Boston's Best Tool: Intro

NEW YORK - FILE: Jacoby Ellsbury #46 of the Boston Red Sox dives for a ball hit by Mark Teixeira (not pictured) of the New York Yankees in the third inning on September 26, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Ellsbury was named the American League 2011 Players Choice Awards Comeback Player of the Year on November 3, 2011. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Last year, I decided to pass the long winter of baseball-less discontent by putting together a Best Tools series here at Over the Monster, looking at the major league roster through some categories similar to those that scouts typically use for the minors. This off-season I am continuing the tradition with a few changes. In addition to giving you my view and taking a poll of your view, I am going to let the writing staff here weight in, so get your Matthew Kory voodoo doll and accompanying pins ready.

I am sticking with the same ten categories. For hitters: Best Power, Best Batting Eye, Best Contact, Best Base Runner and Best Overall Hitter. For pitchers: Best Fastball, Best Breaking Ball, Best Control and Best Stuff. Last, we will look at the Best Defender. For each of these categories I am going to dig into the most relevant data that the inter-web provides us and make my case then let you decide.

Last season, the results looked like this:

My Pick

Most Votes

My Runner Up

Fans Runner Up

Best Power

Adrian Gonzalez

Adrian Gonzalez (71%)

David Ortiz

David Ortiz (17%)

Best Contact

Marco Scutaro

Dustin Pedroia (58%)

Dustin Pedroia

Kevin Youkilis (26%)

Best Batting Eye

Kevin Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis (66%)

J.D. Drew

Dustin Pedroia (16%)

Best Baserunner

Jacoby Ellsbury

Carl Crawford (47%)

Carl Crawford

Jacoby Ellsbury (47%)

Best Fastball

Daniel Bard

Daniel Bard (76%)

Jon Lester

Jon Lester (9%)

Best Breaking Ball

Buchholz's Change

Lester's Curve (29%)

Bard's Slider

Buchholz's Change (19%)

Best Control

Jon Lester

Jon Lester (59%)

Jonathan Papelbon

Clay Buchholz (21%)

Best Stuff

Jon Lester

Jon Lester (63%)

Daniel Bard

Clay Buchholz (18%)

Best Defender

Carl Crawford

Dustin Pedroia (35%)

Dustin Pedroia

Carl Crawford (31%)

Best Hitter

Kevin Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis (57%)

Adrian Gonzalez

Adrian Gonzalez (31%)

The 2012 Red Sox will feature most of the same position players that took the field in 2011, so many of the hitting categories will come down to the same players. Regardless, there are plenty of reasons to re-evaluate some of these picks. Most significantly, Jacoby Ellsbury has inserted himself into the middle of the conversation in every position player category. He flashed surprising power numbers last year and made fantastic, line drive contact all season long. David Ortiz, always able to crush the ball, changed his approach and became a far better contact hitter. Adrian Gonzalez did it all, hitting for great average, getting on base and showing streaky, but still imposing power.

The pitching side of the series will feature a number of new contenders. After a great season pitching primarily in relief, it will be interesting to see how Alfredo Aceves' stuff stacks up to Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett. Relievers Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey jump into the mix as well. The Best Breaking Ball category should be an intense battle once again. With Buchholz missing most of 2011, a number of pitches are in the running for the top slot. Notably, Josh Beckett’s sick curve ball had a renaissance in 2011 and would not be a bad choice for the title. Andrew Bailey might not throw 97 miles per hour, like Daniel Bard, but he comes close and his fastball has been extremely valuable in the past.

On defense, the team has seen Carl Crawford rated terribly by those metrics that were once so enamored with him, while Dustin Pedroia played some of the best second base defense we have ever seen. Two new faces, right-fielder Ryan Sweeney and utility infielder, Nick Punto, come to the Red Sox with excellent defensive reputations and could both be a dark horses in this category. Defense was a major reason for bringing these two player to Boston, after all.

First up will be Best Power, so get your measuring tapes out.

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