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Red Sox Player Power Rankings: Macho Man Magic

With two months of the season in the books, whose stock is rising and who needs to bounce back?

Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

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Welcome back to the second edition of the 2023 Boston Red Sox Player Power Rankings. A lot has happened since April’s version and yet the Red Sox are still a team hovering around .500. With a 5-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, the Red Sox officially ended May with a 28-27 overall record, a run differential of +9 and an 18.3 percent chance of making the playoffs.

Being mediocre can sometimes be conflated with being boring, but the Red Sox still had some fun during May, even if there were also plenty of brutal moments. Now that they have all the attention of Boston back following some actually brutal playoff exits by the Celtics and the Bruins, here’s a look at who’s been creating that fun I mentioned, as well as who’s been struggling and everything in between.

Before we get into the rankings, a quick note on eligibility. Players were only eligible for this list if they made at least one appearance at the MLB level with the Red Sox in May and are still on the roster (sorry, Zack Littell, and not so sorry, Ryan Brasier). That means folks like Yu Chang, Zack Kelly and Adam Duvall who were featured in April’s power rankings are unfortunately on the outside looking in this time around. However, it looks like Duvall will be back soon, so chin up. Now to the rankings:

32. Bobby Dalbec (Previous Rank: 30)

Hey, at least he made the list.

31. Joely Rodríguez (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)

Rodríguez made his first appearance with the Red Sox on May 17 after dealing with an injury that kept him out to start the campaign. The results so far have not been great, with the lefty sporting an 18.00 ERA in May. Small sample sizes, am I right?

30. Christian Arroyo (Previous Rank: 25)

Arroyo had a 196 wRC+ in May ... across nine plate appearances, the last of which came on May 6. Arroyo is currently in Triple-A rehabbing from a hamstring injury.

29. Brennan Bernardino (Previous Rank: 26)

For a few seconds there, Bernardino seemed like he could be a surprisingly solid reliever, but that wasn’t to be. Despite a 3.38 ERA in 13 12 innings this season, the 31-year-old southpaw is back in the minors, though he did get a brief recall toward the end of May.

28. Richard Bleier (Previous Rank: 28)

Bleier stays still in the rankings, with an injury limiting his playing time. However, he wasn’t all that good when he was healthy (4.91 ERA, 7.78 FIP in 7 13 innings in May).

27. Ryan Sherriff (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)

How great is the last name Sherriff for a pitcher? Sherriff recently rejoined the team to replace Corey Kluber, who went on the paternity list. Sherriff has thrown all of 4 23 innings this season, all in May, but at least he’s been solid in such a meager amount of time (1.93 ERA, 2.64 FIP).

26. Pablo Reyes (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)

The Red Sox don’t need Shohei Ohtani when they have their own two-way player in Reyes.

(Just kidding. Please come to Boston, Shohei. Can you handle some minutes for the Celtics, as well?)

25. Corey Kluber (Previous Rank: 22)

Stepping away from baseball, congratulations to Kluber and his wife on their new child.

On the baseball side, Kluber was finally demoted to the bullpen after his struggles as a starter stretched beyond what could be classified as early season rust. In four starts in May, the veteran right-hander posted a 5.60 ERA while striking out 14 batters and walking 10 in 17 2/3 innings.

Cincinnati Reds v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

24. Justin Garza (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)

Garza didn’t give up a run in his first five appearances out of the bullpen after making his season debut on May 16. He was then tagged for two runs (one earned) by the Cincinnati Reds on May 30, giving him a 1.42 ERA across 6 13 innings for the month (and the season).

23. Reese McGuire (Previous Rank: 12)

McGuire did hit .270 in May, but the rest of his offensive production has been terrible. He is striking out on a little more than 30 percent of the time while walking at a 3.4 percent clip overall this season. In May, he accumulated a 63 wRC+ while striking out at an even higher rate than he did in April and walking almost never. Is it time for Jorge Alfaro?

22. Enrique Hernández (Previous Rank: 15)

It’s getting difficult to see why Hernández is getting regular playing time other than reputation and necessity. After a terrible April at the plate, he was even worse in May, posting just a 62 wRC+. Making matters worse, his defense at shortstop continues to be a sore spot.

21. Nick Pivetta (Previous Rank: 16)

Like Kluber, Pivetta also lost his spot in the rotation and is now pitching exclusively out of the bullpen. He’ll likely get some spot starting work as the season wears on, and he could even win back a rotation spot, but for now, he’s a long reliever. On the plus side, he has a 2.89 ERA in 9 13 innings since being demoted.

20. Enmanuel Valdez (Previous Rank: 27)

Valdez tied for the team-lead in home runs in May with four, launching his last one on Wednesday against the Reds. Thanks to the relative power surge, Valdez has been essentially a league average hitter while holding down the starting second base job most games. His defense still needs a lot of work, but the 24-year-old is holding his own overall.

19. John Schreiber (Previous Rank: 11)

Schreiber was still slinging it before an arm injury halted his season and put him on the 15-day injured list. He didn’t give up a run while striking out 21 in 17 innings this season prior to the injury.

18. Raimel Tapia (Previous Rank: 21)

Sometimes just coming in to work every day and doing your job will earn you a promotion. While moving up three slots in these power rankings may not be the biggest honor, Tapia has been solid as plug-and-play outfielder, batting .293 and providing decent defense in May. He still isn’t getting on base enough or hitting for any power, but it’s tough to fault a bench player for producing a nearly league average offensive line while providing flexibility in the outfield.

17. Kutter Crawford (Previous Rank: 7)

Crawford dealt with an injury and missed some time in May, so he only logged 6 13 innings during the month. It’s not worth making too big a deal about that small a stretch, as Crawford still has an impressively low walk rate and solid strikeout production overall this season, but his peripherals did look a little less impressive in May.

16. Triston Casas (Previous Rank: 23)

Casas is still playing below the lofty expectations he’ll always carry as a much-touted prospect, but he is taking baby steps forward, posting a 107 wRC+ in May. Could a legitimate breakout be around the corner?

15. Garrett Whitlock (Previous Rank: 17)

I’ll admit, Whitlock’s move up the rankings, however slight, is partially built on his track record before this year. While he only made one start in May, he looked pretty good in doing so, allowing just one earned run over five innings last Saturday against the Diamondbacks. He’s had a very up and down year in 2023, in large part due to injuries, but when he’s healthy, Whitlock can be a front of the rotation starter still.

Cincinnati Reds v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

14. Josh Winckowski (Previous Rank: 6)

Josh Winckowski has continued to be a Swiss army knife in the bullpen, even closing a few games in May. He’s also still testing the theory that strikeouts aren’t really necessary when you can induce groundballs and avoid walks. However, the right-hander slipped a bit in May, recording a 3.14 ERA (that’s still good!) compared with a sub-2.00 mark in April.

13. Jarren Duran (Previous Rank: 3)

Let’s not panic. Nobody actually thought Duran was going to hit .400 all year and he has still been an above average hitter on the whole (116 wRC+). However, he started to fall back into some bad habits in May, striking out 33 percent of the time. Thankfully, his speed and improved defense will keep him gainfully employed for the time being, so if he can reverse May’s regression, he’ll be back in the top of these rankings in no time.

12. Tanner Houck (Previous Rank: 9)

Houck had an absolutely immaculate outing against the Los Angeles Angels on May 22, striking out eight batters and allowing just one earned run in six innings. However, his other three starts from the month were duds. Houck is second among Red Sox pitchers in fWAR this season and his xFIP is more than a run and a half better than his ERA, so there is reason to believe in him, but it’s still tough to entirely trust him, even if he is capable of greatness from time to time.

11. Chris Martin (Previous Rank: 20)

Martin looked as advertised in May. The veteran reliever pounded the strike zone, didn’t walk many folks and racked up outs in high leverage situations. He didn’t allow a single run and collected six holds (the most forgettable of baseball stats) across 7 23 total innings. So, even if his overall stat line for the year is still wanting, Martin looks like he’s back on track.

10. Connor Wong (Previous Rank: 14)

Connor Wong, power hitter. Wong smashed four dingers during May, including two in one game against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 2. The fireworks allowed him to finish May with a 121 wRC+ for the month despite a .271 on-base percentage. Overall, Wong has been a slightly above average hitter this season with a solid glove (four defensive runs saved), even if his framing has been suspect. The other shoe will likely drop on his offensive profile, but let’s bask in the good times while we can.

9. Rob Refsnyder (Previous Rank: 18)

Despite being relegated to mostly a platoon role, Refsnyder absolutely raked in May, producing a .400/.500/.514 slash line in 42 plate appearances, good enough for a 186 wRC+. Refsnyder did most of that damage by embarrassing left-handers, just as he’s done all season, with a 167 wRC+ against southpaws and just a 53 wRC+ against right-handers. All that lefty mashing allowed Refsnyder to rank fourth on the whole team in fWAR in May and earn a coveted spot in the top 10 of these rankings.

8. Kenley Jansen (Previous Rank: 4)

After looking like he jumped into a time machine back to 2016 during the first month of the season, Jansen came back down to earth in May. He had an ERA of 6.43 in the month and walked more than 10 batters per nine innings. But most of that can be blamed on two implosions in the middle of the month against the St. Louis Cardinals. Jansen might not be having the 2021 Buster Posey-esque renaissance we were dreaming of a month ago, but he is still one of the best relievers on the roster.

Cincinnati Reds v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

7. James Paxton (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)

Speaking of renaissances, the Big Maple is back! In his first start since April of 2021, Paxton struck out nine batters across five innings of two-run baseball against the Cardinals on May 12. In his four starts overall, he’s struck out 27 batters in 19 innings and aside from a stinker against the Angels on May 24, he’s looked pretty solid. Maybe the long wait for Paxton is actually going to pay dividends.

6. Brayan Bello (Previous Rank: 24)

This surge up the rankings is built as much on belief in Bello’s future as his performance. Speaking of performance, *whispers* Bello has been the best Red Sox starter beyond Chris Sale recently. The 24-year-old right-hander has a 2.67 ERA in his last five starts, including a massively impressive effort against the Angels in which he allowed two earned runs over seven innings while striking out six batters. Bello still needs to limit his walk numbers a bit more and his peripheral numbers aren’t as stellar as his ERA, but all in all, the vibes are, as the kids say, good.

5. Rafael Devers (Previous Rank: 2)

He’s still Rafael Devers, but the face of the Red Sox has not been himself recently. Devers had just a 90 wRC+ in May and even with 13 home runs and the third most RBI in MLB (47) on the season already, overall, he is still sitting at just a tick above league average offensively. He’s still hitting the ball hard, ranking in the 95th percentile in MLB in average exit velocity, but he’s swinging and missing too much and walking at a career-low rate. Devers is too good not to figure things out, but it’s been tough sledding for him recently.

4. Justin Turner (Previous Rank: 8)

Justin Turner is being Justin Turner, a solid and dependable offensive force in the middle of the lineup. He tied with Wong and Valdez for the most home runs among Red Sox batters in May and had a 113 wRC+, helping to boost his overall offensive stat line for the year. Consistently solid play may not be exciting, but it’s something the Red Sox need given the wide variance in performance across the bulk of the roster.

3. Alex Verdugo (Previous Rank: 1)

Verdugo has been consistent as well, following up his strong showing in April with a .276/.364/.425 slash line and 115 wRC+ in May. Verdugo has already surpassed his fWAR total from last season and still leads the Red Sox in that metric, with his high contact approach consistently allowing him to make a positive impact at the plate while his glove remains solid.

2. Chris Sale (Previous Rank: 13)

Editor’s Note: Does it count as jinxing someone if the article isn’t published before something bad happens? This piece was written prior to Thursday’s game, which Sale left early due to shoulder soreness. While the following entry still holds true for last month, we’ll have to wait with baited breath to see how seriously this latest malady is and how it will impact what was looking like a return to form for Sale.

If Paxton was back in May then Sale was super back. The lanky lefty pitched as well as he has in years in May, striking out 10.38 batters per nine innings while putting up a 2.42 ERA (3.17 FIP) across 26 innings. What’s been most encouraging is the return to life of Sale’s fastball. His velocity is up slightly and he’s utilizing the pitch effectively, tallying 6.3 fastball runs above average in May. Sale’s most recent start only lasted five innings and his strikeout total only got to three, but in his three starts before that, he averaged seven innings and nine strikeouts per game with an ERA of 2.57. That’s ace level stuff.

1. Masataka Yoshida (Previous Rank: 5)

There isn’t a more fun batter to watch on the Red Sox right now than Yoshida, who is slashing .317/.391/.508 with a 145 wRC+ on the season. Yoshida was on an entirely different planet in May, slashing a ridiculous .354/.410/.552 with a 162 wRC+. The most incredible aspect of his game is how infrequently he strikes out. If MLB wants to see more balls in play, then they need more players like Yoshida, who is fifth in strikeout rate among qualified hitters in MLB (10.1 percent). The Red Sox are currently tied for eight in MLB in wRC+ as a team and it’s hard to think they’d be anywhere close to that without Yoshida. Long live the Macho Man.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from before games on June 1.

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