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But Can He Pitch?



Updated: 2018-01-19T09:01:01-05:00

 



These Red Sox players stand to gain the most from a new coaching staff

2018-01-19T09:01:01-05:00

The expected improvements aren’t all from regression. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if the fact that the Red Sox have essentially an entirely new coaching staff has been an underrated storyline this winter. It will surely be a bigger story as spring training begins, and it’s true that we don’t really know how to quantify the impact of baseball coaches on a team, but the new faces in the dugout are going to have an impact on the Red Sox. There’s been a lot of talk — much of it from me — about expected improvement from a lot of Red Sox players in 2018. That’s been construed to come in the form of regression to the mean, and that will certainly be a factor. However, the new coaches — and presumably new and fresh approaches that are brought in with them — will have at least as big of an impact on said improvement. Obviously, we have no idea exactly what kind of strategies and ideas these coaches will bring, but we can assume there will be some impact, good or bad. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the players who stand to gain the most from a new set of coaches in the dugout. I’m sure there are plenty of players who won’t be mentioned that should, so you can yell at me in the comments about those guys. Xander Bogaerts I think there are a lot of hitters who stand to benefit from a new approach at the plate, and just generally new voices around the batting cage, but Bogaerts is perhaps the most obvious. The reasons have been covered here and many other places over the last couple months, but it’s worth going over them again. First and foremost is the new aggressive approach Alex Cora hopes to implement with the team. Too often last year, Bogaerts (and others in the lineup) were far too passive early in counts. That, in turn, led to pitchers pounding the strike zone to start at bats and putting Bogaerts (and others) behind on a consistent basis. Of course, that led to bad strikeouts and worse contact. By being ready to swing — and swing hard — at any point in an at bat we should see something closer to the version of Bogaerts we’ve always expected, even if that full version never comes. A full bill of health will surely be part of any rebound from the Red Sox shortstop if a rebound comes, but a new strategy when he’s digging in at the plate will also play a role. Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports Rafael Devers This is another thing I’ve mentioned before, so I won’t go too deeply into it. Devers will certainly benefit from some coaching for his hitting — I believe he’s a great natural hitter, of course, but everyone can use some coaching — but his defense could see the most impact. Brian Butterfield was one of the most respected defensive coaches in baseball, but that doesn’t mean Boston’s infield defense is doomed. Alex Cora was an accomplished defensive infielder himself, and should play a role in helping all of the infielder. Additionally, Carlos Febles is taking over as the infield coordinator. That should specifically help Devers, as the two already have a rapport from their time together in Portland last year. There’s also the fact that players are said to love Febles, and that’s always a positive for someone who is seen by some as something of a personal coach for the youngest impact player on the roster. Eduardo Rodriguez The hitters dominate the discussion of players who stand to improve in 2018, and it makes sense given how poor they were compared to Boston’s pitchers. That being said, I think some new coaching can impact the pitchers, too. Eduardo Rodriguez seems to be the most obvious candidate to improve here as he’s one of the most frustrating pitchers in recent memory. He’s still young, but we’re reaching the point where a player largely becomes who he is. When Rodriguez is on, we know he can be a really good mid-rotation arm who you have no problem starting in a playoff game. The issue is that he hasn’t been that guy consistently. I’ve harped on this throughout his career, but Rodriguez is at his best[...]



MLB Roundup 1/19: The pitch clock, and more, is coming to baseball

2018-01-19T08:00:09-05:00

Pace of play changes are here whether you’re ready or not. MLB to unilaterally implement new pace of play rules Ever since he took over as commissioner, and really over the last few years, Rob Manfred has been somewhat obsessed with pace of play issues. Some, myself included, would argue that there are more important things he should be dealing with if he truly wants to grow the game — better marketing of stars, more accessible streaming rules and a bigger focus on social media, just to name a few — but I also agree pace of play is something of an issue. I think the focus has been too much on the straight game time, but in my eyes the problem is with the flow of the game. There’s always some downtime in baseball, it’s literally part of the game, but things have been taken to an extreme with mound visits, slow pitchers and pitching changes. With all of this in mind, MLB has made various proposals over the last few years to address this, and in the last CBA they ensured they were allowed to add these rules without approval from MLBPA. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that they’ll do just that, and Jeff Passan takes it even further with the specifics of MLB’s plan. A few thoughts on all of this. The first point, and it’s one that has been made by so many people at this point, is that the Players Union should not be letting this opportunity get away without getting some sort of concession. The plan seems to be to use this as a PR opportunity, as fans are generally against the ideas, but that’s never a good idea. It’s not everyday where the MLBPA gets a chance at something they want, and to just let this go by while sitting on their hands doesn’t make sense. It’s another sign that Tony Clark is not doing a good job in his position at the head of the union. That being said, I really don’t mind many of the rules. Let’s go one by one. The first and biggest one is the pitch clock. MLB originally had proposed an 18-second clock that shuts off with runners on base, but now they are planning on a 20-second clock that will run for every at bat. Pitchers will get one warning per game, and after that they’ll be called for an automatic ball every time they go over their allotted time. I’ve thought the pitch clock has worked well in the minors, and while there’s no guarantee it’ll translate as well to the majors it’s worth a shot. There is also a 30-second clock for batters to be ready to start an at bat. The original proposal was 35 seconds. This is another good change, as it can be infuriating when hitters just don’t get in the box. Passan doesn’t make clear what the penalty would be, but I’d assume it’ll be an automatic strike. The biggest change in my eyes is the new restrictions on mound visits. MLB is planning to institute a rule in which the second visit to the mound from anyone in an inning will result in an automatic pitching change. So, if the coach comes out for a visit then the shortstop comes to the mound for a conference, the pitcher needs to leave the game. This seems too extreme in my eyes. I agree that something needs to be done about mound visits, but this seems as if it will just result in even more inadvertent pitching changes as players will accidentally visit the mound for a second time in an inning. Generally speaking I think these rules are fine, but this one needs a tweak. Keep in mind that none of this is official. MLB and the MLBPA are still planning on meeting again, though the consensus seems to be that the two sides are too far away to come to an agreement. It seems all but certain that the league will pass some sort of rule with or without the union soon, and these are the likeliest changes. [...]



Daily Red Sox Links: Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Brian Johnson

2018-01-19T07:01:01-05:00

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JBJ talks trade rumors and steals, Benintendi is ready to improve and Johnson will pitch in any role the Red Sox need.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has been through the trade rumor mill before. He’s not concerned about it. (Jason Mastrodonato; Boston Herald)

Speaking of JBJ, he believes Alex Cora, the Red Sox’s new manager, is going to be more aggressive in terms of steals. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)

Andrew Benintendi had a pretty great rookie year, even if he didn’t reach the incredible and possibly unfair expectations set on him. He’s ready to do more. Also he got a hair cut. (Ian Browne; MLB.com)

Brian Johnson just wants to pitch, whether its as a reliever or a starter. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)

After three injury-riddled seasons with the Red Sox, Josh Rutledge signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants. How did his last campaign with the Sox go? (Brett Cowett; BP Boston)




2018 Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Jason Groome takes the top spot

2018-01-19T04:59:48-05:00

No surprise here As is typically the case in these kind of votes, and is particularly true this year, there is very little surprise for who took the top spot in this year’s OTM community prospect rankings. Taking almost 60 percent of the votes, Jason Groome is our top prospect in the Red Sox farm system for 2018. Groome, as you’ll recall, was the team’s first round pick in 2016, being selected 12th overall in that draft. There were times in the spring leading up to that draft that the then-high schooler was seen as a potential number one overall pick, but that shine wore off as the draft got closer. For reasons ranging from sign-ability concerns and potential makeup issues, Groome fell outside the top ten. That gave Boston a rare opportunity to take an impact talent in the middle of the first round, and they didn’t pass up that chance. The southpaw ended up coming to Boston for a $3.65 million signing bonus. Understandably, the team limited Groome’s exposure in his first season with the organization and he tossed only 6 2⁄3 innings between the GCL and Lowell after being drafted. Photo Credit: Kelly O’Connor; sittingstill.smugmug.com Jason Groome That led to some excitement heading into the 2017 season, which seemed to be the time that Groome could really show us all of the talent he had in his arm. As expected, the lefty began the year in Greenville as a 19-year-old and the plan was to keep him in that rotation for the entire season. Unfortunately, things didn’t really work out that way. Injuries derailed the year for the top prospect, and they got started early. Groome left his first start of 2017 with a lat injury that held him out of action until the middle of June. He’d make his way back for a couple of months before being shut down with a forearm strain at the end of August, though it didn’t seem serious enough to have us worried about him for the start of this year. When Groome was on the mound, the results were inconsistent. He made three rehab appearances down in Lowell in which he pitched to a 1.64 ERA over 11 innings with 14 strikeouts and five walks. Moving up to Greenville, though, things didn’t stay as strong. By the end of the year he had a 6.70 ERA in A-Ball with 58 strikeouts and 25 walks in 44 1⁄3 innings, though that doesn’t really tell the whole story. There were night where he was shining, including one six-inning outing with no runs and eight strikeouts and a handful of five-shutout-inning nights. On the other hand, he had three games in which he allowed at least five runs including one in which he allowed nine runs in just 1 1⁄3 innings. It should also be mentioned that he had some personal issues with his father being arrested in the middle of the season. Those kind of things would affect anyone, never mind a 19-year-old in his first full season of professional baseball. Although Groome’s performance was a cause for at least some concern last year, the scouting reports for the lefty remain promising and are why he is the top prospect in the system. Standing at 6’6” and 220 pounds, he has the body to be a major-league starter. He pairs the physical stature with a solid delivery and a good fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s but can get much higher according to some reports. More importantly, his secondaries are what will get him to his ceiling if he is to reach it. His curveball is the real winner here, as it received rave reviews when he was drafted and has the potential to be a well above-average pitch. Along with that, he has a developing changeup and he’s working on adding a cutter into the mix that could turn into his third-best pitch. Looking ahead to 2018, it’s not entirely clear where Groome will begin his season. One would have hoped that he’d be in High-A right now, but after an inconsistent and incomplete 2017, I would put my imaginary money on him starting the year back in Greenville. If he succeeds there, it should give him [...]



The top of the American League is going to be fun in 2018

2018-01-18T10:30:02-05:00

This offseason’s been a drag, but one cause has a side benefit. I think basically every baseball fan would agree that this offseason has been torture, and that’s been particularly true for Red Sox fans. Boston has not only had a winter headlined by a return of Mitch Moreland, but they’ve also seen their rivals get better without much cost. Everyday readers of this very blog have, fortunately for them, gotten to witness my descent into madness in real time. That’s been pretty neat, but other than that this winter has sucked. Everyone has their theories about about what’s happening here, and the reality is that it’s likely a combination of many things. I tend to think the biggest influencer is that GM’s are no longer willing to pay aging players, and if that’s the case then there are going to be real issues to be solved when this CBA expires in 2021. Others point to collusion by ownership, which sounds tinfoil cap-y but also isn’t unprecedented in this game. Another major factor has been the willingness for teams to undergo extended rebuilds to get to a championship-caliber roster. As one source put it in this Jeff Passan article, teams have never been so willing to lose. Generally speaking, I hate this phenomena. Rebuilding has always been part of the game, and it’s undeniably worked recently with the Cubs and Astros, but it’s gotten to the point where at least a full third of the league is fully giving up on competing. That is not interesting from a fans’ point of view, and that’s really what the league should be keeping in check here. Not every one of these rebuilding projects can work, either. If I were to be commissioner for a day, after I made sure I was getting a fat paycheck I’d do everything I could to de-incentivize these kind of rebuilds. All of that being said, I will acknowledge that there is a positive that is going along with all of these rebuilding teams. It’s turned things into a buyer’s market, and that has led to some outstanding teams. Sure, there are going to be a lot of duds on the schedule, but I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about the top of the American League. Essentially, I think of it like the NBA right now. There is absolutely a parity problem in that league as well, largely for the same reasons, but the games between the top teams are always appointment viewing. Right now, the American League has some incredible teams at the top that are going to make those series must-see. Let’s go division-by-division, as there are at least five teams spread out across the league that are going to be really fun to watch, and a few teams that could join them. In the East, it’s all about the Red Sox and Yankees. I think the Blue Jays could surprise some people, but Boston and New York are clearly the class of the division. The Sox, of course, have won two straight division titles and have a great young core in the lineup to go with a dynamite pitching staff. Tossing J.D. Martinez in the middle of that young lineup would only make things better. The Yankees, meanwhile, have a high-upside pitching staff to go with a legitimately terrifying trio in the middle of their order with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Both teams are projected to win 91 games according to Fangraphs’ depth chart projections. Remember, these kinds of projections tend to skew conservative. The Central has just one of the teams I see as the elite class in the Indians, but they certainly fit the bill. Cleveland was eliminated by New York in last year’s postseason so it can be easy to forget just how good this team is. They might have the best rotation in baseball led by Corey Kluber and they also have a great young offense led by an unmatched middle infield tandem in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. Fangraphs projects them to win 93 games. I’d also keep an eye on the Twins who have a dynamic one-two punch in the lineup between By[...]



Examining some interesting Red Sox ZiPS projections

2018-01-18T09:01:01-05:00

One of the most prominent systems released its Red Sox projections on Wednesday As the season inches closer and closer, one of the hallmarks of this time of year is the unleashing of various projections from different systems and developers. Among the most famous and most respected of these is ZiPS, a system developed by Dan Szymborski. Every year, these projections are released on Fangraphs one team at a time. On Wednesday, the Red Sox’ projections were released, so I figured it’d be worth it to look at some of the more interesting nuggets from this list. You can check out all of the projections here. Before we get started, I’ll throw out the obligatory disclaimer that projections are not gospel and no reasonable person — even the developer of said projection — would claim otherwise. Instead, it’s just another tool in trying to figure out what to expect from any given player or team. Now, let’s get to the good stuff. The Red Sox and Yankees have very similar projections After the Yankees advanced farther in the 2017 postseason and followed that up for acquiring Giancarlo Stanton for peanuts, the general consensus seems to be that New York is leaps and bounds ahead of Boston right now despite the latter winning two straight division championships. ZiPS would disagree with that premise. According to the depth chart WAR totals featured at the top of every post in the ZiPS series, Boston and New York both project for 46 WAR apiece. Now, as I said above projections aren’t gospel and simple add-up-the-WAR analysis is garbage. That being said, I think this is just another point in favor of this division being much, much closer than people are giving it credit for. Rafael Devers is the team’s best home run hitter When people say the Red Sox should certainly have a better offense in 2018 than they did in 2017, a big reason why is that Devers is going to be at third base for a full season. It was evident as soon as he came up that he’s a special hitter, and ZiPS likes him so much that it projects him as the team’s home run leader. This was a little surprising to me at first just because a projection system — and these systems all skew more towards conservative estimates — predicting this kind of success for a 21-year-old isn’t common. That being said, I’m not sure who the other option would be. There may be a case for picking Betts over Devers in home run totals, but this projection shows both justified confidence in the young third baseman as well as a lack of confidence in power throughout the rest of the lineup. The Red Sox rotation is really, really good Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images For all of the talk about the offense this winter, the 2017 Red Sox will go as far as the rotation will take them. ZiPS thinks it’ll take them pretty damn far. According to these projections, the Red Sox will get above-average production from everyone in the rotation. Among the top five starters, the worst ERA- (a metric that adjusts ERA to league-averages and park effects) belongs to Rick Porcello at 91. In other words, the worst of Boston’s top five starters will be nine percent better than the league-average pitcher. Of course, they’ll need depth, too. Steven Wright, Hector Velazquez, Brian Johnson and Jalen Beeks project for ERA-’s of: 101, 105, 107 and 110. That’s an outstanding group, and has arguably become a bit underrated as the winter has gone on. Mookie Betts will get his BABIP back Among the all of the disappointing hitters on the roster last year, Betts was perhaps the most perplexing. He was still showing off strong plate discipline and he was still hitting for power at times. However, he finished the year barely better than league-average at the plate and while some of that seemed to be due to passivity at the plate, a lot seemed like rotten luck on balls in play. ZiPS would agree and sees him putting up [...]



Daily Red Sox Links: Michael Chavis, Dave Dombrowski, Jerry Remy

2018-01-18T07:00:03-05:00

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Today’s links look at some players at the Rookie Development camp, Austin Maddox’ talent, and some great news from Jerry Remy.

Nobody would have predicted this heading into last season, but Michael Chavis is damn close to getting a shot at the majors. (Alex Speier; Boston Globe)

Chavis was at the Red Sox Rookie Development camp on Wednesday, and he was joined by Esteban Quiroz, who will be an interesting player to keep an eye on this year. (Christopher Smith; Masslive)

Amid the lack of action, Dave Dombrowski is saying he’s content with the current roster. Because, ya know, what else is he going to say? (Jason Mastrodonato; Boston Herald)

Austin Maddox showed some really intriguing flashes in 2017. Is he an impact reliever, though? (Cam Ellis; BP Boston)

Thursday is the Boston Writer’s Dinner, and Sean McAdam will be honored. It’s, of course, extremely deserved for the longtime Red Sox scribe. (Joe McDonald; Boston Sports Journal)

We’ll end on some fantastic news, as Jerry Remy has finished his latest round of cancer treatment and is getting set to head down the Fort Myers. (Mark Dunphy; Boston.com)




Red Sox made a low offer to J.D. Martinez, per report

2018-01-17T14:09:56-05:00

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Hard to imagine this will get it done

All winter long we’ve been waiting for the Red Sox to make a big move for the middle-of-the-order bat it’s so clear they could use, and all winter long it’s seemed inevitable that J.D. Martinez will be that addition. It makes too much sense, as there aren’t a lot of other obvious suitors, there is a connection between him and Dave Dombrowski, and the Red Sox are one of the very few teams who aren’t trying to get under the luxury tax threshold for this season. Despite all that, Martinez remains a free agent and it there haven’t been any reports indicating that the two sides are at all close. Well, now we have an idea of how the Red Sox are valuing the best hitter on the market. Buster Olney is reporting that Boston’s offer to the slugger is for five years and $100 million.