On a day the Red Sox were not on television, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart put on a bit of a show at the plate. The first three catchers on the depth chart were all in the same starting lineup today, with Christian Vazquez behind the plate, Swihart at first, and Leon at DH. Combined, they went 5 for 10 at the plate, but I just want to focus on Swihart and Leon. Last week, I wrote about who should backup Christian Vazquez this season, because it is presumed that he will be the starter. Both Swihart and Leon are out of minor league options, so one of them is most likely gone if they both do not make the Opening Day roster. Today’s game against the Blue Jays was a prime example of the competition that may be going on between them. There doesn’t seem to be any video available, but Leon hit his two home runs in the second and fourth innings while Swihart hit his in the fifth.
Throughout this spring, Swihart has gotten a significant amount of at bats compared to what Leon has gotten. 35 for Swihart and only 12 for Leon. I’m not looking into that though, because I have a hunch Leon will make the roster no matter what. I mean, he is essentially the personal catcher for the best pitcher on the staff, that’s all the reason you need to keep him. The only thing that counters this thought is how much the Red Sox seem to value Swihart. His trade value is probably at its highest right now, but I have not heard anything about a potential trade. Keeping both Swihart and Leon on the 25-man roster seems like a stretch, but I’m not in that clubhouse or front office, so I don’t know what to make of it.
For Mookie Betts, this spring has been a bit of a struggle at the plate. It’s nothing to worry about, but it is worth noting that entering today, Betts had only collected one hit in his first 19 at bats. Why is a hitter as talented as Betts having a tough go of things? Well, it’s hard to say, but it looks like he may be coming out of this slump, given how good he was today against the Baltimore Orioles. The 25 year-old took to the plate three times today, and reached base all three times, including a solo home run to lead off the first inning.
A line drive over the Fenway South monster is vintage Betts. According to FanGraphs, all but one of the 24 long balls Betts hit last year were hit to left / left-center field. In fact, the only one that wasn’t, was this one:
Today was a step in the right direction for Mookie. With 18 days until Opening Day, I’ll be interested to see what he can do to bring up his numbers before the season starts.
The day after Chris Sale made his 2018 debut, David Price was expected to make his 2018 spring debut against the Minnesota Twins today. Unfortunately, inclement weather in the Fort Myers area prevented that from happening, as the Red Sox and Twins weren’t able to even finish their game. Because of that weather, Price was held back at JetBlue Park to toss a simulated game. According to The Boston Globe, the lefty threw a total of 89 pitches, 31 while warming up and 58 during the actual simulation. Completing four innings of work with Christian Vazquez behind the plate, Price felt that, “Today was by far my best day.”
After the spring training he had last year, it will be interesting to see how the Red Sox handle Price going into the new season. If you remember, Price suffered an elbow strain while pitching in a simulated game last March, and that led to him not making his first start of the 2017 season until May 29th. At the age of 32, the velocity of Price’s fastballs is another thing to keep your eye on before the season starts. Expect Price’s next start to come against the Blue Jays at The Fort on Thursday, which will be televised.
I’ve been digging for some video from today’s game against the Marlins, but I can’t find any. Regardless, I would say Chris Sale put together a solid start in his 2018 debut, not including that controlled game he threw in last week.
Four full innings pitched to go along with five strikeouts. The only real mistake Sale made today came in the fourth, when he surrendered a leadoff double to Derek Dietrich. A batter later, Marlins first baseman Justin Bour drove Dietrich in on a sacrifice fly to left field. The last batter of the inning, Tomas Telis, lined out and that concluded Sale’s day. From what I have read, Sale’s fastball consistently sat at anywhere between 95 and 97 MPH. He threw 58 pitches in those four innings, and about 71% of those went for strikes. Expect that pitch count to increase to around 75 in his next start, which I predict to be on March 14th against the Twins. If I find any video, I’ll make sure to update this.
UPDATE: Here’s that video.
After making his Red Sox spring training debut on Wednesday, JD Martinez collected his first hit and first hit as a member of the Red Sox in his first at bat on Thursday. In a 1-1 count, Martinez took Rays starter Chris Archer to the opposite field. In all honesty, it looked like the right fielder, Jason Coats, should have came up with the catch, but his timing was off, and the ball got behind him. That allowed Mookie Betts, who also collected his first spring training hit today, to score all the way from first, giving the Red Sox their first run of the game. Martinez would go on to have a perfect day at the plate, reaching base in all three of his at bats before being pinch hit for in the seventh inning.
It’s a small sample size, but I think we saw some things with JD Martinez in today’s game that will regularly happen throughout this upcoming season. First, there’s his ability to hit to the opposite field. Second, his ability to drive in runs at a tremendous rate. Third, the amount of times we’re going to see Martinez drive in Mookie Betts this season. His spring training debut went fairly unnoticed (0-2), but I thought he deserved some recognition after his performance at the plate today.
Also, seeing JD in a Red Sox uniform on television for the first time made me feel some feelings.
Opening Day may be 23 days away, but it’s never too early to look at rosters and see how they may shape out as the regular season draws near. Right now, it appears the Red Sox may have more position players than spots available on the 25-man roster. If you look at what the Opening Day roster would look like now, then you would have Hanley Ramirez, Eduardo Nunez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and JD Martinez playing everyday. At catcher, Christian Vazquez has earned the starter role after the season he put up in 2017. It’s after him where things get interesting. Both Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon are coming off of seasons I’m sure they would like to forget. Leon, who put up career high numbers in 2016, saw a significant drop in those numbers last year. And Swihart, who at one time was one of the most recognized catching prospects in baseball, only appeared in six games for the big league club in 2017, while hitting a measly .190 in 53 games with the Pawtucket Red Sox.
I can’t say I know this for certain, but I would assume that the Red Sox front office thinks more highly of Blake Swihart then they do of Sandy Leon. Swihart has been with the team since 2011 when he was drafted in the first round of the amateur draft. Like I said, he was a highly touted prospect at one time and has proved that when healthy, he can hit major league pitching. Leon, on the other hand, has been with the Red Sox since 2015 and has really never been put under immense pressure to excel at his position. He was a surprise for sure in 2016, but I honestly can’t see him putting up those kind of numbers again anytime soon. The bottom line is, both Swihart and Leon are out of minor league options, so it would make sense to retain one over the other. In my opinion, that would be Swihart. Without using the great spring training he is having because that means almost nothing, Swihart is still three years younger, plays another position, and is under team control for two years more than Leon is.
This may come off as a hot take, but I think it’s safe to say Swihart brings more to the table than Leon does. There’s a reason he was once a highly regarded prospect, I think he deserves the chance to back up Christian Vazquez while also taking on a utility role if the Red Sox FO wants to get more at bats out of him.
In his second spring training with the Red Sox, Drew Pomeranz is once again having problems with his left arm, his money-maker. Going into the last season before he hits free agency, I’m sure Pomeranz would prefer to avoid any setbacks. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen. The injury occurred in the middle of the first at bat of the second inning, on Pomeranz’s 17th pitch. All signs point to this being precautionary, as that is what Pomeranz said himself, but there’s still a reason to be concerned. Just last year, the 29-year-old hurler opened the season on the disabled list, and missed the first six games of the season before making his debut against the Orioles. As it turns out, last season was maybe the best of Pomeranz’s seven-year career, so maybe this is a sign of good things to come.
In the mean time, I would be shocked if the Red Sox go out and sign a free agent starter still on the market. Brian Johnson is probably the best candidate to fill in if Pomeranz does miss an extended period of time, and they still have Hector Velazquez and Roenis Elias after that. Not having Pomeranz on the Opening Day roster would mean that the Red Sox would be without 2/5 of their ideal starting rotation to start the season, that being Eduardo Rodriguez as the other pitcher. That’s not great, but it’s still early, Pomeranz could be fine, tomorrow will be a better indicator of that. On a less somber note, I’ll end this blog with the three home runs Andrew Benintendi and Sam Travis hit today in a 9-6 win over the Cardinals. Have a great weekend.