Back in March, the sky was the limit for the Red Sox. There were questions over whether Boston could repeat as World Series champs. We debated if the Sox could again capture the American League East. Three months later, many of us appear awfully misguided. Perhaps delusional. Even stupid.
Prior to the season, I sat down to outline my expectations for each pitcher and position player projected to be on the 25-man Opening Day roster after most enjoyed a banner 2013. Now at the midpoint, let’s examine how expectation matches reality and take another gamble on the second-half resumes for the residents of Yawkey Way
Each day this week, we’ll focus on a specific area. Today, we’ll start with the outfielders.
Note: Statistical information is at the conclusion of 82 games. Next
March: N/A (Just a Double-A twinkle in our eyes.)
Midpoint: Betts arrived in the Bronx ready for his Major League debut on Sunday (where he went 1-for-3 with a walk) after tearing up the minors for a few months. Over 77 games between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, the second-baseman-turned-outfielder batted .345 with eight homers and 48 RBI. Not bad for a guy who began 2013 in the South Atlantic League.
Second-Half: Betts is the highest-rated prospect in the Red Sox’ organization and his confidence is high, the offense is floundering and in need of a spark, and the team could use an infusion of something positive. The phenom’s recall makes sense – for now. If he looks like Brock Holt at the plate, he’ll stay. If he resembles Jackie Bradley, Jr., he’ll return to the minors. In all likelihood, he’ll be something in between and return to Rhode Island for a bit before another trip north in August for the duration. For his sake, though, hopefully he sticks around. The team would benefit from it as well.
Jackie Bradley, Jr.
March: N/A (Forced onto the Opening Day roster by an injury to Shane Victorino.)
Midpoint: You know Bradley’s story. Defense exceptional (no errors in 215 chances and eight outfield assists), offense deplorable (.207/.289/.295, one home run, 24 RBI). Hey, on the plus-side, he’s five-for-five in stolen base attempts! Basically, the 24-year-old is pretty much the same guy he was in limited action a season ago – only in nearly three times the exposure, which is obviously not what the club needs.
Second-Half: At this stage, with the Red Sox outfield being so historically unproductive, you have to wonder who the team will look to move at the trade deadline and whether an outfield bat will return. Bradley has proven in a relatively small sample (almost 400 career MLB plate appearances) to be a Gold Glove caliber fielder with a Triple-A level bat, other than a .283 average with runners in scoring position. Expect a demotion for a short time during the second-half to help him regain his confidence at the plate if things don’t turn around soon.
March: The 27-year-old Carp had a career-year in 2013 after the Red Sox pulled him off the Seattle scrap heap, hitting .296 with an .885 OPS. The part-time left fielder, sometimes first baseman, and reliable pinch-hitter also homered nine times and drove in 43 runs in just 216 at-bats. In all likelihood, the veteran will take a step back at the plate this year, but his presence still provides depth at multiple positions and a quality and experienced bat off the bench. For now, that’s more valuable than what he might have been able to command as trade-bait in order to make room for Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Midpoint: Carp looks more like the guy the Mariners DFA’d after a miserable 2012 than the one the Red Sox employed in 2013. In ’12, the veteran had a .213/.312/.341 slash line in 164 at-bats. This year, though hampered a bit by injury, it’s .214/.317/.286 in 70 homerless AB’s. Needless to say, he hasn’t been standing in Bradley, Jr.’s way.
Second-Half: Carp remains on the disabled list, where he’s been since the start of June, with a right foot fracture. When he does return, there’s no reason to expect an improvement, at least not a significant one. If he doesn’t get better, it may be a blast of bad news past – meaning another release to make room for the kids before a contender considers an inexpensive gamble on his services.
March: This star-spangled-slugger doesn’t ooze humility, but he does help produce wins. While Gomes was fantastic as a pinch-hitter (.286 average, 1.405 OPS, four home runs) and tremendous with runners in scoring position (.346 average, .991 OPS, 39 RBI) in 2013, his overall season totals – a .247 average, .771 OPS, 13 homers, and 52 RBI – were actually right in line with the outfielder’s career averages. Gomes may not be the same guy in a pinch or in the clutch, but history would show the 33-year-old’s numbers should find the mean since he’s expected to see plenty of action in left.
Midpoint: So much for all those wins. The production at the dish has taken a step back as well. Yeesh. The vocal vet is hitting .235 with a .696 OPS. The Red Sox are above .500 in his starts, however, at 22-21. Suppose that means something for a team that’s six under overall, but we’re not sure what. He’s still helpful with runners in scoring position, but not nearly as effective (.271/.361/.479).
Second-Half: Should the Sox start selling off their lesser pieces, a contender may wish to go to war with Mr. Intangibles and give up a prospect for Gomes. Otherwise, he’ll be around Boston for the rest of the season and likely join his sixth team next winter. As for the numbers, what you’ve seen is what you’ll get, plus a couple of dramatic hits along the way. Next
March: The 31-year-old is coming off his first full major league season and it couldn’t have gone much better. In 134 games, Nava ranked among the AL’s top hitters with a .303 average, he had an .831 OPS, slugged a dozen homers, and drove in 66 runs. Worth noting, though, he took a steep step back in the postseason, hitting .200 with a .286 OBP in 28 total plate appearances. The spring has been interesting. Nava’s experimented in center field and he’s also been considered for a lead-off hitting platoon role. The 2013 postseason notwithstanding, getting on base has always been Nava’s specialty. Expect his overall numbers to drop in 2014, but the OBP to remain north of .350.
Midpoint: There’s dropping off a house and there’s dropping off a skyscraper. Nava’s season has been up-and-down – literally, as it’s included a stint in Triple-A Pawtucket. The outfielder is batting just .219 with a .314 OBP, but the numbers have been steadily rising. Since June 7, he’s hitting .345 with a .438 OBP. But he has just five RBI in more than a quarter of last year’s plate appearances. It’s easy to see one contributing factor to a terrible offensive outfield.
Second-Half: Nava will find his way back to respectability. He won’t bat .300, but he’ll do much better than the Mendoza line. Something in the .250 range is within reach if he stays hot for an extended period of time. Of course, that also depends how often he’s battling the likes of Brock Holt, Jonny Gomes, or even Will Middlebrooks in left for playing time. Either way, 2013 is looking like lightning in a bottle – and not just for the team.
March: When Sizemore was signed by the Red Sox, he felt like a flier. Then he surprised the fans, his teammates, his bosses, and probably himself on the way to the Opening Day roster. The expectations are all over the map and most of them appear unrealistic. The 31-year-old still hasn’t appeared in a regular season game since 2011 or been healthy dating back to 2009. Sizemore isn’t going to be a 30-homer, 30-stolen base guy – something he did only once in three MVP caliber seasons – and he most likely won’t be an All-Star. In fact, he may not appear in 100 games. But, for now, he’s worth taking that shot on in order to balance out the order (provided he bats up top) and field the most competitive team to open the year.
Midpoint: Sizemore hit .216 with 15 RBI over 205 plate appearances in 52 games for Boston before his recent release. He was worth the try, but it simply didn’t work out. The vet has since signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia and started his tenure for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Second-Half: For the Red Sox, projections here are irrelevant. For Sizemore, hopefully he’ll find his way back onto a Major League roster before long.
March: Call me crazy, but there’s no one on the offense – maybe the team – that I’m more unsure about entering the season. Victorino boasted one of the more impressive campaigns of his 10-year career in his first as an American Leaguer in 2013, and we know he was instrumental to Boston’s playoff success, but he enjoyed those triumphs while battling one nagging injury after another. That contributed to making his Gold Glove defense in right all the more impressive. Victorino appeared in 122 games last year, but I’ll be surprised if he cracks the century mark in 2014. That said, he claims he’ll be ready for the opener. Here’s hoping every little thing’s gonna be all right.
Midpoint: He wasn’t and it isn’t. To this point, Victorino has been lost for roughly two months to a right hamstring strain over multiple DL stints. He remains shut down with an uncertain timetable. When the outfielder has been on the field – for only 21 games, by the way – he’s batted .242 with a .627 OPS and 10 RBI. At 33, he’s enduring the worst year of his career. Showing up to camp out of shape didn’t help.
Second-Half: Victorino will see the field again, but I’d now be surprised if he tops 75 games by season’s end. At some point, don’t be surprised if the Red Sox just shut him down. In the end, this will be a lost year for the veteran – one costing $13 million. The big question here is starting to become: What should the Sox expect from him in 2015?
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below