10-13-2011: Some random thoughts on free agents

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to leave all this clubhouse talk behind and start thinking about next year. We’ve got a number of decisions to make on our own guys, and I’ve heard lots of names bandied about, which I’d like to weigh in on and discuss.

David Ortiz, DH (age 36 next year)

The guy has been great for us, and he had a wonderful bounceback year. I expect he’ll be wanting a three- or even four-year deal, but I would like to see the Sox spend no more than 2/20 on him if he stays. Is anyone convinced that he will definitely duplicate his numbers next year? How about in two years? Three? Given his age and his recent comments, maybe we SHOULD let him go, take our draft picks and let Kevin Youkilis DH. We can sign a stopgap third sacker and let him compete with Jed Lowrie/Mike Aviles for the job until Will Middlebrooks is ready.

C.J. Wilson, SP (age 31 next year)

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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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On the Horizon: OF Ryan Kalish

I guess I must be getting behind on these, since Ryan Kalish has already made his Major League debut and completed his official rookie season. Here we take a closer look at this promising young outfielder, and what his role with the team could be in 2011 and beyond.

Background

Just 22 years old, Kalish was drafted in 2006 as an over-slot 9th rounder out of Red Bank Catholic HS in New Jersey and is already a veteran of Boston’s farm system. Already committed to play baseball and football (quarterback) at University of Virginia, he hesitantly decided to sign with the Sox, his childhood favorite team. In addition to his $600k signing bonus, the Red Sox have agreed to pay his future college expenses. Highly competitive, he has drawn a lot of comparisons with Trot Nixon because of his all-out, “dirt-dog” style of play. Fans will love his aggressive play on the field. He is a charismatic player who draws the admiration of coaches and teammates, and he is said to be very mature (read this interview to verify it for yourself – part 1 and part 2). Kalish suffered a broken hamate bone in 2007 which required surgery and affected him in 2008 as well, but it appears to be fully healed now.

2010 was Kalish’s official rookie season, and he exploded upon the scene, going seven for his first 13 with a .538/.533/.615 line and hitting this memorable shot at Yankee Stadium. As with all rookies, Kalish went through his struggles and made adjustments, and he showed the tenacity and competitiveness that has made him successful.

Tools

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2010: The Year in Review

I’ll spare you the same comments again about the team’s overall performance here, but let’s go and examine each phase of the game and each player in detail.

Offense

We predicted the offense to be capable of scoring upwards of 832 runs this season, and the 2010 team scored 818 runs (still good for second in the AL), which is understandable given the injury situation. So offensively, things went more or less as planned, or even better. There were a number of big surprises from individual players.

Projected Actual
Name AB BA OBP SLG AB BA OBP SLG
Jed Lowrie 275 0.260 0.334 0.391 171 0.287 0.381 0.526
Adrian Beltre 581 0.277 0.326 0.444 589 0.321 0.365 0.553
Bill Hall 337 0.230 0.293 0.396 344 0.247 0.316 0.456
Kevin Youkilis 517 0.292 0.393 0.514 362 0.307 0.411 0.564
Jason Varitek 196 0.222 0.328 0.380 112 0.232 0.293 0.473
David Ortiz 514 0.258 0.358 0.483 518 0.270 0.370 0.529
Dustin Pedroia 630 0.300 0.369 0.451 302 0.288 0.367 0.493
Victor Martinez 499 0.298 0.374 0.480 493 0.302 0.351 0.493
Marco Scutaro 540 0.285 0.369 0.404 632 0.275 0.333 0.388
Mike Cameron 477 0.254 0.337 0.458 162 0.259 0.328 0.401
J.D. Drew 437 0.273 0.386 0.487 478 0.255 0.341 0.452
Mike Lowell 463 0.285 0.343 0.461 218 0.239 0.307 0.367
Jeremy Hermida 226 0.255 0.338 0.402 158 0.203 0.257 0.348
Josh Reddick 92 0.252 0.312 0.429 62 0.194 0.206 0.323
Jacoby Ellsbury 541 0.290 0.347 0.410 78 0.192 0.241 0.244

At the top of the table, you see those players who outperformed their predicted OPS by the greatest margin, and at the bottom are the laggards. Although he wasn’t the biggest plus on a pure OPS scale, playing time meant that Adrian Beltre was this season’s offensive MVP. Jed Lowrie was a big boost at the end of the season, and performed surprisingly well at the dish after finally recovering from mononucleosis.

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9-14-2010: Looking ahead to 2011

Sorry for the lack of postings, but I haven’t really been too motivated to write about the Red Sox, with even their mathematical playoff chances circling the drain. Can you blame me? It’s kind of hard to get excited about Darnell McDonald and Yamaico Navarro on a nightly basis. Now I know how Kansas City fans feel!

What went Wrong

If you’ll remember, we came into 2010 with a lot of confidence, and projected for a close finish with the Yankees for the divisional pennant. If you ask me what happened to this year’s team, I’d certainly cite injuries, but beyond that, we got off to a terrible start in April, while the Yankees and Rays roared out of the gate. Yeah, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury were on the shelf then, but we didn’t have an excuse to play under .500 baseball that month. Add Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Josh Beckett to that injury list, and you can see where even an incredibly hot May and June wasn’t enough to salvage the season. The bullpen was really bad, yes, but I think that’s more a function of the starters not doing well early on (4.86 ERA in April, 4.36 ERA in May) and burning out the bullpen. Hideki Okajima’s injuries and subsequent ineffectiveness was also a huge blow to this relief corps.

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Links 8-20-2010: Prospects post, playoffs slipping away, some bright spots, Papelbon

All told, the Red Sox spent a team record $10.66M on signing bonuses for this year’s draft class, guys who had not pitched a professional inning. It was a necessary infusion of talent into a farm system that has been drained of top prospects and had some of our best young guys get injured or tarnished this year. Considering we drafted well and signed all of our first 10 picks, evaluators have been picking the Sox draft as the best in our division this year.

Baseball America published their “best tools” series this week, and many Red Sox prospects got recognition, especially the superb defense currently at Double-A Portland.

Catching prospect Adalberto Ibarra did not pass his physical, so he renegotiated his contract with Boston to the tune of $700-800k. That’s a far cry from the $3M guaranteed deal that he originally agreed to. Sure, it saves money, but it must have been a significant issue for him to backtrack so much on the numbers.

Goodbye 2010?

Just when you think the Sox are ready to turn the corner, a day like yesterday happens. Dustin Pedroia is held out with foot pain, and Josh Beckett gets lit up by a so-so lineup in the Angels. Jarrod Saltalamacchia gets sent to the DL with a mystery leg infection. Add that up with no more Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, and you’ve got a boring October looming.

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8-6-2010: Youkilis lost for the year, Cleveland redux, Yankees on tap

Now comes the disturbing and somehow predictable news… Kevin Youkilis will have surgery today and will miss the rest of the 2010 season. This news could not have come at a worse time, with guys like Dustin Pedroia and Mike Cameron still out, Victor Martinez playing hurt and Jacoby Ellsbury just trying to get back into the swing of things. We need to win now if we want to stay in the chase.

What will the Red Sox do about first base? For now, they will play Mike Lowell there every day. Despite his Daniel Nava-like heroics in his first at-bat, there are still some serious health concerns with Lowell. He may not be able to play every day, so we’re going to need a quality left-handed bat to complement him. For now, there are no plans to promote Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Lars Anderson. Theo Epstein would like to see if Salty can stick at catcher, so he’ll be working on that for now. J.P. Ricciardi really likes the addition of Salty, and says that it could really pay off down the line.

As far as other options, I think the Sox are trying to avoid paying any real talent to try and salvage what looks like it could be a lost year already. Jed Lowrie has reportedly taken some reps at first base as a fill-in for when Lowell can’t go. They will reportedly audition Carlos Delgado, and they do have room on the 40-man roster, but I’d be surprised if the Sox committed to play him while Lowell is around. He’s an option only if Lowell clears waivers and is traded. There are some other DFA/FA options out there as well, such as Casey Kotchman and Daric Barton.

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Links 8-3-2010: Hanging on by a thread, outfield outlook, Dice-K’s future

After the loss last night, the Red Sox are seriously hanging on by a thread. This season is starting to circle the drain unless we right things, and fast. If Kevin Youkilis’ thumb keeps him out for more than a game or two, it could be the end. It’s that tight. Dustin Pedroia is getting closer, but every game counts for us right now, especially against lesser competition.

The Yankees and Rays are doing exactly what we don’t want them to do, which is continue to win at about the same rate. We need one of them to collapse if we’re going to have a shot at October. The other team can get hot or whatever. It doesn’t matter, really.

Mike Cameron has hit the DL, and Daniel Nava is back up. Based on what is being reported, there’s a good chance that Cameron will not be back this season. With Jeremy Hermida designated for assignment, we are now looking at an outfield of Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew with Darnell McDonald as the fourth outfielder. That’s passable, but if Ellsbury can’t return, we will be crippled out there. More than ever, our postseason hopes may hang on Ellsbury, who will play again at Pawtucket today, then decide if he’s ready to rejoin the team or not.

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Links 7-22-2010: Trade outlook, getting healthy is painful

There is about a week and a half left before this year’s non-waiver trade deadline, and it appears that the Sox are trying to upgrade their bullpen, outfield and catcher. To me, this year has been all about health, and it may not make sense to pull the trigger on a big trade at this point; Sox Therapy agrees.

According to various reports, the Sox have shown interest in the following players:

Relievers: Scott Downs (TOR), Leo Nunez (FLA)
Outfielders: David DeJesus (KC) , Cody Ross (FLA), Corey Hart (MIL)
Catchers: Chris Iannetta (COL), Chris Snyder (ARI)

That doesn’t mean much in July, however. Everyone’s calling around about options, but that doesn’t mean something’s necessarily going to happen. The market for relievers is notably bad this year – Blue Jays initially asked for Jose Iglesias in exchange for Downs. That shows you how tough it is to actually get a deal done as a buyer. I’m on board with the names on this list, but not so big on spending a lot to get Ross or Hart, not when we already have Jeremy Hermida, Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava. With Jacoby Ellsbury out until God knows when and Mike Cameron being slow to heal, I’m convinced we need someone who can play a passable center field, and DeJesus fits that the best.

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