Will We See Brian Johnson in the Majors This Season?

Brian Johnson

After one of the more impressive seasons for a Red Sox minor league pitcher in recent memory, Brian Johnson has continued to impress many with his Spring Training performance.

Johnson added another effective start to his Grapefruit League resume last Sunday afternoon (March 29) at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, FL, tossing four innings and allowing two earned runs on six hits and three strikeouts.

“I think this has been a very productive spring for him,” Red Sox manager John Farrell toldBrian Johnson Sean McAdam of Comcast Sportsnet. “He has certainly helped his cause here. He’s has a very good mound presence, good poise. He’s attacked the strike zone and he works as a very quick pace. Sometimes that gets the better of him, where he might rush into some pitches. But he’s shown very well.”

The only glaring number for Johnson is his eight walks in just 15 1/3 innings, which equates to 4.7 walks per nine innings.

“He’s a guy who’s typically has good command of the strike zone,” Farrell said. “A couple of times during the course of his outings, there’s been some base-on balls that have lead off an inning that result in a run.”

Despite a lack of command at times, it has not wavered the 24-year old first round draft pick’s confidence.

“I’m confident with any pitch in any count,” Johnson told Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com. “I threw a couple 2-2 changeups, 3-2 cutters and 3-2 curveballs today. Didn’t always work out, but I’m confident when I throw it.”

Johnson is coming off a season in which he was voted the Boston Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year, as well as earning a runner-up finish to fellow teammate, Henry Owens, in the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Voting. Johnson finished 2014 with a 13-3 record with a 2.13 ERA in 25 starts between AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket.

Baseball America Votes Red Sox Minor League Second Best

minor league

The Boston Red Sox have been voted as having the second best farm system in the major leagues with seven of the top-100 MLB prospects, according to Baseball America. The Chicago Cubs topped the list, with six top-ten prospects in the MLB’s top-100.

Leading the top prospects for the Red Sox is newly acquired Cuban shortstop, Yoan Moncada. Boston officially inked the international free-agent earlier in the month to a minor minor leagueleague contract and a $31.5 million signing bonus. Because the Red Sox had already gone over their allotment of international bonus money with the signing of fellow Cuban, Rusney Castillo, Boston was forced to pay a 100 percent tax, bringing the total cost closer to $63 million.

Second on the list is 22-year old Blake Swihart, who is considered the top catching prospect in all of baseball. Swihart spent 2014 between AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket, where he hit .293/.341/.469 with 13 home runs and 64 runs batted in, while throwing out 46% of attempted base stealers. Despite Boston’s starting catcher Christian Vazquez beginning the 2015 season on the 60-day disabled list, Swihart is still projected to start the year with the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox.

The Red Sox top pitching prospect, Henry Owens, ranks third on the list, just ahead of fellow southpaws Eduardo Rodriguez (5) and Brian Johnson (6). Owens was voted the 2014 Eastern League Pitcher of the year in 2014, after going 14–4 with a 2.60 ERA and striking out 126 batters, before being promoted to Pawtucket in early August.

Brian Johnson was voted runner-up to Owens in the 2014 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year voting, after being promoted to Portland in early May, and going 10-2 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.932 WHIP, allowing only six home runs over 20 starts for the Sea Dogs.

Other notable names on the list include outfielder Rusney Castillo (4), third baseman Rafael Devers (7), outfielder Manuel Margot (8), pitcher Matt Barnes (9) and shortstop Deven Marrero (10).

Mookie Betts Taking More Aggressive Approach at the Plate

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts has easily been the biggest story of Spring Training for the Boston Red Sox, in large part due to his more aggressive approach at the plate as of late.

In 14 Spring Training games thus far, Betts is hitting .452/.477/.857, good for an astounding 1.334 OPS. The 22-year old infielder-turned-outfielder has collected seven doubles, two triples, two home runs and five runs batted in.Mookie Betts

What number stands out the most, however, is only two base on balls.

“[Major league] pitchers are just around the zone more. I feel like you have to swing a little more. You can’t go up there taking,” Betts shared with Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. “I kind of learned last year that you can’t go up there taking. You’ve got to be ready to swing it. That’s how [Derek] Jeter got 3,000 hits. He wasn’t up there taking.”

“That’s kind of why my approach is a little more aggressive than it used to be, which is all right. I feel like it works both ways — it cuts down on strikeouts and it may cut down on walks, but that’s OK. I’ll take [walks] when they come, like today.”

The new offensive approach seems to be working brilliantly for Betts, who at one point this spring had more extra base hits than any player in the Grapefruit League.

“I think [the more aggressive approach] just kind of just developed over last year, especially against [major league] pitchers,” Betts said. “They’re kind of in the zone with everything. I feel like if you go up there taking, you’ll be 0-2 in the blink of an eye.”

“It’s not something that I think about. It’s just something that’s naturally been an adjustment, the same way I always say – I feel like I just make natural adjustments.”

The ability to make those adjustments on the fly should pay huge dividends for Betts, as he prepares for his first full season in the majors. In 52 games in 2014, Betts hit .291/.368/.444 with five home runs, 18 runs batted in, seven stolen bases and 21 walks.

Mookie Betts Looks Poised to Take Over Lead Off Role

mookie betts

It hasn’t taken long for Mookie Betts to go from top infield prospect, to major league outfielder and potential lead off hitter for the Boston Red Sox.

In 52 games with the big league club in 2014, Betts impressed many while hitting .291/.368/.444 with 18 extra base hits, 18 RBIs and 21 walks compared to just 31 strikeouts.

So far this spring, the story has been much of the same.

Betts contributed a hit and a RBI in Boston’s 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, and so far is hitting .273/.273/.444 with an RBI and two runs scored in thMookie Bettsree games this spring. He has also looked good in center field—a position that was totally foreign to him not even one season ago.

“It speaks more to some genuine and natural confidence,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell in an interview with CSNNE.com. “He’s an inquisitive person, so he asks a lot of questions and he’s not afraid that he comes across as not knowing something. He wants to know what a certain game situation would cause him to do and he works through it. He’s one of those guys who asks a question once, you give him an answer and that question doesn’t come up anymore. I think it speaks to how smart he is.”

When Farrell was asked by CSNNE’s Sean McAdam about Betts’ ability to hit from the lead off spot in the order, he seemed more than confident in the 22-year old Nashville, TN native.

“He looks pretty comfortable,” Farrell stated. “When you get on base two or three times per game (it helps). It’s a spot that he’s been most comfortable in, and hit out of. He profiles that spot very well,” he stated.

Although it has been rumored that Betts will compete for the center field job with Rusney Castillo during camp, early injuries to both Castillo and Shane Victorino seem to indicate that there’s a good chance Betts will make the Opening Day roster.

The Red Sox saw first hand in 2014 how the lack of a lead off hitter can effect an offense’s production, and if Mookie Betts can continue to provide contributions from that spot in the lineup, he should see plenty of playing time in Boston this season.

Xander Bogaerts Called Up to Boston

xander bogaerts

Courtesy of nesn.com

Xander Bogaerts called up to Boston on Monday, started against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday. He accomplished what I can only describe as the triple crown of baseball achievement, jumping from Portland Double-A, to Pawtucket Triple-A, and finally to the Boston Red Sox all in one season. Portland’s program and pocket schedule still feature Bogaerts on the front cover. Bogaerts exceeded all expectations that the PR department set in Portland.

Many of us felt Bogaerts would play for the Boston team at some point this season, but I didn’t see that happening until September.  The more I think about it, the more I realize my analysis might have  been a bit off. August is a better month. Manager John Farrell can get a sense of where Bogaerts fits in to the mix right now. Waiting till September would be too risky. In September you cannot be fast and loose in your decision making.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Bogaerts. Will he take Stephen Drew’s place? Drew put together some quality at-bats over the last few games, but does he have Xander’s magic?  Drew is more solid defensively than Bogaerts, so I have to assume that Farrell is testing the waters now to see if Bogaerts can make a go of it in September.

He has the potential to be the offensive catalyst that the Red Sox need to win games. The offense needs an early spark to get ahead, and Bogaerts may be the spark we need. The Red Sox seem to get ahead quickly, or struggle for the win in later innings. If the Red Sox can set the pace early, maintain the offensive momentum at the beginning of the game, then they will have less to worry about defensively, too. If Bogaerts can work his magic, less pressure will be placed on the pitching staff. This is very much needed at this time due to Ryan Dempster’s suspension.

Clearly there is a lot riding on the decision to bring Bogaerts up. The right time is now because of the alignment of many variables, such as inter-league play and the suspension. Drew has some assets, as does Bogaerts. Right now the team needs to work on its offensive dominance. Let’s see if Bogaerts can improve the Sox offense, and perhaps, get the team closer to post-season baseball.

Jackie Bradley Jr. Down to the Minors

jackie bradley jr.

( Yawkey Way Report understands that this is no longer breaking news, however, due to the terrorist attack on the city of Boston, we took a brief hiatus to focus on loved ones and safety)

Jackie Bradley Jr is headed down to the minors. The experiment is over. It is time to get him some consistent at bats and field play every day to improve his game. The only way to get better at something is to practice, and practice as perfectly as one can. Bradley Jr. cannot do that at the major league level.

Some say that if it is too good to be true, then it probably is, and this is definitely the case with Bradley Jr. playing in the majors over the last two weeks. It was such a great story. Truly a great run. It could not have happened to a more humble, mature man. The club just rushed him. I believe it was an earnest decision on behalf of the Red Sox management, and not one made to fill seats. He played at an incredibly high level, with outstanding statistics ranking him above seasoned major league players during Spring Training. Unfortunately, the truth is pre-season action takes place at a different speed. Every team tries new strategies, new people, and a mix of major and minor leaguers. It was a perfect blend of all these elements during the pre-season that made Bradley Jr. stand out among the crowd.

jackie bradley jr.

It is time for a change for Bradley and also for David Ortiz. Change is always bittersweet.  This situation is no exception. Ortiz will most likely return to the Boston line-up on Sunday. The Sox want to accommodate Ortiz, to keep him and the fans happy. A clause in David Ortiz’s contract states that he stands to lose $2 million dollars in 2014 if he does not start for the Boston Red Sox by Sunday. The Sox do not want to lose him.

He is healthier and will be able to play some days and rest others. Daniel Nava and Mike Napoli can both play the DH position, and platoon the first base position, if Ortiz runs into trouble. There is plenty of depth within the Red Sox roster for Ortiz to take his time while playing in Boston.

When will we see Jackie again? Perhaps, he will reappear if Jacoby Ellsbury chooses free-agency in June or July. Then again that may not happen since Ellsbury is so beloved by the fans. For now, the major league dream is over for JBJ. It is time to work on his game, so he can experience it again, for keeps.

“…the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Senator Edward M. Kennedy – August 12, 1980