Yesterday and today’s games vs. the Cubs are technically informal exhibitions, meaning Spring Training is officially finished for the Boston Red Sox. So, with the Major League roster set, today will be the first installment of my monthly “Report Cards” series, in which I’ll be handing out grades for each player in the squad.
Obviously, Spring Training is less about stats and more about getting ready for the season. Less tangible things like bat speed and quality of contact for hitters, and velocity, pitch activity, and location for pitchers are what’s most important, but those sort of things are hard to measure in a piece like this. So, with that being said, stats were taken into account when compiling these grades. Let’s start with the position players:
Andrew Benintendi: A+
Benny hit .361 in 44 AB, with a .428 OBP and a freakish 1.224 OPS. Of his 17 hits, 4 were HR’s and 6 were doubles, leading to 11 RBI. He looks poised to have a monster season.
Christian Vazquez: A
The newly extended catcher was great in camp, hitting .361/.368/1.007. Although he only drove in 4 runs, he did blast 2 HR and 4 doubles while keeping his strikeouts down to just 2 in 36 AB. He seems ready to play a key role in the Red Sox offense this year.
Xander Bogaerts: A
Bogey hit 3 HR (including one 440-foot bomb to straightaway center) and 4 doubles to drive in 8. His .349 BA and .651 SLG are good signs that he’s seeing the ball well and making good contact. Hopefully he’s ready to return to 2015/2016 form this year.
Brock Holt: A-
Holt was the last guy to make the roster, and deservedly so judging from his Spring. He returned to his normal, healthy self, hitting .343 with a surprising .881 OPS. He found the base paths often, racking up 12 hits and 6 walks. His lack of power (0 HR and only 2 doubles) dock him half a grade.
(Photo credit: The Game Haus)
Mookie Betts: A-
When Betts started 0-19, whispers about another disappointing start to the season began creeping around. He broke out of that slump with gusto, though, ending camp with 16 hits (including 3 HR and 6 doubles) in 47 AB. It looks like he’ll be just fine.
Rafael Devers: A-
Devers received the 2nd-most at-bats of anyone in camp with 50, and he did not disappoint. He finished with a .320/.333/.933 stat line, with 3 HR and 8 RBI. He looks ready to take the next step in his game in his second big league season, but still needs to work on improving his defense at 3rd.
Mitch Moreland: B
Moreland did a little bit of everything at the plate, crushing 2 HR, 2 doubles and a triple in 40 AB, good for a respectable .275 BA and .525 SLG. Numbers similar to that would be a welcome contribution off the bench for the backup 1st baseman.
Blake Swihart: B
Swihart exploded onto the scene, beginning the Spring in full force. In fact, his BA didn’t drop below .400 until over 2 weeks into camp. A slow finish brought that number way down to .262, but he finished with 3 HR, 11 RBI, and 16 total hits. He should be a valuable utility option for Boston in 2018.
J.D. Martinez: B-
Boston’s shiny new slugger didn’t necessarily slug much in Spring Training (0 HR) but he did hit .310, knock 4 doubles and a triple, and drive in 7 runs. He’s docked a full grade for lack of home runs, but all-in-all a good showing from him.
Eduardo Nunez: C+
Nunez will get the nod as the starting 2nd baseman with Dustin Pedroia out to begin the year. He had a respectable, albeit somewhat boring, Spring, finishing with a .280 BA and 4 RBI.
Sandy Leon: C+
The Sox don’t need much offensive production from Leon. Vazquez is expected to get a majority of the games behind the plate in 2018. Similar numbers to his Spring (.259/.333/.852, 2 HR, 3 RBI in 27 AB) would be just fine from him.
Hanley Ramirez: C-
Ramirez needs to step it up from last year if he wants to get the at-bats he desires in 2018. He didn’t show well in camp, hitting just .260 with one sole HR. A slow start for him could mean being replaced by Moreland for the everyday 1st baseman job, so he needs to do better to begin the year.
(Photo credit: Sporting News)
Jackie Bradley Jr.: D
It’s a make or break year for JBJ, in my opinion, as his lack of offensive production is beginning to outweigh his Gold Glove caliber defense in center field. He hit just .171 in Spring, which would be unacceptable this season, but was saved from an even worse grade by nabbing doubles in 4 of his 7 hits.
Note: Dustin Pedroia missed all of Spring Training recovering from injury, and therefor didn’t receive a grade.
It was a mostly good showing from the Red Sox bats down in Florida this year, an encouraging sign for a team that was woeful by their own standards last year. Now, on to the pitching:
Bobby Poyner: A+
Poyner was the biggest surprise of the Spring. The non-roster invitee has never pitched above AA ball, but looked perfectly in his element, posting a 0.87 ERA, 0.48 WHIP, and .121 opponent’s BA over 10.1 IP. He will be the sole lefty in the bullpen to begin the season.
Matt Barnes: A+
Barnes was decent last year out of the bullpen, but really excelled in Spring Training this year, recording a 1.13 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. Most importantly, he logged 13 K’s and only 3 BB’s over his 8 innings of work, looking like one of the 7th or 8th innings power pitchers that the Sox are still trying to establish going forward.
Marcus Walden: A
Another surprise here, Walden is the other non-roster invite to make the final cut. He was excellent this Spring, throwing 13 innings over 7 appearances and compiling a 0.69 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and .143 OBA while striking out 15. He’ll get at least 2 weeks of big league action, and he’ll be pitching for his life during that time.
Heath Hembree: A
Hembree was another surprise this Spring. Like Barnes, he had a decent 2017, and he looks ready to improve on that this season. He ended camp with a 0.96 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .200 OBA, and 12 K’s in 9.1 IP. He’s another contender for that 7th/8th inning spot.
Brian Johnson: A
The unproven Johnson is going to assume a starter’s spot to begin the year, and if he pitched like he did in Spring he’ll leave Alex Cora with a difficult decision once the regular rotation is healthy again. In 5 starts and 15.2 IP, Johnson held batters to a .182 BA. His biggest appearance was against the Yankee’s A-lineup just last week, in which he went 4.2 innings, giving up only 2 hits and a walk. He looks ready to contribute to kick off 2018.
David Price: A-
The divisive lefty was wonderful after starting his Spring Training regimen a little late. He pitched 12 innings in 3 starts, allowing an OBA of just .132 on the way to a 2.25 ERA and 0.75 WHIP. His velocity and location were there, and he looked reminiscent of the Cy Young pitcher of years passed. He’s the key starter in an unpredictable rotation, and he looks poised to perform at ace-caliber once again.
(Photo credit: WEEI)
Chris Sale: B
Alex Cora and co. started Sale late this Spring in an effort to combat fatigue issues he’s faced towards the end of previous seasons. It didn’t seem to have an effect on him, as he was what we expected to see. 19 K’s in just 14.2 IP is what jumps off of the page the most here. His stuff looked to be in midseason form.
Carson Smith: B-
Smith was an exciting pickup 2 years ago, but missed almost that entire time due to injury. He looks recovered and ready to go, posting a 2.25 ERA, .200 OBA, and 11 K’s in 8 IP down in Ft. Myers. Look for him to be a key member of the Sox’ ‘pen late in games this year.
Joe Kelly: B-
His 5.68 ERA this Spring would normally be deserving of a grade close to failing, but when taking a closer look at the numbers and performances, that stat is a little misleading. His .174 OBA and 0.95 WHIP were all towards the top of the team rankings, and his fastball routinely saw 98-99 mph, leading to a hefty 11 K’s in just 6.1 innings of work.
Rick Porcello: D
Porcello has a pretty poor Spring, continuing his sub-par performance from last year. He put up a 4.91 ERA and .289 OBA. The only thing that saves him from failing is 12 K’s and only 2 BB’s in 11 IP. With the newfound emergence of relative depth at the starting pitching spot, Porcello must improve if he hopes to stay in Boston’s plans.
Hector Velasquez: D
He’ll be starting the year in the 5-spot in the rotation until either Steven Wright returns from suspension or Eduardo Rodriguez returns from injury. He didn’t do much to boost anyone’s confidence in him, posting poor numbers across the board. He has the pedigree and the stuff to succeed, though, so Red Sox Nation is hoping that he’s just getting off to a slow start.
Note: Drew Pomeranz and Craig Kimbrel only pitched 1 inning each, and Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright saw no game time at all this Spring. Because of this, they did not receive grades.
(Header photo credit: SI.com)