Red Sox Second Half Preview and Midseason MLB Power Rankings

We’re coming off a quiet, yet also busy week in baseball, both for the Red Sox and the rest of the league. The week started off with the MLB draft, in which the Red Sox landed top shortstop prospect Marcelo Mayer. Pete Alonso took home his second straight Home Run Derby, despite impressive performances by two-way star Shohei Ohtani, Coors Field hometown hero Trevor Story, and cancer survivor Trey Mancini among others. Five Red Sox players contributed to the AL’s All Star Game victory, with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers each knocking in a run, Nathan Eovaldi and Matt Barnes each pitching a shutout inning, and J.D. Martinez also batting in the game. Additionally, after strong performances in Worcester, the Red Sox announced that Jarren Duran and Tanner Houck would get the call to the majors. They had been set to join the team in this weekend’s series against the Yankees. With Yankee COVID problems postponing the first game, everything’s up in the air, but when the Red Sox play again, Duran and Houck will be able to make their mark. This is all happening while Chris Sale begins his rehab assignment with the FCL Red Sox.

The first half has come to a close, and I’ve written about my thoughts on the Red Sox’s first half performance as well as what I expect in the second half, from the rest of this month to the trade deadline to the playoffs. I’ve also included my power rankings from the end of June, and while a couple things have changed since then it seems we have already began to establish which teams have a chance at a playoff run.

Red Sox: First Half in Review

Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts climbs franchise list for shortstops with latest  home run

Heading into the year, I was expecting a middle of the road type of season from the Red Sox, but at the same time, I saw a low floor and a high ceiling. In this first half, this team has played close to their ceiling. Martinez, Bogaerts, and Devers have led the way for one of the best lineups in baseball. The team has come up clutch as they lead the league in 2 out runs. Chaim Bloom has hand crafted the outfield that leads the league in outfield assists, bringing in Alex Verdugo in the Mookie Betts trade and signing Hunter Renfroe and Kike Hernandez this past offseason. The rotation has been inconsistent, but it has definitely had its moments. After a rough patch in May and June, Eduardo Rodriguez has began to rebound. Eovaldi was in that All Star Game for a reason, as a healthy season from him has been exciting to watch. Additionally, Nick Pivetta has been able to completely revitalize his career in Boston after struggling to maintain a starting job in Philadelphia. The question in whether the Red Sox can keep playing at this level to secure the AL East victory and make a playoff run.

Red Sox Outlook for the Second Half

Red Sox ace Chris Sale inches closer to return after rehab start - The  Boston Globe

I think what we’ve seen so far this season is the ceiling of what the current Red Sox roster can do. However, there’s more talent on the way. Jarren Duran has a lot of potential between his power and his speed, and he’s a great addition for the outfield that can allow Kike Hernandez to spend more time at other positions and show off his versatility. Tanner Houck can be another talented arm for this rotation. The Red Sox could be looking for ways to further improve the team at the approaching trade deadline. However, what might be the most significant is the fact that Red Sox ace Chris Sale is working his way back to the majors, and could rejoin the team as soon as August. The rotation is decent right now, but adding Sale to it (assuming he can return to pre-injury form) puts the Red Sox at another level. I think the combo of young talent, trades, and the return of Sale can fix some of the issues the team has had and put them in an even better position to contend this October.

The Red Sox do have some tough competition though. The Astros’ lineup has been unstoppable even after the resolution of the cheating scandal. The White Sox rotation has been near unstoppable. The Dodgers, Padres, and Giants are all battling it out for the NL West and could also end up battling it out for a World Series title. Whether the Red Sox win a title is going to come down to how they handle this elite competition. Will they falter against some of the league’s best talent and end up back in the middle of the pack, or will they stand strong and win a ring in a historic season? Boston’s outlook likely falls somewhere in between, but there are lots of possibilities.

Check out my midseason power rankings below. The Nationals have began to slump and the Reds have began to rise since the end of June, but many of these teams are still in the same spot.

Midseason Power Rankings (as of June 30)

That wraps up the first half this baseball season. During the All Star Break, I also began to look ahead to football season. Check out this podcast my cousin and I put together to begin to preview this year’s AFC.

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.

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?