Can The Red Sox Reach The Post Season?

The Red Sox captured first place this summer and have hardly let go since. While the Yankees nip at their heels, Chris Sale’s arm and the rookies’ bats keep the Bronx Bombers at bay.  On top of that, the Red Sox are creeping closer to finding a groove in a post-Ortiz world. But despite their recent stretch of wins, can the Red Sox reach the post season?

Their Pitching Is (Almost) There

The Red Sox are definitely getting their money out of Chris Sale. He’s leading the AL inRed Sox reach wins, ERA, and strikeouts. He also pitches a fast game, which counts for a lot in an era where games last 3+ hours. Eduardo Rodriguez is almost healthy enough to begin carrying wins of his own. While he’s still young, his ability to accumulate seven or eight strikeouts a game is often overlooked. Drew Pomeranz came out of nowhere this year after a terrible debut season and already has double-digit wins. Joe Kelly can throw 100 MPH and serves as a good middle reliever. Craig Kimbrel always saves the game. David Price and Rick Porcello though? One’s a hot-head and the other is trying to stave off joining the 20-losses in a season club.

Their Rookies and Newcomers Will Help The Red Sox Reach The Post Season

Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers quickly dispelled any concerns they weren’t ready for the big leagues when they came up. Benintendi is a solid offensive as well as defensive guy. Devers is hitting home runs left and right. Eduardo Nunez seems to love playing in Boston. Even the veteran journeyman Chris Young can still make opposing pitchers shake in fear. Dustin Pedroia isn’t 100% (and may never be again) and Hanley Ramirez can’t quite lift his batting avert above .275. Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. still command the outfield as well as they can hit home runs. So will all this be enough to reach the post-season?

Yes.

Red Sox Winning Streak Reflects New Focus

The Red Sox winning streak of six games is debunking the idea that the team is still struggling from David Ortiz’s absence. Not only has the Price/Eckersley hoopla finally died down, but their rookies are coming alive too. This Red Sox winning streak is a sign that Boston will surely contend for the World Series title come October.

Rookies Contributing To Red Sox Winning Streak

The Red Sox struggled after the All-Star break and briefly relinquished first place to theRed Sox winning Yankees. Then a sweep of the Indians and White Sox not only moved them back into first place, but it also gave its rookie stars the attention they deserve. Between August 1st and 8th, Andrew Benintendi hit .462 with a home run effectively breaking out of his slump. Raphael Devers is hitting .349 in 49 plate appearances with three home runs as of August 7th. That comes after hitting 20 home runs in 86 games in AA and AAA this year.

Veterans Also Contributing To Red Sox Winning Streak

MLB veterans like Chris Young and Eduardo Nunez also showed Red Sox Nation that they still have plenty of steam left to help win. Young slammed two home runs, including a tie-breaking shot in addition to driving in five ribbies against the White Sox on Sunday. Nunez, a late season addition to the Red Sox, has 4 home runs with a .400 batting average in the nine games he’s played with Boston so far. These two play with a zeal that clearly reflects their love for the game.

The Red Sox rookies and veterans are playing baseball like kids on sandlot do. They’re eager to contribute. They play to win. And they know they can reach the World Series. Some say the remaining problem lies with its other veterans. Hanley Ramirez hits for power but not average. Dustin Pedroia landed on the DL again, as did David Price. If these three can capture some of the same enthusiasm as their younger and older teammates, the Red Sox will be unstoppable come October.

Brock Holt Should Return to Utility Status

The return of Brock Holt has given the Red Sox a big boost this week. Since being reinstated from the concussion list, the versatile scrapper has collected a hit in each game and has provided a jolt of energy to his club. However, I cannot help but feel that Holt is better deployed as a super utility player rather than a starting left fielder, and that’s something the Red Sox could look to address before the trade deadline.

Brock Holt

In decades gone by, there was a stigma attached to utility players. They were usually guys who could do one thing well, usually with the glove, but whose overall play didn’t warrant regular at bats. Yet now, every team prizes flexibility, to the point where players are almost expected to succeed at multiple positions.

Joe Maddon was an early pioneer of the super utility position in Tampa, with Ben Zobrist filling the role. He has carried that over to the Cubs, where stars like Kris Bryant and Javy Baez are asked to change positions on a daily basis. Such a situation allows a manager to manage rest more easily, keeping his players fresh throughout a marathon season, while also taking advantage of platoon splits.

Brock Holt, The Ultimate Super Utility Guy

Brock Holt built a strong reputation as a super utility guy early in his Red Sox career. Last season, for instance, he played every position except pitcher and catcher. Despite his overarching status as a bench player, Holt still saw action in 129 games. He produced a very impressive batting average of .280 while getting on base at a .349 clip. That distinguished him as a very good player, but the ability to play almost any position really well while still hitting strongly made Brock Holt a phenomenal asset to the Red Sox.

The front office was so enamored with his performance that Dave Dombrowski gave Holt a regular job this season. When Hanley Ramirez transitioned to first base, Brock became the everyday left fielder. He still plays occasionally at other spots, but the bulk of his playing time has come in front of the Green Monster in 2016.

Why The Bench Needs More Versatility

Holt was performing slightly below his usual pace through the first few weeks, only for a head injury to keep him out of action for more than a month. During that period, the Red Sox missed his energy and leadership, but his presence as a regular-position player has also diminished the Boston bench.

Unheralded players like Mike Miller, Ryan LaMarre and Deven Marrero have been pressed into action, which is less than ideal for Boston. Chris Young has slowly turned around his season, and improvement has also been made by Josh Rutledge and Marco Hernandez, but the Sox still lack a certain amount of flexibility with Brock Holt anchored to left field.

If he could return to a utility role, filling in anywhere that rest is needed for veterans, Holt’s value would be increased, not diminished. Although his effort deserves a starting gig, Holt could still play almost every day, but at different spots on the diamond. Although Hanley Ramirez is having a good season, the Sox could always use some additional power to protect David Ortiz in the lineup, and left field could also be a spot to add that.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t going to make major moves to bolster an offense that has scored more runs than any other in baseball. If Dombrowski makes a big trade this month, it’s likely to be for pitching. That’s the major need of this ballclub. However, a good front office always tries to find incremental ways to eke more value from its major league roster, and a more dynamic utilization of Brock Holt is certainly one change Boston could explore in this regard.