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 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 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.

Dustin Pedroia Intent on Playing in 2020, per Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has plans on playing in 2020, according to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran.

Pedroia, 36, has played in just a total of nine games since the start of the 2018 season due to issues with his left knee, a result of three separate surgeries in October 2017, July 2018, and most recently, August 2019.

Prior to that latest operation, Pedroia told reporters in May that he was uncertain if he’ll ever be able to play baseball again. That occurred right before the veteran infielder took a three-month sabbatical to spend time with his family in Arizona.

Fast forward to late August in Denver, Co., where Pedroia had just undergone joint preservation procedure on his left knee in nearby Vail three weeks earlier, and the California native again voiced uncertainty, saying that, “I need to strengthen my quad and the inside part of my leg because it has been through a lot the past few years,” Pedroia said. “The doctor told me, ‘Once you get all the strength back, your knee will tell you if you can play baseball or if that’s it.”

Now, with the GM winter meetings taking place in Scottsdale, Az., Bloom and co. hope to meet up with Pedroia sometime this week.

“Every indication I’ve gotten is he’s feeling good and intending on playing, ” said Boston’s new CBO. “I know he’s working really hard to make sure he’s in as good of shape as possible.”

Pedroia lives in Chandler, Az, which is right down the road from Scottsdale. He is set to earn approximately $25.25 million over the final two years of the eight-year, $110 million contract extension he signed with the Red Sox back in July 2013.

Red Sox Bring Back Six Minor-League Free Agents, Including Austin Maddox and Daniel McGrath

The Red Sox brought back six minor-league free agents on minor-league deals on Saturday, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Depending on how you look at things, the most significant of the six free agents mentioned above who were brought back could either be Austin Maddox or Daniel McGrath.

Starting with Maddox, the 28-year-old right-hander is the only one of the bunch who has seen major league action, which came in five different stints with Boston over the course of the 2017 season.

In those five stints, Maddox yielded just one earned run on 13 hits, two walks, and 14 strikeouts over 13 relief outings and 17 1/3 total innings pitched, which in turn earned him a spot on the Sox’ ALDS roster, where he tossed two innings of one-run ball against the Houston Astros.

With that strong showing, the former 2012 third-round pick out of the University of Florida figured to play a key role in Boston’s bullpen plans for the 2018 campaign, but persistent right shoulder issues prevented that from happening, ultimately leading to Maddox undergoing rotator cuff surgery last September. A procedure that held him out for all of 2019.

As for McGrath, the 25-year-old left-hander was one of the better pitchers in the Eastern League this past season, posting a 1.68 ERA and .184 batting average against over 27 total outings (15 starts) and 112 1/3 innings pitched for Double-A Portland. He also had two brief stints with Triple-A Pawtucket in June and early September, where he allowed a total of six runs over 10 /13 frames of work.

McGrath is fascinating in that he signed with the Sox as a 17-year-old out of Melbourne, Australia back in January 2013. The contract the southpaw signed at that time was good for seven years, and now he figures to vie for a rotation spot with the PawSox in 2020.

These moves come just days ahead of the start of the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Az on Monday.

 

Red Sox’ Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts Take Home Third Career Silver Slugger Awards

For the third time in both of their respective careers, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts were named Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winners on Thursday night, with Betts being one of three American League outfielders selected, and Bogaerts being the lone American League shortstop to win the award.

Betts, 27, followed up an MVP Award-winning 2018 season with another solid campaign at the plate in 2019, slashing .295/.391/.524 to go along with 29 home runs and 80 RBI over 150 games, 102 of which came batting out of the leadoff spot.

Among qualified American League outfielders this year, Betts ranked first in runs scored (135), second in OBP, and sixth in wRC+ (135). The Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout and Houston Astros’ George Springer took home the other two Silver Slugger Awards for AL outfielders.

The Tennessee native has now won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award in the same year three times, becoming the first Red Sox player to ever accomplish the feat. It sure would be nice to see him try and do it a fourth time.

Bogaerts, meanwhile, built on a strong 2018 season and broke out even more in ’19, as he posted a .309/.384/.555 slash line to go along with a career-best 33 homers and 117 runs driven in over 155 games.

In terms of qualified AL shortstops not named Alex Bregman, who played 61 games at short for the Houston Astros, the 27-year-old ranked first in hits, (190), first in doubles (52), first in RBI, first in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, and first in wRC+ (141).

Back in April, Bogaerts inked a six-year, $120 million contract extension with Boston. The extension does not come into effect until next year, but the Aruba native seemed to settle into his own in 2019 and establish himself as a veteran presence in the Red Sox’ clubhouse.

Even if Boston is looking to shred payroll this winter, trading Bogaerts should not be on the table.

J.D. Martinez, who won two Silver Slugger awards last year, was not named an award winner for designated hitters this year. That honor went to Minnesota Twins slugger Nelson Cruz.