This past weekend, Mookie Betts returned to Fenway Park for the first time since the Red Sox traded him to the Dodgers before the 2020 season. Perhaps you heard about it. I’m not bringing this up to elicit even more discourse about the Betts trade, but to think about the best players the Red Sox have fielded since he left.
From 2015 to 2019, Betts led the Red Sox in bWAR every season, and he even won an MVP award during one of those campaigns. Since then, Alex Verdugo (2020) and Xander Bogaerts (2021 and 2022) have each been the team’s best player as measured by bWAR, although there are arguments to be made for other guys as well if we go beyond that single metric.
Speaking of making arguments, in a little more than a month, we’ll be able to debate who holds the championship belt as best player for the 2023 Red Sox, but until then, welcome back to our monthly player power rankings. We are doing this a smidge earlier than usual and for totally baseball-related reasons, not because I am going on vacation later this week.
In terms of eligibility, for this edition, players were evaluated for their performance since our last rankings (which posted on Aug. 4) while considering the context of the entire season. Players had to make at least one appearance at the MLB level during our evaluation period and must still be on the roster. That means we have to say goodbye to Richard Bleier and don’t even get a chance to talk about the Dinelson Lamet era. There are also a slew of guys from the last version who were demoted and/or didn’t get any MLB work since we last checked in, but you’re here to read about players actually on the rankings, not guys who aren’t, so let’s get to it.
Editor’s Note: All statistics are from prior to games on Aug. 29 unless otherwise noted.
34. Kyle Barraclough (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Barraclough joined the Red Sox on a minor league deal in June and then waited until mid-August before getting a shot with the big league club. He provided 3 1/3 innings of relief in a mid-month series against the Tigers, allowing one earned run and striking out three. He got shipped back to Triple-A from there and then, after getting brought back, was left to die on the mound on Monday.
33. Joe Jacques (Previous Rank: 27)
Jacques was demoted in early August, but he snags the final spot on the rankings by virtue of appearing across 2 2⁄3 innings in appearances on Aug. 4 and Aug. 5 before being sent down, although he was called back up this week.
32. Nick Robertson (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Until I’m told otherwise, Robertson was the centerpiece of the Enrique Hernández trade. He pitched four innings and allowed as many earned runs across two appearances on Aug. 6 and Aug. 8 before traveling back to Triple-A.
31. Yu Chang (Previous Rank: 18)
Chang is back in Triple-A after clearing waivers following a dreaded DFA. His defense continued to be strong at the MLB level in his brief playing time this past month, but he just hasn’t hit much at all this season, posting a 39 wRC+ in 112 plate appearances.
30. Chris Murphy (Previous Rank: 19)
Murphy hasn’t pitched much and has been bad when he has gotten into games (10.67 ERA/5.71 FIP) as a long reliever across five appearances (14 1/3 innings) since Aug. 4. He’s back in Triple-A as of this week.
29. David Hamilton (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
The No. 20 prospect in the Red Sox’s system, Hamilton just squeaks in here after being called back up to the MLB club this week. He pinch hit in the ninth inning on Monday and did not get a hit.
28. Mauricio Llovera (Previous Rank: 21)
Llovera has given up just one earned run in his last six outings ... but he still has a 6.35 ERA (4.24 FIP) in that time and that’s not even including the four unearned runs he was tagged with in an appearance against Houston on Aug. 22.
27. Rob Refsnyder (Previous Rank: 16)
Even Refsnyder’s continually strong walk rate can’t buoy the ineffective contact he’s been making lately, as he has just a 45 wRC+ over his last 30 plate appearances.
26. Tanner Houck (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
In his return from injury on Aug. 22, Houck allowed three earned over five innings while walking three and striking out two against the Astros. He then let up just one run over four innings while striking out four and walking two against the Dodgers in his follow-up performance on Sunday. It’s too small a sample to judge him too harshly, especially since he’ll need some time to get back into the flow of MLB action, but it’s also too soon to push him much higher in these rankings.
25. Nick Pivetta (Previous Rank: 6)
Pivetta must be ready for fall because he has turned back into a pumpkin. He has a 6.43 ERA and 5.08 FIP in 21 innings since Aug. 4, allowing five home runs in the process. That production includes so-so results across a pair of starts in his brief return to the rotation, although he’s back in the bullpen again now.
24. Reese McGuire (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
McGuire may not have the true talent to keep producing at a 147 wRC+ pace as he has the last few weeks, but he has the guile to bunt on a 3-0 count. That has to count for something.
A perfectly placed bunt from Reese McGuire on a 3-0 pitch, just like everyone expected.— Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin17) August 22, 2023
23. Masataka Yoshida (Previous Rank: 5)
I know, I know. What is Yoshida doing all the way down here? The fact is, nothing has been going right for him this month. After an impressive first half, he’s been unplayable over the last few weeks, posting a 69 wRc+, with the anchor of a putrid 3.6 percent walk rate weighing him down. He still has a comfortably above average offensive profile for the season, but weeks ago he was a Rookie of the Year candidate and putting up fringe All-Star numbers. Now he’s at 18 percent above league average, and with unimpressive defense to boot, he’s barely been better than a replacement player overall. He can certainly pull out of this, and when he’s been on, he’s been incredible, but he’ll need to make some adjustments.
22. Wilyer Abreu (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
After producing a .274/.391/.538 slash line with 22 home runs in Triple-A, Abreu, who came over in the Christian Vázquez trade, made his MLB debut on Aug. 22, going 2-for-3 with a double. The 24-year-old outfielder then hit his first career home run during an incredible 4-for-6 outing against the Astros on Aug. 24, helping power a 17-1 victory. Currently on the paternity list, the Red Sox’s No. 17 prospect has had an eventful first week in MLB.
21. Garrett Whitlock (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
The good news is prior to Wednesday’s game, Whitlock had struck out 13 batters and walked only two in five appearances (8 1⁄3 innings) since returning from injury on Aug. 13. The bad news is his ERA during that time was 7.27.
20. Jarren Duran (Previous Rank: 1)
Duran hit a cold spell for a few weeks in August before a sprained toe ended his season. Prior to the injury, he had just a .186/.239/.302 slash line in 47 plate appearances since claiming the No. 1 spot in our last rankings. However, he accumulated 2.3 fWAR and a 120 wRC+ this year, providing quite a bit of optimism about his future, which is something we weren’t thinking was possible going into this season.
19. James Paxton (Previous Rank: 10)
Any team that was asking after Paxton at the trade deadline is probably thankful the Red Sox opted to hold onto him. In his last five starts, Paxton has a 5.84 ERA, 6.60 FIP, 17.6 percent walk rate and 9.6 percent walk rate. He’s been particularly brutal in his last two outings, allowing 11 runs (10 earned) in just 8 1⁄3 innings.
18. John Schreiber (Previous Rank: 22)
Other than a disaster against the Yankees on Aug. 20 and a stumble against the Dodgers last Friday, Schreiber has been pretty solid the last few weeks, producing a 27.3 percent strikeout rate to go with decent run prevention numbers (3.72 ERA and 4.00 FIP) since Aug. 4, although his walk rate in that time (11.4 percent) isn’t my favorite.
17. Brennan Bernardino (Previous Rank: 12)
Bernardino has carved out a very niche role in the bullpen, as he is being used in very short bursts, even for a reliever, with just two of his 11 appearances in the last month lasting an inning or more. Thankfully for the Red Sox, he’s been solid enough in that role, although he he just went on the COVID-19 list this week.
16. Luis Urías (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
The biggest addition the Red Sox made at the trade deadline, Urías has already etched his name into the Red Sox’s record books with his penchant for grand slams.
15. Trevor Story (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
After a hot first week back from injury in which he slashed .318/.375/.500, the rust has started to show, with Story posting a five (yes, the number five) wRC+ in his last 48 plate appearances, although he did hit his first home run of the year last Friday against the Dodgers. On the plus side, he has provided much needed defensive stability at shortstop, becoming the team leader in defensive runs saved at the position already.
14. Chris Sale (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Despite missing time with injuries, Sale is still tied with Brayan Bello and Kutter Crawford for the team lead in fWAR among pitchers (1.6). The Red Sox have taken it easy on Sale workload wise since his return from the injured list, as he has yet to pitch past the fifth inning since Aug. 11, including an uneven performance against the Astros on Monday. Still, he’s striking out more than 30 percent of the batters he’s faced during his last four starts, even if his run prevention success has been spotty.
13. Connor Wong (Previous Rank: 17)
Wong hasn’t done too much or too little in August. He’s been a nearly league average hitter (98 wRC+) since Aug. 4 with his usual plus speed and defense. He still has too many holes at the plate (see his miserable walk numbers), but he continues to be a relatively solid catcher, particularly in a lineup that doesn’t need him to be peak Buster Posey.
12. Ceddanne Rafaela (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Is this too high? Maybe, but this ranking is more a product of hype than anything else. Rafaela is a top 100 prospect and already one of the most exciting players on the roster given his combination of skills. He also singled in his MLB debut on Monday and led off and played shortstop yesterday. Seems ready to me.
11. Josh Winckowski (Previous Rank: 14)
The Swiss army knife of the Red Sox staff has been strong in his last 10 appearances, posting a 2.07 FIP in as many innings. He also picked up his third save of the season and started for the first time this year during that time, making him the only player on the roster with more than one save and at least one game started. In fairness, he only pitched a single inning while serving as an opener in that start, but it still counts!
10. Kutter Crawford (Previous Rank: 7)
Crawford didn’t rock the boat one way or another this month, as he continues to be a solid option in the rotation, producing a 3.79 ERA and a 17.3 percent strikeout-to-walk rate over his four starts before Wednesday’s debacle against the Astros.
9. Chris Martin (Previous Rank: 12)
Who cares if he can’t strike anyone out? Martin is riding an impressive hot streak, going 12-straight appearances without allowing a run. His ERA is down to 1.25 on the season and although his FIP may disagree (2.72), it’s not as if his numbers there are anything less than stellar.
8. Pablo Reyes (Previous Rank: 26)
If Reyes wasn’t currently on the injured list, he might be even higher. Who cares if it’s not sustainable? Over his last 78 plate appearances, he’s slashed .310/.351/.465 and delivered in big moments more than once. Simply put, Reyes has been too much fun (and too effective) not to be playing regularly for the Red Sox when he’s healthy right now.
7. Alex Verdugo (Previous Rank: 15)
Verdugo was in a bad spot at the beginning of the month, but he’s turned things around in a big way. He’s also had more power in August, leading off multiple games with dingers while slashing .294/.319/.506 since Aug. 4, although his walk rate during that stretch is concerning.
6. Triston Casas (Previous Rank: 3)
Even if Casas hasn’t been able to keep up the ridiculous hot streak he was on last time we checked in, he has still been very good, posting a 129 wRc+ in his last 84 plate appearances while launching five more dingers. As of now, his rookie season has featured 21 bombs and a 125 wRc+, which is a pretty nifty foundation to set for a MLB career.
5. Brayan Bello (Previous Rank: 13)
Bello isn't eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award, but this has been a very strong first full campaign, with his efforts in August helping offset some regression in July. His ability to get groundballs has been a major reason, as his 55.4 percent groundball rate prior to his start on Tuesday would have ranked third among qualified pitchers in MLB, helping to offset his curiously dwindling strikeout numbers.
4. Kenley Jansen (Previous Rank: 8)
This season, Jansen has the fourth-most valuable cutter among qualified relievers. It’s an offering he continues to rely on and it’s paid dividends for his overall body of work, which looks better and better every month. In August, Jansen has cut down on walks while producing a 1.23 ERA and racking up six saves. Granted, that’s only over the span of 7 1/3 innings, but with a 2.81 ERA and 3.34 FIP overall this year, Jansen deserves such a high ranking for his consistently effective work.
3. Justin Turner (Previous Rank: 4)
Every time the Red Sox need a run driven in, it feels like Turner is there. He currently leads the team in Fangraphs’ clutch metric on the year and is batting .370 with runners in scoring position while posting a 186 wRC+ in high leverage situations. Since Aug. 4, he’s slashed .313/.389/.578 with a 160 wRC+, bolstering what has been the most consistently excellent offensive season by a Red Sox player this year.
2. Adam Duvall (Previous Rank: 11)
There must be something about months that begin with the letter A. Duvall is swinging a scorching bat right now, just like he did in early April, laying out a 186 wRC+ and .321/.369/.718 slash line with a team-high eight home runs since Aug. 4. During that span, he’s accumulated 1.2 fWAR, which is more than all but five position players on the roster have racked up all season.
1. Rafael Devers (Previous Rank: 2)
Devers has has now eclipsed Verdugo as the clubhouse leader in fWAR for the season. While not on the heater Duvall is on, Devers was our No. 2 player in the last rankings and all he’s done since then is slash .296/.406/.506 and post a 147 wRC+ while walking more and striking out less than usual en route to a 0.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It’s taken a while and the defense is an issue, but Devers is finally at the top of the rankings where he belongs.