Spring training is starting and I’m thrilled. Football is a weekly event that I dig immensely but I also appreciate the day to day nature of baseball. It’s like having a dog you walk all the time. At the end of the day you chill on the couch and the dog plops down next to you. Baseball is that friend you see through thick and thin for almost seven months.
Early news out of Red Sox camp is about how much “fun” the Red Sox plan to have this year. In my gut I find this irritating. It’s as if they know fans were put off by David Price and they’re trying to spin me. If I had my druthers I’d have Alex Cora chug sodium pentothal like a college kid and get his unfiltered thoughts on this year’s team. My guess is he’d say something along the lines of…
Dear Red Sox fans,
A new year is upon us and I’m thrilled! I’m thrilled to get the gig and promise I will know strategy cold. You can have faith that I will be on top of things unlike John Farrell. Let’s run down the roster….
Catcher = on the bright side Christian Vasquez started to hit in 2017. He still hasn’t shown he can catch a full season. My initial plan is to hit him 9th. If he can hit .270, draw more walks and produce an OPS above .750 I’ll be happy. Depth wise I feel OK if Vasquez regresses or gets injured. The way the Sox mishandled Swihart is terrible. He’s had two down years but I still believe in him. He’s still just 25 and he’s catching if Christian slips. Offensively I think Blake can be a poor man’s Jason Kendall and eventually be above average behind the dish. Sandy Leon didn’t standout to stave off any competition from Blake.
First Base = I wish we could get another option at first besides Mitch Moreland. Don’t get me wrong he’s a fine player. He just doesn’t slug the ball enough for my tastes. Mitch’s career OPS is just .756. First base is a power position so I expect at least .830 OPS. Mitch has had just two seasons where his OPS was above .800. Hanley is hit or miss. At times he can be a manager killer. We can’t be sure he’ll be healthy and focused on having an awesome year. If he does that’s great but I’m not betting on it. Hanley is not a good bet to stay healthy either. Over the past five years he’s played in 86, 128, 105, 147 and 133 games.
Second Base = Pedroia's knees scare me. He’s missed enough time these past three years that I’m glad to have Nunez back. Dustin’s injuries probably cost him a shot at making the Hall of Fame and that’s said. Nunez will hit for a good average, steal a lot of bases and show enough doubles power. Nunez’s career high in games is just 141 so realistically I think we are looking at a platoon situation.
Shortstop = I will handle Xander Bogaerts right. He’s going to be limited to 145-150 games to keep him fresh for the season. The idea is to stave off his second half slump. At the plate we are going to encourage him to drive the ball. We want him to only swing at strikes. Take the walk if they don’t throw you anything good. With his size and swing a 20 HR 20 SB season is certainly possible.
Third Base = Rafael Devers will be at third. He’s playing every day and we will live with the ups and downs. His power looked good so far (10 HR in 222 AB) and he also hit for average. Defensively his arm looked strong and accurate. His quickness and agility going for grounders looks good so I don’t think he’ll be a liability. Rookies prosper when they get the chance to play every day and I think Devers will take off this year.
Outfield = Ben Cherington hit pay dirt when he drafted Benitendi. In his first full season he belted 20 bombs, drove in nearly 100 runs and swiped 20 bases. What’s not to like about Benitendi? Mookie Betts’ OPS dropped almost 100 points but he still had a fine year. His eye and ability to draw walks improved a lot in 2017. In 2016 Mookie drew 49 walks in 672 at bats which is just 7.3 percent of the time. Last year he drew 77 walks in 628 at bats which is 12.3 percent of the time. Both men are threats for quasi rare 30 HR 30 SB club.
Outfield and DH = I will have my new hitting coach trying to make Jackie Bradley Jr. less of a streaky hitter. Overall though I have faith that he can rebound after a down year. It was great to hear Hanley embraced the Tom Brady methods. He should slim down to about 220 and focus on pliability to keep his shoulders intact. JD Martinez isn’t with the team yet so I can’t comment on him.
Pitching = Sale worked out pretty well! I want to bribe Price into deleting his Twitter and adopt the Patriots MO of IGNORE THE NOISE. Tell David to settle in and be the second banana behind Sale. The rest of the rotation should fall into place. Porcello is a good no. 3 hurler. E-Rod isn’t particularly durable and he hasn’t made the leap yet. However he is still a good back end starter. Steven Wright will have a role on this team. He’s a quality knuckler when healthy. I was thinking keep Fister around as a no.7 starter when E-Rod eventually misses a few starts.
Pitching = Brian Johnson should be one of my depth starters or long relievers. He strikes me a poor man’s David Wells. He doesn’t throw very hard but his curve is amazing. Elias will be a good depth piece. Austin Maddox should get a role in the pen. I liked what I saw so far
Kimbrel is not a concern. I have faith he’ll have a great free agent year. I’m not ready to say Carson Smith is fully recovered from his TJ surgery. Thornburg is a wild guess. He’s supposedly recovered from his shoulder problems, but he hasn’t shown he can defeat American League lineups. Joe Kelly improved his control big time and he’s reliable. Barnes is usually reliable. My one concern is that he throws his heat very straight and is liable to give up the home run. Hembree is hit or miss. Workman will have a role in the pen.
I’ll give my honest thoughts on JD Martinez soon but right now he’s not in camp. Once he reports to Fort Myers I will talk about him.