Red Sox Game-2 Recap

The following is a game-2 recap for the Boston Red Sox. Last night’s pitching matchup was between Nathan Eovaldi and Yusei Kikuchi. This past off-season, Eovaldi signed a 4-year/$70 million contract with the Red Sox and Kikuchi was signed to a 3-year/$43 million contract with a player option for a fourth year.

Eovaldi, who is pitching in his age-29 season, was brilliant with Boston last season. He made 11 starts, pitched just over 50 innings, allowed 18 runs and struck out 44 in the regular season. He was even more dominant in the postseason, appearing in six games (two starts) and posting an ERA of 1.61 and a WHIP of 0.81 in 22 innings.

Kikuchi made 23 starts for the Seibi Lions last season. He went 14-4 with an ERA of 3.08 and 153 k’s in 163 innings. He is 27 years old.

Friday night’s game began a 3-up and 3-down first inning for Kikuchi. In the bottom of the first, outfielder Mallex Smith took Eovaldi deep to left for his first homer of the year. He had two homers last year with Tampa Bay. Two batters later, Domingo Santana launched another home run, this time to left, for his third of the season. After one inning, 2-0 Seattle.

Game-2 recap: Red Sox starter allows three HRs in consecutive games

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts led off the second and smashed a home run to left-center. It was his first long shot of 2019. He had a career-high 23 last year. Kikuchi, in turn, struck out three of the next four. In the bottom half, Mariners catcher Omar Narvaez pulled a line-drive home run towards the right field foul pole. It stayed fair. 3-1, Seattle. It was Eovaldi’s third home run allowed of the night.

The third inning went scoreless. Then in the home half of the fourth, Tim Beckham led off with a screaming double to right field that sailed over Mookie Betts head. Narvaez, next up, singled to right-center, moving Beckham to third. Third baseman Ryon Healy then sent a double over Jackie Bradley Jr.’s head in center to score Beckham. 4-1, Seattle. Dee Gordon drove in Narvaez with a sacrifice fly, again to Bradley, Jr. 5-1. Mallex Smith then drove yet another ball to deep center and Bradley, Jr. made a catch up against the wall. Smith’s sac fly drove in Healy, 6-1.

The Sox responded in the fifth with back-to-back singles by Rafael Devers and Sam Travis. Bradley Jr. was next up and hit into a double play, but Devers was able to score. 6-2, Seattle.

Eovaldi surprisingly stayed on the mound for one more inning and did not allow another run. In the bottom of the sixth, Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez launched a bomb to deep center, off Kikuchi, for his first long ball of the season. Martinez had 43 home runs in 2018, which were two less of his career-best 45 that he had in 2017. Kikuchi went six innings and earned a quality start with two earned runs. He struck out five.

Game-2 recap: Bullpen comes on

Colten Brewer made his first appearance for Boston when he entered in relief in the bottom of the sixth. He allowed two Mariners to reach base (two walks), but did not allow a run.

A combination of Mariners relievers Matt Festa and Zac Rosscup pitched a scoreless seventh. Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman worked a scoreless seventh as well.

Then, to lead off the eighth, Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez hit his first home run of the year, a booming drive to deep left. The Sox then went on to load the bases in the same inning. Eduardo Nunez grounded into a double play to end things in the eighth. Seattle 6, Boston 4.

Game-2 recap premier moment

Brian Johnson made his second appearance in as many games for Boston in the ninth and struck out the side. Mariners closer Hunter Strickland was called in to pitch the bottom of the ninth, in attempt to save his third game of the young season. Rafael Devers led off with a double to left field. Next up was Blake Swihart to pinch hit for Travis. Strickland hit Swihart in the foot (right foot) to put the go-ahead run at home plate. No outs. Bradley Jr. then hit a grounder to first, Mariners Jay Bruce went home with it and Narvaez tagged Devers at the plate. 1 out, still two men on. Manager Alex Cora then called on another pinch hitter, this time Mitch Moreland, who had nine pinch-hitting appearances last year. On a 2-0 count, he hammered a pitch to right field. 3-run homer. Boston 7, Seattle 6.

Matt Barnes came on in the bottom of the ninth and did not allow a Mariner to reach base. He struck out two and picked up his first save of the season.

Boston picked up their first win of the season (1-1) and Seattle lost their first game of the season (3-1). Some good things I saw were the Red Sox’s composure, Rafael Devers speed on the base paths, the catchers’ coming up big in clutch moments, and the bullpen. Some bad things were Eovaldi’s three allowed home runs, Nunez’s poor base running, and Devers second error in as many games.

That’s the Red Sox’s game-2 recap. The Sox-Mariners pick it back up tonight at 9:10 PM/ET, with Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Leake scheduled to take the mound.

Blake Swihart Staying in Boston: What Will His Role Be?

In what might be considered by some as a surprising move, the Boston Red Sox placed Sandy Leon on waivers this week, paving the way to a more defined role for Blake Swihart on the roster. With Swihart staying, the Red Sox give the keys to a player still yet to reach his full potential. Subtracting the third catcher means Swihart can focus his attention on being a backstop, and not bouncing around the diamond. What is the reason why the club insists on keeping New Mexico native in tow? Let’s dive in.

Swihart’s impressive athleticism makes him a rare find behind the dish

Christian Vazquez, barring injury, will see the majority of the starts behind the plate in Swihart staying2018. That might be the exact fit Swihart needs to carve out a role on the club. As a backup, Swihart brings a sweet-swinging, switch-hitting bat off the bench. His versatility by being able to move around the infield and outfield presents him opportunities everywhere. Throughout the 2018 season, Alex Cora found Swihart useful as a pinch runner, which only adds to the intrigue. A backup catcher that can pinch run? Certainly a rare commodity. Swihart has always possessed a strong throwing arm, but his improving defense at the plate has encouraged the Boston brass enough to give him the job over Leon, who was adored by the pitching staff for his game calling and pitch framing ability. But Swihart’s value extends beyond his flexibility around the field.

Noticeable offensive improvements offer a glimmer of hope for Swihart

In the first half of the 2018 season, predating Vazquez’ broken finger, Swihart staying seemed like an afterthought. Trade rumors swirled, but as teams came calling, the Red Sox stuck with him, and it paid dividends. After posting a meager .167 average through mid-summer, the former top catching prospect started to discover himself at the dish. Once he earned more regular playing time, Swihart hit .277 with a .734 OPS in the second half. These numbers would have placed him among the top offensive catchers in the league should he have qualified.

After a season where Sox catchers profiled among the league’s worst offensively across the board, Swihart brought some welcome optimism for production out of the bottom third of the lineup. He also just put together a torrid spring in Grapefruit League action, slashing .414/.433/.517 with three doubles, five RBI, and a pair of stolen bases.That is a .951 OPS through 29 at bats! Spring training or not, that is impressive, a certainly a part of the reason why Swihart staying makes sense.

More regular playing time for Swihart was a gamble the team was willing to make. They know what he has in the tank, and it was enough to waive a popular clubhouse guy and a quality backstop in Leon. Swihart staying means Vazquez will have to be at his best, because one of the game’s (former) top catching prospects is ready to reemerge.

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.