A Closer Look At RedSox Rookies Xander Bogaerts & Jackie Bradley Jr

It’s safe to say at this point that the Red Sox newfound philosophy of “bringing up the kids” did not go as planned.

Red Sox rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. looked to be promising contributors going into the season. Bradley earned his starting job in spring training, while Bogaerts proved himself more than deserving of manning shortstop with his 2013 post-season campaign. Each were expected to carry their weight in what, on paper, figured to be one of the better lineups in the American League.

Starting the kids seemed like the right gamble to take this year, after the magical 2013 season. We all expected that there would be some small bumps in the road with the continual development of the youngsters. What we did not expect was a bump that was just about as big as the 2014 season itself.

With a good start to September, Bogaerts’ batting average is now up to .237 to go along with 37 RBIs. Perhaps the worst part has been the dismal .147 batting average with runners in scoring position, and an even uglier .115 batting average with RISP and two outs – a totally different player from last years postseason campaign to say the least. Bradley Jr., while playing an elite center field, owns a .213 batting average of his own, and at times has really struggled to produce at the dish before his demotion in August.

It’s hard to tell whether the blame is put more on the Red Sox organization or the players. Take Bradley Jr. for example. With the recent rumor that Bradley Jr. was deemed “uncoachable” by not being open to the idea of working with the hitting staff to change his swing, it’s unclear the truth behind the matter and who is at fault here. Maybe Bradley Jr. displayed some stubbornness, or maybe the hitting staff unnecessarily toyed around with his swing one too many times, which Bradley Jr. reportedly said a week before his demotion in August.

Similar situation with Bogaerts, and his early season struggles at shortstop. The Sox told the 21 year old to shift over to third base in favor of Stephen Drew. The move was not exactly a vote of confidence for the Rookie, as he hit .135 while playing third base upon Drew’s arrival at the beginning of June. Maybe the move was premature, or maybe he really didn’t have the mental toughness that was called into question.

 

red sox rookies

My opinion is that it is fair to give much of the blame to the Red Sox front office- not so much for what went on during the season, but for the situation. And by that, I mean they were hurried up to the big leagues. They just weren’t ready yet, and it showed. Their weaknesses were exposed. The pressure got to them. They were immature, unprepared and underdeveloped. So much so, that their lack of experience played into how they handled each’s respective struggles. What’s most frustrating is that these guys have the potential to be great players, and we certainly have seen flashes of this season.

We can only hope that if the Red Sox continue to go the route of integrating the kids as part of this organization’s future, they’ll know when they’ll be ready to call them up and for how long. You can’t risk this again with the likes of Marrero, Cecchini, Owens or Barnes, who was called up on Monday. A team with the fourth highest salary can certainly buy both big league caliber player and the time to develop its farm system.

 

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Rusney Castillo Signing Reveals Larger Plan For Red Sox

The Red Sox made a statement when they agreed to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with Cuban defector Rusney Castillo. They are (at least for now) back to using their financial muscles in the free agent market, and seem prepared to spend to get their targets. But in showing that they still are willing to behave like a large-market club, the Red Sox also gave away part of their plan for the coming offseason. Adding Castillo makes it abundantly clear that the Red Sox will use their organizational depth on the trade market to add at least one major, franchise-changing piece to the roster.

The idea that the Red Sox are now in a position to make a major splash on the trade market is based solely on the numbers game. The team is stockpiling players, creating a situation where they have many quality players for few available spots. This depth is going to basically force the Red Sox to make some type of move, because there is no use having so many quality players if they do not get the chance to play at all. There is now surplus is almost every area of the Red Sox organization, which means someone will have to go in order to clear the picture. The outfield, for example, now appears more crowded than the Mass Pike at rush hour, with a combination of veterans and prospects vying for playing time. But the prospects are the key here, as they are the most valuable commodity and the most tradable asset in this scenario. Despite his recent demotion, Jackie Bradley Jr. was likely going to be in the team’s future plans in some capacity, and Mookie Betts is currently getting a chance to prove he can be the impact player he was in the minor leagues. Castillo’s signing now suggests that neither player will start for the Red Sox in the near future. Third base is becoming crowded as well, with Brock Holt and Will Middlebrooks currently splitting time there and Garin Cecchini waiting in the minors. Christian Vazquez has stabilized things behind the plate for the time being, but Blake Swihart has been more highly regarded as a prospect and is getting closer to the majors. This is all to say nothing of the tremendous organizational pitching depth that was only bolstered at the trade deadline.

The Red Sox have reportedly been trying to acquire Giancarlo Stanton from Miami for quite some time, especially since Stanton appears unhappy with the Marlins’ front office. However, to this point the Marlins have been publicly adamant that they will refuse to trade him, despite numerous reported offers. This could potentially be they offseason where a deal gets done, just because of the sheer magnitude of the situation. The Red Sox can go to the Marlins with the organizational surplus mentioned above, and essentially overwhelm them into working out a trade. At some point there will be an offer they can’t refuse, and the Red Sox are in a good position to make it.

There have also been various reports on the potential availability of Jason Heyward. An argument could be made that Heyward is the better fit for the Red Sox, given the enormous right field at Fenway Park and their current lack of left-handed hitters. Heyward would be more useful in this sense because of his increased athleticism and much better defense (34 DRS, 27.8 UZR/150 in 2014) compared to Stanton (6 DRS, 1.4 UZR/150), though he would currently represent less of a power threat at the plate. Heyward would also likely be easier to trade for than Stanton, as he is only a year away from hitting the open market and therefore gives the Braves less trade leverage.

The Red Sox having been setting themselves up for this coming offseason since the trade deadline. Every move has been made to make the team better for 2015, but also to create roster flexibility. Depth is always strength because it creates options and opens doors. The surplus here is incredible, and sets the table for a series of moves to reshape the organization.

Joe Kelly Makes Solid Red Sox Debut, Red Sox Defeat Cardinals 2-1

There was much anticipation before Joe Kelly’s debut with the Red Sox in St. Louis, in that he was facing both his former team and one of his best friends. St. Louis’s starter, Shelby Miller, was Kelly’s best man at his wedding and the two are reportedly very close, adding an interesting wrinkle to the second of three contests between last October’s World Series opponents. Kelly also received several standing ovations from the grateful crowd at Busch Stadium. Brandon Workman will oppose Adam Wainwright in St. Louis tonight to decide the winner of the three game series. Some more notes from last night’s 2-1 Red Sox win:

  • Joe Kelly made a solid start against his former team. Kelly’s final line on the night came out to 7 IP 3 H 1 ER 4 BB 2 K, while throwing 53 of 97 pitches for strikes. Kelly seemed to struggle with his command early on, as evidenced by the four walks, but he seemed to settle in as the game went on. Those command issues could certainly be reasonably explained by some jitters against facing his old team in their ballpark for the first time. The two strikeouts were also a bit low, especially since Kelly shows plus stuff most times, but he is not a pitcher that lives and dies with the strikeout. Kelly has a career K/9 mark of just 5.97, but his career 52.2% groundball rate (56.6% this season) suggests that he can still be effective without missing many bats, as evidenced by his start last night.
  • Xander Bogaerts had himself a pretty good night on both sides of the ball. Bogaerts made a nice diving play to help get Kelly out of a first-and-third jam and end the second inning, showing much greater comfort and skill at shortstop than he had at third base. Since the trade of Stephen Drew to the Yankees, Bogaerts has been much better defensively, which in turn has seemed to give him a much-needed confidence boost. Bogaerts also drove in both of the Red Sox’ runs in the game; the first on a two-out double to score Daniel Nava in the fourth inning, then he lifted a sacrifice fly to score Yoenis Cespedes and give the Red Sox the lead in the top of the ninth. A surge by Bogaerts would be a huge boost to the Red Sox lineup, as well as set him up for a breakout season in 2015.
  • Even though he wasn’t in the starting lineup, David Ortiz still left his mark on the game when he pinch-hit for Nava with runners at second and third and no outs in the top of the ninth. The Cardinals elected to intentionally walk Ortiz (who was promptly pinch-run for by Jackie Bradley Jr.) and pitch to Bogaerts instead. Looks like they learned their lesson last October about pitching to David Ortiz with runners in scoring position.
  • The Red Sox bullpen was excellent in support of Kelly’s strong start. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara combined for two shutout innings in relief, with Uehara recording his 23rd save in the process.