Boston Red Sox Still Have Upside At All-Star Break Despite Being In 1st Place In AL East
What are the Boston Red Sox? Are they a World Series team? Or are they a team destined to fail?
There is no right or wrong answer here, despite being at the All-Star break, this year’s Red Sox team has yet to show their true colors. Overall the 2017 campaign has been a roller coaster with ups and downs balancing out. Being in 1st place in the American League East with all the inconsistencies is an impressive feat.
Starting Rotation Can Run The Table
You have a starting rotation led by Chris Sale who outside of a bad May has had a stellar start to his Boston Red Sox career. Such a good start that the ace was given the honor of starting the All-Star game for the American League. Behind Sale, you have a rotation that has yet to peak.
Since his blowup with John Farrell in Oakland, Drew Pomeranz has arguably been the best starter in the entire league with an AL-leading 2.72 ERA since May 14th. Pomeranz has far exceeded expectations set forth upon him, and in theory he should be a big part of this teams future.
The other starters have been a bit of an uncertainty. David Price started the season on the DL and had a couple of rough starts. But Price, like Pomeranz, has turned it around as of late. Price’s ERA in June?
Price’s ERA in June?
4.50 in 36 IP.
So far in July?
1.50 in 12 IP.
If the playoffs started today the second starter for Boston would likely be Price. If Price is on for the second half, a Red Sox AL East Pennant is almost a certainty.
Outside of Price, Sale, and Pomeranz, the rotation gets a tad murkier. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello has had the toughest time getting going this season. Part of it happens to be the lack of success in his sinker ball. Following up a CY Young season is tough, but even his stats are far worse than his career averages.
After posting a 6.63 ERA in June, Porcello had two strong starts in July with a 2.51 ERA so far in the month. If Porcello can continue to right the ship, his success could help Boston run up the score in the second half. But the craziest thing about Boston’s potential lies in what is their fifth starter, Eduardo Rodrigeuz.
E-Rod has been rehabbing back from a knee injury with the 5th spot being filled with the likes of Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, and Doug Fister. Of course, some of those starts by those players came with a Price or a Pomeranz injury, but when E-Rod comes back after the break, the rotation will be fully healthy for what seems like the first time this season.
Rodriguez’s talent and ability makes him a solid 3 starter on any team in the majors, for Boston, saying he is a 5th starter speaks to the talent they have in their starting rotation. Before going down with his injury he had a 3.54 ERA on the season in 11 GS.
Bullpen That Still Has Uncertainties
The Boston Red Sox bullpen started the year with Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith on the DL. The idea at the time was having two late inning relievers added around the all-star break without having to give up any more for them. But things haven’t gone according to plan.
Thornburg has been ruled out for the season and Smith has been shut down multiple times and a rehab post-All-Star break is a dream for Boston at the moment.
But shockingly this year’s bullpen has been rock solid in the first half despite some struggles towards the end. Craig Kimbrel was electric in the closing role and earned another All-Star nod.
The starter turned reliever Joe Kelly was nearly flawless for much of the first half. Kelly’s one issue was not pitching back-to-backs, but that was to ease him into the bullpen. Matt Barnes has had immense road struggles but has been great at Fenway Park.
Pitchers like Fernando Abad, Robby Scott, Heath Hembree, and Blaine Boyer have far exceeded all expectations that many had of them. Even with overachievers, Boston could still look to add a reliever from the outside by the deadline despite having Smith on a potential return and a proven MLB reliever in Brandon Workman in AAA-Pawtucket.
Positional Players That Have Yet To Hit Their Peaks
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., and second basemen Dustin Pedroia have both played up to their abilities, but outside of them, the lineup was full of players who can add more in the second half.
Andrew Benintendi has played very well as a rookie outside a cold stretch earlier in the year, but even he still has upside to show this season. At the first base position, Mitch Moreland has far exceeded his contract and looks like a diamond in the rough type of signing for Dave Dombrowski. Moreland has slowed things down a tad in terms of getting on base, but with limited time off that is expected. Post All-Star break, it should be pedal to the metal for the gold glove first basemen.
At the catcher spot, both Sandy Leon and Christian Vasquez have hit a rough patch after coming out at full speed to start the season offensively. Both are fine in terms of how the roster is built and can be allowed to struggle.
At third base, it has been a bit of a crap shoot with Pablo Sandoval failing to pan out. Thankfully players like Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin have been able to step in and stabilize a position riddled with injuries and inefficiencies. Of course predicting what those two prior mentioned players will do in the second half is something that is too difficult to do. But with Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge both close to a Major League return, Boston can afford to stay put at the MLB trade deadline.
The utility outfielder role has been filled by veteran Chris Young who has had a down month in June. Young should be fine in the second half and is an above average hitter to have off the bench.
The one true player that has a good amount of room for growth in the second half is right fielder Mookie Betts. Betts has 16 home runs this season which is great, but his average sitting in the.270s is not so hot. His average sitting at .272 is 19 points lower than his career lows.
Interestingly enough the superstar player still finds ways to get on base. His OPS is .841 so far this season compared to .897 last year.
The 24-year-old has been fine in the first half, great even, but you can’t help but feeling watching his game that he has more to offer in the second half.
Boston does have one starter that has straight up underachieved. And that player is Designated Hitter Hanley Ramirez. Despite bouncing back in the second half of June the DH is still only hitting .261 with 13 home runs and 34 RBIs.
Maybe it is the pressure of living up to David Ortiz, or maybe it is the lack of awareness. But if Hanley can start turning it up in the second half, the sky is the limit for the Boston Red Sox.