Christopher Evans/Boston Herald
After a week of games, I finally had some time to sit and watch the Red Sox play on Sunday. The eye test can be a powerful tool in evaluating players because stats in the spring can lie (see my thoughts on spring stats here). It is still very early in spring training, but I have some quick observations and predictions.
Kyle Kendrick – Mark my words, before the All-Star break the Red Sox will be leaning on Kyle Kendrick in their starting rotation. With David Price‘s status uncertain at best, the Red Sox are already thinning out in the rotation. The three starters at the end of the rotation, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Drew Pomeranz, have all had injury issues and raise serious concerns around durability. If one of them goes down, then the Red Sox will be looking at the likes of Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, and Roenis Elias to fill the role; or Kyle Kendrick. The Red Sox took a low-risk flyer on him, but with a strong spring training, he may be the next in line to stabilize the rotation.
Mookie Betts – It never gets old watching Mookie Betts swing the bat. He cleans out the inside fastball like very few can and just looks smooth, whether it’s March or September. Betts had an excellent breakout 2016 campaign and I don’t expect him to fall off in 2017. He hit .318 with 31 HRs last year and finished 2nd in the AL MVP race. Betts is poised to be the next in a long line of superstar outfielders for the Red Sox.
Mitch Moreland – When the Red Sox signed Moreland, I thought he was a low-risk bench player. Unfortunately, Moreland is going to play more than he should in 2017. He’s a mid-.200 hitter at best and frankly, my early impression of his defense is disappointing at best. He feels like a roster-filler for a shitty team that just needs bodies, like the Red Sox opponent on Sunday the Atlanta Braves. Instead, a team that is a legitimate contender has him playing first base several times a week.
Deven Marrero – For a few years now Marrero has looked like an excellent prospect waiting for his chance in the big leagues. My prediction: he will be in the Red Sox lineup by mid-season and never look back. For everyone’s sake, I hope he is playing 1st or 3rd base and not SS. Marrero made a few sensational diving catches and showed off his cannon of an arm on Sunday while playing SS. Given the big question marks at the corner infield spots, this might be Marrero’s best chance to break into the majors.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
Another day, another bad outing by a Red Sox starting pitcher. It has become more and more clear that the Red Sox starting rotation is reaching crisis mode. Of the 9 pitchers who have started a game for the Red Sox, just 2 have ERAs under 4 and only 1 under 3.90 (Wright at 2.18). The sheer mediocrity has forced me to take a look one-by-one at the grades each pitcher gets for their performance so far in 2016. Preview: it’s not good.
The Red Sox are coming off a rare stretch during the long MLB season of just 5 games in 8 days. This light span allowed John Farrell to continue his 4-man rotation and not think about who should be their 5th starter going forward. With 16 straight games beginning today and no off-day until June 30, the Red Sox are forced into determining who should join the rotation going forward. Based on John Farrell’s comments on Sunday, I think he is approaching this situation all wrong.
“One of the things that we’ll factor in is we would look to match up as best as possible,” Farrell said. “On one series, is it a left-hander? The other series is it a right-hander? And we’ve got the flexibility to do that.”
It is a mistake to treat the 5th starter role with flexibility and base decisions on certain match-ups and here’s why…
Two of the names likely being considered for the call-up are Roenis Elias and Henry Owens. Elias has looked strong as of late, allowing 2 or fewer earned runs in 4 of his last 5 starts. In those 4 starts, he pitched at least 7 innings, including a complete game effort on June 5. He deserves a serious look. Owens has struggled a bit this year, but seems to be improving despite only completing more than 6 innings once in 10 starts with Pawtucket this year.
By bringing up Elias or Owens for one start and then sending him back down, you aren’t allowing him to settle in to the routine and get comfortable with the team. There is immense pressure on that 1 outing, with the knowledge that they are likely done in the majors when they walk off the mound regardless of performance. The revolving door is a mistake. Bring up one of these guys and give them 3 or 4 consecutive starts to prove their worth. Let them settle into the team, the routine, the travel and give them a chance to spend time between starts with Carl Willis and the MLB staff. If you really want to develop these young players, give them a fair chance at proving their worth.
The other option for the 5th starter role is Clay Buchholz. All I will say is no. He is terrible and should be back down in the minors, not in the bullpen. If Farrell choose Buchholz to start, he deserves to lose his job immediately.
My hope is that we see Roenis Elias for an extended period of time. He has proven his worth in AAA, has big league experience and has earned the right to prove himself with the Red Sox. In reality, I think Farrell is going to use guys as spot starters and miss a great opportunity.
Over the past 5 years, the Red Sox have had some great success drafting and developing young talent. Tonight is the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft and rather than attempt to analyze who the Red Sox might pick, let’s take a look at who they have picked over the past 5 years and see where they are now. Since there are 40 rounds, the focus will be narrowed to top part of the draft and any notable lower picks. For those who are already bored, at least take a look at the 2011 draft, it’s something special!
RHP Matt Barnes (UConn)
C Blake Swihart
Compensation Round A
LHP Henry Owens
OF Jackie Bradley Jr.
Rounds 2, 3, and 5 (in order)
OF Williams Jerez
C Jordan Weems
RHP Noe Ramirez
SS Mookie Betts
3B Travis Shaw
Arguably the best draft of all time, by any team. Of the top 8 players selected, 6 have seen time with the Boston Red Sox this season (2 are back in AAA Pawtucket) and the other 2 are progressing with the AA Portland Sea Dogs. To prove the point even further, 5 of the top 12 picks are either everyday offensive players or frequent bullpen arms for the Red Sox in 2016, not including the 2 other pitchers in that group who have contributed at the big league level this year.
For those who are unfamiliar with how rare this draft truly was, take a look at the other drafts after this one for the Red Sox. There are usually 1-3 players who make the big leagues or who are waiting in the wings at AAA in a really good draft. This draft, thus far for the Red Sox, has produced 7 legitimate big league players, including a few picks that are on their way to becoming superstars.