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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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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!!

Three Weeks and…Change?

It’s been 22 days since the Blowhard wrote about what he would do at the Major League Baseball trading deadline if he ran the Boston Red Sox.  If you recall, I actually proposed selling off pieces and getting a head start on next season, despite the fact that the Red Sox were in first place at that time.  Just didn’t feel comfortable with the team…on and off the field.  Didn’t think they had enough to compete for a World Series title, especially when it came to teams in the National League like the Dodgers and Nationals…and presumably the Cubs.  I knew the team selling wouldn’t happen, but still offered up some ideas on what courses of action I would seriously consider.

What’s happened since then?  The Sox have only gone 14-4.  Yup, direct hit with the suggestions again.  Good thing no one reads this page…

Does the recent stretch of success change my overall feeling as we head into the final 41 games of the regular season? Well actually, not at all.

I’m going to spare you the review of every original bullet point from the July column.  But there are a few appropriate ones that still hold true in my eyes.

The Red Sox made one more move before the MLB trading deadline in July after the original post on 7/28.  That was adding set-up man/part-time closer Addison Reed from the Mets.  No, I am not counting the move that happened yesterday, losing Noe Ramirez on waivers to the Angels.  And you thought I cared about the 39th-40th man on the 40-man roster!  Well, yup, I do…just not today…

Reed didn’t endear himself to any of the fans when he first got here, but made it up to some people with his performance last night.  Definitely a solid addition.  But the fact remains that pretty much the rest of the bullpen sucks.  Ok, that is harsh.  But Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly don’t inspire confidence in key situations.  And besides Reed and Craig Kimbrel, those two are the next in line.  Brandon Workman?  Perhaps.  Heath Hembree, Robby Scott, Fernando Abad?  Useful 10-12th (13th?) pitchers on a major league staff.  But not people I’d like to see in the 7th inning of a close game against a contender, as Hembree and Scott were last night.  Still some holes out there.

Speaking of holes, the predicted Drew Pomeranz injury indeed popped up last night.  What happens if this lingers?  Eduardo Rodriguez is too inconsistent.  David Price, for better or for worse, will not be back this year.  Yup, take that to the bank.  I proposed seeing if some team would somehow trade for him in the last piece…then he went on the DL hours later.  Trade was never going to happen, I acknowledge.  But of course his injury flared up again anyway.  Have the surgery already…

Oh…Doug Fister sucks…ssssssoooo…other than Chris Sale, the starting rotation still has its holes as well.

The lineup has scored some more runs over the 18 game stretch…and also has had a couple of nice comebacks against the Yankees and Cardinals.  But overall, it is too inconsistent to rely on.  The same issues presented a few weeks ago persist.  Xander had a nice homer the other night, but has still frustrated all of Red Sox Nation.  Speaking of frustration…Hanley Ramirez everyone!  Rafael Devers has not cooled off, nor has Eduardo Nunez since they’ve both arrived.  I imagine that has to change.  And one of the teams hottest hitters in July was Dustin Pedroia.  Who knows what you will get out of him the rest of the year?  Mitch Moreland had a nice pinch hit last night.  But he is still…Mitch Moreland.  And on and on we can go…and I’m not even going to talk about the rampant putrid baserunning decisions.

Also, let’s look a little deeper into that 14-4 record.  8-0 against the White Sox, Rays and Cardinals.  Not exactly the iron of the league.  In fact, the White Sox should currently be playing in the International League with the roster they have now.  And the Red Sox didn’t exactly smoke them in their 4 game set.  That leaves a 6-4 mark against the Yankees, Indians and Royals (a team that should be better than their record).  So while 14-4 is impressive indeed, it is a smidge misleading.

I think we need to see how the next 16 game stretch goes.  2 more against the Yanks at home, then 11 of 14 on the road against the Indians, Blue Jays and Yanks again.  6 more division games at home after that.  Let’s take a look after the next 22 days then.  The AL East is mediocre this year, but that doesn’t make the games any easier when the calendar turns to September.  They should still be a tough road to hoe.

I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I am actually happy we can still talk baseball heading into September.  I’m just here to throw the caution flag up.  I’m not sure this team has any business competing for a championship.  You might say, “well the 2013 team really shouldn’t have either”.  You would be 100% correct.  But the 2013 team had many players that overachieved.  The 2017 team has many players underachieving.  The players in 2013 seemed tighter with no clubhouse drama (that I recall anyway).  And while there hasn’t been much chatter about the clubhouse in recent weeks (coincidentally, after Price went on the DL?), I wouldn’t say that things are all rosy there all of a sudden.  I suppose we can say all the players are united against the media, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a great clubhouse.

John Farrell has managed both clubs.  It’s a minor miracle either team was ever in the mix with him in charge…

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