Author Archive

2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 10 Third Basemen

The population of third basemen in Major League Baseball is talented and getting increasingly young, and with the promotion of Manny Machado and impending ascension of top prospects Anthony Rendon, Nick Castellanos and Mike Olt (if he stays at 3B), the position is getting deeper and becoming even younger.. 

With that said, it should be understood the position has several question marks among the top echelon of players (ie, health issues, consistency issues), so in consideration of the depth of the position it may be advisable to wait until the middle rounds to make a selection if you do not get one of the top three or four options.

Of course, even in the middle rounds there will be some questions that attach to your selection, but if you’re going to select a third baseman with some questions it would be better to gamble with a fifteenth round pick than a fourth or fifth round pick.

(NOTE: Hanley Ramirez is included among the shortstops, as opposed to the third basemen)

Related articles: Top 10 Catchers, Top 10 First Basemen, Top 10 Second Basemen

Begin Slideshow

2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 10 Catchers

Over the years, many fantasy baseball aficionados viewed the catching position as one that could largely be ignored in auctions and drafts. While there have always been a handful of catchers worth owning, they often went for too much money in auctions or far too early in drafts, so many owners filled their slots with $1 pick-ups (auctions) or late-round fliers in drafts. The best thing these owners could say about their catchers was “His batting average won’t kill me” or “He will not get enough at-bats to skew my average.”

This viewpoint was not a ringing endorsement of the talent (or lack thereof) an owner was able to stick behind the plate.

As we look ahead toward the 2013 baseball season, the position appears much deeper than it has been in many years, with four guys who appear to be something of a sure thing in terms of fantasy production and value. Among the next half-dozen backstops there are several who have asterisks after their names, either because of injury or the lack of a substantive track record.

In compiling my rankings, I have taken injury history into account (i.e., Victor Martinez), and I have added value to those players who qualify at multiple positions (Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli).

(NOTE: If not for his qualifying at multiple positions, Napoli wouldn’t have made the list due to his horrific batting average and potential hip problems (can you say Bo Jackson?), but the fact he can be slotted at catcher while playing most days at 1B or DH forced me to put him on my list. Barely!)

Begin Slideshow

Boston Red Sox Legend Ted Williams To Be Honored by USPS with Postage Stamp

Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams was larger than life and possessed the stuff of legend. He was both a baseball hero and a war hero, serving as a naval aviator (USMC pilot) during WWII (1942-46) and the Korean War (1952-53).

He was the last baseball player to hit .400 during the regular season while having enough at-bats to qualify for a batting title (.406 in 1941).

He was famous for having a sometimes acerbic personality as well as his battles with the press and the sometimes-unappreciative Boston baseball fans, and he was renowned for being an avid and skilled fisherman.

Legend has it Williams once told a friend, “All I want out of life is that when I walk down the street, folks will say, ‘There goes the greatest hitter that ever lived.’” That tale was woven into the fabric of the movie, “The Natural,” based on Bernard Malamud’s novel of the same name.

There are many baseball aficionados, pundits and ballplayers who truly believe that Williams was, in fact, the greatest hitter who has ever lived. Williams’ contemporary and equal, New York Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio, once said, “He was absolutely the best hitter I ever saw.”

He was (and still is) the subject of a great cornucopia of art and photography and literature of all sorts, from books to an assortment of magazine articles and short stories.

The most famous and revered prose of which he was the subject undoubtedly was John Updike’s essay, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” which was published in the New Yorker magazine in October 1960, approximately one month after he played his last game in a Red Sox uniform.

“Hub Fans” recounts Williams’ last game for the Red Sox, played on Sept. 28. In the article, the Pulitzer Prize winner famously coined the term, “lyric little bandbox” to describe Fenway Park. Of Williams, he wrote:

No other player visible to my generation has concentrated within himself so much of the sport’s poignance, has so assiduously refined his natural skills, has so constantly brought to the place the intensity of competence that crowds the throat with joy.

It was that single-mindedness that made Williams such an extraordinary hitter and has led many to wonder what kind of numbers he ultimately would have compiled if he had not missed more than five years (in his prime) to the cause of war.

It was that greatness that led the baseball world to bestow a variety of nicknames on him: “The Splendid Splinter,” “Teddy Ballgame,” “The Thumper” and, simply, “The Kid.”

“Hub Fans” was drenched with romanticism and sentimentality. It recounted Williams’ last home run.

Updike wrote that Red Sox fans and coaches (and even the umpires) pleaded with No. 9 to come out of the dugout and tip his cap to the adoring masses (actually, there were only 10,454 on hand that day) after the home run, but Williams, embittered by what he perceived to be an excess of criticism over the years, refused.

The author eschewed the temptation to dip into the well of negativity…with respect to Williams’ refusal, he noted, “Gods do not answer letters.”

Maybe not, but they ARE oft-times honored by society on a continuing basis and in a variety of ways. Updike’s story has been must-read fodder for baseball fans for more than a half-century…it has helped to keep his memory alive for his generation and will paint an indelible image of his epic persona for all succeeding generations of baseball fans.

And now we learn that The Kid will be honored by the United States Postal Service in its upcoming “Major League Baseball All-Stars” collection, which will be sold at post offices next year.

According to multiple sources, including, Williams is the fourth and final all-star to be included in the set (Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby and Willie Stargell were previously confirmed as subjects in the four-stamp series).

It is art of a different milieu; stamps are widely considered the most available and easily afforded form of art available.

The illustration depicts Williams in his bright white Red Sox uniform with red piping. He has just finished a picture-perfect swing. His left shoulder has been jerked under his chin in the process of following through.

His left forearm ripples, clearly demonstrating the strain and force of the swing. His piercing stare follows the flight path of the newly-struck baseball as it rips through the summer air.

You assume the strike has produced a line drive, as Williams’ stare is not drawn upwards towards a soaring fly ball but rather seems fixed on a line drive towards right-center field—you assume he is following one of the 1,537 singles he struck throughout his career.

With just a little imagination, his keen batting eye and refined swing mechanics are on display, and they will be displayed on the upper-right-hand corner of envelopes and packages mailed in the United States for the next few years.

It is an honor that the cantankerous 40-year-old slugger would have scoffed at and the mellowed 80-year-old retiree would have embraced…who’d have thunk it back in the day?

Read more MLB news on

Red Sox Absolutely Must Acquire a Starting Pitcher Before Trade Deadline

Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz hasn’t pitched since June 16th, when he was pulled from his start in Tampa after allowing one run over five innings. The next morning, Red Sox Nation read that his back was acting up, and he might have to go on the DL.

Word was that he would have to miss a couple of starts to give his back some rest, and the question seemed to be whether he would be able to return for a start before the All-Star break or whether he would be held out until the start of the second half.

In the ensuing weeks, Buchholz has seen three back specialists…and he is scheduled to see a fourth on Monday.

The Red Sox front office has typically held its cards close to its vest. I find it VERY curious team management has discussed Buchholz’ upcoming appointment as openly as it has. And I find the timing of the appointment to be very curious—as it comes the day after the non-waiver trade deadline (don’t forget, teams can still make trades in August as long as players have slid through waivers).

It suggests to me the team knows a lot more about the young Texans’ status than they are letting on, and it suggests to me that the news isn’t especially good.

Begin Slideshow

Red Sox End-Of-May Report Card, Part I: The Pitching Staff

After struggling through a brutal month of April, the Red Sox began playing up to their potential during the month of May, going 19-10 and temporarily pulling into first place before slumping as the month came to a close.

The month included a seven-game winning streak, an 11-0 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels and back-to-back wins in which the offense scored a pair of touchdowns.

The offense hit .287 in May and produced 156 runs (5.38 runs per game), but the pitching staff wasn’t quite as successful, posting a 4.01 ERA in the month.

The starting rotation won more games in May than it had in April (13, as opposed to 10), but saw its ERA increase by more than a quarter of a run (4.14, as opposed to 3.83 in April).

On the other hand, the bullpen was dramatically better…posting a much better record (6-4, as opposed to 1-5 in April) and lower its ERA by nearly a run-and-a-half (3.76, down from 5.13).

With the first weekend of June upon us, it is time for me to distribute my report card for the first two months of the 2011 campaign.

Over the course of the next two days, I will present my report card for the ballclub through the first two months of the 2011 season. Today, I start with the pitching staff… tomorrow I’ll examine the hitters:


The Starting Rotation

Josh Beckett: A-

He was surprisingly strong in April, and somehow managed to be even better during May despite not having a lot to show for it (thanks to paltry run support).

Last month, he went 2-1, with an exceptional 1.00 ERA (4 ER in 36 IP) and 1.17 WHIP (up from April, when it was just 0.85).

I am not saying he is the pitcher he was back in 2007-08, he is not—his strikeout-rate is three-quarters of a point lower and his walk-rate is nearly double what it was back in the day—and according to, less than half of his pitches are in the strike zone (his zone rating is just 48.8% thus far in 2011).

Plus, his ground ball to fly ball ratio is nearly 1-to-1 thus far in 2011. These are harbingers of potential problems for later in the season…but all things being equal, the ballclub will take it. He seems to have reinvented himself on the mound.

He is pitching more to contact. He is relying less on his fastball (52% in 2011) and curve (17%) while using his cutter (17%) and changeup (14%) far more often.

He only averaged six innings per start throughout the month of May, but when the results are as good as they were it is hard to complain about length of outings… still, there is enough to be concerned about here that he doesn’t get an “A.”


Clay Buchholz: B

After sleepwalking through the month of April, Clay flipped the switch in May… it truly was a Tale of Two Pitchers. After going 1-3, 5.33 in April, he went 3-0, 2.08 in May.

But it is the peripherals that really underscore how well he pitched in May: opponents hit just .204 against him, his WHIP was 0.95, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was an outstanding 3.63-to-1 over 39 IP (he walked 8 batters all month).

His grade lags due to his slow start, and while I am cautiously optimistic moving forward, I see warning signs on the horizon: most notably, he has thrown just 44% of his pitches for strikes in 2011.

If hitters start to lay off his offerings, he’ll either issue more walks or have to give them better pitches to swing at…and then what happens?


John Lackey: F

A rough April turned into an unbelievably horrific May for Lackey, and after two starts early in the month he was shut down with a tender elbow, but the widespread conjecture is that his struggles have had nothing to do with any physical discomfort in his right arm.

Most pundits believe his struggles are a direct result of issues in his personal life—that is to say, his focus is lacking (no pun intended) when he is at the ballpark as a result of his wife’s battle with cancer.

While his dilemma is understandable and we can all sympathize with his plight, his manager and teammates need him to do a better job of blocking those issues from his mind when he toes the rubber.

It’s a lot to ask, but if he leans how to do it he may be able to use baseball as an escape from those things in life that really matter…


Jon Lester: B

Lester has got it all backwards. He is a usually slow starter who gets better as the weather heats up before faltering in the intense heat of August, but the 2011 season thus far hasn’t followed form.

He was strong in April (3-1, 2.52), raising Red Sox Nation’s expectations this would develop into his first Cy Young campaign… but those hopes were dashed by a brutal May—during which he posted a 5.50 ERA over 36 IP (though his record was 4-1).

He pitched well in Cleveland 10 days ago and it appeared he had turned things around, but the White Sox hammered him on Monday night (5.2 IP, 7 ER, 8 H, 4 BB), so we are again left to wonder what is going on with our would-be ace.

Thanks to his offense, he was 2-0, with 1 No Decision, in three games in which he allowed 14 earned runs in just 17.1 IP; otherwise, he would be a .500 pitcher with nearly a 4.00 ERA through the first two months of the season.


Tim Wakefield: C+

With Matsuzaka’s career in Boston apparently concluded (or close to being finished), his regular spot in the rotation will reportedly be handed off to knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, though I think it should go to Alfredo Aceves.

I know I am beating a dead horse here, but Wakefield is getting older and he has a chronic bad back. Taking a regular turn in the rotation will not benefit either the pitcher or the ballclub… but we all know that he wants to set the mark for most wins in team history.

He threatens to be a sullen influence in the corner of the clubhouse (a la Nomar Garciaparra, in ‘03 and ‘04) if he doesn’t get his way, so it seems the manager is going to appease him by letting him have Dice-K’s slot at the back end of the rotation.

He is 2-1, 4.25, in sporadic starts in the rotation thus far in 2011, so it’s not like he’s been a disaster up to this point, but it remains to be seen what those numbers will look like after the grind of taking a start every fifth day wears on him throughout the summer.


Incomplete: Daisuke Matsuzaka

With his Red Sox career prematurely ended by an elbow injury and his impending Tommy John surgery, I will resist the temptation to dance on his grave.

He made eight appearances (seven starts) in 2011 and posted a 3-3 record, with a 5.30 ERA. It’s possible the elbow injury caused his ineffectiveness… let’s just leave it at that.


The Bullpen

Alfredo Aceves: B+

Aceves has been everything he promised to be when the Red Sox signed him away from the NY Yankees as a free agent back in February. He has appeared in 14 games (3 as the starting pitcher) and has posted a 2-1 record, with a 3.51 ERA.

He is 1-1, 4.50, as a starter (he should have had another win except for a Matt Albers meltdown against the Cubs)… he provided the club with two outstanding starts before getting battered in his last outing.

He has a career mark of 16-2, with a 3.28 ERA, so it would seem we will be in for more of the same from him throughout the summer.


Matt Albers: B-

I am a BIG fan of Aceves, but not of Albers… sorry, Albers fans. It seems that whenever there is an implosion in the Sox bullpen, he’s in the middle of it.

Frankly, I am not sure what the front office saw in a guy that posted an ERA of 4.50+ in four of his five seasons prior to coming to Boston—while playing for non-contending teams in Houston and Baltimore.

I don’t think he has the stuff to pitch meaningful innings for a team that has championship aspirations.


Daniel Bard: B+

In spite of decent results and a B+ grade, Bard has been a disappointment for me through the first two months of 2011.

I gave him a pass after posting a 0-3 mark in April owing to some bad luck he had, but May (1-1, 3.38) was only marginally better and not what I had expected from the guy who is Jonathan Papelbon’s heir apparent.

In my opinion, the next closer needs to post an ERA under 2.00, a WHIP significantly lower than 1.00, and a K-rate that is substantially north of 1.0 / 9 IP… Bard’s ERA is 3.29 (as opposed to the 1.93 mark he posted last season), his WHIP is in the vicinity of 1.00 and his K-rate is barely 1.0.

Maybe he is hampered by heightened (or unrealistic) expectations, but at this point he doesn’t seem ready to be the club’s closer in 2012.

If his performance remains the same throughout the rest of the season, could it set the stage for Pappy to return to the organization next season?


Bobby Jenks: F

He has been brutal up to this point of the season, posting a 7.59 ERA in 13 games. When he went on the DL in early-May, I wondered whether his early-season struggles could be explained by an injury.

But he has allowed four base runners in two innings of work since coming off the DL, so now I am left to wonder whether his ineffectiveness is an indicia that ChiSox manager Ozzie Guillen and ChiSox GM Kenny Williams were on to something when they cut him loose.

It seems plausible the Red Sox front office brought Jenks on board as an insurance policy for 2012, assuming Papelbon would leave via free agency at the end of this year and in case Bard proves incapable of assuming the closer’s duties by next season.

But with Bard struggling to become a lock-down closer and Jenks proving to be completely ineffective, it seems the Red Sox should (at least) entertain the possibility or bringing their resurgent closer back for the next three or four years.


Hideki Okajima: C-

Okajima’s ERA has increased in every season since he first became a member of the Red Sox (from 2.22 in 2007 to 4.50 last season). While his 4.32 ERA thus far was marginally better than last year, it isn’t what you want from your lefty specialist.

His ineffectiveness stems from lack of control (5 BB in 8.1 IP) and bought him a demotion to Pawtucket. He has watched as the Red Sox turned to Rich Hill, traded for Franklin Morales and has now promoted 29-year-old Tommy Hottovy.

Yesterday, he declared he wants to be traded—as opposed to being re-promoted to Boston. Sayonara, Okaji!


Jonathan Papelbon: B+

Pappy had been cruising along pretty well until about a week ago, then he allowed runs in three of four appearances (four runs in 4 IP)… as a result, his ERA increase by more than a run (from 2.29 to 3.42).

Last night, he came into a save situation against Oakland and he was overpowering in registering his 11th save of the season.

While it is a bit disconcerting that he has allowed runs in seven of his 24 appearances, the fact of the matter is that he is 2-0, with 11 saves and only one blown save… and at times he’s looked like the dominant closer you want at the back end of the bullpen.

While it has been assumed this year would be his last season in a Red Sox uniform, his performance (combined with the struggles of Bard and Jenks) makes it likely the front office will have to kick the tires on bringing him back in 2012.


Dan Wheeler: B

 Wheeler is another reliever the ballclub signed in the off-season in the hope of improving a bad bullpen, and he is another guy who has been a HUGE disappointment.

Like Jenks, he went on the DL in early-May, raising the possibility his early-season struggles were in part linked to an injury.

He has made four appearances since being reactivated and hasn’t allowed a run… lowering his ERA by more than three-and-a-half runs in the process.

His performance since his return (4.2 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K) leaves me hopeful that he will prove to be highly effective moving forward.

Read more MLB news on

Boston Red Sox: Alfredo Aceves, Tim Wakefield Have Been Up to the Task

Amid all of the furor of heightened expectations leading up to the 2011 season, the BIG question that surrounded the Red Sox was how the No. 4 and No. 5 starters would perform. John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka were both coming off rough 2010 campaigns, and while Red Sox Nation had high hopes for a championship season, those aspirations hinged on the back end of the rotation.

Should either of them fail, or be felled by injury, the ballclub knew it would be able to turn to knuckleballer Tim Wakefield…but, in truth, there were almost as many questions about him as there were about Lackey and Matsuzaka. He had a 4-12 record and 5.61 earned run average dating back to the end of the 2009 season.

Many pundits thought you could stick a fork in him. In addition, he had sulked throughout most of the 2010 season, openly challenging the wisdom and decision-making of manager Terry Francona and General Manager Theo Epstein for determining that he should NOT be a part of the regular starting rotation.

Wakefield had appeared to be petulant and selfish, placing his desire to set the club record for wins ahead of the well-being of the ballclub. So when his chances came, he appeared unprepared…and his performance suffered accordingly.

I was among those who was very critical of the knuckleballer for his posturing. I believed his struggles had largely been due to the combination of his age and the physical demands of taking a regular turn in the rotation. I believed then (and still believe) that at this age he is better off in the role he has filled this season, as it controls his workload over the course of a long season and should enable him to remain strong through the end of September.

The difference between last year and this year is that THIS year he seemed much more accepting of his role, and appears to have prepared himself for it—both mentally and physically.

This winter, the front office determined it would retain Wakefield’s services—even as others questioned whether he should remain on the roster—but it also developed a contingency plan in case the kuckleballer’s attitude waned or that he failed to cut the proverbial mustard.

In February, the organization signed former Yankees right-hander Alfredo Aceves. It was a signing I applauded LOUDLY, and I predicted it would prove to be the best “unheralded” signing of the offseason, not just by the Sox but by ANY team in baseball. I still feel that way.

So when both Lackey and Matsuzaka went down almost simultaneously a week ago, Plan B and C were concurrently put in place. Aceves went into the rotation. Wakefield went into the rotation. And the results have been BRILLIANT!

Both pitchers have given the ballclub as much as anyone could have ever expected or hoped for.

Aceves is now 2-0, 2.22, on the season. In his first start of the year, against the Cubs last Saturday night, he left the game with his club ahead 2-1 after five innings…it’s not his fault Matt Albers blew up in the eighth inning en route to a disheartening defeat. On Thursday, in his second start, he allowed one run on five hits and two walks (with six Ks) in six innings. This time the bullpen couldn’t surrender the lead as the Sox pummeled the Tigers, 14-1.

According to my math, he has allowed two runs on eight hits and five walks in 11 innings over those two starts. THAT is more than the club could have expected out of Lackey or Matsuzaka, and it points to the fact that he may have found a permanent place in the rotation, at least in the short term.

While some people are surprised by his success, I am not. He is 16-1, 3.03, in parts of four seasons in the major leagues. He has EARNED a chance to stick in this rotation, even after Dice-K returns.

Not to be outdone, Wakefield has been equally brilliant since joining the rotation on Sunday. He has been solid all season. Aside from a pair of outings in which he allowed a total of 10 earned runs, he has allowed just seven earned runs in his other 11 appearances. In his two starts this week, he registered back-to-back wins for the first time since 2009, allowing just three earned runs in 13.2 IP.

If both pitchers continue to perform anywhere close to their recent levels, it seems to me Aceves gets the first shot to replace the enigmatic Matsuzaka in the rotation. After all, he was signed for that purpose.

I continue to believe Wakefield best serves the ballclub in the swingman role, and that the role will preserve his health and prolong his effectiveness. He obviously doesn’t agree. It will be interesting to see how he responds when or if Aceves gets the nod and he gets placed back in his previous role.

THAT response will tell us a lot about the kind of person he is (sadly, admittedly, I expect him to respond in much the same manner he did last spring, which could serve as a distraction).

In the interim, both pitchers have been spectacular. Plan B and Plan C have (thus far) worked out precisely as the club, and Red Sox Nation, had hoped.

In spite of the club’s 2-10 start to the season, the Red Sox find themselves in first place this morning, and if Aceves and Wakefield keep pitching like this it is possible the team may never surrender its ‘top dog’ status as the summer winds its way to a potentially-glorious October and November.

Read more MLB news on

Red Sox Pitchers In The Midst Of An Historic Stretch Of MLB Dominance

The Red Sox consecutive-game streak was broken Thursday night, but the Red Sox got right back to work last night as staff ace Jon Lester started a new one.

No, obviously, I’m not talking about a winning streak because, as we all know, the Red Sox won on Thursday night. The streak I’m talking about has to do with the starting rotation.

While this edition of the Red Sox may have gotten off to an historically-bad start, Red Sox Nation shouldn’t forget this is a club that many pundits predicted would win 100 games. And while the offense has not shifted into high gear (yet), the high hopes for the 2011 club were equally dependant on the quality of the pitching staff, as well as on the production of the offense. The lineup continues to struggle to score runs, but we should not overlook the fact that the starting rotation has started to round into shape.

Beginning with Josh Beckett’s outing last Saturday against the Blue Jays, Red Sox starting pitchers had gone at least five innings in each of the succeeding five games without allowing more than one run in any outing:

Beckett allowed one run in seven innings on Saturday (Sox win)
Lester yielded one run in six innings on Sunday (Sox win)
Dice-K tossed seven shutout innings on Patriots Day (Sox win)
Lackey gave up one run on Tuesday night in Oakland (Sox loss)
Buchholz surrendered one run in 5.1 IP on Wednesday (Sox win)

It was the first time since 1947 that the Red Sox rotation went five consecutive games in which the starting pitcher allowed one or fewer runs while pitching at least five innings in each ballgame.

That’s 64 years, folks. Two generations of Red Sox fans. My mother and father hadn’t even met one another the last time a Red Sox staff pulled this off.

Ironically, the streak ended against the Angels on Thursday night, in what may have been the best performance by a Red Sox starter this season. Josh Beckett was nearly brilliant for eight innings. He retired the first nine hitters of the game. Then, after issuing a walk to start the fourth inning, he set down nine of the next 10 batters he faced—the only exception being an infield single by SS Erick Aybar in the sixth inning.

The “impressive outings” streak came to an end in the seventh inning when Beckett walked the leadoff hitter (DH Bobby Abreu) and then surrendered a two-run home run to RF Torii Hunter. He retired the next six hitters in succession before finally yielding to Daniel Bard in the ninth inning. The Red Sox eventually won the game, 4-2, in extra innings.

The club had ridden this succession of outstanding performances to five wins in six games, entering last night’s contest against the LA Angels. Jon Lester bore the responsibility of starting another string of impressive outings. He succeeded.

That’s not to say this was Lester’s best performance. It wasn’t—nor was it as good as Beckett’s outing on Thursday night. But the object of the game is to keep the other guys off the scoreboard and record “wins,” and that is precisely what he did.

It is precisely what all of the Red Sox starters have done as of late… and while that 100-win season may be out of reach, they are only 3.5 games out of first place with 144 games left to play.

It’s a safe assumption the jumpers have vacated the Zakim Bridge at this point.

Read more MLB news on

MLB Releases 2011 Draft Order: Boston Red Sox Have 4 of the First 40 Picks

Major League Baseball formally released the draft order for this June’s draft this afternoon. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the first pick overall, followed by the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.

The Boston Red Sox will have four of the first 40 picks in the draft. The organization lost its own first-round pick— No. 24 overall— as compensation to the Tampa Bay Rays for signing LF Carl Crawford… but the club garnered two first-round picks as compensation for losing its own free agents— No. 19 (from Detroit, for Victor Martinez) and No. 26 (from Texas, for Adrian Beltre).

The Sox then have two more picks in the supplemental round that follows the first round—awarded as additional compensation for the club losing Martinez and Beltre. They will receive pick 36 (for losing V-Mart) and pick 40 (for losing Beltre). They will then make the No. 81 overall selection (Round 2), the No. 111 overall selection (Round 3), and the 21st pick in each succeeding round: No. 142, No. 172, No. 202, etc.

This is the third time GM Theo Epstein and his staff have had a bevy of early picks in the First Year Player draft, but this could be a year in which the organization could load up, as this year’s draft is considered to be (potentially) one of the best in recent memory.

It is also the last draft that will be conducted under the rules set forth in the current collective-bargaining agreement…those rules have given big market teams like the Red Sox and New York Yankees a decided advantage in dealing with “tough signs” (as they’ve been able to throw money around in above-slot signing bonuses). It is expected those rules will be changed in the next CBA…so this will be a good time for the Red Sox to throw some spaghetti against the wall and see what happens.

They did that last year, and benefitted greatly from rolling the dice. The front office took a chance on several players whose place in the draft fell for various reasons—health issues, signability, etc.

After first-round pick Kolbrin Vitek, each of their next five picks were, to varying degrees, a roll of the dice. They signed every one of them and, in so doing, have loaded the farm system with an extraordinary amount of talent that most teams could not afford.

Both slugger Bryce Brentz (picked 36th overall) and RHP Anthony Ranaudo (picked 39th) were considered to be top five talents when the 2010 college season began, but injuries hampered both of their performance and they slid to the Red Sox in the supplemental round. Both are potential high-impact players, with Ranaudo (my choice as top prospect in the minor league system) a possible ace-in-the-making.

After those two players, the Sox took a chance on RHP Brandon Workman (Round 2), 2B Sean Coyle (Round 3) and 3B Garin Cecchini (Round 4).

The 2010 draft has the potential to be as productive as the ’05 class, when the club had five of the first 50 picks. It was a draft that has already produced CF Jacoby Ellsbury (Round 1), RHP Clay Buchholz (supplemental) and INF Jed Lowrie (supplemental) with RHP Michael Bowden (supplemental) still waiting in the wings for his chance to join the pitching staff on a permanent basis.

As for the 2011 draft, it could be even better—as Theo and Company have never had four of the first 40 selections in the draft (last year they had three of the first 39) and this year’s crop of prospects will likely be better than either ’05 or ’10.

As for the other teams in baseball, division-rival Tampa Bay has three picks in the first round and a total of 10 picks in the first 60 selections. The abundance of picks is the result of the Rays losing a bevy of Type A and Type B free agents this winter (Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Brad Hawpe).

The first round will have 33 picks, rather than the customary 30, because three teams—Arizona, San Diego and Milwaukee—failed to sign first-round picks last year, so they will get an additional first-round pick this year to make up for effectively losing a pick last year.

The granting of ‘make-up picks’ was instituted by MLB to give teams some additional leverage when dealing with a draftee who plays hard ball at the bargaining table. The picks are awarded to approximate the point in the prior year’s draft where the unsigned player was selected, so the D-backs will receive pick No. 7, the San Diego Padres will get No. 10 and the Milwaukee Brewers have been awarded No. 15.

Read more MLB news on

Josh Beckett’s Outing Against Yankees Provides Encouragement and Hope

It was truly unexpected.

If anyone tells you they “expected” Josh Beckett to give the Red Sox the kind of performance he gave them against the New York Yankees Monday night, then they are telling a tall tale (be prepared for a story about a 65-pound bass they caught at the local fishing hole last year).

It was unexpected because the native of Spring, Texas, went 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 21 starts last season. It was shocking because he went 1-2 with a 10.04 ERA and 2.04 WHIP against the Yankees last year while allowing 40 hits in just 26 innings pitched.

It was the kind of outing Red Sox Nation has been hoping he would produce for nearly two years, but it certainly wasn’t something that anyone on God’s good Earth could have expected.

With the Red Sox offense sputtering and Yankees ace CC Sabathia on the bump for the club’s archrivals, it seemed more appropriate to hope for an off-night by CC Sabathia than a stellar performance from Beckett.

There was a glimmer of hope right from the get-go. The right-hander’s fastball, which averaged 93 mph last season, repeatedly popped catcher Jason Varitek’s glove at 94-95 mph throughout the first inning.

Whereas he induced ground balls at a 31.3 percent clip in his first start of 2011—substantially below his career mark of 44.5—Monday night he had Yankee hitters beating the baseball into the ground. And as I have written in the past, I haven’t seen many ground balls hit for home runs—last year he surrendered 20 HR in just 127.2 innings pitched.

We have grown accustomed to seeing Beckett “pitching scared” over the last season-and-a-half—nibbling, getting behind in counts and then getting pounded by the opposition. He appeared to have lost confidence in his fastball and in turn relying more on his off-speed pitches. In many respects, he had become something he had never been.

Last night, the first two pitches he threw were balls. I immediately thought, “Here we go again!”, but it was the only time all evening I had any such thoughts. He threw strikes. The Yankees box score was populated with strikeouts and ground outs. He surrendered just two hits and issued one walk in nine innings pitched. He retired the last 14 batters he faced—five by strikeout and seven by ground out.

Yankees hitters put a grand total of FOUR batted balls into the outfield against him tonight.

Admittedly, it may be too early to declare that the old Josh Beckett is back, but he had not struck out at least 10 batters since July 27, 2009—and he hadn’t held an opposing team scoreless for eight or more innings since July 12, 2009 (a 6-0 shutout over Kansas City).

At the very least, we can at least say the “old” Josh Beckett made a cameo appearance at Fenway Park Monday. Whether or not he makes a recurring appearance in the 2011 baseball version of “That Championship Season” remains to be seen.

As for Monday evening’s performance, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said, “He was probably as good today as we’ve seen him in quite some time. He’s always a challenge, but that’s as good as I’ve seen him since I don’t remember when.”

Hopefully we will see a lot more of that Josh Beckett this season. I’m sick of watching him pitch and wondering: “Who are you, and what have you done with the REAL Josh Beckett?”

Read more MLB news on

Red Sox in Cleveland after a Lost Weekend in Texas

A mere four days ago, Red Sox Nation was bursting at the seams with anticipation as the new baseball season was about to get underway in Arlington, Texas. Visions of a hundred-win season and a World Series championship danced in the heads of Sox fans everywhere.

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez was entrenched in the heart of the batting order (hitting either fourth or fifth, depending on the opponent’s starting pitcher). LF Carl Crawford was entrenched in the No. 3 slot behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, and in front of Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz. The 2011 season promised a highly-potent offense, a solid starting rotation, an excellent bullpen and a well-rounded bench.

After the opening series in Texas, some fans and many pundits have questioned whether the ballclub is as good as we thought it would be.

Why? The current discussion is much ado about nothing. The sky is falling! It reminds me of the talk-radio nitwits (callers and radio station co-hosts alike) who clamored for the firing of Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien when the team struggled back in January. When I called EEI, I was summarily rebuked for defending the coach—the team needed the change at the top to get the player’s attention, don’t you know?

LOL. As if the coaches lace up their skates and take the ice to play the game.

Every team has a slump in professional sports—oftentimes more than one. On occasion, the slump comes at the beginning of the season—when the club has a full 159 games to make up for a slow start. Oh, the horror of it all!

Look, nothing has changed since April Fool’s Day (kind of ironic, huh?). The Sox offense will still be very potent. Jon Lester will still struggle in April (as he does annually). Clay Buchholz will still win 15-plus games (although his ERA will be closer to 3.50 as opposed to 2.50, as I have predicted previously). Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon will still be under scrutiny due to sub-par 2010 seasons and struggles throughout spring training.

Did anyone think the club would win 135 games this year? Slumps are bound to occur… does it really matter if it happens in Texas during the first weekend of the year? In my opinion, it’s better than having a slump this coming weekend—against the Yankees at home—when the games count double. I say, get it out of the way all at once—and it’s better to have it happen to an opponent from the AL West than the AL East.

Nothing that happened this weekend was a shocker, though the outings by Bard and Buchholz were certainly a bit surprising. Bard’s rough outing had an exclamation mark placed on it by David Murphy’s chalk-biter down the left field line—a ball that could have just as easily gone foul.

Buchholz was the beneficiary of good fortune last year, including a high strand rate, low BABIP and a ridiculously small number of home runs allowed… I wrote two weeks ago that those numbers would even out this year and that Red Sox Nation should be prepared for his ERA to rise to somewhere in the vicinity of 3.50.

Take this to the bank—Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz will NOT have a combined ERA of 10.57 at the end of the year (as they do today). If they do, I’ll give away my tickets for Opening Day (for 2012) to one of my readers.

Was Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s oh-fer a shocker to anyone? Sure he had a nice spring against pitchers who were working on things, or who are minor league talents, or who aren’t going to be in the major leagues this year. But he has been a bust thus far throughout his major league career, and while we hope he will be better, we shouldn’t be shocked when he stinks.

The Rangers had a hot weekend… and the Red Sox just happened to be the club in the opposing dugout. These things happen. The baseball gods even out these things over the course of a full season.

As Dustin Pedroia says, “We’re all frustrated. We got outplayed. It’s not for lack of talent on our team. We just got our ass kicked, that’s it.”

It’s time for Red Sox Nation to take a deep breath… to decompress.. and to start enjoying the baseball season all over again. Three games does not make a season. As Peter Abraham pointed out in this morning’s Boston Globe, the 1998 Yankees won 114 games and the World Series that season after starting the season 0-3 (and being outscored 21-6 by Oakland and Anaheim).

Read more MLB news on

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress