What a strange and quiet trade deadline for the Boston Red Sox. Sure, they technically made some moves, but most of them were of the organizational depth variety and while such transactions have their place, they aren’t going to help the Red Sox in 2023 all that much.
Even without much trading going on, there was still plenty of roster turnover since our last power rankings. Enrique Hernández is back with the Dodgers, the Jorge Alfaro era came and went, several players returned from injury and the Red Sox even added some reinforcements like reliever Mauricio Llovera. (Well, reinforcement, singular, until Luis Urías gets promoted back to the bigs, I suppose). The roster will look even different in the next few weeks as Trevor Story, Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock and Chris Sale return as well, but before we look too far ahead, let’s take a look at who’s been hot, who’s been struggling and who’s mirroring the Red Sox’s trade deadline strategy and standing still (zing!).
Before we get into the rankings, a few quick notes for this edition. Players were primarily evaluated based on their performance in July, although their overall body of work this year factored in as well. Posting a 200 wRc+ in 10 plate appearances last month isn’t going to earn someone the No. 1 spot automatically. Additionally, our usual cutoff for eligibility is making at least one appearance at the MLB level in the previous month, but we’re tweaking slightly because a few guys (namely Whitlock and Kaleb Ort) technically met the requirement but haven’t played since our last rankings. So for this version, players must have made an appearance after the All-Star break. Sure, that’s a bit convoluted, but this is all make believe anyway. Now to the rankings.
28. Justin Garza (Previous Rank: 28)
After performing pretty well in May and not great in June, Garza was miserable in very few chances in July, including his lone post-All-Star break appearance in which he allowed three earned runs over 2⁄3 of an inning against the Mets, earning him a trip back to Triple-A.
27. Joe Jacques (Previous Rank: 26)
Jacques was recently called back up to replace Joely Rodríguez (more on him later). Jacques threw a total of 10 2⁄3 innings in July before and after being demoted and recalled. As you’d expect for someone with such a tenuous hold on a roster spot, his performance in that sample wasn’t the best (6.75 ERA).
26. Pablo Reyes (Previous Rank: 27)
Reyes has accumulated all of five plate appearances since returning from the IL, so his ranking here is a way of giving him the benefit of the doubt.
25. Richard Bleier (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Bleier returned from his own IL stint in mid-July and has been OK, although his strikeout rate has been horrible, even for him. Let’s blame it on sample size.
24. Brandon Walter (Previous Rank: 21)
Walter was sent back to Triple-A on July 24 after performing relatively well as a multi-inning reliever (3.07 ERA, 3.95 FIP in 14 2/3 innings across June and July), although his strikeout rate was pretty dismal (13.8 percent). As the No. 19 prospect in the organization, according to FanGraphs, he’ll more than likely have another chance, but he has work to do before then.
23. Christian Arroyo (Previous Rank: 24)
The promotion Arroyo received in these rankings is a symptom of more stringent eligibility requirements and not his play on the field. Arroyo did hit a respectable .277 in July, but a look at his entire offensive profile is much more damning. He didn’t hit any home runs during the month and walked 2.1 percent of the time, contributing to a 73 wRC+. On the bright side, that somehow outpaced his overall mark for the season (66). When you add in some suspect defense, Arroyo is doing more harm than good, even on a team that is desperate for middle infield help.
22. John Schreiber (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Finally back after two months on the IL, Schreiber is still finding his footing, particularly after a rocky outing on Wednesday in which he allowed hour earned runs in just one inning of work. Still, he’s only thrown 4 2⁄3 innings since returning, so there’s no need to panic.
21. Mauricio Llovera (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
What do you mean the Red Sox did nothing before the trade deadline? Llovera is striking out 15 batters per nine and has a 0.00 ERA with the Red Sox. Don’t worry about how many innings he’s thrown or what his peripherals look like.
20. Joely Rodríguez (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Rodríguez was pitching great in July (0.00 ERA, 0.70 FIP and 11.45 K/9 across six appearances) before he once again hit the IL at the end of the month.
19. Chris Murphy (Previous Rank: 23)
Murphy and Walter are right next to each other on FanGraphs’ Red Sox prospect rankings, but Murphy is still with the MLB club currently. The 25-year-old southpaw has a 1.59 ERA and 2.99 FIP in 28 1⁄3 innings since debuting in early June, and he bolstered those numbers with strong efforts in multi-inning relief work across 18 1⁄3 July innings.
18. Yu Chang (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Did you know the Red Sox are the worst defensive team in MLB based on outs above average? It’s not even a particularly close race, as they currently sit at -46 OAA, with the second-worst team, the Miami Marlins, at -16. That is not a typo. We’re talking a difference of 30 OAA. By the same measure, Chang has been the team’s best defender (four OAA), so even if he has a 48 wRC+ in 50 plate appearances since returning from the IL on July 7, he’s still providing value.
17. Connor Wong (Previous Rank: 19)
Wong had a pretty neutral July, offensively speaking, posting a 97 wRC+, but he has continued to be consistent behind the plate, particularly when it comes to controlling the running game. According to Baseball Savant, thanks to his elite pop time, Wong is tied with Gabriel Moreno of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the MLB lead in catcher’s caught stealing above average, a metric that essentially measures how many more would-be base stealers a catcher has thrown out compared with the league average.
16. Rob Refsnyder (Previous Rank: 15)
Even though he slid back a spot, Refsnyder has continued to perform well for a for a part-time player. He produced a 111 wRC+ in July, which is in line with his 110 mark for the season, and showed excellent patience, walking in 12.2 percent of his plate appearances while striking out only 14.6 percent of the time. However, we’re only talking about a 41 plate appearance sample.
15. Alex Verdugo (Previous Rank: 2)
Verdugo entered July batting .302 (.836 OPS) and left it batting .272 (.766 OPS). He had a 27 wRC+ during the month and hasn’t had a multi-hit game since July 8. This kind of slump is obviously just that, a slump, but as Dan wrote earlier this week, it has taken all the air out of what looked like a potential breakout season.
14. Josh Winckowski (Previous Rank: 14)
I did a double take when looking at Winckowski’s numbers in July. The right-handed reliever struck out roughly 12 batters per nine innings during the month, which was a tremendous leap from his season-long mark of 7.93. In addition to the strikeout spike, which is probably more sample size related than an indication of future performance, he really settled down after a rough stretch in late June and early July to post a 2.70 ERA (3.42 FIP) last month.
13. Brayan Bello (Previous Rank: 1)
Bello has to make the adjustment to the adjustment. When he struggled early in the year, he course-corrected and was awesome, but he’s had trouble the last few starts and has not made it easy on himself by failing to strike many batters out. His troubles in July led him to tie for the worst mark in fWAR among Red Sox pitchers during the month (-0.2). On the bright side, he is still eating innings and went toe-to-toe with Atlanta’s Spencer Strider on July 26 before the wheels fell off a little at the end.
12. Chris Martin (Previous Rank: 11)
Martin walked two batters in an outing on July 30 against the San Francisco Giants. That might seem unremarkable, but it was the first time since July 4, 2018, that he has walked multiple batters in a game. Aside from that anomaly, it was business as usual for one of the Red Sox’s most reliable relievers, as Martin posted a 1,08 ERA and secured three holds in 10 appearances in July.
11. Adam Duvall (Previous Rank: 22)
Duvall was one of several Red Sox players whose named was bandied about as a potential trade candidate before the deadline, but he remained in Boston. Other teams must not have fixated on that glorious first week of the season. In fairness, however, the 34-year-old veteran has been an above average hitter over the last month (108 wRC+), which is nothing to get excited about (or to give up great prospects for), but it’s something.
10. James Paxton (Previous Rank: 3)
For weeks it seemed like Paxton was bound to provide more value as a trade piece than a pitcher for the Red Sox, but since he’s staying put, the Red Sox will really need him down the stretch, even if he didn’t look as lights out in July as he did in June. In fairness, his stats for the month (4.95 ERA across four starts) were largely blown up by a difficult outing against the Chicago Cubs on July 15 in which he surrendered six earned runs in three innings.
9. Brennan Bernardino (Previous Rank: 12)
The Red Sox’s opener extraordinaire has been pretty solid no matter what the Red Sox have asked him to do. In July, he accumulated 12 innings and posted a 3.00 ERA, but his underlying metrics were even better (1.52 FIP, 37.5 percent strikeout rate, 4.2 percent walk rate), so maybe this opener gig is his true calling.
8. Kenley Jansen (Previous Rank: 8)
The Red Sox’s lone All-Star was as steady as he’s been all year in July, so he’s back at No. 8. Jansen put up a 2.57 ERA (3.85 FIP) and recorded seven saves during the month while striking out nearly 12 batters per nine innings.
7. Kutter Crawford (Previous Rank: 10)
Crawford had a great month of July and further solidified a spot for a rotation that is being held together with expired glue. He was third in fWAR among Red Sox pitchers in July and is second for the season after posting a 3.55 ERA (4.34 FIP) and roughly a strikeout per inning last month. His masterpiece came on July 16, when he struck out nine batters over six shutout innings against the Cubs.
6. Nick Pivetta (Previous Rank: 13)
A couple times a year, Pivetta looks like the best pitcher on the planet, and his move to the bullpen (and subsequent return to the rotation) has been the catalyst for his most recent run of dominance. He led all Red Sox pitchers in fWAR in July while producing a 1.91 ERA, 2.71 FIP and 13.66 strikeouts per nine innings, spurred by his record-setting relief outing against the Oakland A’s on July 17.
5. Masataka Yoshida (Previous Rank: 6)
On the one had, Yoshida had another brilliant month at the plate, slashing .314/.344/.500 with a 127 wRC+. On the other, he walked in only 2.2 percent of his plate appearances, an unheard of mark for someone with the feel he has for the strike zone. Yoshida usually uses that power to avoid strikeouts, but even for someone with a middling walk rate for the season, 2.2 percent is pretty insane. Still, you can’t really argue with that triple slash line.
4. Justin Turner (Previous Rank: 5)
You can criticize Chaim Bloom for bungling the trade deadline, but signing Turner has been an excellent move and the former Dodger just kept on trucking in July, slashing .337/.390/.596 with a 163 wRC+. If it weren’t for the three guys ahead of him, he’d have a claim to the top spot.
3. Triston Casas (Previous Rank: 11)
The breakout is here. Casas went on an absolute tear in July, with his performance at the plate catching up with his stellar underlying batted ball metrics. He slashed an absurd .348/.442/.758 and blasted seven dingers, netting the second-best wRC+ in MLB among qualified hitters in July. He even got a nice shoutout on FanGraphs’ Effectively Wild.
2. Rafael Devers (Previous Rank: 4)
Devers still has rocket fuel in his bat and he finally showed it in July, producing his best month of the season at the plate by far, as he slashed .354/.411/.646 while cutting down on strikeouts as well. This has been an odd year, and the fact that Devers has not been firmly planted in the No. 1 spot on these rankings is one of its many puzzles, but he made as good a case as ever this past month.
1. Jarren Duran (Previous Rank: 7)
In July, Duran put up a ludicrous slash line (.384/.430/.658), produced a 195 wRC+, stole eight bases, became the official king of the hustle double, led the team in fWAR and barely even struck out that much. The questions is no longer if Duran is for real this year, it’s if he will be in the years to come.