Red Sox’ Jackie Bradley Jr. Takes Home MLB Network’s Top Play of 2019

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s jaw-dropping, home run-robbing catch against the Baltimore Orioles was named MLB Network’s play of the 2019 season on Sunday night.

The catch, which came back on May 8th, robbed O’s outfielder Trey Mancini of a potential walk-off solo shot off of right-hander Ryan Brasier in the 11th inning of a 1-1 contest. The Red Sox would go on to win the game by a final score of 2-1 in 12 innings.

Per Statcast, Bradley Jr. only had a 27% chance of making that catch off a fly ball that had an exit velocity of 101.5 MPH off of Mancini’s bat.

The 29-year-old Bradley Jr. was responsible for two other plays on MLB Network’s Top 100, while Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, and Chris Sale also made the cut.

After taking home his first career Gold Glove Award for American League center fielders in 2018, Bradley Jr. finished behind Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier for the award this year.

With trade rumors continuing to build, 2019 very well may have been Bradley Jr.’s last season in Boston. In his time with the Sox, the former 2011 first round pick has put together quite the highlight reel of outstanding plays in the outfield.

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Evaluating How Red Sox Prospects C.J. Chatham, Bobby Dalbec, Tanner Houck, and Noah Song Performed for Team USA in Premier12 Tournament

Team USA was officially eliminated from the Premier12 tournament on Sunday afternoon in Tokyo, as they fell to Team Mexico in the bronze medal game by a final score of 3-2 in 10 innings to temporarily squash their hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games.

As has already been mentioned on here, four Red Sox prospects made up the 28-man Team USA roster four this tournament, so I thought it would be a good time to go over how each of C.J. Chatham, Bobby Dalbec, Tanner Houck, and Noah Song fared over the last few weeks. Let’s get to it.

C.J. Chatham

Chatham, who turns 25 in December, slashed .292/.292/.417 with three doubles and two runs scored over seven games for Team USA in this tournament. He also committed just one error over that same span while manning both second base and left field.

A third-round pick out of Florida Atlantic University in 2016, Chatham needed to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by November 20th in order to avoid being eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place later in December. He is listed as Boston’s ninth-ranked prospect on MLB.com.

Bobby Dalbec

Dalbec was named to the tournament’s All-World Team as a first baseman for his efforts, as the 24-year-old posted a .250/.364/.500 slash line to go along with two home runs and eight RBI over eight games for Team USA.

The Washington native could have had the game-winning RBI with a run-scoring single in the top half of the seventh to put his side up 2-1…

…but Team Mexico rallied with a run of their own in ninth to tie it and another in the 10th to walk it off.

Like Chatham, Dalbec, who is ranked as Boston’s No. 2 prospect, needs to be added to the club’s 40-man roster by November 20th.

Tanner Houck

Houck made two starts for Team USA in this tournament, with the first coming against Team Mexico on November 3rd and the second coming against Team Australia on the 13th.

In those two outings, the 23-year-old right-hander surrendered five runs, four of which were earned, on seven hits and two walks to go along with 11 strikeouts over 9 1/3 total innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 3.86 and a batting average against of .206.

Ranked as the Sox’ No. 5 prospect, Houck is interesting in that he worked as both a starter and reliever in 2019, but the plan for him now seems to be to remain in the starting rotation, wherever that may be.

Noah Song

I mentioned how impressive Song had been in this tournament this past Friday. The 22-year-old right-hander made one final appearance for Team USA on Sunday, entering with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, walking one, getting another to fly out to end the frame, and then retiring the only three hitters he faced in order in the eighth.

All in all, Song did not surrender a single run over his five relief outings and 5 1/3 innings pitched this month.

A graduate of the Naval Academy back in May, Song will head to flight school in Pensacola, Fla. in December and is currently awaiting a decision from the Department of Defense on whether he’ll be able to defer his two-year active service requirement.

 

Red Sox’ Marco Hernandez Goes Deep in Dominican Winter League

Red Sox infielder Marco Hernandez’s offseason is well underway, as the 27-year-old mashed his first home run in his fourth game for Tigres del Licey of the Liga de Beisbol Dominicano on Saturday night.

Facing off against Gigantes del Cibao left-hander Miguel Del Pozo in the top half of the sixth inning Saturday, Hernandez unloaded on a 1-0 fastball right down the middle and deposited it deep to left-center field.

That solo blast gave Licey a 2-0 advantage, which would go on to be Saturday’s final score. They are now 15-13 on the season.

Through the four games he has played in, Hernandez is 5-for-15 (.333) with that one homer and two runs driven in.

A native of the Dominican Republic himself, Hernandez slashed .250/.279/.338 with two home runs and 11 RBI over 60 games and two stints with the Red Sox this past season after being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on June 8th and once again on August 2nd.

Remember, there was a time not too long ago where Hernandez had undergone three surgeries on his left shoulder in a span of two years. He’ll now look to make his first ever Opening Day roster for Boston this coming March.

Red Sox Prospect Noah Song Shines Again for Team USA in Premier12 Tournament

Red Sox prospect Noah Song is one of four prospects representing the Red Sox in this year’s WBSC Premier12 tournament for Team USA.

Following a tight 3-2 win over Team Chinese Taipei in Tokyo on Friday night, Team USA is now in the position to play in the tournament’s bronze medal game on Sunday with a trip back to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games at stake. Song played a pivotal role to get Team USA to where they are now.

The 22-year-old right-hander entered Friday’s contest in the top of the eighth inning with a brand new one-run lead to protect, and needed all of 13 pitches (nine strikes) to fan two and retire the side in order.

Through four relief appearances in this tourney, Song, who is a starting pitcher, has yet to surrender a run while holding opposing hitters to a .083 batting average against over four quality innings of work.

Along with those impressive numbers, Song has reached 98 and 99 MPH with his four-seam fastball in each of his last two outings.

The Red Sox selected Song with the 137th overall pick in amateur draft back in June. Despite being ranked 68th on MLB.com’s Top 200 draft prospects, there was plenty of risk in taking Song, as he had recently graduated from the Naval Academy.

Fast forward five months later, and Song’s future plans include heading to flight school in Pensacola, Fla. in December to begin training to become a Naval Flight Officer.

As a Naval Academy graduate, Song is required to serve two years active duty in the military, and is currently awaiting a decision from the Department of Defense on whether he will be able to defer that commitment or not.

Ranked as Boston’s No. 15 prospect, the California native posted a 1.06 ERA and .167 batting average against over seven starts and 17 innings pitched this past season with the Low-A Lowell Spinners.

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Finishes Fifth in American League MVP Voting While Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez Also Receive Votes

2019 Most Valuable Player awards for both the American and National League were announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Thursday night.

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout took home his third career MVP representing the junior circuit, while Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger took home his first representing the senior circuit.

Sticking with the American League side of things once again this time around, the Red Sox had four players receive MVP votes, with Xander Bogaerts finishing in fifth place with a total of 147 points, 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts finishing in eighth place with a total of 67 points, Rafael Devers finishing in 12th place with a total of 40 points, and J.D. Martinez finishing in 21st place with a total of one point.

By the end of the 2019 season, Betts, Devers, Bogaerts, and Martinez made up the top four of the Sox’ everyday lineup.

Among the quartet, Betts and Devers finished first and second in the American League in runs scored, with Betts crossing the plate 135 times and Devers 129.

In terms of offensive production, Bogaerts led the way for Boston in 2019, as the 27-year-old slashed .309/.384/.555 to go along with a career-best 33 home runs and 117 RBI over 155 games in yet another breakout campaign.

Back in April, Bogaerts inked a seven-year, $132 million extension to stay with the Red Sox for the foreseeable future. That extension does not really kick in until next year.

Going back to Devers, the recently-turned 23-year-old also experienced a great deal of success in a breakout 2019, slashing .311/.361/.555 while pacing the American League in doubles (54) and total bases (359) in addition to mashing a career-high 32 homers and driving in 115 runs over 156 games played.

There have been rumblings that the Sox would like to get an extension done with Devers this offseason as well, meaning the left side of the Boston infield would be set for years to come.

And with J.D. Martinez, only one writer, George A King. III of the New York Post, gave the 33-year-old a 10th place vote, resulting in the 21st place finish.

Earlier in the month, Martinez opted in to the remaining three years and $62 million of the deal he signed with the Sox back in 2018. Granted, he could opt out next winter or even be traded before the start of the 2020 season, depending on what plans chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. have in store for the next few months.

Anyway, the deadline for teams to add players to their 40-man rosters to avoid Rule 5 Draft eligibility is next Wednesday, so that’s the next big offseason event to look forward to.

 

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora Reportedly Played ‘Key Role’ in Astros’ Sign Stealing Fiasco in 2017

Red Sox manager Alex Cora will be interviewed by Major League Baseball as part of the league’s investigation into the Houston Astros stealing signs throughout the 2017 season, per The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal.

According to the report, Cora, “played a key role in devising the sign-stealing system the team used that season.”

Cora served as bench coach under manager A.J. Hinch during the Astros’ World Series-winning campaign in 2017. New Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who played his final season with Houston as the team’s designated hitter, will also be interviewed.

In case you missed this news from Tuesday, the basic premise is that the Astros had a system at Minute Maid Park where a camera was set up in the outfield so that it could capture what the opposing team’s catcher was laying down to his pitcher. With that information coming through on a monitor and some decoding of said signs, someone in the Astros dugout could signal to the hitter at the plate what kind of pitch was on the way, which was done through making, “a loud noise — specifically, banging on a trash can, which sat in the tunnel,” behind Houston’s dugout.

This much was confirmed by former Astros right-hander Mike Fiers, who was with the club from July 2015 until the end of the 2017 season.

What does this have to do with Cora and the Red Sox? Well, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the league spoke with Sox bullpen coach Craig Bjornson, who came over from Houston with Cora back in 2017, on Wednesday.

Cora appeared on WEEI’s Dale & Keefe show on Thursday, and was asked about his involvement in what is currently transpiring.

“I appreciate the question,” Cora said. “…I have talked to MLB and I’ll leave it at that.”

As for what is in store for Cora and the Sox, more is sure to come as the league’s investigation progresses, so stay tuned for that.

Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez Finishes Sixth in American League Cy Young Award Voting

2019 Cy Young Award winners for both the American and National League were announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Wednesday night, with New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom winning his second straight Cy Young for the senior circuit, and Houston Astros righty Justin Verlander also winning his second and first since 2011 for the junior circuit.

Sticking with the American League side of things in this award race, Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez was the only Boston hurler to receive any Cy Young votes this year, as he placed sixth by receiving three fourth-place votes and two fifth-place votes, good for eight total points.

Among the AL pitchers to finish between Verlander and Rodriguez were Houston’s Gerrit Cole, Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, and Texas’ Lance Lynn. Chicago’s Lucas Giolito and Texas’ Mike Minor rounded up the ballot, finishing in seventh and eighth place respectively.

Rodriguez came into this past season with a goal of pitching 200 innings and racking up 200 strikeouts, both of which would have been career-highs for the 26-year-old.

Throughout spring training, Sox manager Alex Cora seemed to work Rodriguez the hardest out of any Boston starting pitcher, even after the rotation pitched deep into October the year before.

“He’s old enough, ” Cora said of Rodriguez following a rough outing against the Mets back in March. “He’s been in the league for a long time. It’s time for him to step up.”

And step up Rodriguez did, as he posted a 3.81 ERA and 3.86 FIP to go along with a career-best 213 punchouts over 34 starts and 203 1/3 innings of work.

The Venezuela native was by far the best option the Red Sox had in the starting pitching department by the time the 2019 campaign came to its waining stages, so much so that he was just one winning decision away from 20 on the year headed into his final start against the Baltimore Orioles on September 29th.

It may have not happened due to events that transpired later in that contest, but that did not stop Rodriguez from putting up seven strong frames of work to end his season on a solid note.

“We’re very proud of him. 3.81 ERA and 200-plus innings,” Cora said of Rodriguez’s impressive season following his club’s 2019 finale. “I don’t feel that he’s going to be satisfied…try to improve a few things, the breaking ball is going to be part of the mix…We’re very proud of him.”

Heading into the 2020 season, Rodriguez is projected to earn $9.5 million in his third year of arbitration eligibility.

Depending on the statuses of Chris Sale, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi this offseason, Rodriguez could find himself at the top of Boston’s starting rotation going into spring training.