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.

Red Sox Learning To Take The Lead In Late Innings

One of the things that frustrated Red Sox Nation last year was the team’s inability to come from behind. An opposing team would outscore them, and the Red Sox couldn’t catch up. They’d load the bases but their hitter would strike out. Or they’d leave runners in scoring position inning after inning. In fact, they led the American League last year in runners left on base. With the Red Sox learning how to take the offensive in later inningRed Sox learnings fans are finally seeing a different tone.

Four of their eight wins as of April 17th were come-from-behind victories. Red Sox found themselves behind the Pittsburg Pirates during their makeup game on the 13th. Down 3-1 going into the 8th, Hanley Ramirez’s doubled home the winning run. The Red Sox did it again on Easter Sunday three days later against Tampa Bay. Down 5-4 in the seventh, the Red Sox rallied to pull ahead 7-5 by the ninth inning.

Even in instances where they didn’t win, they still showed strong effort. In an April 12th game against the Orioles, the Red Sox were down 9-0 going into the third. Despite losing the game, they finished the game 12-5. Win or lose, this was an issue the Red Sox sorely needed to work on from last season.

“The one thing that’s starting to show is that we’ve come from behind a number of games already,” manager John Farrell said in an article posted to Full Count on Weei.com.

With The Red Sox Learning To Come From Behind, Pitching Remains a Problem

I don’t think anyone anticipated the problems that the Red Sox rotation would have going into the 2017 season. We expected to see David Price at this point but he’s still down and out. Rick Porcello and Steve Wrignt have already taken their fair share of devastating losses. The Matt Barnes fiasco with Manny Machado isn’t helping things either.

Last year’s pitching was strong. Price dominated with strikeouts and Porcello became a 20-game winner. It was the offense that struggled at times. Now that the offense is heating up. it’s the pitching that’s struggling. If Farrell can find that balance the team needs, the Red Sox will be able to capture and hold onto first place.

Red Sox Have To Adjust Their Home Run Swings

It’s hard to hit a home run in Fenway, especially if you’re a visiting player. The Green Monster has robbed hundreds, if not thousands of home runs, from hitters. Right field isn’t much better with its deep unique corners. Red Sox hitters learn how to adjust their home run swings for the contours of Fenway. But they find it difficult to adjust in other ballparks.

I noticed this when I was in Baltimore last weekend for their series against the Orioles.home run swings Pablo Sandoval hit a bomb to left field that would have cleared the Green Monster. But it’s between 333-364 feet to left/left center in Camden Yards. That’s another few dozen feet that a ball has to travel for a home run. Sandoval has already hit a few homers over the Green Monster this season. However, the can of corn he hit in Baltimore shows he needs to hit for a tad more power. If Sox players like Sandoval want to hit home runs, they have to remember that most outfields are deeper than Fenway’s.

Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a home run in the second series game that traveled over 450 feet. The ball itself almost hit the B&O Warehouse that overshadows Camden Yards. Ken Griffey Jr. is the only MLB player who has hit the warehouse in Camden Yards’ twenty-five year history. But Bradley Jr. is a lefty and it’s 380 to right center field in Fenway. Bradley hits for power, hence the distance on the home run.

The way the Red Sox hit during the Baltimore series clearly showed that they’re used to playing in Fenway.

Red Sox Have to Adjust Their Home Run Swings When They’re On the Road

The Red Sox can hit for power. Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are becoming home run hitters. Xander Bogaerts isn’t there yet but he will be. Andrew Benintendi still has a ways to go before he’s a power hitter. But players like Sandoval can’t hit to left thinking it’ll clear the wall when they’re in a different ballpark. The Wall, despite its height, its much closer to home than most left fields.

If these hitters want to add more runs to the board they need to look at each ballpark they play in and adjust their home run swings accordingly.