As the Red Sox try to plug some power into the 2010 line-up, it has become painfully clear that current management has failed at developing and retaining power through the minor leagues. Take a look at the projected 2010 line-up (I’m not assuming anything with free agent players like Alex Gonzalez and Jason Bay):
c – V. Martinez – trade
1b – Youkilis – draft pick from prior regime
2b – Pedroia – draft pick from current regime
3b – Lowell – trade
ss – Jed Lowrie – draft pick from current regime
lf – Hermida – trade
cf – Ellsbury – draft pick from current regime
rf – Drew – free agent
dh – Ortiz – free agent
Of the above, I think there really is only one "power hitter" in that group. You have guys like Youkilis who has hit for moderate power and plenty of production, Lowell, who’s cap is probably 20-25 home runs, Drew another 15-25 home run guy and lastly Ortiz, the who certainly has been a power hitter, but has a lot to prove in 2010.
So if Jason Bay leaves, do the Red Sox have anything to pluck from the upper minor-leagues? The short answer is, no.
The closest they have is Ryan Kalish, who hit 18 home runs in 2009 with a .455 slg, hardly jaw-dropping power. Another is Lars Anderson, but he fell off in a big way in 2009. In fact, the closest thing the entire system has to a power hitter is Yale (baseball powerhouse) grad Ryan Lavarnway who hit 21 HRs in 2009 with a .540 slg, but he is in mid-A ball playing for Greenville, South Carolina. Another observation is perhaps they need to limit draft picks to batters named Ryan.
So what gives? Well if you’ve read recent comments from Red Sox GM Theo Epstein saying J.D. Drew has been worth every penny, and some, of his current contract, maybe the Red Sox are avoiding the pure slugger. But why? I understand the focus on OBP, I really do, but don’t some players slug and get on base? Why haven’t the Red Sox stumbled on this kind of player in recent memory? I know Albert Pujols types don’t grow on trees, but that utter lack of power raised on the Red Sox farm is amazing.
So while we lament what the Red Sox don’t have internally, we are forced to wait and hope the Red Sox can lure a slugger (or sluggers) from the free agent market or in a trade. I appreciate that contributions of Pedroia and Ellsbury, but they are just one kind of player.
Warning: The following statement cannot, in no way, be backed-up statistically: The Red Sox need that boffo offensive threat that causes other managers to devote a disproportionate amount of time worrying about and gives the Red Sox some swagger. I think the Manny Ramirez/David Ortiz combo did that but the current mix of players just doesn’t instill fear.
I got that feeling of fear last year watching the Red Sox pitch to Jeter, ARod, Teixeira (and company). It was terrible thinking about just what that line-up could do to a team. Think about it, the Yankees have the marque hitters in Jeter, ARod and Teixeira, but also had 5 guys slug over .500 with 2 more knocking on that door.
The Red Sox need to build their line-up back to awe-inspiring heights and the good news is they certainly have the resources to do so. It won’t be an efficient use of $ or bodies, it never is, but the Red Sox will be a watered-down team in 2010 without some significant help.