The First Base Line

First Base LineOn April 13 the 2015 Boston Red Sox will assemble in neat and orderly fashion on the first base line at Fenway Park to commence the home portion of the season.  Given the state of the off-season I think we can start making some assumptions about the players Jose will photograph that day.

For now I am assuming health but the Sox will likely need to adapt to some injuries around that time.  Starters in italics.

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts will work together in 2015 (RLRS Photo).

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts will work together in 2015 (RLRS Photo).

IF – Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt

Not a lot of confusion at work here.  The moment the Panda put pen to paper the only question at work would be the fate of Bogaerts.  I still think there is a chance the Sox will move Bogaerts which would be a mistake in my opinion.  I love Bogaerts but it certainly is odd that the Sox would move so heavily to a ground ball staff and have a shortstop who even his most ardent supporters will concede is a bit lacking defensively.

Holt’s ability to play a myriad of positions is incredibly valuable.  The thing that really struck me last year is how fast he is making him useful in an additional fashion.

Continue reading

ZIPSing Through The Lineup

LineupSo as the snow continues to pelt down on the North Shore (actually with the wind its pelting sideways) Nate noted that ZIPS projections are out.  I have been thinking about the lineup a bit lately so I thought I would combine the two into one post.

RF – Mookie Betts – .268/.336/.408
LF – Hanley Ramirez – .271/.345/.455
DH – David Ortiz – .277/.363/.526
1B – Mike Napoli – .241/.353/.441
3B – Pablo Sandoval – .279/.328/.454
CF – Rusney Castillo – .266/.326/.386
2B – Dustin Pedroia – .278/.340/.398
SS – Xander Bogaerts – .263/.322/.409
C – Christian Vazquez – .246/.302/.328

A few thoughts after the jump; Continue reading

Recharging the Battery

MLB.com is in the process of releasing their top ten prospects by position list.  So far they have already looked at RHP, LHP and Catchers and while the Sox do not have any righties on the list they score well in the other two positions.

Henry OwensLHP – Henry Owens – 4th

Owens keeps impressing at every level.  He got a lot of attention for throwing a curve ball on his first pitch of the Futures’ Game last summer as it is considered just his third best pitch.  After a strong performance at Portland Owens impressed at Pawtucket in six starts with his peripherals (44K/12BB/38IP) outpacing his ERA (4.03 ERA).

Quote: Owens has a good feel for pitching and keeps hitters off balance with a mix of his low-90s fastball, changeup and curveball.

 

Blake SwihartC – Blake Swihart – 1st

Yep, the #1 catching prospect in the game is our own switch-hitting dreamboat.  Swihart scuffled a bit at Pawtucket after clubbing the Eastern League pitchers around.  While Swihart was a known bat coming out of high school the evolution of his defense from questionable to being viewed as solidly above average is intriguing and exciting.

It is kind of interesting but the last few GMs have done a pretty nice job with their final first round pick;

2011 – Theo Epstein – Matt Barnes/Blake Swihart
2002 – Mike Port – Jon Lester
2001 – Dan Duquette – Kelly Shoppach
1993 – Lou Gorman – Trot Nixon

We could mock Shoppach’s inclusion on that list but because of the Manny Ramirez signing the Sox’ top pick that year was #48.  By WAR Shoppach is the 6th best player ever drafted #48 overall (Cal Ripken Jr. is the best).

Quote: (Swihart is) now the game’s top prospect at the position with tools and athleticism that call to mind a young Buster Posey.

Ranking The East – Catchers & DH

Last in a series.  Today we look at the backstops and yes those evil DHs…

Vazquez takes a little peak at the future (RLRS Photo).

Vazquez takes a little peak at the future (RLRS Photo).

Catchers
Russell Martin – .242/.341/.405/3.4
Matt Wieters – .246/.311/.418/3.0
Brian McCann – .251/.317/.445/2.8
Rene Rivera – .231/.288/.362/2.2
Christian Vazquez – .248/.313/.352/2.1

That is a fairly impressive group of backstops.  Martin’s evolution from a high on base/medium power guy to a slugger has been fascinating to watch.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia gave the Sox some nice moments but it would have been interesting to see the outcome had the Sox signed Martin prior to the 2011 season.

Wieters is one of the big X factors in the division.  The Orioles need someone to compensate for the loss of Nelson Cruz and Wieters could be a step in the right direction.  Vazquez’ projection has me more hopeful that I have been regarding him.  I am skeptical of the bat but that line should make him a perfectly serviceable catcher.

David Ortiz can deflate a baseball with one swing (RLRS Photo).

David Ortiz can deflate a baseball with one swing (RLRS Photo).

Designated Hitters
David Ortiz – .277/.366/.496/2.3
John Jaso – .246/.334/.382/1.5
Justin Smoak – .240/.324/.416/1.2
Alex Rodriguez – .235/.317/.382/0.1
Delmon Young – .261/.302/.410/0.0

Go ahead, snicker at A-Rod for a few minutes if you would like.

OK, done?  As a practical matter few teams get what the Sox have gotten from the DH position in the past decade.  At his age Ortiz is a guy who could drop off dramatically and suddenly and that would hurt.  The additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval should be a nice bit of cover in future years for that.

Ranking the East – Outfields

Last week we considered the state of the AL East infields.  Today I will move on with the outfield and yes, catchers and DHs are coming soon.

The Sox hope to get this kind of production from another left fielder (Fenwaypark100.org Photo).

The Sox hope to get this kind of production from another left fielder (Fenwaypark100.org Photo).

Left Field
Hanley Ramirez – .291/.365/.474/3.9
Brett Gardner – .254/.328/.388/2.8
Michael Saunders – .248/.328/.420/2.3
Alejandro De Aza – .263/.324/.398/1.8
David DeJesus – .238/.319/.363/0.7

I am not entirely sold on the Hanley Ramirez projection.  The Sox as a whole seem to be made up of guys with a high degree of uncertainty but I feel like Ramirez; famously curmudgeonly, never having played left field before and never played in front of a difficult home market has the potential to be a Carl Crawford like bust.

Gardner, the Yankee Youngster, will actually turn 32 this year.  Saunders was a nice move by Toronto, I think he is a player who might benefit greatly from that move.  De Aza is about 50-50 to be the Oriole starter with rumors about Colby Rasmus and others still swirling around.

STEAMER ISN'T EVEN TRYING (RLRS Photo).

STEAMER ISN’T EVEN TRYING (RLRS Photo).

Center Field
Jacoby Ellsbury – .271/.329/.418/3.5
Adam Jones – .274/.312/.463/3.2
Desmond Jennings – .241/.318/.377/2.7
Dalton Pompey – .235/.295/.354/0.4
Rusney Castillo – NO PROJECTION

Ellsbury really did not benefit as much as I expected in his move to New Yankee Stadium in 2014.  The 16 homers were second best but a decline in double/triple rate kept his ISO at a modest .148.  Jennings has never really burst forth like the star he was projected to be.

Lacking playing time Steamer does not give Castillo a projection.  Both in terms of reports from Cuba and what little we have seen of him I keep rummaging around a Shane Victorino style player.  Steamer gives Victorino a 2.8 WAR projection and while that may be optimistic I am somewhat confident that Castillo can reach the 2.0 WAR he would need to justify his contract.

Alex Speier and Red Sox fans are hoping for feet of Mookie in 2015 (RLRS Photo)

Alex Speier and Red Sox fans are hoping for feet of Mookie in 2015 (RLRS Photo)

Right Field
Jose Bautista – .267/.380/.517/4.8
Mookie Betts – .284/.353/.422/3.7
Steve Pearce – .270/.349/.467/3.2
Steven Souza – .247/.319/.419/2.2
Carlos Beltran – .260/.324/.438/1.1

Technically David Lough is listed as the Baltimore right fielder due to Chris Davis’ one remaining day of suspension.  For that reason MLB has Pearce at first base but I suspect he is likely to be a starting outfielder.

Beltran is a big question mark for the Yankees.  Anything goes really there.  Betts is a player I quickly grew to believe in.  The big shocker for me was the dramatic improvement in his defense  between his first and second MLB call ups.  That screams “coachable” to me and makes me think he is going to be what we hope he will be.

Pitching ChangeOverall
Baltimore Orioles – 8.2
Boston Red Sox – 7.6
Toronto Blue Jays – 7.5
New York Yankees – 7.4
Tampa Bay Rays – 5.6

It says an awful lot about the Sox outfield that even without any projection from one of the three they have the second highest WAR total.  When you realize the Sox have the highest projected WAR on the infield and effectively do in the outfield as well then Buster Olney’s forecast of the top offense in the game is not so outrageous.

There is enough to be skeptical of; Ramirez was addressed above, Xander Bogaerts reminds us why we should be wary of Betts just stepping in and ripping it up and Castillo is a virtual unknown.  The Sox look like a team that has at the very least addressed their offensive concerns.

Ranking The East – Infields

Starting today I want to take a look at where the AL East stands on a position by position basis. My goal for this year is to NOT include Edwin Encarnacion as a third baseman like I stupidly did last year.

I will be using FanGraphs Steamer/600 page for the projections that I will use.  Starters are based on the depth charts at MLB.com.

Healthy Mike Napoli would be a big boost (RLRS Photo).

Healthy Mike Napoli would be a big boost (RLRS Photo).

First Base
Edwin Encarnacion – .268/.359/.515/3.4
Mike Napoli – .244/.352/.444/2.8
Chris Davis – .242/.326/.477/2.4
James Loney – .271/.325/.386/1.7
Mark Teixeira – .223/.314/.414/1.5

Technically the depth chart has Steve Pearce as the Oriole first baseman since Davis has one more game to serve on his suspension but I think this make more sense. What really shocked me is how bad Teixeira’s projection is.

From the Sox standpoint Napoli just needs to stay healthy so y’know, stop sliding head first dopey. John Farrell suggested last week that the Sox lineup will likely be structured in a way that has Napoli batting sixth which says a lot about how much the Sox have stretched out the lineup. Continue reading

Light It Up

Somewhere out there is a place for a torch (RLRS Photo).

Somewhere out there is a place for a torch (RLRS Photo).

So the city of Boston is going to be the official bidder for the United States Olympic Committee’s 2024 Summer Olympic bid eh?  I have to say I have mixed emotions on this one;

1. As a taxpayer and a resident I think it is a stupid idea financially and likely to be an absolute nightmare but…

2. How cool would it be to have the Olympics in Boston?  I mean, that would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for our great little city to truly be the Hub of the Universe.

I was thinking about this riding the train home from the Bruin game on Thursday.  If Boston gets the Games, who lights the torch?  Nine years is a long time and things can change but I was running through some names of local legends and after eliminating several I think I have decided who should light the torch.  If the USOC needs any other input they can find me here.

First the no votes;

Tom Brady – Nothing against Brady (and admittedly I’m neither a football fan nor a Patriot fan) but football is not an olympic sport.  It seems silly to have someone who became famous in a sport not contended in the Olympics to light the torch.

eliminated for a similar reason – Doug Flutie though I liked the Twitter suggestion that he light the torch by throwing a Hail Mary pass into the cauldron.

It will not be his @$&@^#& cauldron (Hardball Talk Photo).

It will not be his @$&@^#& cauldron (Hardball Talk Photo).

David Ortiz – Baseball at the moment is not an olympic sport though it may well be again by 2024.  As great and famous as he is I do not think Ortiz has the crossover appeal to work on that kind of audience.

eliminated for a similar reason – Carl Yastrzemski, Dustin Pedroia

Bobby Orr – Orr would work really well in some respects.  His greatness is that special kind of greatness where even the truly elite in his sport admire him and look up to him.  His 1970 Stanley Cup winning goal is one of the iconic moments in Boston sports history and he is one of the great gentlemen of sport.  Hockey of course is a WINTER sport and well…that’s a problem.

Mike Eruzione - Bill Simmons calls Eruzione the house guest who wouldn’t leave and while that is a bit harsh he has made a nice living on a nice two week run 35 (oh my god) years ago.  Still, he may well be Boston’s most recognized olympian and for that he would make some sense.

But here is the thing…he’s already done it!  You only get to do this once Mike.

Larry Bird – Larry checks some good boxes.  He is an Orr-like legend among legends, an Olympic gold medalist in a sport competed in the summer and while not technically a Bostonian he has always felt like one of ours.  Additionally with his blue collar work ethic and his simple style both on and off the court he remains a local legend.  But for me, and Larry is probably one of my top three favorite non-baseball athletes ever, if we want to go to basketball I would go with…

Bill Russell – Nasty Nate will surely point out that this links to the old Dodger shortstop.  That is OK, I always liked him too but I am referring to the basketball player of course.  For a city that has had some criticism on race relations over the years the African-American Russell would be a proud symbol.  Locally of course when you think of lighting something up the name Red Auerbach comes to mind and no one had more to do with Red lighting up most of his cigars that Bill Russell.

But he too is not my choice.  Yes, I am making you click to see my choice… Continue reading

Jose Rants About A Meaningless Move

"Oh boy oh boy I'm coming back to Boston!!!!" (MLB Photo).

“Oh boy oh boy I’m coming back to Boston!!!!” (MLB Photo).

The Red Sox have formally announced the re-signing of LHP Craig Breslow.  To make room for Breslow on the roster the Sox have DFAd catcher Dan Butler.  This is kind of a Grady Sizemore/Daniel Nava thing in that it is not likely to make a ton of difference in the outcome of the 2015 season but I do not like it anyway.

Let us start with Breslow.  He was pivotal in the 2013 run to the title with his epic performance in game four against Tampa particularly memorable.  That said he is an old 34 (35 in August) coming off a terrible season.  In Tommy Layne the Sox have a younger pitcher who is likely to match if not exceed what Breslow is likely to do.

Butler meanwhile actually has some value.  Being a somewhat soft third on the catching depth chart (Blake Swihart should zoom past at some point in 2015) is not “oh crap what are we going to do?” territory but it has meaning.  Christian Vazquez is unproven, Ryan Hanigan ain’t exactly channeling Roy Campanella and of course catchers get hurt…a lot.  The idea that the Sox might need a third catcher sooner than later is not a big reach.

As I noted in the title this is likely a meaningless move.  It is however a smaller scale version of the whole Hanley Ramirez/Pablo Sandoval signings where I feel like the Sox are creating redundancies in areas where they do not need to.

Butler is valuable for all the reasons Vazquez is.  While he is not likely to be as good as Vazquez the state of catching is such that having a guy like that around can come in handy and Breslow just does not make the team better.

If the Sox do not trust Drake Britton to act as the competition for Layne then they probably should have cut him loose to re-sign Breslow.  I just think there keeping Butler around would have had some value.