Jackie Bradley Jr

Direction of the Team

Now that that Red Sox have acknowledge their circumstances, I think it important that John Farrell and management do everything in their power to embrace the young players and build their confidence.

An example of not doing this came Tuesday.  Jackie Bradley Jr. hasn’t hit to save his life this year but had, through Monday of this week, strung together a series of good at bats/games.  Why in heck would Farrell then bench him on Tuesday and break that string?  He came back to go 0-4 and then 1-3 in his next 2 games.  You never know with 100% certainty if the benching had anything to do with it, but if a player is gaining in confidence, why sit him and introduce a shred of doubt?  A small issue to be sure but an important one nevertheless.

Farrell obviously still wants to win and reinforce a winning attitude but he also needs to recognize the mentality of young players, especially a boatload of young players.  Time to let these youngsters strikeout of their own and stop pinch hitting for Xander Bogaerts late in games, let players play who are riding hot streaks,  do everything possible to show support for these kids.

Suddenly, watching the Red Sox has become fun again.

 

Hoist the White Flag

This is the earliest the Red Sox have given up on a season that I can remember.  The Nick Punto trade in 2012 happened in August and since the new ownership group and even back into the Dan Duquette era, the Red Sox were always sniffing at a playoff spot late into the season.

A.J. Pierzynski was DFAed today and Jake Peavy is rumored to be heading out of Boston.  These are moves of a team that has capitulated.  This also means the Red Sox are likely to deal Koji Uehara, Jonny Gomes, and maybe John Lackey (who is set to earn the major league minimum for veterans next season) as they might not want the headache of having a veteran playing for the minimum and publicly displaying his displeasure every pitch of the way.

Wednesday night’s game featured 5 rookies in the line-up, Jackie Bradley Jr. Brock Holt, Mookie Betts, Christian Vasquez (major league debut) and Xander Bogaerts and a rookie starting pitcher.  Unheard of in Boston but a very good thing for the future of the team.  I think perhaps Betts and Vasquez were brought up a bit early and risk being like the endless line of rookies the K.C. Royals rush to the big leagues, but otherwise this is valuable playing time for young players.

As a Red Sox fan, I am perfectly fine with a season like this.  A reload, a chance to give younger, future franchise players playing time is a good thing, as long as it isn’t happening every other year.  What begs the question is just what did management see in this team?  Did they think Pierzynski was going to be a major contributor?  Did the Red Sox really need to sign Stephen Drew for $10 million?  Obviously with hindsight, these both look like very dumb and very expensive moves, not that I pay the bills but we now can look forward to seeing the future of the Red Sox develop in front of our eyes, instead of in Pawtucket.

A quick scouting report on the young positional players:

Vasquez – Advanced defensively, with ability to handle a pitching staff and a very good arm.  His offense is a work in progress and doesn’t project to be much more than mediocre.

Betts – 4 tool player with potential to be a 4.5 to 5 tool player if his power rounds out and depending on where he settles on a position.  Command of the strike zone is top shelf.

Bradley Jr. – Elite defensively with good eye at the plate and 10-12 HR power projection.  Offense improved with with more time at each minor league level.  The hope is that he is getting ready to take off offensively.  His defense this year has been outstanding.

Holt – A career minor league average of .307 with a .410 OBP makes his 2014 success not a major surprise but is countered by the fact he is 26.  Old for a rookie but some players take longer to mature.  Defensively he isn’t great anywhere but has proven the ability to player anywhere with competence.  He’s played LF, CF, RF, 1B, SS and 3B this season year all the while hitting .313.  When Holt was included as an apparent throw-in in the Joel Hanrahan deal, I remember thinking there must be something wrong with this kid personality-wise as he had good minor league numbers.

Bogaerts – He was doing well until Stephen Drew arrived.  Seriously, the minute Drew was added to the 25-man roster, Bogaerts started slumping.  That also was when he was moved from SS to 3B.  He is only 21 and has a bright future ahead of him, but I wonder if the Red Sox will try to move Drew (is that possible with him hitting .131?) and give the SS position back to Bogaerts.

If the Red Sox can trade a few more assets for additional future growth and with their financial clout, they might just be gearing up for a prolonged run at success

 

Center Field in Boston

Unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox have a question mark in center field.  How did that happen?  Didn’t they have a really good center fielder last year?  Oh, that’s right…I remember what happened.

Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr, Shane Victorino and Grady Sizemore are vying for the starting nod.  Victorino will most likely start the season in right which really means Sizemore and Bradley are the candidates.

Sizemore hasn’t played since 2011 and hasn’t put in a full season, if you consider 106 games a full season, since 2009.  2 microfracture surgeries later and he is back in baseball.  When Sizemore was healthy, he was a high-impact player, a great combination of power and speed and could even draw a walk.  But, that was a long time ago.  At age 29 (turning 30 on July 21) I think he is a longshot to be a contributor of consequence this year.

Bradley, on the other hand, is 23 (turning 24 on April 19) and is just starting his major league career.  So far in the minors he has shown the ability to play excellent defense, get on base and be a 1-2 and maybe even a 3 hitter in a line-up.  His .404 minor league OBP and .876 OPS suggest he has much to offer in the majors, but until he does, it is just speculation.

My hope is that Bradley wins the job.  He is young, healthy and has significant upside.  While I hold no ill will towards Sizemore and I hope his career flourishes, he hasn’t provided anything in basically 4 seasons.  If Bradley can establish himself, the Red Sox have a fantastic defender playing center who is under team control for many seasons to come.  Obviously I hope Sizemore can contribute and heck, ideally has a boffo year.  But if he does, he is free to walk and will have proved to be just a one year help.  Bradley having a boffo year will give them an option in center for a least 6 years.  I’ll take the long-term success vs the short-term one.

Either way, the Sizemore signing was an intriguing one.  I like it and hope he can help.  Victorino will inevitably get hurt and the Red Sox will need help in right at some point.

Simmer

The Red Sox off-season is simmering with no sign of a boil over.  For everyday players, the Red Sox have the following:

c – David Ross (expect him to be paired with a lefty platoon partner)

1b – Mike Carp

2b – Pedroia

3b – Middlebrooks

ss – Bogaerts

lf – Gomes/Nava platoon

cf – Jackie Bradley Jr.

rf – Shane Victorino

dh – David Ortiz

Of course Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia could all return thus getting the band back together, but for now, the above is what we have.  As it stands, that’s not a train-wreck line-up, hardly so but Middlebrooks is not a sure thing, although I really want him to pan out.  Drew might be a good defender, but Bogaerts has got to be the everyday ss moving Middlebrooks to 3b and Middlebrooks has too much raw power to give up on him now.  He was a disaster 1st half but posted .276/.329/.476 vitals after the all-star break.  Not all-star stuff, but serviceable and he just turned 25.

As Peter noted the Red Sox and Yankees are both linked to Carlos Beltran.  That’d be fine, I supposed for Boston, but it would mean the Red Sox aren’t ready to give the CF job to Bradley Jr.  My problem with Beltran is that he is old and after seeing him leave game 1 of the World Series only to return to game 2 (less than 24 hours later), made me question his willingness.  It’s the WS after all.  You never know when you’ll get there again, you’ve got to force yourself to stay in that game.  And while he has been decently durable since 2011, remember this is the guy would couldn’t stay on the field during large spells with the Mets.

Aside from that, there really isn’t any news to report.  The big names have yet to drop off the board and until they do, we’ve got little to no news.

Red Sox Cuts

Just a bit more than a week until Opening Night, the Red Sox are trimming their roster to 25.  At the moment, there are 35 players still in the mix.  If we assume David Ortiz goes on the DL, make it 34 players meaning 9 more cuts.

On the bubble:  Clayton Mortenson, Mike Carp, Mauro Gomez, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway, Junichi Tazawa, Lyle Overbay, Alfredo Aceves, Ryan Sweeney, Jackie Bradley Jr., Pedro Ciriaco and Brock Holt.

If Drew goes on the DL, I think Iglesias makes the team, otherwise he is headed to Pawtucket for more seasoning, remember he is only 23.  Drew was declared ready for baseball activities again and since he’d had 16 at bats already this spring, I imagine he’ll be ready for opening day.  Holt and Ciriaco are interesting too as Ciriaco offers a bit more flexibility (all infield positions, save first base/catcher and all outfield positions) while Holt is a better offensive player.  They could both stick.

Mortenson and Tazawa are casualties of the numbers game.  Good enough to be on the team but there is no room.  Aceves is such a wild man I’d be looking to deal him immediately.  He is a headache is as likely to get suspended as he is to provide good innings.

With Daniel Nava learning first base on the fly I see him sticking (reports today on ESPN suggest this) meaning Carp and Overbay are cut.  Lavarnway just won’t get any PT with 2 catchers on the team already in Ross and Saltalamacchia.  Back to AAA for Lavarnway.

That leaves the following:

catchers: Ross and Saltalamacchia

infield: Pedroia, Middlebrooks, Drew, Holt,  Ciriaco, Napoli

outfield: Gomes, Ellsbury, Victorino, Nava, ???

starters: Lester, Buchholz, Dempster, Doubront and Lackey

bullpen: Hanrahan, Bailey, Uehara, Breslow, Miller, Morales and Bard (*)

* If Bard isn’t quite ready, which is being reported, Mortenson, Tazawa or Aceves could step in.

Regardless, that leaves 24 players.  The big talk is whether or not Jackie Bradley Jr. (no, not Jackie Rogers Jr) makes the team.  Bradley has torn it up this spring (.444/.545/.578) and while he has never played above AA, there is strong temptation to bring him to Boston.  The upside is that he is an exciting player who will probably take over for Ellsbury once his time with Boston is done, but the downside is that the jump from AA is huge.  Small market teams are forced to do this kind of thing with their dearth of talent. Personally I’d assign him to AAA and let him get some reps there with the idea of promoting him if he continues to rip it up.  If Bradley doesn’t break camp with the Red Sox, Ryan Sweeney will.

I’m sure I’ll be wrong on several fronts (especially Aceves) but this is my $0.02.