Did the Mayor Just Save the Red Sox Season?

The Mayor of Ding Dong City aka 1B Travis Shaw sent Red Sox fans into hysteria on Monday afternoon in just his 2nd game since returning to the city he loves and that loves him. His 11th inning walk-off grand slam capped a odd few final innings of baseball and sent the scant Fenway crowd home happy in the series finale with the Texas Rangers. Forget the fact that the game should not have gone into extras to begin with and it was against one of the worst teams in baseball, it was a spark in a season currently lacking any electricity.

Along with thousands of others, I am desperately waiting for the moment in which members of this Red Sox team realize that they are still in playoff contention (somehow) and a shift in momentum and fortune could lead them to 92-94 wins and a wild card spot. There have been some signs lately of a potential turnaround, but as a group, they can’t seem to put it all together and return to the form they had the first 3.5 months of the season. Despite a number of frustrations including a blown save by P Matt Barnes and the need to comeback from 1-run down in the 10th to even force an 11th inning, the feel-good story of a walk-off grand slam from the newly acquired and infinitely struggling Shaw may be that kick they need.

Shaw was a beloved and universally respected member of the Red Sox during his 2 years with the club in 2015 and 2016. Teammates, media, and fans alike enjoyed his kind demeanor and when he was traded for P Tyler Thornburg in late 2016, it was a sad day. To make things worse, Thornburg had a 6.54 ERA in his time with the Red Sox only making 41 appearances over 2 years. Unfortunately for Shaw, after 2 good years with the Milwaukee Brewers, he hasn’t been able to get back on track and make any meaningful contribution in the majors. After 3 years in Milwaukee, Shaw spent a year with the Toronto Blue Jays before returning to the Brewers and being waived this past week.

No one expects Shaw to roll into Boston and be a huge difference maker that changes every game with his bat or defense. He was waived for a reason and was added mostly as an insurance/depth piece with the incredible struggles at 1B on the team, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute both on and off the field. Honestly, today’s grand slam was more than I expected from him in his return and it’s only game 2. If the Red Sox do make the postseason, Shaw certainly has the experience and success to help out (.278 with 1 HR in 41 PAs over 13 career postseason games) if he were to make the roster.

What will be interesting to watch is if Shaw can right-the-ship, so to speak, with the system, and in the city, he started his career. If he can finish the year strong, maybe he earns another major league deal and can steer his career back onto the highway (or at least a side road). At 31 years old his prime years may be over, but there is probably gas left in the tank. Maybe even the return of his power leading to an extension in Boston. One can dream, right?

Looking into the Red Sox Future

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!

2011
Round 1
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

Round 9
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.

2012
Round 1
SS Deven Marrero
LHP Brian Johnson

Compensation Round A
RHP Pat Light

Rounds 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (in order)
RHP Jamie Callahan
RHP Austin Maddox
RHP Ty Buttrey
RHP Mike Augliera
RHP Justin Haley

Another nice draft for the Red Sox. The top 3 players selected have all seen time in the big leagues, Deven Marrero and Brian Johnson in 2015 and Pat Light for one appearance in 2016. All 3 have the potential to be solid major league talents, whether the opportunity is in Boston or another city through trade. Depending on health and the Red Sox pitching situation, I can see Johnson and Light getting another shot in the big leagues in 2016. With Brock Holt out with concussion symptoms, I see Marrero being the next guy in line for an infield spot if another injury were to occur.

Of the next 5 players selected for the Red Sox, 4 are with the AA Portland Sea Dogs and only RHP Jamie Callahan (2nd round) is in advanced A Salem.

2013
Round 1
LHP Trey Ball

Rounds 2, 3, and 4 (in order)
RHP Teddy Stankiewicz
C John Denney
RHP Myles Smith

This draft is where it gets difficult for a non-minor league baseball scout to analyze. Most of the guys taken in this draft are still in A or advanced-A ball and stats at that level are hard to interpret. The 1 player from this draft who has climbed the organizational ladder quite quickly is RHP Teddy Stankiewicz, who is currently pitching for the AA Portland Sea Dogs (although his numbers would indicate a bit of a struggle at the AA level). LHP Trey Ball, the first round pick, is a name that is mentioned often in Red Sox circles, and despite some shaky numbers in the low minors, he has improved year over year. Just don’t expect to see any of these guys in the majors for a few years.

2014
Round 1
SS Michael Chavis
RHP Michael Kopech

Rounds 2, 3, and 4 (in order)
1B Sam Travis
RHP Jake Cosart
RHP Kevin McAvoy

Most of the top of this draft class is still with the A Greenville Drive. The one major exception is 1B Sam Travis who has shot up the Red Sox system since being drafted. He began the year in AAA Pawtucket, with many thinking an MLB call-up this year was not out of the question assuming an injury or two. Then disaster struck when Travis tore his ACL, which ended his season before it really got interesting. His meteoric rise was great to follow, but this set-back really hurts (no pun intended). Once the ACL heals and Travis is able to get back on the field in 2017, hopefully he can resume his great climb to the majors. If he can pick up where he left off, he’ll be in the majors before too long.

2015
Round 1
OF Andrew Benintendi

Rounds 3, 4, and 5 (in order)
C Austin Rei
CF Tate Matheny
CF Jagger Rusconi

It is way too early to properly assess this draft class as a whole, but 1 name that will be familiar to some is first round pick OF Andrew Benintendi. He was drafted out of Arkansas and has moved up to AA Portland this season. He is struggling a bit early on, but that’s to be expected from a 21-year old kid. The Red Sox have high hopes that Benintendi will be a great outfield talent in the future.