Is Pablo Sandoval Ready to Start Over?

Seemingly every time I unlock my iPhone, I see Pablo Sandoval. I’m not sure if that excites me, or merely worries me.

It’s all over social media. I’ll simply be scrolling through my Snapchat feed  when a story will popPablo Sandoval up and he will be working out with Miguel Cabrera. The next time I check my phone, Sandoval is live streaming his batting-practice on Instagram. There is reason to be enthusiastic, but I’m not sold yet.

Sandoval has hit a mere .242 in the American league thus far, and his on-base-percentage is under .300. He has not been spectacular defensively either, with 16 errors made in the field in just 129 games. The Red Sox should not be having issues at third-base, and Sandoval has under produced. He has been a disappointment so far, especially for a player who is still guaranteed some $40 million dollars.

Travis Shaw had potential in Boston. In his first full season in the big leagues, he showed promise in his somewhat limited role in Boston’s rotation of infielders. He hit 16 homers, 34 doubles and drove in 43 runs. Shaw only hit .242 last year, but what he did show was the capability to improve a clean swing that can drive balls to the pull side and gaps. Also, his ripe age of 26 made him even more appealing to me, personally.

Pablo Sandoval’s Role Moving Forward

Trading for Tyler Thornburg makes sense. We picked up a guy who has established himself as a dominant reliever in baseball for a player who may or may not have fit our system. Travis Shaw will now have a chance to flourish in Milwaukee, while Thornburg sets up Kimbrel in our bullpen. The Red Sox will now be forced to go ‘all-in’ on Pablo Sandoval because Shaw and Moncada are gone.

The numbers have not lied about Pablo Sandoval yet, as analysts have not projected him to be heavily productive at third base for this roster. Who knows what could happen? This is a guy who carried San Francisco on his back to a World Series title back in 2012. Watching him crush home-runs out of AT&T Park and seeing the pandamonium (yes, I went there) take place was an unbelievable experience for me, as a young baseball fan. Pablo Sandoval was the driving force of a World-Series-winning team just five years ago. It doesn’t sound like a risk at all when you put it that way, right?

The Travis Shaw Situation

The buzz around Yoan Moncada reached a fever pitch this week as he was called up to the Red Sox on Thursday. Moncada was the #1 prospect in all of baseball and, like Andrew Benintendi, skipped AAA. Moncada signed as a second baseman, but has had to change to third base to fill the Red Sox needs. So where does that leave Travis Shaw?

Shaw was one of the hottest stories for the Red Sox coming into the season, replacing ShawPablo Sandoval in the starting lineup. Shaw was exactly what Sox fans were looking for. Sandoval showed up way out of shape and after a tough 2015 season, fans were certainly writing him off. Shaw, on the other hand, was never a top prospect and took the job away from Sandoval with an impressive spring training.

Shaw’s 2016 Season

To begin the 2016 season, Shaw raised a lot of eyebrows around New England and the baseball world. In April, he was scorching the ball, hitting .314 with 27 hits and 15 RBI. The formidable numbers did not cease there as he hit five homers in May and brought his RBI total to 35. His power surge even earned him the nickname “The Mayor of Ding Dong City.” Shaw was anything but an easy out in the bottom half of the order, and was also sure-handed at the hot corner.

After that, the numbers have steadily dwindled. He hit just .214 in June and brought his average all the way down to .269 before the All-Star break. August was the low point for Shaw, as he hit an abysmal .167 with 12 hits and six RBI all month. In fact, since the All-Star break, shaw has hit just .205 with six homers and 18 RBI.

Moncada’s season has been quite the opposite of Shaw’s. In two different minor leagues this season, Moncada has done nothing but produce. He hit .294 with 15 homers and 52 extra-base hits. The 21-year old Cuban also stole 45 bases with a .918 OPS and 207 total bases. Moncada has even drawn comparisons to Mike Trout and Bo Jackson for his athleticism and instincts.

Now that we’ve actually seen Moncada play in real games, it is easy to see he was a better investment than fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo. It seems everything Moncada has done, he’s done it well. With that, the reign of “The Mayor” may soon end in Boston.

Is Pablo Sandoval Ready To Come Back?

After last season, many people didn’t have high hopes for Pablo Sandoval. His 2015 season was mediocre. He only hit .245 in 126 games. He made fifteen errors for a .949 fielding percentage. Sandoval arrived at spring training this year overweight. Then there was the belt buckle incident. In seven at-bats this season Sandoval collected NO hits. After surgery in May, Sandoval disappeared. Now, according to Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe, Sandoval has lost fifteen pounds and will rejoin the team in Tampa. So is Pablo Sandoval ready to come back for good? If so, will we see a different Pablo Sandoval ready for action?

In my first post, I mentioned that it wasn’t fair to poke fun at Sandoval’s weight. HisPablo Sandoval Ready body weight at the time was supposedly 17%, but it quickly became obvious that number was false. Sandoval was then mysteriously placed on the DL for a shoulder issue. Some speculated that he was put on the DL to get his weight under control. This idea makes much more sense, even if it’s unverified. In fact, I’m more likely to believe the latter scenario. The Red Sox obviously didn’t want to give someone time off to get their weight under control when he had all off-season to do so. But after making a deal to pay Sandoval $72.4 million over four years, the last thing the team wants to do is see that go to waste.

There’s little we actually know about whether Sandoval is actually going to rejoin the team this season. He’s a third baseman, and it’s possible that Farrell is thinking of plugging Sandoval at third base, especially with the way Travis Shaw has been hitting lately. Aaron Hill isn’t doing much better either. Has Sandoval truly worked hard to shed the pounds and rehab his arm? If so then it’s only logical to put him in and see if he can help the Red Sox reclaim first place.

Is Pablo Sandoval Ready To Finish His Career In Boston?

Sandoval is 30 years old. Surely he has a few more good years in him, but it’s not likely any other team will pick him up after his contract is up in two years. So Sandoval will have to do some hard thinking about what he wants to do in the next few years. Does he want to buckle down and get back to the field? Or does he want to sulk and cash his checks? If I were him I could see the temptation in staying on the DL. He’s more or less guaranteed that money, so why should he rush to get back? Honestly through, I don’t think Sandoval is that kind of guy. I genuinely think he wants to get back to the field as soon as he can. But he’s going to have to be realistic about what his career has left for him.

Right now, Dave Dombrowski is probably looking at Sandoval the way Billy Beane looked at an aging David Justice in Moneyball (one of my favorite movies). There’s the scene where Justice is in the batting cage talking to Bean in a disrespectful manner. After a strong rebuke, Beane adds, “I want to milk the last ounce of baseball you have in you.” Like Justice, Sandoval isn’t the player he used to be. So will we see Pablo Sandoval ready for action soon? Can he squeeze a little more effort out of himself? Maybe. But if Sandoval wants to contribute, then he has to be completely serious, and give all he has.

In other words, Sandoval can’t afford to break another belt.

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.

Xander Bogaerts Must Prove His Worth

BOGAERTS

This year, the Red Sox are counting on several core superstars to rebound and carry the team towards contention. In particular, Boston needs greater production from Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Allen Craig and Shane Victorino if hopes of October baseball are to be realized. Yet, in the case of a few younger players, especially Xander Bogaerts, the Sox aren’t so much hoping for a rebound, but rather a full season that truly reflects who they are and what they can do. Quite frankly, it’s time for the kids to answer some questions and prove their worth.

As he progressed through the system, Bogaerts was hailed as the next great franchise cornerstone; a young, agile, cost-controlled solution to Boston’s chronic shortstop Bogaertsconundrum. In Derek Jeter’s nineteen-year span with the Yankees, the Red Sox used ten different shortstop, from John Valentin and Nomar Garciaparra to Julio Lugo and Stephen Drew. Xander Bogaerts, the Aruban kid who wears number 2 in homage to Jeter, was meant to be the long-term antidote to that problem.

Accordingly, in August 2013, aged 20 and with just 139 games of experience above Advanced-A ball, Bogaerts was promoted to the big leagues. He subsequently came up trumps in the playoffs, hitting .296 and getting on base at a .412 clip as the Sox battled past Tampa Bay, Detroit and St Louis en route to a World Series championship. The baseball world was duly stunned, fast-tracking this poised and powerful youngster into the elite realm inhabited by Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper.

However, in 2014, Bogaerts epitomized the Red Sox’s struggles and failures; the heralded wunderkind, so full of potential and promise, ultimately struggling to perform and, at times, becoming truly painful to watch.

In his first full season of big league ball, Xander hit .240 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI; got on base at a disappointing .297 clip; and struck out 23.2 percent of the time. Occasionally, he showed glimpses of competent Major League ability, but those periods where usually offset by prolonged slumps. For instance, Bogaerts hit just .135 in June, .228 in July, and .159 in August, while showing fairly limited defensive skills in the field.

Playing on such a lackluster team didn’t help, and the changes back and forth between shortstop and third base, coupled with the lack of a regular slot in the batting order, surely caused disruption, but Sox fans couldn’t hide their disappointment with Bogaerts’ output.

Perhaps we all just expected far too much far too soon. After all, Xander doesn’t even turn 23 until October. The guy still has an abundance of talent and a bright future ahead. This spring, for instance, he has gotten off to a hot start, hitting two round-trippers and driving in six runs in his first thirteen plate appearances. However, in order to become truly valuable to the Red Sox, beyond the financial flexibility and long-term optimism his precocious, homegrown talent allows, Bogaerts must master at least one facet of the game.

Over the next year or two, he must become a distinguished hitter, fielder or baserunner, or risk becoming expendable in Beantown, especially with Hanley Ramirez, a three-time All-Star shortstop, on the roster, and Ben Cherington, an ambitious General Manager, counting his trade chips in pursuit of an ace.

Stephen Drew Not The Answer For The Red Sox

Stephen Drew

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has reported that the Boston Red Sox have signed shortstop Stephen Drew for the rest of the 2014 season. Heyman is reporting that the deal is for around $10 million. It is the same deal as the $14.1 million qualifying offer Drew declined last offseason pro-rated for the remaining games this season.

Stephen Drew returns to the Red Sox, the team he won a World Series with last season. He hit .253 with 13 home runs and 67 RBIs in 2013. Drew also provided excellent defense, something that the Red Sox have not had in 2014.

Drew finished with the second-best fielding percentage among shortstops in the American League last year at .984. This year’s starting shortstop Xander Bogaerts currently ranks fifth in the league with a .974 fielding percentage. Bogaerts also leads the Red Sox in errors with four.

Not only will Stephen Drew help the Red Sox defensively, he could also help offensively as well. Last season, he hit .284 with nine home runs and 48 RBI against right-handed pitching. In 2014, the Red Sox are only hitting .240 against righties. 

Despite everything I wrote above, I’m not a big fan of this signing for many reasons. The first of which is that it doesn’t solve any of the team’s long-term issues at third base and shortstop

Boston signed Drew for rest of the 2014 season. So once the season is over, the Red Sox will be in the same situation as it was last offseason.

I know third baseman Will Middlebrooks, (who’s currently on the disabled list) has struggled at the plate so far this season and the Sox needed to make a move. I just don’t believe this move makes much sense for the future.

It is widely believed that the Red Sox are going to move Bogaerts to third base. When I attended Spring Training, players and coaches were all saying Bogaerts was their guy and they didn’t have any intentions on re-signing Drew. Despite their public confidence in Bogaerts, the Red Sox have given up on him playing shortstop, almost two months into the season.

I don’t know what fans and coaches expected. This is Bogaerts first full season in the majors, so of course he’s going to make mistakes. Signing Stephen Drew doesn’t help Bogaerts develop at shortstop in the long-term. At some point, you have to let Bogaerts play and then evaluate if he’s your long-term solution at shortstop.

If I thought the Stephen Drew signing was the move that would help the Red Sox regain their magic from 2013, then I would be thrilled. Yes he will improve the team defensively, but the Red Sox have a lot of other issues.

The Red Sox starting pitching has a 4.20 ERA, ranking them 11th in the American League. David Ortiz is the only real power-hitter in the lineup. Boston is only hitting .240 with runners in scoring position.

Drew is a nice signing, but he is not going to make a huge impact on this team. At 20-23, the Red Sox can still win the AL East, but this team has a lot of work to do if they want to repeat as World Series Champions.