Red Sox Spring Training 2013 Update

With the 2013 regular season opener less than two weeks away, I thought I’d give fans an update of all the action coming out of Fort Myers, FL. The Boston Red Sox are 13-10 in Grapefruit League play this Spring and are in fourth place overall. Here’s a rundown of who has shined this Spring and what to watch for as we enter the 2013 season:

Pitch Perfect: Well, not exactly, however, the Boston Red Sox anticipated starting rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, and John Lackey have been all the buzz this Spring according to ESPNBoston.com.

This year’s rotation has posted a combined 1.99 ERA in Spring Training action (including three shutout innings by Lackey in an exhibition matchup with World Baseball Classic team Puerto Rico). When you consider the combined rotation ERA was an appalling 5.19 a season ago, that’s a significant improvement thus far.

 Lester, Buchholz, and Doubront have all shown promise of good things to come in 2013, with solid starts in their recent outings. Lester has pitched 20 innings allowing only six hits and two earned runs with 16 strikeouts. Buchholz has went 13 and 1/3 innings allowing eight hits and one run. While Doubront has pitched 8 and 2/3 innings allowing seven hits and two earned runs with 11 strikeouts.

Newcomer Ryan Dempster has posted solid numbers as well. Dempster has went 12 and 2/3 innings for Boston surrendering nine hits with three earned runs and nine strikeouts. As for Lackey, he is still a work in progress coming back from Tommy John surgery and has only worked 6 and 2/3 innings allowing six earned runs eight hits with only four strikeouts. However, Lackey has a 2.70 ERA in his last two outings for Boston, so there’s a silver lining for him.

A Future at Fenway: Arguably one of Boston’s top player prospects Jackie Bradley Jr. has had a sensational Spring showing. Bradley Jr. has posted a eye popping .436 batting average in just 18 games this Spring with nine total runs, 17 hits, eight base on balls, four RBI and one HR. Should Jonny Gomes or Shane Victorino falter in the outfield, or if Jacoby Ellsbury is stricken with injury yet again, Bradley Jr. could receive a call up this season.

Another top Sox prospect, whom we haven’t seen much of due to his participation in this year’s World Baseball Classic, Xander Bogaerts has been impressive with his glove work and faired well in the WBC for team Netherlands.

Bogaerts played in 7 games posting a .263 average with five hits, one run, and one RBI. Bogaerts has went 1 for 2 with one RBI for a .500 average in one game with the Sox in Spring Training. Should he continue to have success in the minors, Bogaerts could be on a fast-track to Fenway by next season.

Designated Dilemma: With the injury to David “Big Papi” Ortiz keeping Boston’s heavy hitter sidelined to start the regular season, the Sox need a solution at Designated Hitter. While it isn’t clear who the Red Sox will choose to fill Ortiz’ shoes until he returns, Mike Napoli would seem to be a logical solution until then.

Napoli has hit well in Fenway Park posting seven HR’s, 17 RBI, and a .710 Slugging Percentage in 19 career games at Boston. Also, Napoli has posted a .348 average with seven RBI, two HR’s, and a .652 Slugging Percentage in nine games in Grapefruit League action this year.

Granted, the Sox didn’t sign Nap to DH, they signed him to play first base and catch on nights when Jarrod Saltalamacchia needs a rest. However, with the Sox addition of Mike Carp from Seattle, Boston could slide a more than capable Carp over to first base and drop Napoli into the DH slot in the lineup, just as a temporary fix for Ortiz.

Here’s how the lineup would look with Napoli at DH and Carp at 1B:

1. OF Shane Victorino

2. OF Jacoby Ellsbury

3. 3B Will Middlebrooks

4. 2B Dustin Pedroia

5. DH Mike Napoli

6. OF Jonny Gomes

7. SS Pedro Ciriaco (who will be returning soon from his minor back spasms to replace SS Stephen Drew who hasn’t fully recovered after suffering a concussion)

8. 1B Mike Carp

9. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who I have batting 9th only to add pop to the bottom of the lineup. Salty is batting .345 with five RBI and one HR this Spring.)

Side Note: This is just a look at one internal option the Red Sox have to make up for the current loss of Ortiz. The Sox could also simply allow David Ross to catch and let Salty DH, which would keep Napoli at 1B and make for a better lineup.

Napoli would stay as the number five hitter, Salty would move up to the number six spot with Gomes moving down to seventh, Ciriaco would move to eighth, and Ross would take Salty’s place batting ninth. Regardless of what the Sox choose to do, the DH position needs to be dealt with and soon.

Final Thoughts: The Boston Red Sox are off to a solid start this Spring and look poised to turn things around in 2013. Of course, only time will tell what fate the baseball gods have in store for Beantown this year. How do you think the Sox have looked in Spring Training? Who would you have DH for Boston? Leave a comment below.

Advertisements

Red Sox Add Mike Carp Via Trade

Shipping Up to Boston: The Boston Red Sox acquired OF/1B Mike Carp this week from the Seattle Mariners, after agreeing to trade a player to be named later or a cash consideration in exchange for Carp. Carp will join the Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL tomorrow (Friday February 22nd) to begin his Spring Training.

Carp’s Numbers: In 2012 Carp batted .213 last year with 5 HR and 20 RBI in just 59

games. That’s a steady decline from 2011 when he batted .275 for 12 HR and 46 RBI in 79 games. Carp missed the majority of the past two seasons with the Mariners due to shoulder injury issues. Carp is a .255 career hitter with 18 HR and 71 RBI.

Can Carp Contribute?: Yes, yes he can. While Carp’s numbers certainly don’t leap off the stat sheet, he was acquired by the Red Sox to primarily add depth to first base and the outfield. Something the Sox certainly need this season.

The addition of Carp allows for breathing room at these positions, should Napoli’s hip injury re-surface or one of the outfielders go down. At 26 years-old Carp is a young platoon-type player that the Red Sox can work with and get solid production from, for little cost.

Final Thoughts: I like the addition of Carp in that the Sox aren’t giving up much for him and he could have tremendous upside in Boston. I look at it this way: If Carp (who has yet to play a full MLB Season) can stay healthy and provide the depth the Sox need, the trade is a great payoff. I have a feeling Carp could be the surprise of the season for Boston.

One last note on Carp coming to the Red Sox, in order to make room for him on the 40-man roster Boston had to put OF Ryan Kalish on the 60-day disabled list. Kalish you may remember is still recovering from right shoulder surgery.

Can Carp help the Red Sox this season? Leave a comment below

Red Sox Spring Training 2013

As players continue to practice this week for the beginning of Spring Training at Fort Myers, FL, here’s a rundown of what to watch for and prospects to keep tabs on this year :

Pitching Could Be Promising: According to Red Sox Ace Jon Lester, the Sox pitching staff will be ready to prove last year was a fluke and that they will be better than advertised. Lester was quoted in an article from ESPN.com saying “We can sit there and talk about it every year,” Lester said. “It’s a matter of going out and doing it. As far as potential, as far as that possibility, it’s all there. It’s just a matter of going out and actually executing and doing what we’re supposed to do.”

According to ESPNBoston.com Lester, Clay Bucholz, newcomer Ryan Dempster, even John Lackey, all showed strides of improvement in their practices this week. Lackey reportedly shed some weight this offseason and appears to be in the best shape of his career. As I mentioned in my Red Sox preview this pitching staff can absolutely get the job done. Consistency will be the key for this group of hurlers. For now the jury is still out on the rotation. However, news that Lester and Co. are fired up for this season is always good news.

Prospects to Keep An Eye On: Spring Training not only allows the returning veterans and every day lineup guys to “get back into the swing of things” , it also allows for young prospects to have a shot at proving their potential. Here’s a list of players to watch according to bleacherreport.com and ESPN’/Scouts Inc’ Keith Law:

SS Xander Bogaerts: According to ESPN’s Keith Law, Bogaerts is the fifth best prospect in the MLB. In 2012 Bogaerts hit for a 307 average with 37 doubles, 20 HR 80 RBI and 71 runs splitting time with Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. Bogaerts is considered by most to be “the” top prospect in the Bo-Sox farm system. He could very well find himself donning a Red Sox uniform in the near future, but for now we’ll see how this spring and the minors go.

 

OF Jackie Bradley Jr.: Bradley Jr. has been making a buzz in the Bo-Sox minor league system for his outstanding defensive abilities and his play at the plate is an attention grabber as well. In 2012 Bradley Jr. batted .315 with 42 doubles, nine HR, 63 RBI, and 90 runs splitting time between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland like Bogaerts. Keith Law has Bradley Jr ranked as the 40th best prospect in the majors and 2nd among Red Sox prospects.

Bradley is expected to begin the season in Double-A Portland with a possible promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket by seasons end. Depending on the future of Jacoby Ellsbury (who is a free agent at seasons end) Bradley Jr. may be coming up faster than expected.

Photo courtesy news.soxprospects.com

SS Deven Marrero: Marrero is making history with the Red Sox, as it marks the first time since the 1991-1992 season in which the Sox invited Scott Hatteberg to Spring Training after drafting him the year before.

Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington, was quoted on the decision and said while they normally don’t invite recent draftee’s they felt given the scouting history with Marrero and watching him perform at multiple levels in the game, he wanted to get Marrero familiar with their major league staff.

Marrero hit .268 with 45 runs and 26 stolen bases in 64 games with Single-A Lowell last year. Marrero, of course, has a ways to go before being called up. Nevertheless, he is certainly a prospect to keep track of in the near future.

Other players to watch this Spring include: SS Jose Iglesias, INF Pedro Ciriaco, P Allen Webster, P Rubby De la Rosa, OF Daniel Nava (who has been fielding balls at 1B in practices), and C Ryan Lavarnway.

Nava, Lavarnway, Iglesias, and more recently (last year) Ciriaco have had success in platoon/backup roles for the Red Sox and could see more games this season. Webster and De la Rosa (both acquired in the Beckett, Crawford, Gonzalez deal with LA) could and should work their way into the starting rotation at some point in the season.

Side note on Iglesias: His timeframe for earning a starting role at SS or 2B is dwindling. With recently signed SS Stephen Drew being the Sox everyday guy, and  up and comers Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero in his rear view mirror, Iglesias is in a bit of a pressure cooker to perform.

Final Thoughts: Spring Training is always chock-full of interesting developments and has produced a plethora of players who have become household names today. It will be interesting to see how these and many other invitees perform for the Red Sox in the weeks to come. Who do you think will shine this Spring? Leave a comment below.

Boston Red Sox 2013 Season Preview

With pitchers and catchers meeting in Fort Myers, FL this Sunday (Feb.10th) baseball season is officially back!! Well alright, “technically” it’s not back until Feb. 21st when the Red Sox  play Northeastern in their first scheduled Spring Training game. Nevertheless, with the season, and spring, right around the corner; I thought I’d give the Fenway Faithful a preview of what 2013 should look like for the Bo-Sox.

Likely Lineups:

1.OF Shane Victorino

2. OF Jacoby Ellsbury

3. 2B Dustin Pedroia

4. DH David Ortiz

5. 1B Mike Napoli

6. OF Jonny Gomes

7. 3B Will Middlebrooks

8. SS Stephen Drew

9. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Granted this is just a rough draft of what the lineup “could look like”. Only John Farrell will truly be able to assemble a proper lineup when spring training is complete. For now, the above lineup is my take on where Farrell may go with the batting order.

The lineup could very well have Ellsbury and Napoli batting Cleanup at 3 and 4 which would then likely shift Dustin Pedroia to bat 2nd in front of Ellsbury and have Papi batting 5th after Napoli. Also, Farrell may choose to have a healthy Ellsbury be the lead-off hitter, which Ellsbury has certainly had success at in seasons past. However if Ellsbury puts up 2011 numbers this season, having him 2nd or 3rd could be more beneficial for the Red Sox as far as RBI production is concerned.

Lastly, the bottom of the order is subject to change as well. Middlebrooks, Gomes, and Drew could all bat lower or higher based on their spring training results. Salty will stay at the bottom of the order until he can prove he’s the switch hitting prodigy he was supposed to be. Only time will tell what the everyday batting order will eventually look like.

5 Man Rotation:

1. Jon Lester. 2. Ryan Dempster. 3. Clay Bucholz. 4. Felix Doubront. 5. John Lackey

While the pitching rotation isn’t exactly terrifying to many teams in the majors, this assembly of arms can get the job done for Boston. Lester and Bucholz will have to bounce back, Dempster will have to pitch more consistently than in seasons past, Felix Doubront will have to prove he wasn’t just a one year wonder baller, and John Lackey will have to return to his prime if the Sox want to get the most wins out of this group.

The rotation may change throughout the season, as it often does, as the Red Sox have options should one of these guys fold. Boston can bring up the likes of Rubby De la Rosa or Allen Webster from Triple-A Pawtucket if those two show they are primed for a big league day job.

Also, Boston could add to the Rotation if they choose to sign still-free-agent starting pitcher Kyle Lohse (formerly with the St. Louis Cardinals). Again like the lineup above, only time will tell what is working, and what needs to be worked out.

The Pen:

Relievers: 1. Andrew Bailey 2. Koji Uehara 3. Daniel Bard 4. Craig Breslow 5. Alfredo Aceves

Closer: Joel Hanrahan

The Red Sox Bullpen as it stands right now is the strongest weapon Boston has entering this season. While the 5-man rotation could use some re-tooling, and our lineup is still missing a big bat or two, the pen looks to have great promise in 2013.

Boston went out in the off-season and added the likes of relievers Koji Uehara and Craig Breslow, and new closer Joel Hanrahan to sure up the 7th,8th and 9th innings for this year. All of which were inexpensive upgrades that should ultimately pay off for the Red Sox.

Win-Loss/ Post-Season Projections:

Though I’m a die-hard Red Sox fan to my very core, I must blog with a sense of realism in making these next few predictions.

Win-Loss Record: 85-77 (I didn’t just come up with this record out of thin air just so you know. I went through the entire schedule and chose game by game what I thought were wins and losses for the Red Sox.)

AL East Finish: I sadly have the Red Sox finishing third this year just ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays by a few games. I see the Toronto Blue Jays meeting everyone’s expectations and winning the east with the Yankees somehow frustratingly finishing in 2nd place. The Orioles return to their usual spot, in the AL East’ cellar in last place.

Postseason: With the Sox finishing third by my count, there will be no post-season play for this Red Sox group. I have the Blue Jays clinching a spot with the division crown and the New York Yankees beating out Boston for the final of two Wild Card spots by a few games.

Final Thoughts: I whole heartedly hope I’m way wrong about my season predictions for the Red Sox. I hope some how, some way, the Red Sox can bring back some of that 2004 magic and sneak into the post-season. Realistically though, I only foresee a minor improvement for Boston as this is a rebuilding year. I look at it this way, ANY results this season should be better than last seasons 69-93 last place finish. How do you see the 2013 season going for Boston? Leave a comment below.