Bobby D is on đź”Ą

Since shortly after the trade deadline, 1B Bobby Dalbec has been tearing it up at the dish. The Red Sox brought in OF Kyle Schwarber with the intent on moving him to at least platoon at 1B with the struggling Dalbec. To add even more depth at first, the Red Sox then later added the veteran 1B Travis Shaw (and he has already made a big contribution). However, since August 5th there is no one hotter on the roster than Bobby Dalbec. Over that span, he has appeared in 17 games (13 starts) and is hitting .386 with 5 HRs and 19 RBIs. Whether it’s in response to being pushed by Schwarber and Shaw, a tweak in mechanics, or just a much-needed boost in confidence, the Red Sox are benefiting from improved production out of the young first baseman.

Bobby added to his extra base total on Thursday with a career night. He hit 2 HRs and drove in 7 runs in 4 plate appearances. You’d be hard-pressed to find a hotter hitter over that stretch and the offensive success is bleeding into his defensive play. He has just 1 error over that span of games and made a beautiful pick on a tricky ball down the line early in Thursday night’s game. In a surprising twist of fate, since August 5th, Bobby has 5 more HRs, 8 more extra base hits, and a nearly .300 point higher batting average than the New York Yankees 1B acquisition Anthony Rizzo. To be fair, Rizzo was out on the COVID IL for a stretch in there, but it’s still a win for the Red Sox (in a period of very few!).

Dalbec’s success has a ripple effect and opens up the option for Kyle Schwarber to stay in his natural position in the outfield or as an alternate DH, rather than primarily at 1B. As we have seen, it’s important to keep Schwarber in the lineup given his plate discipline and knack for getting on base. If Bobby can play most games at first and be given a spell by Travis Shaw or Kyle Schwarber, it makes this Red Sox lineup stronger top to bottom. With Schwarber being freed up to play more outfield, it allows the Red Sox to move OF Jarren Duran back to AAA to give him more regular at-bats and not keep him in situations where he looks overmatched.

The Red Sox are hanging on to the 2nd AL Wild Card spot and will need to consistently score runs to remain in the hunt. A hot #8 or #9 hitter in the lineup in Bobby D helps everyone top to bottom. Keep the Bobby đź’Łs coming.

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?

Close Games Continue to Hurt Red Sox

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Last night’s pitcher’s duel between David Price and Chris Tillman lived up to the hype. Both starters looked a little vulnerable early on, then settled in nicely with shutdown stuff. Unfortunately for Price, of the 5 hits he allowed, 2 were HRs leading to a 3-2 loss. This was the 14th game this year the Red Sox have played with the final score being a 1-run differential and they are 5-9 in those contests.

For me, close game records say a lot about a team. They give a glimpse into the team’s ability to pull together and rally. In last night’s game, the Red Sox bullpen was strong (only Craig Kimbrel for 1 inning), but their offense could not produce the big hit when needed. Earlier in the game, there were chances with runners on base and less than 2 outs that resulted in nothing.

The once over-powering offense top to bottom now has more holes than swiss cheese. Hanley Ramirez and Travis Shaw both had hits last night, but have been struggling mightily as of late. Christian Vazquez is what he is: a top tier defensive catcher who will hit in the low .200s. Jackie Bradley Jr. is coming back to earth with his average dropping from .350 on May 25th to .310 on June 15th. On their own, none of these things are season-changers, but all together it amounts to some serious struggle.

In June, the Red Sox have a 4-7 record and are 0-3 in 1-run games. Overall they are 15-17 against AL East opponents. Things are trending in the wrong direction.

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.