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Boston Red Sox Thoughts and Observations

As most know by now, the Boston Red Sox were aggressive movers at the deadline and completely changed their entire framework. GM Ben Cherington has been on the record as saying they turned down big prospect packages, for major league talent instead and it has shown. What was a veteran pitching staff has become a youth filled rotation. The offense however has changed dramatically for the better. Here are some insights of mine since the July 31 trade deadline.

  1. The insertion of OF Yoenis Cespedes has been a big help thus far for the Sox. Sliding between David Ortiz and Mike Napoli has given all three of them looks at pitches they wouldn’t normally get. Since Cespedes joined the Red Sox, Mike Napoli has taken off going 6 for 26 (.231) with two towering home runs and four RBIs. While the two most recent outing vs the Angels was poor (0 for 7), he did draw 4 walks and looks primed to keep rolling. While Big Papi hasn’t seen the same rise going 4 for 24 (.167), he has still taken his chances since the Cespedes and Craig additions, with one HR and seven RBIs. Cespedes has been dynamite himself, going 9 for 34 (.265) with one HR and five RBIs. All of this has occurred with Dustin Pedroia heating up as well. He has gone 12 for 37 (.324) since these additions and has gone 14 for 41 (.341) his past 10 games with one HR and six RBIs. They have averaged just under 3.6 runs per game which is better than some stretches this year, and while they have only been 4-5 since the deadline, things are looking up offensively.
  2. Since trading away four of their five starters from last year’s World Series run, the Red Sox have gone with a youth movement calling up some of their best young arms to fill these roles. The growing pains have been evident but you can see why there is such promise. Allen Webster has excellent variety in his pitches but struggles with command. In his three starts this year versus the Rays, Yankees and Angels, he has been very up and down. The Rays start was solid (5.1IP, 2 ER’s, 5 BB’s), Yankees start was rough (2.2 IP, 4 ER’s, 6 BB’s) and the Angels start was great (6.2 IP, 2 ER’s, 3 K’s, 2 BB’s). Rubby De La Rosa and newly acquired Joe Kelly pitched great against the Cardinals and both now own sub 4.00 ERA’s. Brandon Workman is final piece of this youth group and has shown brilliance early, but has hit a rough patch and hasn’t gotten a lot of run support in his past couple of starts.
  3. Some serious slumps still need to be fixed however. Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to struggle mightily at the plate, going 0 for his last 35 at bats with 18 strikeouts. If his offense can be half as good as his defense, he will be fine in this league. Brock Holt has also been a little down but has been working hard to break out of his stretch that saw his batting average fall from .318 to .295. Meanwhile on the mound, Clay Buchholz continues to meltdown since his CG vs. Houston on July 13th. The walk rate is soaring, the earned runs keep coming and suddenly, one of the hero’s of their championship run has a ghastly 5.99 ERA. He had a solid bounce back outing vs the Angels only allowing three earned runs in 8 IP and striking out 8. If the Red Sox want to be relevant quickly next year, its going to have to start with Buchholz.
  4. Meanwhile, offseason decisions are looming large. There will be the task of free agency, and most certainly the need for starting pitching. Jon Lester, James Shields, Justin Masterson, and more are all options. There are also battles for starting spots going on right now. At third base, the options include Will Middlebrooks, Brock Holt, and even Triple-A talent Garin Cecchini. Holt is looking to shake the super utility role, while Middlebrooks is looking to recapture the form that made him so highly regarded. Cecchini is looking to make the jump but he could have one more year in the minors to help his case. At center field, Jackie Bradley Jr. and his incredible defense are trying to hold off Mookie Betts and even Brock Holt perhaps. We have already talked about JBJ and his struggles at the plate and a kid like Mookie Betts, who has been tearing up the minors, could be the kind of person to unseat him. Brock Holt should be able to provide help here if his super utility role isn’t shaken.
  5. There are still some questions about the bullpen. After Andrew Miller got traded, it left a big hole in the seventh inning. While Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa own the eighth and ninth inning, they need to find a way to set them up. Burke Badenhop has been a good sixth inning/semi long man and been a ground ball machine for a while now. Perhaps guys like Tommy Layne and newly acquired Heath Hembree can fill the role. Layne has been good so far but it remains to be seen as to what could happen.
  6. Speaking of Hembree, he had a sensational debut in Boston’s marathon 19 inning loss to the Angels. He went four innings (a career high) and only allowed two hits. It will be interesting to see the continued development of Hembree, as well as the upcoming debut of outfielder Corey Brown. Infielder Kelly Johnson and catcher Dan Butler both made their Red Sox debut against the Angels on Sunday. While they aren’t expected to make a big impact, each has a chance to further develop their careers. Especially for the undrafted Butler, these debuts mean a lot. Should be a pleasure to watch.

Those are some of my thoughts and observations of the state of the Red Sox right now. Expect a much improved team to take the field next year, but for now, enjoy the youth movement. It doesn’t happen all too often up in Boston.

[Photo: Jillian Souza/PawSox.com]