Patience Is Key With Red Sox Young Players

The final month of the Red Sox season is upon us and if the Red Sox go 27-0 down the stretch they would finish with 92 wins, good enough for a Wild Card right? Well no one expects that to happen so for the final month the Red Sox will be looking to two things. How their younger players continue to play and the chase of David Ortiz’s 500th home run.

With the young outfield of Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. continuing to show what they are capable of the Red Sox have to be happy with what theyYoung Players are seeing. Down the stretch all three expect to get time in all three outfield positions to help figure out what is the best alignment for the BBC. Castillo has been playing left field for about a week now and has not had any Hanley Ramirez moments yet and likely will not. Betts has played center field for every appearance so far this season, but has been working in left and right the last few weeks and will likely appear in a game on the corners soon. Bradley Jr.’s defense is something that will keep him in the big leagues, but his hitting of late has kept him in the lineup after an extended stay in Pawtucket early on this season. His arm I believe is something that has him fit for right field in Fenway Park. Shane Victorino who was a center fielder for most of his career, excelled in moving to the spacious right field in Fenway.

The pitching staff is something that has handcuffed the Red Sox all season long. Eduardo Rodriguez has looked like someone who will be at the top of the rotation for the Red Sox rotation next season, of course likely below an ace they expect to acquire this off-season. Henry Owens has looked good at times, kept down his walks that he struggled with in minors this year but has had some stinkers against teams with good offenses. Both are players who started the year in Pawtucket and will be likely skipped a few times down the stretch because of an innings limit the Red Sox are looking to adhere to, but not quite a Mets Matt Harvey situation because obviously the Red Sox are not in playoff contention.

The slumps and forgetfulness of young players is something that is all over the game. Patience is something the Red Sox have not had with young players as of late as they tried to win at all costs and not allow players battle through adjusting to the big leagues. The Royals and Astros are examples of players coming up together through the system and go through the slumps together and learn how to win together with a core.

Veterans are important to every team and the Red Sox have David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia but the next great Red Sox team will likely come together and learn some lessons this September.

Dave Dombrowski Has a Plan for the Team

Over the past few weeks, the Red Sox have made some major changes in the front office. Notable among those changes was letting go of now ex-GM/President of Baseball Operations Ben Cherington and bringing on former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski as the new President of Baseball Operations, and it hasn’t taken very long for Dombrowski to make his mark.

Dave Dombrowski has made it clear that he believes the Red Sox are a win-now team,Dave Dombrowski and all the moves he will make are to ensure the Red Sox can contend in 2016. Notable among his early moves was his input in moving Hanley Ramirez from left field to 1st base, a move that was long overdue. That also opened the door for the Red Sox outfield of the future, which includes Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr, to play together consistently for the first time.

The team also announced a move to have Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo play the corner outfield position, which lets Jackie Bradley Jr. play his best position, center field. Mercifully, that also squeezes Hanley out of the outfield for the rest of the season, as I mentioned above, which was a long overdue move.

So far, this is all very positive for the team despite them not having a shot at the playoffs in 2015. This gives me hope that the Red Sox can get back in contention for 2016. Granted, they still have to get an ace and some bullpen help, but the team is setting itself up well for 2016 and beyond with these moves.

It’s also a relief to have someone running the show who wants to get back into contention as badly as the fans do. Most of Red Sox Nation is fed up with the losing after what will likely end up as 3 losing seasons in 4 year. I know I am, and I’m glad Dave Dombrowski is working to get the team back to what it was just a few years ago. I can’t wait.

A Young Core has Finally Arrived for the Red Sox

Entering the 2015 season, much was written about the Red Sox’ new core. The arrival of marquee players such as Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, coupled with the healthy return of Mike Napoli and Dustin Pedroia, theoretically gave Boston a robust nucleus around which to fashion a contender. However, as the season unfurled, and as those players merged into the background through injury or poor performance, a cadre of young starlets rose to the fore and took command of a rudderless ship. Now, the future finally looks bright for the Red Sox, with homegrown talent leading the way.

Red Sox

Indeed, the foremost leader on this team is now Xander Bogaerts. Sure, Pedroia embodies what it means to represent the Red Sox, and David Ortiz is still a towering icon of Boston sports history, but Xander stays on the field more than Pedey and has more influence on the overall game than Papi. The 22-year old shortstop has been phenomenal this season, finally showing Red Sox Nation his full ability after so many years of uncertainty. Bogaerts is currently hitting .319/.349/.414 with 5 home runs, 26 doubles and 63 RBI. Xander also leads all American League shortstops in Fangraphs’ WAR, which is a testament to his improved defense and increased understanding of the game. In every respect, the Aruban is maturing into the fresh face of a changing Red Sox franchise.

Mookie Betts, the electric outfielder, is right there alongside him. Also just 22-years old, Mookie has become a fan favorite this year, with his potent blend of speed and hand-eye coordination enthralling the masses. Betts has a .275/.319/.454 slash line with 13 home runs, 31 doubles, 64 RBI and 17 stolen bases, making him one of the most dangerous and dynamic players in the Majors. With a fine glove and ever-developing bat, he figures to roam the Fenway lawn for many years to come, as a bright jewel in the Red Sox crown.

Red Sox

Boston’s youthful spine is completed by Blake Swihart, the 23-year old catcher who has quietly enjoyed a very strong season since being promoted in May. Swihart struggled initially, with defensive deficiencies also having a negative impact on his offensive output. Before the All-Star Game, Blake hit just .241 with a poor .279 on-base percentage, as Red Sox fans worried. However, in the second half, Swihart has totally transformed his game, hitting .348 and reaching base at a gaudy .412 clip. Among all 247 Major League players with at least 100 second half plate appearances, only 11 have a higher OBP than Blake, placing him in the top 4.8% of batters. For the Red Sox, that certainly bodes well for the future.

The surge in performance from Bogaerts, Betts and Swihart is undoubtedly the biggest positive to be salvaged from this disastrous Red Sox season. However, even below that elite tier of homegrown players, the team has been buoyed by strong showings from its younger members. Jackie Bradley Jr. has showed rare competence with the bat; Rusney Castillo has benefited from continuous playing time to look like a more polished Major League player; and Eduardo Rodriguez has, on occasion, showed glimpses of true brilliance.

Thus, despite a poor won-loss record and another finish in the American League basement, Dave Dombrowski has inherited an organization with exceptional potential. We’ve waited years for this homegrown core to matriculate, remaining optimistic as Jackie battled the Mendoza Line and Blake had trouble framing pitches. The front office always promised this spine of young talent would be worth the wait; that it would one day triumph through adversity. In 2015, we’ve witnessed its long-awaited fruition, as the kids have taken the burden from the vets, giving Dombrowski a strong platform from which to build a winner moving forward.

The 2016 Red Sox are Slowly Taking Shape

Dave Dombrowski has been in power on Yawkey Way for less than two weeks, but key pieces of the Red Sox’ future are already falling into place on his watch. Perhaps more by luck than judgment, Boston seems to have stumbled across solutions at first base and in the outfield for 2016, providing some much-needed clarity and enabling the front office to concentrate on the elite pitching that is so desperately desired.

2016 Red Sox

Hanley Ramirez, the enigma wrapped in a conundrum, worked out at first base prior to Tuesday’s game in Chicago, with David Ortiz and coach Brian Butterfield teaching fundamental aspects of the position, such as footwork. The plan is for Ramirez to have a “crash course” in first base play as 2015 winds down, and perhaps entering some Major League games at the position, with a view to the slugger becoming the full-time first-sacker in 2016.

This is a logical move by Dombrowski and the Red Sox. Ramirez transitioned to left field from shortstop after signing a four-year, $88m contract with Boston last winter, but the experiment has been a total disaster, with almost every advanced metric ranking the Dominican as by far the worst fielder in all of baseball this year. Even from a fan’s viewpoint, watching Ramirez play left field has been excruciating; his lack of range and agility plain for the world to see. Moving forward, first base, a less demanding though still complex position, would appear to better suit Ramirez, who won’t hurt the team as much in an area requiring less range.

Similarly, moving Hanley to first allows the Red Sox to go with a dynamic arrangement of Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo in the outfield, which should excite fans immensely. We’ve seen fleeting glimpses of this trio playing together, and the result have been fantastic.

Castillo has looked like a very good Major League player on his latest tour of duty, hitting .391/.426/.625 in August, while Betts continues to blaze a trail with phenomenal Red Soxproduction. Meanwhile, Bradley Jr. finally looks to have discovered the formula for hitting at the big league level, with a .344/.427/.734 slash line in August complimenting his sensational defense, which, replacing Hanley’s incompetence, will turn a current weakness into a standout strength for the Red Sox.

This move will also make the roster more nimble and sustainable. Bradley Jr., Betts and Castillo have a combined age of 25, meaning the Red Sox could have an outfield stocked with five-tool players about to enter their prime years together. When coupled with Blake Swihart at catcher and Eduardo Rodriguez in the rotation, Boston appears to have a strong core of cost-controlled, homegrown stars.

Thus, despite an awful win-loss record and perhaps another last-place finish for the Red Sox, Dombrowski has inherited a neat framework around which to add external upgrades. Throughout his illustrious career, the new President of Baseball Operations has always excelled at acquiring elite, veteran talent, and he will probably look to do the same here in Boston.

Who he pursues, and through what means, is obviously unclear right now. A bonafide ace has to be the top priority, as Dombrowski has already hinted, but Red Sox fans can rest assured that, finally, after a torturous journey, the young core seems to be ready. Moreover, an attempt at solving the Hanley Ramirez problem is underway, as Boston primes itself for a genuine revival, rather than another false dawn, in 2016 and beyond.

The Rusney Castillo Question

The Red Sox invested $72 million in outfielder Rusney Castillo towards the end of last season, assuming that he would be an integral part of the team’s plans in the future. Yet, so far, it hasn’t panned out that way. He’s spent a significant time in AAA Pawtucket and struggled to get significant playing time with the big league Red Sox when he has been up.

I find it most curious that Rusney Castillo hasn’t nailed down a consistent spot, especiallyRusney Castillo recently. He’s been slashing .385/.429/.577 in the last nine games he’s played, with a home run and 2 doubles. According to Over the Monster, the rationale behind the team’s decision might be that they want to respect the veteran guys on the roster, like Mike Napoli, but it could also have to do with showcasing guys like Nap with the waiver deadline coming up.

The latter is probably the case with Nap, and also with a guy like Alejandro De Aza. Both guys will be free agents at the end of the season, and it seems probable that they won’t be wearing Red Sox uniforms come the end of the 2015 season. This is speculation, but I’m guessing that the Red Sox would rather get something for those guys than just let them walk for nothing at the end of the year, which makes sense to me. I would think playing a guy they gave $72 million to would trump that.

This is just my opinion, but if it were me, I would play the $72 million guy as much as possible—at least in his first full season with the club—and give him a chance to let him show what the organization paid so much money for. I think he has the talent to justify the big contract, but he just needs a consistent opportunity to show it. And yes, I know we have other guys—Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley Jr.—but of those guys, Hanley is the only other guy making big money. If Rusney Castillo doesn’t work out I’m all for having the 3 guys I just mentioned be our starting outfield (OK, probably minus Hanley if his defense doesn’t pick up), but for now I say give the guy a chance.

Mookie Betts Injury Gives Jackie Bradley Jr. Opportunity

Mookie Betts has proven that athleticism is not something he is lacking this season. He has quick bat speed and learned to play center field very well. Tuesday night he made a great catch running full speed but flipped over the bullpen in right center field. The catch did not count as it was a home run after Betts flipped over the wall, but Betts was diagnosed with a concussion. He was placed on the 7 days disabled list on Wednesday and the team called up Jackie Bradley Jr.

Manager John Farrell said Bradley Jr. will be playing center field everyday while Betts is Mookie Betts injuryout. The extent to Betts concussion is not known but the Red Sox should not rush Betts back as it already is a lost season, while Betts has been one of the few bright spots.

Obviously no one wants to wish someone to get injured but Bradley Jr. has to relish this opportunity as it looks like Rusney Castillo will be in right field for the remainder of the season. Bradley Jr. has proven he can hit minor league pitching this season as he has been one of the best hitters in the International League for the PawSox. He has also shown power as of late having two, two homer games in the past week. The defense has never been the question with Bradley Jr. it has always been whether he can hit major league pitching.

With Betts on the disabled list this could be the last test Bradley will get with the Red Sox. When Shane Victorino went down with an injury earlier this season the Red Sox acquired Alejandro De Aza instead of bringing up Bradley Jr. obviously not what he wanted and although De Aza has played well in his stint with the Red Sox, they should be playing Bradley, as De Aza will likely be gone after this season.

With the trade deadline Friday afternoon it is likely now Bradley will be still with the Red Sox after he built up some value at Triple-A. With an outfield likely full for next season unless Hanley Ramirez changes positions, this is will an opportunity for Jackie Bradley Jr. to prove he can be a piece off the bench next season.