Jackie Bradley Hit Streak Ends at 29 Games

Jackie Bradley showed Sox nation that he’s arrived offensively at the big league level. During the 29 game hit streak, Bradley hit .415 (44-for-106) with 20 extra-base hits, including eight homers and 30 RBIs. All great things come to an end as Sox fans know with this being the final year for Sox great and one of baseball’s great ambassadors, David Ortiz. However, Bradley has many strong years ahead and this hit streak showed that.

Bradley came into this season with just 700 at bats in the big leagues and 238 gamesJackie Bradley played. So while he technically has three years of major league experience, his plate appearances represent less than two full years of experience. Major league experience is commonly misinterpreted if one just looks at years played. So with under two years of actual playing time and exposure to the highest level, Bradley is on track to being a very strong major league hitter.

Following the hit streak, Bradley’s average sits at .341. While this average is unlikely to persist throughout the rigorous 162 game season, Bradley has shown me he can be a .300 hitter with 20-25 homers. The most impressive component to his game that I have noticed this season is his willingness to go with the ball and use the monster as his best friend. Countless times Bradley has knocked a double off the monster. Bradley also can run, stealing 15 bases out of 15 attempts. To go along with his outstanding defense, Bradley is becoming an all star with all of the work he has put in during the offseason. Meanwhile, some people are questioning whether or not he is using PED’s.

Bradley has always had the reputation of being a listener and having a strong work ethic. The improvements in his game are a product of that rather than PED’s. Nowadays, whenever somebody takes off it seems that the PED questions surface. This is an absolute joke and is a disgrace to the game in general, improvement can be made with work being put in. Bradley has put in the work and as a result he is becoming one of the better hitters in the league. What’s next for Bradley?

Bradley cannot improve much upon the numbers he has put up. In fact, he is likely to regress to a fairly great extent. Bradley will probably end the season with a .304 batting average with 22 homers and 93 RBI. That is regression on his current projected stats based off of his performance thus far, 28 homers and 117 RBI. Bradley has been awesome to watch during his streak and that will not change, Bradley has arrived and he is here to stay.

Matt Barnes Must Replace Carson Smith

With Carson Smith undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox lose a major piece to their bullpen this season. Smith, acquired in the off season, was expected to be a lock down option out of the bullpen, especially against elite right handed bats. With Smith done for the year, the Sox need somebody to step up as a replacement. Converted reliever Matt Barnes has looked strong this season and will be crucial to replacing Smith.

Barnes was once highly touted as a minor league starting pitcher. He struggled as aMatt Barnes starting pitcher at the major league level, resulting in the transition to the bullpen. Barnes seems to finally be adjusting to the new role after looking shaky and out of place last season. Barnes has pitched very well this season with a 2.82 ERA and is throwing his fastball around 70% of the time, sitting around a strong 96 mph for the most part.

Is Matt Barnes As Good As Carson Smith?

While Barnes has been pitching very well this year, he is not as good as Carson Smith, mainly due to Smith’s stronger off speed pitches. Smith also has more pitches at his disposal to keep hitters guessing. Barnes relies primarily on his curve ball as his secondary pitch. The bullpen role is best for Barnes as he is a guy who can come in for an inning and use his big time arm, throwing heat. If Barnes has his curve ball working and improves his third pitch, the change-up, he could eventually turn into an elite bullpen arm.

Losing Smith was a devastating blow to the Sox. Many fans did not get to know who Carson Smith was and should know that he was an elite arm out of the pen. Smith had 92 strikeouts in 70 innings last season with a 2.31 ERA for the Seattle Mariners. If Barnes can come near those numbers, the Sox will be very pleased. So far, Barnes looks like he is a changed pitcher and is relishing fewer innings pitched and letting loose with his heater.

Xander Bogaerts is the Best Shortstop in Baseball

Xander Bogaerts is the best shortstop in the league and is overlooked by many. He came up in the Sox system and people marked him as a guy who had a 30 homer bat. The power hasn’t been there up to this stage in his career but even if he doesn’t develop into a power hitter, Bogaerts is as good as it gets in the batters box in baseball. While teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. has a 27 game hitting streak, some may not know that Bogaerts hasXander Bogaerts best shortstop the second longest hitting streak in baseball at 16 games.

Bogaerts has recorded a hit in 28 of his last 30 games and leads the American League in batting average at .346. During his hit streak he is hitting .403 with five doubles, three homers and four RBI’s. The most impressive part of the streak is the three homers. While Bogaerts was tabbed as a guy who had power potential down on the farm, that power has never shown at the big league level.

Is Bogaerts the Best Shortstop?

Many said Bogaerts could eventually develop into a 30 homer bat at a shortstop position where that type of power is very hard to come by. To put it in perspective, the last time a shortstop hit 30 homers in a season was in 2011, done so by Troy Tulowitzki and J.J Hardy. If Bogaerts ends up hitting 30 homers in multiple seasons, he may end up being one of the best offensive shortstops ever to play the game. Still 23 years old, Bogaerts could end up hitting in the 20-25 homer range at best. I do not see that happening until at least 25 years old though as he continues to evolve as a major league hitter. If the power doesn’t develop, what is Bogaerts potential?

Sox fans may remember a guy named Derek Jeter. When watching Bogaerts hit all I can think of is Jeter. They both spray the ball all over the field and are extremely tough to get out. The most homers Jeter hit in a season was 24, done so in 1999, his fifth season in the big leagues. Bogaerts is in his fourth season this year and will likely finish around 15-20 homers. Jeter got off to a faster start in his major league career than Bogaerts but Bogaerts figured it out last season having a better third season than Jeter had.

The comparison to Jeter may come off as far fetched but having the luxury of watching both of them play has been awesome and they are both very similar hitters offensively. Bogaerts still has a lot of time to cement his own legacy in the game and his great season last year followed by his torrid start this season should have Sox fans excited as we may have the new Jeter wearing number two in a Sox uniform.

Sonny Gray is the Missing Piece to the Red Sox Rotation

The Boston Red Sox are on a historic pace offensively. However, some nights even the offense is incapable of bailing out the runs given up by the starting rotation. With Price rounding into form to go along with the solid seasons put together by Steven Wright and Rick Porcello, the Sox are two starting pitchers away from being serious World Series contenders. One of those starters is Eduardo Rodriguez who is nearing a return in theSonny Gray rotation. The other starter should be Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray, a guy the Sox must target at the 2016 MLB trade deadline.

Gray has had his struggles this season after posting a 2.73 ERA last season. The Sox
offense recently lit him up for seven earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched. However, the talent is there and the resume is there with Gray. He’s had two consecutive seasons with over 200 innings pitched and has been a reliable arm for the Athletics. He comes at a reasonable price for the Sox as well.

Gray is under team control through 2020. The Sox would likely have to ship out one of the top prospects in our farm system. The guy I would ship out would be Andrew Benintendi, the outfielder who was just recently promoted to Double A Portland. Benintendi would provide Oakland with a centerfielder to build an offense around. While it would be tough seeing Benintendi go, the Sox have the guys in place to deal him away. After all, starting pitching is essential to winning a world series.

Without a strong starting rotation, it is very tough to win it all, even with an offense as potent as the Red Sox. With Gray and Price, the Sox would have a solid one-two punch at the front end of their rotation, something the Sox have lacked for years. Acquiring him would also slide Porcello into the third spot in the rotation, a much more comfortable place for him to pitch. Porcello would be followed by Rodriguez and Wright in a very improved starting rotation. The pieces are there to pull it off, the question is whether or not Dave Dombrowski will do it.

Travis Shaw Close to Being Best at Third Base

Coming into the 2016 season, Travis Shaw was the fan favorite for the starting third base job. The reason for this was because Pablo Sandoval came in overweight, showing a lack of commitment in the off-season. Since winning the third base job after a strong spring, Shaw has looked strong and Sandoval is now out for the season due to a shoulder injury, resulting in Shaw having the job sealed. Shaw has been very successful offensively atTravis Shaw home and has done a better job defensively than expected at the hot corner.

Since debuting last season at the big league level, Shaw has been one of the best hitters at Fenway Park. Last season, he hit a cool .329 at home in 119 at bats. This season, the success has continued, hitting at a .387 clip in 62 at bats. Shaw has shown the ability to spray the ball to all fields and looks like a guy who is here to stay.

Shaw has been playing corner infield positions throughout his life, spending time at both first base and third base. However, he has spent less time at third base, only having five starts there last season. Coming into this season, Shaw’s defense was something to watch. With 4 errors on the season through 28 starts, the numbers do not help Shaw’s case. Sometimes numbers are deceiving and in this case they are. He has showed good range and good decision making thus far and as long as he continues hitting, the defense will be an afterthought. With the offense clicking and the better than expected defense, Shaw seems to have it all figured out right?

The answer to that is no. While Shaw has impressed me and made Sandoval an afterthought, he still has areas of his game to work on. On offense, Shaw has to show that he can hit on the road and hit lefties. He has crushed right-handers to a .376 clip but has only hit .143 against lefties. Both of these can be fixed and Shaw should be able to do just that. Last season he hit lefties better than righties. He had a .329 average against lefties last season compared to a .243 against righties. On defense, he just needs more starts and to continue adjusting to the other side of the diamond. He is not a defensive liability but he also is below average this season regarding third base defense, ranking 22nd in baseball in defensive fielding percentage.

Shaw has been a pleasant surprise and the potential is there to be even better, scary for opposing teams. If he figures out left-handers again and improves his play on the road, Shaw is on track to being an elite offensive third baseman in baseball.

There Is No Need To Worry About David Price

Boston Red Sox new starting pitcher, David Price, has drawn a fair amount of criticism following his first seven starts as the ace of the staff. Playing in Boston can be very tough for a new player, especially one of Price’s magnitude. With such lofty expectations from a fan base that always expects the best, Price has been a major disappointment so far. Price is the first true ace this team has had since former Sox starting pitcher Jon David PriceLester left for the Chicago Cubs. Adjusting to a change of scenery can be tough for a star player and Lester’s first season for the Cubs, a 3.34 ERA with 207 strikeouts in 205 innings, should be the measuring stick Sox fans are using for Price’s first season in Boston. However, Sox fans may not be aware of the start Lester had in a Cubs uniform. Lester’s first seven starts in a Cubs uniform were only a tad bit better than Price’s have been for the Sox.

Through Lester’s first seven starts in a Cubs uniform, he had a 4.10 ERA with 40
strikeouts in 41.2 innings pitched. This performance certainly didn’t live up to the 6 year, $155 million contract he signed, and World Series hungry Chicago was also very concerned about their aging new ace. Similar to Lester, Price’s 6.75 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 41.1 innings pitched have not lived up to the 7 year $217 million contract that he signed this offseason. Both pitchers stumbled out of the gate for their new teams and Lester’s turnaround last year should be the expectation Sox fans have for Price. Lester and Price are very similar pitchers as well.

Both Lester and Price feature four pitches, a fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup, relying primarily on the fastball and cutter, throwing them over 70% of the time, according to FanGraphs. The main difference between the two is with their off speed stuff, Price relies on his changeup more and Lester puts more trust in the curveball. Both pitchers throw around the same speed at this point in their respective careers, Price’s average fastball velocity is around 92 mph, while Lester’s fastball sits around the 90-93 range. Location of pitches is the key for both of these pitchers in the latter stages of their careers. Price’s inability to locate his pitches have been the reason for his struggles. Luckily for Sox fans, this can easily be fixed.

David Price: Location Issues Are The Reason For His Early Season Struggles

Although he has showed strong command, allowing just 12 walks, the issue has been more of where he’s leaving the ball in the strike zone, in places hitters can destroy a pitcher. For example, in his last start he threw a pitch down and inside to Carlos Beltran, a guy who has killed that pitch during his long career. As a result, Beltran doubled in two runs. Price has the experience to know that this is the real issue, not his velocity.

With the pedigree Price brings, Sox fans should not be concerned but rather have faith in Price turning it around and performing as the ace. The baseball season is long and to critique a pitcher of Price’s caliber just seven starts in is not justifiable. His strikeout rate and the limited walks are elite and when he figures out his location, everything else will be elite as well. This Thursday’s start against the strikeout prone Astros in front of the Fenway crowd will provide him with a great opportunity to show off his still great stuff and silence the early season criticism.