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Posts Tagged ‘Blake Swihart

Red Sox 40 Man Roster Set

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The Red Sox announced their 40 man roster.

Boston has 17 pitchers on the roster – 16 of whom pitched for the Red Sox last season.

And by the looks of it – not a #1 or #2 starter among the crowd.

Figure the team is sure to add two or three more pitchers this off-season.

With the team at the 40 man limit, that means somebody (or somebodies) will have to go.

The other crowded position is outfield.

Crowded in numbers – and also question marks.

The Sox have eight outfielders on the roster – and all of them played in the big leagues last season.

Bryce Brentz is most likely Pawtucket bound.

But that still leaves the Red Sox two players above the five outfielders the team typically carries.

That’s where the questions come into play:

  • Will Boston look to move Yoenis Cespedes before he enters his contract walk year?
  • Will Jackie Bradley Jr. hit? Does he have any trade value?
  • What’s up with Allen Craig – can he bounce back as a hitter?
  • Can Shane Victorino stay on the field?

Lefty Bat to Watch

Adding a lefty bat to the line-up is one of the key drivers in the Red Sox pursuit of Pablo Sandoval.

Another player they should add to their target list is catcher Miguel Montero – who the Diamondbacks may have on the move.

Montero is highly paid – with contract that has three years and $40 million remaining. And that will most likely limit his market.

He has some pop in his bat – and is strong defensively (insider subscription).

Boston should explore adding Montero to team next season with Christian Vazquez.

It would add another lefty bat and veteran presence to go with Vazquez.

And looking beyond 2015, once Blake Swihart is big league ready, Boston can move Montero.

Montero’s contract would be shorter, making the money easier to take for the acquiring team. And Boston – as a financial superpower – can “eat” money if needed to make a deal happen.

Sox GM Ben Cherington has said 2015 is “really important to us (the Red Sox).”

A move like adding Montero would demonstrate it.

Looking Ahead to Castillo

Rusney Castillo got a good review from Bernie Pleskoff, a former baseball scout who writes for MLB.com.

Pleskoff wrote Castillo profiles as “disciplined” at the plate and a “line-drive gap hitter” – but not “much home run power.”

He sees Castillo as an “aggressive baserunner” who will steal bases “when needed.”

Defensively, Castillo “showed the talent to play center field” with “a strong, accurate throwing arm.”

After last season’s failures in center from an offensive perspective, Castillo looks like he’s on track to be a solid contributor to the Sox line-up.

Could Tiant Join Pedro in Next Hall of Fame Class?

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Red Sox great Luis Tiant was named as one of ten nominees for consideration by the Golden Era Committee for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And if Tiant gets the nod – he could join Pedro Martinez in the Hall, with Pedro expected to get votes for Hall entry in his first year of eligibility.

Tiant has strong credentials.

He was a 20-game winner four times (three times for the Red Sox) with career stats of 229 wins and a 3.30 ERA.

Tiant was a three-time All Star, won two AL ERA titles, and led the AL in shutouts three times.

Here’s hoping El Tiante makes his way to Cooperstown.

Swihart Tops Prospect Charts

No surprise that C Blake Swihart led the list on Baseball America’s top Red Sox Prospect List.

List author Alex Speier reviewed his picks on the WEEI site.

The Red Sox have a strong farm system – but don’t expect the team to be too aggressive in moving prospects to Fenway in 2015.

Boston went heavy with kids last season – with some notable disappointments like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks.

From the list, CF Rusney Castillo seems like the only sure bet to start with the team in the spring.

Back to Swihart. He looks like a special talent – strong both at the plate and defensively.

Swihart should start the season in Pawtucket but may make his way to Boston in 2015. Or could be a big piece in an off-season trade for a front-line starter.

One more point: Three lefty starters placed in the top five of Red Sox prospects.

This bodes well – both to bolster the rotation in the future and also in having assets needed for trades.

A Shot at Lester?

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said the team hopes it gets the opportunity to speak with free agent Jon Lester.

Lester is exactly what the Red Sox need – a number one starter, who eats innings and can handle the pressure of playing in Boston.

But one needs to ask – what’s changed from last Spring Training when Boston made Lester a low-ball offer?

One thing: Lester had an awesome year, increasing his value and likely price-tag.

Where Lester lands will be one of the top off-season stories.

The thinking here is – it won’t be Boston with the Cubs a likely spot.

Red Sox Farm System Review

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Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs posted an excellent in-depth evaluation of the Red Sox farm system.

Some key take-aways:

  • C Blake Swihart tops the prospect list. Swihart and fellow catcher Christian Vazquez – who showed great D but David Ross-like offense – make a formidable pair behind the plate. Swihart has raked the ball in the minors while Vazquez may follow the model of a catcher who develops slowly offensively (like one of his heroes – Yadier Molina). They could blossom into a strong catching combo – or one could be part of a trade package to land a stud starter, given how hard it is to find quality catchers.
  • Lefty pitchers are on the way. Interesting to see Eduardo Rodriguez (picked up from the Orioles in the Andrew Miller trade – #2 on Fangraphs list) grade out above Henry Owens (#3). It appears they both still have stuff to work on – so don’t expect either to break next Spring Training with the big league club. But it would not be surprising to see one or both pitch for the Red Sox in 2015. Something to watch for: if the Red Sox start moving Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to the bullpen (or if one or more are shipped out in trades this off-season), it’s a signal Boston sees Rodriguez and/or Owens on a short path to Fenway. Also, keep an eye on another lefty Brian Johnson (#8). With lefties such a premium – one of could be part of a trade package.
  • CF Rusney Castillo placed #4 on the list. Castillo had a good 2014 season – especially given the amount of rust he had to shake off. And he is acquitting himself well in the Arizona Fall League (currently 10 for 34, .294 avg. in ten games). Expect Castillo to man center field come April – giving Jackie Bradley Jr. to develop his bat in Pawtucket or making him trade bait.
  • The kids among the kids come next – CF Manuel Margot (#5 at age 20) and 3B Rafael Devers (#6 at age 18). With prospects so young and deep in the minors – who knows what they may turn into? But it does show the Red Sox investments in Latin America could pay dividends.
  • Lastly – don’t forget Mookie Betts – who is still young but graduated from the prospect list. The questions: Does he stick with the Sox or become the pivotal piece in an off-season trade? And if he stays, where does Betts play?

Red Sox Farm Talent – Good and Deep but not Great

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The good folks at SoxProspects.com did their post-season review of the Red Sox top prospects. And the state of talent is good – but not great.

Part of the issue is Boston brought up a high number of farm-hands this season. The prospect graduates included Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rubby De La Rosa, Brock Holt, Christian Vazquez, Allen Webster and Brandon Workman.

Among this group only Betts and Bogaerts rate as high-ceiling players.

Looking at the current top ten prospects, catcher Blake Swihart ranks number one – with his ceiling called All-Star level.

The Swihart – Vazquez pair gives the Red Sox a potentially good catching combination – or some flexibility in their off-season pursuit of pitching.

Pitching Review

Three of the next five players are left-handed pitchers – a great commodity to have a surplus.

There are no pitchers with number one caliber talent (according to SoxProspects) – currently the Red Sox biggest need.

But the pitchers – Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson – stack up better than the 2014 crop of rookie starters.

It’s an open question whether any of the De La Rosa, Webster and Workman crowd can stick in the rotation.

Ideally, two – if not three – of this group of six – and factor in Matt Barnes (#7 on the list) and Anthony Ranaudo (#9) too – will become factors in the Red Sox rotation sometime in 2015 or 2016.

But given the current state of the starting staff and the youngsters behind them, landing #1 and #2 starting pitchers need to be off-season priorities.

High Ceiling Crowd

The prospect list includes some big hit or potential miss players – all very young.

OF Manuel Margot (20 years old), 3B Rafael Devers (17) and SS/3B Michael Chavis (19) each possess top-end talent – but it’s way too early in their development to be projecting them with anything more than a guess.

All three are worth keep an eye on in 2015.

Another player to also watch is number ten prospect 3B Garin Cecchini. He had a so-so year in the minors but the Red Sox pushed him through Portland up to Pawtucket during the season.

And he has a left-handed bat – something the Red Sox lineup could use.

How Red Sox Prospects Stack Up

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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.

At catcher, Blake Swihart placed #5. The Red Sox like the athleticism Swihart brings to the position.

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.

Steamer Projections

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?

May Be Time for Red Sox to Ready Plan B for David Ortiz

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The lack of progress in getting David Ortiz on the field this Spring Training has been well chronicled.

The Red Sox perspective on Ortiz has evolved from not a concern moving forward last November to having Big Papi ready on Opening Day is not drop-dead date for the season.

Will Ortiz be ready to go on April 1 or are the Red Sox experiencing why you don’t want to be signing an older player with an injury history to a multi-year deal?

So what happens if Ortiz needs to start the season on the disabled list?

The good news for Boston is the team is well-stocked with designated hitters – Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes. Maybe even Ryan Lavarnway.

The issue, of course, shifting Napoli or Gomes to DH creates a hole somewhere else.

The Red Sox are already thin at first – with Mike Carp, Lyle Overbay and Mauro Gomez battling to back up Napoli. They are all better suited for bench roles as opposed to starters.

It’s a little more interesting out in left field should the Sox slide Gomes to DH.

Jackie Bradley Jr. is opening a lot of eyes with his spring performance, thus far.

Is he ready for the big leagues?

A player who has played only 61 minor league games above A ball – could Boston put him in the starting lineup?

It’s hard to assess after just 20 spring at-bats. Bradley has certainly been impressive.

But even if Bradley can produce in the majors right now, he can’t expect to produce the power the Red Sox are expecting Ortiz to deliver in the middle of their lineup. Bradley is probably best served with more development time in the minors.

Boston needs Ortiz’ bat and power. The next three weeks should provide a glimpse into whether he can deliver them once again.

Around the Bases

  • SoxProspects look at the Red Sox catching minor leaguers with Blake Swihart leading the way. Swihart has prime-time talent but is very young and a long way from The Show. Christian Vazquez is another interesting prospect. He has been turning some heads with his defensive play this spring – especially with his recent highlight reel play.
  • Looks like help is on the way with Boston pitching prospects. Typically, the Red Sox go through about 20 pitchers during a season. Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa are prospects who look on track to hit the majors this coming season. With Steven Wright a long shot to contribute.
  • Keep an eye on the Cardinals – Rafael Furcal is out for the season. If Boston feels the bigger, stronger Jose Iglesias can handle short, Stephen Drew would be a nice (but expensive) add for St. Louis (that’s the downside of Boston’s fewer years, more money strategy). Or if Drew is the man for Boston in 2013 – they could move Iglesias to clear the path for superprospect Xander Bogaerts.

Red Sox Quick Hits

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Here are some Red Sox stories and links that caught my eye.

Middlebrooks Ready

Will Middlebrooks has declared himself healed from the wrist injury that knocked him out last season.

Middlebrooks says he is “beyond ready” for Spring Training to start – with a top goal of cutting down on the number of times he strikes out this season.

The big question is: What can the Red Sox expect from Middlebrooks in his sophomore year?

If he produces numbers like the ones Bill James projects, the Red Sox will be quite happy.

They are: .277 AVG, 29 HR, 75 RBI. I think he will do better.

Red Sox Prospects

Been reading Jonathan Mayo’s review series on the top MLB prospects – by position.

The Red Sox have been faring okay – not great – so far.

Of course, Xander Bogaerts shows up well – coming in at # 4 among all shortstop prospects. Keep in mind, this is a stud position – so # 4 is excellent.

It was great to see Henry Owens land at # 9 for lefty pitchers. Especially since Matt Barnes did not make the top 10 grade for right-handed pitchers.

Blake Swihart also placed at # 9 – in the catcher category.

Only first base and outfield are left – so the next player to watch for is Jackie Bradley Jr.

Speaking of Bradley, if you want to get to know him better, check out this MiLB video interview.

MiLB.com also posted interviews with pitcher Allen Webster and catcher Dan Butler – both are expected to join Bradley in Pawtucket this coming season.

Welcome Back Pedro

Yes, it was great news to see Pedro Martinez rejoin the Red Sox organization.

In addition to having awesome talent, Martinez always showed himself to be a true craftsman on the mound. Hopefully, he can translate his pitching smarts into teaching prospects and identifying young players.

Plus, all-time greats like Pedro need to remain part of the organizations where they best stood out.

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