Thoughts On The Bullpen

So I have touched on the infield, the outfield and the rotation.  That leaves only the bullpen.  For space reasons I am going to take a slightly different approach to the format of this one;

I couldn't get away from Anthony Varvaro, so now I'm rooting for him (RLRS Photo).

I couldn’t get away from Anthony Varvaro, so now I’m rooting for him (RLRS Photo).

The Guys I Am Excited About

Anthony Varvaro, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Edward Mujica, Tommy Layne

Varvaro looked pretty good when I saw him. He just strikes me as a guy who is going to be a steady Eddie.  Barnes has opened a lot of eyes dating back to the old “Barnes-days” at the old Sox Therapy. I am not sure why the Sox seem down on Workman, I think he is built to be a reliever.

I droned on and on last year about Mujica but I think he is an underrated guy.  I am not expecting him to replicate Koji’s 2013 or anything but I think he will do a Mike Timlin type job of taking the ball and succeeding.

Layne just demolishes left-handed hitters and John Farrell seems comfortable using him that way.  I think he is exploitable to righties in a way that Breslow is not but he will be a useful part of the bullpen.

I can't explain it, I just worry about Taz this year (RLRS Photo).

I can’t explain it, I just worry about Taz this year (RLRS Photo).

The Guys I Am Not Too Excited About

Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Robbie Ross, Alexi Ogando

Watching Koji glide off the mound after strikeouts to clinch the division, win the Division Series, win the LCS and win the World Series will forever be etched in my brain.  A 40 year old coming off a year where he was hampered by injury and starting the new year on the DL…pass.

Ross I have no faith in whatsoever.  I would not be surprised if the Sox rued the deal for Anthony Ranaudo though in reality it likely is to be meaningless to both teams.  I am excited to watch Ogando but I suspect he is just cooked. Breslow, like Koji, has a special place for 2013 (particularly that performance against the Rays in game four) but I am skeptical he is going to rebound. He could be a real difference maker if he does.

Tazawa is a weird one.  I am just oddly pessimistic about him. He has had three good years in a row which you would think is a good sign but…I don’t know.  Except for the elite relievers are highly variable and I do not think Tazawa belongs in that group.  I hope he keeps on keepin’ on but I feel like something is going go foul on Taz this year.

Thoughts On The Rotation

As the clock ticks to Opening Day I want to continue my random thoughts on the club.  As with previous pieces on the infield and outfield these are just dumb thoughts not based on any meaningful research or analysis.  Just my best Leroy Jethro Gibbs gut reaction #oldguytelevision.

Clay BuchholzClay Buchholz – I have a hard time getting excited about Buchholz.  He has always struck me as the classic “million dollar arm, ten cent head” type.  I really thought he turned a corner with his game four performance in the World Series but then he was so bad last year.

The simple reality is that he was put in the rotation to start the 2008 season and in seven MLB seasons has one (1) where he has qualified for the ERA title and been better than league average.  Admittedly that was a tremendous 2010 campaign but that looks more and more like lightning in a bottle than something to be expected.

Rick Porcello – Porcello is a guy I think is due for a good season.  This is hardly a unique view as he seems to be the guy that most people are saying is the likeliest breakout candidate but I like him a lot.  Despite his youth he has a lot of experience and has pitched plenty of big games.

What I really like is I think he is a guy who can thrive when a lot is asked of him.  Of course it will take a lot for me to think of him as anything other than the losing pitcher in game two of the 2013 ALCS.

Continue reading

The Roster – T Minus One Week

This is his $#*(&@ team! (Hardball Talk Photo).

This is his $#*(&@ team! (Hardball Talk Photo).

With first pitch just 174 hours and 5 minutes away let’s take a look at what the Sox are likely to look like that day.  This weekend obviously had some developments that made things fairly interesting;

Starting Lineup:
Mookie Betts – CF
Dustin Pedroia – 2B
David Ortiz – 1B
Hanley Ramirez – LF
Pablo Sandoval – 3B
Shane Victorino – RF
Xander Bogaerts – SS
Ryan Hanigan – C
Clay Buchholz – P

A slightly different look as I consider the lineup itself. This has not really been discussed that I have seen but even with the southpaw Cole Hamels on the mound I fully expect Papi in there.  John Farrell will not “disrespect” his superstar and the change up throwing Hamels actually has a slight reverse platoon split (.687 OPS vs. .675) in his career.  Last year (.636 vs. .641) was more of the same with a slight edge to RHB then.

That's our little Brockstar (RLRS Photo).

That’s our little Brockstar (RLRS Photo).

Reserves: Humberto Quintero, Mike Napoli, Brock Holt, Jemile Weeks, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig

This could change pretty radically.  I would not be shocked to see Craig moved for a catching option, particularly if the injury to Christian Vazquez is something that keeps him out for the full season.  Jerry Remy was lauding Craig pretty heavily during the broadcast on Sunday.

Weeks is the surprise here. With Joe Kelly looking ticketed for a short disabled list stay and no need for a fifth stater right out of the gate I think the Sox might reward Weeks and improve Farrell’s tactical options a bit.

Rusney Castillo has been a pleasant surprise.  This guy just seems like he has no problem missing time then stepping in and raking.  I am crazy excited about him and if the Sox move Craig or Nava I can see him getting a spot.

The Sox need him to party like it's 2013 (RLRS Photo).

The Sox need him to party like it’s 2013 (RLRS Photo).

Rotation: Rick Porcello (announced as #2), Wade Miley, Justin Masterson

No announcement yet but it seems to me that that the Sox would throw the lefty in the third game in Philly.  Miley is not the extreme worm-killer Masterson is but he is a ground ball pitcher as well.

Joe Kelly has not pitched since March 16 and at this point it would be surprising to see him on the roster.

The much discussed depth is a big issue.  It seems to me that Steven Wright will be first up but I wonder if Brian Johnson has moved to the number two spot.  He has gotten big praise this spring.


He seems to be under the radar but he is a big part of this team (RLRS Photo).

He seems to be under the radar but he is a big part of this team (RLRS Photo).

Bullpen: Edward Mujica (closer), Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Anthony Varvaro, Alexi Ogando, Brandon Workman, Tommy Layne

The big story here is of course Koji Uehara‘s absence.  A 40 year old pitcher who was banged up the second half of last year and has had durability issues in the past…this is troubling.  The only piece of good news is it does not seem to be an arm ailment.

Ogando is a fun story.  He is potentially a real find though he will likely be doing the Jason Shiell “he pitched for us?” thing by June.  In theory the Sox lack a real long man and that may be a spot for Steven Wright but I think Workman can fill that role.  There also seems to be a  belief that Varvaro can fill that role as well.

Catching Fire

Rich Gedman - Still the youngest Opening Day starter since Fisk (RLRS Photo).

Rich Gedman – Still the youngest Opening Day starter since Fisk (RLRS Photo).

So the plan to have the youngest Red Sox Opening Day catcher since Rich Gedman seems to have gone awry with today’s news that Christian Vazquez had “something” show up on his MRI.  I have to be honest, the vagueness of these stories is troubling me.  The options seem to be;

1. They genuinely do not know.

2. They know and it’s bad but they are trying to keep it on the down low.

3. They know and it is not that bad.

It seems to me that if it were #3 there would be no benefit to keeping it hush-hush.  Both 1&2 are troubling for obvious reasons.

It seems like Humberto Quintero is going to get the nod as backup with Ryan Hanigan becoming the starter and Blake Swihart still opening the year in Pawtucket.  My initial thoughts were yes, this is the right call but the more I think about it the more I think giving Swihart a shot might be worthwhile.

He could rise to the challenge (RLRS Photo).

He could rise to the challenge (RLRS Photo).

This harkens back to the Jackie Bradley situation from two years ago.  In all likelihood Swihart will “earn” a demotion back to AAA but it is not like the Sox are replacing Mickey Cochrane and Carlton Fisk here:

Ryan Hanigan – .240/.335/.333 (ZIPS)

Humberto Quintero – .232/.257/.341

Blake Swihart – .242/.284/.370

OK, so that is not exactly a ringing endorsement for Swihart.  The thing is that Swihart potentially could be dramatically better than that.  There is zero upside with Quintero (whose spot Swihart would effectively take here). If the Sox go with Quintero they are pretty well locked into the ~.600 OPS that he is going to give.

A month with this guy would not retard Swihart's development (RLRS Photo).

A month with this guy would not retard Swihart’s development (RLRS Photo).

There is perhaps some concern that by going with Swihart as the backup he loses some development time.  I do not think this is the case.  Let’s assume that Vazquez is back by May 1st.  One month of hanging around the Majors, listening to John Farrell, Juan Nieves, Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson etc…and getting 30 plate appearances in 10 games (what David Ross did in April last year) is not the worst thing in the world.

And of course that is a worst case scenario.  Maybe he is crushing the ball and steals the job much the way Jason Varitek did years ago from Scott Hatteberg.  While that is not likely I think it is a chance.  Even if he does not do that at least he has some experience to draw upon later in the year when the Sox need him again as they almost inevitably will.

The one caveat I would give is that if Vazquez is going to be a long term injury I would go with Quintero.  The reason for this is that I need three catchers and in a long term injury situation that is Hanigan/Quintero/Swihart.  In a short term situation it is Hanigan/Swihart/Vazquez.

I started writing this piece thinking I would advocate sending Swihart down.  The more I think about it and given the options the Sox have the more I think letting Swihart open the year with the big club may be the way to go.

Worth A Gamble?

His draft options just got an additional name (RLRS Photo).

His draft options just got an additional name (RLRS Photo).

As a benefit of last year’s terrible season the Red Sox have the 7th pick in the June draft.  The free agent signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval make that pick a bit of an “all or nothing” proposition as they will not have another pick until #81.

By comparison 2013 the Sox had the #7 pick (which they used on Trey Ball) and a pick at #45 (Teddy Stankiewicz).  In 2014 the Sox had three picks before #81 which they used on Michael Chavis (#26), Michael Kopech (#33) and Sam Travis (#67).  So what should the Sox do?

If you have followed the news today and see the title of this piece you know what I am going to address.  Last year’s #1 overall pick Brady Aiken was just the third #1 pick to refuse to sign (Danny Goodwin, 1971 and Tim Belcher, 1983).  On Wednesday Aiken had Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of 2015.

find out why he might be worth it… Continue reading

A Very Timely Spring Update

Riffing on Jose’s theme of loosely edited thoughts, here are some of things that stuck with me after watching the Sox take on the Phillies in Clearwater ten days ago.

Gold star for the day. (RLRS Photo)

Gold star for the day. (RLRS Photo)

1. I still believe in Jackie Bradley Jr. The box score would suggest he had a tough day, but he actually looked very good. He put the ball in play, hard, all four times he batted and was unlucky not to come away with at least one or two hits for his trouble. If memory serves, he drove two flyballs to the warning track in dead center and the RF-CF gap and smoked a pair of liners right on the screws but right at a phielder. Everything was squared up nicely, and it must have been frustrating for JBJ to come away with nothing to show for it. I’m glad to see that he’s gotten some excellent results over the past ten days, hopefully as a result of continued hard contact and not just better luck. His defense doesn’t really need further comment at this point; he’s still a joy to watch in the field.

Somebody appreciated JBJ's defensive wizardry, but it wasn't the cop. (RLRS Photo)

Somebody appreciated JBJ’s defensive wizardry, but it wasn’t the cop. (RLRS Photo)

If you put any stock in body language, Bradley appeared a little less intense and a little less focused this year. That sounds like a bad thing, but I don’t mean it that way. He looked relaxed and loose, like he had more trust in his ability and was more comfortable with the type of player he is. Obviously this is well into the realm of speculative armchair psychology, but I wonder if it will help him to be flying back under radar a bit instead of perhaps feeling pressure to prove that his minor league track record and blistering 2014 spring training were for real.

2. Blake Swihart is going to play major league baseball. Last spring, he looked a bit overmatched when I saw him. This year, it’s a different story. Continue reading

Thoughts On The Outfield

Two days ago I gave my random thoughts on the infield.  Today I am going to pipe up about the outfielders.

Hanley Ramirez...a new man? (RLRS Photo).

Hanley Ramirez…a new man? (RLRS Photo).

Hanley Ramirez – Start with this, there are few players I liked less over the last decade or so than Hanley Ramirez.  I did not like his attitude, I thought he was a selfish player and I thought he was a distraction.  So far he has done and said EVERYTHING right and the idea that someone is a different, more mature person at 31 than he was at 25 is not that hard to envision.

Still, I am wary.  It is easy to be happy fun guy on March 25th.  What happens when the Sox have lost 6 out of 7, are five games out and you have just misplayed a ball off the wall leading to the decisive runs and Peter Abraham and Jon Miller are asking idiotic questions?

Mookie Betts – Another guy I have long been a skeptic of but no more.  I am beyond excited to watch Mookie in 2015.  I cannot overstate how helpless he looked three years ago when I saw him playing shortstop at Lowell.  That that player is now a blossoming star is impossible for me to reconcile.  Sometimes I think that maybe, just maybe, I am not an expert scout.  I will consult my Ramon Ramirez opinions from the past to make myself feel better. Continue reading

Thoughts On The Infield

I look forward to seeing what the big man can do (RLRS Photo).

I look forward to seeing what the big man can do (RLRS Photo).

As we get ready for the season I want to get some thoughts about the roster.  These are not meant as predictions so much as just loosely edited thoughts about the players in question. As you can probably guess from the title I am starting with the infielders.

Mike Napoli – I think Nap is going to have a big year.  Sleep apnea is one of those things like turf toe that just sounds pitifully lame but can really cause problems.  I think the long winter off, the fact that he can sleep and the fact that he will not be asked to carry the offense is going to work in his favor.

Dustin Pedroia – Like Napoli I think Pedroia is going to be very good in 2015.  Pedey’s hell for leather style is one that makes having gotten an entire winter off a very good thing.  The long off-season in 2012/2013 paid dividends in 2013 and I think the long off-season in 2014/2015 will pay similar dividends this year. Continue reading