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Boston Red Sox Trade Rumors: Latest Updates, News and Reaction

Boston’s World Series title defense hasn’t gone quite as anyone anticipated, as the Red Sox have been outscored by the opposition and sit with a losing record on the outskirts of the playoff picture in the American League.

But the club remains within striking distance of a postseason berth, and between the talent level of the active roster and a deep minor league system with quality prospects at nearly every level is a team you simply cannot count out of contention at the beginning of July.

That said, the Red Sox could be buyers or sellers as the trade deadline draws near.

General manager Ben Cherington could look to fill some of the holes on the roster with an eye toward making a run at a wide-open AL East, or he could look to sell off some of his veteran pieces (starter Jake Peavy, for example) and retool on the fly with an eye toward reclaiming the division in 2015.

Whatever the Red Sox wind up doing, you can be sure the rumor mill will be spinning furiously as reports come out about the goings-on in Beantown.

Keep it here for the most up-to-the-minute rumblings about the Red Sox along with analysis and everything else that comes with it.

While the post date will always show as July 1, simply click to the next slide to see the latest from the rumor mill as Boston tries to figure out exactly what it is.

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Is Red Sox’s Brock Holt the Real Deal or a Flash in the Pan?

When Brock Holt does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up: He’s pushing the earth down.

Brock Holt doesn’t call the wrong number. You answer the wrong phone.

Brock Holt does not sleep. He waits.

Sure, all these “facts” may originally have been attributed to Chuck Norris. But after an absurd start to the 2014 season, Holt is becoming a legend in his own right, serving as one of the lone bright spots for the Boston Red Sox this year.

Holt’s success, versatility and all-out style of play have endeared him to the fanbase, and there’s no doubting that he’s been a hugely important piece for the Red Sox this year. Yet the suddenness with which he’s burst onto the scene has many asking a reasonable question: Is Brock Holt good enough to be a legitimate major league starter, or is he merely another flash in the plan headed for serious regression?

A look at the numbers suggests that those two outcomes may not be mutually exclusive.

Holt is hitting .323/.363/.446 through 202 plate appearances this year, hitting two homers and 13 doubles and going 5-of-6 in stolen base attempts. Not bad for the player considered to be the throw-in in the Joel Hanrahan/Mark Melancon trade.

However, Holt’s ISO sits at just .124, and his strikeout and walk rates are 19.3 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively. Holt’s batted ball numbers, courtesy of FanGraphs, help to explain why he’s been so successful despite his modest power and average strikeout-to-walks ratio.

Those of you familiar with BABIP will note immediately that Holt’s due for some serious regression here. He might have a slightly above-average hit tool, but he’s nowhere near good enough to sustain a BABIP near .400 for the entire year. More of the balls he puts into play should turn into outs as the year progresses, and his average will drop accordingly.

One good sign, though, is that Holt’s line-drive percentage is significantly higher than the league average. That generally means that he is making good contact, and high line-drive rates tend to correlate with higher BABIPs, so the regression may not be quite as steep as we think.

Holt’s ground-ball and fly-ball rates also suggest that he’s playing to his strengths, using his ability to generate hard contact and his decent speed by hitting the ball on a line or into the ground. Holt’s power is a weakness, so the fewer balls he hits in the air, the better.

Overall, these advanced stats paint a picture of a player who’s due to fall back down to Earth a bit, but in a controlled descent rather than a nosedive. Holt isn’t this good, but we shouldn’t expect him to be bad, either.

And while he was never considered much of a prospect in the minors, the one thing he’s always done is get on base. Holt’s career MiLB slash line in 2,070 plate appearances is .307/.372/.410, and that includes his .304/.367/.385 line in 556 career plate appearances in Triple-A.

Holt may not bring much power to the table, but he can hit for average. If he works on improving his walk rate in the major leagues, he should warrant playing time with his bat in Boston moving forward, even if he’s eventually moved out of the leadoff spot.

Yet Holt’s bat might not be his greatest attribute at the major league level. Instead, his calling card will most likely prove to be his versatility.

Holt has played 23 games at third base, seven games at first base and 15 games in the outfield for Boston this year, shifting between all three outfield positions. He has extensive experience as a second baseman and a shortstop in the minor leagues, and while he’s an emergency-only option at short, he seems to be able to play all other six positions adequately.

It’s hard to overstate what type of value that brings to a team at a time when 12 roster spots are usually reserved for pitchers. Not only does Holt’s versatility allow John Farrell to find ways to play him every day, but it should eventually let the Red Sox cut Jonathan Herrera once Will Middlebrooks returns.

And while “intangibles” are often mockedand sometimes rightfully somany in the Red Sox organization are quick to cite Holt’s work ethic, and we’ve heard nothing but praise for his attitude and preparation.

Farrell told Over The Monster’s Joon Lee:

The best way to wrap it up, he’s a good baseball player…I say that in general, but he understands the game, he’s athletic, he’s got speed, I think he’s improve his basestealing and his overall baserunning from the time we got him here. I think more than anything he’s really flourishing in the flexibility we’re providing for him.

So yes, Holt is due for some regression. He’s not likely to hit above .300 at the MLB level. He’s not likely to lead off for a contender for a full season. And he may find himself sitting against tough lefties once the league adjusts to his sudden success.

But Holt is going to be a major league player for a long time, and whether that comes as a starter or as a “super utility” player, it’s a valuable profile nonetheless. He can play every corner position on the diamond. He’s decent in center field or at second base. And his best position may be standing at the plate.

Not much has gone right for the Red Sox in 2014, but Holt gives us something to root for now and in the years to come.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Updating Top International Prospects Red Sox Will Look to Sign

The Boston Red Sox should make plenty of noise on July 2, the first day of the 2014-2015 international signing period.

The international signing phase is always difficult for teams, as they have to evaluate whether a 16-year-old player is worth a multimillion-dollar bonus. These players aren’t even old enough to graduate high school and have years of physical maturation ahead of them. Further, these players are much less seasoned than the pool of talent available in the domestic draft due to age and other factors.

According to Baseball America‘s Ben Badler, that won’t stop (subscription required) the Red Sox (and other teams) this season. Badler reports that Boston fully expects to exceed its bonus pool this year, which is $1,881,700. Boston expects to pay the maximum penalty. For every dollar over the assigned bonus pool, the Red Sox will have to pay a 100 percent overage tax (If the team ends up $8 million past their bonus pool, they will have to pay another $8 million in penalties.). Further, Boston will be barred from spending more than $300,000 over the next two signing periods.

That’s a lot of talent to give up the next two seasons, so Boston must really like the talent available in the current international signing period.

Look for Boston to sign pitchers after focusing on position players the last few signing cycles. In those cycles, the club shelled out for infielders Rafael Devers, Raymel Flores and Wendell Rijo, along with outfielder Manuel Margot. Two of these players have some of the highest ceilings in the Red Sox system, so serious rewards can be reaped by making the right signings in international free agency.

Devers is already considered Boston’s 11th-best prospect, according to SoxProspects.com, with Margot checking in at No. 14 and Rijo at No. 15. Still young, these players are expected to continue rising up the prospect charts.

Here’s a look at three key names that could be on Boston’s top prospects list in a couple years, all of whom are pitchers.


Anderson Espinoza, RHP

MLB.com believes the Red Sox are the front-runners to sign Espinoza, who is considered to be the best available pitcher on the market. The Venezuelan is fairly short, running 5’10”, which evokes comparisons to Pedro Martinez… and that comparison may not be far off. The 16-year-old’s fastball ranges from 91-93 mph, which is a fantastic speed for a pitcher as young as Espinoza, and he harnesses it with advanced command for his age. As is common for most pitchers of this age, there isn’t a true plus breaking ball or off-speed pitch, although his nascent curveball and changeup show potential.

Despite a lack of projection in adding to his height, his mechanics and ability to add more pounds to his 150-pound frame means velocity could be added to his fastball.

“He’s got a chance to be a superstar,” a scout told Badler (subscription required), with the consensus being that the last pitcher of Espinoza’s talent to come out of Latin America is Francisco Rodriguez, who has gone on to an All-Star career as a closer. “There’s going to be power to the stuff and he has command of three pitches that have a chance to be plus. He has poise, presence and command, with a loose arm and a projectable body. He’s the real deal.”


Christopher Acosta, RHP

The Dominican pitcher has a loose arm, which translates to strong ball movement, as MLB.com writes. It’s no surprise, then, that his breaking and off-speed pitches appear to have strong potential. The 6’3″, 170-pound athlete can throw a changeup in any count and boasts a curveball with bite to it.

MLB.com states that the Red Sox have shown “serious interest” in Acosta. With such a polished pitcher at a young age and the potential for three above-average pitches, it’s no surprise that Boston is eager to sign Acosta.

Negatives on Acosta include mechanics that need to be cleaned up and the need to develop a better attitude on the mound.


Huascar Ynoa, RHP

There is a divisive split regarding the potential of Huascar Ynoa, the other pitcher tied to Boston. The younger brother of Athletics pitcher Michael Ynoa, Huascar has the potential for three quality pitches, but is so inconsistent that he “draws the ire of scouts who have high expectations for the teenager,” as MLB.com writes.

Ynoa‘s fastball regularly sits in the low 90s, adding a cut fastball, spliter, curveball and a changeup. That’s a lot of pitches for such a young player, and it’s fair to wonder if the volume of pitches is one reason for his inconsistency. Another reason could be his mechanics, as he’s still trying to smooth out his delivery.

The Twins are considered to be the favorites for Ynoa per MLB.com, but Badler also links the Red Sox to the right-hander.

Of course, the Sox won’t be limited to just these three pitchers. They will sign a whole host of players with a wide range of possible career outcomes. However, look for Boston to sign at least one of the pitchers mentioned. With Boston determined to spend in the market and a need for lower-level pitching prospects, the dollars will be there to snag one of the top prospects in international free agency.

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Boston Red Sox’s 2014 Trade-Deadline Shopping List

If the Boston Red Sox intend to make a playoff push in the second half of the season, they’ll likely need to go after some outside help.  Below is a shopping list that may come in handy for the Red Sox as the trade deadline approaches:

1. Offense
2. More offense

To say that Boston is “offensively challenged” would be an understatement.

The Red Sox recently went eight straight games without ever scoring more than three runs, and they only managed to put up that many once during the stretch.

On the way to winning the World Series in 2013, Boston led all of Major League Baseball in averaging 5.27 runs per game.  This year’s club is scoring nearly a full run-and-a-half less.  From ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes:

The Sox averaged 3.86 runs per game in their first 72 games. Only five times in their history have they averaged fewer. Two were war years (1943 and 1945), one was 1968 — when the entire big leagues went into a collective slump, prompting a lowering of the mound — one was in 1932, when the Sox lost 111 games and one was in 1992, when they finished last.

Edes also notes that Boston is on pace to plate just “306 runs” at Fenway Park, which would be the team’s lowest home output since 1945.

For the Red Sox to have a chance of returning to the postseason this year, their lineup will have to become significantly more potent.  Any efforts Boston might make to bolster its roster will almost certainly involve outfielders.

David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli are fixtures at DH, second base and first base, respectively.

Before the season started, catcher A.J. Pierzynski was signed to a one-year $8.25 million contract with the though that either Christian Vazquez or Blake Swihart (both ranked among the organization’s top 10 prospects) would fill the position in the future.  If Pierzynski is to be replaced, it’ll be from down on the farm not through a trade.

Last month Boston re-signed Stephen Drew at roughly $10 million for the remainder of the season, then installed him at shortstop and shifted phenom Xander Bogaerts to third base.  Barring a catastrophic slump, neither of them will be going anywhere either.

The Red Sox’s infield is locked in.  The outfield, on the other hand, is a mess.

Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is struggling to hit above .200, right fielder Shane Victorino isn’t healthy and left field is a revolving door of various players.  Brock Holt and his .318 batting average have been a very pleasant and unexpected surprise, but sadly he can’t play every position simultaneously.

In order to combat its scoring woes, here are three outfielders Boston may want to pursue in the weeks ahead:


Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

The Red Sox are rumored to be showing interest in Kemp, but there are conflicting reports as to the validity of the rumors.  On Sunday Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe wrote “The Red Sox, who need to improve their righthanded hitting, spent significant time watching Kemp last week.”  However, on Monday WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford countered with:

According to a major league source, there is “nothing going on” regarding the Red Sox and a possible acquisition of Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.

There had been reports that the Sox were heavily scouting Los Angeles, with Kemp as a potential target. But while the Red Sox continue to explore multiple avenues in regard to upgrading their outfield’s offensive production, according to the source there is no momentum regarding any deal involving the Dodgers outfielder.

Regardless of whether or not Boston is currently chasing Kemp, he’s definitely someone who could add a spark to the Red Sox’s batting order.

Kemp made the All-Star team and finished second in the NL MVP voting in 2011 and was again an All-Star in 2012.  He’s been plagued by injuries ever since, though, appearing in just 73 contests in 2013. After getting off to a slow start this season, Kemp is batting .310 in 44 games dating back to May 3.

The major downside with Kemp is that he still has five-and-a-half seasons left on an eight-year, $160 million contract that runs through 2019.


Dexter Fowler, Houston Astros

Fowler is in the second season of a two-year, $11.6 million deal, and he is eligible for arbitration in 2015. But he likely doesn’t fit into the Astros’ long-term plans, and they could be happy to trade him in order to build for the future.

This season Fowler is hitting .277 with six home runs, 24 RBI and a .383 on-base percentage.  But like Kemp, he has overcome a slow start, batting .313 with a .431 OBP in 174 plate appearances since May 12.  Fowler also has stolen six bases, which would lead a Red Sox club that has swiped a total of just 27 bags all year.


Seth Smith, San Diego Padres

Smith will be a free agent at the end of the season, and San Diego might be eager to get what they can for the 31-year-old before his contract expires.  In 64 games for the Padres, Smith is hitting .286 with a .396 OBP.

His power numbers are what should be of great interest to Boston, though—Smith’s eight home runs would rank third on the team behind Ortiz (17) and Napoli (9), while his .519 slugging percentage would be tops on the Red Sox by a large margin over Ortiz’s .478.


Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Xander Bogaerts Is Still the Boston Red Sox’s Shortstop of the Future

Year one of the Xander Bogaerts era at shortstop is not going as planned.

The Boston Red Sox are just 20-26, five games out of first place in the AL East and in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. Many of their young players are struggling, many of their rotation staples have crashed and burned, and most of their offseason acquisitions have been busts. The team’s defense and running game—core strengths of the 2013 championship club—have been hard to watch this year.

With that in mind, it’s not hard to see why the Red Sox elected to re-sign Stephen Drew for the rest of the 2014 season this past week. He improves the team for 2014 without mortgaging its future. And while it means that Bogaerts’ tenure at shortstop is coming to a temporary end, it doesn’t have to and shouldn’t mean his days at the position are permanently behind him.

Despite some defensive miscues of his own, Bogaerts has been one of the lone bright spots for the 2014 Red Sox. The 21-year-old is hitting .283/.381/.417 through his first 180 plate appearances. His defense at short has been uninspiring at times, but he’s been far from a train wreck there, either, and he’s shown the ability to make adjustments.

We’re spoiled by the age of Mike Trout, but you can’t ask for much more from a rookie shortstop.

There’s some irony in the fact that it’s Bogaerts—one of the team’s few solid performers—who’s felt the brunt of the Red Sox’s desperate attempts to stop the bleeding. But by bringing Drew back into the fold earlier this week, Boston is simply taking a measured approach to stabilizing a team that has more talent than its sub-.500 record would indicate.

That’s true even if this approach dictates that Bogaerts move 50 feet to his right on defense once more, manning the hot corner for the majority of Boston’s games from here on out.

It’s a decision that disappointed many fans and Bogaerts himself.

“My heart is always at shortstop,” Bogaerts told Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald on Wednesday. “And I was just feeling so good over there. But they made the decision that they have to make.”

Such a reaction from the young Aruban is natural.

But those who believe Bogaerts’ days at shortstop are forever in the past are missing the point of the Drew signing. The Red Sox did not acquire Drew because they don’t think Bogaerts can play shortstop adequately—they acquired Drew because he serves as a relatively cheap option who can improve the team now. And as the first 46 games of the season have shown us, this is very much a team that needs improving.

In reality, the Drew signing is less about Bogaerts than it is about Will Middlebrooks, who’s once again failed to solidify himself as an everyday player on a first-division team. After Middlebrooks hit just .197/.305/.324 through 82 plate appearances between two disabled-list stints, the Red Sox were really left with no choice but to try to make an upgrade with more oomph than Brock Holt.

Many Red Sox fans wanted Garin Cecchini to be summoned to the majors, but his defense clearly isn’t ready for the big leagues, and his power production has been disappointing thus far. Boston’s new favorite prospect, Mookie Betts, lacks the arm strength to play third base and has no professional experience there. And aside from Ryan Roberts, there aren’t any other internal options.

What the Drew signing reflects is that there truly weren’t many external options for a third base upgrade, either. It’s too early for most teams to be in sell mode, but the teams that should already be looking toward 2015 generally lack appealing options at the hot corner. Plus, it makes little sense to cash in trade chips for a third base option when an above-average everyday player such as Drew can be had for just $10 million.

This was the easiest, cheapest and fastest way for the Red Sox to add some life to their team, as Drew will instantly improve their offense and their performance against right-handed pitching: two areas of the club in dire need of improvement.

And let’s put to bed the notion that Drew should play third base so that Bogaerts has shortstop all to himself. You don’t acquire one of the league’s better defenders at a premier position and move him away from his strengths just to avoid hurting the feelings of a prospect.

Plus, even amid all this fuss, there’s a good possibility that Bogaerts sees some more time at shortstop this year. Both Middlebrooks and Drew have dramatic platoon splits, which means we could see WMB at the hot corner and Bogaerts at shortstop against lefties once Middlebrooks recovers.

So Boston’s plan at short is fairly set in stone for 2014, but what about for the future? Many assume or hope that Bogaerts’ move to third base will be permanent, but that doesn’t need to be the case.

It may be unconventional to move Bogaerts from third base to shortstop once again, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. Bogaerts has nearly 2,000 professional innings at shortstop, and he’s not going to forget how to play the position just because he’s being asked to make 80 starts at the hot corner this year.

He’s not a finished product at short, but he’s shown us enough this season to make me believe he can be a shortstop for several years moving forward.

The Baltimore Orioles will face a similar scenario with Manny Machado this offseason, as J.J. Hardy is an impending free agent. Other than the argument that defensive shifting leads to offensive struggles—an argument based far more in narrative than anything quantifiable—there’s little reason not to move Bogaerts and Machado to their natural homes.

It’s not a player-development path we’re accustomed to seeing, but Bogaerts and Machado are not normal talents.

Finally, if you project out the Red Sox’s long-term roster, playing Bogaerts at shortstop is really the only way to get all of the team’s premium talent on the field at once. A 2015 lineup with Bogaerts at short, Cecchini at third, Betts in left field and Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field is quite plausible, and that’s a quartet that could post a collective OBP of .360 or better.

If you move Bogaerts to third base long term, the picture becomes much more muddled. Cecchini must then move to first base, which is a horrible profile for him, or to left field. If Cecchini moves to left, where do you play Betts? And if you commit to Betts and put him in center, does that mean you’ve already given up on the defensive talents of Bradley?

In essence, keeping Bogaerts at shortstop only blocks Deven Marrero—a decent prospect, but not someone who projects as a first-division starter. Moving Bogaerts to third for 2015 and beyond will block one of Cecchini, Betts or Bradley. One would assume that’s not something Boston wants to do.

Red Sox fans have been clamoring for a true heir apparent to Nomar Garciaparra for a decade now, so it’s understandable to feel some frustration at the thought of Bogaerts being denied the chance to take those reins. But in re-signing Drew for 2014, the Red Sox have significantly improved their team on the field without at all mortgaging their future.

Any time an organization can accomplish both of those goals at once, it must do so.

We may have seen the end of Bogaerts as an everyday shortstop for now, but aside from arguments based in tradition, there’s no reason to think we can’t see him there again in 2015 and beyond.

Xander Bogaerts wants to be a shortstop, and the Red Sox don’t have to deny him that wish on a permanent basis just yet.

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3 Ways the Boston Red Sox Already Have Improved This Season

The world champion Boston Red Sox stumbled out of the gate this year, posting a 13-16 record through May 1.  Since then the Red Sox have won six of their last eight games and all three series they’ve played.

Now 19-18, Boston owns a winning record for the first time in nearly six weeks, and is only 1.5 games back of the division lead.

It is a small sample size, but that doesn’t mean the recent success can’t be attributed to an improving ballclub.  Here are three specific areas in which the Red Sox have gotten better, all of which suggest Boston’s current hot streak could be a sign of things to come:


1. Consistency at the Leadoff Spot

Boston began the season struggling to find a replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order. Red Sox hitters are batting just .231 from the leadoff position, with an on-base percentage of .324. Through its first 22 games, Boston used five different players at the beginning of the lineup.

However, it now appears the issue is resolved.

Dustin Pedroia has hit first in each of the Red Sox’s last 15 contests.  Like the rest of the team, Pedroia started slowly, batting only .264 with a .322 OPB and a .349 slugging percentage in April.  But since the calender turned to May, Pedroia has reverted back to his All-Star form, hitting .341 with a .449 OPB and .610 SLG.

From Jason Mastrodonato of Mass Live, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the following about Pedroia bating leadoff full-time:

I just asked if he was open to it. Dustin is all about what we are as a team and doing whatever he can to best our needs and impact the game in a positive way. He’s the ultimate unselfish player. Given our need, he’s more than open to doing it, so there was no time limitation on this.

If Pedroia continues to put up numbers like we expect from his new spot in the order, it will make a world of difference for Boston’s run production going forward.


2. A.J. Pierzynski is Settling in at Catcher

The Red Sox kept the same starting five from the rotation that won a championship a year ago, but they replaced regular catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia with A.J. Pierzynski.  It should come as no surprise that this change might require an adjustment period before things begin to run smoothly.

In late April, the Boston Herald‘s John Tomase wrote:  

Two weeks into the season, the Red Sox had the makings of a catching controversy.

Starter A.J. Pierzynski was struggling to adapt to a new pitching staff, and there appeared to be friction between the headstrong veteran and members of the rotation.

The Red Sox went 2-6 in Pierzynski’s first eight starts while he posted a catcher’s ERA of 4.50. Meanwhile, backup David Ross simultaneously piloted the Red Sox to a 5-1 record and an ERA of 2.00.

Pierzynksi has now started 25 games behind the plate for Boston, and his catcher’s ERA stands at a very respectable 3.76, fifth-best in the American League.  His .992 fielding percentage also ties him for fifth among AL backstops.

Following his 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers on May 11, starting pitcher John Lackey had this to say about Pierzynski, via Mastrodonato:

He’s an aggressive game-caller. I think I pitch pretty aggressively. I think I mesh pretty well, in fact. I think he’s right on with the rhythm thing. When things are flowing like that it does help to throw strikes for sure.

The 37-year-old Pierzynski is more than holding his own on offense as well.  After batting .275 in April, he’s hitting .286 in May, and his .277 season average is second to only Pedroia (.289) on the Red Sox. Pierzynski’s 18 RBI are also tied for fourth-most in the AL by a catcher.


3. The Red Sox Are Now Healthy

When 22 percent of your starting lineup is on the DL, simply getting those players back in action can be enough to qualify as an improvement.  Right fielder Shane Victorino missed Boston’s first 22 games of the year, and third baseman Will Middlebrooks was out for 19 contests over the same time period.

Victorino’s return to the No. 2 spot in the order helped facilitate Pedroia’s transition to leading off.

Middlebrooks’ comeback allowed weak-hitting Jonathan Herrera (.184 batting average, .184 slugging percentage) to reclaim his proper position on the bench as a utility infielder.

The Red Sox are 7-4 in the 11 games that both Victorino and Middlebrooks have played in.  The ability to consistently run out its intended starting lineup should give Boston the added boost necessary to continue playing good baseball. 


Statistics courtesy of RedSox.com.

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5 Early-Season Red Sox Stats That Tell You All You Need to Know

They say numbers never lie, and this also rings true for the 2014 Boston Red Sox. A maddeningly inconsistent but nonetheless exciting start to the season has left the Red Sox with plenty of reasons for both optimism and doubt moving forward as the weather warms up and players fully enter their regular-season grooves.

It’s difficult to encapsulate the Red Sox’s up-and-down season in words, but it’s somewhat easier to tell the story of the first five-plus weeks of the season through statistics. When you look at the numbers, it’s clear where we can expect this Boston team to improve, where it might struggle all year and why it’s played below its talent level thus far.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the five most telling Red Sox stats from early 2014.

Unless otherwise attributed, all of the following stats come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

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Boston Red Sox Should Have Felix Doubront on a Short Leash

The Boston Red Sox are scuffling as the calendar turns to May, and Felix Doubront is becoming a poster boy for their struggles. Soon, he could be a part of a wave of changes for the team, as the Red Sox should think long and hard about replacing Doubront in the rotation if his inconsistency persists into late May and early June.

The Venezuelan left-hander threw six innings of three-run ball against the Rays on Thursday night in what was one of his better starts of the year. That effort dropped his ERA on the season to 5.70, as Doubront earned a no-decision while registering a quality start, keeping his team competitive in the second half of a doubleheader.

While Doubront was far from dominant, every non-disastrous start is of importance for him, as he looks to stave off competition from a number of intriguing young pitchers, experienced starters in the Boston bullpen and the possibility of a midseason trade for a starter. The Red Sox have no shortage of options if they decide to replace Doubront, and it’s something they should begin to consider more seriously in the near future.

On the season, Doubront‘s 5.70 ERA is accompanied by a 6.3 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 1.57 WHIP. He’s already allowed five homers and 35 hits in 30 innings and is averaging just five innings per start. According to FanGraphs, he’s been worth 0.2 fWAR.

In a way, the six-game sample size with which we have to work from Doubront‘s 2014 season perfectly represents what’s made him so frustrating to watch throughout his career. So far this season, Doubront has had one good start, three acceptable-but-uninspired starts and two disastrous starts. According to Bill James’ Game Score, which rates performances on a scale that uses 50 as average, Doubront has scores of 47, 25, 47, 61, 25 and 52, respectively, this year.

What we’re seeing from Doubront is nothing new. In fact, over his first six starts last season, Doubront was actually worse than he’s been in 2014, registering a 6.03 ERA with an opponent batting line of .307/.390/.420. He then went on to throw 79.2 innings of baseball with a 2.71 ERA from mid-May through July before fading down the stretch.

Doubront ended up producing 2.8 fWAR of value last season, finishing with a 4.32 ERA, 3.78 fielding-independent pitching (FIP) mark and respectable walk (3.94) and strikeout (7.71) rates. Still just 26 years old, it’s understandable why the Red Sox don’t want to give up on that sort of potential just yet.

But the Red Sox got off to a roaring start last season, and they were able to to live with some bumps in the road as Doubront worked through his early struggles. Boston also lacked the plethora of options in the high minors that they have today, so Doubront‘s leash was a bit longer than it should be in 2014.

Doubront is out of options and can’t be sent to the minor leagues, but Boston could use the ever-popular “phantom DL” stint to allow him to work through his issues while on a rehab assignment. Or they could transition Doubront to a bullpen role, which is a role he excelled in during the 2013 postseason.

If Boston does decide to pull Doubront from the rotation, here are some of the options they have to replace him:


Rubby De La Rosa

The general sense I get is that De La Rosa has faded a bit from Red Sox fans’ collective consciousness since his inclusion in the “Nick Punto deal” from mid-2012. When De La Rosa came to Boston, his prospect status was already exhausted, and unlike fellow former Dodger Allen Webster or other young arms like Matt Barnes or Henry Owens, he did not make yearly appearances on major prospect lists.

While many thought the Red Sox would use De La Rosa out of the bullpen due to his history of arm troubles, Boston instead elected to stretch “RDLR” out, and that’s a call that appears to be paying off. After an up-and-down 2013 season in Triple-A, De La Rosa is dominating in 2014, as he has thrown 27.2 innings in Pawtucket with a 2.28 ERA, 8.13 K/9 and 2.28 BB/9.

De La Rosa still isn’t pitching late into his starts, and the sample size right now is too small to declare that his troubles with command and control are completely in the past. But it’s been a very promising start to the year for De La Rosa, nonetheless, and he’s a strong candidate to replace Doubront as a long-term option with significant upside.


Brandon Workman

Workman is good enough to pitch important innings out of a major league bullpen right now, and that is indeed the role in which he began the season. But after Craig Breslow returned from the DL, Workman was sent back to Triple-A to continue his development as a starter and to get stretched out for possible use in that capacity in Boston later in the season.

The immediate results haven’t been very pretty, as Workman has been roughed up in three starts in 14.1 innings for Pawtucket. But this is a player who has already proven to be an effective pitcher, both in Triple-A and at the major league level, albeit in small sample sizes. The upside with Workman is modest, but he’s a very useful arm to have in the organization, nonetheless.


Chris Capuano

Capuano lacks the sex appeal or name value of the plethora of young pitchers down on the farm, but he could be Boston’s choice if they simply decide to skip Doubront for a turn or two in the rotation rather than replace him altogether. A fellow southpaw like Doubront, Capuano lacks Doubront‘s upside, but he is a steadier performer.

Capuano has been dominant in the bullpen this season, so it would hurt to lose his arm at a time when Edward Mujica and Koji Uehara are struggling. But he’s also proven to be an adequate-if-unexciting starter as recently as last year, when he made 20 starts for the Dodgers. The Red Sox probably wouldn’t want him to approach that number of starts this season, but he could serve the team well if he gets three to six outings.


Allen Webster

Fans who don’t follow the minor leagues and only remember Webster from his disastrous MLB stint last year will cringe at this suggestion, but there is more to Webster than meets the eye. He might have the best pure stuff of any of Boston’s promising young arms, and he has the most experience at Triple-A, too. He’s off to a decent start in Pawtucket this season, as he continues to refine his command and work on inducing ground balls.

In some ways, many of the problems that plague Doubront—command, mental toughness, a propensity to give up homers and repeating his delivery—plague Webster, too. Yet the upside is there for Webster to perform as a No. 3 starter who throws the occasional clunker, and the Red Sox wouldn’t be nuts to give him another shot in the major league rotation.


Other Options

There are other potential in-house choices to replace Doubront as well. Henry Owens has the highest upside of any Red Sox minor leaguer (with the possible exception of De La Rosa), and he could be ready for the majors later in the year. Matt Barnes’ upside is a tick below Owens’, but he’s a bit closer to being MLB-ready. And Anthony Ranaudo is another option if he starts throwing well in Pawtucket.

If Doubront‘s struggles persist into the middle of the season, the Red Sox could also use their highly rated farm system to swing a deal for a mid-rotation starter, similar to what they accomplished last year in acquiring Jake Peavy. In fact, for a rebuilding team looking to shed salary and take on a player with some upside, Doubront may be a fairly enticing trade chip as part of a larger package.

That’s getting ahead of ourselves, of course, and I firmly believe that Doubront deserves another few turns in the rotation before the Red Sox make a drastic move. Boston apparently feels that way, too, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported Thursday that the Sox aren’t considering bumping Doubront from the rotation just yet.

But with Clay Buchholz also struggling mightily and the Sox finding themselves three games under .500 in May, Boston can’t afford to run Doubront out for another 10 starts if only half of them are going to be competitive. At some point, they need to use the wealth of minor league talent they’ve accumulated to improve the major league team.

Doubront‘s future with the Red Sox is completely in his own hands. Whether that will prove to be his saving or his undoing is anyone’s guess.

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How to Fix the Boston Red Sox’s Biggest Problems Early in 2014

The Boston Red Sox enter Tuesday with a 12-14 record and a -15 run differential, tied for second worst in the American League. It’s a far cry from where the defending World Series champions expected to be at the end of April.

What can the Red Sox do to get back in first place instead of battling to stay out of the cellar?

While the answer may not be satisfying to many, it’s a fairly simple answer: Stay patient.

After decades of following, learning and writing baseball, two key takeaways this writer can assure nervous Red Sox fans of is: April is far too early to make drastic changes, and regression to the mean will, nine times out of 10, solve the problem.

Let’s look at three key areas in which the Red Sox have struggled, and how patience will end up being the single biggest solution to alleviating these problems.


Lack of Power

While the meat of the order in David Ortiz and Mike Napoli are driving the ball with authority, the Red Sox lack the power throughout the lineup that the 2013 group enjoyed. A lot of that can be traced back to the underperforming power numbers of A.J. Pierzynski and Xander Bogaerts.

Signed to fill the void left by departing catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski’s calling card on offense is his power. 

The 37-year-old reached double digits in home runs in nine of his 13 seasons with at least 100 games played—and two of these seasons with single-digit homers were his first two seasons of full-time play.

Unfortunately, Pierzynski has yet to deliver on those grounds. Entering 2014, Pierzynski’s career slugging percentage (SLG) was .428 with an isolated power (ISO) of .145. Isolated Power, as Baseball Prospectus explains, “is a measure of a hitter’s raw power, in terms of extra bases per [at-bat].” \

So far with the Red Sox, his SLG is .377 with an ISO of .116 (see table below).

Name (Year) SLG/ISO
C A.J. Pierzynski (2014) .377/.116
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2013) .466/.193
SS Xander Bogaerts (2014) .391/.103
SS Stephen Drew (2013) .443/.190

Before the weekend series, in which Pierzynski collected a home run on Saturday and double on Friday, his SLG was .355. The fact that his slugging percentage increased .22 points after only three games is indicative of how early it is. 

When it comes to sample such as these, one needs a much longer timeframe before anything of substance can be derived from them. In the early going, a slump can skew numbers dramatically, while just one good series good game—like Pierzynski’s weekend output—can make a significant difference. Come August, a good or bad game will barely register in season statistics.

Beware of small sample sizes, as they can cause one to jump to inaccurate conclusions.

It’s more likely than not that by the end of the year Pierzynski’s power production will mirror that of his career. This is where regression (or “trending back”) to the mean comes into play. Far more often than not, skewed numbers that look out of place for a player are simply outliers—a random variation that a regression to the mean will fix. Pierzynski’s poor power numbers to start the year will likely regress to his career power figures.

The same can be said of rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts. While the 21-year-old won’t smash 30 home runs like it appears he can do one day, per the Telegram & Gazette, expecting him to stay under a .400 SLG the entire season is unlikely. Bogaerts’ minor-league SLG is .489.

For an exercise in small sample sizes, consider BogaertsSLG in 2013, when he played 18 regular-season games with the Sox. That figure came in at .364, while his postseason mark in 12 games played was .481.

Similarly, his sample of 24 games played so far in 2014 is far too small to tell us anything about Bogaerts’ true expected power production over the 2014 season. Like Pierzynski, we can see that just one game can make a big difference early on. Before Sunday, BogaertsSLG was .373. After a two-hit game against the Blue Jays in which he rapped a double, it’s all the way up to .391.

Beware of small sample sizes.

The Sox can count on more than the expected improvement of Pierzynski and Bogaerts’ power. On Friday, the Red Sox welcomed back Will Middlebrooks, the Sox’s power-hitting third baseman who played just four games before going on the disabled list. With a career slugging percentage of .469, that will be a dramatic improvement over the punchless Jonathan Herrera and Brock Holt.


Defensive Woes

Boston has also struggled when it comes to defense. In 2013, the club enjoyed the fruits of Jacoby Ellsbury in center and Shane Victorino in right to track down many a fly ball. Stephen Drew was steady at shortstop while Mike Napoli looked like a Gold Glove candidate at first base.

Fast-forward a year later and the fielding has been so poor it’s fast becoming a storyline.

But again, small sample sizes and regression to the mean come into play here.

Take Bogaerts, for example. He ranks as one of the worst shortstops when it comes to defense, as Fangraphsleaderboard shows, with a -1.8 “Defense” mark. Last year, in just as small a sample size as 2014, Bogaerts turned in an +0.2 mark. The takeaway is that it’s yet to be determined just how good or bad Bogaerts’ defense will be. Relying on April’s games to draw conclusions is inadvisable.

Napoli, as mentioned, was a Gold Glove candidate last season. His Ultimate Zone Rating over 150 games was 13.3, the best in baseball. This year, it’s at 0.3. What’s the better bet: Napoli suddenly being barely above average at first base, or small sample size flaring up?

We can bet on Napoli regressing back to the mean and being an above-average first baseman before the year is out. It doesn’t mean it is a lock to happen, but it’s more of a lock than expecting Napoli‘s April numbers to continue.

The last poor fielder to discuss is Grady Sizemore.

Sizemore’s center field defense is disastrous, as his fielding numbers bear out. While he was once a strong defender, age and injuries have robbed him of the ability to play center. It has been apparent just how poor of a defender Sizemore has become just by watching the games.

Sizemore won’t be asked to handle center field anymore, as that job has been turned over to Jackie Bradley, Jr. for good. That relegates Sizemore to left field, where his poor defense can be hidden, especially with the Green Monster looming at Fenway Park. That move alone should boost the Red Sox’s defense dramatically.


Poor Pitching

The last segment of the Red Sox’s performance is pitching. While the team has been enjoying Jon Lester’s starts, the same can’t be said of Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront.

Buchholz looked to be a Cy Young contender last season before getting injured. This year, he’s one of the worst pitchers in the game with a 6.66 ERA.

Felix Doubront struggled through parts of 2013 but flashed dominance at times. He has yet to do so in 2014 with a 6.00 ERA.

As I’ve tried to hammer home throughout this piece, regression to the mean is likely with both pitchers. Fortunately, there’s a metric that can help us figure out what to expect moving forward.

Buchholz and Doubront will be hard-pressed to finish the season with ERAs above 6.00. Even if they aren’t the pitchers they once were, their talent is too great for that.

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is a figure scaled to ERA that adjusts for park factors and luck, according to Fangraphs. While Buchholz has been far from elite this year, his FIP mark is 4.45. Once you adjust for luck on home runs, that number dips to a 3.97 xFIP.

The takeaway here is that Buchholz has been dramatically unlucky to post a 6.66 figure; Account for elements beyond Buchholz’s control, and he should have a 3.97 ERA on the season. One should feel much better about the right-hander’s odds to emerge again as a front-of-the-rotation starter after seeing these figures.

Doubront has a similar tale to tell. His FIP is 4.88 with an xFIP of 4.90. So while Doubront still hasn’t pitched well according to FIP, his 6.00 is just over a full run higher than it should be.

These numbers show what one can expect from the two pitchers assuming normal regression to the mean. Over time, these numbers should trend back to what FIP and xFIP suggest, and what their true talent level suggests.

How about the bullpen? Two major FIP outliers are Edward Mujica and Craig Breslow. Last season, Mujica saved 37 games while Breslow’s career ERA is 2.89. So far this year, their ERAs are abnormally high. Over time, the performances of these relievers will trend back to normalcy. Besides, the bullpen is the biggest component of a team that is subject to variation and luck, and Boston has the entire season in which to hit upon the right combination.

Take 2013, for example. Brandon Workman ended up being one of the most important relievers in October for Boston … he didn’t make his season debut until July 10.


So, What’s the Takeaway?

Small sample sizes. Regression to the mean. These are two of the overarching themes throughout this piece that we’ve discussed. From power to defense to pitching, we find elements that suggest performances to date can be expected to improve, all by simply waiting things out.


Patience is the key to fixing the Red Sox’s biggest problems early in 2014. It may not be an answer you want to hear. Due to the fact the Red Sox’s record sat at 0-0 entering the year, their 12-14 record sticks out like a sore thumb.

But all teams, even elite ones, go through these ebbs and flows. If the Red Sox were 52-37 in July and then went on a 12-14 streak, it would be overlooked. But since the 12-14 record comes at the start of the year, the record sticks out like a sore thumb.

If the Red Sox want to get back to October baseball, its best bet is simply stay the course. Some players will start playing better. Others will play worse. Once the team has a few months to evaluate how well players are performing, then more drastic measures can be taken.

Until then, Boston needs to stay patient.

More from Bleacher Report:


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What Should the Boston Red Sox Expect from Felix Doubront in 2014?

The Boston Red Sox have begun 2014 with Felix Doubront as the No. 3 starter in their rotation.  After holding down the No. 5 spot the past two seasons, the 26-year-old is now entering his third full year in the big leagues.  Is the talented lefty finally ready to make the most of his potential?

In 2012, Doubront posted an ERA of 4.86, and last season, he trimmed that down by over half a run to 4.32.  A similar improvement this year could place him among the more successful starting pitchers in the American League.

Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston recently wrote the following about Doubront:

The left-hander came to camp in far better shape than a year ago, and may be on the cusp, at age 26, of a breakout season. He made some mechanical adjustments to tighten his delivery, and if he develops some greater consistency in his fastball command, he could be a big winner.

Doubront himself shares a similar outlook, via Mass Live’s Jason Mastrodonato:

“This is a big year for me. I know that and I went into the offseason thinking that. I have to be strong, mentally and physically and try to be healthy the whole year. You never know what’s going to happen, but you have to be prepared.”

However, there is an argument to be made that in Doubront‘s case it may actually be very easy to predict what is going to happen in 2014.  With the exception of his ERA, Doubront has put up nearly identical numbers in each of the last two seasons:

  Games  Wins Innings  Hits  Walks  WHIP 
 2012 29  11  161  162  71  1.45
 2013 29  11  162.1  161  71  1.43

Doubront‘s first start this year fell very much in line with what one might expect from looking at the above statistics.  On April 3 in Baltimore, he allowed six hits, a walk and three earned runs in 5.1 innings pitched.  His performance was nothing to write home about, but on that day, it was good enough to earn the victory.

Tuesday, Doubront will take the mound for the second time this season, facing the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park.  A potent lineup that features multiple left-handed hitters, Doubront could easily shut them down, or get lit up—but chances are he’ll give us something somewhere in between.

Even if Doubront doesn’t make any major strides in 2014, in a rotation featuring veterans Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy, another campaign as a serviceable No. 5 starter should suit the Red Sox just fine.


Statistics courtesy of RedSox.com.

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