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.

Brockton Rox from the Press Box

Ever since the Futures League added a Worcester team, I have wanted to go see a game.  When I learned my next door neighbor for many years, Jake Rosen, was playing for the Brockton Rox against Worcester at Hanover Insurance Park, I made plans to go.  Jake was the starting shortstop and batted 9th this past Thursday, July 19th.

I got in touch with Jake a few days before the game, and he told me that I could interview him if I got there about an hour before the start of the game.  We walked to the Holy Cross football field away from the pre-game music.

Jake-Andrew before Game 3

Check out the full interview below:

After the interview we watched Jake warm-up we had great seats right next to his team’s dugout. 

Before the game started, my dad bought me some chicken tenders with fries which was delicious.  On our way back to our seats, we stopped at the Bravehearts press box.  We knocked on the door, and announcers J.R. Suyemoto and Donny Porcaro invited us in and gave us a place to sit after I handed them my business card.  The game was broadcast live on Facebook as it always is and saved on the Bravehearts Facebook page.

Andrew with announcers JR Suyemoto and Donny Porcaro
With Worcester Bravehearts play-by-play broadcasters J.R. Suyemoto (right) and Donny Porcaro (left)

The game was starting soon, and we were getting settled in the press box.  Paul Lambert shared the line-up cards with us so we could follow along.

In the meantime, Jake and the rest of the team were just about ready for the game.

Jake just before game
Brockton Rox SS Jake Rosen just before the game began.

Rox LF Charlie Maxwell led off the game with a single, but the Rox lineup was relatively quiet in the first few innings.  The Bravehearts were also kind of quiet at the plate in the first couple innings, but C Brett Coffel hit a big double in the 2nd inning, and the Bravehearts had 1st and 2nd in the 1st inning despite failing to score a run.  Worcester didn’t really get going until the 3rd inning.  Their leadoff hitter, 2B Mariano Ricciardi, walked to begin the inning, and DH Chris Rinaldi drove him in with an RBI double.  3B Dustin Harris drove Rinaldi in with a long single, and after Mack Cheli, their star hitter, singled, SS Eddie Haus hit another single to load the bases.  Coffel struck out, but Kirk Sidwell drove in a third run with his single and the bases remained loaded.  However, Joseph Pesce grounded it to the pitcher, who threw it to the catcher (Jack Kelly) to start a 1-2-3 double play and prevent the Bravehearts from scoring more runs.

Brendan Connelly, a Brockton Rox reporter from WATD (a South Shore radio station), walked in and sat next tome in the press box.  He told us that he also works at the Boston Herald as a high school sports reporter.  I told him about my Herald radio experience and how I am going to help cover my high school’s sports teams this year.

He helped us by giving us insight on some of the best Rox players and the team overall.  Brendan also told us that the Futures League was a Summer League that featured elite college baseball players, and that some of the league’s top players get drafted into the MLB.  It would be really cool if Jake was drafted by an MLB team and I really enjoyed watching him from the press box.

Andrew w Brendan Connelly WATD Reporter 95-9 FM.JPG
With Brendan Connelly of WATD Radio

The Bravehearts made it 4-0 in the 5th inning, when Brett Coffel singled for his 2nd hit of the day and Joseph Pesce knocked Coffel in with a single of his own.  They scored a 5th run on a Mack Cheli sac fly with men on 1st and 3rd.  Eddie Haus tried to get another rally going when he hit an infield single on the next at bat, but the Rox ended the inning before the Bravehearts could get another man on base.  The Rox scored their first run in the 7th after Jack Kelly tripled and scored on a sac fly.

But after a crazy 3-run 7th, a home run by Joseph Pesce in the 8th, and a dominant performance throughout the game by the pitching staff (including 7 strong innings thrown by starter Joseph Mancini), the Bravehearts won, 9-1.

Even though the Rox lost 9-1, seeing my neighbor Jake Rosen hit and play in such a big stadium was incredible, especially from the press box.  Jake hit a hard grounder up the middle in his second plate appearance but was robbed of a single on a close play. Although this was not a great night at the plate for Jake, his defense was strong throughout the game.  Late in the game when I went back to my seats on the first base line, I saw Jake prevent an infield single by a speedy Braveheart:

 

Being focused on one player, I learned of another golden baseball player tradition, never step on foul line when walking on or off the field.

I noticed Jake avoiding the line every time he walked on and off the field.  I asked him after the game if he did it on purpose and he said, “Of course, rule of baseball…”

 

I did a little digging on this superstition and found this story from MLB Pitcher Mel Stottlemyre who last stepped on a foul line in 1987.  Here’s what happened per The Baseball Almanac:

“The first batter I faced was Ted Uhlaender, and he hit a line drive off my left shin. It went for a hit. Carew, Oliva and Killebrew followed with extra-base hits. The fifth man hit a single and scored and I was charged with five runs. I haven’t stepped on a foul line since.”

I really enjoyed my first Futures League game and I owe special thanks to Jake Rosen, J.R. Suyemoto, Donny Porcaro, Brendan Connelly, and Paul Lambert, all who made the experience that much better.

Andrew - Game over with scoreboard saying win.JPG

I definitely plan on going again because the Bravehearts do a great job at making the game fun even between innings like letting kids run on the field and pie eating contests.  My younger brother Ryan who is a gamer, loved the video game music after each play.

Check out my video about this experience:

Stay tuned for more baseball posts soon.