Spring Training

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.

Evaluating The Offseason

With pitchers and catchers reporting , we can look back and evaluate the moves the Yankees have made to prepare for the 2013 season. For me, the frustration of this offseason is that the Yankees seemed to try and thread the needle between two different goals. The first goal is the desire to get to a payroll of $189 million in 2014. The second goal is to win the World Series. Now, I don’t believe those two goals are mutually exclusive, but there is not a lot of overlap between the two of them because of the way the Yankees are currently constructed.

The Yankees made some curious choices in their approach to achieving both goals. They let Russell Martin leave for Pittsburgh because they didn’t want to give him a two-year deal and then turned around and gave a two-year deal to a 39-year old outfielder. They let Eric Chavez sign with Arizona for a paltry $3 million and then gave Kevin Youkilis $12 million to play third. Without breaking down each deal, I think it is fair to say the Yankees aren’t better than they were at the end of 2012, but I am not sure that they are as bad as a lot of people think. (A healthy Brett Gardner is a very under-appreciated asset.)

The problem is, they will be very hard to project. If they stay healthy (a big if) and find reasonable solutions to their catching and right-handed outfield needs, I could see them winning 90 games. But, if the older guys show their age and they don’t figure out how to plug those holes, I could see things going the other way and a sub.500 finish being the result.

So what are the big questions heading into camp? Here are my top-3.

1- Who is the starting catcher? From everything I read, Yankee decision makers think Romine is ready for the bigs from a glove standpoint. If that is true, I would make him the starter because the other options have very little upside offensively and Romine just might hit. One thing to keep in mind, Francisco Cervelli still has an option, so he can be sent to the minors.

2- Who is the 5th starter? Barring injury, we know that the Yankees’ rotation will be Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte and Hughes, but the fifth starter is probably a two-man race between Nova and Phelps. Based on 2012, Phelps should win this in a laugher, but I think the Yankees will give Nova every chance to win the job.

3- What is the bench? This is a really easy one to predict by role, but very hard to predict by name. We know there will be a backup catcher, right-handed outfielder, backup infielder and one other player on the bench. My early guesses would be Stewart, Diaz, Nix and Nunez, but I think this is a wide-open competition. Stewart makes sense, assuming he is not the starting catcher, as he did it in 2012. Diaz is my early pick over Juan Rivera, but I am hoping the Yankees find some other players for this competition. I think Nix’s versatility earns him a role as the Yankees will need someone who can fill multiple positions. Nunez is an utter guess because I just don’t understand what the Yankees are doing with him. Is he really only a shortstop? Even if he is, there would be value is carrying him on the roster as a SS/DH/PH. He could play a fair amount of short against LHP, moving Jeter to DH. He could also provide a runner off the bench.

These next seven weeks will answer a lot of questions.


Truck Day at Fenway

Well, today is truck day for the Red Sox.  The day a big semi heads south with equipment, baseballs, juggs machines, advil, beer, fried chicken and various other baseball necessities for the 2013 Red Sox.

For Red Sox fans, we have a rough idea of which players will break camp with the team.  Here’s my guess:

  1. c – Jarrod Saltalamacchia (baring a trade)
  2. 1b – Mike Napoli
  3. 2b – Dustin Pedrioa
  4. 3b – Will Middlebrooks
  5. ss – Stephen Drew
  6. lf – Jonny Gomes
  7. cf – Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. rf – Shane Victorino
  9. dh – David Ortiz
  10. c – David Ross
  11. ut – Pedro Ciriaco
  12. ut – Brock Holt
  13. sp – Jon Lester
  14. sp – Clay Buchholz
  15. sp – Ryan Dempster
  16. sp – Felix Dubront
  17. sp – John Lackey
  18. rp – Franklin Morales
  19. rp – Koji Uehara
  20. rp – Andrew Miller
  21. rp – Andrew Bailey
  22. rp – Joel Hanrahan
  23. rp – Craig Breslow
  24. rp – Alfredo Aceves
  25. rp – Daniel Bard

That leaves Ryan Lavarnway, Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen, Daniel Nava and Jose Iglesias in the minors.  Of course there is a strong sense the Red Sox will move a catcher, most likely Saltalamacchia which would mean Lavarnway makes the club.

Things I like:  I like the Red Sox bullpen.  It is strong and well-balanced.  Andrew Bailey might get moved as, from this perspective, he doesn’t appear to take conditioning too seriously and still has value.

I’m ok with the rotation, but that really is assuming new manager John Farrell get light a fire under the likes of Lester, Lackey and Buchholz.

The line-up is a huge mystery to me.  There are guys who are tough at bats like Pedrioa and Ortiz, but there are also guys who give at bats away in Gomes, Saltalamacchia and Victorino (poor OBPs).  With luck, this team could produce some runs, but there really is no superstar element save for Ortiz, and he’s 37, and Pedroia who is a nice hitter, but can’t be counted on as a major run producer.

After the last 7 months of disastrous Red Sox baseball, it is difficult to get too excited  about this team.  Yes, they could make the playoffs, but I again will state that this team has 82-88 wins written all over it.