There is no denying the talents of Clay Buchholz – as evidenced by his 12-1, 1.74 ERA performance last season.
The big issue with Buchholz is durability – witness his 16 starts in 2013.
Getting close to 30 starts or 200 innings from Buchholz in 2014 are key for the Red Sox to in their quest to return to the playoffs – and for Buchholz to establish himself as an elite pitcher.
Says Buchholz, “That’s the name of the game for a starting pitcher. You can’t be among the elite guys in the league unless you do that. It’s a results-based industry. Everybody knows that.”
Perhaps a turning point for Buchholz was Game 4 of the 2013 World Series when he realized he didn’t need to feel perfect or have his best stuff to win.
According to Buchholz, “I was going to do it, regardless of how I felt. You never know when you’re going to get an opportunity to be in that position again. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night, knowing I didn’t go out there and at least try. It actually ended up being a lot better than I was expecting, especially with the way it felt the day before and the day before that.”
Looking to the upcoming season, Boston needs Buchholz to deliver quality – and innings.
Manager John Farrell is hoping for the best from Buchholz saying, “We’re very hopeful he lasts the entire season, and right now he’s in with every other pitcher in terms of his throwing days, his progression to batting practice today, and everything he dealt with from a physical standpoint last year he addressed in the offseason. His shoulder strength is very good, so we’re looking forward to another productive year from Clay.”
Pedro and the Staff
Speaking of pitching, one great asset the Red Sox have (still) is Pedro Martinez.
Martinez is working with Boston’s pitchers this Spring Training.
Says Martinez, “It’s just that I think I have so much to offer. It’s stuff that I’m not going to put into use anymore, so I might as well pass it along, and I’m trying to do that. I’m trying to get more involved in baseball, more with young players and veteran players — whoever needs me.”
One player that has gained the attention of Martinez is pitcher Drake Britton.
According to Martinez, “When I saw him struggling in Double-A (in 2013), I chose myself to go and see him and let him know that everything he had before was still there. It was just a matter of putting his mind, his heart, his desire, where it had to be. He took it graciously.”
What do you think – can Britton crack the Red Sox bullpen for Opening Day?
Lefty pitcher Chris Capuano has joined the Red Sox – filling the gap opened when Ryan Dempster announced he would not play in the 2014 season.
Going to Boston is a homecoming for Capuano – who hails from West Springfield, Mass.
Capuano grew up as a Red Sox fan but has never pitched in Fenway Park as a big leaguer.
He knows he is currently the sixth man in a five man starting rotation – a spot not unlike what he faced with the Dodgers last season.
Los Angeles had a Spring Training staff overflowing with 8 starters, only to be hit by injury during the season and opening up a starting role for Capuano.
Most likely, Capuano will be vying for a bullpen job – competing against Brandon Workman.
The Sox may prefer Workman stay stretched out as a starter in the minors rather than placing him in the bullpen. Although he handled both roles fine last season.
Red Sox manager John Farrell sees Capuano as someone who could throw an inning out of the bullpen or face a single batter, lefty or righty.
Capuano would provide a third lefty in the pen – along with Craig Breslow and the comebacking Andrew Miller.
Miller Moving Forward
Early returns are positive on the comeback of Miller from a foot injury that knocked him out for the 2013 season on July 6.
Miller throws big-time heat – making him tough on lefties and righties. He averaged a career-high 14.1 strikeouts per 9 innings last season.
Says Farrell, “We’re looking forward to him being a mainstay in this bullpen. To have him 100 percent healthy, a guy you can go to with men on base for a strikeout, provided he picks up where he left off, that is a huge weapon.”
Who do you think lands on Boston’s Opening Day roster? Capuano? Workman? Both? Neither?
It’s still very early in Spring Training but with each passing day, it looks like the Red Sox starting shortstop job will belong to Xander Bogaerts.
And once Bogaerts settles in, it could be the 21 year old’s spot for a long time to come – bringing stability to the position.
Joe McDonald points out that Dustin Pedroia has played with nearly a dozen shortstops over his 8 seasons with Boston – from Julio Lugo to Stephen Drew, with Nick Green (remember him?) mixed in too.
And Pedroia welcomes the stability of potentially having a long-term double play partner, saying, “That’s fun to have, and I haven’t had that, yet. I mean, a couple of years here and there, but you build a relationship with the guy and you don’t have to go into camp and get used to anybody.”
So what can we expect from Bogaerts?
Scott Lauber spoke with 6 rival scouts and executives, and the consensus was Bogaerts will be a standout major leaguer.
High praise comparisons like Hanley Ramirez and Manny Machado were offered.
One step in getting to that level will be Bogaerts learning how to handle the grind and nuances of the long major league season. He got a big head start on that process finishing the last 6 weeks of the 2013 season with the Red Sox – which included performing well on the biggest stage, the World Series.
Where is Drew Headed?
Drew has still not found a home – which means he could perhaps come back to Boston.
But New York is a more likely landing spot.
With Jim Bowden making a plea that the Mets should grab Drew (subscription required) – providing a big upgrade over current SS Ruben Tejada.
The Mets have their first draft pick in the 2014 draft protected – and they have already given up a second rounder as Curtis Granderson compensation.
So the cost for Drew would only be a third round pick – plus his salary.
Draft pick compensation is heating up as an issue with Tony Clark, new executive director of the MLB Players’ Association, calling it “a concern. Obviously we still have guys — very good players, quality players – that can help a number of clubs who are still on the market.”
Clark conveniently omits that Drew and others turned down one year, $14.1 million offers from their previous teams in the early part of the free agent season.
Jon Heyman points out other potential homes for Drew, listing the Blue Jays, Yankees, Pirates and Athletics.
Where do you think Drew will end up playing the 2014 season?
The MLB.com website has been making its way around the diamond – looking at the top 10 baseball prospects at each position.
No surprise, Red Sox super-prospect Xander Bogaerts led the way at shortstop – a position which has a great group of elite prospects.
Among left-handed pitchers , the Red Sox landed two in the top 10 – Henry Owens (#2) and Trey Ball (#9). Fellow Sox prospect SS Deven Marrero says Owens is the next Clayton Kershaw, high praise indeed.
Boston was shutout at right-handed pitcher. But don’t fret. Allen Webster may not be on prospect radar but his former manager Gary DiSarcina says he has the most dominant potential among Red Sox AAA pitchers.
And, while he is not on the top 10 list, keep an eye on catcher prospect Christian Vazquez, who is an elite defender.
When the rest of the positions are released, they will be covered.
MiLB.com ran the Steamer Projections for the 2014 season for Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Both are projected to produce very respectable (and similar) rookie numbers.
Bogaerts – 16 HR; 9 SB; .261 AVG; .738 OPS; 3.2 WAR
Bradley – 16 HR; 16 SB; .256 AVG; .714 OPS; 2.4 WAR
Gary Hughes Profile
Nice article by the great baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby on Red Sox scout Gary Hughes.
Hughes discusses his long history in pursuing two-sport stars in his scouting.
He calls out three players that stand-out among his draftees — John Elway (Yankees), Delino DeShields (Expos) and John Lynch (Marlins).
Which Red Sox prospect are you expecting big things from in 2014?
Like the rumor the Red Sox are checking out free agent Ryan Madson as a potential bullpen candidate.
Let’s hope Grant Balfour is on the list too if his price drops.
The team saw last year how quickly they can lose pitching depth when closers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey both got hit with season-ending injuries.
And there is the same need for depth with starting pitchers.
The Red Sox have six returning starters. No need to prune this list – something that should not even be considered until we see Clay Buchholz pitch in a number of games.
How Red Sox Staff Lines Up
- Starters – Jon Lester, John Lackey, Buchholz, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster.
- Potential Starters (or relievers) – Brandon Workman, Drake Britton, Rubby De La Rosa and Steven Wright.
- Relievers – Badenhop, Mujica, Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, Brayan Villarreal and Alex Wilson.
- Youngster who could surprise in Spring Training – Allen Webster; he has an arm/stuff to be a big league difference maker. The question: Is he ready to stick in the big leagues?
- Prospects that could be factors in 2014 – Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and Henry Owens.
That’s deep depth.
But it’s needed. Boston had 26 pitchers hit the mound for the team in 2013.
What to Look at in Spring Training
- Leading up to Spring Training, Boston should be in add mode in pitching if the right opportunity emerges unless some team overpays in a deal.
- Among starters, Buchholz is the key – will he show he is ready to go at the season start?
- Look for Dempster to stay – unless Workman and maybe someone else (Webster? De La Rosa?) show they are ready to move into the rotation if needed.
What are you looking for among Red Sox pitchers during the rest of the off-season and Spring Training?
Hats Off to Cherington
With the Red Sox clinching the AL East, there are so many good stories – on and off the field. But want to take a minute for a shout out to GM Ben Cherington.
Talk about a man with a plan – and a plan that worked.
He built a worst to first division winner – says Cherington, “This team was a lot about the sum of the parts, the whole, instead of any individual.”
Cherington not only reshaped the team for this season – but looks like he built a foundation for the long term.
American League Wild Card
Would like to see the Indians hold on for a wild card spot.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona has done a great job turning his team around.
Plus the Indians – should they win the one game wild card crapshoot – would not only be an easier match-up for the Red Sox than the Rays or Rangers, but a much more interesting one.
And Tito’s return to Boston for the playoffs would be cool.
While we are discussing the wild card – think the Rays would be a better match-up than the Rangers for the Red Sox in the ALDS. But also feel both would be tough teams to face.
Ellsbury Likely to Return
It appears Jacoby Ellsbury is getting closer to returning to the field from his foot injury.
Ellsbury did baseball activities today and manager John Farrell said he hopes to see Ellsbury play on the coming road trip.
That should help Ellsbury get tuned up for the post-season – and give Boston a good idea on whether he will be ready to go for the playoffs.
Farm System Report
Red Sox farm teams finishing tied with the Cubs in tenth place in organizational standings among major league teams, based on their overall domestic minor league winning percentage. The Red Sox system had a .504 winning percentage – same as last year.
Boston had one farm team – Salem in the Carolina League – win a championship. The Astros finished number one overall – so maybe there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for Houston.
Henry Owens has been named the team’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year and second baseman Mookie Betts has been named Minor League Offensive Player of the Year.
As big a team effort as this season has been for the Red Sox, not sure they would be in first place without closer Koji Uehara.
Plan A (Joel Hanrahan) and Plan B (Andrew Bailey) washed out to injuries. And a quick trial of Plan C Junichi Tazawa didn’t look promising.
So Boston turned its closer role over to the 38 year old Uehara.
And Uehara has delivered – boy, has he delivered.
Start with: He hasn’t allowed an earned run since June 30. And Uehara’s post All-Star break numbers are historic: 24.1 IP, five hits, zero runs, one walk, 33 K’s, a 0.24 WHIP.
Add in: Uehara has currently retired the last 37 consecutive batters he has faced, the longest run in Red Sox history and longest for any reliever since White Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks retired 41 straight batters in 2007. According to SABR, Jenks’ streak is the longest for a reliever.
Rob Bradford writes Uehara has become the most important player in the American League.
It’s hard to argue with that perspective. And who knows, if the Red Sox have an extended post-season run maybe Uehara gets to change that to the most important player in all of baseball.
Saltalamacchia – Away from Varitek’s Shadow
Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has finally shed Jason Varitek’s shadow says manager John Farrell.
Boston coach Torey Lovullo calls Salty “a guy who’s a true backstop for a championship-caliber ball club.”
And with free agency looming this off-season, Saltalamacchia could not have picked a better year to showcase his talents.
Ken Rosenthal points out Saltalamacchia and Brian McCann of the Braves are the top catching free agents to be – with teams like the Phillies, Rangers and Yankees probably in the hunt for new backstops.
John Tomase notes Salty’s OPS ranks among the top 10 catchers in the MLB, and he’s exactly the kind of player the Red Sox would pursue on the open market if he came free from another team.
All this points to Saltalamacchia being a Boston signing priority in the off-season.
Who’s Got Most Power?
Good article by Brian McPherson, asking Red Sox players which batter has the most raw power.
Will Middlebrooks, Mike Napoli and David Ortiz were all in the conversation – with Big Papi crowned king.
Who do you think is Boston’s best power hitter?