The Red Sox Are Built for Sustainable Success

The Red Sox are edging closer to their first division title since 2013. At various times in recent memory, that seemed impossible. Too many collapses. Not enough nerve. But as the leaves change color and autumn truncates summer, things are falling into place just nicely this time. The offense is unstoppable, and the pitching has improved. Boston is galloping away with the American League East, and that may be the case for many years to come.

Red Sox

This current success is rooted in fairly recent failure. The Red Sox have made just one postseason appearance since 2009. They’ve finished in last place three times since then, including the past two seasons, while winning eighty games has proved difficult. Managers have changed. Front office members have been fired. New players have arrived on bloated contracts. Yet, through it all, hope still pervaded, for an exciting group of prospects received playing time in which to hone its craft. Now, we’re seeing the fruits of that labor at the Major League level, and it’s pretty magical.

How the Red Sox Built a New Core

In darker days, back when Pablo Sandoval flailed at off-speed junk or Bobby Valentine lost control, we heard so much about the new core developing below. Well, it’s finally here. And it’s finally attuned to big league ball. Mookie Betts has over 200 hits, 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Xander Bogaerts has 20 bombs of his own and he led the league in batting average earlier this season. Jackie Bradley Jr. may finish with 30 homers and 100 RBI with a late surge, complimenting his all-world defense. These players have an average age of just 24. They’re great, and they’re going to be around for a very long time.

Around that nucleus, there are more layers of young Red Sox talent. Andrew Benintendi is just 21, but his grace, poise and ability belies that fact. Yoan Moncada needs further refinement, but his raw skills saw him promoted to Boston before turning 22. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has slowly returned to form, and he may be the Red Sox’ third playoff starter. Then we have Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez, one of whom will eventually become the starting catcher at Fenway Park.

Few Teams Can Compete With This Talent

Quite simply, no other team in the AL East can match that cadre of young, cost-controlled, Major League-ready talent. Toronto is a strong opponent, but many of their aging stars will soon hit free agency. The Yankees are transitioning to a youth movement, and their farm is loaded. But in developmental terms, New York is probably where Boston was in 2014. Many of those bright young players still have a lot to learn, and that can be a painful process. Meanwhile, Baltimore relies on a veteran core, and Tampa Bay is so far removed from contention as to be almost irrelevant.

The Red Sox will have tremendous flexibility moving forward, as these players should remain in Boston for many years. However, right now, veterans like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Rick Porcello and Dustin Pedroia are providing valuable experience and leading the Red Sox back to contention. That blend of youth and know-how is crucial. It may just result in a deep championship run, if the magic dust doesn’t run out.

Whether the Red Sox win it all this year or not, fans can rest assured that other opportunities will arise in future years. At one point, just a few short years ago, that was a distant dream. Yet now, after building through the tough times, sustainable success is once again on tap in Beantown. It should be fun to watch.

The Incredible Potential of Yoan Moncada

The Red Sox are loaded with young talent throughout their organization, but the player who excites me the most is possibly Yoan Moncada, the Cuban infielder with enormous potential. A 21-year old phenom, Moncada has now been promoted to Double-A Portland, and that should really enthuse Red Sox Nation, which is in for a treat when the youngster finally arrives at Fenway Park.

Yoan Moncada

In sixty-one games with the Class-A+ Salem Red Sox this season, Moncada hit .307 with 4 home runs, 34 RBI and 25 doubles. His on-base percentage was .427, and he stole 36 bases in 44 attempts. That is a lethal combination that can really help a team win, and excite the fans simultaneously.

Moncada has also taken a big step forward since 2015. Last year, he hit .278 with 8 homers and 49 steals for the Class-A Greenville Drive. After proving himself at the lowest levels of minor league ball, the hulking specimen will now face his first real challenge, adjusting to what many people regard as the most talented tier below the Majors. While Triple-A is often home to diminished veterans, Double-A is typically loaded with elite prospects, which means more time is required there than at any other stage of the development process.

It’s important that the Red Sox give Yoan Moncada time to adjust at that level, where he’ll learn a lot about the game and American culture. The process of acclimating to the professional game can be a challenge for Cuban players. Boston has learned that with Rusney Castillo, who passed through waivers this week, just two unsatisfying years after agreeing a seven-year, $72.5 million contract. Yet with Dustin Pedroia marshaling second base at the big league level, Moncada has time to smooth off some of the rough edges in his game, particularly defensively, before arriving in Boston.

When Will Yoan Moncada Arrive?

He should be ready to join the big league club by the end of next season, perhaps as a September call-up, so there’s room to breathe here. A lot can still go wrong, as the poor performance of Cubans such as Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler illustrates, but the potential upside is enormous. If he isn’t rushed, Yoan Moncada can be the cornerstone around which the Red Sox are built for the next decade.

Right now, MLB.com ranks him as the fifth-best prospect in baseball, and the third-best position player. The speed is electric, while the swing is fluid from both sides of the plate. He has a tremendous arm, and his overall defense should improve with more preps. Red Sox execs have spoken about potentially getting Moncada to play multiple positions to aid his versatility, but they want him to master second base before worrying about that.

The Red Sox made a huge commitment when they signed Yoan Moncada to a $31.5 million bonus, shattering the previous record. Ownership went the extra mile for Red Sox Nation, beating the Yankees, Dodgers and Padres to the signature of a player capable of transforming a franchise. That willingness to spend big to accrue elite prospects should be lauded, as the Sox try to win now and in the future. Therefore, I expect Moncada to be untouchable as Dave Dombrowski attempts to trade for pitching, except for the most elite of returns, namely Jose Fernandez.

The kid is on a path to superstardom, and it’s going to be fun to watch. All he needs is a little nurturing, before an elite player will emerge. I, for one, cannot wait to see him pull on a Red Sox uniform, as the pipeline of young talent continues to overflow.

Red Sox Fans Look Ahead to the Trade Deadline

With Memorial Day behind us, attention is slowly turning towards the trade deadline in Major League Baseball. For perhaps the first time since 2013, the Red Sox are in a strong position as the calendar flips to June, which means they should be buyers in the market, looking to add pieces for a championship run rather than selling them to assist a rebuild.

Trade deadline

Right now, Dave Dombrowski doesn’t need to worry about offense or defense. The Red Sox lead baseball in almost every offensive category, and the everyday lineup could produce some historic numbers before the season is over. Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts have taken another step forward. Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are turning back the clock with tremendous performances. And even unheralded guys like Travis Shaw and Christian Vazquez have taken their turn leading this team. All around the diamond, the Red Sox are really solid with the leather, which is also fun to see.

So, we come to the one area where Boston must improve: pitching. At this point, almost everybody on the planet must know that the Red Sox lack elite rotation depth. Boston starters have a 4.57 ERA, thanks mostly to Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly. That ranks 21st in baseball, and must improve if Boston is to compete for a World Series championship.

What Can the Red Sox Give Up at the Trade Deadline?

We’ve already heard enough about potential trade targets for the Red Sox, and those discussions will intensify in the coming weeks. By the time July arrives, you will likely be tired of hearing about Sonny Gray and Julio Teheran, so it’s time to take a different approach. Let’s look not at what the Red Sox can acquire at the trade deadline, but rather what they can actually give up. Who, exactly, are their most realistic trade chips?

By hiring Dombrowski, signing David Price and acquiring Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox signaled a shift in philosophy, away from prospect conservation and toward a win-now mentality. However, we live in an age where sustainable contention is only achievable by delivering constant waves of young talent to the major league roster. Therefore, it’s still safe to assume that certain elite prospects are untouchable in trade deadline negotiations. Personally, I would include the following players in that group: Betts, Bogaerts, Yoan Moncada, and Andrew Benintendi.

Due to a very deep system, that still leaves plenty of chips with which Dombrowski can work. Down on the farm, guys like Rafael Devers, Anderson Espinoza, Brian Johnson and Michael Kopech may be expendable, although the latter three are promising pitchers in an organization starved of talent at that position. Elsewhere, fringe big leaguers like Henry Owens and Rusney Castillo may also be better utilized as trade deadline currency at this point.

Yet, at present, I think the Red Sox’ biggest trade chip is Blake Swihart. He possess a really strong bat with plenty of upside, but has struggled defensively behind the plate. Given the dearth of catching talent, many teams would overlook that deficiency in favor of his offense, but the Red Sox are in a position where their lineup is so dominant that carrying an elite defensive catcher like Christian Vazquez is preferable. That leaves Swihart without a position and, perhaps, without a future in Boston.

Ultimately, Dombrowski has many options as he attempts to tweak and improve his team. For that, he can thank Ben Cherington and – to a lesser extent – Theo Epstein, who did tremendous work stockpiling such a wide array of young talent. Now might be the time to flip some of these prospects for a true difference-maker in 2016 and beyond. With young stars blooming at the major league level, the future has finally arrived for the Red Sox. The trade deadline is an opportunity to grasp it and take full advantage.

Sea Dogs’ Jantzen Witte Making Transition from Third to First Look Easy

Jantzen Witte sea dogs

Jantzen Witte has been one of the Portland Sea Dogs best hitters to this point in the season, posting a .348/.392/.500 line with seven extra-base hits, 19 runs batted in, seven runs scored and six walks in 18 games.

He began his transition from third to first base in Spring Training last sJantzen Witteeason, and so far has made the job look easy, posting a .996 fielding percentage at first base over 960 career innings.

“Last year I kind of got moved over there the last day of Spring Training, and then played the majority of my games at first,” Witte told Yawkey Way Report. “I actually felt okay with it.

“As far as ground balls and things like that, I don’t think it’s a huge adjustment, but as far as my footwork around the bag and picks and things like that, it looks so easy, but there’s a lot of stuff going on. A lot of moving parts that I think a lot of people don’t realize. That’s something that I am still working on.”

Witte was selected by the Red Sox in the 24th round of the First-Year player draft in 2013 out of Texas Christian University. He was named to the 1st-Team Academic All Big-12 Team his senior year, when he hit .293 with 15 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 34 runs batted in.

The 25-year old talked about how his college baseball career has helped ease the transition into professional baseball, although there are some major differences.

“I think anybody that played college baseball, they have so many more reps than these guys [that come out of] high school,” he said. “The earlier levels of [professional baseball] we have so much more experience in close ball games, and so many AB’s [while] facing some pretty good arms.”

“I think the hardest thing to do is be consistent in pro ball, [because] you play so many games—[Double-A] is where the level is that everyone is at an even playing field.”

So far this season, the New England weather has had little effect on the Ft Worth, Texas native.

“In college we played in places like Air Force in Colorado in the snow. When we were in the Mountain West, BYU, you know we’re up in the snow, it’s icy, so it’s something I have played in before,” he said. “It might take an extra one or two sprints to get loose, but you know, you just got to play the game regardless of what the temperature is like.”

In 181 career minor league games, Witte is hitting .293/.361/.457 with 13 home runs, 54 doubles, eight triples and 122 runs batted in while splitting time between third and first base.

Robby Scott Looking Impressive So Far for Sea Dogs

Robby Scott Portland Sea Dogs

Robby Scott continued his hot start to the season against the Trenton Thunder on Sunday afternoon at Hadlock Field; tossing two innings of relief and allowing just a single unearned on one hit, while striking out two.

Scott has not allowed a run in four of his five appearances this season, including four shutout innings against the New Britain Rock Cats last Tuesday, only the second start of his professional career.Robby Scott Portland Sea Dogs

So far this season Scott is 0-0, with a 2.70 ERA and nine strikeouts in 10 innings.

The 25-year old Miami, FL native is coming off a strong 2014 campaign in which he owned a 8-2 record to go with a 1.96 ERA and 51 strikeouts.

Those numbers were good for a trip to the 2014 Mid-Season All-Star Game for the Eastern League. Scott was also voted to the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Star team in October.

“Between being in the All-Star game last year in the Eastern League and then having the opportunity to play in the All-Star game in the Fall League was awesome, two opportunities, two accolades that I will remember when my playing career is over,” Scott told Yawkey Way Report.

“It’s one of those things where you get to reward yourself for something for your efforts, for the work you put in throughout your time. It’s not the last time I want to be on an All-Star team, and hopefully can be on an All-Star team at [every] level.”

Despite a shortened off-season because of the Arizona Fall League, Scott felt no ill effects during Spring Training this year.

“I [actually] felt better, just because I didn’t have that extended period of time off. My arm felt a lot better getting ready to go for Spring Training because I didn’t have that extra month and a half off, so I felt actually a lot better the first time I started throwing,” Scott said.

Robby Scott also realizes that with his recent string of success, his promotion could be just a phone call away.

“That’s what it’s all about, seeing guys have that opportunity. You got to be able to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed and be ready for that opportunity when your name is called, and hopefully that opportunity comes,” he said.

“A year ago now Mookie Betts was in this locker room. Now seeing him doing what he’s been doing [for the Red Sox] it’s been awesome. It’s exciting for us and exciting for the entire organization.”

Sea Dogs Manage Four-Game Split With Trenton Thunder

Portland Sea Dogs

After two straight wins, the Portland Sea Dogs dropped the series finale to the Trenton Thunder by the score of 8-2 on Sunday, giving them a split in the four-game series at Hadlock Field.

Justin Haley was handed his third loss on the young season, as he failed to getSea Dogs through the fifth inning after allowing six earned runs on eight hits, including two home runs, and four walks, bringing his ERA on the season to 9.42.

Keury De La Cruz, who was playing in his first contest in over a week after suffering a leg injury, provided the lone offense for the Sea Dogs. After back-to-back singles by Jantzen Witte and Oscar Tejeda, De La Cruz drove them both in with a fly ball double to left field.

One bright spot in the series came on Friday, when the Sea Dogs were able to hand the New York Yankees number one prospect, Luis Severino, the worst loss of his Double-A career, after tagging him with six runs, three of them earned, on eight hits and three walks over five innings.

They were able to chase Severino in the bottom of the sixth inning, after he committed a throwing error on a Jonathan Roof bunt with two men on which allowed a runner to score, then gave up an RBI single to Sea Dogs’ right fielder Kevin Heller. The Sea Dogs added an RBI single by second basemen Carlos Asuaje in the inning, followed by a two-run double off the bat of left fielder Oscar Tejeda.

Portland added three more runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, and won by a final score of 10-2.

The Sea Dogs will host last year’s Eastern League champions, the Binghamton Mets, for a three-game series at Hadlock Field beginning at 6:00 PM on Monday night. The New England Patriots Super Bowl hero, Malcolm Butler, will be in attendance, throwing out the first pitch, as well as signing autographs and taking pictures.