Playing nine innings while presuming Jerry Trupiano is chattering about his All-Fish Team at this very moment ...
1. If you can ignore the fact that the Mariners, who scored nearly a third of a run less per game than the second-worst offense in the American League last season, essentially gave Mike Carp to the Red Sox for a half-eaten chicken parm Doug Mirabelli left behind, he's a mildly interesting pickup. He was plagued by injuries and pretty terrible last year, but two years ago he hit 12 homers with a .791 OPS in 313 plate-appearances. Suggestions that the 26-year-old could be a Brian Daubach-type are beyond wishful, but at the least he'll battle Daniel Nava for a roster spot (both are out of options) while allowing us to quit pretending that Lyle Overbay was the answer to anything other than the question, "Will the Red Sox ever sign a veteran first baseman more useless than J.T. Snow?"
2. Will Middlebrooks strikes me as someone who will become the quintessential No. 5 hitter, but I'm not sure he'll be up for the task of protecting David Ortiz (if such a thing is even necessary) this season. The 13/70 BB/K ratio as a rookie is somewhat concerning, and as much as I like his short, quick swing, I suspect he's going to be a .275-.280 hitter at his peak with 25 to 30 homers annually rather than the second coming of David Wright. Middlebrooks's projections this season are pretty interesting: ZIPS has him at .255 with a .726 OPS, 19 homers, and a 23/135 BB/K rate. PECOTA has him at .258 with a .748 OPS. Interesting take, by the way, by the excellent Marc Normandin at Over The Monster on how PECOTA views other Sox hitters.
3. I understand the sentiment that the Red Sox need to get versatile knucklehead Alfredo Aceves out of here for chemistry reasons. The 2004 Red Sox were the figurative Idiots. There have been too many literal idiots on the roster in the past couple of seasons, and we're all tired of it. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that this team is constructed well enough in terms of character and chemistry to be able to handle a goof like Aceves without it becoming a distraction. This year's team is structured so much better than the past couple of versions.
4. Sorry, this one lost me at the Red Sox' "already light" bullpen. It's not news that relief pitching is habitually volatile, but the Sox are stocked well enough with depth and versatility that they may be able to overcome even more than the usual attrition.
5. Prediction: Red Sox fans and various others who still pine for the shiny ornament by the name of Josh Hamilton will grow curiously silent as we get into the summer months. Coveting star power is certainly understandable, but Hamilton turns 32 in May, defines injury prone, struggled in the second half last year to the point that some scouts wondered if he'd devolved into a guess hitter, and has shed 20 pounds he probably didn't need to lose.
6. Stephen Drew was my pick for the Red Sox newcomer whose production most exceeds the collective expectations, and this tweet this morning did nothing to change my perception:
Stephen Drew moving as he did pre-'11 injury. In 2008-2010, his average season was .277, .800 OPS, 35 2bh, 12 3bh, 16 HR.— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) February 20, 2013
Relatedly, can we cool it on Jose Iglesias until he masters Triple A? Please?
7. It was already easy enough to feel for Ryan Kalish, whose considerable promise has been blunted by injuries that have or will essentially cost him three seasons of his career. He's making Tim Naehring's abbreviated career look utterly fulfilling. But then I stumbled upon the Bill James Handbook's projections for Kalish entering the 2011 season, and I felt even worse. Perhaps their numbers -- which put him down for a .271 average, a .791 OPS, 20 home runs, and 43 stolen bases -- were rather optimistic considering no one in Red Sox history has had a 20/40 season (though Jacoby Ellsbury went 32/39 that season). Still, it's a clue to the talent Kalish had -- and hopefully still has, so many bad breaks later.
8. Red Sox fans are going to adore Jackie Bradley Jr., and not just because he is a spectacular defensive player with a knack for getting on base by any means necessary. The kid simply gets it, something my friends in Portland told me time and again last summer, and something I saw for myself recently at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner. Bradley was the recipient of the Greg Montalbano Award, given annually to the individual who has made the greatest impact in the minor leagues that particular season. Rather than offering the usual thank-yous and brief platitudes, Bradley revealed that he had done some research on Montalbano, the former Northeastern lefty and Red Sox prospect who died of cancer at 31, so he could understand what winning the honor really meant. It was a heartwarming and classy gesture by a 22-year-old whose maturity well exceeds his years.
9. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
Because sometimes, it really is random. Ah, who am I kidding? Jeff Stone is never random.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.