Do you have your copy of Baseball Prospectus 2016 yet? Don't worry if the answer is 'no' -- or if you simply cannot lift this year's behemoth edition of BP Annual, for I have scoured it for Red Sox nuggets and returned alive.
Inspired by Grant Brisbee's post on the Giants, what will follow are 10 things I learned from this year's book. First, however, here are somethings I knew going in that were merely reinforced by BP, and thus don't quite make the list:
- David Price is really good. He ought to put up the highest WAR on the team this year and be the best pitcher by an order of magnitude.
- Yoan Moncada is incredible. The top second-base prospect in the game is No. 1 for a reason.
- Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are basically helpless. I knew it was bleak, but there's not much in here to get excited about a possible rebound.
- Joe Kelly has great stuff. Obviously. He just can't control it.
With those out of the way, here are the 10 things I learned from the book this year:
1. Mookie Betts is the Sox’ best all-around offensive player, by more than little
If history is any indication, Betts and Price will vie for the team lead in WAR; if the projections are any indication, they’ll fight it out with Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia for the highest team total overall. But they have to be considered the big favorites. Betts put up a stunning 5.5 WAR last year as a 22-year-old and did it with a mere .310 BABIP, suggesting the possibility for a bump is as real as it is enticing. Bogaerts, meanwhile, put up a 3.5 WAR season in 2015 with a .372 BABIP, meaning we could see some regression, albeit to something still quite good. Mookie is the man.
2. Nobody knows what to do with Jackie Bradley Jr.
If Bradley was confounding before last season, a deadeye hitter having lost every one of his hitting skills at the major league level, he became extra crazy last year, when he turned into Barry Bonds for a month-plus. As if to prove this, his comparables are all over the map. Actually, it’s a map: a topographical map of Mt. Everest, from the inexplicable peak (Jose Bautista!) to Base Camp (Curtis Granderson) to the poop-lined trail leading through the valleys up toward it all (Kirk Nieuwenhuis).
3. The Rusney Castillo dream is over
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of love for Castillo, who basically is what he is. While he’s athletic and good against lefties, his alarming inability to hit righties seems to put a pretty hard ceiling on his MLB prospects. His comparables are Charlie Blackmon, Chris Duffy and Felix Pie, which is about as inspiring as a line of flavorless Tic-Tacs.
4. Bogaerts may regress, but it’ll still be progress in the aggregate
As mentioned the Betts item, Bogaerts had a big year last year but was aided by a .372 BABIP that seems unlikely to be repeated. That said, even a regression from .320/.355/.421 to .284/.337/.420, as PECOTA predicteth, would mark a significant two-year jump in Bogaerts’ value simply due to the transformation of his shortstop defense from putrid to quite good. If he keeps that up, the only thing he’s missing is power and, at age 23, that might not be long in arriving.
5. Andrew Benintendi is real
His comparables are Joc Pederson, Christian Yelich and Byron Buxton. That’s good.
6. Oh right, Clay Buchholz is super good sometimes
His first two comparables are Warren Spahn and Bob Gibson. That’s crazy! The last one is Kevin Millwood, sure, but ignore that. This isn’t something I learned as much as it’s something that’s easy to forget in the shadow of Buchholz’s EKG-like career arc. I see some context in the comps, too, in that a) How do you compare anyone to Buchholz?, and b) I guess by the quality of his stuff? Buchholz is the rare legitimate four-pitch pitcher when he’s at his best, and, because he can control said great stuff (unlike Kelly), his best games are as good as anyone’s. Unfortunately, with the injuries and off-field drama, those can be as easy to forget as Millwood.
7. Trey Ball might be a total whiff of a pick
More like tres bad, right? I don’t like writing off prospects when they’re this young -- even if Ball is already 22 -- but Ball might be a bust of a first-round pick for the Sox, having shown very little at no higher than high-A ball. That’s the organization’s fault and it’s not a mortal blow, but it’s not encouraging, either. Maybe he can reach out to similarly poorly named pitchers Homer Bailey and Grant Balfour to help get his career back on track.
8. Rick Porcello drives people mad
Like a great many people, I like the players that make the BP commenters lose their minds. For Ben Carsley, my editor on another Red Sox site and the author of this year’s comments, that player was Rick Porcello. He rewrote the lyrics to TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ to ‘Don’t Go Chasin’ Strikeout Calls.’ You can imagine where it goes from there, and only you know if you want to go on that journey.
9. Ben Cherington is teaching at Columbia University
This is mentioned in the Brian MacPherson’s wonderful essay on the Sox, and I had completely forgotten it. MacPherson also drops a Turkish proverb. It's pretty good.
10. Something bothers me about David Price
That’s a little misleading, but here’s my issue. At the outset of the writeup, Carsley writes about Price’s turn out of the bullpen in Game 4 of last year’s ALDS, nothing that "it’s still as befuddling today as it was on October 12th, even knowing the Blue Jays went on to win the series." Well. *Actually.* I’m not sure that’s correct!
I definitely saw Twitter go nuts over this, sure, but even at the time I didn’t think it was befuddling. Here is my logic: There is no Game 5 unless you win Game 4, and baseball is crazy. Whatever else the other logic -- John Gibbons saying he didn’t want Price to warm up a third time in a row without getting into a game -- this is the foundation for the argument that it wasn’t a big deal either way, not then and not now. I think it’s especially easy for us to tell people who have worked a year toward a certain goal that using the surest method to keep that goal alive for another day is foolish. Baseball is chaos: Anything could happen in Game 5. They just had to get there.
And oh my, did anything happen:
Don't @ me.