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Thursday, March 28, 2013

2013 Predictions

The American League East has been called the “Beasts in the East” for years. The Red Sox and Yankees dominated the division for years, then the Tampa Bay Rays started to come on strong, followed by the Toronto Blue Jays always being competitive. Last year, the Orioles had their time to shine. This year, it’s anyone’s guess who the will take the division.

Last year, the Orioles surprised everyone by making it to the ALDS. This year, the Jays have obtained an arsenal of players via free agency and trade (R.A. Dickey, Melky Cabrera, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes, John Buck). The Yankees are hurting at the moment (Jeter, Texeira, and Rodriguez are or will be on the disabled list at the beginning of the season), but the Yankees always find a way to win. The Rays have pitching.

So, where will the Red Sox end up this season? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. I can make some arguments that the Sox will win the division (players have comeback/breakout years, good trades, nice free agent pickups, etc.), and I can make the argument that they will come in last place again (if the injury bug continues to be a problem for the third season in a row, pitching falters again, big names go down, etc.). I do believe the AL East will beat up on each other, and the race will be a tight one.

But, you came here wanting to hear my predictions, so let me entertain you:

87-75 for 2nd Place

I think the Jays will win the division with about 91 wins, followed by the Red Sox, Rays, Yankees, and Orioles. I don’t think many games will separate the bottom four teams, and I have to give the benefit of the doubt to the Sox. The Sox could easily be anywhere in the 2nd-4th range, with only a handful of games separating the teams. If injuries don’t become a problem like they have in the past, this could easily be the surprise team of the year.

Lester and Buchholz will have good seasons
I know I said that about Lester last year, but Farrell’s going to make sure Lester is focused on his pitching. I think Lester will have the better ERA by the end of the season (somewhere around 3.00), but Buchholz will have the better record (between 17 and 20 wins). Both pitchers have to remain healthy for this team to have a shot. I’ve been notoriously hard on Buchholz in the past, but I think he’s going to have a breakout season.

Jackie Bradley Junior will spend the majority of his time at the Major League Level
I’ve said it before- the Sox can’t tuck JBJ in the minors when the team needs him. His bat is hot now, and with Ortiz starting the season on the disabled list, the Sox need someone like him in the lineup. He’s going to draw fans to games and to their televisions to see the new talent. He’s part of the future of this team (with Iglesias and Middlebrooks). If he does start to falter, he has the option of going back to Triple-A. But, I think the Sox will likely be sticking with JBJ in the outfield and Gomes as DH while Ortiz is out.

Pedroia will carry this team
He’s had injuries in 2010 (ankle) and 2012 (two, separate injuries to his thumb and a broken ring finger). Pedroia likes to prove people wrong, and he’s going to show all the critics that think he’s “injury prone” or a “fluke” that his ROY and MVP awards are not flukes. Pedroia is going to have a great year, and the naysayers will see he is the unofficial captain of this team.

Saltalamacchia will be better offensively than last year
Salty hit .222 last year with 25 home runs, 59 RBIs, walked 38 times, and stuck out 139 times. My guess, he’ll hit about .250, 28 home runs, 75 RBIs, walk rate will be up a little and strike out rate down.

Bard will spend the majority of the season in Triple-A
Bard, once a consistent reliever, has been pretty shaky lately. Last year, after starting the year as a starter, he was quickly sent to Triple-A and never fully recovered. At times this Spring, he’s seemed like his old self (partly because he is again a reliever and maybe because of Farrell’s presence), but he’s still having issues. Currently, his ERA is at 6.75; he gave up 3 runs in one inning during Wednesday’s game against the Marlins. Bard will eventually make it back to the big club, but he’ll spend most of the season in Triple-A working out the kinks and cobwebs.

Stephen Drew will be traded
The Red Sox signed Drew to a 1 year/$9.5 million contract this offseason. Drew will more than likely start the season on the disabled list while recovering from a concussion, which opens up the door for Iglesias to be the Opening Day shortstop. Iglesias’s glove is there, but he still needs a little more work on his bat. If his bat comes around even remotely (say .220-.230 average), the Sox keep Iglesias and move Drew.

Felix Doubront will not have a good season
Last season, Doubront’s first full season as a starting pitcher, Doubront had an 11-10 with a 4.86 ERA; his WHIP was 1.447. Not horrible (especially compared to the rest of the pitching staff that was pretty much in the same range), but definitely not something a pitcher would like to get used to. Doubront’s only 25, and he’s going to go through some growing pains before he really catches hold as a pitcher. He stated last year that his arm strength declined later in the season. My guess is Doubront will still win about 10 games, but not to the fanfare he did last year (remember, Doubront was considered a bright spot on the Sox’s roster).

And that’s what I have at the moment. It’s kind of hard to do predictions when I haven’t really viewed that many Spring Training games. This is thanks MLB.TV and NESN for not broadcasting too many, not because lack of trying; it’s kind of hard to see how a player’s at bat is going via GameDay. Maybe when the season gets going a little more, and I have a few games viewed I can give better predictions.

I probably won’t be posting again before Opening Day (Easter weekend is upon us). My plan is to do some live tweeting during the game on Monday, so follow me @AshleyAries on Twitter. It’ll be my first time live tweeting a game; so hopefully, it goes well!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Random Thoughts

There are 5 days left until the season starts, roughly 120 hours until the first pitch to the Red Sox’s opening day. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited. I have a few things on my mind regarding this Red Sox team that I thought I would share in this post. Enjoy!

- Jacoby Ellsbury is not in today’s lineup after jamming his ankle on Sunday. It was originally reported that the Sox would give Ellsbury Monday off to rest, there was an off day yesterday, and he should be ready to go today. That’s not the case. I haven’t seen/heard anything to indicate that his injury is more serious, but it’s a little unnerving considering we’re five days away from Opening Day.

- With Ellsbury out of the lineup today, Jackie Bradley Junior will be playing center field and leading off. Bradley’s hitting .444 for Spring Training in 65 plate appearances. He’s making this team. Bradley is by far the most exciting story to come out of Spring Training. With the success of young, exciting players like Mike Trout, Stephen Strasburg, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryce Harper, the Red Sox really can’t afford to NOT have Bradley on the team.

- The Red Sox are dropping the prices of concessions during April, in a part to lure fans to Fenway. It’s sad, really, that things have gotten so bad that Sox fans won’t want to go to every game. I live in Iowa, and I try to make it to at least one Sox game a year, whether that’s in a city in the Midwest or a chance to head to Boston. If I lived in or around Boston, I’d be going to as many games as possible. Fans love the team, not the drama that has encompassed them the past few years.

- I plan on going to two Red Sox games this year, one in May in Minneapolis and one in September in Boston. The game in Boston will be against the Yankees, which will be a first for me, and I’m really excited about it.

- Jon Lester was officially named the Opening Day starter today. Is this really significant? Not really, considering the Sox have pretty much been going with a rotation of Lester, Buchholz, Dempster, Doubront, and Lackey all of Spring Training.

- There are a few reports out there that David Ortiz won’t be ready til around May 6th (again, estimate). Depending on how quickly Ortiz progresses, the beginning of May does seem likely for a return date. Remember, he needs to get his swing ramped up as well, which Ortiz has said takes about 50 at-bats.

- Kind of getting lost in the shuffle is Stephen Drew. He’s been out with concussion symptoms for weeks now, and he was cleared to resume baseball activities last week. However, it appears Iglesias will be the Opening Day starter at shortstop. If Iglesias takes off, will Drew resort to a bench player, traded, or will Iglesias be sent down to Triple-A?

- My goal is to finish Francona’s book by Monday and get a review out next week. It’s taken me a little bit longer than I would’ve liked. I read before I go to sleep; and most nights lately, I’ve pretty much passed out as soon as I’m in bed. Thank goodness for my (almost) weekly trips to Starbucks to read.

- Speaking of Francona, there's a new video out from the Indians featuring the Sox's former manager.  You've heard of SIRI?  Well, wait to you see TERRi:

- Next weekend, April 6th, I’m doing a 5k sponsored by our local Single-A affiliate, the Quad Cities River Bandits (now part of the Astros organization). Here’s the link for the race:
It’s pretty cool, the route actually goes through two states (Iowa and Illinois) and goes across 3 bridges. I’m a little nervous about it, since I just completed my first 5k two weeks ago. But, it should be fun. If you live around the area and are interested, sign up.

And that’s about it for now. Hopefully, I’ll get another post out tomorrow or Friday to let you know about my predictions for the season.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Opening Day is Now One Week Away

The Red Sox season opener is one week away, on April 1st at 12:05 PM at Yankees Stadium. It’s not official, but Lester is thought to be the Opening Day starter and will most likely face CC Sabathia.

It’ll be an interesting game without long-time superstars from both teams, as David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Mark Texeria, and Derek Jeter (likely) will start the season on the disabled list. Kevin Youkilis is now the starting third baseman for the Yankees and leads the team in home runs this Spring Training with five. The Yankees also traded for Vernon Wells yesterday, which means they will be paying (part) of one of the worst contacts in MLB history.

The Red Sox’s roster is beginning to take shape. Most likely, it’ll be the following:

Starting Pitchers
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Clay Buchholz
RHP Ryan Dempster
LHP Felix Dubront
RHP John Lackey

RHP Alfredo Aceves
RHP Andrew Bailey
RHP Joel Hanrahan (closer)
LHP Andrew Miller
RHP Clayton Mortensen
RHP Junichi Tazawa
RHP Koji Uehara

CF Jacoby Ellsbury (LH)
DH/LF Daniel Nava (SH)
2B Dustin Pedroia (RH)
1B Mike Napoli (RH)
3B Will Middlebrooks (RH)
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (SH)
LF/DH Jonny Gomes (RH)
RF Shane Victorino (SH)
SS Jose Iglesias (RH)

C David Ross (RH)
INF Pedro Ciriaco (RH)
1B/LF Mike Carp (LH)
OF Ryan Sweeney (LH) or Jackie Bradley Junior (LH)

Disabled List
DH David Ortiz (Right foot)
LHP Craig Breslow (shoulder)
LHP Franklin Morales (back)
SS Stephen Drew (concussion)
OF Ryan Kalish (shoulder)

I honestly don’t know what the Red Sox organization will do with Jackie Bradley Junior to start the season. He is clearly the winner of Spring Training hitting .423 with 2 home runs (1 of Cliff Lee yesterday), 2 doubles, 9 RBIs, and walking and striking out 8 times a piece (a great stat, especially for a young player). JBJ is exciting, but the question is do the Sox want to start his Free Agency clock at the start of the season or wait at least 11 days so they get an extra year out of him?

I don’t know about you, but I’m more excited for this season than I have been in the past. It seems that there’s almost a calmness to this team after last year’s three-ring circus with manager Bobby Valentine as ringmaster. As and added bonus, there are young, exciting players that are pushing their way into the spotlight.

Later this week I’ll give my predictions on where I think the team and certain players will end up this season. I was way off last year, so we’ll see how this year transpires.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lester's the Ace, Right?

Opening Day for the Red sox is exactly two weeks from today. The Spring Training roster is shrinking as prospects are headed to their appropriate affiliates, and players are staying later in the games. The weather may not be screaming “Spring” (it’s snowing at the moment here in Iowa); but in two weeks, Spring Training will be over and the season will officially be underway.

Manager John Farrell hasn’t named the Opening Day starter, but every indication seems to point at Jon Lester. Lester has been dubbed the “Ace” for years now. While some have disputed that he deserves this title, he has remained one of the best pitchers the Red Sox have had over the years. His 2012 stats were anything but “Ace” quality: 9-14 record, 4.82 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and gave up 25 home runs. On a plus side, he did pitch 205.1 innings over the season. Buchholz, arguably the best starter last year, wasn’t much better: 11-8 record, 4.56 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, gave up 25 home runs, and pitched 189.1 innings.

It’s safe to say that Lester and Buchholz are the Red Sox’s number 1 and 2 starters, no matter which order they’ll end up pitching. They’ll be followed by Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubrant, and John Lackey. Dempster, as I’ve written before, will be an effective member of the pitching staff and an innings-eater for this staff. Doubrant showed last year that he is capable of being a starter, even if it’s been a little slow-going for him this Spring. Lackey is the Wild Card (after recovering from Tommy John surgery last year and having the worst season out of any Red Sox pitcher in history for 2011). Lackey has showed that his elbow is healed this Spring though.

Lester’s been fantastic this Spring, even pitching 6.0 perfect innings and striking out 6 in yesterday’s 5-1 win against the Rays. Lester’s line for the Spring: 3-0 record, 20.0 IP, 0.90 ERA, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 16 SO, .50 WHIP. Yes, this is limited. But, it is very encouraging.

Taking a look at the other four starters:

Buchholz: 2-0 record, 8.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 HR, 2 BB, 7 SO, 0.96 WHIP
Dempster: 1-1 record, 12.2 IP, 2.13 ERA, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 9 SO, 0.87 WHIP
Doubront: 1-1 record, 8.2 IP, 2.08 ERA, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 11 SO, 1.27 WHIP
Lackey: 2-0 record, 6.2 IP, 8.10 ERA, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 4 SO, 1.65 WHIP

Yes, Lackey’s line is a little disheartening, but he’s also working back from Tommy John surgery and not pitching healthy for years. He’s still a little behind the other starters in terms of innings pitched and such, but from everything I’ve been reading about him, he’s looking much improved from 2011. I guess we (including myself) will have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

My guess is Farrell names Lester the Opening Day pitcher this coming weekend, with the other pitchers lining up as I’ve shown above. He pretty much has the rotation as that in Spring Training anyway, so it makes sense. Lester’s out to prove 2012 was a fluke, and I’m guessing he’s going to be contending for the Cy Young this year. Of course, I made that prediction last year, and Lester did horribly.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Random Thoughts

Spring Training is still going strong with a little over two weeks left before Opening Day. I thought I’d do a “Random Thoughts” post to get some of what I’ve been thinking with the start of the season approaching.

- I admit that I’m always skeptical when it concerns Clay Buchholz; I find him inconsistent. But, if he can translate his great Spring so far (8.1 IP, 6H, 0R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO), he’s going to be a great #2 starter. Lester, the slated #1 starter, is also having a great Spring (14.0 IP, 6H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 10 SO).

- Also with pitching, the Sox have been impressed with Allen Webster, who came over from the Dodgers. This Spring, Webster is at 11.0 IP, 9H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 14 SO. He’s also held opposing batters to a .220 Average while keeping his WHIP below 1.00 (0.91 currently). I’m sure he’ll start the season in Pawtucket, but it’s a nice feeling to know if someone goes down in the rotation, there’s adequate help in Triple-A.

- Does Hanrahan’s performance this Spring concern me? No. Closers are a different breed than starters or even other relievers. Closers come into the game (most of the time) when the win is on the line; it’s up to them to keep the win in tact. Spring Training is a way for pitchers (and hitters and fielders) to get lose and into the baseball-frame-of-mind. Hanrahan will come along.

- I’m currently reading Terry Francona’s book, The Red Sox Years. I’m only about a quarter of the way through with it, which is a shame because it’s really enjoyable. I just finished the Duck Boat Parade of 2004. If you haven’t read or planned on reading the book, I highly recommend it. Reliving some of the “glory days” of the Red Sox’s recent success (last ten years) is always great, especially after suffering the past two seasons.

- Speaking of Terry Francona, if you have not watched the Cleveland Indians Harlem Shake video, you need to. Here’s the link from the Boston Gobe:

And here’s the link to a list showing which players/managers were dressed as which characters:

It made my day. Take note of the former Red Sox affiliates: Terry Francona (Big Baby), Justin Masterson (Human Bear), and Rich Hill (one of the two Easter Bunnies). A little sad that there wasn’t Dice-K dressed up as a Teletubbie again.

- This weekend is St. Patrick’s Day, which means one thing to me: the Sox wear their green uniforms on Sunday. I’ve been wearing the same, green Varitek shirt for the past 5 or so years on St. Patrick’s Day, and I don’t intend to break tradition. However, on Saturday, my boyfriend and I will be sporting matching, green “Drink Like Wade” (as in Wade Boggs, if you needed a hint) shirts for our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with our friends.

- Opening Day for the Sox is April 1st. Like every year, I will be taking that day off work to watch the game.

Well, that’s about it in my post today. I hope everyone has a fun, and safe, St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Who Starts at DH on Opening Day?

David Ortiz had MRIs done on both of his heels this weekend and has been shut-down for 5-7 days with “inflammation” in both heels. The Red Sox have assured fans this isn’t because of an Achilles issue, which has kept Ortiz out of games since July 16, 2012 (minus one game on August 24th.) This injury is due to Ortiz amping up his workload, not because of his Achilles injury (though you could say that because of the Achilles injury, Ortiz wasn’t able to property workout in the offseason, thus causing the “inflammation” issue).

Ortiz is not doubtful for Opening Day and will likely miss the first couple weeks of the season. The Red Sox are pretty much the only team left in the American League with a set designated hitter; every other team seems to be using the revolving door approach to let players have lighter loads when needed. If Ortiz is out on Opening Day (likely), who  DHs?

One option would be to have Lyle Overbay play first base and Napoli DH. Overbay is a career .270 hitter over 12 years, with 5 of those years spent in Toronto. Even though it’s limited, Overbay’s hit .261 (6/23) this Spring with 2 Triples, a Double, and 3 RBIs. At first base, he has a .995 Fielding Percentage in 10 years. Overbay is 36 this season though, and he was limited in playing the past two seasons.

Keeping either Lavarnway or Gomez on the roster to fill in at DH or the field is another option. Again, Spring Training numbers are limited (though they should start reflecting more in the coming weeks), but Lavarnway is hitting .143 and Gomez .200. Neither one has hit for much power either; a double a piece.

Another popular option I’ve been seeing is to have Jonny Gomes DH and Jackie Bradley Junior in the outfield. This would be very exciting, but Bradley hasn’t even played at Triple-A yet. Plus, his free-agent clock hasn’t started, so why start it now if it’s just going to be a couple of weeks before he gets sent back down.

Personally, I could see the Sox bringing either Overbay onto the roster or having another outfielder (either Nava or Sweeney, whoever doesn’t make the 25-man roster to begin with). Ross and Saltalamacchia could also DH when they weren’t catching, and they’ve both shown some pop in the bat (Ross hit a 3-run home run in yesterday’s game, and Salty’s hitting .389 with 4 Doubles). Either scenario I think makes sense.

Not much has been said after yesterday’s revealing of the inflammation issues, so either there’s not much to say or not much the Sox want said. Hopefully, this doesn’t become abigger issue like the Achilles issue Ortiz had last year. Let’s all hope that after some rest, Big Papi will feel better and start progressing his way into the line-up.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Retiring of Ryan Westmoreland

I commented on Jackie Bradley Junior, the most exciting prospect in Spring Training (my personal view), earlier this week. Prospects are the Sox’s future, and they’ve sacrificed a lot to get these prospects (Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto, all of last season for a higher draft pick, etc.). I feel prospects are more exciting then big-name signings because they’re “homegrown” really, even if obtained via trades. Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Will Middlebrooks are all products of the Red Sox farm system who have made a significant impact on the make-up of today’s team.

With all that said; sometimes, prospects never become who the player and team envisions, for one reason or another. Ryan Westmoreland, at one time the highest-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization, was one of those prospects. Unfortunately, Westmoreland’s unfulfilled potential wasn’t because of lack of talent, determination, luck, or anything else that is usually associated prospects not making it.

In 2009, Westmoreland batted .296 with 7 home runs and 35 RBIs in 60 games with Lowell. Prior to the 2010 season, Baseball America ranked him the 21st-best prospect in the country. He had everything going for him, professionally, and he was still only 20 years old when the 2010 season started. But, it all changed.

If you’ve been following the Sox at all the last few years, you may have recalled the struggles Ryan Westmoreland went through. Prior to the 2010 season beginning, he was experiencing weakness, and an MRI revealed he had a cavernous malformation at his brainstem. He had brain surgery to repair this in March of 2010. He was determined though and rehabilitated during the 2011-2012 seasons. Unfortunately, he had setback that required another surgery in July 2012. Ryan Westmoreland retired from baseball yesterday at age 22.

I generally don’t follow many of the Red Sox prospects on Twitter, but I knew I needed to follow Westmoreland (@RWesty25). Despite everything he’s been through over the years, he always seems to have a positive outlook on life. On 2/17/13, he tweeted: MRI is all good! Next stop, the Sunshine State! I admit; I smiled when I read this.

Part of me hoped that Ryan Westmoreland would make it back into baseball; but part of me thought he could do so much more. He’s an inspiration, even if he never played a Major League baseball game. Sometimes, it’s the people who aren’t the famous sports figures that are the most inspirational.

If you have a chance to read any of the articles The Boston Globe wrote about Ryan Westmoreland, I suggest you do it. To think, this man is only 22 years old, has been through so much in his life, and he keeps his chin up. Yes, he had to set his dream of being a professional baseball player aside, but I’m sure he’ll do so much more with his life. I hope the Red Sox keep him around the organization in some capacity (Jimmy Fund?), but I know he’ll still do great things.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jackie Bradley Junior

If you’ve been paying any attention to Spring Training this season, you’ll know of the emergence of Jackie Bradley Junior. He was selected 40th overall in the 2011 draft, was awarded the Minor League Defensive Player of the Year by the Red Sox for the 2012 season, and hit .315 with 55 extra-base-hits, 87 walks, and 63 RBIS (in 128 games) last year. He’ll be 23 next month and is ranked 32nd in Top Prospects for 2013.

Bradley’s been argued to be the Red Sox’s center fielder of the future, once Jacoby Ellsbury has moved on from the Sox. I’m not here to argue whether Ellsbury will indeed sign elsewhere after the season (facts: Scott Boras is Ellsbury’s agent). But let’s face it, the Sox need and will get younger over the next couple years. They have some exciting prospects and rookies that’ll make a difference (look no further than Will Middlebrooks from last season, even if his season was derailed by a freak accident).

In six Spring Training games this season, Bradley has hit .533 (8 for 17) with 4 runs, 1 RBI, 1 double, and 1 stolen base. He’s struck out twice and walked once. Yes, this is a very small, limited, sample size, but that’s what Spring Training is about. It’s a chance to see new guys and what they can (potentially) do.

Bradley didn’t go further than AA last year, so I doubt the Sox are in any hurry to trade Ellsbury away and make room on the big league roster for Bradley. But, Bradley could be making a case about bench spot or even a case to make room for him before the trade deadline this year.

The Sox’s outfield for 2013 appears to be as follows, pending any trades: left field- Jonny Gomes (signed a 2 year/ $10 million contract this off season), center field- Jacoby Ellsbury (will be a free agent after the 2013 season), and right field- Shane Victorino (signed a 3 year/ $39 million contract this off season). The Sox have Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney, Jeremy Hazelbaker, and Mitch Maier also fighting for a bench spot.

Whether Bradley joins the Red Sox roster in 2013 or 2014, one thing is for certain; he will be making the roster and providing a spark for the Sox in the near future. He’s going to be a young, exciting outfielder to watch, much like Jacoby Ellsbury when he burst onto the scene in 2007 (everyone remembers the stolen base off the Yankees).

Spring Training is a chance for the teams and the fans to see more than just the 25-man roster players; it’s also a chance to see the future. If Bradley lives up to the hype, the Sox’s future looks bright.