Boston Red Sox Offense Coming Alive in July

Mike NapoliThe Boston Red Sox may have had some time off last week with the All-Star break, but since then the team has been on a tear offensively. As a club, the Red Sox had outscored their opponents 27-6 as they started the second half of the season 4-0, which includes a three-game sweep against the Kansas City Royals and a win in the first game of a four-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The month of July has been the best month for the Red Sox in terms of runs scored per game, as the team has collected the fourth most runs in MLB during that time with 90. They have the second best average (.287) and the best OBP (.355) in the month and look like a team that is more balanced throughout the lineup as players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Stephen Drew and even Daniel Nava are starting to come around at the plate. Xander Bogaerts is making progress at the dish and a healthy Shane Victorino has made some contributions over the weekend.

In July, the Red Sox are now 9-9 with five runs per game compared to a little over three runs per game in the whole month of June. The offense has been on a hot streak since ending the first half, winning four of five games, but the post All-Star numbers have been the real turning point for this squad.

The team is second in all of MLB with a .299 average since the All-Star break while scoring the second-most runs (34). The power has returned as the team also leads the league in home runs and even hit a season-high four homers to go along with another season-high in hits (18) on Monday night. The .512 slugging percentage is the best in baseball as well and is a main reason the team is starting to put more runs on the board.

Overall, the offense is still towards the bottom in production, but has risen to 11th place in the AL with 401 runs scored.

If the Red Sox can keep the offensive resurgence going over the next of couple weeks, then a playoff race is not out of the picture as the team stands only six games out of a Wild Card and 8.5 games out of the AL East lead.

Also, the team could find itself being a buyer at the trade deadline if the wins keep piling up, and that could add to the success of the Red Sox offense.

Assesing The Trade Value Of Stephen Drew

stephen drewThe Boston Red Sox signed Stephen Drew in May as sort of a panic move once Will Middlebrooks went down (again) with an injury. Drew, who has been the Red Sox everyday shortstop since, has done the Red Sox much more harm than good. Sure, he plays a great defensive shortstop, but the bad outweighs the good when it comes to Drew. Set to earn over $10 million this year, Stephen Drew is hitting at a .173 clip in 29 games for the Red Sox while maintaining a .254 OBP. Not only this, but Drew displaced Xander Bogaerts causing him to slump, took a starting role away from Brock Holt who is now a nomad on the baseball field, and is making it nearly impossible to call-up third baseman Will Middlebrooks from his rehab assignment. The first thing that pops into peoples’ minds is to trade Stephen Drew, but the issue there is whether or not that is a legitimate option.
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Realistically, what is a team going to give up for an overpaid Drew, hitting below the Mendoza Line, who can only play shortstop? The answer to that question is— not many. It is possible that the Red Sox do find a suitor, a team who is interested in trying out Stephen Drew, but no team will break the bank to get him. Boston would need to pay the rest of, or at the least the majority of, his 2014 contract for starters.
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A likely return for Stephen Drew would be a PTBNL or potentially an underachieving  prospect. Boston would be smart to take a solid Minor League reliever who has a legitimate chance at contributing to a Major League bullpen at some point in the future. If the Red Sox get a prospect such as a Joe Gunkel or a Corey Littrell, who are both in their organization, they should consider it a fair trade.
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By freeing themselves of Drew, the club could call-up Will Middlebrooks and put him at third while putting Xander Bogaerts where he belongs at shortstop. Of course, if there is no suitor for Stephen Drew, they could always designate him for assignment. It would be better to get something in return for Stephen Drew, but if they can’t they best not fret and cut ties anyways.

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Shortstop

Red Sox First Half shortstop

The Red Sox first half has been a tale of two shortstops: Xander Bogaerts and Stephen Drew; the super-prospect and the mid-season free agent acquisition. Drew was signed on May 20th for $10 million and played his first game on June 2nd. This move of course shifted Bogaerts over to 3rd base and everything has seemed to go downhill since then.

As a shortstop, Bogaerts definitely looked a bit shaky in the field and was a downgrade defensively from Stephen Drew. Everyone knew that going into the season, but the only way a 21-year-old is going to get better in the field is through experience. However, not even two months into the season, Bogaerts was back to third base. In 199 at-bats at short, he posted a .296/.389/.427 line to go along with his six errors in the field. Not bad for a kid. Since he’s moved to third, he’s put up a horrendous line of .140/.181/.225 and hasn’t exactly been Brooks Robinson in the field either. He has already accumulated seven errors, including a few costly ones, in twenty less games than he played at short. So was the Stephen Drew signing worth the mental destruction of the team’s best prospect in years?

If you happened to catch the July 5th double-header against the O’s, Stephen Drew looked like a great player. A home run in both games?! Can’t beat that. Well, if he hadn’t hit those home runs, he would be hitting .129 with two RBIs in a month’s worth of games. Even with the home runs, he’s hitting .151 with five RBIs. If he was a gold glove shortstop, maybe these offensive numbers could slide, but he’s not. He’s a top ten defensive shortstop that clearly lost some of his ability at the plate in his extended offseason. If the team wanted a defensive shortstop, they could have brought up Deven Marrero and saved some money. Drew’s playing so bad that I doubt anyone would even want him in a trade. Another bad decision by Ben Cherington in a year where his ideas have failed the team.

Xander Bogaerts (At SS)- Grade: B+

Stephen Drew- Grade: F

What the Boston Red Sox Should Do at the Deadline

Boston Red SoxThe Boston Red Sox have won three of their last four games, but it’s probably too late. With the trade deadline looming, the Red Sox, at 42-52, will most likely be sellers. So, here’s what Ben Cherington and Co. should do if they don’t go on a huge winning streak these next three weeks.

First, they should be actively shopping relievers Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, and Craig Breslow. All of them are free agents after this season, and it’s pointless to keep them if they’re not going to play baseball in October. They should, rather, look to get something for the long-term. In other words, players who will have a positive impact when they are playing “meaningful” baseball. Koji would obviously draw a nice return, and so will the others.

Next, Jake Peavy, who’s been rumored to be available, should be traded. Dealing him would enable the Red Sox to fit Brandon Workman or Allen Webster into the rotation for the rest of the year. Boston can get a taste of what they’re going to get before, as anticipated, moving them into the rotation next year.

Jonny Gomes is another guy they should be shopping. The 33-year-old outfielder is a free-agent after this season, and would be desirable to a lot of teams. He has a track record of postseason success and, despite his decline offensively, still has pop in his bat.

Stephen Drew, the much-maligned shortstop, is an interesting case. On one hand he’s been terribly disappointing this year, but Boston would be selling low on him. However, I guess getting something is better than nothing. Another benefit in doing so is this will give Xander Bogaerts the opportunity to slide back to shortstop. Despite his recent struggles, if they’re serious about him being their shortstop of the future, it’s better to wean him in when they’re not competing.

There’s no reason to blow it all up. They have a plethora of prospects expected in 2015, and should be competitors as a result. One thing, though—if they aren’t serious about re-signing Lester, then deal him. He would draw a huge return, however, the Red Sox should be focusing on extending him instead.

It’ll be intriguing to see how Boston approaches the deadline, but they’d be foolish to not pursue long-term gains for useless short-term commodities.

Analyzing Xander Bogaerts’ Month-long Slump

W1ST5911.JPGPrior to the June 4 contest against the Cleveland Indians, Xander Bogaerts was in the midst of a hot streak with hits in eight of nine games and an average of .304 with an outstanding .395 OBP. Since then, the Boston Red Sox 2013 top prospect has really struggled at the dish and has not really shown any signs of busting out of it. He is hitting .245 with a .324 OBP through 294 at-bats.

Over the last 23 games, in which the Red Sox went 9-14, the 21-year-old has hit an abysmal .103 with a .141 OBP. He has just one home run with two doubles and three RBI over that time while walking just three times compared to 24 strikeouts. This includes a current 2-for-42 skid with 14 strikeouts and just one walk.

It seems as if American League pitching has read up on Bogaerts since his hot stretch in May and is throwing him a steady diet of breaking balls down and away, as well as fastballs up and in, to get him out on a more consistent basis.

The current third baseman of the Red Sox showed that he can adjust to pitching at each level and should be able to get back into a hot zone if he can start hitting the pitches that are in his wheel house. He has made some nice contact over the past few games, but has failed to get any base hits because of these loud outs.

Bogaerts is now hitting seventh in the lineup after being bumped from the two hole last week. If he does not improve at the dish soon, it might be time to place him in the minors to work out the kinks in his swing.

The 21-year-old has shown signs of a successful approach at the plate this season and needs to get back to the basics in order to help a struggling offense before it’s too late.

Stephen Drew continues to struggle

Stephen Drew

Stephen Drew went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts during the Boston Red Sox 8-5 win over the New York Yankees Sunday night, bringing his average to .133 over his first 60 at-bats. I know it has only been a small sample size, but so far the Drew signing has been a complete bust.

Drew didn’t have a spring training to get ready, as he had just 21 at-bats in the minors before the Red Sox called him up on June 1. I understand that Drew has never been the greatest of hitters as his career average is .264 hitter, but I never expected the shortstop to be hitting this badly. 

Despite me not being a fan of the move, he did hit .253 with 13 home runs and 67 RBI’s a season ago. Drew is still providing good defense in the field, but the Red Sox need his bat to produce more.

Boston is 27th in the majors in runs, 24th in batting average and 26th in slugging percentage. Not saying Drew would ignite this team, but the Sox need as much help as they can get offensively.

Xander Bogaerts, who hit .327 in the month of May, is hitting just as badly as Drew has in June. The rookie has a batting of .140 with a .182 on-base-percentage in June. 

David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Daniel Nava, and Jonny Gomes—four key players from the 2013 season—have all underachieved. Shane Victorino, who hit .294 and won a Gold Glove as a right fielder, has played only 21 games because of injuries. 

There is plenty of time for the Red Sox to recover. Starting with this series against the Chicago Cubs the team will play 13 of their next 16 games at Fenway Park. With the Toronto Blue Jays struggling as of late, the Red Sox could get back into the American League East race before the All-Star break. If the team is to improve their offense and get back into contention, Drew will need to improve his production at the plate.