Life is good. The Red Sox have the best offense in the American League, the top of the rotation has performed well and the bullpen hasn’t been a problem. Before play began on May 9, the Sox had scored 156 runs, most in the AL. The gap between them and the second-place Texas Rangers was more than the gap between the Rangers and the eighth-place Detroit Tigers. As such, the top of this edition of the Red Sox Player Power Rankings is stacked with hitters.
27. Sean O’Sullivan (Previously Not Ranked): The only newcomer on this list is doubtful to still be on the active roster when we do this again.
26. Josh Rutledge (27): He has a grand total of six plate appearances since our last edition. If he’s in the game, chances are something bad has happened.
25. Joe Kelly (28): Already rehabbing, if Kelly somehow reclaims a rotation spot, he’ll be stealing innings from someone more deserving.
24. Tommy Layne (25): Manager John Farrell still doesn’t trust him. He’s appeared when the Red Sox have had the lead in only two of his nine appearances – ahead two in the top of the sixth, and ahead six in the top of the eighth. Don’t be surprised if he loses his roster spot to either Eduardo Rodriguez or Joe Kelly soon.
23. Clay Buchholz (24): His execution was stayed by a strong start against the White Sox, but he has more work to do to climb out of this hole.
22. Ryan Hanigan (23): He’s still solid behind the dish, but at the dish, he’s easily been the team’s worst hitter.
21. Matt Barnes (21): He’s doing just enough to maintain his roster spot, though if he wasn’t a Red Sox farmhand, he might have run out of chances by now.
20. Christian Vazquez (19): As I tweeted on Saturday, of the 11 Red Sox catchers with at least 200 plate appearances during the John Henry/Tom Werner era (2002-present), only Ryan Lavarnway and Kevin Cash have hit worse than Vazquez.
19. Carson Smith (15): Smith drops after an inexplicable usage pattern from Farrell, who used him for an inning the day he was called up, and then let him sit there and rot the rest of the week. Farrell has said he would be conservative with Smith, but this is a bit much. He should have at least got an inning after Saturday’s game got out of hand in the Bronx.
18. Chris Young (20): He continues to do good work against left-handed pitching, but there just haven’t been enough opportunities for him to face southpaws.
17. Mookie Betts (7): His tailspin continues. He’ll pull out of it, but he remains an incredibly streaky hitter. Luckily, he’s not carrying the slump out to the field or the basepaths, in the rare times when he has reached.
16. Heath Hembree (16): He’s been fine.
15. Eduardo Rodriguez (13): Three terrible Henry Owens starts rammed home how much the Sox need him. Thankfully, Rick Porcello and Steven Wright continuously holding down the fort has helped give Rodriguez the time he needs to be right when he does return.
14. David Price (10): Anyone making $217 million is going to be held to a higher standard. Having said that, he’ll be fine. His peripheral stats – contact%, swinging strike%, etc. – are mostly either at his career norms or better. His batting average on balls in play, meanwhile, is at an all-time high. His career BABIP is .288, but this season it’s .373. That’s a huge jump, and it should correct itself soon, especially now that Dustin Pedroia helped him identify a flaw in his delivery.
13. Junichi Tazawa (8): In terms of leverage, Tazawa took a backseat to Robbie Ross Jr. these past two weeks. Perhaps that was a function of matchups, but it’s certainly worth watching, especially after Tazawa allowed two runs in 0.1 innings in Chicago.
12. Brock Holt (11): This season, Holt has drawn walks at a higher rate and even more impressively, cut down on his strikeouts. This has made him a tougher out than usual. In fact, only five AL hitters are currently seeing more pitches per plate appearance than Holt, on average: Mike Napoli, Mike Trout, Alex Gordon, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki.
11. Robbie Ross Jr. (17): Over the last two weeks, Ross didn’t allow a hit, only walked one, and struck out five of the 13 batters he faced. His steady play this year has really bolstered the bullpen.
10. Craig Kimbrel (12): Kimbrel has essentially duplicated Ross’ line the past two weeks, though he struck out one additional batter. With four straight scoreless outings since his meltdown in Houston, Kimbrel seems to have found his groove.
9. Koji Uehara (9): Of the relievers currently on the big league roster, Uehara has allowed the fewest hits so far – just four.
8. Hanley Ramirez (14): He’s still just hitting at a league-average rate for the season, but he really turned it up in the past two weeks – he hit .310/.383/.500, with two homers, and another two stolen bases. That gives him four steals in four tries.
7. Travis Shaw (1): Shaw seems to have settled in a little bit. He didn’t do anything overtly flashy these past two weeks: He hit .245/.302/.469. This is very similar to the low average, high power hitter we thought he’d be. The concern, once again, is his strikeouts. In the past two weeks, he struck out in 32 percent of his plate appearances, and for the season he’s at 26.8 percent — worst among the team’s regular players.
6. Xander Bogaerts (4): Simply, he does everything well. For those who think he’s about to be a 20-home run hitter, his solo shot on Sunday in the Bronx – an inside fastball that he rocketed to left-center field — provided a delicious bit of confirmation bias.
5. Jackie Bradley Jr. (18): Here’s a list of players who have hit better than Jackie Bradley Jr. over the past two weeks: Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Brandon Belt. That’s it. That’s the list. He hit .364/.429/.773, with three homers, three triples and three doubles. He had more extra-base hits (nine, if you’re scoring at home) than singles (seven). Overall, he has a hit in 14 straight games, which is just four games shy of Mookie Betts’ team-leading 18-game hitting streak from last season.
4. Dustin Pedroia (6): He’s second in the AL to only Manny Machado in total hits, and is fifth in the majors overall. He keeps looking like the Dustin Pedroia of old, and that has been one of the best stories of the season.
3. Rick Porcello (5): Porcello has delivered a quality start in five straight starts. The only time he didn’t toss a quality start this season was in his first outing against the Blue Jays, when he allowed two two-run homers to Jose Bautista. The homers still are an issue, but they are no longer the fatal flaw they were last year, when they were constantly the other shoe that you just knew was going to drop.
2. Steven Wright (3): He’s been unbelievable. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any start this season, and was one pitch away from a “Maddux” last night – a complete game shutout in fewer than 100 pitches. We’ve seen Tim Wakefield have stretches like this and then fade. We know what can happen to the knuckleball when it gets warmer, but right now Steven Wright is a treasure to behold.
1. David Ortiz (2): There have been a lot of calls for the big man to take back his retirement talk. Personally, I think Ortiz is making every effort to go out with a bang, and I’m loving every minute of it. Of course, it seems unlikely that Ortiz is going to set his career high in slugging percentage in his final major league season, but watching him try is going to be awesome. Especially when he’s still showing the Yankees who their Papi is.