Red Sox Player Focus: Alexi Ogando


For the Red Sox this offseason, the focus seemed to be to the offense. High-priced signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval were intended to bolster the lineup for the next few years. As a consequence of that, an outstanding relief pitcher like Andrew Miller was not re-signed for cost reasons. The Red Sox already had a closer in Koji Uehara, and Miller wanted to cash in on his recent success and took closer money to go to the New York Yankees.

Instead, the Red Sox strategy for this offseason in terms of the bullpen seemed to focus on reclamation projects. You roll the dice with these guys that you can get good production out of a player that his old team did not want due to injury or ineffectiveness or a combination of both. Without getting into the merit of this strategy (good way to get yourself fired Ben, is one perspective), one of the pitchers signed using this strategy was Alexi Ogando. Let’s take a look at Ogando’s career and 2015 season with the Red Sox.

Ogando was signed as an outfielder by the Oakland Athletics out of the Dominican Republic in 2002. After initial success on the offensive side, Ogando slumped in his second season. Still, Ogando was an excellent base stealer, swiping 22 in 25 tries and was thought to have potential. After the 2004 season, Ogando became embroiled in marriage-for-visa controversy in the Dominican which caused his visa to travel to the United States to be denied for 2005. The Athletics stuck with him for another season in the Dominican, but left him unprotected in the 2005 Rule V draft. The Rangers took a chance on him, choosing him in the hopes he could secure a visa.. They converted him to pitcher before the 2006 season and his immediate dominance (ERA under one for his first two years), caused the Rangers to put him on their 40 man roster. Ogando was not able to secure a visa until before the 2010 season when he returned to the United States.

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In 2010, Ogando made a spectacular splash into the major leagues, posting a 1.30 ERA in 44 games for the Rangers who made it to their first World Series losing to the San Francisco Giants. In 2011, the Rangers converted him to starter where he had success there as well. Posting a 3.51 ERA over 29 starts, he was a late addition to that year’s American League All-Star team. The Rangers lost again in the World Series in 2011, though no fault of Ogando’s who pitched 13 innings that postseason, allowing only four runs. The next season, the Rangers sent Ogando back to the bullpen where he posted a 3.27 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP striking out 66 batters in 66 innings, saving three games.

Once again in 2013, the Rangers converted him back into a starter. Injuries started to catch up to Ogando as he was only able to make 18 starts on the season as he battled biceps and shoulder injuries in three trips to the disabled list that year. Perhaps this had something to do with his constantly changing role from bullpen to starter and back multiple times. 2014 was another injury-riddled season as Ogando struggled once again with injury, slumping to a 6.84 ERA in 25.1 innings. This time his elbow gave him trouble but he managed to avoid Tommy John surgery. The Rangers were going to have to pay Ogando at least $3 million in arbitration, so they decided to non-tender their former prize prospect, releasing him on December 2, 2014.

The Red Sox took a chance on this former star pitcher, signing him to a $1.5 million deal on January 30, 2015. Perhaps, the Red Sox were seeing how the market would play out elsewhere, but it is instructive that he was still available after almost two months of being a free agent. Workouts showed he could still throw in the low 90s, so the Red Sox took a flier on him.

In an ideal world, Ogando would have been the seventh inning option in a deep bullpen. This was not the case as Ogando is showing some of the effects of missing the last half of 2014. April was a solid month for Ogando, posting a 2.89 ERA in 9.1 innings. May was a harbinger of things to come, posting a 4.35 ERA, allowing two home runs. Still, Ogando sparkled in June posting a 1.84 ERA, going 12 straight appearances without allowing a run. After his July 2nd appearance, his ERA was 2.72. A disastrous run of five appearances in which the hard-throwing righty allowed five homers and eight runs in July, brought everyone’s expectations back to Earth. Ogando’s ERA for July was a miserable 6.75 with nine runs allowed in 12 innings. In August, Ogando has rebounded to a 2.45 ERA but still is giving up the homers. He has allowed at least two in every month since May. Ogando’s 12 homers allowed is the second most of any reliever in the majors.

Should the Red Sox make Ogando a part of the bullpen in 2016? All of the pitching has struggled this year. The Red Sox could not have expected Ogando to immediately reproduce the success he had earlier in his career. His $1.5 million salary says they didn’t expect the world out of him. His 3.69 ERA this season is not as high as it should be, considering his 5.49 FIP (fielding independent pitching) which gives a better idea of how he is pitching. The 12 homers allowed is double his career average per nine innings. After missing half of last year, Ogando is likely still trying to adjust to a full season as his last two have been limited by injury.

The arrival of Dave Dombrowski has put the rest of this season into evaluation mode. If Ogando pitches well for the rest of the season, there is a good chance he will be brought back for 2016 to build on the good things he did this year. His health throughout the season has been good, so going forward, the Red Sox may stick with Ogando to see if he can recapture some of his earlier glory.

Stay tuned to to read about all the Red Sox players as this disappointing season reaches its conclusion.