the next few years and no one coming from the farm?  And Mookie being due after 2020 on top of that?

I’m investigating this.  Are you?

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