Monday, August 15, 2016

Red Sox Rundown

Boston's ace has not lived up to his new contract so far (Over The Monster)
Got to answer a few questions about the Sox last month from fellow Baseball Blogger Alliance member Peter Schiller over at Thanks for the shout-out Pete!

Q: How are the Red Sox’s offseason acquisitions working out so far? Any concerns?

A: Alright. Their four main acquisitions were David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, and Chris Young. Price has been up-and-down, but overall he’s made the rotation better. Kimbrel has been shaky at times, but for the most part has been about as good as advertised. Smith has been hurt all year, so he hasn’t made any impact. Young has been solid in left field, but John Farrell’s had to over-rely on him with alternatives Brock Holt and Blake Swihart out for extended periods of time.  Price hasn’t been himself, which is definitely a concern when you’ve got him signed to the most expensive contract ever for a pitcher, and Smith underwent Tommy John which is never a positive.

Q: Who has been the most disappointing player so far this season? Will they improve as the season goes on?

A: Gotta be Price. The Sox are paying him close to $1 million per start and roughly half of his starts have been duds. He’s running the highest ERA of his career and has struggled against weak offenses like Tampa Bay and New York. He’ll have innings where he just loses it and completely melts down, which you typically don’t see from your ace. That said, he should improve as his peripherals are excellent (he leads the league in strikeouts) and he’s gotten unlucky with balls in play and strand rate. He was a monster for Toronto in the second half last year, and if he can do that again his rough first half will be forgotten.

Q: Who has been the most surprising player so far this season? Can they sustain this pace?

A: It’s a toss-up between Jackie Bradley Jr., who’s been the team’s MVP after not being able to hit at all during first three seasons (save for one month last year), and Steven Wright, who’s emerged as a Cy Young candidate and could potentially start the All-Star Game. I guess you’d have to say Wright is more surprising given his age (31) and the fact that he almost didn’t make Boston’s rotation this year. Bradley had shown flashes of brilliance before -- so we knew he had it in him -- and he’s 26, which is a normal breakout age.  Bradley has a decent shot of keeping this up based on his minor league track record, but Wright is a knuckleballer which makes his dominance unlikely to continue.

Q: What top prospects might we see before the All Star break (What type of player are they: 5 tool player, speedster, defensive, power hitter, etc.)? What will be their impact on the team?

A: Andrew Benintendi may get some run in left field with the injuries to Holt, Swihart and Young.  He’s a 5 tool player who could help Boston down the stretch, allowing Holt and Swihart to slide back to their natural positions and allowing Farrell to use Young strictly against lefties. If the Sox don’t promote him this summer, he’ll probably get called up for a cup of coffee when rosters expand in September.
The Red Sox have arguably baseball's top prospect in Moncada (Fox Sports)
Q: What top prospects are currently being blocked by current players on the big club? Will this make them trade bait, will they switch positions or will the vet eventually be traded?

A: Yoan Moncada is Boston’s best prospect and most untouchable asset, but he’s currently blocked at second base by Dustin Pedroia. Moncada seems unlikely to be traded (unless it’s for an ace-level starter in return) and Pedroia’s not going anywhere, which means he’s going to have to change positions at some point. He could convert to an outfielder, like Mookie Betts did, or possibly play third. He can play pretty much anywhere with his athleticism, so the Sox shouldn’t have any problem finding a place for him.

Q: What is the team lacking that either wasn’t addressed in the offseason or the offseason acquisition isn’t cutting it?

A: Quality starting pitching beyond Price, who hasn’t been nearly as good as expected. They have three good starters with him, Wright, and Rick Porcello, but the back of the rotation has been a dumpster fire. It’s clear the team will need to trade for another starter or two as the deadline rolls around, which will probably require sacrificing one of their prized prospects.

Q: Are they better or worse off now than they were at the end of last season?

A: There’s no question that they’re better, although it’s important to remember that they were one of baseball’s better teams in the second half last year. Adding Price gives them the ace they’ve lacked since trading Jon Lester, while Kimbrel gives the bullpen a much-needed power arm. Losing Pablo Sandoval for the year is addition by subtraction, especially since it allows Travis Shaw to play everyday. Hanley Ramirez has proven to be a competent first baseman, which is a huge upgrade over his terrible defense in left field last year.

Q: What is your predicted outcome for the team this season? Why?

A: I expect they’ll win 88-90 games and one of the two wild cards. They’re really strong up the middle and have arguably the league’s best starting pitcher and closer, but lack of depth in the rotation will ultimately prevent them from winning 95 games and the division.

Q: What players need to go (traded, released, etc.) & why?

A: Sandoval needs to go, but there’s no way to get rid of him. His trade value’s at an all-time low, and releasing him would mean eating the next three years of his contract. The Red Sox should also part ways with catcher Ryan Hanigan, as they have two great young catchers in Swihart and Christian Vazquez. They should also try to find a way to get rid of Clay Buchholz, since he’s no longer a reliable starter and doesn’t make much sense as a bullpen option.

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