Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Revisiting the Red Sox' last great, MLB ready hitting prospect

There has been a lot of talk about Xander Bogaerts and his upside, and rightfully so. As a 20 year old he destroyed AAA, held his own in the regular season hitting .250/.320/.364, before becoming an onbase machine in the playoffs, posting a .412 OBP to go with his .482 slugging. Coming in to this year, Baseball America ranked him as the #8 prospect in the game. His spectacular season, coupled with some graduations and disappointments, has him in the running for the #1 spot overall. It has been a little while since the Red Sox had such a highly regarded hitter ready to contribute at the major league level, and I thought it would be interesting to take a look at past top prospects.

Who it isn't
As I made this only about hitting prospects, we can leave out Clay Buchholz (#4 in 2008) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (#1 in 2007, but he doesn't really count as a prospect anyway).  Jon Lester didn't even crack the top 20 at his peak (#22 in 2006). Recently departed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury reached #13 in 2007, but failed to be a top 10 prospect. Nor is it anyone who is still in the Red Sox organization. Dustin Pedroia, perhaps the best player on the Red Sox team right now, topped out at #77 following the 2005 season. Baseball America would probably like to have that one back, but there were real concerns about Pedroia's size, ability to generate any power, and his rather unorthodox "swing as hard as I can but still make contact all the time" approach. I think those things led some folks to wonder if he could hack it against major league pitching. Thankfully, they were wrong.

Hanley Ramirez is probably the closest "obvious" name out there. He was ranked #10 by Baseball America for the upcoming 2005 season, but after scuffling in AA, I think it would be a stretch to call him a consensus major league ready player. Granted, he went on to be an instant star for the Marlins, but I don't think anyone saw that coming, maybe even the Marlins.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sox sign Edward Mujica, Uehara lite?

Today, December 5th 2013, the Red Sox announced a 2 year, $9.25 million contract with former Cardinal closer Edward Mujica. This comes 364 days after the Red Sox signed former Ranger reliever Koji Uehara to a one year, $4.25 million deal with a vesting option.

A quick glance at Mujica's season statistics indicate some cause for concern. First, his strikeout rate in 2013 was below average, at a rather pedestrian 6.40. For comparison, all pitchers struck out 7.57 batters per nine innings, while relievers struck out batters even more frequently (8.29 K/9). Second, Mujica's shiny ERA (2.87) masks a Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ERA of 3.71, precisely reliever average. Third, although Mujica recorded 37 saves in 2013, he imploded in September posting an 11.05 ERA and was a non-factor in the Cardinal's World Series run, throwing only 2 innings in the entire postseason.

However, I believe this is a solid signing for the Red Sox and Mujica could return a great value for them just as Uehara has. Why?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sox pick the middle ground at catcher, waste money

I understand why some writers, such as Buster Olney, Tim Kurkijan, and Gordon Edes, and  are saying that the Red Sox made a good choice in sticking with a short term solution at catcher, leaving room for their prospects to make an impact in 2015. I don't have a problem with the decision to not block Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, in fact I advocated it in an earlier post. However, Pierzynski is an $8.25 million lateral move from guys like Ryan Lavarnway or Dan Butler. To quote Keith Law (ESPN Insider only), "Pierzynski doesn't get on base, doesn't hit for power, and is a below-average receiver, now entering his age 37 season and looking slower than ever at the plate."