An early look at the potential MVP/Best Player on the Boston Red Sox
Do the Boston Red Sox have the most valuable player? I find the MVP designation hard to swallow when your team is engaged in a blistering competition to be the worst in MLB. There is a thin line regarding MVP that is an award routinely handed out to Mike Trout despite his team – the Angels – are out of the running. Maybe in these instances with the Red Sox, it should be the best player?
There is a time-saving device this season examining Boston and that is pitching. Occasionally when the Red Sox has been relevant they have had a pitcher capture both the Cy Young Award and MVP as Roger Clemens did in 1986. A rare double-double, but one that happens. This season we can cheerfully omit the pitching from any consideration. That lightens the load on choosing and MVP/Best Player.
The Red Sox have not been their usual offensive juggernaut self in 2020 as they languish in the 11th slot in rankings according to FanGraphs. But there are a few players whose year to date is quite positive. Again – examining FanGraphs – two of the more fWAR worthy are no longer here as both Mitch Moreland and Kevin Pillar have been shipped out.
The best player on the Red Sox at least with the all-encompassing statics is Alex Verdugo. What has surprised me out Verdugo is his excellent defensive skills especially in the difficult Fenway Park right field. Verdugo carries a 19.1 UZR/150 that is fourth among American League outfielders.
Verdugo’s offense should not be a surprise as he hit .294 in 2019 with the Dodgers. Statistically, Verdugo has improved almost across the board on his Dodger year and what really sits well is the lefty-hitting Verdugo has no issue with his lefty moundsmen hitting .309 this season against southpaws and .327 with the Dodgers in 2019. Verdugo is no Mookie Betts, but his play has lessened the pain. My first choice.
Xander Bogaerts is a step behind Verdugo on the all-encompassing fWAR – 1.5 to 1.3, but Bogaerts is picking up where he left off in 2019 with power and run production. Last year it was 33 home runs and now it is 10 in the short-season – a pace comparable to 2019. Defensively Bogaerts is good and sometimes very good and occasionally spectacular. XB ranks among the better shortstops in the AL both on offense and defense.
Is Bogaerts the defacto team captain? Certainly, XB is now approaching seasoned veteran status despite being almost 28-years-old. Bogaerts certainly has experienced both sides of the competitive coin with two rings and a few squads that were forgettable. My assumption is Bogaerts provides a nice anchor to the revolving door younger players. A close second for Bogaerts.
A month ago it appeared Rafael Devers was lost and clearly struggling on offense and defense. As some businesses were declared too big to fail Devers is simply too good to fail especially with his calling card – his bat. Let’s deal with the bad news first – his defense.
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Devers is dead last in AL defensive rankings at third base and the numbers can be grotesque with a -14.3 UZR/150 and -8 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). In 2019 Devers posted a 2.4 UZR/150, but still had a -10 DRS. That kept Devers locked into sixth place defensively in 2019 and was a solid improvement over 2018. Is this a regression? Seems to be a repeat of what happened in 2019 when Devers was all thumbs catching and throwing before settling down. Now the good stuff.
Devers’s potent bat has caught fire and some shots have rung out in empty ballparks. When Devers barrels up the exit velocity is among the best in the game. Were the crunch is for Devers is a 26.1 K% compared to 17.0 K% in 2019. Lately, Devers has exhibited a bit more disciplined at the plate and his average is starting to climb into far more respectable territory. Wasn’t that long ago Devers was under the Mendoza Line.
Lefty Devers still has issues with portsiders, especially with the long ball. Only one of Devers’s 10 blasts has been against a lefty. What finishes off Devers in this contest is his slow start with the stick. But on wRC+ it is a one-two-three with Verdugo, Bogaerts, and Devers. Maybe he’ll catch Verdugo and Bogaerts in the homestretch?
I do not expect Bobby Dalbec to keep on lofting home runs as it appears a repeat of Michael Chavis in 2019 with a fast start and then a stall. But it gives two things missing from the Red Sox this season – joy and hope. Maybe Dalbec will be one of those rare players who find life in the majors far more agreeable than the minors? Hope for an upset.