Red Sox Spring Training Preview: How much improvement should we expect?

It’s been a long winter, but somehow, some way, baseball is already around the corner. As snow melts and temperatures warm up north, the Red Sox and every other MLB team are down south getting ready for the season. The regular season begins on April 1, and leading up to that date I’ll have multiple preview posts out.

That all starts today. I’ll be giving my thoughts on Boston’s offseason moves as well as what the team needs this season to succeed. Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Off-season in Review

Garrett Richards' stuff reminds Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora of  six-time All-Star Kevin Brown; 'This might be cool' - masslive.com
Garrett Richards is at Spring Training with the Red Sox after joining the team this off-season. Photo via Mass Live

The Red Sox will lose outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi as well as multiple relievers, but Chaim Bloom was busy making moves this off-season and managed to bring in a good number of players while still staying under the luxury tax threshold. Here are my thoughts on his signings:

OF Hunter Renfroe

Renfroe was Bloom’s first signing of the offseason. His price was low considering a rough 2020 season. At his worst, Renfroe is still a rotational outfielder and depth piece. At his best, he can be an everyday starter. Considering the depth the Red Sox have added, it’s unclear how much Renfroe will be used, but he’s likely to have a significant role with the team. I’m not huge on this signing. It’s hard to tell how Renfroe will perform and I feel the Red Sox could have gotten more with the money they spent on him. He does have potential to contribute something meaningful to this team though.

UT Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez

Hernandez, a long time Dodger, was one of the top utility players on the free agent market and one of two that the Red Sox signed. The Red Sox will likely give him time at second base and in the outfield. The Red Sox were in need of extra personnel at both of those positions, so a jack of all trades like Hernandez is a great fit for the Sox and he came at a bargain, just $7 million per year. 2020 was a down year at the plate for Hernandez. However, he is normally not only a versatile defender but also a reliable starter at the plate. I think the Sox will try to use Hernandez almost every day, it’s just a matter of where he plays.

SP Garrett Richards

The prime of Richards’ career came in 2014 and 2015 with the Angels, when he posted a 3.19 ERA across 58 starts. Injuries derailed Richards over the next handful of years until he underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2018. Richards returned to the mound in 2020 with the Padres, posting a 4.03 ERA in 10 starts. No, it wasn’t a full on bounce back, but it was impressive for someone coming right back from surgery. I’m expecting him to improve upon that performance this year now that he’s had more time to recover. Early reports out of camp have been optimistic about a Richards bounce back year. This is an underrated signing by Chaim Bloom that will make a big difference for the Sox rotation.

RP Adam Ottavino

Bloom acquired Ottavino from a crowded Yankees bullpen. In Boston I think he has the potential to be a reliable late inning reliever. He had a rough 2020 season, but dominated in both 2018 with the Rockies and 2019 with the Yankees before that. Ottavino will have the chance to rebound this year and potentially even become the Red Sox closer if he’s able to do so.

RP Hirokazu Sawamura

Sawamura is coming straight from Japan, where he was a successful late inning reliever. He’s a low risk signing by the Red Sox as he comes at just $1.2 million per year. He has the potential to compete with Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, and others for the closer role but even if he’s not able to do that, I don’t mind the signing at that price. I think the Red Sox could have done more to seek out a true closer, but there are some decent options in the current bullpen.

OF Franchy Cordero

Cordero came to the Red Sox in the Andrew Benintendi trade. I expect him to get some playing time as an outfielder, especially in lefty-heavy lineups. Cordero has showed potential in his career thus far but hasn’t had a big break through yet. Until that happens, he’ll be limited to a rotational role. He provides good depth in the outfield though.

UT Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez, the long time Astros super-utility, has spent the last couple of years in with the Twins. He has regressed since his Astros days, but he’s still a versatile player and a reliable utility guy. This signing didn’t make too much sense after the signing of another utility player in Hernandez. However, the Red Sox still needed more depth and this is one way to add it.

What the Team Needs to Succeed

Red Sox re-hire Alex Cora as manager despite cheating scandal
Alex Cora was re-hired as manager of the Red Sox after a one year suspension. Photo via USA Today

Last year was an ugly one for the Red Sox. However, Alex Cora is back and this roster is very different from what it was last year. When I look at this roster, I see an average team, but I also see the potential for more (or less).

At their best, this team can compete for a wild card. The lineup contains big names like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez in addition to lots of depth. I don’t expect many traditional positional battles in the lineup, as I expect Cora to experiment with different lineups as he utilizes the versatility of Hernandez, Gonzalez, and others.

The rotation looks to be stronger than it was last year. Eduardo Rodriguez is back and Chris Sale should return by June or July. Behind those guys are Nathan Eovaldi and new addition Garrett Richards. The Sox will have the option to use a promising youngster in Tanner Houck, returning veteran Martin Perez, and/or failed Phillies starter Nick Pivetta to round out the rotation. The Sox will likely make their decision on the starting five in Fort Myers. If everyone plays at their best, this could be a great rotation, but that would be a big ask considering Sale is coming off Tommy John surgery and E-Rod is coming off a lost 2020 season due to myocarditis.

The bullpen doesn’t have a clear cut closer now that Brandon Workman is gone, but has late inning options in Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, and Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura. The Sox would be an even better bet to succeed if they added another bat through free agency, but there aren’t many guys left on the market and they can probably piece together a strong season without that.

The Red Sox aren’t going all in on contention yet. They aren’t rebuilding either though. This is a year in which they have a chance to find their footing and gain momentum towards future playoff runs. If they can craft good lineups utilizing the rotational players they have and some of their starters rebound, they do have a chance to be a wild card team, but I’m not necessarily expecting that. I’m expecting an improvement from last year, but that improvement could range anywhere from simply surpassing the Orioles in the AL East to snagging a playoff berth.

I’ll have an official MLB predictions post out later in the spring, so stay tuned for that to see where I have the Red Sox finishing.

2020 Sports: Which changes from this year should stick around?

2020 was not an easy year for the sports world.  From March to July, there were no sports.  Sports looked very different in the second half of the year.  Some of these differences should stick, while others will not.  Below is a change I liked and a change that I didn’t like so much for each of the four major US sports. 

MLB

What Should Stick Around: Universal DH

The concept of universal DH has been in talks for years.  2020’s modified schedule involving more inter-league play was just the final factor that convinced the MLB to implement it.  Before universal DH, it was almost like Major League Baseball was two separate leagues.  The World Series was a matchup of an AL champion and NL champion who got there playing slightly different versions of the game.  The NL champions tended to have more pitching because they didn’t need as good of a lineup, while the AL champions usually had to have strong lineups.  The NL is still more pitcher-heavy than the AL, but at least this unites the MLB under one rulebook.  It was long overdue, and it needs to stay this way.  

What Should be Left Behind: The Endless Negotiating

The MLB could have started the season safely as early as the end of June and they would have the whole sports market to themselves for about a month.  Instead, they delayed the start of the season even more because of what was essentially a lockout.  Rob Manfred did not handle the preseason negotiations well, and in the process he probably lost some MLB fans.  If the MLB and MLBPA don’t get their act together and come to faster agreements, it could jeopardize the long term success of professional baseball.  The financial toll on the league is already having an impact, as this off-season seems to be even slower than previous baseball off-seasons.  Most of the top free agents are still available (I’ll have an article about that out soon).

NFL

What Should Stick Around: Expanded Playoffs

The 14-team playoff bracket causes more exciting late-season action and allows more teams to stay competitive throughout the year.  Only the worst of the worst have really given up on this season, and even they might still be trying if it weren’t for Trevor Lawrence.  The expanded playoffs also make the #1 seed more valuable, as only the #1 seed gets a first round bye.  The only bad idea surrounding these expanded playoffs?  That would be putting one of the extra wild card games on Nickelodeon to try to get more kids interested.  Plenty of kids watch football without Nick having to get involved.

What Should be Left Behind: The Lack of a Preseason

While the season generally went well without a preseason, there were definitely more injuries than usual.  Teams with lackluster offensive lines were especially vulnerable, like the Giants (who lost RB Saquon Barkley to an ACL tear) and Bengals (who lost rookie QB Joe Burrow to an ACL tear and RB Joe Mixon to a foot iniury).  In addition, many talented rookies, such as Vikings WR Justin Jefferson, got off to extremely slow starts.  Jefferson posted an 1000 yard season and even broke some of Randy Moss’ Vikings WR rookie records, but he barely participated at all in the first two games of the year.  Yes, the preseason should be cut down a bit, but I think you need to have at least a couple preseason games to get the players ready to go.  I’d propose a two game preseason, one preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the season, and one preseason game prior to roster cut down day.  

NBA

What Should Stick Around: The 2020-2021 Schedule

I’ve got to be honest with you all, I like this year’s NBA schedule more than the normal NBA schedule.  Shifting the start of the season to Christmas is smart, as the NBA playoffs can cut into sports viewership ratings during the dog days of summer when baseball is the only other sport on TV.  Having a different season timeline than the NHL and stretching across winter, spring, and summer makes the NBA a little more unique than other leagues.  Who knows, maybe outdoor summer playoff games are in the NBA’s future.  In addition, I like the simple breakdown of the schedule: 2 games against every team in the other conference and 3 games against every team in your own conference.  Divisions in the NBA are barely utilized to begin with, and shifting to a more balanced conference schedule without extra division play is a smart idea.  

What Should be Left Behind: Universal Location Playoffs

The NBA bubble worked extremely well during the pandemic.  It’s not going to work in the future.  The lack of home-field advantage was probably a factor in the insane amount of upsets in the NBA bubble.  Yes, a universal location playoffs might be a good way to check the power of super teams, but taking away home field advantage entirely is not the answer.  I think the NBA bubble may have given an unfair advantage to certain teams.  Lowering the salary cap might be a better idea.

NHL

What Should Stick Around: The Realigned Divisions

I actually really like the idea of an all-Canadian division.  It was utilized this year to minimize border crossing, but it’s also going to revive classic Canadian hockey rivalries.  It’s not going to work when the Seattle Kraken join the league, but the Arizona Coyotes were already going to have to change divisions.  Why not stick with this realignment, put Seattle in the Western Division, and have the Coyotes pack their bags and relocate to Quebec City?  The Coyotes don’t have a very good hockey market in Phoenix.  In Quebec City, there are more hockey fans, and the Videotron Centre would easily be able to host an NHL team.  I could see the North Division sticking around if the Coyotes move to Quebec. It may take a couple years, but I think the all-Canadian division should return in future seasons.

What Goes: The 24 Team Playoffs

Some of the teams in the NHL’s bubble did not deserve to be there.  I don’t think there’s any reason to expand the NHL playoffs.  16 teams is plenty in what’s soon to be a 32 team league.  If anything it’s too easy to make the NHL playoffs, but the 16 team bracket works.  If they realign the league like I was talking about, they could even make the playoff bracket a four quadrant bracket by division (like they did in the NHL bubble) and make a big event out of the “Final Four” with the four divisional round winners.  

To Conclude…

2020 has forced and inspired a lot of change in the sports world.  Along the same lines, this website is about to undergo some change.  At certain points during the year, I didn’t have much to post about, and I think the entire sports world is ready to move on from this crazy year.  To begin 2021, I will be upgrading to WordPress Premium and changing my URL from andrewr1008.wordpress.com to simply be bostonsportsmania.com.  This is to make my website more accessible by making the URL easier to remember.  I may make some other changes to the site and start with some new kinds of posts as well, so be on the lookout as 2021 begins.  In the meantime, I hope you all have an enjoyable and safe New Year’s Eve.

MLB Trade Deadline: What Red Sox, other teams should do

The Red Sox return to the field to this weekend following a boycott due to longstanding systemic racism in America. But they may be in their final days before some significant changes to their roster. The MLB trade deadline is coming up, and as a 10-21 team, the Red Sox are likely to be one of a handful of sellers. However, the Red Sox are in a different situation compared to other teams with a similar record.

Teams like the Orioles, Royals, Tigers, Mariners, Giants, and Pirates are in the midst of multi-year rebuilding phases. Teams like the Angels and Red Sox, who are also struggling mightily, are likely out of contention for this year, but could contend in the near future if they make some moves to put them in that position. No, I’m not suggesting the Red Sox should buy at the deadline. But there’s a certain way to go about selling that could allow the Sox to contend in the next year or two.

Chaim Bloom is not new to situations like this. He rebuilt the Rays very quickly, in just a couple of years, by trading older players for underrated players on the verge of cracking the majors, also known as 4A players.

Next year, the Red Sox will have Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez back to join Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. In addition, prospects like Jeter Downs, Bobby Dalbec, Jarren Duran, Tanner Houck, and Bryan Mata are on the cusp of cracking the majors. With a couple good trades, the Red Sox can keep the future bright by adding some younger players in exchange for older players with soon expiring contracts.

I think the team needs to build around four players, and it appears that the front office agrees. These four players are SS Xander Bogaerts, 3B Rafael Devers, OF Alex Verdugo, and C Christian Vazquez. Devers and Verdugo are younger players who can contribute a lot to this lineup for years to come. Bogaerts is our superstar, and he’s in his second year of an 8 year contract. Vazquez is a top 5 catcher in this league, and would be hard to replace.

You could make a case to trade OF/DH J.D. Martinez, as he has a player option at the end of the season. He’ll likely want to stick with his $22 million per year contract though, and he can put up good production for this lineup in 2021 and 2022. It would also be unwise to trade starting pitchers, as starting pitching has been our downfall.

But there are a handful of players we could trade. Below I have proposed two trades the Red Sox should make at this year’s deadline:

Red Sox: Mitch Moreland is making the best out of the MLB shutdown
1B Mitch Moreland could be traded by the Red Sox at this year’s deadline.

  • Twins get: 1B Mitch Moreland
  • Red Sox get: SP Devin Smeltzer, MiLB P Dakota Chalmers

  • Padres get: OF Jackie Bradley Jr.
  • Red Sox get: RP Adrian Morejon, MiLB OF Jeisson Rosario

I’ll explain each of these trades. So, the Twins are legitimate World Series contenders with a pretty balanced roster. However, they have needed to use a platoon of other infielders at first base, including Miguel Sano and Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a utility guy, and Sano could be used at third base until Josh Donaldson returns. Donaldson and Gonzalez also both have experience at second base, where youngster Luis Arraez starts most days. Having a true first baseman like Moreland adds more depth to this Twins lineup and allows them more flexibility. Moreland is under contract for this year and he has a club option for next year too.

In return, I have the Red Sox receiving SP Devin Smeltzer and pitching prospect Dakota Chalmers. The Twins have a lot of young pitching talent, a group that is headlined by Jose Berrios, Randy Dobnak, and prospects Jhoan Duran and Lewis Thorpe. They can afford to give up Smeltzer, who is a capable mid to back end starter but likely no more than that. Him and Chalmers are valuable for the Sox though, who are in desperate need of pitching depth. Smeltzer could be given his chance in the Sox rotation right away and be considered for the #5 spot next year when Sale and E-Rod return. Chalmers is a longer term investment but should be ready for 2021.

The second trade is a smaller one, in which the Red Sox send OF Jackie Bradley Jr. to the Padres. With Tommy Pham hurt, the Padres could use more OF depth. In turn, they can give Boston young reliever Adrian Morejon as well as OF prospect Jeisson Rosario. Rosario, however, would have to be classified as a player to be named later, since he is not in the Padres 60-man player pool.

With JBJ leaving, the Sox still have Kevin Pillar for the rest of the year. But they could try and work current OF prospect Jarren Duran into the mix. For San Diego, these are both expendable players, so the trade would be worth it for both sides. The Sox can start Michael Chavis at first down the road while using Jose Peraza among others at second. Soon, they’ll also have Downs and Dalbec to work with in this infield, and there’s no harm in giving them some MLB experience this year if need be. I could also see pitching prospect Tanner Houck making his debut.

I’ve also included three other potential trades that could happen around the league:

1. Braves acquire SP Kevin Gausman

  • Braves get: SP Kevin Gausman
  • Giants get: C Alex Jackson, MiLB P Daysbel Hernandez, MiLB OF Greyson Jenista

Like Rosario in the Sox-Padres deal, Hernandez and Jenista would need to be classified as players to be named later. But the Braves could absolutely contend for a title with some more starting pitchers, and they are familiar with Gausman, who’s one of the better options on the In return, the Giants get three young players, including C Alex Jackson. With Buster Posey getting older by the day, the Giants would be smart to add more young catching options alongisde Joey Bart. The Giants could theoretically buy at the deadline, but I don’t see them as being in a good spot to make the playoffs, and Gausman is in a contract year so he’s somewhat expendable, especially with all the young pitching talent in the Giants system right now.

2. Dodgers acquire 2B Jonathan Schoop

  • Dodgers get: 2B Jonathan Schoop
  • Tigers get: MiLB OF D.J. Peters, MiLB P Edwin Uceta, MiLB P Brett de Geus

The Dodgers haven’t gotten much production out of 2B Gavin Lux, and it seems he needs more time to develop. Acquiring a rental second baseman would not be a bad idea for the Dodgers. In return, the Tigers get three lower end prospects, one of which (de Geus) would need to be a player to be named later. Peters could contribute right away for Detroit, while the others would need more development.

3. Brewers upgrade rotation, catching staff

  • Brewers get: SP Julio Teheran, C Jason Castro
  • Angels get: 2B Luis Urias, MiLB P Trey Supak, MiLB P Zack Brown, MiLB C Payton Henry, MiLB P Alec Bettinger

The Brewers are right around .500 right now. If they want to contend, they need to upgrade their starting rotation. Teheran has struggled this year, but a change of scenery might be what he needs to bounce back. I also have the Brewers getting Castro here, as C Omar Narvaez has not lived up to expectations at the plate. In turn, I have the Angels getting a package of 5 young players, all of which are ready or almost ready to play in the majors and are in Milwaukee’s player pool. Urias will be joining his third team in two years, adding depth to the infield. Supak, Brown, and Bettinger will help brighten the Angels future as they could all be future rotation contributors. Henry is a longer term catching option for the Angels, and he’s not even Milwaukee’s top catching prospect so he’s expendable.

That’s all for my coverage of this year’s trade deadline. I’m intrigued to see what the Red Sox and other teams will do, and I’m intrigued to see what will differ from normal at the deadline in this unique season. Be sure to check out my updated MLB power rankings and MLB update podcast from last week.

Update on the MLB 15-20 Games in: Podcast, Power Rankings

We’re about a third of the way through this shortened baseball season, and already, the contenders are separating themselves from the pretenders. I went on another episode of my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, “The Master Plan”, to discuss the state of each MLB team at this point in the season and talk about teams that have surprised us. Teams like the Rockies have exceeded our expectations, while teams like the Angels and our hometown Red Sox have struggled more than we expected. You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify with the links below:

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/mlb-update-podcast-find-out-why-red-sox-stink-andrew/id1495662343?i=1000488294222

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4J5fdqnOIosOz8KkGqdck1

I’ve also included my current MLB power rankings. These rankings are a combo of my updated projections and my reaction to the performance of teams so far this year. Check them out below:

Note: Records as of August 18, 2020 at 12:00 PM EST

1
New York Yankees
(16-6)
They got off to a really strong start. Despite injuries to Stanton, Judge, and LeMahieu after dominance at the plate, they’ve won 6 in a row to stay comfortably atop the AL East and remain one of the top teams in the league.
2
Los Angeles Dodgers
(17-7)
Kershaw came back from his injury looking good as new, and Dustin May is also throwing the ball very well. Bellinger has struggled all year, but the rest of the lineup has made up for it. Betts, Seager, Pollock, and Turner led this team to surge to the top of the NL West this past week.
3
Minnesota Twins
(15-8)
The Twins have one of the most balanced rosters in the league, but their success has been driven by a few surprise standouts. Nelson Cruz has been playing as if he’s in his prime, and starters Randy Dobnak and Kenta Maeda have performed surprisingly well.
4
Atlanta
Braves
(14-10)
The Braves have been very streaky, losing 4 in a row before taking their last 3. The team has been hitting the ball very well, and Swanson is having a career year. The rotation has been riddled by injuries, but Max Fried has been dominant so far, and they’ll be better if they can get similar success from other pitchers.
5
Chicago Cubs
(14-7)
Despite losing Quintana and Chatwood to injury, the rotation has been on fire. In addition, OF Ian Happ is having a breakout year. This has led the Cubs to what’s arguably their best season since 2016.
6
Oakland
Athletics
(16-7)
This team started slow but they are 13-3 since the start of August. Much of last year’s core has struggled but Grossman, Laureano, and Canha have had career years. Meanwhile, Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt have led a strong rotation filled with young talent.
7
Tampa Bay Rays
(14-9)
The Rays have taken 9 of their last 10, a stretch that included a sweep of the Red Sox. Brandon Lowe has only improved upon his strong rookie year, and fellow infielder Willy Adames has also been hitting well. The rotation struggles have held them back though.
8
Cleveland Indians (13-9)
The White Sox have been streaky, and Detroit came back down to Earth after a strong start. This allowed Cleveland to take second place in the division. Shane Bieber has led the pitching staff to dominance. Lindor has struggled at the plate, but power hitters Franmil Reyes and Jose Ramirez are making up for it.
9
Chicago White Sox
(12-11)
They started slow but are starting to put things together after a big off-season. Young stars Moncada, Jimenez, and Robert are starting to hit the ball well. Keuchel has proven to be a worthwhile addition, and Giolito and Cease have pitched well despite occassional rough days.
10
Houston Astros
(12-10)
They were never punished for cheating, but they have been hit by a lot of pitches and got into two bench clearing brawls. Correa and Gurriel are still hitting well, but much of this lineup has struggled after the scandal. The rotation is lacking depth despite the success of Greinke and Framber Valdez.
11
New York Mets
(10-14)
We hear the same story year after year here: tons of talent, lack of execution. This team has hit the ball rather well, and the young David Peterson has made for a dynamic rotation duo with deGrom. But the Mets have blown many games this year, and rotation depth is a concern too. They have had a tough schedule though, and that will get easier.
12
San Diego
Padres
(12-12)
Fernando Tatis Jr. has had an MVP-caliber year so far, and Wil Myers and Trent Grisham have backed him up in the lineup. The young rotation has also met expectations. They did recently lose 5 in a row though, which was because of bullpen struggles without closer Kirby Yates and a good stretch by the D-Backs.
13
St. Louis Cardinals (5-5)
The Cardinals are behind schedule this season due to a COVID outbreak, but they’ve done alright in the games they have played. The rotation has a good balance of youth and experience, and Paul Goldschmidt has returned to prominence at the plate. They’ll be competing for second place in their division.
14
Cincinnati Reds
(9-11)
They made some serious upgrades this off-season, and it hasn’t made a huge difference so far but this team has showed promise. Winker and newcomer Nick Castellanos have led the lineup. The rotation has done well, but its inconsistencies has held the team back. Eugenio Suarez’s slump has also been a major setback.
15
Colorado Rockies (13-9)
So far, everything has gone right for Colorado. The young rotation is playing to the best of their ability. Arenado and Story have been strong as usual at the plate, and Blackmon has done especially well, batting .429. The question is whether they can keep this up, as they fell apart late into last season.
16
Arizona Diamondbacks (12-11)
The D-Backs have played some very competitive baseball. But they’re stuck in a division with the Dodgers, Padres, and Rockies who are all performing well too. All three starting outfielders (Marte, Peralta, and Calhoun) have hit the ball well, and the young Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly have been near unstoppable on the mound.
17
Washington Nationals
(8-12)
The problems here go beyond the absences of Juan Soto and Stephen Strasburg. Soto has mashed 7 homers since his return, and Scherzer and Corbin have pitched well with Strasburg out. Rotation depth is a growing concern, and with Rendon gone the Nats lack other good bats around Soto.
18
Texas Rangers (10-11)
Everyone knew Lance Lynn could pitch well, but he’s been unbelievably good. However, their other pitchers are struggling and aside from Gallo, the lineup has underperformed. This team has been a .500 team so far, as I expected. But their season could go in either direction from here.
19
Milwaukee Brewers
(10-10)
Yelich is starting to rebound from early struggles, and the rotation has done better than I expected. But Milwaukee will need to continue to impress if they want to secure a playoff spot.
20
Los Angeles Angels (8-15)
Trout and Rendon have been living up to expectations, and the rotation is a bit better than last year. But a bad bullpen and inconsistent pitching as a whole has led this team to a rough start that has included some embarrassing losses.
21
Toronto Blue Jays (8-11)
The Blue Jays lineup is loaded with young talent. Grichuk, Biggio, Hernandez, and Bichette have led them. Pitching is still a concern though. Ryu has been good but was better in LA. Pearson had a nice debut but hasn’t been able to replicate it.
22
Philadelphia Phillies (8-9)
Bryce Harper is finally playing like a $30 million/year player, and J.T. Realmuto has done just as well. Nola and Wheeler are a nice duo atop the rotation. But this team is seriously lacking in the depth department, and won’t contend unless that improves.
23
Boston Red Sox (6-17)
The rotation has been among the league’s worst since Sale and E-Rod are out for the year. The lineup has showed promise, but Devers has failed to replicate his 2019 success. Despite the talent of Moreland, Verdugo, and Bogaerts, execution has been a problem. Putting together a good season with this bad a rotation takes even better hitting and better execution.
24
Miami Marlins (9-7)
Despite being sidelined with a COVID outbreak, Miami has been surprisingly good so far. However, they haven’t beaten out any top teams, and nearly half of their wins came against Baltimore. Don’t let the early success and the strong record mislead you. Starters Elieser Hernandez and Pablo Lopez have been pleasant surprises, but I’m not buying this team as a contending team yet.
25
Detroit Tigers
(9-11)
They fought for second place in their division after giving the Reds a very hard time. They’ve seen OF JaCoby Jones and SP Spencer Turnbull break out. I think they’ll beat out Kansas City, but can’t see them contending quite yet, even after the Mize call-up.
26
Kansas City Royals (9-14)
The Royals have essentially performed how most expected them to. They’ve had their moments despite overall struggles. They did give the Twins a good challenge, but I don’t see any reason to move them higher than this.
27
San Francisco Giants (9-16)
Like the Royals, the Giants have had their moments. But every other team in their division has the capacity to contend for a playoff spot. Even with Mike Yastrzemski and Donovan Solano posting career years, I expect the Giants to remain in the division’s basement.
28
Baltimore Orioles (12-10)
Don’t let Baltimore’s record fool you. The best team they’ve succeeded against is Washington, and that was when Soto and Strasburg were both out. They were swept in a 4 game series by the Marlins, and that’s not a good sign. I don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to contention by the end of August.
29
Seattle Mariners
(7-17)
I didn’t expect much from Seattle this year, and they haven’t done much as they’re in the midst of a rebuild. Kyle Seager has been good, and Kyle Lewis, Dylan Moore, and Marco Gonzales have showed promise. But this team just doesn’t have many proven players yet.
30
Pittsburgh Pirates (4-14)
I thought Josh Bell would be a bright spot for this team, but he’s struggled to repeat his 2019 numbers. The rotation is banged up and the lineup just doesn’t have much talent, so I can’t see the Pirates doing much of anything this year.

That’s all for my latest update on this MLB season. The first quarter of the season is complete, and it’s starting to become clear who will buy and who will sell at the deadline. Stay tuned for my article about the strategy the Red Sox and other selling teams in their position should go through with.

Pitching struggles as Sox lose series, Sox play Mets next

After an encouraging 13-2 win on Opening Day, the Red Sox dropped 2 straight against the Orioles, losing the series.

Their losses were primarily a result of pitching struggles. After Nathan Eovaldi’s strong start on Friday, Martin Perez gave up 5 runs in 5 innings on Saturday as the Sox fell 7-2. Boston’s only runs that day came from a solo shot by Mitch Moreland and a few base hits that followed. Alex Verdugo did go 3 for 4 in his debut, and J.D. Martinez and JBJ also hit well. But it just wasn’t enough as Perez struggled and Orioles veteran starter Alex Cobb looked like his old self, shutting down most of the Sox lineup in the first 5 innings.

The Sox lineup showed more signs of life on Sunday. But the team couldn’t score enough to recover from the struggles of starter Ryan Weber, who gave up 6 runs in 4 innings.

In the 1st inning, Rio Ruiz hit his 2nd homer of the year off of Weber, a 2 run shot that went all the way to the Orioles bullpen. Christian Vazquez responded in the bottom of the 2nd by crushing one over the monster. In the 3rd, it was a Jose Iglesias double that drove in a run for Baltimore. Iglesias went 4 for 5 on the day after giving Red Sox pitchers a hard time throughout the series. In the 4th, Weber gave up a handful of hits and walks. A run was driven in on a sac fly by Austin Hays, and that was followed by a 2 run homer into right by Anthony Santander.

The Sox started to climb their way back into the game in the 5th and 6th. Kevin Pillar hit another solo shot over the monster in the 5th. In the 6th, JBJ started things off with a base hit and advanced to third on a Rafael Devers double. Bogaerts drove in both of them with a single, his only hit of the day. He nearly hit an opposite field homer earlier in the game, but it was just short.

The Red Sox ended up losing Sunday’s game 7-4. They are now 1-2 after the series with Baltimore. Losing a three game series to one of the league’s worst teams at Fenway is not an encouraging sign for the Red Sox. This series will mean more than usual, as this series counts for almost 6 losses in my MLB PACE Standings. But the team will have a chance to rebound in a home and home series against the Mets.

With Eduardo Rodriguez hurt, the Sox plan to use Josh Osich as an opener today at Fenway, while the Mets will start Michael Wacha. Tomorrow at Fenway, both teams will have a starting pitching dilemma as the Mets are without Marcus Stroman and the Sox lack starting pitching depth.

Wednesday and Thursday’s games will take place at Citi Field. Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob deGrom take the mound on Wednesday, followed by Martin Perez and Steven Matz on Thursday. How many games can Boston win against the Mets? Will they be unable to rebound if they struggle in this series? Will the season even continue, as two of today’s games (Yankees-Phillies and Orioles-Marlins) are canceled due to a Marlins COVID outbreak? This next week could be very telling for the fate of the MLB season and the fate of the Red Sox if the season continues.

Martinez, new bats lead Sox on Opening Day

The Sox started off their season strong on Friday when they took down the Orioles 13 to 2, in a game where they hit 8 doubles and four of their batters had at least 3 hits.

Nathan Eovaldi looked sharp, pitching 6 full innings. He didn’t allow a run until the 6th when Anthony Santander doubled into the left field corner and Renato Nunez did the same to score Santander. The only other Orioles run was scored in the 7th, when Rio Ruiz hit a solo shot.

While Eovaldi’s pitching was better than we’ve seen in a while, it was the Red Sox lineup that led the way in this easy victory.

The game was scoreless through two innings and included an excellent leaping catch by new Sox OF Kevin Pillar. But the Red Sox knocked out Orioles starter Tommy Milone after scoring 4 runs in the 3rd. It started with an opposite field double by left handed hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. Righty and newcomer Jose Peraza hit another similar looking double into left to score JBJ. J.D. Martinez hit another double that scored Peraza.

Milone walked 3B Rafael Devers, and a wild pitch allowed both Devers and Martinez to advance into scoring position. It was yet another similar double into left, this time by Kevin Pillar, that scored both of them and made it 4-0.

Reliever Cody Carroll came in for Milone to start the 4th, and he walked consecutive batters before a Jose Peraza hit loaded the bases. Carroll’s troubles finding the plate continued when he walked Andrew Benintendi to make it 5-0 Red Sox. Ex-Red Sox reliever Travis Lakins came in to face Martinez with the bases still loaded. Martinez hit an opposite field shot deep into right field, and it nearly left the park for a grand slam. He ended up with a ground rule double to knock in two more runs.

But that wasn’t the end of it for this huge 4th inning. Xander Bogaerts got on base and knocked in an additional run. Kevin Pillar also got his second hit of the day to score another. Christian Vazquez made it 10-0 with his own RBI single. After 6 runs, Lakins finally made it out of the inning by striking out consecutive Red Sox.

The Sox added to their lead in the 6th inning, an inning started by a second ground rule double, this time by Vazquez. JBJ hit another double into the left field corner to score Vazquez, and Peraza got his second double and third hit of the day, scoring JBJ on another shot into the left field corner.

The Red Sox finished the day without a home run, but they made up for it with 8 extra base hits (all doubles), 2 of which were ground rule doubles. Newcomers Pillar and Peraza each had three hit days in addition to DH J.D. Martinez and OF Jackie Bradley Jr. Ironically, the Sox did this with Mitch Moreland, nicknamed Mitchy 2-Bags, sitting on the bench.

It was really exciting to see all these big hits on Opening Day, even though it is against Baltimore and expectations for the rest of the season are low. If the Sox can beat Baltimore 13-2, maybe their big bats will be able to make some noise against top contenders like the Yankees and Braves.

The Sox continue their series against Baltimore with a day game today. Martin Perez will be on the mound for Boston, and Moreland is back in the lineup but Bogaerts will have the day off. In addition, Alex Verdugo, who came here in the Mookie Betts trade, will make his Red Sox debut today. The Sox will hope to have another strong day at the plate with Alex Cobb on the mound for Baltimore. Will Verdugo’s debut be anything like Pillar and Peraza’s?

Predicting the Shortened 2020 MLB Season: AL and NL West

Baseball is back tomorrow, and before the season begins, my cousin Michael Philopkosky and I have put out one more MLB prediction podcast, covering the AL and NL West. We covered the AL and NL East in the first one, and the AL and NL Central in the one released on Sunday. All of them were released as a part of his podcast, the Master Plan. You can listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify at the links below:

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/al-and-nl-west-predictions-for-the-2020-mlb-season/id1495662343?i=1000485744926

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0Ub7QPMIQvZXgQc3t80LsQ

This episode is sponsored by Anchor, the software Michael has used to record his podcasts.

I have added both of our standings predictions below alongside my brief breakdown of each of these 10 squads. Keep reading to check that out, as well as a special surprise at the end.

Continue reading

Predicting the Shortened 2020 MLB Season: AL and NL Central

We’re just a few days away from the return of baseball, and today, the second episode of my 2020 MLB prediction podcast series with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky, was released as a part of his podcast, the Master Plan. After covering the AL and NL East in the first one, we covered the AL and NL Central in the second one.

You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify using the links below:

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/al-nl-central-predictions-for-2020-mlb-season-andrew/id1495662343?i=1000485436003

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/21plmNvVQXzPR2H1SmDDbu

In addition, I have added both of our standings predictions below alongside my brief breakdown of each of these 10 squads. Keep reading to check that out.

Continue reading

Predicting the Shortened 2020 MLB Season: AL and NL East

We are a little over a week away from the start of the MLB season, which will make baseball the first of America’s 4 major sports leagues to return after pausing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the first of a three episode 2020 MLB prediction podcast series with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky, was released as a part of his podcast, the Master Plan. This episode covered the AL and NL East, as teams will only be playing divisional match-ups and match-ups against teams in the corresponding NL division.

You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify using the links below:

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/mlb-al-nl-east-predictions-for-60-game-mlb-season-andrew/id1495662343?i=1000485080123

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/2uxmuwVDzNCjPbhgq6I10H

In addition, I have added both of our standings predictions below alongside my brief breakdown of each of these 10 squads. Keep reading to check that out.

Continue reading

Sox Treat Me to Behind the Scenes Day at Fenway

On Tuesday July 16th, the Red Sox invited me to job shadow the Red Sox public relations (PR) team before the game for a behind the scenes Fenway experience.  I was able to interact with several members of the PR staff for the Red Sox.  The PR staff is in charge of connecting the media to their sources: players, coaches, general managers, and more.  As an aspiring professional sports reporter, shadowing the PR staff gave me an interesting point of view.  The PR team is involved with nearly everything around the ballpark.

When I arrived at Fenway, I ran into NESN sideline reporter Jahmai Webster:

img_4777

img_4816

Abby Murphy, a member of the PR staff who was key to making my visit possible, met me and my dad at Gate D.  Abby introduced me to Kevin Doyle, who passes out game notes across the park.  Kevin gives them to the media for their broadcasts and articles.  He also delivers them to the coaches and players for game preparation.  He even is responsible for delivering them to the suites of team owners and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski.

Today he brought me along as he passed these out.  First, we went to the NESN studio outside Fenway, where I met Tom Caron of NESN.  He had walked up to the Fenway gates to save Kevin a trip.

After that, we visited the Red Sox and Blue Jays clubhouses.  Kevin dropped off a few in the locker room and quickly stopped by the managers’ offices to drop one off.  I learned later that the quick drop off is intentional as the PR staff tries to avoid disrupting clubhouse activity.  They also allow players privacy by avoiding photo and video during certain hours.  It was cool to stop by there though, as I had never even seen the clubhouse doors before.

Next stop after a quick elevator ride was Fenway’s baseball operations offices.  Dave Dombrowski’s suite was next to these offices, closest to the field.  Dombrowski was busy but Kevin dropped the game notes off at his door in case he needed them later.  Kevin and I also went inside Sam Kennedy’s suite to drop off game notes for the team owners.  Kennedy wasn’t there but the door was open and a member of the Red Sox staff was preparing food already for Kennedy and his guests.

Kevin and I also stopped by the legends suite where one former Red Sox player is hosted every night.  For this game, it was two time AL pennant winner and former outfielder Fred Lynn that would be hosted.

img_4781

The last stop was the press box where game notes were printed and lineups had just been released.  This was only the beginning of my experience though.  After spending some time with Kevin, I headed downstairs and joined Kyle Montemagno for Alex Cora’s pregame press conference.

504add80-ba77-44f9-9b11-26e906a78bc0

Cora discussed Cashner’s debut, Chris Sale’s struggles, and the status of injured players Nathan Eovaldi, Mitch Moreland, and Brian Johnson among other things.  To see the press conference live and sit with all the members of the press was surreal.  Until today, I watched the coverage on NESN but this made me feel like an official press member.

img_4817

Once the Cora press conference was over Kyle took me out on the field to watch batting practice.   Though a lot of media members showed up for the press conference, many went back up to the press box to write pregame articles based on Cora’s comments as opposed to going outside for batting practice.  That allowed me to have a great view near home plate to watch the Sox players.

img_4789

I spent a little bit of time at the credential pick-up booth during peak pick-up time.  Credentials reserved passes for the game for media members as well as friends of players and staff.  The Blue Jays had just announced that Jacob Waguespack would be called up to start, so at the last minute, several members of the Waguespack family hurried over to the game.  Many people who didn’t have reserved passes came to the credential booth thinking they could pick up tickets there.  They told me this happens many times throughout the day.

img_4825

Towards the end of my afternoon, I joined Kyle to take a closer look at the game notes, which he helped create, and then we stopped by the press box to join the rest of the Red Sox media.

img_4791

Check out this short video from outside the press box where I had the opportunity to do a live Fenway “stand-up” to recap my experience:

After this incredible afternoon, the Red Sox made sure I was able to enjoy the game with my entire family, including my cousins and grandparents who had just flown up from Florida on game day.

2d36f1dd-b3e3-4a69-b517-0b089a3b39f5

I’d like to thank Abby Murphy, Chris Cotillo, Kevin Doyle, Felicia Rutigliano, Kevin Hausmann, Kyle Montemagno, and the rest of the Red Sox public relations staff for helping set up this unbelievable experience for me, one I will never forget!