|Red Sox semi-dominate Baseball America’s top prospect list||02.13.16 at 9:59 am ET|
The publication’s annual list ranking the top prospects in baseball is out, and it is heavy with Red Sox youngsters in the Top 20.
Yoan Moncada is the highest-ranking Red Sox player on the list, coming in at No. 3, only behind Dodgers infielder Corey Seager and Twins outfielder Byron Buxton.
The next Red Sox prospect on the list is outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who comes in at No. 15. Not too far behind are infielder Rafael Devers and pitcher Anderson Espinoza, who come in at No. 18 and No. 19, respectively.
The only other Red Sox prospect on the list is Michael Kopech, who is rated as the 89th best prospect.
Two prospects the Red Sox dealt to San Diego in the Craig Kimbrel trade, shortstop Javier Guerra (No. 52) and outfielder Manuel Margot (No. 56), are also in the Top 100.
|Source: Former Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow agrees to deal with Marlins||02.12.16 at 3:59 pm ET|
Breslow will compete for a job as a reliever with the Marlins.
The contract includes a late March opt-out, with Breslow slated to make $1.5 million if he makes the big league club. The Cubs, Red Sox and Blue Jays also showed interest in the 35 year old.
Breslow, who has been working out with former Red Sox trainer Mike Reinold at Mike Boyle’s facility in Woburn this offseason, did shown some interest in trying his hand as a starter in 2016, a role some of the interested teams were open to.
He is coming off a 2015 in which his season ended with two starts, allowing two runs over 9 1/3 innings. Breslow finished his ’15 season — in which he pitched under a one-year, $2 million deal — with 4.15 ERA in 45 appearances.
The lefty is reuniting with former Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves, who serves in the same capacity with Miami.
|What you should know about Red Sox’ bullpen||02.12.16 at 11:17 am ET|
You have the four outfielders — Chris Young, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. — playing three positions. Travis Shaw and Brock Holt figure to serve as back-up plans in both the infield and OF.
The catching situation might offer some intrigue, but that dynamic will largely depend on the health of Christian Vazquez, and continued progress of Blake Swihart. If both are perceived to be ready to hit the ground running when April rolls around, then you might be hearing some Ryan Hanigan trade talk.
Then there is the bullpen.
There would seem to be some certainties in what figures to be a group of seven. Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Robbie Ross Jr., Tommy Layne and Roenis Elias enter mid-February as the odds on favorites to be the pen’s inhabitants.
But, according to a major league source, the Red Sox continue to look at lefty relief options, with veteran Neal Cotts perhaps the most realistic option on a minor league deal if such an acquisition is made. The team has had an offer to Craig Breslow, also on a minor league contract, but that reunion doesn’t seem likely at this point.
So, where might there be some wiggle room?
Layne is out of options, so unless he falls apart in spring training, he is the kind of lefty specialist the Red Sox seemingly wouldn’t want to part with.
Ross Jr. has options, but the Red Sox were very impressed with his performance at the tail-end of 2015 after the southpaw figured out his knee issues. If there are any hiccups in March, the 26-year-old’s spot might represent the window of opportunity for someone on the outside looking in.
Matt Barnes is on the 40-man roster, and also had a strong finish. So, as long as John Farrell is comfortable with the likes of Layne and Elias (or a lefty to be named later), the righty’s velocity might be a welcomed addition. Heath Hembree, Edwin Escobar and Noe Ramirez (both also on the 40-man) are two other guys in that same boat as Barnes.
Williams Jerez, a 23-year-old who just converted to pitching two seasons ago, should be very intriguing this spring. He is on the 40-man roster and struck out 86 in 88 2/3 innings at three different minor league levels. The left-handeder almost certainly won’t be immediately in the mix, but he could make an interesting impression. Hard-throwing Pat Light’s situation is similar, seemingly needing more time to learn the art of relieving, but in position to make his mark in case needed at some point in 2016.
Then there is Steven Wright.
Like Layne and Tazawa, Wright is out of options. The knuckleballer is a favorite of the Red Sox’ coaching staff, and certainly has already proven his value on a big league roster.
And while it might seem that Wright should have the advantage over Elias when talking about possibly transforming a starter into a reliever due to roster flexibility, understand that the former Mariners hurler has a proven track record as an everyday major leaguer. This is a guy who not only started 49 games over the last two seasons, but held left-handed batters to a .608 OPS in 2015.
Other non-roster candidates also loom, with Anthony Varvaro back on a minor league deal. (It should be noted that the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is currently maxed out.) Brandon Workman still needs time after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
At least there is some intrigue to hang our hats on heading into the kick off of camp next week.
|Bradfo Show podcast: Matt Barnes talks throwing hard, Fort Myers eating establishments||02.10.16 at 4:13 pm ET|
“If you’re going to go out, Cracker Barrel is awesome,” Barnes said. “That new Twin Peaks place is a lot of fun.” (When questioned about the merits of the latter’s menu, he responded, “The wings are good. They’ve got some bacon strips in some brown sugar. It’s a heart attack in an appetizer.”)
But the real alteration in Barnes’ lifestyle is that he enters spring training as a relief pitcher for the first time. Why? In large part because he carries the skill-set so many bullpens are looking for these days — the righty throws hard.
Besides Joe Kelly, Barnes threw 97 mph or better more than any Red Sox pitcher in 2015 (22 times). And while he has no documented proof, his brother did once email him a tweet from a scout in Barnes’ first pro year suggesting he had hit 101 mph.
“It’s definitely pretty cool, whether or not I actually did it,” he admitted. “You can’t just dig down and get it. Going from 96 or 97 to 100, it’s hard.”
But the velocity is just a start for Barnes, as he found out in ’15.
Having just been introduced to relieving midway through last spring training, Barnes took his lumps for much of his stint in the major leagues. As he explained on the podcast, simply throwing hard wasn’t going to be the answer, with the righty totaling a 6.89 ERA and .338 batting average against through 23 appearances before being sent down.
But, after his promotion from Triple-A, Barnes came back in September to allow just one run on eight hits while striking out eight and walking three in nine games. And, just for good measure, he was also afforded one last reminder courtesy Alex Rodriguez, who turned around a 97 mph heater for a solo homer in Barnes’ second-to-last outing of the season.
Following the A-Rod homer, Barnes explained on the podcast that he sat in the dugout with teammate Rick Porcello, who helped guided the rookie through what he might have done right and wrong.
“Velocity helps, I’m not going to say it doesn’t. But if you’re throwing 97 down the middle of the plate these guys are going to hit it,” he said. “Ninety-six, 97, 98, if it’s not located, it’s going to get hit.
“September was a turning point, how I needed to go about being a reliever, how my stuff best played.”
Barnes will be competing for a spot in what already appears to be a fairly crowded Red Sox bullpen, with Craig Kimbrel, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Carson Smith, Robbie Ross Jr., Tommy Layne, and Roenis Elias all having proved themselves in the majors. Steven Wright (who is out of options) and Heath Hembree, also figure to be in the mix.
For now, however, Barnes is at least thinking like a member of the Red Sox bullpen.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked if some of the attention sent the way to the highly-touted Yankees pen should be diverted to the Sox. “It’s always going to be a competition, especially when you talk about division rivals. … I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with, too.”
|Travis Shaw’s reminder: Red Sox spring training housing begs for reality shows||02.09.16 at 10:10 am ET|
On Tuesday morning Travis Shaw let the world know who he would be living with throughout spring training.
‘ Travis Shaw (@travis_shaw21) February 9, 2016
Now, it’s unclear if Deven Marrero, Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart and Shaw decided upon this living arrangement because of the tough housing market in the Greater Fort Myers area, or if they viewed it as a the potential for a “Life in Lee County” reality show.
But it does offer the reminder of the uniqueness that comes with putting players up in the Southwest Florida area for what is basically two months.
Rick Porcello? He bought a house in nearby Naples and plans on living with Joe Kelly. (Kelly’s wife is expected to be staying back home, with the couple’s first child slated to be born any day now.)
Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr. also bought houses in the area.
|Eduardo Rodriguez doesn’t need fancy car, but does need David Price||02.09.16 at 9:48 am ET|
Even while having to live in an major league existence/parking lot of tricked-out cars (see Yoan Moncada’s glow-in-the-dark BMW I8), Eduardo Rodriguez drives a Toyota 4Runner and makes no apologies for it.
“I know those kind of guys. They just buy the car. They don’t care what kind of car they got,” said Rodriguez, who just got his driver’s license last year. “They just buy the car and take it to that guy and the guy pulls out a Lamborghini. But I’m not that kind of guy. I just buy a car to drive in, especially with my wife and kids.”
But that doesn’t mean Rodriguez is adverse to mirroring. And there’s one person in particular that he’s all in on emulating this spring training — David Price.
“Having him here, for me, it’s going to be pretty good because he can teach me how to pitch because he’s a lefty and we have almost the same mechanics,” said Rodriguez, who was one of the first pitchers to arrive at JetBlue Park last week. “We throw the same, 94-97 [mph]. So it’s going to be pretty good for me having him here in spring training. If they put him in the same group with him it’s going to be way better for me because he can teach me everything. Whenever we do something, he can teach me how to control the game. For me? It’s going to be great.
“Two years ago I got Johan Santana in Baltimore and he taught me a lot, and that’s why I got in the big leagues last year and did pretty good. He taught me how to do this, this and this. So now I have him here and he can teach me with every start how to get better.”
|20 cases of bubble gum heading to Fort Myers Wednesday||02.09.16 at 9:06 am ET|
For those who like to define seasons, the Red Sox once again are attempting to help you with their annual Truck Day taking place Wednesday morning.
With Milford’s Al Hartz behind the wheel, a 53-foot truck will be loaded starting at 7 a.m. before leaving Fenway Park for the 1,480-mile trip to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. Wally the Green Monster, along with his newly unveiled sister Tessie, will lead the parade on a flatbed truck.
In case you were wondering what will be on board …
— 20,400 baseballs
— 1,100 bats
— 200 batting gloves
— 200 batting helmets
— 320 batting practice tops
— 160 white game jerseys
— 300 pairs of pants
— 400 T-shirts
— 400 pairs of socks
— 20 cases of bubble gum
— 60 cases of sunflower seeds
|Blue Jays win American League East’s best Super Bowl party||02.08.16 at 10:02 am ET|
With football season officially over, big league baseball players will begin to really flock toward Arizona and Florida in preparation for the coming season.
But it never hurts if there some sort of segue to help the transition. The Red Sox had their Winter Weekend, but that was still in the heart of the NFL playoffs.
Well, when it comes to making the most creative bridge from one sport to the other, the Blue Jays won the day.
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo6) February 8, 2016
That’s right, the Blue Jays had a Super Bowl party in which admission was contingent on wearing onesie pajamas.
When contacted by WEEI.com for comment on his group’s get-together, Toronto manager John Gibbons sent this along in a text …
“I was at a party where my daughter’s band performed pregame. But I would have loved to watched it in PJs.”
|Bradfo Show: Rick Porcello reflects on life without free agency||02.05.16 at 11:27 am ET|
But if you want to compare the pitcher’s lot in life now — as he joins fellow rotation-mates Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez in getting early February workouts in at JetBlue Park — to a year ago, there is one enormous difference.
Porcello is now officially one of 15 major league pitchers to be making at least $20 million in one season.
But thanks to that contract, which will pay the 27 year old $82.5 million over the next four seasons, he has the luxury of viewing what transpired in the free agent market this offseason from a safe distance.
“This winter? No,” Porcello said when appearing on the Bradfo Show podcast when asked if he monitored how the pitching market was unfolding. “Those were things I went through in my head last spring when it was a possibility of me signing an extension, and things that I discussed with my family and my agent and the possibilities of free agency heading into the offseason following last year. I knew the possibilities if I went out there and had a good year, what could be out there. And if I had a bad year, what could happen. I understood that and I just felt like the deal with the Red Sox gave me ‘¦ It was a place I wanted to be. It was an organization that I felt like has a chance to win over the next five or six years, and that was the biggest factor in being here.”
While the easy narrative would be that Porcello might have run into trouble if he chose not to sign his extension with the Red Sox last April, and became a free agent after 2015, that might have not necessarily been the case.
It’s undeniable that the majority of Porcello’s first year with the Red Sox was a mess, with the righty going 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA over 172 innings. Still, he would have had a few things going for him heading into a potential free agent run. First, after coming back from a month-long layoff due to a triceps issue, the final eight starts resulted in a 3.14 ERA. And then there was that age — Porcello would have been the youngest starting pitcher on the market, by far.
Compare Porcello’s situation to a pitcher who did hit free agency this offseason, Jeff Samardzija.
While Samardzija totaled 214 innings for the White Sox in 2015, his ERA was virtually the same as Porcello’s, while actually possessing fewer strikeouts-per-nine innings than the Sox’ sinkerballer. And he’s three years older.
Yet, we’re heading into the offseason with Samardzija carrying a five-year, $90 million deal that will pay him $18 million in each of his last four seasons with the Giants.
A 31-year-old Ian Kennedy, coming off a 9-15 mark with a 4.28 ERA in just 168 1/3 innings (while pitching in the ultra-pitchers-friendly Petco Park), just hauled in a five-year, $70 million deal from Kansas City, that includes an opt-out after Year 2.
Jordan Zimmermann, who turned 29 in last May, will make an average of $22 million a year with the Tigers after producing a so-so season (13-10, 3.78 ERA) with the Nationals in ’15.
“I don’t think so,” Porcello said when asked if any of the free agent contracts signed this offseason raised an eyebrow. “Obviously the market fluctuates offseason to offseason. But I think everybody signs a deal for different reasons. Everything is publicized so you know what guys are signing for. It’s really kind of a personal decision, when it comes down to it. You’re talking about your career, and those guys, and where their families are going to be for the next five or six years. You see certain deals and maybe scratch your head, but you really don’t know what’s going in their personal life and the reasons why they signed it. So I don’t think anything really surprises you. You just observe and take it for what it is.
A year ago, during spring training negotiations with the Red Sox, these were all things that Porcello had to at least occasionally consider/predict. Not anymore.
“Honestly, for the entire spring my main focus was to prepare for the season,” Porcello recalled. “I would hear about things that were going on through my agent and progress that was being made. Really, I just felt whatever was going to happen, was going to happen. If it becomes something that was going to become a realistic possibility, then we would address it when the time comes. I didn’t focus on it at all. When I was at the ballpark I was focused on working and preparing for the season. Toward the end of spring training when things started to get serious, that was when I sat down with my agent, had a couple of conversations, talked with my family about the opportunity that was being put in front of me and kind of went from there.”
Now, with his newly-purchased Naples, Fla. home serving as offseason/spring training headquarters, Porcello has settled into what he hopes will be a much more predictable routine.
“It’s just a comfort level you establish,” he added. “When you come to a new place, it’s probably similar for anybody. You start a new job and the first couple of days, first weeks or months, you’re trying to get familiar with everybody. You’re feeling out what’s going on and how they do it. I think that’s the adjustment period I went through last year in spring training. Now, having a year under my belt here in Boston, I know what’s going on now. I’m familiar with everything and a lot more comfortable.”
Bradfo Show: Rick Porcello, one year later
|Taking roll call for which Red Sox are already in Fort Myers||02.04.16 at 5:50 pm ET|
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) February 4, 2016
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It is exactly two weeks from the date when pitchers and catchers are mandated to report to spring training. It seems like a long time, right?
For evidence on how close things are creeping all anyone had to do was check out Fenway South at JetBlue Park at 8 a.m. Thursday. There throwing the baseball was a collection of six pitchers who included Rick Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and Tommy Layne. (By 9 a.m., the group had completed their running and finished with a group cheer for only a vacant complex to see.)
Porcello and Barnes each have bought houses in the area, while Buchholz, Rodriguez and Layne all have been recent arrival into the area.
While Buchholz spent his offseason in Texas, working out with former teammate John Lackey, Rodriguez split his time between his native Venezuela and Miami. Layne, who works as a hunting host for the richest of the rich in the St. Louis area, joined his wife and 3-month-old daughter in getting a head-start on things in Florida.
Others seen at the facility in recent days include outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospect Yoan Moncada.
The expectation is that there will be many more bodies — including much of the coaching staff, who were involved in organizational meetings the past few days — starting Monday.
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