Red Sox Seized 1st Place for First Time This Season

On Tuesday, June 20th the New York Yankees lost their seventh straight game. After a dominating win over the Houston Astros, the Red Sox pulled ahead of their long-time rivals to take first place. The AL East is heating up as the Red Sox seized first place, albeit temporarily. This is only the beginning of a battle for first place with the Orioles not too far behind with a dog of their own in the fight.

But oh how the mighty have fallen…

The Yankees held an at-times commanding lead in the AL East before their bullpen fellred sox seized apart. Manager Joe Girardi has 100% faith in reliever Aroldis Chapman right now but that’s about it. All their other relievers couldn’t save a file on a Macbook. Girardi also can’t quite plug the hole at first base either. The Red Sox took advantage of their rival’s deficiencies and managed to pull ahead. But that only lasted a day after losing two out of three to Kansas City.

Red Sox Seized First Place By Default

The Red Sox didn’t pull ahead of the Yankees because they started playing better. John Farrell didn’t suddenly find a magic lineup. The Red Sox managed to gain first place because the Yankees started playing badly. So in a way you could argue that the Red Sox seized first place by default. This is why it’s the perfect time to shake things up.

Now Is Their Chance To Hold Onto First

The Red Sox have had plenty of time to figure out what does and doesn’t work. At this point they should focus less on platooning and more on consistency. Keep Josh Rutledge at third base. Keep Christian Vazquez behind the plate. He’s got a killer arm and his batting average is steadily climbing. Keep Sam Travis in Boston and send Matt Barnes down to Pawtucket, or just trade him.

As the last few seasons have proven, first place in the AL East is anyone’s for grab. Well except for Tampa Bay, they haven’t been contenders for years. But with Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore having made the playoffs in the last few years, and now the Yankees vying for a spot, the Red Sox can’t afford to lose anymore ground. This is their time to go with what works and dump what doesn’t.

The Red Sox Dead Weight Needs To Go

The Red Sox are within a game or two of capturing first place. It’s miracle in its own right if you consider the Red Sox dead weight. Pablo Sandoval isn’t panning out. Sandy Leon’s flash in the pan hitting last year isn’t carrying into this season. Rick Porcello leads the league in losses at 9. If the Red Sox are going to capture first place they need to cut some of their dead weight and they need to do it yesterday.

Red Sox Dead Weight

The Red Sox are playing great baseball. Josh Rutledge is holding his own at third. Andrew Benintendi is a contender for the Rookie of the Year Award. Mookie Betts is leading the Red Sox with 12 homers. Chris Sale is as masterful as ever. But with the Red Sox dead weight that consists of Sandoval, Porcello, and Leon, it’s hard for the team to play better, and they certainly can.

The Red Sox Are Winning the Late-Inning Games

The Red Sox were among the league leaders last year with runners left on base and runners left in scoring position. It seemed like the Red Sox gave up once they fell behind. We’re not seeing that attitude this season. Back-to-back walk-off wins against Philadelphia last week proved that the Red Sox can play under pressure. What’s even better is that players like Benintendi are the ones coming through in the clutch.

Red Sox Dead Weight Is Dragging The Team Down

It’s not always easy to cut dead weight. Players like Pablo Sandoval and Rick Porcello have such big contracts that it’s hard to find another team that’ll pick them up. In other instances no one wants them. But the Red Sox should just rip off the band-aid and shed these players before the All-Star break. Keeping them around is like putting raisins in oatmeal cookies. They just get in the way.

There’s a great scene in the film Moneyball where Billy Bean, played by Brad Pitt, goes against expert advice and cuts a number of players, including Jeremy Giambi. These players weren’t panning out. They were dead weight on the field and a distraction in the clubhouse. While the plot of Moneyball and the reality of the Red Sox are completely different, it’s a lesson that the Red Sox could learn something from. The front office needs to stop coming up with excuses and make some difficult decisions.

What Are The Red Sox Third Base Options?

Since the days of Mike Lowell, the Boston Red Sox third base situation has been in a constant state of change. First were Adrian Beltre and Kevin Youkilis. There was promise of Will Middlebrooks and, briefly, Jose Iglesias. Next came the Xander Bogaerts experiment and the Pablo Sandoval signing, followed by the Travis Shaw rise and fall.

red sox third base

This season, it’s been even more of a revolving door. After an impressive spring, Pablo Sandoval got his job back. When Sandoval was injured in late April, Marco Hernandez received some playing time. Then when Hernandez went down, journeyman Josh Rutledge got the opportunity. Since his struggles, however, former top draft pick Deven Marrero has been on the field. All of these injuries and slumps inconveniently happened while the original backup, Brock Holt, is recovering from vertigo.

In addition, the offensive and defensive production at third base for the Red Sox leaves a lot to be desired no matter who is on the field. Obviously, some of this is due to their inexperience, but when a contending team like the Red Sox needs consistent production, ironically changes tend to be made.

Currently, the Red Sox do not even have a third baseman who qualifies with enough at-bats to be ranked for batting average. The only players remotely close are Rutledge and Sandoval, who are batting .281 and .213 respectively. Sandoval, if healthy, would be third-to-last in the AL in batting average as of today. In the field, Hernandez and Sandoval rank in the top ten in errors committed, despite only playing in a combined total of 23 games.

Current Red Sox Third Base Options

So who will end up being the answer at third base? One could argue it will be Sandoval when he returns from the disabled list simply because he was the starter. It most likely will not be Rutledge or Hernandez full-time because they are just utility infielders by trade.

If not Sandoval, the Red Sox are left with few options. They could stick with Marrero because of his sound defense, but lose pop in the lineup. Considering they are already last in the American League in home runs, that is not a good idea.

Another option would be to ride it out until the trade deadline, see what Panda has to offer, then try to acquire somebody like David Freese, Danny Valencia, or even free-agent Brett Lawrie or old friend Will Middlebrooks.

The last option is unlikely but possible. Top infield prospect Rafael Devers is currently hitting .333 with a .403 SLG and a 1.007 OPS. He only has 4 errors in 27 games at Portland as well.

Ultimately, Dave Dombrowski will need to make a decision soon – as the Red Sox struggle to find offensive consistency.

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.

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.

Prospect Andrew Benintendi Reaches Class AA

Boston Red Sox prospect Andrew Benintendi was recently promoted to Class AA Portland after posting a .341 batting average in 135 at-bats with Class A Salem. Benintendi’s strong hitting has left many wondering if the No.1 Red Sox draft pick of 2015 will see action in the major leagues this season, especially after a hot hitting streak in Class A.

The 2015 Golden Spikes Award recipient and No.1 Red Sox draft pick has caughtprospect Andrew Benintendi the attention of many throughout the Red Sox farm system. Some are asking if Benintendi will make an appearance before the end of the season. “Some guys, that path is quicker,” Red Sox roving outfielder coordinator Billy Mcmillan said in a Boston Globe interview. “In our limited exposure with him, he’s demonstrated that he’s ready for the next challenge.” That’s putting it lightly. Benintendi has already set a Salem Red Sox record with a 21-game hitting streak this season.

While it has been exciting to watch Benintendi do so well, some are saying that he should take his time and play in the minors for another years or two. Dustin Pedrioa joined the Red Sox farm system out of college but spent a few years in the minors before joining the team in 2006. In addition to taking more time to work out kinks in the minors, there’s also the issue of whether there’s any room on the team right now; there really isn’t. Jackie Bradley Jr. is here to stay now that he’s an offensive asset. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Brock Holt are consistently playing well. On top of that, Josh Rutledge and Chris Young is posting solid stats. So given the amount of offensive power the Red Sox have right now, it’s better if prospect Andrew Benintendi sits tight in the minors for another year or two so he can continue developing his style. Just like all the other players, Benintendi has to earn a spot and that takes time. So we’ll see if Benintendi is the real thing, a reincarnate of Ted Williams or Carl Yastrzemski, or if he’s just another $1million fluke.