Skip to main content

Five Sox Players Who Matter More Than You Thought

Rumor has it that Pablo Sandoval might have an impact on the Red Sox this year.  Likewise, Koji Uehara would probably help the Sox chances of being good if he's a lights-out closer again and it'd be helpful if Justin Masterson is more 2013 Masterson than 2014.  That all being said, there are other story lines that might have a significant impact on the season but are far from the spotlight shone Xander Bogaerts development or if Christian Vazquez can be better than a liability at bat.  Here are a few of those key players:
  1. Allen Craig - I don't think he will nor should he be traded any time soon.  If you trade him now, you are selling low.  Meanwhile, there is every reason to believe he'll bounce back.  With Papi in the last year or two of his career, Napoli on the last year of his contract, and Hanley Ramirez a strong candidate to move to DH if Papi isn't there, Craig is a uniquely valuable investment in the future.  In addition, I expect him to play at least 120 games this year for the Red Sox, especially if he can play a semi-serviceable 3B to allow him to spot Sandoval against tough lefty starters (then be replaced in the late innings).  At each of the positions Craig can play, there is some question about that starter's ability to stay on the field: Hanley, Victorino, Napoli, and Papi.  If he hits like Allen Craig, then Allen Craig will play quite a lot.  Then, next year, he probably gets a starting spot maybe in a platoon with a lefty with equally big splits.
  2. Tommy Layne - Craig Breslow and Robbie Ross are the favorites to secure the two lefty spots presumed to be in the John Farrell's seven-man pen.  They both have had considerable major league success.  But neither is particularly strong against lefties.  It's possible that new sinker baller Anthony Varvaro will actually be the lefty guy.  In addition, Farrell isn't a huge fan of lefty specialists.  But there will definitely be a temptation to let Layne, who profiles as just such a lefty, to beat our one of those two or at least see significant time in Boston.  Youngster Edwin Escobar is the other candidate in the first half of the season.
  3. Humberto Quintero - The name that's been on the lips of everyone in Red Sox Nation: Humberto.  Why in the world would this guy you've never heard of matter to the Sox this year? Because Quintero is a potentially important bridge at a very important position.  This is a catcher who has played parts of 11 seasons in the majors and even been the starter at times (albeit likely by default).  He has 1,423 career at bats in the majors (with minimal success).  But why will he matter?  Because there is a readiness chasm between the Red Sox major league catchers (Vazquez and newcomer Ryan Hanigan) and uber-prospect Blake Swihart.  Swihart has played a total of 18 games above AA in his career.  He is not close to ready especially at the most maturity/intellectually-demanding position in the game (not a knock on Swihart.  He's just young).  By comparison, Jason Varitek played 107 for the AAA teams of the Sox and Mariners.  Vazquez had 67.  What Quintero gives the Sox, especially assuming that they assign him to Pawtucket, is insurance if Vazquez or Hanigan get injured before Swihart is ready.  
  4. Steven Wright - The knuckler seems ideally positioned to scub in as a spot starter for the Sox and as a long reliever.  He might well be the most frequent traveler this year between Pawtucket and Boston.  He showed last year that he can pitch in relief and he's a decent starter. Assuming they are still careful with his arm*, I could see the PawSox intentionally moving him back and forth from the pen to the rotation so as to give him that experience.  Since converting to a knuckle ball pitcher in 2011 (he can throw 90mph still), his only relieve appearances in the majors or minors were his 5 bullpen appearances in Boston last year.  He could benefit from learning to swing back and forth.  Meanwhile, it helps that presumed Sox starting catcher Christian Vazquez likes catching knuckleballs.  Wright told MassLive, "The first game I threw to Christian (Vazquez), he was on the left-field line before I was out there because he was so excited about catching it. He did a great job. I love throwing to Christian..."  (*We underestimate the effort it takes to throw a knuckleball. These guys are still throwing a ball 60-70mph about 100 times in a game. That's not easy on an arm.)
  5. Heath Hembree - The Sox seem to be hoping that Brandon Workman and/or Alexei Ogando will be the power, strikeout righty in the pen.  But neither is a sure thing on that front.  Later in the season it seems likely that Matt Barnes and Eduardo Rodriguez (a lefty) could be young power arms that fill out the bullpen.  Until then, Hembree - acquired in the Peavy trade with the Giants - seems like the best fit for a power late inning righty if Workman or Ogando falter, which isn't a long shot. 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Chris Sale, Bullpen Reboot, Hot Stove Checklist Addition, Sell High

CHRIS SALE TRADE: The Sox just got ace lefty Chris Sale for America's top prospect Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, another Basabe, and Victor Diaz.  That's a true ace for a potential superstar who clearly needs more seasoning, a golden arm who seemed to be a possible headcase, and two lottery tickets.  This is a very good trade for the Sox. While the Sox would have found room to play Moncada once he was ready, he didn't exactly fill a void with Peddy blocking him at second, Panda getting another shot at 3B this year, and 3B prospects Rafael Devers and Bobby Dalbec - and maybe Michael Chavis - not too far off possibly.  Moncada might not be the biggest pain felt here. After trading Anderson Espinoza for Drew Pomeranz - a trade that is looking worse these days - the trade of Kopech leaves very little high-end pitching talent in the system right now.  There is now a very large drop off after Jason Groome.  Also, the loss of Basabe, Diaz, Dubon and Pennington today just really d…

Yoan Moncada Is Being Rushed

The Red Sox have the top prospect in baseball.  I honestly don't know when we've ever had that.  He's playing in Portland (...in Portland...), the same spot from which Andrew Benintendi jumped into the bigs with great early success.  So, bring up Yoan Moncada right now. Right?

I know it's too late, but the answer was: no.  There are a lot of logical problems with the calculations at play with this promotion.  Benintendi was the best player in college baseball last year and there is a strong recent track record of players making a quick jump from major college programs to the bigs. Heck, John Olerud had a brain aneurysm, was a part time pitcher in Washington State, and still jumped directly to the big leagues and a very strong 17 year career.  But, Moncada did not play major college baseball.  Instead, he played two years of professional baseball in Cuba, then missed almost a year as he went through the process of joining the Sox.

Moncada, also unlike Benintendi, has si…

Sox Season Preview

Starting strong isn't a necessity for making a championship run but it sure helps.  Unfortunately, these Sox will need some real luck to get off to a great start.  They're starting off the year without their #2 starter, starting their 3rd best catcher, lacking a platoon partner for either 1B or 3B, missing their two best set-up guys, and expecting All Star caliber play from a rookie.  That said, all these issues should resolve themselves by mid-June and even a bad Sox '17 team should be in fine position to make a second half run.  But Sox fans will likely be pulling out their hair for the first month or two.

Things do have a way of working themselves out with good teams.  Last year, the Sox started the year with a pronounced lack of home runs, their best pitcher was the last guy to make the rotation (Wright) and we had gone through 2 catchers and lost a live Panda.  Things turned around with the team ending up 7th in the AL in homers - and by far the most runs - the league…