Red Sox to Promote Yoan Moncada

With Major League rosters expanding in September, the Red Sox will promote phenom Yoan Moncada in time for Friday’s game in Oakland. The precocious Cuban has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the Boston farm system, and he figures to provide an extra spark as the stretch run begins.

Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada was signed by the Red Sox early in 2015. Boston gave him an unprecedented signing bonus of $31.5 million, which spoke to tremendous confidence in his ability. Moncada excelled at Single-A Greenville Drive last year, before continuing his development this season. Over two levels of minor league ball, the versatile infielder has slashed .294/.407/.511. A willingness to adjust approach and position at Double-A Portland saw his stock rise, to the point where Dave Dombrowski thinks he can help Boston in September and beyond.

Welcome to The Show, Yoan Moncada

According to MLB.com, Yoan Moncada is the top prospect in all of baseball right now. The 21-year old stud follows Andrew Benintendi in skipping a whole level of minor league ball to reach Boston. Benintendi performed very well before suffering a knee injury, so perhaps Moncada can replace that youthful energy. The Red Sox will hope Moncada can replicate the performance of Xander Bogaerts when he was promoted in a similar situation in 2013. If another ring awaits in October, everybody will be satisfied.

So, where will Yoan Moncada play? Well, third base looks most likely. Following a hot start by Travis Shaw, that position has become something of a weakness for the Red Sox. In the past thirty days, Shaw has a .167/.250/.292 slash line, while Aaron Hill is at .204/.306/.222. They have combined for just 2 home runs and 9 RBI over that stretch, which isn’t good enough at the hot corner. Yoan Moncada can’t do much worse, and the potential upside in giving him regular playing time is huge.

The Potential Impact

But, more than numbers and matchups, this promotion is about energy. It’s September. The dogs days of August are history, but teams are still beat up. These guys have been grinding every day since late February. At this point, every team could use a stimulant. We saw it with Gary Sanchez and the Yankees, and we saw it with Benintendi. The Red Sox will benefit from having a fresh body in the clubhouse and more raw talent on the roster. Yoan Moncada will also benefit from the experience, as he’s able to learn at the deep end with a slew of veteran teammates.

The future is now. Let the fun begin.

The Red Sox Rotation is Now a Strength

For almost three years, the Red Sox rotation has been a source of frustration. In 2014, Jon Lester was traded away, and Ben Cherington didn’t replace him. Boston lacked an ace for what felt like the longest time, until David Price was signed last winter. Under-performance early this season increased the worry among fans, but things have gradually clicked into place, giving the Red Sox a starting corps to be relied upon as October looms ahead.

A Resurgence for the Red Sox Rotation

In the past thirty days, the Red Sox rotation has pitched to a 3.19 ERA. Only two teams have a better mark in all of baseball: the Cubs and Rays. Boston is also fourth overall in FIP during that span, while a WHIP of 1.110 is the best any American League team can muster. Only the Blue Jays and Tigers have induced more soft contact in the past month among AL rivals, which suggests the Red Sox rotation has definitely turned a corner.

Red Sox rotation

Rick Porcello has emerged as the staff ace, as his 2.08 ERA in the past thirty days illustrates. But David Price has also improved greatly as the season has progressed. The big southpaw has a 2.36 ERA in his last six starts, and he appears to be peaking when it matters most. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has a 2.67 ERA in his last five starts; Drew Pomeranz is at 3.31 over his last six; and Clay Buchholz has even returned from the dead with a 2.70 mark in his last 16.2 innings pitched.

Once a Weakness, Now a Strength

Whichever way you dice it, the Red Sox rotation, so often maligned, is quietly becoming a strength. Aside from the numbers, this group just inspires more confidence than it ever has before. Porcello and Price are experienced guys who should handle the pennant race pressure. Rodriguez seems to have ironed out a few issues. And the Sox still have Steven Wright to return from his stint on the disabled list, to compliment Pomeranz and Buchholz, who are also doing just fine.

All things considered, Boston is rounding into form at just the right time. The offense has been relentless all season, but it is now backed by a more consistent pitching staff. In general, the Sox seem to be grinding harder right now, and there is a newfound toughness to this team that has enabled it to win plenty of close games recently. That bodes well for the stretch run, which will feature plenty of games against division rivals such as Toronto and Baltimore.

Through all the hardship and uncertainty, here the Red Sox stand. It’s late August and they have a 71-54 record, good for a share of first place. Just thirty-seven games remain, and one last push is needed for a return to postseason play. For the first time in a long while, the Sox have a strong balance between offense, defense and pitching. Don’t look now, but this may be the most complete team in the American League.

A Belated Tribute to Kevin Youkilis

I miss Kevin Youkilis. As the pennant race comes alive, we’re all reminded of former glories, and Youk was integral to the Red Sox during my childhood. This modern team is fun to watch, with young stars like Mookie Betts, but that gritty soul of yore has largely been lost. Dustin Pedroia still embodies it, but there are few grinders like Kevin Youkilis across baseball anymore, and that’s incredibly sad.

Kevin Youkilis, The Greek God of Walks

Once upon a time, few teams wanted Youk. Before Moneyball was released, teams still coveted players for the wrong reasons. Appearance often outweighing performance in the decision-making process. Therefore, many scouts disregarded Kevin Youkilis. He was too fat, they said. Couldn’t run. Couldn’t field. Very little upside. Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, saw through that. He yearned to draft The Greek God of Walks, only for the Red Sox to snatch him with the 243rd pick in 2001. The rest is history.

Kevin Youkilis

Youkilis was a rookie on the historic 2004 Red Sox. He proceeded to play nine seasons in a Red Sox uniform. His rise was steady and inspiring. First he lost a little weight and took better care of himself. Then he transitioned to first base and pushed himself to progress every single day. He became a fierce competitor, guided by a fire within the stomach. His was an insatiable desire for constant improvement. In time, he became a force of nature.

Looking back, Kevin Youkilis doesn’t have the greatest lifetime stats. He hit 150 home runs, drove in 618 runs and collected just 1,053 hits in 1,061 Major League games. Nevertheless, his peak was astonishingly good, and Boston was the main beneficiary. In 2008, Youk had 29 home runs, 115 RBI and 43 doubles. He finished third in MVP voting and was the heart of a stacked Red Sox lineup. The following year, he reached base at a .413 clip, which contributed nicely to his career .382 OBP. Only 175 men have recorded a higher lifetime mark, out of more than 18,000 to play Major League Baseball.

Why Kevin Youkilis Was So Beloved

However, the true impact of Kevin Youkilis cannot be measured in numbers. He was incredibly popular with Red Sox fans, who saw him as an everyday guy living the dream. More importantly, they saw how hard he worked and admired his determination to succeed against massive odds. Youk looked like he should have been selling beer in the stands. Instead, he was a three-time All-Star and a two-time World Series champion with the Boston Red Sox. He also won a gold glove, proving his meticulous will to get better.

There was so much to like about Kevin Youkilis, and he was a fitting hero in the post-Manny Ramirez age. I’ll never forget that quirky batting stance. Youk looked like he was sitting on an invisible toilet at the plate. The swing was a thing of beauty, however, and he was a line drive machine. The Green Monster was assaulted constantly by Youkilis, who was the perfect player for the perfect team at the perfect time. I doubt we’ll ever see his like again.

Kevin last played for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan in 2014. He is currently a special assistant to Cubs baseball mastermind Theo Epstein, the executive who gave him an opportunity to shine in Boston. There’s no telling what the future may hold for Kevin Youkilis, be it scouting or front office work. But the past will always sparkle bright, and his place in the hearts of Red Sox fans all over the world will never be diminished.

Dave Dombrowski Has Done All He Can

What more can Dave Dombrowski do to help the Red Sox win in 2016? Not a whole lot. From surprising trades to aggressive promotions, the President of Baseball Operations has worked tirelessly to spark a renaissance of Boston baseball. Now, the trade deadline has passed and the dog days of summer are upon us. It’s time for John Farrell to pilot the plane Dombrowski has built. It’s time to win.

The Dave Dombrowski Project

The overhaul began last winter. Craig Kimbrel arrived in a blockbuster trade. David Price signed a humongous contract. Pablo Sandoval was relegated from the long term plan. In stunning style, the Red Sox transitioned from planning for a brighter tomorrow to fighting for a happier today. Dombrowski executed a shift in philosophy, and a new blueprint was implemented.

Dave Dombrowski

Through spring training, the Red Sox continued to do things differently. Dave continued to press as many buttons as he could reach, hoping to avoid another fruitless October. Travis Shaw became the everyday third baseman. Hanley Ramirez moved to first. A sense of urgency was injected into the Red Sox’ play. They knew the time for excuses had passed.

Time to Deliver

Yet, as the season has wore on, this team has been quite a conundrum. On the one hand, loitering in a three-team race for the division crown is deeply satisfying. It’s all many fans hoped for after three last-place finishes in five years. Yet, deep down, there’s also a nagging sense of underachievement. Red Sox fans see how good this team is on paper, and they think it should be doing better on the field.

Dave Dombrowski likely agrees. At the trade deadline, he made a flurry of moves to affirm that suspicion. Drew Pomeranz arrived to bolster a maligned rotation. Brad Ziegler came over from Arizona to solidify a streaky bullpen. Fernando Abad joined him a few weeks later, adding another veteran hurler to the staff. The Red Sox still haven’t performed to evolving expectations. They still haven’t surged ahead in a tense AL East.

As the calendar flipped to August, Dave Dombrowski played one final card. Andrew Benintendi was promoted to the Majors, skipping a whole level of minor league play to provide a Fenway spark. With that move, the front office went all in. More importantly, it sent a clear message to John Farrell and his coaching staff: we’ve done all we can, and you must now eke maximum value from this roster.

A Critical Stretch Run

The Red Sox are currently 61-50, good for third place. Toronto and Baltimore are tied for the division lead, just one and a half games ahead. Yet by first-order winning percentage –  which attempts to calculate how many wins a team should have based on its run differential – the Red Sox should be almost three wins better off than they currently are. That suggests Dave Dombrowski has done a really good job. It also suggests John Farrell is hurting this team more than he’s helping it.

I don’t want to criticize the guy overtly, because he doesn’t deserve that. A lot of the vitriol spewed about him is unwarranted. But if John Farrell cannot get this team performing to the back of its baseball card, trouble awaits. Dave Dombrowski has used every trick in the book. He’s made all the phone calls, traded a lot of chips and constructed one of the best rosters in a flawed American League. If the results don’t match the projections come October, somebody will be fired. And that somebody is likely John Farrell, who needs to get a better tune from his highly equipped orchestra.

Red Sox Promote Andrew Benintendi

Overnight, the Red Sox promoted prized prospect Andrew Benintendi to the Major Leagues, adding to the trade deadline intrigue. Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald broke the news, and Michael Martinez was designated for assignment to make way for Benintendi. The outfielder will join the team in Seattle on Tuesday.

Who is Andrew Benintendi?

Andrew Benintendi

Benintendi was a first round pick in the 2015 draft, and his rise has been meteoric. He reached Single-A in his first professional season, and has dominated this year, too. A .312/.378/.532 slash line at High-A Salem earned Benintendi a promotion to Double-A Portland. In 63 games with the Sea Dogs, he slashed .295/.357/.515 with 8 home runs and 44 RBI. That piqued the attention of Dave Dombrowski, who will slot the 22-year old in left field amid a heated pennant race.

Andrew Benintendi is the Red Sox’ number two prospect, behind Yoan Moncada. A lefty hitter, he is above average in every facet of the game, with obvious upside offensively. His promotion should provide a jolt of energy to the Red Sox, with Brock Holt likely sliding back into a utility role.

The Risk of Skipping Triple-A

Even though Benintendi is very highly rated, this is a risky move. The guy has still only played 151 professional baseball games. None of them were above Double-A. By all account, his makeup and ability should enable a smooth transition, but skipping an entire level of minor league development is rarely advisable. Whether people like it or not, Andrew Benintendi will still have plenty to learn. The Red Sox just figure that process should happen at the Major League level.

Benintendi is likely to be in uniform tonight against the Mariners. His debut will come Wednesday, as the youngster is given time to settle. Andrew is likely to see plenty of playing time against right-handed pitching, with further opportunities arising based on his performance. He will join other young stars like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts to create a great core for the Red Sox.

“Our people kept coming up and saying, ‘We think he can play at the big league level,'” said Dombrowski. “Don’t look for him to hit in the middle of the lineup like he will eventually, but he’s a well-rounded player, he’s a good defensive player, and he runs the bases well. He has a good arm, we’ve been working him out at left field and he’s been able to play the wall well in Portland there.”

It will be fun to see how this plays out. Every young player is likely to struggle at some point, especially after jumping two whole levels in a system. But the future face of your Boston Red Sox has arrived. Andrew Benintendi has reached the Majors. It’s time to get excited.

Reports: Red Sox Acquire Fernando Abad

With the non-waiver trade deadline closing in, the Red Sox have acquired left-handed reliever Fernando Abad, according to multiple reports. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports broke the news on Twitter, with several others confirming the deal between Boston and Minnesota.

Who is Fernando Abad?

Fernando Abad

Abad is a 30-year old hurler with considerable experience at the Major League level. He debuted with the Astros in 2010, and also spent time with Washington and Oakland. Abad then joined the Twins on a minor league deal prior to 2016.

This year, Abad has appeared in 39 games and produced a 2.65 ERA. However, left-handed batters are hitting just .163 against him this season, which makes him a valuable asset if used correctly.

What Was the Price Tag?

According to reports, the Red Sox sent Pat Light to Minnesota in the deal. Light struggled in minimal Major League duty this year, so the initial price is fairly reasonable. However, MLB.com does rank him as Boston’s 14th-best prospect, so there could be some longer term ramifications.

The new addition will help fortify an improving bullpen, which is a pivotal ingredient in the postseason. Boston recently added Brad Ziegler, but reinforcements were still needed when Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara landed on the disabled list. Ideally, those guys will give manager John Farrell plenty of options to mix and match down the stretch.

Elsewhere, Dave Dombrowski is working on other possible additions before the deadline at 4pm ET. Several industry whispers have the Red Sox trying hard to acquire Chris Sale from the White Sox, although little time remains for a deal to be concluded. The Dodgers have just finished a blockbuster for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick of Oakland, so there may be an opportunity for the Red Sox to pounce in a chaotic market for starting pitching.

Stick with Yawkey Way Report for regular updates throughout the day.