Welcome back to Read Sox. This week we start by taking a look around the American League East to assess how the Red Sox match-up against their division foes. Then we bask in the glory of the organization’s farm system, examine expectations for frontline starters David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez, consider the depth the Sox have at catcher, and begin consideration of the 2018 offseason.
For many teams, roster construction for the 2016 season is still a work in progress. There are two-ish months between us and pitchers and catchers reporting to their respective Spring Training facilities. Despite this uncertainty, taking an early look at how the Red Sox seem to fit in the American League East division is a worthwhile exercise. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal has done just that, working team-by-team highlighting strengths, weaknesses and 2016 outlook. Britton suggests that the Blue Jays should be considered the favorite in the division, the Rays have too many ifs and a lack of depth to handle any under-performance, the Yankees’ fate still depends largely on production from aging players and the Orioles’ outlook, while potentially strong, remains difficult to determine given the remaining work the front office has ahead of it this winter. All told the Red Sox and Jays seem to be the class of the AL East, with the success of both teams likely falling in line with the success of the starting pitching behind their respective number one guys.
The Red Sox have made four major additions to the club this offseason and only one of them cost a lot in terms of prospects; Craig Kimbrel. The farm system is still loaded with talent. Factor in all of the big league promotions over the last few years (i.e., Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart, Rusney Castillo, Eduardo Rodriguez) and the system that the previous front office group built becomes that much more impressive. I raise this aspect of the team because the Baseball America top-10 rankings were released this past week. Alex Speier of The Boston Globe takes a detailed look at each of the ten players who made the cut, which includes guys like Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi. The top five players on the list are likely all top-100 prospects, while the lower half includes two players who can contribute at the big league level right now, and two players whose bats will allow them to be productive big league corner infielders in the future. Ranking prospects is a murky business, as it is just so remarkably difficult to accurately anticipate the futures of players given the (often) limited information available. Nevertheless, the Red Sox’s prospect pool is filled with high-ceiling players who present a potentially bright future.
The Red Sox got themselves an ace this offseason, but what can be expected of David Price? Mike Cole of NESN.com reviews a couple of the projections that are already available for Price. While Price is not projected to post another 2.30 ERA season as he did in 2015, the numbers are still impressive.
Eduardo Rodriguez will be pitching in one of the four rotation spots behind David Price in 2016. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal thinks that Rodriguez has the potential to be Boston’s number two starter, and compares his trajectory to that of old friend Jon Lester.
Newly acquired Carson Smith will be an important part of the Red Sox relief group in 2016. Ian Browne of MLB.com details how Smith’s unusual delivery, typically throwing from a side-arm/three-quarter arm slot rather than over the top, has helped him succeed at the highest level.
Some combination of Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan will be responsible for catching Price, Rodriguez, Smith and company this season. Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe thinks that group of catchers puts the Red Sox in good position for the coming season. When it comes to Swihart, Matt Collins, writing for OvertheMonster.com, suggests that him reproducing the second half of his 2015 season will be important for the success of the Red Sox offense.
While the Red Sox appear set for the foreseeable future with a core of young, talented players and David Price headlining the rotation, the list of players who could be free agents following the 2018 season are tantalizing – and David Price could be one of them if he opts out. With this in mind, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com explores how the organization can be planning now to handle those future opportunities.
Finally, although it is not directly Red Sox-related, Michael Silverman’s article (at BostonHerald.com) on major league baseball’s decision to reject the reinstatement of Pete Rose is worth reading.
Photo by Kelly O’Connor/www.sittingstill.smugmug.com