We are now less than two weeks away from Opening Day, which is just a startling realization that was had by yours truly this morning. Spring Training is more than halfway over, and things are getting clearer by the day regarding the regular season. With that said, there is still more time for things to change, but we want to focus on the here and now for this week’s roundtable. We’re focusing on the players who have stood out the most to this point in camp. I asked the staff this week, simply, who has impressed you the most to this point in camp?
This might be the consensus answer, but Michael Chavis has definitely impressed me the most. The fanbase (including myself) has been disillusioned with him due to his inconsistency and strikeouts, and he’s been talked about as an afterthought not likely to make the big-league team. However, Chavis is making as good of a case for himself as he can this spring - he’s been blazing hot with an OPS over .1000 and (at the time I’m writing this) is tied for the team lead in home runs. Obviously, I have to conclude by saying this is a minuscule sample size and it’s just spring training, but Chavis producing in any capacity is a welcome sight to see.
Outside of what I feel is an obvious answer in Jarren Duran, who has done literally everything right, I’m going to say that player for me is Nick Pivetta. The Red Sox needed to address their starting pitching depth pretty clearly last year, and Chaim Bloom striking to acquire Pivetta (and Connor Seabold!) was a shrewd move that I feel will be lauded as one of his sneakiest for years to come.
Pivetta has done exactly what I’d hoped to see him do, hit the zone, and hit it with consistency. His stuff is potent, the issue has always been harnessing it and trusting it. It’s only spring, so it remains to be seen how he will perform in the regular season, but it would be hard to have a better outcome from Pivetta’s spring to this point. Honorable mentions to Jeter Downs and Connor Wong, two more Bloom acquisitions. Both guys look like they will be fun to watch this year in the minors, and their springs have hopefully been as productive for them as the stat lines indicate.
The biggest surprise for me is easily Eduardo Rodriguez. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from him after he missed an entire year and dealt with myocarditis. I thought it would take time for him to ramp up but I was definitely wrong. In 11 2⁄3 innings this spring he has struck out 14 without giving up a walk. While I am a bit concerned with how he will look by mid-season, it is great to see him destroying the competition so far.
There has been a lot to like about spring training for the Sox, especially coming off a disaster year, but I’ve really been impressed with Nick Pivetta. In nine innings he’s struck out 8 and walked just 1. He’s looked good. He had some prospect shine a few years ago and his stuff is still what the Phillies saw; it’s just inconsistent. We’ve seen other teams take less talented pitchers and, in this era of pitcher dominance, turn them into valuable contributors. Will Chaim Bloom hit on every one of these? No. But he’s looking to unlock value through additional development. And until MLB fixes the strike zone issues, moves the mound, or changes the ball, the Sox should try and cash in on tweaking guys who have some talent buried under the results.
Eduardo Rodriguez is the guy for me. Coming off of a lost season, I wasn’t sure how Rodriguez was going to look once back on the mound but I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to look as good as he’s been. 14 strikeouts and more impressive, zero walks in 11 2⁄3 innings pitched so far this spring he’s looked as good as he possibly could, giving me a lot of confidence in not only him but the whole pitching staff for the 2021 season.
The most impressive spring performance has been that of Bobby Dalbec, who has put on a tremendous display of power. Over just 27 at-bats he has clobbered five home runs, good for a .926 slugging percentage. What has stood out to me isn’t just the number of home runs, but rather how easy and effortless he makes these moonshots look. Dalbec doesn’t need to hit a ball square for it to go out. Frankly he doesn’t look like he’s even putting a full swing on it and it sails out of the park. He has hit just about every kind of home run this spring including those to the opposite field. He has me looking forward to some mid-summer night when he actually gets ahold of one and pulls a ball so far out of Fenway Park that it brings back memories of Manny Ramirez.
I’m honestly kind of surprised that Eduardo Rodriguez wasn’t the answer for everybody — I put this question out before his last start — and to me he is the obvious answer, and honestly the objectively correct one. I’ll go in a different direction, though, since he has at least been covered twice. I’ll also cheat and very briefly mention two names, which I guess puts me down for three. I’m the boss. I’m allowed.
First, Kiké Hernández has impressed me with his approach. I was (and frankly still am) skeptical of the idea of putting him in the leadoff spot, but he has run with that challenge so far. I still don’t love it, but I’m more willing to have an open mind than I was before. And then also Garrett Whitlock has impressed me over his three appearances. It’s my natural reaction to assume a Rule 5 pick is not going to work out, but the way he has thrown this spring makes me think more than ever there is a very real chance, probably more likely than not at this point, that he will stick around all year and play an actual important role.
I think it’s gotta be Nick Pivetta. Apologies to Bobby Dalbec, but Sam Travis can tell you what March dingers are worth. If Pivetta can be good—at all—that’s a huge leg up for the Sox. He’s gotta keep coming correct for it to matter, but I have high hopes that he just might.