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:
In: Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon
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?
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.
In: Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF)
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 202o to go on his deal. Solid. Wait…maybe he won’t exercise that 202o player option…ummmmm, nevermind.
Designated Hitter (1):
In: J.D. Martinez
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.
In: Brock Holt, Blake Swihart
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!!
We’ve covered the pitching, let’s move on to the rest of the roster:
Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez
No need to rock the boat here. Other than having Vazquez take more playing time away from Leon, that is. Last year, they essentially split time and hopefully that will be adjusted a smidge in the upcoming year. It would appear that these two will be the tandem again. I can live with that. Defensively, they are a solid duo. They threw out about 40% of base stealers, an impressive number in this era. Swihart at one point was a “can’t miss” prospect. Think that one missed. He will be 26 in April and catchers supposedly do develop late. But he has been injured in recent years and also jerked around by the team position-wise. His bat was his primary asset as a potential pretty good offensive catcher, but .190 in almost 200 at-bats in Pawtucket last year does not inspire confidence. I’m not sure if he has options left. If he does, he will likely go back to Pawtucket. If not, it wouldn’t surprise me if he played a ton in the spring to try to pump up his value and then shipped elsewhere before the season starts. Too bad.
Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rafael Devers (3B), Marco Hernandez (UT), Brock Holt (UT), Tzu-Wei Lin (UT), Deven Marrero (UT), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Hanley Ramirez (1B), Sam Travis (1B)
This is where some work needs to be done. Based on what the rest of the 25-man roster would look like all around at this very point in time, it would appear 7 of these 9 would have to make the squad. With Pedroia out injured until around June, that would seemingly leave everyone else but Lin on the major league roster. Not ideal. Bogaerts and Devers obviously set on the left side of the infield. Ramirez, in this scenario, remains the designated hitter. That puts Travis full-time at first. And a combination of Hernandez, Holt and Marrero holding the fort at second until Pedroia comes back. Ugh…
Dave Dombrowski insists that Hanley will be ready to play first base next spring. That may well be true in a physical sense. But does anyone really think that Hanley will be up for that plan? Travis looks like he may be able to hit a little. But I’m not sure he is the full-time solution. I don’t think the Sox think he is either. And that is a positive, because it would seem to spur the team on to make a major move involving a 1B or DH. Or an outfielder, but we will cover that in a second.
Speaking of second, I can even live with that combination of stiffs at second base for 60 games or so until Pedroia comes back. Does it really makes sense to go out and (re)sign a guy like Eduardo Nunez to a decent sized deal when you are locked into Dustin for like 14 per until 2021? I think not. I’d personally try to move Pedroia, but the knees, age, contract and 10/5 veto rights pretty much make that impossible. Dombrowski has been talking up Marco recently. But maybe that’s for trade purposes, who knows?
The move to be made at 1B/DH? Could be Eric Hosmer. But I’m not sure I want to spend a ton of dough on a good glove but someone who (other than batting average) may not even be a better hitter than what you had there last year in Mitch Moreland. Carlos Santana? Meh. Again, would seem to be too much money for not much of an upgrade. I don’t care how many home runs Logan Morrison had last year, he’s probably the last guy I want them to sign. Lucas Duda? Surely, you jest.
Hopefully there are some big bats that may be available that we don’t know about. Because I can’t say I totally love the names being thrown out there now.
Oh, and Xander? Part of me (actually, most of me at the present time) wants to unload him now. Underachievement for the last year and a half. Frustrating. But the rest of me tells me they have to keep him. 25-year-old shortstop that presumably has his best years ahead of him. Push comes to shove, I’d probably deal him in the right situation. But it has to be EXTREMELY right. I’m not giving him away. Though I really wanted to last year…
Andrew Benintendi (LF), Mookie Betts (RF), Jackie Bradley (CF), Bryce Brentz (LF/RF)
On the surface, Benintendi-Bradley-Betts left to right would seem to suffice, right? But when teams are searching for a power bat, that bat may be in the outfield. Which would necessitate some sort of adjustment to this outfield alignment.
And no, even though Brentz hit 31 homers in Pawtucket last year, he is not the “power bat” that the Sox are looking to add. Or he shouldn’t be anyway. It’s a nice story, since Brentz was designated for assignment last summer and anyone could have claimed him for nothing. But a nice story is all it is. Dombrowski has been talking Brentz up as the 4th outfielder too. But I’m not even buying that at this time.
Obviously, newly minted National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton is the hot name out there for the power bat. All sorts of reports on him this past week…he wants to play on the West Coast and won’t approve of a trade to the Sox; that his reps are trying to get him to Boston because they think it will be the best fit, on and off the field; the Marlins want the world for him, even though he has almost 300 million left on his contract and on and on.
Stanton is the easy answer. He plays right field though. Right field in Fenway? I suppose if that’s what he wants. You could move Mookie back to center and keep Benny in left. Maybe Stanton would agree to play left and then you would move Benny to center. Giancarlo could of course DH, but he may not be ready to do that. Either way, if he comes here, those “problems” will likely work themselves out.
I’m all for Giancarlo, even if the price is somewhat high. I suppose it depends what “high” is, but the Sox should explore all options to get this done. J.D. Martinez? Ok…it’s only money for him I suppose. And the Sox print money. If it’s a fallback option, I guess you could do worse. Other names? Haven’t heard much. Again, you never know who may be available, so maybe it’s a name we haven’t heard yet.
Any way you slice it, a big bat is absolutely imperative. The Sox never really replaced David Ortiz last year. Huge hole there, to state the obvious. Where that bat comes in positionally, it doesn’t really matter. Things could be maneuvered to make it work. Bradley is one way things can be maneuvered. I’d look to move him. His ceiling has been reached. Especially offensively. His glove is nice, but can Mookie or Benintendi do at least 90% of that? I think so. And that should work out fine. There has been rumored interest in JBJ. If that is truly the case, I would strike while the iron is hot.
I’d actually like two bats, even if one is a little inferior to the other. Can’t have enough power. But, all in all, this may be the only move the Sox have to make. Some tweaks to the pitching staff, sure. But the big bat should be the one move the Sox should be all in on. Anything else after that should be gravy, no?
So we are finally here. Took the Sox forever to clinch the division but they got it done. Does anyone give them a chance in the playoffs however?
I’m not too excited about their chances, to be honest. But in the playoffs, I suppose anything is possible. We all know I have been down on this team since early in the year. How I feel about Manager John Farrell is quite obvious. But the team itself? They won 93 games and the division. How can you feel bad about that? Well, to me, this team has actually underachieved this year. I mean, how many of the players actually improved from last year? Out of the position players, maybe one…and it was Christian Vazquez. He only played 99 games. Of course, I am not counting Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi, who obviously improved from last year, since both were essentially minor leaguers.
But the guys that were supposed to be the centerpieces of the offense…Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez and I suppose even Jackie Bradley Jr…all regressed this year. Dustin Pedroia probably was about as good as he can be these days. But he missed 57 games this season. Very frustrating.
The pitching staff? Drew Pomeranz and Craig Kimbrel took a step up. And of course Chris Sale came over and dominated. But the rest? Meh. We don’t even need to talk about Rick Porcello’s pathetic year. Well…at least he will have one great year under his belt to look back on.
In my opinion, the Sox have been an unlikable bunch all year and we’ve hashed through a lot of that…the David Price and Dennis Eckersley thing, the Pedroia/Manny Machado thing, just about everything Farrell does…and all that other off the field stuff. Add it all up and it can be tough to root for them. But of course I will…
So now they go up against a 101 win Houston Astro team in the American League Division Series. How do they matchup? Glad you asked! Let’s have a brief look at how the rosters should stack up and see if we can come up with any way the Sox can win this series. Only a 5-gamer, so as noted above, anything can happen. Rosters have not been announced, so a little bit of guesswork involved here…especially for the ‘Stros:
*Catcher: Bos: Vazquez, Sandy Leon. Hou: Brian McCann, Evan Gattis.
I think we can sum this matchup as “defense vs. offense”. I know, Vasky hit .290 this year, but let’s be real. Anyway, not that percentage of base stealers caught is the “be all, end all” here. But Vazquez was 42% and Leon 37%. The Astros? McCann 13%, Gattis 10%…and if they end up keeping a 3rd catcher, it will likely be Juan Centeno…who tossed out 8%, though admittedly in few opportunities. I don’t think Houston cares as long as their guys hit a little and don’t have too many passed balls. I’ve already written enough here.
Edge: Even, believe it or not.
*Infield: Bos: Mitch Moreland (1B), Pedroia (2B), Bogaerts (SS), Devers (3B). Hou: Yuli Gurriel (1B), Jose Altuve (2B), Carlos Correa (SS), Alex Bregman (3B).
Pedey is still hobbling, X has been painfully average all year, Devers has slowed down a bit since his electric debut and Mitch Moreland is…Mitch Moreland. Compare that to two studs who will get MVP votes in Altuve and Correa (who may have been a top candidate if he hadn’t missed over 40 games), a potential future star in Bregman, who got better as the year went on, and a solid first sacker in Gurriel…need I say more?
Edge: Houston, by a landslide.
*Outfield: Bos: Benintendi (LF), Bradley (CF), Betts (RF). Hou: Marwin Gonzalez (LF), George Springer (CF), Josh Reddick (RF).
Josh Reddick? Does anyone know he was .314/13/82 this year? .314? Springer had an awesome year. Gonzalez was a sort of super utility guy until he started playing more left down the stretch. Lot of offense here and the defense is not all that bad either. Reddick did win a Gold Glove in 2012…though that also may have been because he hit 32 homers that year…you know, because that’s sometimes (often) how Gold Glove voting goes. Bradley and Betts are true Gold Glovers, though I know JBJ hasn’t actually won one. And offensively, the Sox OF’s are pretty good too, though the feeling is they could be better. This is a close one.
Edge: Houston, by a smidge.
*Designated Hitter: Bos: Ramirez. Hou: Carlos Beltran.
Hanley is infuriating, but can still hit a little. Beltran looks done. He may not be in this spot this series, but I’m putting him here for now.
Edge: Boston, as much as it pains me to say.
*Bench: Bos: Eduardo Nunez (IF), Brock Holt (INF/OF), Chris Young (OF), Rajai Davis (OF/PR). Hou: Tyler White (IF), Derek Fisher (OF), Cameron Maybin (OF/PR).
Seemingly a wasteland on both sides. Sure, Nunez made a difference when he got to Boston. But he got hurt, then came back for a couple of innings and got hurt again. Do we really think he will all of a sudden ready to go this week? Holt should be replaced by Deven Marrero on the roster. Neither one can hit, but Marrero has the better glove. Young stinks and Rajai should only be a runner. The Astros bench may be worse. Maybin can still play a bit (at least run) and Fisher has some promise. But nothing impressive here. Only three bench guys for Houston because of Marwin’s versatility. And because they need as many bullpen arms as possible…since most of them are not necessarily good.
Edge: Boston, simply because of Nunez, if he’s even somewhat healthy. If not, even, since they then both stink.
*Starting Pitchers: Bos: Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez. Hou: Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers.
Sale alternated good and bad starts through September. Pomeranz pitched well Saturday, but was hammered his previous start. Always have to wonder when his bubble will burst. We don’t need to go through Porcello again. E-Rod? You just don’t know. Porcello and E-Rod are probably the right choices for Games 3 and 4, if indeed those are the choices. I really can’t do Doug Fister. You know Farrell will not go away from Porcello in this series too. If that is the case, and it would be hard to do, but it may be worth considering starting him in Game 2. His ERA was about a run and a half better on the road than at Fenway. Would take some serious stones to push Pomeranz back to Game 3. I don’t think anyone thinks Farrell has those stones though. In all seriousness, I doubt I would have the stones to do that either.
The Astros will start with 2 studs in Verlander and Keuchel. Then they have like 12 guys that could start the rest of the games. Morton, McCullers, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock…they have options. And some pretty good ones.
Edge: Houston, and it’s not as close as one may think.
*Relief Pitchers: Bos: David Price, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Brandon Workman, Carson Smith, Addison Reed, Craig Kimbrel. Hou: Peacock, James Hoyt, Michael Feliz, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, Ken Giles.
I’m not sure Price can be “this year’s Andrew Miller”. But you have to like the way he has responded to his bullpen role. Guys like Barnes, Kelly and Workman have pitched better than expected this year. But I’m not sold on them for the playoffs. As long as they are 6th inning guys, maybe 7th, I suppose I can accept it. Who else do you want? Heath Hembree? Fernando Abad? Blaine Boyer? Austin Maddox? Nah. I’m not sure Smith is ready, but when your next option is Robby Scott, I suppose we can see what Carson has to offer. I think they will put him on the roster and pick spots with him. Reed and Kimbrel are pretty stout at the end.
Total stab on the Houston bullpen. Peacock was in the rotation and did very well the latter half of the year. But he’s used to coming out of the pen, whereas it doesn’t appear Morton or McCullers are, so it’s easy to shift him back there. He’s about 16 innings away from his career high in innings too, so you know managers like to protect those guys. Devenski, Harris, Gregerson and Giles are decent enough, but are we afraid? Liriano hasn’t been great, but he is a lefty you know. Feliz, Hoyt, Mike Fiers, Tony Sipp, Joe Musgrove, Tyler Clippard? Take your pick. McHugh could actually be here too.
Edge: Boston, primarily due to Reed and Kimbrel at the back end.
So who wins the series? Houston, 3-1. Sox win one of the first two. Then some combination of Porcello, E-Rod, Fister and Hector Velasquez get blasted out of Fenway in Games 3 and 4.