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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Keith Law Still High on Blake Swihart

Keith Law released his updated Top 50 Prospect List today. Blake Swihart still sits at #10 overall and is the highest Red Sox prospect listed.

Yoan Moncada, who signed after Law released his initial list, comes in at #16. 

The Red Sox don't appear willing to give up Swihart in a deal for Cole Hamels, especially now with the injury to Christian Vasquez.

Here is what Law had to say about Swihart:

The Red Sox won't give him up for Cole Hamels, and I don't think I would either. He's a super-athletic catcher with outstanding receiving and throwing skills, a good approach as a hitter and developing power. It's a potential All-Star set of tools and skills at a position that half of the clubs in baseball are trying to fill every winter.

The Red Sox have a total of four prospects in the Top 50. Here is Law's breakdown of the other three:

Yoan Moncada at #16

Moncada received a record $31 million bonus from the Red Sox, which doesn't reflect the 100 percent penalty the team paid for signing him or the draconian restrictions they'll face the next two years in the international amateur market. He's a massive kid for a 19-year-old, well filled out with power from both sides of the plate yet with enough athleticism to stay on the dirt in the short term, most likely at second base. I expect him to start out in A-ball and move up quickly if he shows he's too advanced for either low- or high-A.

Henry Owens at #21:

I don't see how any GM could get a call from the Red Sox without asking for Owens in any major deal, as Owens continues to rack up strikeouts as he moves up the ladder, reaching Triple-A last year at age 21. He was wild and ineffective in his spring training stint this year, but given his track record in real games, I don't think anyone should be concerned about him throwing strikes.


Eduardo Rodriguez at #29:

Rodriguez faced 29 batters this spring, punching out nine and walking none. The last stat is the only one here I think has much if any significance in the tiny spring training sample, especially because Rodriguez's deficiencies as a prospect were areas such as command and feel for pitching. He has two plus pitches, with the breaking ball gradually improving. Getting him for two months of Andrew Miller looks like a genius move by Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.





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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Forgetting Derek Jeter

I joked this would happen when the Yankees traded for Didi Gregorius. My joke has become a reality but even faster than I thought and not from Yankee fans but from actual Yankee players. In this piece by Ken Rosenthal, Yankee players gush over the defense by their new shortstop. It is almost like they haven't seen a shortstop with range in their lifetime....anyway...let's take a look at some of these quotes, most notably the ones from Alex Rodriguez

AROD seems to go out of his way to praise the defense of Didi. A well-played passive aggressive move by AROD. I defend AROD in this case especially since out of pure pettiness Jeter made AROD's life as a Yankee much harder than it had to be. This started in 2004 when a below average defensive SS in Jeter refused to change positions in favor of AROD who was the best defensive SS in the game.

“Didi is unbelievable, as good a shortstop as I’ve seen,” first baseman Mark Teixeira said. “And I’m not overexaggerating.”

“He has a rare combination of speed and explosiveness. But what you don’t see is an incredibly strong arm that is so accurate. That combination is lethal,” Rodriguez said.


“What you see in a lot of young players are 6 or 7 arms, but then their accuracy is 3 or 4. Which is normal, par for the course. As they get older, they go from a 7-1/2 arm to about a 5-1/2 or 6-1/2 and their accuracy goes to about 6. But when you have that combination at 25 years old of crazy range, 7-plus arm, 7-plus accuracy ... even Ozzie [Smith], he had 7 accuracy but he didn’t have 7 arm strength"- Alex Rodriguez




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Friday, March 27, 2015

How Believable is David Ortiz?


When it comes to athletes and PED use the rule of thumb is to not believe a word out of their mouths, We have been burned too many times. David Ortiz came out swinging in this Players Tribune piece about his innocence when it comes to being a cheater. He uses two defense mechanisms synonymous with PED users and liars. The first is that "he never knowingly" took any PEDs. This is out of the Barry Bonds playbook. His second defense rationale is to point to his lack of failed drug tests. This has been used by the likes of Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez, not exactly great company. Until there is blood testing the argument that you never failed a test is a bit flimsy. Does this make Ortiz a liar? Not necessarily.

It is now 2015, Ortiz showed up on the list of those who failed a test in 2003. It has been 12 years and in that time Ortiz's name has not been brought up in any new allegations. There hasn't been a supplier that has come forward, his name has not surfaced in any federal investigations of PED labs. Either David Ortiz is the smartest cheater ever or he is telling the truth and has been clean. I realize I am biased, but I find it hard to believe that if Ortiz has been a rampant user for the last decade plus that he has managed to keep it quiet. The world is too small now. I am not naive though, I realize there could be a breaking news story tomorrow that the Federal Government is investigating some drug lab and Ortiz's name is at the top of the list and has been a client for the last decade. However, as each day passes, and we get further away from 2003 you start to find Ortiz's explanation logical. He says he was taking supplements over the counter from GNC and the only explanation he has for his failed test in 2003 is there may have been something in what he was taking that was tagged as illegal by MLB. This explanation does hold merit because there are things you can get over the counter at a place like GNC that MLB does consider illegal. If Ortiz is telling the truth, his anger is justified. If he is lying, he joins a growing list. I believe him....until further notice.


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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Trying to Predict the AL East


Trying to predict the AL East for 2015 is not easy. There doesn't appear to be a great team and there definitely is not a bad team. You could make a case for each team winning the AL East and for each team coming in dead last. The experts have jumped on the Red Sox as the team to beat. They have had the sexiest off-season. The experts also seem to be abandoning the Tampa Bay Rays as contenders. The Blue Jays season may have just ended with the season ending injury to Marcus Stroman. While Cole Hamels could be the guy to take one of these teams over the top. I decided to look at talent to see where each team ranks in the AL East. I turned to Eric Karabell of ESPN and his Top 250 fantasy players for 2015. I realize that fantasy projections are much different than the pieces you need to make a championship team. However, I do think this can give you to some insight on overall talent on each team.

What We Already Knew:

The Boston Red Sox have the best lineup in the AL East. They have eight position players in the top 250, most of any team in the AL East. Hanley Ramirez leads the way at 24th overall. The question marks are Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo. Betts continues to get praise. One scout says he could be an All Star this year. His 89th overall ranking might be low. Castillo is a big question mark. He is battling injuries right now and there is some concern over his plate discipline.

The other thing we already knew is that the Red Sox have pitching issue. Not one starting pitcher for the Red Sox made the top 250 players. Koji Uehara was the only pitcher for the Red Sox to make the list period. There is a chance the Sox go out and get Hamels or they may have an ace already in their system ready to step up. Keep an eye on Eduardo Rodriguez.

What We Didn't Know:

The Tampa Bay Rays are the most balanced team in the division and might just be the best. Their over/under win total in Las Vegas is sitting at 79. You might want to jump on that.

BostonRankTorontoRankNew YorkRankBaltimoreRankTampa BayRank
Mike Napoli145Russell Martin233Brian McCann188Matt Wieters190Asrubal Cabrera231
Dustin Pedroia75Edwin Encarnacion7Mark Teixeira235Chris Davis54Evan Longoria35
Pablo Sandoval103Jose Reyes44Chase Headley214Steve Pearce187Steven Souza100
Xander Bogaerts163Jose Bautista6Jacoby Ellsbury22Manny Machado110Alex Cobb69
Hanley Ramirez24Dalton Pompey247Brett Gardner81Adam Jones12Chris Archer160
Mookie Betts89Aaron Sanchez213Masahiro Tanaka91Steve Pearce187Drew Smyly167
Rusney Castillo90Dellin Betances105Kevin Gausman228Jake Odorizzi200
David Ortiz58Zach Britton154Jake McGee237
Koji Uehara118Brad Boxberger246
8 Postion Players935 Postion Players1075 Position Players1486 Position Players1233 Position Players122
0 Starting PitchersNA0 Starting PitchersNA1 Starting Pitcher911 Starting Pitcher2284 Starting Pitchers149
1 Relief Pitcher1181 Relief Pitcher2131 Relief Pitcher1051 Relief Pitcher1542 Relief Pitchers242
9 Players966 Players1257 Players1348 Players1409 Players161




BostonTorontoNew YorkBaltimoreTampa Bay
Position Players1st3rd4th2nd5th
Starting Pitchers5th5th2nd3rd1st
Relief Pitchers3rd5th2nd4th1st
913897

The balance of the Rays gives them first place predicted finish followed by the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays. Marcus Stroman was ranked #168 before he was injured. His presence would have given the Blue Jays the third best starting pitching but it still would have left them in last place in this prediction.

How accurate will this turn out to be? That remains to be seen, but what it does show is that these teams are all bunched up together and it will really come down to who can stay healthy and who makes the best trading deadline moves. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Answering Questions on the 2015 Red Sox

Daniel Shoptaw, of Cardinals Conclave, does a yearly series he calls "Playing Pepper". He poses a few questions to bloggers of specific teams on the upcoming season. For the second year in a row, I was one of the Red Sox bloggers who participated. Here is our question and answer section:


C70: What are your thoughts on the team’s off-season? Did they do what they needed to do?
PP: I think the Red Sox offseason was a success and a case can be made that they had the best offseason of any team in the majors. Their major needs were offensive and they addressed that, especially in the outfield. Hanley Ramirez is that right handed power bat that they need,Rusney Castillo has looked impressive and all indications point to him being a regular All Star caliber type of player. Third base was also an issue last year and the Red Sox filled that hole with Pablo Sandoval. I think Pablo is a very good player who landed a superstar contract. My fear is that he will try to live up to that contract instead of just playing his game. Carl Crawford tried to become a home run hitter in Boston because he felt his contract required that. That is always the concern when a player leaves his original organization for the first time and signs a contract that is bigger than what his numbers justify.
The Sox added depth to their pitching staff and this actually started last season during their fire sale. However, the Red Sox will go into the season without a true ace. This is uncharted waters for this organization.This is the first season since 1997 that the Red Sox don’t have that #1 guy in the rotation. The Red Sox did add depth in their rotation. Rick PorcelloWade Miley and Justin Masterson are all quality pieces. I think this bodes well for a successful regular season. I do think you need that ace for the postseason though. It will be interesting to see if the Sox go out and get one before the trading deadline if they appear to be postseason bound.
C70: What do you expect out of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig this season?
PP: Joe Kelly is slated as the #5 guy in the rotation and I think he is going to excel there. I don’t think many teams have a guy with Kelly’s abilities at the bottom of their rotation. The issue will be his durability. He has yet to throw more than 124 innings in a season.
Allen Craig is a man without a spot right now. The outfield is loaded. Hanley Ramirez is slated for LF. Rusney Castillo is slated for CF and then you will have a battle in RF between a very motivated veteran in a contract year in Shane Victorino and the future in Mookie Betts. Unless there are a ton of injuries I don’t see Craig getting any significant time in the outfield. Then there is first base, Mike Napoli is the starter and I think Napoli is due for a big year. He has battled sleep apnea for year and it was so bad last year that he would have to be taken out of games because he was so fatigued. He had major surgery in the offseason to correct the structure of his face which will allow him to get quality sleep. All reports are that the surgery was a success and he feels like a new man. Craig appears to be on the outside looking in.
C70: Has it been tough following the roller-coaster of this team over the past few years?
PP: A World Series title sandwiched between two last place teams has definitely been different. Even though the 2012 and 2014 teams finished in last place and had horrible seasons they had very different vibes about them. It was embarrassing and depressing being a Red Sox fan in 2012. The Sox just came off one of the worst collapses in baseball history, Theo Epstein bolted for the Cubs, Francona was “fired” and then personal information about him was leaked by the organization, Bobby Valentine was the manager. The confidence in the organization was real low. The baseball people weren’t running the team anymore. It was a clown show. 2012 played out just like everyone feared. It was awful to watch. The 2014 team just had a bad year. Everything that went right in 2013, went wrong in 2014. They couldn’t stay healthy, guys who had great years in 2013, struggled in 2014. The Sox went with a youth movement and it didn’t work out. The offense was anemic and clearly they weren’t a great team. Despite that, you still had the glow of the 2013 team and you felt the future was bright. It is not a model that teams are going to sign up to follow, but the two last place finishes have enabled the Red Sox to build up depth in their organization. Eduardo Rodriguez is a left handed pitcher in their organization, he is rated as the 3rd best in the organization and 29th best in all of baseball. He is projected as a top of the rotation type of guy in the very near future. The Red Sox acquired him last year from the Orioles for Andrew Miller. The Red Sox don’t make that trade if they are having a great season. That was just one move of many. Is it tough? Going through it is tough, but the Red Sox are in better shape now because of those two last place teams.
C70: What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?
PP: The obvious pick is Mookie Betts just like Xander Bogaerts was last year. That didn’t work out too well. I am going to go away from the obvious and pick Rick Porcello. It will be interesting to see if he gets the Opening Day start. He is the de facto ace and I think that he may just embrace that role and finally find the consistency he has been lacking so far in his young career. The talent is definitely there.
C70: What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
PP: I think the Red Sox win 90 games and win the AL East. The AL East is not bad but it isn’t great either.. There is not a bad team in the division but there isn't a great one.  I think the Red Sox will be good and are built for the regular season. They have question marks like all teams but I think they have less questions than the rest of the teams in the AL East.
C70: What do you like best about being a Red Sox fan?
PP: The importance of the Red Sox is what I like most about being a Red Sox fan. Every game is an event, every transaction is analyzed to death. It is like 162 straight Saturday afternoons in the world of SEC Football.

You can check out the rest of the Red Sox bloggers and their answers to their questions here.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Future is Cuban for the Red Sox


The Red Sox went 86 years between winning the World Series. Most of that was due to bad pitching, some bad luck and a lack of great players. In 1947, the color line was broken in MLB and there were a handful of teams that used it to their advantage by bringing in talented black ballplayers. The Red Sox were not one of those teams.

Willie Mays could have been in the same outfield with Ted Williams but the Sox passed on him due to the color of his skin. Mays was just one of many the Sox didn't sign because of skin pigment and by doing so the Red Sox were irrelevant for much of the 1950s and 1960s. The Red Sox were the last team to have a black player on their roster. The Red Sox history with race is not a proud one and superficially their stance hurt the product on the field. The Curse of the Bambino? No, lack of great ballplayers and a thing called karma.

Ted Williams would never get a ring and he has ownership to thank for that. He played his last decade plus on bad teams that had no shot and very little talent. At least Teddy understood it and during his Hall of Fame speech sung the praises of the black ballplayers like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson who had Hall of Fame talent but not Hall of Fame opportunity. Ted got it and the current Red Sox also get it.

The relations between the United States and Cuba have softened and from a baseball perspective that is huge news as Cuban ballplayers can now come to the United States and play baseball easier than ever. The Red Sox are one of the few teams really jumping on this opportunity.

The Red Sox signed Rusney Castillo last year and Yoan Moncada (unofficially) this year. The Red Sox brought their money with them and outbid the other interested MLB teams including the Yankees. Moncada is just 19 years old but has 5 tool talent. The Yankees put a cap on his value, the Red Sox put a higher cap on his value. Will the Red Sox be right? That remains to be seen. Undoubtedly there will be Cuban players who don't pan out just like other prospects who don't make it, however, the Sox feel the Cuban route will pay off in a big way down the road. Ben Cherington and his staff see the big picture. Cuba's number one sport is baseball. Their best athletes play baseball. Yasiel Puig is a freak athlete for baseball, if he grew up in the United States he would have been recruited to play football for an SEC school and drafted by an NFL team. In Cuba, the great athletes like Puig play baseball. The best athletes in the United States no longer play baseball. The Red Sox, like the Dodgers almost 70 years ago are ahead of the game, and their future will have a Cuban look to it.      


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Monday, March 9, 2015

Career in Jeopardy for Cliff Lee


There was talk that the Red Sox should go after Cliff Lee instead of Cole Hamels. The Sox would like to add pitching without giving up Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart. The consensus was the Red Sox could get Lee without giving up those two. The issue? Lee's health and that question reared its ugly head this weekend as Cliff Lee complained of elbow discomfort. 



"It would be 6-8 months out," Lee said. "So basically if I have the surgery this season will be done. Possibly my career I guess. I don't know. We'll have to see."
Lee said he "felt a little something" in his elbow Friday, the day after his spring debut, in the same place where he dealt with an injury last season, and that it had been months since he felt any pain.
"And it was really mild, but, it's just concerning because I knew what it turned into last year, and I just wanted to be open. I wasn't trying to hide anything," Lee said. "I truly felt nothing for months and then all of a sudden there it is after the first time I pitch in a game. I was open and honest with our trainers and hoped to nip it in the bud as quick as we can and hope that it's just a little twinge or something from really cranking it up the first time in a while."
Lee made just 13 starts last season and did not undergo surgery on the elbow after three doctors told him he'd have an "upper-90 percent chance" to heal by rest.

Look for the Red Sox to stand pat for now and that may mean losing out on Hamels to the Yankees. Reports suggest that the Yankees are the closest to acquiring him. Betts and Swihart have a chance to be special and the Red Sox might have an ace emerge organically this season. One thing is for sure, the Cliff Lee option is all but dead and if not, the price just went down.




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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Rusney Castillo Tops List of Fantasy Prospects

Rusney Castillo is listed as the #1 Fantasy Prospect for the upcoming season. Christopher Crawford compiled a Top 50 list for ESPN. Here is what Crawford had to say about Castillo:


1. Rusney Castillo, OF, Boston Red Sox
Thanks to opportunity, impressive athletic talent and his ability to win you a category, Castillo starts the year as our top fantasy prospect for 2015. His calling card is his speed, and it wouldn't shock me if he were among the league leaders in stolen bases at the end of the year. There's raw power in his right-handed bat, but he's more of a doubles hitter than a guy who's going to put up big home run totals. My concern right now is whether he'll hit for average, as while he has a swing path that should allow him to do so, he doesn't have the plate discipline to put himself into position on a consistent basis. That being said, he doesn't have to be a .300 hitter to have value, as Castillo should give you 30 to 40 stolen bases and 12 to 15 homers as an every-day member of the Red Sox outfield.


Castillo was not the only Red Sox prospect to make the list. Henry Owens was ranked #28, Garin Cecchini #45 and Blake Swihart #50


28. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Owens took another step forward in 2014, posting an ERA under three in his two minor league stops and striking out over a hitter an inning in the process. His change is already a plus offering thanks to its tumbling action and deception from arm speed, and it's complemented by a 90-93 fastball and a solid-average curveball. The command comes and goes, as it does for many 22-year-olds, and there are still scouts who question whether he'll miss bats at the big league level. While I don't think he'll be the strikeout artist he was in the minors, I do think there's enough here to put up his fair share, and it wouldn't surprise me if he were a member of the Red Sox pitching staff by the All-Star break.

45. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox

Cecchini's calling card is his approach at the plate, though he didn't show nearly as much discipline in his disappointing 2014. Still, Cecchini has a chance to hit at the big league level, thanks to his quality pitch recognition skills and a line-drive stroke that isn't conducive to power but does let him spray the ball to all parts of the field. If there's an injury to any of the corner infielders or David Ortiz, Cecchini is likely the next man up, and he should do a serviceable job if that's the case

50. Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox

Swihart is the best catching prospect in baseball, and has made marked improvement every year in the Boston system. He has a solid swing from both sides of the plate, and like J.T. Realmuto, he's the rare catcher who can give you more than a handful of steals as well. There's more offensive upside here than in either Christian Vazquez or Ryan Hanigan, but because the glove isn't as advanced he likely spends most -- if not all -- of the year in Pawtucket.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Is Shane Victorino on the Trade Block?

The Red Sox have a crowded outfield and some decisions to make. Could one of them be to trade Shane Victorino? It appears possible according to Peter Abraham who made his first prediction of what the Red Sox final roster would look like without Victorino. Abraham explains that Mookie Betts has to be in the lineup. He is too good not to be playing everyday. The question is what could the Sox get for Victorino and after last year do you really want to turn over the outfield keys to Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez who is playing in the oufield for the first time? Victorino is getting older, he is injury prone but he is also proven. He appears to be healthy and motivated to have a big year in the final year of his contract. Do the Red Sox really want to trade that? Stay tuned.

Here is Abraham's Roster Projection:


LINEUP (9)


RF Mookie Betts (R)
2B Dustin Pedroia (R)
DH David Ortiz (L)
LF Hanley Ramirez (R)
3B Pablo Sandoval (S)
1B Mike Napoli (R)
CF Rusney Castillo (R)
SS Xander Bogaerts (R)



BENCH (4)

OF-1B Allen Craig

ROTATION (5)

BULLPEN (7)

LHP Robbie Ross Jr.


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