Are Red Sox Regretting Losing Ramirez?

The decision to designate Hanley Ramirez for assignment brought on the skeptics. The argument widely made was by getting rid of Hanley, the Red Sox would save money this year and next, but lose a veteran power presence in the middle of the lineup. Manager Alex Cora discussed the option with David Dombrowski and in order to make room for second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Hanley was ultimately DFA’d. That financial decision may hurt the Sox as they head towards the summer and beyond.

During Cora’s playing days, he was widely known as a great “clubhouse guy” who is willingRamirez to play anywhere that benefits the team. He was a super utility guy, much like Brock Holt. It seems Cora has maintained that same mindset of clubhouse friendly but versatile type players even as a skipper. By letting Ramirez go, it meant versatile guys like Blake Swihart, Eduardo Nunez, and Holt types would get more playing time. That may be great in theory, but now Pedroia, who was the reason for the Hanley roster move, is back on the D.L., Mookie remains sidelined and guys like Sam Travis are playing left field.

In the final game against the Detroit Tigers this week, Cora changed up his lineup. He had Swihart start at catcher, Nunez at second, Vasquez at DH, Travis starting in left field and J.D. Martinez playing the intricate Fenway Park right field. I can’t help but think Hanley could have helped the Red Sox in some sort of way in that game. A game that ended in a loss.

Red Sox May Regret Losing the Depth That Ramirez Created

Depth is huge right now in the game of baseball. Now with starters going less and less deep into games, routinely seen exiting after five or six innings, depth is all more important. Relievers now come in that specialize in getting certain types of hitters out. By having more utility guys on the bench, rather than in the starting nine, managers can counter that specialized approach. Losing Hanley hinders that depth.

With Hanley gone, Moreland, who historically is great as a pinch hitter, is now starting at first every day. Swihart becomes much more needed as a backup outfield plan. Players such as Holt and Nunez have to start more due to other player’s injuries. Playing time is always a preference, but that isn’t normally these players niche. Sometimes those type of players gain value on the bench. Value they gain with the ability to be played in different defensive and offensive situations.

World Champion Houston Astros, exemplified this approach last season with utility depth like Marwin Gonzalez seen playing any position, any game. Charlie Morton also provided depth. He became the new wave “utility-type” bullpen arm if the starter struggles, much like Cleveland Indians Andrew Miller.

It will be interesting to see how this progresses. Maybe I am overthinking it now, but you can’t help but think Ramirez will be missed at some point.

 

It’s Time to Start Playing Sandy Leon More Often

After defeating the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, the Boston Red Sox improved to 38-17. That is the best record in Major League Baseball, and good for a 2.5 game lead in the AL East. The offense continues to flourish, and this team is giving fans every reason to be excited. Lost in all this excitement is an issue at the catcher position. Specifically, the lopsided playing time between Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon.

In 2015, Vazquez underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. This isSandy Leon when the Sox brought in Sandy Leon from the Washington Nationals. It was not until 2016 when Vazquez and Leon began their timeshare behind the plate. Leon appeared in 78 games to Vazquez’ 57. And for good reason. Leon batted .310 with 78 hits that year and provided solid production from the catcher position. His average regressed to .225 in 85 games the next year. Vazquez capitalized, notching 99 starts and batting .290, both career-highs. The timeshare worked with success, as neither emerged as the true alpha catcher.

And now, 55 games deep into the 2018 season, Christian Vazquez has logged 39 starts to Sandy Leon’s 22. But the results are not at all a reflection of 2017. Vazquez is only batting .188 with 6 RBIs and no home runs. That average comes out to a meager 26 hits in 138 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Leon is batting .254 with more RBIs (8) and home runs (2) than his counterpart.

Granted, Vazquez has proven to be more valuable behind the plate than next to it. However, aside from steals, the numbers are nearly negligible. Vazquez is 5-12 on steal attempts with a .992 fielding percentage and three errors. In comparison, Leon is 0-8 with a .995 fielding percentage and only one error.

With very similar defensive skills, the Red Sox must look at who can contribute more to the team as a whole. With Hanley Ramirez designated for assignment last week, the team must do something to sustain the offensive production that has got them to this point. That point being the best team in Major League Baseball. Sandy Leon’s ability to hit for power, past success at the plate, and relatively superior numbers this year make him every bit worthy of more playing time.

Then there’s always Blake Swihart, but that’s a different, and much more complicated, situation.

 

15 Red Sox Who Could Be Called Up in September

With August nearly half over and the Sox in the heat of the pennant race, it’s almost time to start thinking about which players could be called up in September.

called up in september

This list does not include big-league players like David Price, Blaine Boyer, and Carson Smith who have been injured, but rather a combination of minor league players and fringe system players who have yet to make a contribution this season.

Deven Marrero – INF

Marrero is pretty much a lock to get called up because he’s already spent significant time at the big league level. His infield flexibility and defensive ability are among the best in the organization.

Austin Maddox – RHP

In emergency situations, Maddox has been the one to get the call to Boston this summer. The big righty has a .190 BAA in Portland and Pawtucket this year.

Robby Scott – LHP

Like Maddox, Scott has spent time in the Sox bullpen already this season. John Farrell likes using him against lefties, especially in the absence of Robbie Ross Jr. I’d be shocked if he isn’t called up again.

Sam Travis – 1B

The Red Sox have never come out and said this, but Sam Travis seems like a guy whose spot could be on the bubble next spring, despite his good performance. Part of me wonders if the team has plans to extend Moreland or go after someone like Eric Hosmer in free agency. That all being said, Travis has hit .279 when he’s been with Boston and could be valuable off the bench this fall.

Tzu-Wei Lin – Util.

Lin has proved to be a versatile player throughout his short career. Likewise, he is a sound fundamental and very coachable player with tremendous upside. His ability to play multiple positions could also be valuable in September so I expect him to get the call.

Noe Ramirez – RHP

While Ramirez has never really spent significant time at the big league level, he’s on the 40-man roster and the team has held on to him there for quite some time now. He was added to the way back in July 2015 and has a 2.96 ERA in 31 games in Triple-A.

Blake Swihart – C/1B/OF

Assuming he’s healthy, you have to think that the Red Sox will give Swihart some action. He hasn’t sniffed the big leagues in just about a calendar year despite being a blue-chip prospect a few short years ago. While many of that is injury related, Swihart hasn’t hit well this season in Pawtucket. Never the less, he could be the backup catcher next season if Sandy Leon isn’t resigned.

Rusney Castillo – OF

Rusney has been raking with the PawSox this season, hitting .308 with 13 home runs in 81 games. The 3-year-old’s time may be ticking, so I’d like to see him get a few more cracks at the big leagues.

Ben Taylor – RHP

Taylor started the season on the active roster and has made a few stints since. Meanwhile, he has a 2.92 ERA in the minors so far in 2017.

Bryce Brentz – OF/DH

Once a can’t miss prospect, Brentz has had a renaissance in Pawtucket this year, hitting .281 with 26 home runs. In close games, he could offer some bench power for the Red Sox during the pennant race and possibly October. Tough to see what the future holds for Brentz in his eighth season in the organization.

Hector Velazquez – RHP

After making a few spot starts for the big club, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Velazquez called up again for depth purposes. He’s 7-3 with a 1.93 ERA in Pawtucket.

Justin Haley – RHP

Haley was returned to the Red Sox via the Rule 5 draft after spending most of the season in the Twins organization. He’s familiar with the organization and has a 2.70 ERA in 9 starts in the minors.

Brian Johnson – LHP

Johnson has made a few starts for the big club this year and has impressed in almost all of them, going 2-0 with a 4.33 ERA and one complete game shutout. However, considering the Red Sox already have a plethora of starters and are expecting David Price back, it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll pitch.

Jalen Beeks – LHP

The college teammate of Andrew Benintendi has dominated this season when it comes to striking batters out. In 117.1 IP, Beeks has 128 K’s and an ERA of 2.76 between Portland and Pawtucket. He’s also Rule 5 Draft eligible in December, so the sooner he is added to the 40-man roster, the better. Given his stuff and delivery, he could profile as a good middle inning guy this September.

Danny Mars – OF

Like Beeks, Mars could be called up in September as well based on his roster status. He’ll become Rule 5 eligible in December too, meaning a team could claim him if he’s not on Boston’s 40-man roster. In Portland this season, Mars is hitting .311 with 19 doubles. He also possesses the capability to make plays with his speed.

Scouting Report: Jordan Procyshen

Most pro-athletes born in Alberta are in the ranks of the National Hockey League, but not Jordan Procyshen. The 24-year-old Calgarian is the starting catcher for the Portland Sea Dogs and the organization’s top catching prospect. Of course, knowing full well that Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez are already major league caliber players.

Jordan Procyshen

The Boston Red Sox drafted Procyshen in the 14th Round in June 2014. He had previously played at Northeastern Junior College and Northern Kentucky. While in junior college, Procyshen hit 15 home runs and batted .418. At NKU, the Canadian catcher batted .276 with 33 RBI in 51 games.

Procyshen developed quickly through the low minors as he was generally older than his counterparts. In 2015, Procyshen had his first full professional season and hit .285 with Greenville before being promoted to Salem in June. This was despite late season injuries. He then spent all of 2016 with Salem, where he hit .249 in 61 games and tallied 29 RBI.

Scouting Report

He has a very solid build for a catcher – 6’10” and 210 lbs.

He has strong contact skills at the plate for a catcher and will hit his fair share of doubles. Power isn’t necessarily one of his plus tools, but he displays some home run ability is spurts.

Procyshen’s best tool is his ability behind the plate. He has a career fielding percentage of .984 and only 17 passed balls in the minors. Additionally, Procyshen has thrown out 80 of 157 runners in his short career- that’s just above 50%.

Via his SoxProspects.com profile, Procyshen has the “potential to be a plus defender. Projects confidence while working with pitchers and setting the defense. Moves well behind the plate and does a good job smothering balls in the dirt. Solid footwork, able to control the running game.”

Scouts, as well as myself, notice that he hustles on every play, which can sometimes tire him out early in a game. However, the fact that he is engaged fully in every play is a desirable trait.

Overall, Jordan Procyshen has a chance to make a big league roster as a backup/emergency catcher who adds value behind the plate. The fact that he can stay consistent at the plate helps as well. I see him maybe serving as a personal catcher for a major league club sometime by early 2019.

What Else Should Red Sox Fans Expect From Sandy Leon?

In 2016, Sandy Leon had a breakout season, hitting .310 and averaging at least one base knock per game. Leon had historically been a weak hitter during the first part of his career with the Washington Nationals. Some will say that it was leonbecause he finally had consistent playing time, while others will look to his changing plate mechanics. But perhaps his success may have been due to the unfamiliarity of Leon as an everyday player among major league pitchers.

Ultimately, the Red Sox benefited from Leon’s renaissance en route to a record-setting offense and an American League East title.

What should Red Sox fans expect from Sandy Leon in 2017?

Should they expect the same kind of explosive offensive production? What about the consistency?

Well, the only real explanation for any such prediction would be his recent performance and Spring Training statistics. In 13 games, Leon batted .265 with only 34 at-bats. Small sample size, but respectable considering much of Spring Training consists of low-level minor league players and journeyman bench players.

His Opening Day performance highlighted another element of Leon’s game. In the second inning, Leon threw out Gregory Polanco as he attempted to steal second. In the fifth, Leon beat the shift on a bunt down the third-base line with two outs, setting up a three-run home run by Andrew Benintendi.

Leon blasted a walk-off home run in the twelfth inning on Wednesday night to secure a hard-earned second win. He previously hit a single and double earlier in the affair.

But despite these factors, he is not alone at the catching position on the Red Sox depth chart. For the past couple of seasons, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart have been developing young catchers in the high minor league levels and, at times, the major league level. Vazquez has superb defensive ability and must work on his bat; Swihart is a reliable hitter who needs to improve his defense behind the plate—even though the Red Sox have toyed with him in left field.

The presence of Swihart and Vazquez puts pressure on Leon to be successful in 2017. Red Sox fans should expect him to have consistent, but not spectacular, contributions this season.

Christian Vazquez: Defensive Superstar in the Making

As soon as I saw the Spring Training video of Christian Vazquez shooting down Trevor Plouffe attempting to steal second base, I knew he was special, (the video is titled ‘Vazquez throws out Plouffe’ and can be found on MLB.com). They don’t just hand out the nickname “Little Yadi” to anyone. Vazquez emerged as the potential catcher of the future just a few years ago. Now, he is 26 years old, and we are still waiting to see if he can get the starting job behind the plate.

Ever since Vazquez reached the Major Leagues in 2014, it’s been clear that he struggles Christian Vazquezin the batter’s box. Vazquez has a career .233 batting-average in just 347 at-bats. Vazquez has showed signs though, as he crushed a home run over the Monster against Yankees RP Dellin Betances last year. Betances is one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball, and the fact that Vazquez could hold his own against him and go yard attests to his hitting ability. He simply gets overwhelmed at times against big league pitching.

Christian Vazquez vs. Sandy Leon

Sandy Leon emerged last season as the everyday catcher for Boston. He found success in our lineup, producing a .310 average. Leon only made one error behind the plate last year, and threw out 42% of potential base runners. Most Sox fans will see these numbers and immediately see Sandy Leon as the starter this year too, but not so fast.

Leon was one of the streakiest hitters on the team last year. He was the best hitter on the team at times, while at other times he couldn’t make contact. When he wasn’t hitting well, he was basically a liability. Not to mention, Sandy Leon was absolutely awful in the playoffs. He went 1-10 with 5 K’s against Cleveland in the divisional series. I have not seen enough consistent production from Leon to tag him with the Opening Day start this year; I’m also not John Farrell.

The Case for Vazquez

Christian Vazquez has the most raw talent in the Red Sox catching core. He can take over a game from behind the plate with his framing, and his blocking is advanced beyond his competition. Vazquez is a defensive beast, and it is very apparent when watching him work behind the plate in-game. He is the glue that holds the Red Sox defense together. Blake Swihart has shown an inability to improve upon his receiving thus far, and some say he has caught a case of the yips this spring. Sandy Leon has been a hit or miss in all aspects of his game. Who does this leave? Christian Vazquez, (or Mini Yadi).

Vazquez is dedicated to his craft. He is ready for the challenge that awaits him. We’re talking about a guy who is not only compared to Yadier Molina, but works out with him and his brothers in the offseason. Don’t forget, Molina is only a career .285 hitter. Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon have been inconsistent producers at catcher. Don’t get me wrong, Leon belongs in the lineup against lefties. John Farrell has already come out and said that Hanley Ramirez will DH against righties this year. Does this mean that against lefties we will see Leon DH, and Vazquez behind the plate? Sure, he still needs to improve his hitting. Once he does, there is no question as to who will be catching every day in Boston.