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In today’s links, we go around the horn and discuss the play from all over the infield.

Playing shortstop is a difficult job and although this is nothing new to me, Xander Bogaerts is really good at it. (John Tomase; NBC Sports Boston)

Perhaps this is just the beginning of a deluge of awards that Rafael Devers will win in his career. (Chris Cotillo; MassLive)

Speaking of current and future award-winners, Michael Chavis still has everyone’s attention and that includes his opponents. (Marc Carig; The Athletic) ($$)

One day Craig Kimbrel will sign. One day. (Gabby Guerard; WEEI)

If you are a fan of Sean McDonough and baseball in England, then this is the link for you. (Chad Finn; Boston Globe)

Excitement is a difficult metric to define and evaluate but Craig Edwards took a shot at it. (Craig Edwards; FanGraphs)

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A little more information on the second selection from the Red Sox in the 2019 draft

After waiting a long time to make their first selection in the 2019 draft, the second selection for Boston came in relatively short order. By announcements, the Red Sox took two players at the same position, though most everyone is in agreement that Cameron Cannon isn’t really a shortstop. That is not the case for their second selection, however, as high schooler Matthew Lugo is projected to stick at the position long-term. The nephew of Carlos Beltran who attended the baseball academy in Puerto Rico named for his uncle, Lugo was ranked 26th by Fangraphs, 38th by MLB Pipeline and 74th by Baseball America. Presumably, he will need overslot money to keep him away from his commitment to the University of Miami, which means Cannon will likely come in at least a little underslot.

The Good

In terms of his play on the field, there is a lot to like with Lugo. He doesn’t really have a standout tool, it seems, but he is good at everything. If things go perfectly in his development — never a safe bet, of course, but we can dream — there is a chance for him to have above-average tools across the board. He’s a solid defensive player at the most important position on the infield, has good athleticism that can play on the bases even if he’s not a true speedster, and he has good hands and a good bat. The hit tool is ahead of the power right now, but there is projection with the latter as well.

The Bad

Really, the negatives come down to the wait time and the amount of projection required to get to Lugo’s ultimate ceiling. The shortstop prospect, as mentioned, has potential in all areas of the game, but there is plenty of work to be done to get there. Lugo just turned 18 less than a month ago and is very raw. His defense is easy to dream on, but there are skills that need to be sharpened. Offensively, Baseball America says his swing can get long at time, so adjustments to be made there for him to reach his potential with the hit tool. Obviously, the Red Sox don’t have any sort of immediate need at shortstop anyway, so there wouldn’t be an temptation to rush Lugo regardless.

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He comes from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico

After going with a college player with their first selection in the 2019 draft, the Red Sox went the prep route with their second selection. They’ve gone with bats for both picks, though, with the second being Matthew Lugo. Lugo is a prep shortstop from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. He is the nephew of former MLB star Beltran. Lugo is highly-regarded in this draft class, being ranked 26th by Fangraphs, 38th by MLB Pipeline and 74th by Baseball America. Lugo isn’t as highly regarded as some other shortstops that have come from Puerto Rico in the past decade like Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Javy Baez, but he has the potential to be a very well-rounded player with production all across the board. It will take a long time for it all to develop, though.

We’ll have more on Lugo in a bit.

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A little more information on the first Red Sox selection of the 2019 draft

The Red Sox made their first selection of the 2019 draft all the way down at pick number 43, and they selected a college bat with their first pick for the first time since they took Andrew Benintendi in 2015. This one is a little different, of course, with Benintendi being a top ten pick and 2019 selection Cameron Cannon being taken at the start of the second round. Cannon doesn’t quite fit the mold we saw early in the draft last year from the Red Sox when they took a bunch of power hitters with questionable hit tools. With this selection, they took a guy whose hit tool is the most intriguing quality with power being a question. Here’s a little more information on the 22 year old.

Background

Cannon is from Arizona originally, attending high school in Glendale before being taken by his hometown Diamondbacks in the 21st round as a prep player. He opted to go to college in his home state, though, attending the University of Arizona. The infielder had a hell of a career with the Wildcats. He’s been a full-time player for two years for the program, putting up a .976 OPS last year. Then, he came out as a junior this spring and tore it up at the plate. In 56 games this season, Cannon hit .397/.478/.651. He was ranked 94th in the draft class by Baseball America, 48th by Fangraphs, and 79th by MLB Pipeline.

The Good

As I alluded to above, the hit tool is the most intriguing part of Cannon’s game. That is made pretty evident by the fact that he almost hit .400 in his junior year against Pac-12 competition. He also hit .321 as a sophomore. MLB Pipeline has put a 55 on his hit tool, which grades out as solidly above average. Power rules the day in today’s MLB, of course, but you need to be able to make contact before you can do anything in this game. Having a hit tool like this is a good place to start. Fangraphs also notes in their scouting report that Cannon has done this without getting much use from his lower half in his swing. They speculate some mechanical tweaks could get more out of his power. Defensively, he is not going to stick as a shortstop like he was announced, but he has the arm and reactions to stick at third base and should be able to play second base at the highest level as well. As we’ve seen from the Red Sox and other teams in recent years, second base isn’t as demanding as it used to be, and Cannon looks to have the potential to provide similar defensive versatility as Michael Chavis.

The Bad

As much as Fangraphs may have some optimism about Cannon tapping into more power as a pro, they are clearly the highest on him. Other scouts are not as confident in the power playing up. Baseball America calls his power tool “fringe-average” while MLB Pipeline put a 45 grade on it. BA also notes that his approach at the plate is very pull-heavy, and that combined with a relative lack of power could make him very susceptible to being beaten by the shift. It’s also worth noting that while the scouting reports see him developing into a fine defensive player, Cannon made 18 errors this year. That suggests there’s plenty of development to be done on that side of the ball as well.

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He’d been connected to them for a week now

The Red Sox had to wait quite some time to make their first selection in this 2019 amateur draft, both in terms of picks and time. It took four hours and fifteen minutes for the draft to reach Boston with the 43rd overall pick, but when they finally made it they selected a college infielder. Their first selection this year was Cameron Cannon out of the University of Arizona. Cannon was ranked 94th on Baseball America’s Top 500 Prospect list, 48th on Fangraphs’ list and 79th on MLB Pipeline’s.

Cannon is the second University of Arizona infielder selected by the Red Sox in recent years, with Bobby Dalbec being taken in 2017. He was announced as a shortstop when he was selected, but nobody really sees him sticking at that position. He played third base in college and scouts see him as someone who could potentially play at the hot corner or at second base moving forward. Wherever he ends up, it’s the bat that will highlight his profile. It’s his hit tool that really stands out, with his power being average at best and mostly being graded as below average. The Red Sox have apparently been looking at him for a bit, though. Fangraphs had him going to Boston at this spot in both of their mocks that went beyond the first round.

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They’ve struggled to get early runs, and it’s making games more stressful more often than it should be.

The constant around the Red Sox this year has obviously been the search for differences between this year’s team and the historic 2018 roster. The names are essentially the same, but the results have clearly been much, much difference. We knew there would be some regression coming just by the law of averages, but it’s been much more extreme than we could have imagined. The drop-off between the two years is large enough that there are clearly a multitude of reasons for the decline. That said, to the naked eye one of the biggest differences has been the lack of offense early. It seemed that in 2018 the lineup made a habit of jumping on a pitcher early and burying an opponent in the first half of the game. This was an underrated skill, as the ability to play relatively stress-free baseball in the second half of many games is something that can help save some fatigue later in the year.

In 2019, however, they’ve failed to come up with the same ability to smell blood and go for the kill. On the whole, the offense has been mostly fine. They certainly haven’t been on the same level as last year, but generally speaking we again knew some regression was coming. As a team the Red Sox are sixth in runs scored this year and ninth in wRC+. Even with the solid rankings, though, it still feels like something is lacking.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Part of the issue, particularly recently, is that they haven’t been able to string together hits in the same way they were last year. They’ve been able to get some runners on base and perhaps get one across the plate, but it’s been harder to come by sustained rallies in 2019. With runners in scoring position, the Red Sox have a .784 OPS that puts them right in the middle of the pack. Furthermore, they have a tOPS+ of 102, which means they’ve been two percent better with runners in scoring position than they’ve been in all other situations. That seems fine on the surface, but consider that having runners in scoring position generally means the pitcher isn’t very good and/or is struggling at that given moment. Pretty much every time is better with runners in scoring position than not. So, that 102 tOPS+ isn’t as strong as it seems on the surface and is actually in the bottom-third of the league for the season.

It’s not just the performance with runners on base. That has been frustrating, but also seems like something that should mostly sort itself out over time. What’s been even more frustrating and seems like a further deviation from the 2018 team has been the starts they’ve been featuring in games. Last year, the Red Sox were among the best teams in baseball in OPS over the first three innings of a game. This year, they’ve slid down to the middle of the pack. The first inning in particular has been an issue, as they have the second lowest OPS in all of baseball in the opening frame. Only the Marlins have been worse.

The numbers get worse when you look at when they are facing a starting pitcher. By OPS this season, the Red Sox are 24th in all of baseball the first time they see a starting pitcher in a game. After that, things get much better and they are a top ten offense in baseball when they see a starter for a second time. Going back to tOPS+, they are a whopping 34 percent worse when they first see a starting pitcher than they are in any other situation. Again, the only team who has been worse, relatively speaking, in their first look at a starting pitcher is the Marlins. It goes without saying that comparisons to the Marlins offense in any respect is something a team with playoff dreams would like to avoid.

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

This is not an issue that can be boiled down to just one guy, but there is one player in Andrew Benintendi who most embodies the problem. In his first time seeing a starting pitcher this year, Benintendi is hitting .070/.218/.070. That is not ideal for a guy who has spent much of the year in the leadoff spot. Mookie Betts has been an issue here as well, though, hitting just .157/.246/.275 in these situations. In fact, of the twelve hitters with at least ten plate appearances against starting pitchers, eight have been at least 30 percent worse in their first viewing of the pitcher than any other situation. That, in turn, has led to more close games as things have gone on, which in turn leads to more high-stress games and more pressure being put on the bullpen.

As is generally the case with these situations, identifying the problem is a hell of a lot easier than finding the solution. The only obvious solution I can think of, beyond just doing nothing and hoping this problem sorts itself out, is to shake up the lineup a bit. Alex Cora has already done that, in fact, deciding to put Betts back in the leadoff spot every day. That could be a start, and while it’s not the sabermetrically sound way to build a lineup those things can be overrated at time. Betts obviously succeeded in that role last year, as did the lineup as a hole. Still, it could be argued that they should try something else. Benintendi is struggling right now, and the best way to inject new, early life into the lineup may be to take him out of the top-third against pitchers of all handedness, moving either Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers into the top-third. If Betts is settling in as the leadoff hitter, which appears to be the plan, the best way to roll for the near-future in my eyes would be to follow him with Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Devers.

Obviously there’s no guarantees, and it should be mentioned that Betts and Bogaerts are two guys who have struggled mightily early in games, but that slight adjustment could add new life to this team early in games. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter when runs are scored as long as the game ends with Boston having more than their opponents. Still, over the course of a long season it helps tremendously to have as many easy victories as possible. That’s something this 2019 Red Sox team has been missing, and they need to find a way to get that early offense back if they want to get more stress-free baseball into their lives.

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Is this team really a true talent .500 ball club?

On today’s episode of the show Keaton and I begin to look at where the Red Sox stand after 59 games. Is this team really the .500 ball club their record says they are? If so what deficiencies are holding them back? Conversely, is this team a sleeping giant that just needs to start clicking on all cylinders in order to climb right back in this pennant race? In order to look at this deeper Keaton and I dig into data from the beginning of May to check on how individuals are performing and where the team’s biggest weaknesses lie. We also give you updates on multiple roster moves set off by both performance issues and injuries. We discuss whether or not it was the right move to switch Mookie Betts back to leadoff, and if Michael Chavis can adjust to hit high heat.

Thanks for listening to the show, please subscribe to the show on iTunes, Stitcher, or anywhere else you get your podcasts. If you enjoy the show, tell us how great we are with a five star review. Spread the word about the podcast and share the Red Sox goodness of this upcoming season with your friends and family.

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Happy Monday everyone. The Red Sox have a day off after their win at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. They’ll be traveling to Kansas City for a series against the Royals that begins on Tuesday. That doesn’t mean there is no Red Sox news to which we can pay attention, of course, as Monday marks the start of the draft. Boston doesn’t have a first round pick, but they have two in the second. Both of those selections will be made Monday night. Meanwhile, the Bruins and Blues play the fourth game of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight, with Boston looking for a big 3-1 series lead. There’s also some college baseball action to decide who makes it to the Super Regionals as well as one day MLB game with the Cubs and Angels playing at 4:05 PM ET. Use this space to discuss whatever you’d like. As always, just be nice to each other.

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Three late-game victories down on the farm

Pawtucket W 7-5

Gorkys Hernández, CF: 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 K

Jantzen Witte, 3B: 2-4, 1 HR, 2 R, 1 RBI

Marco Hernandez, SS: 1-4, 2 RBI, 1 K

Josh Ockimey, 1B: 2-4, 1 HR, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K

Rusney Castillo, RF: 1-4, 1 RBI, 2 K

Bryce Brentz, DH: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 K

Jenrry Mejia: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K (24 pitches)

In a game filled with solo home runs for the PawSox, it was a pair of singles that proved to make the difference in this game. Trailing by a run heading into the seventh, Marco Hernandez knocked in two to take the lead on an RBI single before Castillo knocked in Hernadnez for an insurance run. It was the homers we want to talk about today, though, and specifically that of Ockimey. It’s been a big first half for the left-handed first baseman, who has a .218 batting average but a .383 OBP and a .538 SLG to go with it in one of the weirder lines I’ve ever seen. We’ve seen Ockimey have big first halves before so it’s too early to get too excited, but he’s a potential bench and/or platoon player that could be ready as soon as the second half of this season for the Red Sox if the need arises.

Portland G1 W 6-5

Jhon Nunez, C: 2-3, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 RBI

Brett Netzer, 2B: 0-4, 2 K

Bobby Dalbec, 3B/1B: 0-2, 1 BB, 1 R

Tate Matheny, CF: 3-4, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI

Keith Curcio, RF: 3-4, 3 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI

Darwinzon Hernandez: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 9 K (97 pitches)

It was a dramatic one in Portland, too, as the Sea Dogs held a 4-0 lead heading into the sixth before Hernandez imploded in the bottom of that inning to cough up the lead. Fortunately, Matheny and Curcio were there to come up with a couple of big hits to take the lead back in the seventh and hold on from there. For Hernandez, four of the five hits he allowed were in that sixth inning as was one of the walks. Clearly the strikeout stuff is not an issue, but he is still struggling with command and it seems to be getting worse deeper into outings. I have no problem with the attempt to get him to figure it out as a starter, but we’re reaching the point where the conversion to relief should start to take place.

Portland G2 PPD

Salem L 6-9

Jarren Duran, CF: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 R, 1 K

Jagger Rusconi, 2B: 2-5, 1 2B, 1 R, 3 RBI, 1 K

Ryan Fitzgerald, SS: 2-2, 1 2B, 1 RBI

Pedro Castellanos, 1B: 1-5, 1 2B

Victor Acosta, RF: 2-3, 1 BB, 1 R, 1 K

Nick Lovullo, 3B/SS: 2-4, 1 R

Eduard Bazardo: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 K (24 pitches)

Salem had a 6-3 lead heading into the seventh before starter Enmanuel De Jesus and Bazardo combined to allow a six-run inning. For Bazardo, it was a rare misstep this season and the first time he’s allowed multiple runs all season. Even with the rough outing, the 23-year-old still has an ERA well under 2.00. Offensively, the relative slump continues for Duran, who watched his batting average fall under .400 earlier this week and with this game his OPS has fallen below 1.000. The horror!

Greenville W 4-3 (F/10)

Cole Brannen, CF: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 K

Triston Casas, 1B: 0-4, 1 K

Devlin Granberg, DH: 2-3, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 BB, 1 R, 1 K

Alan Marrero, C: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 K

Brandon Howlett, 3B: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K

Chase Shugart: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K (85 pitches)

A dramatic day for the farm ends with a dramatic walk off in extra innings. It was the most unlikely of heroes, too, with Brannen driving in the winning run on a base hit. Speaking of Brannen, I’m not sure he’ll still be up with Greenville with the short-season teams start playing. The former second round pick has not taken any sort of step forward this year, hitting just .183 with a .469 OPS on the year. On a more positive note, Granberg just continues to hit. He’s not a top prospect, but he’s done little but hit since being drafted last season and deserves some attention as long as that continues.

Player of the Day: This was a tough day to pick this fake award, with a lot of players having good games but no one really having that clear, great game. I think it has to go to Tate Matheny, though, who not only helped Portland pull ahead late in their game but also smashed a home run to go with a triple. Matheny is having a weird year, as it feels like I’ve mentioned him a ton but he only has a .652 OPS. He has been much better lately, to be fair, with that OPS jumping up from .389 as recently as May 13.

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Michael Chavis has been huge for the Red Sox since coming up, but teams are starting to attack him with success up in the zone with velocity. He’ll need to adjust to that adjustment. (John Tomase; NBC Sports Boston)

There’s no doubt this season has been frustrating for the Red Sox, but putting all of the blame on Alex Cora makes no sense. (Jen McCaffrey; The Athletic)

Over the weekend, the Red Sox saw a dominant version of Adam Ottavino. He could have been a huge help for Boston this year instead. (Alex Speier; Boston Globe)

Here is how the Red Sox will roll out their rotation in Kansas City. (Christopher Smith; Masslive)

Dan LeVangie was not around for Sunday’s win, as he had more important issues to attend to. (Rob Bradford; WEEI)

The draft starts on Monday, which means teams can now sign Craig Kimbrel and/or Dallas Keuchel without losing a pick. (Boston.com)

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