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!
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.
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.
Locks: Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF), J.D. Martinez (DH)
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…
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:
- Mookie Betts, Boston
- J.D. Martinez, Boston
- Mike Trout, LA Angels
- Alex Bregman, Houston
- Jose Ramirez, Cleveland
- Francisco Lindor, Cleveland
- Khris Davis, Oakland
- Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
- Justin Verlander, Houston
- 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.
- Justin Verlander, Houston
- Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
- Corey Kluber, Cleveland
- Chris Sale, Boston
- 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:
- Miguel Andujar, NY Yankees
- Gleyber Torres, NY Yankees
- 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:
- Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay
- Bob Melvin, Oakland
- 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
We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster. I promise, this one will be a lot shorter!
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.
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?
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…