Boston Red Sox 2018 player grades at the one-third mark
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox are an early season success and it is certainly reflected in player grades. A few may be too low and a few too high for their first third expectations.
School is almost out for the summer, but school is in for the baseball summer. Just how have the Boston Red Sox graded?
We all have opinions and I try to remove my Red Sox bias when looking at the player’s performances at the one-third mark. With a team winning the grades are naturally reflected.
Mookie Betts – A+
That’s simple enough. Betts is among the leaders in just about everything. This is the total package or “Five – Tool” player. Betts will get you with his bat, glove or speed. Maybe an MVP?
Jackie Bradley – D
The “D” should be for defense since that will pull up JBJ’s grade. The offense is just not there, but signs of offensive life have surfaced lately. If Bradley gets in his groove this grade will go up a few notches.
Slow start hampers Benintendi who now approaches .300. The real plus is even when his average tumbled his OBP was almost 100 points above BA. Add in his speed as a plus. Defensively the metrics may lie. Better than the -0.8 UZR.
J.D. Martinez – A
What more could you ask? A .300 average and power. Any real negative is Martinez’s defensive abilities (-2.7 UZR), but that was expected. Takes him away from an A+. Martinez gets into 150+ games you may have the AL home run leader. This guy can hit!
Xander Bogaerts – B
A fast start, DL, and an offensive downgrade. The AL is rich with quality shortstops so the competition for a Silver Slugger – XB has two – may go elsewhere. For Bogaerts the projected power is back with eight home runs and 14 doubles. Prediction: Bogaerts will finish well above .300. An average glove.
Rafael Devers – C-
Maybe he was rushed? Maybe the pitchers found some holes? Devers will send pitching mistakes into souvenir land, but his average continues to sink. Devers’ 25.9 K% is highest among AL third basemen. No AL third sacker is close to Devers’ 12 errors.
Eduardo Nunez – C-
What a difference a year makes. Hitting has dropped off (.249) since his surprise of 2017. Leads all AL second baseman with a -7 DRS. Toss in a 2.5 BB% and you do not have the offense to minimize poor defense. A wRC+ of just 68. A healthy Dustin Pedroia is needed.
Mitch Moreland – A-
Excellent defensive player and consistent with the bat – expect a routine 20/80/.260 until now. Will it continue? There is no way Moreland will stay around 1.000 OPS, so expect a drop off to career norms. A solid vet and financial bargain.
Brock Holt – A-
Holt is hitting again after two seasons of injuries. Holt has a 128 wRC+ so he should get the edge over Nunez for playing time. Far better defensively than Nunez.
After a .290 season in 2017 big things were expected from Vaz – “If only he could hit” was the refrain often heard. Now it is back to that. -0.8 fWAR in the early going. 29 CS% is well below expected from Vazquez.
Sandy Leon – C-
The grade would be higher if Leon’s bat was active from day one. May supplant Vazquez as the go-to catcher. Best catcher ERA in baseball. Just a 20 CS% versus career 39 CS%.
Blake Swihart – D-
Maybe he’ll hit? So far, he has not, but to hit you need some at-bats. Swihart has been moved around the diamond to build up his versatility and potential trade value. Needs a chance somewhere and that somewhere appears to be other than Boston.
Hanley Ramirez – B-
April would give Hanley an A, but May was not kind and Ramirez will soon be elsewhere after his release. Chalk up another bad signing.
Tzu-Wei Lin – D
A personal disappointment as I expect big things from Lin. Lin barely hit his weight (.188), but still could “pick ‘em” in the field. Probably a September call-up.
Chris Sale – A-
Start with the best. Sale has been victimized somewhat by a lack of run support (4.67), but Sale’s 2.4 BB/9 is his highest since 2011. Sale is still on track to match up with his 2017 stats.
Rick Porcello – B
This may be a bit harsh but Porcello’s last four starts have a 6.18 ERA. Maybe his 6.2 innings on two earned run ball against Toronto in his last effort is the turnaround? Porcello began the season as if it was 2016 all over again. A 5.67 Run Support helps create a 7-2 record.
Third best run support in the AL (6.18) and that translates to a 6-1 record. Want to see his problem? 18.3 pitches per inning – third highest in the league. Pitches per at-bat? A 4.33 highest in AL. The last start was what one expects – getting beyond the fifth inning.
Drew Pomeranz – D-
I would give an F, but Pomeranz did win a game. Take a number – 5.1 BB/9, 1.7 HR/9, 6.81 ERA, 11.4 H/9, and a 1.84 WHIP. Velocity is down, spots are being missed on all pitches, and the bullpen is the next stop.
Hector Velazquez – B+
Does what you need as a spot starter and out of the bullpen. Pitches to contact and keeps the walks down (2.4 BB/9). 4.10 FIP may be a better indicator than 2.12 ERA.
Steven Wright – B
A bit high since I’ll cut him some early season slack due to injury and suspension rust. The former All-Star may be primed for the rotation as Pomeranz pitches himself to the bullpen. A 5.6 BB/9 in 14 innings is too high, but, hey – he is a knuckleballer!
David Price – B-
Do you base a grade on expectations? Do you base it on return on investment? Do you base it on personality? Price is vastly overpaid even by baseball standards for what amounts to a middle of the rotation starter. The real negative is a career-high 3.8 BB/9. Price has lost two ticks on his fastball and we are now witnessing a pitcher transitioning to a more finesse style.
Craig Kimbrel – B
At times Kimbrel has appeared to be Heathcliff Slocumb. What jumps out is a 1.8 HR/9 – doubling his previous career high. And a 12.2 K/9 is his career low. Fastball velocity (96.6) is lowest since 2012. Kimbrel is no longer a sure thing.
Joe Kelly – A
The Sale of the bullpen. Start with a 3.8 H/9. No home runs allowed. A 3.1 BB/9 and 9.7 K/9. 0.77 WHIP. I was never a strong Kelly supporter, but I would sign him and let Kimbrel go. Giver him the closer role. Capable of hitting 100 consistently and now has three pitches under control.
Matt Barnes – B+
Barnes makes me nervous as in 4.7 BB/9. Throws hard and 2.35 ERA is in tune with 2.60 FIP. 3.9 H/9 and only one dinger in 23 innings. Maybe the seventh inning guy until he blows it. Mid -90s fastball.
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Carson Smith – C
What could have been? Smith was shaping up after almost a two-season hiatus until injury struck. Smith may be done for the season. 52.5 GB% in his 14.1 innings.
Heath Hembree – C+
Too many walks (3.3 BB/9) and too many hits (9.6 H/9). A safe bet either up or down four runs.
Brian Johnson – D-
One great six-inning start saves Johnson from an F. A pitcher you toss out to save your bullpen for another day. Johnson will not have a final grade as he’ll be sent elsewhere.
Marcus Walden – C
A baseball feel-good story as the 29-year-old finally got his shot. Similar to Vazquez with limited walks (1.8 BB/9) and pitching to contact. Maybe back when a fresh arm is needed.
Next: MLB All-Star ballots open for voting
Alex Cora – A
Best record in baseball. Entertaining, honest, sociable – this is not John Farrell.
Dave Dombrowski – B
He signed Martinez! Wow! No one could have ever figured out that was necessary.
Ownership – F
Added more far too pricey dugout seats and the whole Yawkey Way thing.