Can the Indians overcome their beat-up rotation? Can the Red Sox offense carry them?
This should be a pretty fun series. The Red Sox are up against their old manager, their old “high-leverage specialist” and their old first basemen. The Indians are up against the best offense in baseball and one of the best postseason performers of all time. And also against some very good dances.
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Despite the big names being off the market, there's still plenty of activity to come and these teams still have work left to do.
So, the Cubs have won the winter, and are probably the best team in baseball. That’s one thing we have pretty well nailed down. It’s easy to talk about the Cubs, but you’re exhausted by talk about the Cubs by now. Surely, you can’t stand just one more minute of Cubs talk. You want to hear about your team. You want to know who’s going to sign the next big free agent. You want to know what the teams who aren’t anywhere near done are going to do between now and spring training, not how pretty the Cubs (who probably, though not certainly, are done) are sitting.
That’s an invitation to be titillated, misled, and left wanting, but okay. It’s worth doing. For all the talk about how this winter would be bonkers, we’re hurtling toward Christmas without anything quite like what happened over the same span last winter. Shelby Miller was traded again; so was Craig Kimbrel. A ton of starting and relief pitchers have gotten paid wild sums. A couple of trades (though only a couple, like Wednesday’s Todd Frazier not-quite-blockbuster) have snuck up on us and grabbed our interest. In large part, though, the market remains unresolved.
Why did teams pass on Adrian Gonzalez if he (and his contract) are so valuable?
As the waiver-trade period begins, I thought it might be useful to bring this back up, as a refresher on why good players somehow don't get claimed in August. Originally ran in 2012, the day the Dodgers claimed Adrian Gonzalez.
The Red Sox summon their top prospect for the stretch run.
The Situation: With the Red Sox 3-7 in their last 10 games and playing only .500 baseball since the All-Star break, the club has decided to call up top prospect Xander Bogaerts, who ranked no. 3 on our Mid-Season Top 50. Bogaerts is likely to spell Stephen Drew during the stretch run, especially against left-handed pitching, and can also spend some time at third base when Will Middlebrooks needs time off. Look for the infield prospect to play both positions as needed during the Red Sox’ push to the postseason.
Background: Bogaerts was signed as an international free agent out of Aruba in 2009. Since coming stateside, the infield prospect’s stock has skyrocketed in parallel with his rapid ascension up the rungs of Boston’s system. Bogaerts was a standout at the Fall Instructional League in 2010, with his talent and potential clearly on display. As an 18-year-old in the South Atlantic League during his 2011 campaign, the right-handed hitter slammed 16 home runs in 72 games and began to turn heads with the way the ball jumped off his bat. The following season saw the now 20-year-old breeze through the Carolina League, showing both power and the ability to hit for average while beginning to prove that the bat was more than ready for the upper minors in a 23-game taste of Double-A. This season, the infielder has continued to take the upper minors by storm, posting a .299/.389/.481 between Portland and Pawtucket at the time of his promotion.
Examining the mechanical changes that have driven the success of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and the Red Sox.
One of the biggest stories of the first month of the 2013 season has been the incredible turnaround of the Boston Red Sox. The team went from a near-lock for the postseason in September of 2011 to the victims of one of history's greatest collapses, and the disaster carried over to 2012. The Sox were a .500 team in April of last season, and were still three games over at the end of June. However, Boston would go 28-56 over the rest of the campaign, winning just one-third of their remaining games in a brutal crash that was catalyzed by bad blood in the clubhouse and the fire sale of August 25th, in which the Red Sox flipped a quarter-billion dollars worth of contracts in a salary-dump that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to Los Angeles.
General Manager Ben Cherington made a splash in free agency, signing a handful of players to revamp the roster, but the general outlook for this season was bleak. Preseason predictions by the BP staff placed Boston fourth in the AL East this year, but the team and the city have become a symbol for triumph in the wake of tragedy. Going into play on Tuesday, the Sox have the best record in the game at 18-7, and their run differential of +40 also leads the majors.
The Red Sox summon a groundballing righty to face the Royals.
The Situation: With a doubleheader scheduled on Sunday against the Royals, the Red Sox require a spot starter to help bolster the starting rotation. With Webster rested and pitching extremely well in Triple-A, he gets the call to make his big-league debut.
Background: Acquired as part of the package sent to the Red Sox in exchange for Josh Becket, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez, Webster may end up the most important piece of that deal for the Sox. Drafted by the Dodgers in the 18th round of the 2008 draft, Webster has endured an up-and-down professional career. After breezing through the lower levels during his first three seasons as a pro, Webster hit a bump in the road when he reached Double-A as a 21-year old in 2011. In 91 innings with Chattanooga that summer, the right-hander was touched up for a 5.04 ERA and over 10 hits per nine innings.
The young Red Sox center fielder shows up earlier than expected, but is he ready to contribute right now?
The Situation: With an injury to David Ortiz creating room on the roster, outfielder Jackie Bradley has officially made the Red Sox Opening Day roster after much buzz during spring training. The initial expectation was that the 22-year-old would start the season in the minors, with a potential call to the Show in the cards later in the season. However, Bradley showed such a high level of polish and maturity in camp that the organization deemed him capable of making the jump from Double-A to fill in while Ortiz mends, granting him a spot in the lineup and in left field.
Background: A standout at South Carolina in his first two seasons, Bradley entered his junior year as a projected mid-first round pick. A wrist injury ended up cutting his year short, and the outfielder fell to Boston in the supplemental round. Since entering the professional ranks, he hasn’t stopped hitting. Bradley received an accelerated placement to start 2012 in the Carolina League and took the competition by storm. A .359/.480/.526 line in 67 games with Salem offered a clue that he was trending ahead of the curve, with personal scouting looks revealing that he was in need of a greater challenge. Bradley got the mid-season bump to Double-A and continued to acquit himself well both offensively and defensively (with the scouting reports to match the stats) in the Eastern League. The 22-year-old entered 2013 the second-ranked prospect in the Red Sox farm system and 27th overall, according to Baseball Prospectus.
The third installment of a five-part series on the pressing questions confronting each team in 2013.
In the week leading up to Opening Day, we're asking and answering three questions about each team in a five-part series ordered by descending Playoff Pct from the Playoff Odds Report. Today, we continue with a look at the group of six teams with the third-highest odds of winning at least a Wild Card. As a reminder, you can find links to our preview podcasts for each team here.