Red Sox Prospect Preview: Chad De La Guerra

There are 12 baseball players from Grand Canyon University to have made their MLB debuts. The most famous and successful of them all is longtime Los Angeles Angels outfielder Tim Salmon. The next Lope to add his name to the list may just be Chad De La Guerra.

Chad De La GuerraThe infielder is the Boston Red Sox’s No. 25th ranked prospect by hitting a career-high slash line of .283/.361/.437. He was eligible for four straight MLB Drafts from 2011-14; first as a high school senior in California, as a Junior College freshman, then as a sophomore in College of the Canyons (also in Calif.) and finally as a junior in the Phoenix-based GCU, but went unselected each year.

At GCU, De La Guerra won the Western Athletic Conference batting title with a .373 average in 2014. He went on a 24-game hitting streak during his senior season in 2015. He finally got the respect he was looking for and was rewarded by the Red Sox with a $5,000 signing bonus and a 17th round selection.

De La Guerra struggled during his first two seasons in pro ball, hitting only .265 for the Lowell Spinners in 2015 and .250 for the Greenville Drive in 2016. Fracturing his lower leg that season didn’t help much either. After a career year between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland, there’s hope for more this season.

Is De La Guerra The Next Brock Holt?

De la Guerra spent most of last season at shortstop as a way to expand towards a utility role. He also saw action at third base in the Arizona Fall League. He has demonstrated to be a capable and steady defender with sure hands but an average arm.

De la Guerra is clearly working towards a niche as the next Eduardo Nunez, a utility infielder who can land a starting role if he can hit for high average. If he ever learned to play in the outfield, he could also become the next Brock Holt. Holt was an All-Star in 2015 and could hit for average no matter where he played on the diamond. So that would be a good place to strive for.

De la Guerra will be starting the season in Triple-A Pawtucket, along with Sam Travis and Tzu-Wei Lin.

Portland Sea Dogs: Kevin Youkilis to Throw Out the Ceremonial First Pitch

Portland, Maine – The Portland Sea Dogs have announced the details of the Opening Day ceremonies set for Thursday, April 6th at 6:00 PM when the Sea Dogs host the Portland Sea Dogs Opening DayReading Fightin Phils.  The 2017 season marks the Sea Dogs 15th season as an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, to commemorate the occasion, former Sea Dog Kevin Youkilis will throw out the ceremonial first-pitch.
On his way to a nine-year career with the Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis made stops in the minor leagues, including the Portland Sea Dogs. In 2003, Youkilis appeared in 94 games with the Sea Dogs, hitting .327 with 6 homers and 37 RBI.  The Cincinnati native managed to complete a streak he started while in Portland, reaching base in 71 consecutive games, tying future teammate Kevin Millar’s minor-league record for consecutive games reaching base. In 2004, Youkilis made his Major League debut and was part of Red Sox history. Youkilis appeared in 1,061 games in his Major League career with Boston, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees.
Youkilis will be available to sign free autographs from 6:00 to 7:00 PM in the concourse.
The Bellamy Jazz Band will perform on the front plaza at Hadlock Field prior to the game.  The Falmouth High School Concert Choir will perform the National Anthem. The Sea Dogs will also host Portland Recreation students in a “Read Your Way to Opening Day” parade.
The Hadlock Field gates will open at 4:00 PM with the Opening Ceremonies tentatively scheduled to get underway at 5:40 PM complete with team introductions.
Tickets for all Sea Dogs home games in 2017 are on sale and available at the Sea Dogs ticket office at Hadlock Field, by phone at 207-879-9500, and online at seadogs.com.  Advance tickets range in price from $9.00 to $11.00 for adults and $6.00 to $10.00 for children (16 and under) and seniors (62 and over), with group rates available. Book your nine-inning vacation today!

Sea Dogs Unveil Two New Hats For 2017

Portland, Maine–  The Portland Sea Dogs are proud to announce two new game day hats for the 2017 season at Hadlock Field. On Saturday, the team will wear State of Maine hats and Sunday will feature a kid friendly Slugger hat.

 The State of Maine hat will cater to our tourist population, featuring slugger over the state Portland Sea Dogs hatof Maine logo.  The hat features a red brim and backing, with blue on the front.
The kid-friendly hat for Sunday home games, features a larger slugger, blue brim and a blue backing, with a red front.
Both hats compliment our primary logo, which has stayed the same since the Sea Dogs first season (1994).
Portland has 11 Saturday games this season featuring some returning promotions and portland sea dogs hatnew concepts for 2017. Our first Saturday (April 8th) is Kids Opening Day featuring appearances by Nickelodeon characters Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob, and Skye and Marshall from Paw Patrol.  In addition, the Sea Dogs Mascot Band the Kastaways performs every pre-game. Other Saturday games include Star Wars Night on August 5th and Fireworks on June 24th.
The Hoods Kid’s Club has a special outing in 6 of 11 Sunday home games this season.  Additionally, kids can run the bases following every Sunday home game.
The official Saturday and Sunday hats can be purchased at the Sea Dogs Souvenir Store online at www.seadogs.com and at (207) 879-9501.

Andrew Benintendi Looking to Take Next Step

Portland Sea Dogs outfielder Andrew Benintendi, one of the top prospects in the Red Sox system, has gotten off to a slow start in Portland. Benintendi is rated the 15th best prospect by Baseball America. This is his second year in minor league baseball following being the first round pick by the Sox out of the University of Arkansas in 2015.

In 198 at bats in 2015, Benintendi hit 11 homers with a .313 batting average. FollowingAndrew Benintendi this season, people were aware of what he could do. He showed decent speed as well with 10 steals, only being caught three times. With his strong first season, many expected him to build upon that in his second year.

Benintendi started this season at High A Salem. In 135 at bats, he hit .341 with one homer and stole 8 bases, only getting caught two times. Following his start at Salem, Benintendi received the promotion to Portland. While Triple A is the highest minor league baseball game, Double A always seems to be better baseball to watch because of the youth in the game rather than the career minor league players that you tend to see at Pawtucket. With the promotion, Benintendi was at a much improved level. Would he continue to grow and turn into an elite prospect?

So far at Portland, Benintendi is off to a slow start, batting just .214 in 42 at bats with no homers. He has also has stolen three bases but been caught stealing twice, showing the improvement in catching at this level. His struggles don’t necessarily suggest anything as it is still early but it is a cause for concern as he is likely a guy the Sox are considering trading at the deadline. Will Benintendi turn it around in time for the Sox to shop him as an elite prospect?

In these next few weeks, Benintendi will turn the corner. He has started to show flashes of doing so in his last three games, two of them multi hit games. As a groomed hitter coming from the college game and being 21 years old, his path to the major leagues will be much shorter than most prospects as he adjusts to the higher levels quickly. However, Sox fans should be hoping he’s wearing another uniform in return for quality starting pitching.

 

Steven Wright Is Here To Stay

Coming into the 2016 season, Steven Wright was still unknown to most fans. Following an impressive spring in which he had a 2.66 ERA, Wright won the final spot in the Boston Red Sox rotation. A guy who had posted average minor league numbers finally had his chance to cement himself in a major league rotation, no more bus rides.

Wright is primarily a knuckleball pitcher, throwing it 85.9 percent of the time. His secondary pitchesSteven Wright consist of a very hittable low to mid 80s fastball and a curveball that he rarely throws. Wright’s pitch arsenal is very comparable to former Sox fan favorite, Tim Wakefield. However, Wakefield threw his curveball a bit more than Wright. Strong secondary pitches are essential for starting pitchers to succeed at this level as they keep hitters thinking and off balance. However, the knuckleball has proven to be a pitch that one can make a career out of as a starter if they master it, easier said than done. So far, Wright looks to have mastered it and as a result he is pitching like the ace of the staff.

Last night was Wright’s fifth start of the 2016 season. He went six innings, allowing two runs and striking out six batters, including impressive hitting third baseman Todd Frazier twice. This was a strong start to May for Wright following an outstanding April, where he had a 1.37 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. The numbers have been great for Wright but the most important feature he brings to the table is the ability to eat up innings.

Steven Wright: What Makes Knuckleball Pitchers So Valuable?

Throwing a knuckleball gives a starting pitcher a much better chance at being able to pitch longer in their career. This is because the knuckleball is less stressful on the arm of a pitcher than other off speed pitches such as a slider and curveball. Two examples of the longevity that a knuckleball pitcher can have are Wakefield and Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher, R.A Dickey. Wakefield retired at the age of 45 and Dickey is still pitching at age 41. While both of these guys have never been true aces, beside Dickey’s money making years in the big apple from 2010-2012 wearing a New York Mets uniform, their ability to eat innings and sustain a high pitch count is invaluable to a major league bullpen. Dickey has thrown 200 plus innings in the past five seasons and Wakefield did so five times in his career, while coming just short multiple times. Wright has yet to throw that many innings in  a season but has shown the potential to do so in the minor leagues, surpassing 100 innings a few times. Is 2016 the year he finally reaches the 200 inning plateau?

If Wright is healthy, that is a very likely scenario for him. While the sub 2.00 ERA may not uphold, he will continue eating innings, providing rest for the bullpen. Wright’s season has been very impressive thus far and he may very well be the next Wakefield in Sox Nation, possibly even better. Get to know who Wright is and embrace the knuckleball again as he is here to stay, pitching like a man on a mission to stay off those buses.

Ryan Hanigan Begins Rehab Assignment with PawSox

On Monday night the PawSox had a familiar name in the lineup batting third. None other than Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan, who began a rehab assignement after being out since May 1st after taking a foul ball off the hand. Hanigan caught 7 innings and was lifted for pinch hitter Humberto Quintero.

With Hanigan on the 60 day disabled list will likely spend much of a 20 day rehab assignment with the PawSox befire getting called up. Obviously strength in the hand is Ryan Haniganvery important for catchers, so my guess is the Red Sox will have him play a few games back to back and assess when he will be ready to come back. With Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon handling catching duties the last six weeks the pitching staff has looked better, but Hanigan has still had an impact from the dugout serving as a mentor for his catching teammates.

Hanigan was the catcher in Monday nights game against Rochester and was the DH in Tuesday’s tilt batting third both games. Hanigan did not catch Matt Barnes who came on to pitch the 9th inning in a 3-2 PawSox loss.

With a minor foot injury leaving Blake Swihart day-to-day the Red Sox claimed catcher Erik Kratz off waivers from the Royals as he will serve as insurance likely until Hanigan is ready to return. The decision to demote Blake Swihart may be a difficult one as he has made strides on the fly, but getting regular at bats is what Swihart needs as a young player for his confidence. Sandy Leon has served as Clay Buchholz’s undeclared personal catcher the first few months of the season, could also be a roster casualty once Hanigan returns.

Should the Red Sox continue to fall out of the race Hanigan himself could be appealing to teams looking to add a veteran catcher to their roster. Hanigan is signed through 2016 for $3.7 million with a club option for 2017 worth the same number, a contract he originally signed with Tampa Bay. For now Ryan Hanigan is working is way back from injury and the Red Sox will be glab to have him back on their roster.