Through the first month of the 2023 MLB season, the Boston Red Sox have been just a bit above average. They have one more win than they have losses and a run differential of +12. For as slightly above mediocre as that sounds, there have still been some standout performers on the roster, but a team doesn’t hover around the middle with every single person playing their best (or their worst). Now that April is officially behind us, it’s time to take a stock of each individual player’s performance to this point in the season in our monthly player power rankings.
A few ground rules before we get started. For this first iteration, there will be no plate appearance or innings pitched threshold. Since we’re still dealing with relatively small sample sizes for most guys, especially relievers, everyone who has played for the Red Sox so far this year is eligible. That will change going forward, but for now, everyone gets a shot.
In addition, more than a few Red Sox players have suffered injuries, but we’ll still be including anyone who has made an appearance to this point. That means folks like Garrett Whitlock and Adam Duvall are still eligible. However, Trevor Story and James Paxton will have to wait until they get back on the diamond.
Lastly, for this exercise, players are being evaluated for their overall performance, but additional consideration will be given for future potential and the ineffable metric of overall vibes. All that is to say, this is not a list of players from least to most wins above replacement.
Now, without further ado, let’s get to the rankings.
32. Kaleb Ort
Every time I tune in for a Red Sox game after the sixth inning, it always feels like Ort is pitching and that has usually been a bad thing. The 31-year-old reliever can light up the radar gun pretty well, but with an ERA above seven and peripherals that aren’t much better, there’s not much to like about his 2023 so far, which is likely why the Red Sox demoted him.
31. Ryan Brasier
Brasier’s hold on Red Sox decision-makers has continued in 2023. Despite an 8.36 ERA and 4.72 FIP, Brasier leads the Red Sox in appearances in 2023. Making matters worse, at least Brasier wasn’t walking many batters last season, but now his walk rate sits at 12.1 percent.
30. Bobby Dalbec
Your boy can play shortstop, so he’s got plenty of positional flexibility. Unfortunately, Dalbec has spent most of the year in Triple-A. He’s only appeared in four games at the MLB level, giving him little time to prove he’s solved his strikeout issues. He’s just 27 and has two options left, but the window may be closing on Dalbec. But, hey, with the Red Sox’s middle infield issues, having another shortstop is helpful.
29. Zack Kelly
It’s unclear if Kelly will make it back in 2023. The right-handed reliever is currently on the 60-day injured list for an elbow injury that requires surgery. At best, he’ll be able to pitch again in September. Before getting hurt, Kelly was OK, producing a 3.68 ERA across 7 1⁄3 innings. His peripherals tell a less encouraging story, but until he’s back, combining his 2022 and 2023 season paints at least a semi-optimistic picture.
28. Richard Bleier
Bleier’s groundball rate is pretty good and his FIP isn’t god awful (4.39)? However, so far, it’s tough to see what Bleier is doing better than Matt Barnes could have done.
27. Enmanuel Valdez
It’s important to control your own narrative, which is exactly what Valdez did when he got the call to the big leagues.
As others have tweeted, Enmanuel Valdez breaking the news himself on Instagram that he’s being promoted pic.twitter.com/PCoBCH0iL3— Christopher Smith (@SmittyOnMLB) April 19, 2023
Valdez has struggled defensively, but after Sunday, he is hitting .300 through his first 20 plate appearances. That’s not bad for a budding breaking news reporter.
26. Brennan Bernardino
When I started sketching these rankings out, I had Bernardino last, but then he went out and struck out a pair of batters and limited the damage to earn a win in Saturday’s extra innings victory over the Guardians, so I gave him a healthy bump. Sure, stopping the zombie runner from scoring entirely would have been ideal, but you can’t really fault him for a runner automatically put on base to start the inning. Now it’s on Bernardino to decide whether this placement is just recency bias.
25. Christian Arroyo
Arroyo has been brutal offensively this season, with just a 44 wRC+ in 66 plate appearances. The problem continues to be his ability to draw free passes, with his walk rate sitting at 4.5 percent after he had marks in the fours in 2021 and 2022 as well. Sure, he also needs to get hits, but walking so rarely makes producing at even replacement level a high-wire act. On the positive side, Arroyo has been strong defensively, ranking in the 82nd percentile in outs above average and playing all over the diamond.
24. Brayan Bello
The positive spin for Bello’s 2023 season is that he’s gotten better in each of his starts. After getting whacked by the Angels in his rainy season debut, he pitched well for four innings before running out of gas in the fifth against the Brewers. He then got sent back to the minors but got called right back up when Garrett Whitlock hit the IL. On Saturday, Bello made his third start, allowing just one run over five innings while striking out six. His overall body of work still remains suspect, but if he keeps on this trajectory, he’ll be throwing complete game shutouts before the All-Star break.
23. Triston Casas
Casas is walking a lot and has shown the ability to hit the ball hard. Unfortunately, he’s not actually making contact all that often while striking out constantly and seeming a bit too hesitant at the plate at times. His expected batting average (.169) is in the bottom one percentile in MLB and it’s somehow loads better than his actual mark (.133). With his offensive production in the dumps, Casas’ defensive woes have made things all the worse, which is why he’s last on the team in fWAR. However, the 23-year-old could still turn things around and the Red Sox will likely give him every chance to do so.
22. Corey Kluber
Casas is last in fWAR and Kluber is second to last. The 37-year-old adjusted his approach over the last few years to make up for dwindling velocity and made it work in New York and Tampa Bay. In Boston, the same can’t be said. His strikeout and groundball rates are at pretty much career lows and his walk rate has crept back up. He’s also allowing way too much hard contact while his pitches have lacked the spin and movement to fool batters. So why is he here instead of at the very bottom? Well, he finally had a good start last time out against Baltimore, throwing six innings of one-run ball. Maybe the wily veteran can right the ship.
21. Raimel Tapia
Getting most of his time as a pinch hitter and runner, Tapia has mainly served the role of replacement player and he’s been just that performance-wise (100 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR). You can’t really fault the man for meeting expectations.
20. Chris Martin
Martin dealt with injuries for a chunk of April but is back in business now. One of the big gets for the bullpen in the offseason, the 36-year-old reliever pitched in seven games before getting hurt and had his fastball zipping and ERA dipping (2.57). However, he also struck out just 2.57 batters per nine innings. Something tells me that kind of production can be chalked up to the small sample.
19. Yu Chang
On the one hand, before going on the IL, Chang had a 30 wRC+ while also starting the season 0-for-19. On the other, he’s cranked some majestic home runs and has the best walkup song on the team. That’s enough to break into the top 20 for me.
18. Rob Refsnyder
Similar to Tapia, Refsnyder has basically been a replacement level player, but he’s been a bit better defensively and his walk rate is at 15.7 percent. However, for some reason, he hasn’t been playing much recently, with just one start since April 18. If Tapia starts stealing his playing time and Martin gets more work, Refsnyder will start sliding back in these rankings.
17. Garrett Whitlock
Whitlock’s health has been shaky this season. He missed the first couple turns through the rotation and is back on the IL now with ulnar neuritis, which I’m told is inflammation in the elbow. Maybe the maladies have been to blame for a drastic drop in velocity and strikeout stuff for Whitlock, but at least he was still avoiding walks in his three starts before going back on the shelf. With the timetable for his return pretty short and a seven-inning gem against the Angels on his resume, Whitlock should move up on here quickly.
16. Nick Pivetta
Watching Pivetta drop his curveball in for a strike is still one of the most pleasing experiences when catching a Sox game. That alone earns him a spot in the top 20 and that’s before mentioning he’s been one of the most reliable innings eaters on the roster. However, he is still near the middle of these rankings because despite that curve, an uptick in velocity and a solid strikeout rate, Pivetta has an ERA in the fives with the peripherals to match and an unacceptable walk rate.
15. Enrique Hernández
The light purple hair is an elite look for Hernández and if I’m honest, it’s probably pushing him further up these rankings than it should. Hernández has been about league average offensively and his defense has suffered from being asked to play shortstop on a regular basis. However, things are starting to turn around, as he’s produced a 119 wRC+ in the last week.
14. Connor Wong
Wong has been good on defense and unspectacular on offense. In other words, he’s been a run-of-the-mill catcher. That’s not too bad for someone stuck in a platoon role.
13. Chris Sale
The jury is still out on just how good Sale can still be. He was outstanding in striking out 11 in an April 18 start against Minnesota and he put together another strong start on Sunday. However, he gave up five or more earned runs in three of his five outings before yesterday. While I don’t expect him to keep giving up that many runs, I also don’t expect him to regularly hit double-digit strikeout totals, even if he does lead Red Sox starters in strikeout rate. If he can find a middle ground, the Red Sox can live with it. After so many starts and stops over the last few years, it might be time to accept that this is just who Sale is now.
12. Reese McGuire
McGuire has been on the other side of that platoon with Wong and has been a slightly above league average hitter with decent framing behind the plate. His .438 batting average on balls in play points to offensive regression and his walk-to-strikeout ratio isn’t great, but for now, McGuire has been pretty solid.
11. John Schreiber
Schreiber has mainly kept pace with his breakout 2022 season. His strikeout rate is up and he’s got red all over his Baseball Savant page, particularly in expected slugging percentage, barrel rate and whiff rate. The 29-year-old reliever still has some issues to work on, though, as his walk rate is nearly double what it was a year ago and his velocity has been down. Still, his overall body of work is nothing to be mad about and just about in line with what he did last year as the most valuable member of the bullpen.
10. Adam Duvall
In the first week of the season, there is always a main character in baseball, someone who gets out to such a ludicrously hot start that reading off their stats becomes an act in hilarity. Duvall was this year’s, or at least in the running to be, as he produced a 315 wRC+ in the first eight games of 2023 while sprinkling in more than a few acts of heroism.
Unfortunately, Duvall then broke his wrist and has been sitting on the IL ever since. Despite that, he still leads the team in fWAR and is second in home runs. Even though his first week production was unsustainable, if Duvall can be even 40 percent of how he started the year when he comes back, that’s a big win for the Sox.
9. Tanner Houck
Houck is somehow the best starting pitcher for the Red Sox right now, but that says more about the overall rotation than it does about him. Houck has been far from an ace, with uninspiring strikeout and walk rates and at least two earned runs allowed in every start; however, for someone who didn’t even have a rotation spot secured until late in the spring, Houck has taken advantage of the opportunity and made a strong case to keep his job.
8. Justin Turner
Turner always puts together a good plate appearance and has been a key contributor in the lineup day in and day out. He’s been patient as a hitter and kept his strikeouts to a minimum while walking at a high rate. All together, he has produced a 111 wRC+ and that’s without even hitting for much power.
7. Kutter Crawford
The Red Sox are using Crawford as a swingman for the most part, but he’s making a strong case to get more starting work. Aside from a seven-run implosion in his first outing of the season, a start on April 3 against Pittsburgh, Crawford has been absolute nails, particularly when he threw 6 1⁄3 shutout innings out of the bullpen against the Angels on April 17. Crawford hasn’t allowed a walk since that Pittsburgh game and has a 1.33 ERA in that time as well. Given the Red Sox’s hoard of starters being no better than middle of the road, why not give Crawford another crack?
6. Josh Winckowski
Winckowski is carving out a nice role for himself as a late inning reliever who can stretch to two or even three innings, making all 10 of his appearances out of the bullpen in 2023. A starting pitcher by trade, Winckowski’s sparkling 1.40 ERA is built on improvements in velocity, walks allowed and a tremendous sinker, which has helped him offset a still meager strikeout rate with tons of balls on the ground. Full-time reliever may not be the 24-year-old’s long-term job with the Sox, but it’s working right now.
5. Masataka Yoshida
Yoshida has been everything he was advertised to be: a contact machine who can hit for power, get on base a ton and never strike out. He’s slashing .274/.367/.452 with four home runs and a 127 wRC+, which leads the team among players with at least 50 plate appearances. Just ask the Brewers if this dude is for real.
4. Kenley Jansen
Jansen is looking like peak Kenley Jansen so far this year and that’s even after he blew his first save on Saturday. The 35-year-old closer leads all Red Sox pitchers (not just relievers) in fWAR while posting an incredible strikeout rate, a miniscule ERA and an excellent cutter. In fact, he is tied with the Cubs’ Keegan Thompson for the second-most valuable cutter among qualified relievers this season. Even if the Red Sox’s overall pitching staff has been all over the place, Jansen has been a standout.
3. Jarren Duran
Wait, what? Is this a joke? Nope, Duran has been really good. He’s slashing .409/.429/.659 with a 192 wRC+ through 49 plate appearances and he’s also been solid defensively while continuing to burn the basepaths with his speed. Will this last forever? Probably not. Is it fun to see Duran finally put it all together? Hell yes.
2. Rafael Devers
When a guy is hitting this many home runs, it doesn’t really matter what else they are doing. Devers has always been a power hitter, but he’s on another level right now. As a bonus, he’s also been pretty great defensively at third base. The only reason he’s not No. 1 in these rankings is because the rest of his offensive game is still rounding into midseason form.
1. Alex Verdugo
It feels like Verdugo has been around for a while, so it’s tough to say this is his breakout, but Verdugo is playing the best baseball of his career and has been the best all around position player on the Red Sox this season. Slashed .301/.363/.451 with a 125 wRC+, Verdugo has also been an excellent fielder and base runner and has already nearly matched his fWAR total from last season in just a month. Oh, and he’s also hit a pair of walkoffs.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from before games on April 30.