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But Can He Pitch?



Updated: 2017-01-18T18:10:00-05:00

 



2017 Hall of Fame Announcement: Bagwell, Raines, Rodriguez in. Clemens, Ramirez fall short.

2017-01-18T18:10:00-05:00

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The league announced their newest class on Wednesday night, with former Red Sox stars having a rough night.

Well, after what seems like months and months of debate, the Hall of Fame class has finally been decided. This year, the sport will be inducting Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez into the museum in Cooperstown. Based on Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker — an invaluable resource for Hall of Fame fans — Bagwell and Raines were long assumed to be inducted. The others were right on the cusp, providing some actual suspense for this year’s announcement.

Bagwell has the closest association with the Red Sox, and is one of the best “What If?” scenarios in the team’s history. In case you’ve blocked it out of your memory, the first baseman was drafted by Boston in 1989 but was traded the summer before making his major-league debut. In return, the Red Sox got 15 relief appearances from Larry Anderson. To be fair, he was good in his limited time here. Obviously, this is still a hard pill to swallow despite some other lopsided trades that have gone in their favor (Varitek and Lowe say hello). Despite some hard feelings some in Boston may have about him, Bagwell certainly deserved this induction. He was one of the most feared hitters of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and any steroid connection was purely speculative and quite frankly dumb.

Raines, meanwhile, was one of the most interesting names on the ballot. He’s been steadily moving up his vote total every year, but this was his final chance. The former Expo had some strong supporters in his corner, most notably and vocally being Jonah Keri. Raines mainly suffered from playing in the same era as Ricky Henderson, as he’d have been the best leadoff hitter of his generation at any other moment in time. He got on base at a phenomenal rate and stole at least 70 bases six years in a row. It’s nice to see the voters finally got him in this year.

Among the first-year players on the ballot, Rodriguez was the one with the best chance to get in. He was always seen as one of the best catchers of his generation, not only in terms of hitting but also his ability to control a pitching staff and his general defense. Although his late-30’s hurt some of his career rate stats, his peak with Texas in the late-90’s and early-00’s was Hall of Fame worthy. Of course, he’ll always be something of an enemy to Red Sox fans for stealing Pedro’s 1999 MVP. Regardless of his undeserving award (I’ll never stop being bitter about this), his induction was deserved.

Now, there’s all the Red Sox players who didn’t make the cut. Most notably, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Manny Ramirez all failed to reach the 75 percent vote threshold. They received 54 percent, 45 percent, and 24 percent, respectively. Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek and J.D. Drew all fell off the ballot after receiving less than five percent of the votes. Varitek got two votes, Wakefield got one, and Drew was shut out.

Looking ahead to next year, it’s not as loaded with former Red Sox. Johnny Damon will be the most notable former Red Sox to make his debut, but he’s not likely to make to make the cut. Other former Boston greats include Jamie Moyer, Jeff Suppan and Scott Podsednik. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Andruw Jones, and Omar Vizquel are the first ballot players with the best chance of being elected next year.




Red Sox announce nine non-roster invitees to spring training

2017-01-18T17:54:40-05:00

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We’ll be able to see Rafael Devers with the big-league club this spring.

I don’t know about you, but I just got hit with six inches of snow and I’m desperate for spring right about now. The Red Sox must have heard my prayers, because they just gave us a little taste of what we can expect when March rolls around. This is far from the most exciting time of year, but teams announcing non-roster invitees for spring training means baseball is just around the corner.

The headliner of this group is obviously Rafael Devers, who is set to become the team’s number one prospect after Andrew Benintendi loses his eligibility shortly after the season begins. Devers did get a taste of camp last season, but this figures to be a bit of a longer look. The third baseman will be entering his age-20 season, and will almost certainly spend most of it at Double-A Portland. We likely won’t see him in the bigs this season, but it’s probable this will be his first of many big league camps.

After him the list gets a little more boring. Allen Craig and Rusney Castillo will both be there, which isn’t much of a surprise. It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which Craig plays his way back into Boston this year, but there’s no harm in letting him with the big leaguers in March. Castillo might have a little more upside, and the team is weak in outfield depth, so with a hot spring he could put himself back in the conversation for later in the year. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.

Sam Travis is likely the most likely to make an impact in 2017, although it’s hard to know what to expect after the first baseman missed the majority of last season. He’s not a traditional first base prospect, as he doesn’t possess huge power tools, but his hit tool is good enough that he could become the everyday first baseman if Mitch Moreland goes down. At the very least, he’s the ideal candidate for 2018.

Rounding out the invitations are Jordan Procyshen, Brian Bogusevic, Kyle Kendrick, Chandler Shepard and Ben Taylor. Procyshen is a glove-first catcher who will join Devers in Portland next season. Bogusevic is more outfield depth who was signed to a minor-league deal earlier this winter. He has minimal, unimpressive major-league experience. Kendrick was just signed earlier today, and the long-time Phillie figures to play a Sean O’Sullivan type role this year if he sticks around after camp. Shepard made it to Pawtucket last year, and profiles as a middle reliever at best. Finally, Taylor split the year between Salem and Portland and is another arm who profiles as a middle reliever.

Spring, you can’t get here soon enough.




One Big Question: Can Roenis Elias stick on to major-league roster?

2017-01-18T11:01:00-05:00

Roenis Elias was stuck in Pawtucket for most of last year. Can he turn that around in 2017? Welcome to Over The Monster’s One Big Question series. For the next 40 (week)days, we will be trying to answer one important question for each player on the Red Sox 40-man roster. The goal is to find one interesting portion of each player’s game to watch for, whether that be in spring training or the early regular season. We’ll be going straight down the list on the team’s roster page, meaning we’ll be going in alphabetical order through each position group, starting with the pitchers. Today, we’re highlighting Roenis Elias. The Question: Can Roenis Elias find a way to stick on the major-league roster? The first two editions of this series have dug deep into the nitty gritty on two pitchers who are almost certain to have some sort of impact on the Red Sox this year. This time around, though, we have a pitcher who would just like a chance to play. Roenis Elias was the secondary piece in the Carson Smith deal, but he was one that gave the Red Sox some interesting depth. He had spent two years in which he was on the Mariners roster more often than not, and mostly found himself in the rotation. Last year, however, was a different story. He never really got his chance to make an impact for his new team in any role. Elias threw only 7-2/3 innings in 2016 over one start and two relief appearances. Obviously the sample is tiny, but he certainly did not impress. He pitched to a 12.91 ERA with five walks and three strikeouts. The larger sample for him came in Pawtucket, where he made 21 appearances that included 19 starts. Looking ahead to 2017, he has one more chance to stick on the major-league roster. He has one option year remaining,* and if he doesn’t make a compelling case for himself this year he’ll almost certainly be looking for a new team for 2018. Before he can make the case that he’s a legitimate major leaguer, though, he needs to get the chance. The issue is finding where that will come. *This is a point of contention, as Sox Prospects lists him with an option remaining but Roster Resource does not. As far as I can tell, he spent fewer than 20 days in the minors in 2014, so he should still have his final option. He does have an option. Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports Since he’s spent the majority of his professional major-league career as a starting pitcher, it’s only logical that we first look for an opportunity for him in that role. Obviously, he’s not going to crack the Opening Day rotation unless disaster occurs during spring training. Since the Red Sox have six major-league caliber starters on their roster, Elias won’t even be the first in line in case of injury. He probably won’t be second or third in line, either. Henry Owens and Brian Johnson are higher profile prospects who have a firm place in the organization. At least to start the season, I’d imagine both are ahead of Elias. As something of a low man on Owens, I’d at least bet on Elias’ chances to pass him on the depth chart based on Triple-A performance. Still, this is not a good place for the former Mariner to be. On the other hand, it may be for the best. Ever since they acquired Elias, I was never convinced starting was the ideal role for him. Sure, he’s shown himself to be competent enough to fill in as a back-end starter, but what kind of life is that? He’s pitched to a 4.15 ERA over his career in the rotation while allowing a .731 OPS, and that’s calling a pitcher-friendly park home. No, the most intriguing role for Elias could potentially come out of the bullpen. It’s not something he has a ton of experience in -- just four career outings, including the two from this past year — but that’s the case for most relievers. There are some positive indicators for him. The first is that he has shown off swing-and-miss stuff, as he ranked well above the median for major-league starters in whiff rate in each of his two years in Seattle. [...]



Which Red Sox players could make the Hall of Fame?

2017-01-18T09:01:01-05:00

The Red Sox have a talented roster, but do they have many Hall of Famers? The newest Hall of Fame class is set to be announced later on today, with some of the game’s best being enshrined forever. As I noted yesterday, the Red Sox organization is well-represented on the ballot, though it’s unlikely they’ll have any of these players elected. Their best chance is Jeff Bagwell, but that hurts more than anything given the lopsided trade that sent him out of the organization. Let’s not worry about the past, though. As Secretariat says in Bojack Horseman, don’t ever look back. There’s nothing for you there.* Instead, let’s take a gander at the future. The Red Sox have a loaded roster that is poised to be among the American League favorites in 2017. As such, they have some players that could have their eyes on Cooperstown after they hang up their cleats. There’s no David Ortiz, who had already more or less locked up his legacy before last year, but there are a few interesting cases on the roster. *We can ignore the fact that just yesterday I wrote glowingly about a decade-old team. Dustin Pedroia Not only is Pedroia taking Ortiz’s place as the veteran leader and (arguably) face of the franchise, but he’s also taking over as the position player most likely to be elected to Cooperstown. Just a couple of years ago, this would’ve appeared unlikely given that his career appeared to be in decline. He’s turned it around in recent years, though, and may be back on track. He has the hardware, with a Rookie of the Year, MVP, two other top-ten MVP finishes, four Gold Gloves and four All-Star appearances. He also has the narrative behind him, as he’s seen as the emotional leader of a team that has won championships and contended for others. There’s certainly still work to do, but with a few more solid years he could be firmly on the path. The biggest issue would be that he doesn’t shine in traditional stats. He is a .300 hitter, but his best qualities are his glove -- something that’s hard to measure — and abilities to hit for extra bases. Doubles just aren’t that sexy. Still, there’s a real shot for Pedroia getting in as long as he can stay healthy through most of his 30’s. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports David Price Although his first year in Boston was a disappointment, there’s no denying Price’s track record. He’s been in the conversation for best pitcher not named Kershaw over most of his career, and for good reason. He’s won a Cy Young, finished second twice and has one other top-ten finishes. He’s also made the All-Star team five times. On top of that, Price has been a legitimate workhorse, leading the league in innings twice and topping the 200 mark six times. This is on top of leading the league in ERA twice over his career. The knock on him, of course, will be his performance in the playoffs. It’s not exactly a secret that he’s had issues in October, and that’s the type of thing Hall of Fame voters will hold against you. He’s had a great first half of his career, but he’ll need a strong finish to get into Cooperstown. Chris Sale Sale obviously hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Red Sox yet, but he still gets to be included in this. His inclusion in this discussion is likely a bit premature, but he’s built up a hell of a resume early on. The hardware hasn’t really been there, as he’s never won a Cy Young. However, he has finished in the top-five each of the last four years with a sixth place finish five years ago. He’s also made the All-Star team in each of the past five seasons. The bad news for Sale’s early career is that his win total is low due to lackluster White Sox lineups and a total lack of postseason experience. Both of those should turnaround in his new home, though. As a peripheral darling, he will surely benefit a new class of voters that will emerge by the time he’s eligible. There’s a long way to go for Sale to be seriously discussed in[...]



Daily Red Sox Links: David Price, Sandy Leon, Hall of Fame

2017-01-18T07:00:01-05:00

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Today’s links look at David Price’s first year in Boston, what the expect from the Hall of Fame announcement, and Andrew Benintendi’s workout.

Josh Slavin has a look back at David Price’s fine but disappointing 2016. (Josh Slavin; BP Boston)

Is Sandy Leon really the best option to start behind the plate? (Luis Torres; Beyond the Boxscore)

The Hall of Fame class will be announced today, and Peter Abraham looks at the likely results. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)

With Bud Selig getting into Cooperstown, it could pave the way for some of the “steroid guys” to get in. (Brian MacPherson; Providence Journal)

Kyle Martin was added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft this winter, and he’s ready to impress in 2017. (Ian Browne; RedSox.com)

Andrew Benintendi is getting after it this winter. (Rob Bradford; WEEI)

If you’re planning on attending Winter Weekend, you can expect all of the newcomers to be in attendance. (Christopher Smith; Masslive)

Michael Chavis had a hell of a time at the airport. (NESN)




Baseball Hall of Fame 2017 announcement: Time, TV schedule, and how to watch online

2017-01-17T17:26:15-05:00

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Cooperstown’s newest class will be announced tomorrow night.

Mercifully, Hall of Fame season is coming to an end. It is certainly not my favorite time of the year, but I won’t deprive those of you who have positive feelings about Cooperstown just because I’m a curmudgeon. The Red Sox are well-represented on the ballot, both by former stars and players who spent just a short time in Boston.

The team’s alumni are highlighted by three players that have been controversial names on the ballot. Roger Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers in the team’s history, though his exit wasn’t the smoothest, to say the least. Since then, he’s turned into one of the faces of the steroid era and is unlikely to make the cut despite his high standing in league history.

Likewise, Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters of his generation -- and maybe the best hitter to never win MVP -- but he failed two PED tests late in his career. This is his first year on the ballot, and he’ll at least receive enough votes to stay on the ballot.

Then, there’s Curt Schilling. The former playoff hero does not have any drug-related offenses, but his inability to keep his bigoted thoughts off social media have worked against him. For a time, it looked like he was tracking for inevitable induction, but now his vote count is trending in the wrong direction.

Next, there’s a couple of team legends in Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield that will be relegated to the Hall of Very Good. Varitek may have an outside shot of at least staying on the ballot, but I can’t imagine he’ll ever find his way to Cooperstown. J.D Drew also fits in this category, despite being irrationally hated by a section of the fan base.

Finally, there’s the group of guys who spent small portions of their careers in the city. That includes Edgar Renteria (ugh), Billy Wagner, Mike Cameron, Matt Stairs, Lee Smith, Jeff Bagwell, Freddy Sanchez* and Orlando Cabrera. Obviously, some of them are more beloved (Cabrera) than others (Renteria).

*Every year, one player on the ballot blows my mind. This year, it is Sanchez.

The ballots are all submitted, and the results will be announced tomorrow night.

2017 Baseball Hall of Fame announcement

When: 3-7 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Jan. 18 (announcement at 6 p.m.)

Channel: MLB Network

Stream: MLB.com




Remembering the 2007 Red Sox

2017-01-17T11:01:01-05:00

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We’re coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the 2007 championship team, and they deserve our remembrance.

We’ve been extremely fortunate to root for the Red Sox over the last 15 years. They’ve been in contention almost every year (2012 never happened I don’t know what you’re talking about), and they’ve gotten three championships in the process. Clearly, 2004 was the most meaningful of these. It was the year that broke the curse, and the year they came back from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS to beat the Yankees. There is literally nothing that could top this year for Red Sox fans. There’s 2013 as well, which came on the heels of the Bobby V disaster and completed the worst-to-first transition. When you add in the beards and Mike Napoli walking shirtless through the street with a cigarette hanging from his mouth, that was a special year. Then, there’s 2007, the forgotten champions.

This is something that has bothered me for a while now. That 2007 team means a lot to me personally, and it gets to me that it’s sort of swept aside. I don’t really know why I’m so connected to it besides my being the right age. I was 16 that year, which put me as old enough to watch and analyze the game on a daily basis, but young enough to truly enjoy everything. It was also the same fall I got my license, so life was pretty good overall.

Beyond the personal connection, it was also simply the best Red Sox team I can remember. Those 2003 and 2004 teams were obviously stacked, but the 2007 team was a dominant force that never looked like anything less than the best team in baseball. The latest date in which they did not hold sole possession of first place in the division was April 17. Over the first two months of the year, they posted a .692 winning percentage. That’s a 112-win pace. They were dominant, and they had memorable players up and down the roster that I will look back on as the players I remember from my formative years. David Ortiz was in the middle of his prime. Manny Ramirez was ending his. Dustin Pedroia was winning Rookie of the Year. Hideki Okajima was starting my obsession with relievers.

With it being the anniversary, I hope the Red Sox take the time to honor over the course of the season. They’ve done it plenty of times in the past, so it should happen this year. I mean, if you’re going to honor the 1986 team that simply made the World Series, you have to plan some stuff around the team that actually won the World Series. To be fair, I have no reason to expect they won’t, though I also haven’t seen any concrete plans.

Whether the team honors them or not (or at least to the extent I would personally like), I am not going to let the 10-year anniversary pass. Over the course of the next nine-plus months, I’ll be sprinkling in some posts to remember some of the players, games and events from that year. It may not be the most exciting and/or memorable World Series championship of this recent run, but it certainly deserves our adulation.




One Big Question: Can Matt Barnes build up his secondaries?

2017-01-17T09:01:00-05:00

Matt Barnes has a big fastball that has developed into a weapon. Now, he must build up his complementary tools. Welcome to Over The Monster’s One Big Question series. For the next 40 (week)days, we will be trying to answer one important question for each player on the Red Sox 40-man roster. The goal is to find one interesting portion of each player’s game to watch for, whether that be in spring training or the early regular season. We’ll be going straight down the list on the team’s roster page, meaning we’ll be going in alphabetical order through each position group, starting with the pitchers. Today, we’re highlighting Matt Barnes. The Question: Can Matt Barnes build upon his secondaries? Well, it only took until the second day to reach a player about whom I’ve already written about in the recent past. Just two weeks ago, I looked back on Matt Barnes’ 2016 and foresaw some possible breakout potential in his future. Specifically, I pointed out his pedigree and stuff as strong building blocks for a possible late-innings arm. Obviously, things weren’t all good last year, despite the trust he clearly built up in John Farrell. Barnes struggled with his control at times during the year, and was just generally inconsistent from month to month. With him coming up so early in this series, I don’t want to rehash the same thoughts all over again. So, for today I’m going to look at a different question that sort of ties into those themes of inconsistencies. Among the reasons Barnes wasn’t able to fulfill his potential as a starting pitcher was that he couldn’t develop a full repertoire of offerings. His fastball turned into a reliable weapon, and as a reliever that’s a huge first step. He leaned heavily on the pitch in 2016, throwing it a whopping 64 percent of the time. There’s plenty of reason for him to use the pitch so often, especially after bumping the average velocity up over 97 mph last year. For a reliever that throws almost entirely in short stints, leaning so heavily on one pitch is far from the end of the world. Zach Britton threw his sinker 92 percent of the time last year, and he had one of the greatest seasons for a reliever in baseball history. Mariano Rivera is the best reliever of all time, and he threw his cutter over 90 percent of the time and basically never threw a pitch under 90 mph. The issue is, Barnes isn’t Britton or Rivera and his fastball isn’t that kind of elite pitch. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a good one. It generated whiffs on a quarter of swings last year and ground balls on just about half of balls in play. He challenged hitters up and out of the zone with the pitch, and he won that battle many times. Unfortunately for Barnes, major-league hitters are absurdly good at what they do. They’ll surely start to feel more and more comfortable sitting fastball, and once that happens he’ll start getting hit much harder. Leaning so heavily on a cutter or sinker — particularly elite ones -- is one thing, given their movement. It’s much harder to succeed with a four seamer that lacks that elite late break, even if Barnes has better movement on his than most. The good news is, as a former top starting pitching prospect, Barnes at least has a base on which to build. Back in 2012, when his prospect status was coming to a head and he was ranked as high as number 38 in baseball, scouts were talking about his potential for a plus curveball. Now, that was given with the caveat that it wasn’t at all fully developed, and he clearly never hit that stride. However, it was his second most-used pitch in 2016, and it once again had its moments. Throwing it nearly a quarter of the time, Barnes’ curve induced whiffs on 37 percent of swings, his highest rate of any pitch. Unfortunately, the pitch was also prone to hard contact, as it allowed his highest line drive r[...]