Top Ten Current Red Sox Players: Part 2

In part two of this series, I will continue to look at the top ten Red Sox players on the roster in all positions. The rankings are based mainly on performances from 2016 and early 2017.

Top Ten Red Sox Players

  1. Craig Kimbrel.

 He joined the Red Sox as part of a blockbuster trade in November 2015. Since then Craigred sox players Kimbrel has had an immediate impact on the club’s late-game success. Some may be quick to point out the walks or the non-save situations. But he converted 31 out of 33 save opportunities in 2016 and has a career ERA of 1.86. So far in 2017, he has seven saves in the Red Sox total 11 wins.

  1. Xander Bogaerts

            There is no doubt that the Aruban shortstop will be a stud for years. Bogaerts has become a solid defender in recently. This season, Bogaerts is second on the team in average and is set to drive up the RBI total because of where he bats in the lineup. The only question that remains is how likely the Red Sox are to resign him. Bogaerts is a Scott Boras client.    

  1. Andrew Benintendi

            Almost every scout in baseball agreed that Benintendi was the number one prospect entering the year. Maybe it is premature to slate him as the third best player on the Red Sox, but with the maturity and poise he has, it’s deserving. Although he has struggled in some clutch situations, the 22-year-old outfielder is batting .361 on the season with 26 hits in 18 games. Recently against the Orioles, he had a five-hit game.

  1. Chris Sale

            Considering the price spent to acquire Sale and his tremendous track record, Red Sox fans should keep having high hopes for the tall lefty. In four starts, Sale has an ERA under one and 42 strikeouts. That is 19 higher than any other teammate. This is an average of 10.5 K’s per start. If he can get some more run support from the offense and benefit from the return of Price, then we’re looking at another Cy Young Award run in Boston.

  1. Mookie Betts

Personally, I was appalled that Betts did not win the American League MVP in 2016 because he led the league or was ranked in so many categories, including runs, batting average, doubles, and RBI. Not to mention his repeated multi-home run games. So because of his ability to change the game at the plate and his acrobatic defense, Betts is the best player on the Red Sox.

Red Sox Facing Strong AL East This Season

The 2017 American League East has the Red Sox facing more than its fair share of competition. Last year the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees were at the bottom of Red Sox facingthe standings. Now the Baltimore Orioles and Yankees are looking down on the Red Sox. The Toronto Blue Jays, which made it to the playoffs last year, are dead last. They’ve only won five games as of April 24th. This level of competition is making it difficult for the Red Sox to take first place. They’re playing well enough, but they’re going to have to re-strategize if they want to pass the O’s and Yankees.

Who’s Strong?

The Baltimore Orioles have been knocking at the door of the playoffs for a few seasons now. Their skipper, Buck Showalter, is a seasoned manager who knows the AL East like the back of his hand. While none of their players are standing out yet as likely MVPs, their combination of hitting, fielding, and pitching is what’s keeping them in first place.

The New York Yankees, who haven’t contended for a playoff spot in years, have strong hitting on their side this year. Aaron Judge and Starling Castro are proving to be offensive threats to opposing pitchers. Judge knocked a 460-foot home run out of PNC Park in Pittsburg last week, tied for the longest since 2009. Yankees haven’t hit home runs that far since the days of Mickey Mantle. In addition to their offense, their pitching staff allows only about three earned runs a game. With the Red Sox facing anticipated opposition from the O’s, they probably weren’t expecting the same from the Yankees, or Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t been contenders for a few years either. But they currently rank top ten in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, which is an improvement for them. They also have an ace in Chris Archer. He finally broke his eleven-game losing streak against the Red Sox while holding them to one run in 5 2/3 innings on April 15th.

It seems that the teams fans wrote off are suddenly coming alive. While it’s early in the season, these teams are scrambling to grab hold of first place and keep it. If not, they know anther team won’t hesitate to take it from them.

With The Red Sox Facing Competition in the AL East, They Struggle With Pitching

Red Sox pitchers Steve Wright and Rick Porcello are off to a tough start to the season. They were fantastic last year, and definitely have the ability to be great again this season, but it’s going to be tough. They may have started this this season with a level of confidence they didn’t think would be tested so early. But if they want to stay in the rotation they’re going to have to come up with news ways to stave off opposing hitters, who by now have clearly learned to hit them, and hit them well.

Too Much Pressure for Benintendi?

Andrew Benintendi broke in with the Red Sox late last season and quickly proved his worth. It was inevitable that he’d make it to Boston, but no one thought it would be so quick. The swiftness with which he rose through the minors concerned some whoBenintendi thought it was too fast. Fortunately, Benintendi proved them wrong. In 34 games in 2016 he hit .295 with fourteen extra base hits. He even hit a home run in the ALDS against Cleveland. While he is off to a strong start this season, some are asking the question, “Is Benintendi under too much pressure?”

It’s a valid question. After all, Benintendi is only 22-years old. He couldn’t even legally drink when he started his professional career. Playing everyday is a lot of pressure for anyone, let alone a rookie. Just ask Fred Lynn.

A few weeks ago I sat down with former Red Sox centerfielder Fred Lynn. As many of you remember, Lynn won the 1975 AL Rookie of the Year AND MVP awards, the only player ever to do so in the same year. He also won a Gold Glove and made an All-Star appearance, the first of nine. But he told me that he expected to do even better the following year. While he went on to collect a batting title in 1979, Lynn recalled some challenges that came along. “I was not a big guy and I thought maybe if I put on some weight or get some more muscle…,” Lynn told me. “But…the variable for me always was if I could stay healthy enough to do what I could do…that bar was set pretty high, and I didn’t mind that because I set my own bar pretty high.”

Benintendi set his own bar high too. Otherwise he wouldn’t be where he is today. However, that doesn’t mean that fans and writers alike aren’t setting it even higher.

With Benintendi Under Pressure, How’s He Adjusting?

Benintendi played the first and third games against Baltimore last weekend, but sat out the second. There was a southpaw on the mound in the second game, which didn’t bode well for Benintendi. But I think the other reason why John Farrell benched Benintendi was because Baltimore’s pitchers had figured out how to get him out. Twice Benintendi hit into a double play. While it happens to everyone, if you look at footage of Benintendi’s swing, he has a ways to go towards adjusting his swing to counter the way pitchers are going to throw to him. Pitchers and hitters trying to get the upper hand over each other is a never-ending battle. It’s even harder this day in age with all the access to footage players can review and study.

Seeing Benintendi under pressure is tough, but that’s baseball. If he’s smart, and I’m sure he is, he’ll learn how to adjust. Meanwhile, Farrell is smart to bench him against southpaws and insert someone like Josh Rutledge, who has his own potential.

 

Rutledge Called Up To Replace Ailing Red Sox

The Red Sox can’t catch a break with the injuries. David Price hasn’t started a game yet. Brock Holt is on the DL due to vertigo. Dustin Pedrioa has missed the last few games due to a sore knee. Now Pablo Sandoval is on the 10-day DL with a right knee sprain. This comes after a season that saw Sandoval out for the entire season. Fortunately, the Red Sox AAA team in Pawtucket has a stock of players more than ready to plug the holes. Having players like Josh Rutledge called up to Boston will help stop some of the bleeding.

Seeing Josh Rutledge called up should make many fans happy. As an under-utilized playerRutledge called who does well when he’s in Boston, this is a chance for Rutledge to prove his real worth. Unfortunately, the only time he makes it to Boston is when there’s an injury. If he got more playing time, Rutledge could become a real asset to the Red Sox. He can play multiple positions in the infield as well as serve as a DH. Rutledge has experience playing in the National League too, which is always an asset.

Unfortunately, Rutledge, along with the rest of the team, is coming up short so far in the season. Yes, it’s important to remember that it’s still only April. But seeing the Red Sox struggle this much out of the gate is concerning.

Rutledge Called Up to Injury-Prone Team

Wednesday’s loss to the Yankees was disconcerting for Boston fans braving the rain at Fenway. Porcello now has a 1-3 record, a complete opposite of what we saw last year from him. It’s not that he pitched badly. He struck out nine batters, flashing some of the dominance that won him a Cy Young Award last season. But it wasn’t enough.

We might see more wins out of a healthier team, but right now the reality is that they’re hurt. Pedrioa, Sandoval, Price, and Holt are all down and out for now. That’s four key players that Farrell relies on. While the Red Sox are struggling, seeing Rutledge called up is positive, as he’ll be one more player who can gain enough experience to plug holes in the future when needed.

Did Matt Barnes Have the Right to Throw at Machado’s Head?

Baseball fans have seen it happen plenty of times before. Teams in the Big Leagues haveMatt Barnes been exchanging plunks since the inception of the league. Retaliation is fine; make it clear that your team does not play games. On the other hand, don’t just let it rip and see what happens. Throwing at someone’s head is unacceptable in this age of baseball. Matt Barnes made a mistake, and he’s lucky that a four-game suspension is all he is facing.

Why What Matt Barnes Did Was Wrong

Manny Machado broke up a double play by spiking second baseman Dustin Pedroia on his slide into second-base during last Friday’s game. Some Red Sox fans saw it as a dirty play. Don’t forget that a runner’s job is to break hard for second base and do what it takes to break up a double play. Players are literally taught to do this at more competitive levels of baseball. Manny Machado is a player who has already been caught up in some instances during his young career that showcase his fiery emotions. Machado is not afraid to let the other team know how he feels, which I believe is good for the future of baseball.

Machado broke hard toward second base and spiked Pedroia, eventually forcing Pedroia to leave the game. During the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, Matt Barnes intentionally threw at Manny Machado. From a baseball player’s perspective, this is simply retaliation. Once your star gets intentionally hurt, it is important to stand up for your teammate. The problem here is that Barnes fired his fastball past the head of Machado, (ultimately hitting his bat and being called a foul ball). For those who do not know, Matt Barnes is one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the Red Sox’ bullpen. Barnes’ fastball is what got him to the big-leagues, as it sits in the mid-nineties. A pitch with that much velocity can cause serious damage to a batter’s head or face. God forbid Barnes’ pitch didn’t miss to the right, and strike Manny Machado up top.

Matt Barnes Isn’t Completely at Fault

Dustin Pedroia and Manny Machado were seen chirping at each other during Sunday’s game. Pedroia yelled out to Machado, “Not me, that’s them,” from the Red Sox dugout. The former MVP is right. He got taken out at second, and his teammates backed him up. Whatever may happen to Machado at the hands of Pedie’s teammates is fair game because Machado made the decision to slide with his cleats up. Matt Barnes was probably not the guy to come up with the idea to hit Machado initially. This decision could have been made by any player or group of Red Sox. Barnes could have even been instructed by a coach to hit Machado.

The fact of the matter is that fastballs around the head have no place in the game. Look at what happened to Tony Conigliaro. Conigliaro was on pace to become one of the best players in all of baseball when he got beaned. If Machado was hit up top, who knows what could have happened. Next time, just drill the guy in the thigh or find a different way to retaliate, and move on. It doesn’t make sense to potentially jeopardize the career of a promising star because he spiked a second-baseman.

Sea Dogs Forced To Modify Game Schedule Frequently

After starting out 5-0, the Portland Sea Dogs have been forced to only play six games. Likewise, they have not played a game since last Tuesday, in which they defeated Portland Sea Dogs game scheduleBinghamton 2-0. Weather has not been a friend to the Sea Dogs, causing many changes to the game schedule.

Games previously set for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were postponed. The first two were away match-ups versus the Rumble Ponies while Friday’s match-up was the first of three against the Trenton Thunder. It was also set to be the start of a six-game homestand. The postponement was Portland’s second moved home game of the year. They were previously forced to move the Opening Day game against Reading.

They got the chance to resume their schedule Saturday when they played a doubleheader beginning at 1 pm. Both games were against Trenton.

Portland Sea Dogs Modified Game Schedule

According to the Sea Dogs website, “tickets for Friday’s postponed game may be exchanged for tickets of equal or lesser value to any remaining 2017 Sea Dogs home game, subject to availability. Any questions regarding rained out tickets can be directed towards the Sea Dogs Ticket Office at 207-879-9500 or tickets@seadogs.com.”

The Sea Dogs played a single-admission doubleheader on Saturday, April 22nd, which consisted of two seven-inning games. Tickets for April 22nd were good for both games of the doubleheader.

The Binghamton road games have been rescheduled to June and August.

Obviously, the Sea Dogs have been hard-pressed to continue what started as a historic season. Thus far, they have relied heavily on superb pitching performances—mainly from Teddy Stankiewicz and Jalen Beeks. Additionally, the Sea Dogs have benefited from the rising stardom of Rafael Devers and Danny Mars.

The grand thing about baseball is that there is usually a tomorrow.

The Sea Dogs split the doubleheader with Trenton on Saturday, 3-0 and 0-5 respectively. On Sunday, they walked off in a 6-5 thriller. Monday, Portland lost to Hartford 5-0. As for Tuesday’s game, it was moved to May 16th at 5:00 due to rain.