9-22-2011 Link: A defense of Theo Epstein

For all of you who are laying the blame for our September meltdown squarely at Theo Epstein’s feet: Brian MacPherson of the ProJo points out that the injuries we’ve sustained to the rotation this year would have been devastating for any club. The fact that we’re still the favorites for the wild card is pretty impressive.

I’m not saying that Epstein is free from blame, not at all. But who could have foreseen the loss/implosion of 60% of our starting five? In my opinion, going into the season with Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, Alfredo Aceves, and Felix Doubront as depth starters was not unreasonable. They went out and got Kevin Millwood and Erik Bedard, but I think the front office could have done more to shore up the rotation, once they realized how bleak the situation was getting to be.

And don’t forget the devastating losses of Rich Hill and Bobby Jenks too. This bullpen went from being a real strength to a weakness pretty quickly with the loss of these two. Matt Albers and Daniel Bard are getting overexposed because they haven’t been there, and Dan Wheeler hasn’t been effective.

9-8-2011: Pitching prospect projections

And now for the pitchers in our stable:

Felix Doubront, SP (99.1 IP, 3.5 BB/9, 6.6 K/9, 4.51 ERA)

Doubront has a really live fastball, but his command and secondary offerings could use some polish. While he was healthy early on, this 23-year old showed the ability to really pitch well at Triple-A, so he’s likely ready for the next challenge. I think there’s still a chance he can stick as a back-end starter, but it seems as if the Sox like him in relief, so we’ll see what happens.

Alex Wilson, SP (105.4 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 6.8 K/9, 4.59 ERA)

If Doubront is the most ready, I think Wilson may have the most potential of this group as a starting pitcher. A big guy who throws a good sinking fastball, Wilson could come up here and contribute next season. If he can continue to grow as a pitcher and be consistent, we’ll see him up here in mid- to late-2012.

Kyle Weiland, SP (124.3 IP, 3.7 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, 4.64 ERA)

Weiland had a great 2011, but the 24-year old ┬áhasn’t really shown enough to really be a good pitcher at this level. Given his track record and age, it’s likely we are looking at a swingman-type player.

In addition to these three, Andrew Miller and Alfredo Aceves are still vying for a starting role next season. The depth we have at this position means that we will likely get one or two of these guys to pitch well enough to replace Tim Wakefield when he retires (whether it’s this offseason or next year sometime).

Michael Bowden seems to have successfully made the transition to reliever, and I think he could see some significant time in our bullpen next season. And don’t forget we still have Junichi Tazawa at Pawtucket as well, though heaven only knows what we’ll see from him at this point.

6-9-2011: Injuries piling on

I’m feeling pretty good about our Sox right now, as they continue to show how faulty the Yankee rotation is. That being said, there are a number of problems developing on the injury front…

The Dice-K Drama

Daisuke Matsuzaka will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery next week. While many are suggesting that this is the end of his tenure in Boston, he’s still got one year left, and with the speed of recovery these days after TJ, I think we could see him come back for one more go-round. Okay, given the number of headaches Daisuke has given the Red Sox and the amount of time lost to injury, we can safely say that this signing was a failure. Matsuzaka did not live up to the hype or the contract, though he did provide some decent value when he was healthy.

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5-21-2011: Sox acquire Morales, sign Millwood

Sox trade a PTBNL for Franklin Morales

The pitching injuries are piling up again. With Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks out, the bullpen is a little thin. I was a little surprised to hear that Hideki Okajima was DFA’d, but you have to know that the Sox were dissatisfied with their lefty reliever situation this year, quickly discarding Denys Reyes. This move comes down to upgrading the bullpen. Morales was considered a pretty good prospect just two years ago, and is a lefty who throws a 94 mph heater and a good curve. His presence makes the deteriorating Okajima expendable (his three-year numbers are all trending in the wrong direction). Theo Epstein is hoping that we can retain him if he can slip through waivers, but if not, we’ll trade him.

It’s true, Morales’ numbers are not good, but that’s why he was available. He strikes out more hitters than Oki, but has struggled with walking batters and giving up the long ball (though I hear that happens from time to time in Colorado). Perhaps Curt Young can work some magic with the young flamethrower. I’ll have to see what we send back in return for him, but this seems like a good upside deal to me.

Kevin Millwood signed to a minor-league deal

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5-3-2011: April farm report for Pawtucket

One month is in the books. You know what’s going on with the Major league club, but here’s a look at our minor league affiliates and some of the interesting performances at each level.

Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA)

The Paw Sox have gotten off to a strong 14-11 start. They have managed to score 5.3 runs/game (2nd best in the International League), while allowing only 3.6 runs/game (3rd in the IL). Despite a middling batting average of .258, the team boasts an excellent .350 OBP and .442 SLG. The pitching has been solid, but perhaps not quite as good as they’ve been early on. The low ERA is largely dependent on a very low rate of 7.5 hits per 9 and 0.7 HR per 9, best in the league.

Name PA Avg OBP SLG OPS BB% K% BABIP wOBA wRC+
Hector Luna 30 0.429 0.467 0.929 1.395 3.3% 14.3% 0.429 0.592 284
Yamaico Navarro 100 0.321 0.430 0.607 1.037 13.0% 15.5% 0.343 0.451 187
Michael McKenry 43 0.306 0.419 0.528 0.946 16.3% 27.8% 0.375 0.426 169
Drew Sutton 94 0.321 0.394 0.536 0.929 9.6% 27.4% 0.424 0.409 157
Tony Thomas 66 0.268 0.379 0.536 0.915 12.1% 26.8% 0.316 0.406 155
Josh Reddick 109 0.250 0.330 0.583 0.914 11.0% 17.7% 0.222 0.399 150
Lars Anderson 102 0.284 0.422 0.333 0.755 18.6% 27.2% 0.383 0.363 126
Juan Carlos Linares 64 0.233 0.281 0.500 0.781 6.3% 20.0% 0.244 0.331 103
Nate Spears 61 0.189 0.295 0.321 0.616 11.5% 28.3% 0.222 0.291 76
Daniel Nava 96 0.158 0.323 0.224 0.547 19.8% 28.9% 0.218 0.269 60
Ryan Kalish 60 0.236 0.300 0.309 0.609 8.3% 18.2% 0.289 0.268 60
Luis Exposito 56 0.192 0.250 0.327 0.577 7.1% 17.3% 0.214 0.261 55
Jose Iglesias 77 0.233 0.263 0.233 0.496 2.6% 23.3% 0.304 0.228 32

Two of the best hitters have been names who were once considered top prospects at their positions, but fell behind Ryan Kalish and Jose Iglesias on the depth chart. SS Yamaico Navarro has been blistering hot at the dish with 14 XBH, while racking up great walk and K rates. He won’t keep slugging like this, but this 23-year old could earn a look late this year if he keeps hitting well. And if you thought we had a lot of middle infield depth at the Major League level, there’s also 28-year old Drew Sutton, currently batting .321/.394/.536.

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3-21-2011: The bullpen shakeout

On a team with few questions, the newly rebuilt bullpen has gotten the most attention this spring. Let’s take a look at what we’ve got and what we expect to happen with the roster.

The Locks

Those guaranteed a job include Jonathan Papelbon (closer), Daniel Bard (setup) and Bobby Jenks (setup). Having a top three like this really makes this a formidable bullpen, at least against righties. Dan Wheeler (bridge) will almost certainly be part of this bullpen, so that leaves only 2 spots, really. Should the Sox go with four starters to open the year, I could see them carrying one more reliever to begin.

The Other Contenders

What we really need is for one of the lefties to come out and dominate again. You would think that Hideki Okajima would be guaranteed a spot, being a lefty with experience pitching for the Sox, but actually, the equation is not that simple. Okajima’s contract has a clause in it that allows the Sox to send him to the minors, and with the way Dennys Reyes is throwing, I expect them to exercise it. Reyes is also out of options, which makes it almost certain that if it comes down to the two of them, it’ll be Reyes. Felix Doubront is just as good, if not better than these two, but the Sox will start him at Pawtucket, most likely as a starter, this season.

Of the remaining righties, you’ve got a ton of possibles, including Scott Atchison, Matt Albers, Alfredo Aceves, and Michael Bowden. Each of these guys has a different advantage. Atchison is the vet from last year, who is the most known quantity, while Albers has the out-of-options advantage. Aceves and Bowden can be swing men and give you multiple innings, with Aceves having better stuff and Bowden being the long-time Sox farmhand deserving of a shot. I’ve listed these guys in probable order here.

2-7-2011: Sox add Reyes to bullpen options, announce NRIs

The Red Sox announced the signing of veteran left-hander Dennys Reyes to a minor league deal this weekend. Should he make the big league club and play a lot, he could earn $1.4M in 2011.

A 34-year old this coming season, Reyes has played 14 years of MLB, and been mostly a journeyman LOOGY reliever. A strong groundball pitcher (career 50.0%), he throws a 90 mph fastball and a good slider, and has a show-me changeup that he will throw to righties. Reyes has always posted decent strikeout rates, but he walks a lot of hitters (as most lefty relievers do). He should be a solid, if unspectacular, option. We project him for about 40 innings and a 3.94 ERA.

Reyes’ signing makes it more likely that the Sox will employ Felix Doubront as a starter, rather than using him in the bullpen. The Sox now have several Major League-caliber lefty options after Hideki Okajima, including Andrew Miller, Randy Williams, Rich Hill, and Reyes.

Non-Roster Invitees

The Sox announced their list of NRIs for this year. As I’ve noted earlier, I like the way that they’ve focused on younger players with some upside as well as veterans who should contribute.

1-2-2011: Okajima signs, bullpen and roster complete

With the signing of Hideki Okajima over the weekend, the Red Sox bullpen makeover is complete and we are looking at a full 40-man and a filled-out active roster.

Here’s what our projections see for this bullpen going forward:

Name IP K/9 BB/9 ERA
Papelbon 68.2 9.9 2.9 2.95
Doubront 38.2 8.5 3.8 3.57
Jenks 55.1 8.3 3.1 3.59
Bard 60.2 9.1 3.9 3.61
Miller 38.0 7.8 3.9 3.77
Okajima 57.0 7.9 3.5 3.85
Wheeler 57.1 7.9 3.0 4.09
Albers 34.0 6.6 4.4 4.50
Hill 23.1 8.0 5.4 5.21

Not bad, Mr. Epstein, not bad at all. The projections see Jonathan Papelbon returning to form this season. His ERA was high, but his peripherals were still solid last season, as shown by his 3.51 FIP and 3.72 xFIP last season. As long as he can avoid the DL, I think this is a distinct possibility.

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12-16-2010: Sox sign Jenks and DiNardo, talking with Wheeler

Now this is the way an offseason is supposed to go. The Red Sox are striking early and often, inking two more stalwarts for the bullpen today. The Sox got former closer Bobby Jenks on a two-year deal worth $12M, and 31-year old lefty Lenny DiNardo on a minor league/split deal. Jesse Crain just signed a 3-year contract with the wrong color Sox (they love their hard throwing relievers over there in Chicago).

What’s Jenks got left?

Jenks is a classic case of a thrilling young arm that burst on the scene, was overused, and has experienced a decline as closer the past few years. Here are his last few seasons and what we project for him in Fenway for 2011, if he can stay healthy: Read more of this post

11-19-2010: Crazy offseason scenario number 1

All of this Justin Upton talk has me thinking. The Red Sox need two bats to replace Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez, and it’s generally thought that we will likely sign a free agent corner outfielder (Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford) and a corner infielder. What if, instead of blowing $100M on two good but aging players, we fill those spots via trade for good young players, utilizing our top prospects? Stay with me here.

Step 1. Send Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Josh Reddick to Arizona for Justin Upton

I know, you’re saying WHAT? But hear me out.

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