Second in a three-part series…
In part one of the series we looked at who on the big club should stay and who should go. In this post we’ll look at what’s happening in with Sox call ups over the past two years and the farm system, especially as regards holes that need filling in 2013.
Although change will continue to be afoot in the Sox offseason, there are a few givens. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (arbitration eligible) will be in their respective positions on opening day. Likewise, the Red Sox and Cody Ross will get a deal done shortly after the season ends, most likely a 1-2 year deal, to put to rest any questions about right field.
The question marks heading into 2013 are left field, shortstop, first base and – the gargantuan elephant in the room – both starting and bullpen pitching (pitching will be covered in a near future post).
The Long and Shortstop Of It
It’s ironic in a year when Mike Aviles was both durable and performed above expectations (.251/.283/.386) that he would be on the bubble in 2013. Aviles is the latest poster child as the Red Sox continue to have a long-running and persistent problem at shortstop that simply has to be solved in order for the infield to stabilize.
That Boston is considering Aviles as their 2013 shortstop underscores the organization’s continued dumbing down of expectations for the position. Aviles is in the bottom half to bottom third of all AL shortstops in both offensive and defensive categories. The fact that Jose Iglesias has been getting more than a little playing time down the stretch isn’t a coincidence. Sox management wants to see if the fielding vacuum cleaner can get enough at bats to prove that he can hit at the major league level, which so far has been a resounding no. It’s not just the anemic .133 batting average. It’s that Iglesias looks so overmatched doing it.
Boston’s number one prospect is AA shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The 19-year old from Aruba has received some splashy press this year but most scouting reports peg him for a future third baseman or left fielder due to loss of foot speed as he matures, fills out and gets heavier. He’s got bat speed, power and, as expected at his age, gets anxious which causes him to chase balls out of the zone.
With Iglesias a big offensive question mark and Bogaerts a developing prospect, the Sox should groom Pedro Ciriaco for the 2013 shortstop role.
While Ciricao, called up in July and currently hitting .294/.315/.394 with a .709 on base plus slugging percentage, will need to show more plate discipline - 40 strikeouts and just 7 walks in 276 at bats – he has more than proven his value to the club. He hits for average and in the clutch. He has speed and has both an innate and coachable sense for stealing bases (15 swipes, caught just once). He has a .980 fielding percentage. What’s not to like here?
Who’s On First?
In a recent post, One Is The Loneliest Number: What to Do About First Base, I presented options at first base if James Loney opts not to negotiate with the Sox and take his 2013 free agency on the road.
Loney has recently indicated that he would be interested in returning to Boston for the 2013 season, which at first blush appeared to have been doubtful but given his career low numbers and resulting marketability is not a surprise.
Loney, who will turn 29 in 2013, has never been a force at the plate. During during his time with Boston he’s been even worse. Since being traded to Boston, Loney is hitting a combined .241/.267/.301 in 86 plate appearances, hardly a prototypical first base profile.
Given the circumstances of the 2013 free agent class, when coupled with the fact that of Boston’s top 20 prospects not one is a first baseman, the Sox will have a difficult decision regarding retaining Loney or going after an equally under-performing free agent first basemen.
That Guy’s In Left Field
And whoever shall it be? Daniel Nava has spent the majority of time in left field in 2012 but Boston’s revolving door has also included Carl Crawford, Scott Podsednik, and even Ciriaco for an extremely painful micro-second this past week. Nava is a disciplined hitter but will need up find a way to continue to up his game as pitchers who’ve seen him enough times are figuring out how to handle him. His 2012 line of .249/.360/.383 is OK to suspect.
Ryan Kalish appears destined to be a solid backup/utility outfielder in 2013, especially if Ross signs an extension. He’s been injury prone and inconsistent as a result. Scott Podsednik is not the answer long-term or even for an entire season.
Boston has a number of promising albeit young and developing outfield prospects.
Boston’s number three prospect, Jackie Bradley (AA Portland) is soxprospects.com Breakout Player of the Year. He has some work to do at the plate, especially handling the inside part of the dish and will need to learn how to hit to the opposite field if he’s going to keep defenses honest. He has a plus arm and gets an excellent read and jump on balls in the field.
The Sox number five prospect, Bryce Brentz who is currently playing in Pawtucket, shows power potential and hits to all fields but currently bites hard on breakers and chases them out of the zone so he’ll need some work.
The left field situation is different than first base but may result in much the same strategy; Boston may be forced into seeking the talents of a seasoned free agent to fill the gap.
In the final post of the series we’ll take a look at the 2013 free agent class in general and who from that group can make the biggest impact to Boston’s long road back to respectability.
Are You Experienced?
Ah! Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have
- Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix