Benintendi Promotion To Majors Should Wait

If you’re like me, then you’re tracking Andrew Benintendi’s progress through the Red Sox farm system. The Red Sox announced the Benintendi promotion within hours after a tense but anti-climactic trade deadline. Many fans rejoiced at this move, especially since Benintendi plays left field. If Benintendi can fill that void in left field, which hasn’t been consistently patrolled by anyone lately, he could earn a permanent spot on the roster. Despite Benintendi’s success in the minors, his true test is yet to come. Personally, I think it’s too soon for a Benintendi promotion. Here me out.

One could argue that Benintendi has to get his feet wet in the majors at some point. IBenintendi promotion don’t disagree. But bypassing him from Portland straight to the Red Sox this fast? Most players have a hard enough time coming up from Pawtucket. Why would Beintendi be any different?

Let’s look at some of our current stars who stumbled during their first few years. Jackie Bradley Jr. is now an All-Star centerfielder. He has a cannon for an arm, and he’s finally posting a strong batting average. But in 2014, Bradley Jr. posted a .198 batting average in 384 at-bats. That average came a year after he hit .275 in AAA Pawtucket. Mookie Betts didn’t have a bad rookie year. He hit .291 in 189 at-bats. But he hit .335 in Pawtucket in almost the same amount of at-bats that same year. That’s a 44 point drop. Benintendi’s stats show he has a hard time adjusting after a promotion.

The other reason I believe Benintendi is too young is that Major League pitchers and coaches have probably had a chance to study him for a while now. Benintendi, however, probably hasn’t had that same chance given his soon he’s been called up. Is he prepared? In A+ Salem this year, Benintendi hit .341 in 135 at-bats. His average dropped 46 points to .291 when he moved up to Double-A Portland. Seeing a drop in one’s batting average after a promotion is to be expected. But 46 points? That’s hard to ignore.

Benintendi Promotion Doesn’t Consider Dimensions of Fenway Park.

My final concern about Benintendi is that he’s a lefty. He’s only 5’10 and 170 lbs. He’s not strong enough yet to hit home runs (He looks so small in a batting helmet too). Why is this a bad thing? While he’s his twelve triples in the minors this season, as a lefty, those triples are going to turn into flyouts in Fenway Park. The right field line in Single-A Salem Red Sox Memorial Baseball Stadium is 325 feet long. The right field line in Double-A Portland’s Hadlock Field is 330. The right field line in Fenway Park might only be 302 feet, but deep right field is 380 feet. That difference of 78 feet between right and deep right is more than enough room for opposing outfielders to snag Benintendi’s line drives.

Some say that Dombrowski is promoting Benintenid to fill a void in left field because of all the injuries to this season’s left fielders. But Fenway Park doesn’t have just any left field. It has the Green Monster. Anyone who has played left field at Fenway will tell you it’s a difficult wall to patrol. You never know how far a ball will bounce, or if it’ll just drop like a rock. I’m willing to bet that Benintendi has NO experience playing a left field wall like that.

This Andrew Benintendi promotion is premature. Given him a few more months in Double-A before moving him up to Pawtucket. By the time he’s had some at-bats in AAA, he should be prepared to make his debut with the Boston Red Sox.

Manuel Margot Promoted to Portland

With a day off Monday the Red Sox made news by promoting young outfield prospect Manuel Margot to AA Portland. Margot still just 20 years old was with High-A Salem for the first two and a half months of the minor league season.

Signed as an international free agent, out of the Dominican Republic, nearly four summers ago, Margot has impressed the Red Sox brass this year with his ability to hit to all fields and make noise on the base paths. Manuel MargotWith Salem in 46 games Margot had a line of .282/3/17. A shoulder injury in late May sidelined him for nearly three weeks, but he came back strong. In his last ten games Margot is hitting .325 with 9 runs scored, and 6 steals. The eye grabber of his last ten games is that he has only struck out three times.

Margot nearly went the whole month of April without striking out, which is something the Red Sox really must like. The philosophy of the organization has lately been to work counts and get the starter out of the game with a high pitch count but not making outs is a part of that as well. Margot has also shown the ability to hit left handed pitching with an average of .391 against southpaws. The big league club has struggled against lefties all year but Margot could be part of the answer down the road.

Much has been asked of the Red Sox, in last place, will they begin to sell off spare parts or try and acquired an ace type pitcher looking for next year? My guess is it will be much like last year, the wait to sell off pieces will end after the All-Star break. This upcoming stretch of 13 straight games against division opponents will be make of break in determining if the Red Sox are buyers or sellers at the deadline.

Obviously Margot has not control over where he is playing except with his play, but do no be surprised if his name come up in a rumored deal for an ace pitcher if the Phillies price for Cole Hamels comes down. Margot I believe is the next tier of Red Sox prospects to make noise and with him dominating the lower levels, his value may not be any higher. The Red Sox have seen players struggle once they reached AAA like Bryce Brentz and Deven Marrero who could be packaged with Margot to acquire a front of the rotation starter.

For now Manuel Margot will be patrolling the outfield of Hadlock Field, but I would not be surprised if his name comes up in trade rumors come July.

Portland Pitchers Ready for Boston?

portland pitchers

Hadlock Field Portland, ME Photo courtesy of Kara Jackman

I took a trip up to Portland, ME to see the Portland Sea Dogs, double A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. I talked to a few players, enjoyed my first experience in the press box, sharing it with NESN’s Tom Caron, and talking to the future major leaguers.

portland pitchers

NESN’s Tom Caron at Hadlock Field
Photo Courtesy of Kara Jackman

Enough about me. Let’s talk players. Specifically, let’s talk about pitching. There is something in the water in Portland, ME   Following the Portland pitchers since March, I believe the Portland starters and bullpen may be the answer to Boston’s bullpen and starter questions.  These guys are better than the laundry list of pitchers in Pawtucket. I know this is an arguable point, but it seems the writing is on the wall with regard to Portland. Others seem to feel this to be true, too.  Saturday morning, while watching The Baseball Show on the Comcast Sportsnet, a caller suggested that the Sox bring Anthony Ranaudo up from Portland. Then Sunday night Drake Britton provides pretty solid setup man work for Boston. Tonight, Brandon Workman starts against Tampa.

Let’s bring these guys up, work our system, and stop hemming and hawing about getting a closer in time for the July 31st deadline. It just seems these guys are stronger than some of the PawSox guys. I know I am crazy. I fully admit I should be committed, but I think this is the move.  The other Portland pitcher to watch is Matt Barnes. He may need some more time at Pawtucket. He just needs to tweak accuracy and he knows that; he told me as much. Barnes does his homework, charts batters, so he has the mindset and mental fortitude to do it.

Back to my point, let’s work the system. Guys like Cliff Lee, Matt Garza, and Jake Peavy, are a gamble.  I think we should continue to drink the waters in Portland, ME.

Xander Bogaerts, Others On the Move in Minors

xander bogaerts

Courtesy of espn.go.com

The news and movement around the Red Sox minor league farm system is electric. A perfect example is World Baseball Classic player, and former Portland Seadog, Xander Bogaerts.  Bogaerts, promoted this week to triple-A Pawtucket, made a great first impression on Friday. During the doubleheader, he single-handedly won the first game with a walk-off hit scoring the game’s only run. In the second game, he hit his first triple-A home run, and another walk-off to the win that game, too. He is setting the world on fire. All the girls want to date him, and all the men want to be him. He is just 20 years of age and from Aruba. Everyone’s interest has been captured, for one reason or another, with info like that.

A source on Twitter believes Bogaerts will put even more pressure on the Red Sox’ shortstop decision in the 2014 season. As good as Iglesias is, Xander just may be better. He has strong fielding ability, and provides blistering offense. He is young, the world is his oyster. Any position is possible.

Another player promoted from Double-A to Pawtucket was right-handed pitcher Brandon Workman. I was delighted to hear this promotion for a few reasons. This allows Portland Seadogs’ right-handed pitcher, Anthony Ranaudo, to get the attention he deserves. This kid is finally coming into his own, and deserves to have a spot in triple-A someday. (I know I am really obsessed with Ranaudo, maybe it is the combination of a great year, periodic NESN coverage, and the Italian last name). Workman has had more time in the system and it was his time to move up. He won his first start, and struck out four batters and allowed three earned runs. Hopefully, it was first game jitters. I know he can do better and feel confident that he will in the future.

Changes had to be made within the organization since Trey Ball and Teddy Stankiewicz were picked up in the draft. Perhaps more changes are on the horizon as the July 31st trade deadline approaches. It is never too early to start talking player trades, since I feel like I have been thinking about it since mid-May.

It is an extraordinary time in this organization. We have so much to look forward to for the first time in a long time. Let’s hope these stars stay in our galaxy.

Portland’s Anthony Ranaudo Heating Up

anthony ranaudo

Courtesy of espn.go.com

 Anthony Ranaudo experienced a rocky road to the 2013 season. None of that matters now because he has arrived. Acquired in 2010 by the Red Sox organization, plagued by injuries in 2011 and 2012, he has finally began to impress the Portland Seadogs and garner positive attention.  Recent statistics from baseballreference.com show that he has 30 strikeouts in 27 innings pitched. He has a 1.00 ERA and a .778 WHIP. This is in stark contrast to the numbers he put up last season where he pitched only 37.2 innings with a 6.69 ERA and 1.80 WHIP. He is well on his way to pitch more innings in 2013.

Expectations were high for Ranaudo from the beginning. Now he is meeting them. Most writers, scouts, and bloggers are exhaling after holding their breath for the better part of two years. Last year Ranaudo struggled with a groin pull and shoulder trouble.  Fastballs were clocking in at around 85 or 86 MPH. These speeds were nowhere near the mid-90 MPH fastballs that he threw when the Sox drafted him out of Louisiana State University. Now the fastball speed is back in the 90s and he looks better than good. He still needs to tweak his mechanics, and utilize every inch of his 6’7’’ frame to his advantage, but Ranaudo is on the move.

Since things are turning around for him, people are interested. Ranaudo is even on the Boston Globe’s radar. In the last few weeks, he got as much press as Allen Webster, and more than Rubby De La Rosa.  He may just rocket past some of the bullpen players in Pawtucket, but for now he is in good company with the Seadogs’ Brandon Workman.  The Red Sox will “wait and see” as he continues to consistently prove himself deeper into the season.

We see in Ranaudo a perfect example of the depth that the Sox have on the farm. If he stays healthy, he will most definitely be part of Boston’s starting five rotation sooner than later.

Are there any players in our farm system about which you are excited?