This week’s mailbag is special.
With the Boston Red Sox going 5-2 on their recent homestand and capping it with a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics, there actually were questions without ominous undertones. Optimism has arrived, it’s growing and — based on the mailbag questions — it’s tangible.
The Red Sox still entered Monday’s off-day four games under .500 (27-31). And they still entered Tuesday 5 1/2 games back of the New York Yankees in the American League East. But things look brighter for Boston now than they did the last time we tapped into the bag ‘o mail.
So, let’s not waste any time in riding the high and answering your spirited questions.
What are your thoughts on Xander Bogaerts making the All-Star team? He’s been an absolute force at the plate and I feel like he might be above average on defense. Do you see him making the team?
— Devi Seijkens
Book it. (Not just saying that because I predicted before the season he’d be an All-Star.)
Bogaerts has had his struggles dating back to the beginning of last season, but he’s also gone on three significant runs — April/May 2014, September 2014 and now — that suggest he’ll eventually live up to the hype that came with being Major League Baseball’s No. 2 prospect entering 2014. One already could make the case he’s the best shortstop in the American League and he’s still just 22 years old.
Bogaerts’ All-Star candidacy is somewhat complicated by Alcides Escobar’s current lead in the voting. Kansas City Royals fans have been voting in droves, with Escobar being one of the biggest beneficiaries. Escobar shouldn’t be an All-Star, let alone the AL shortstop who starts July 14 in Cincinnati.
Assuming Escobar starts — a reasonable assumption given his two million-vote edge over second-place Jose Iglesias — and Iglesias, who right now should be the starter, earns a spot, that likely leaves one vacancy for which Bogaerts can punch his ticket. And the numbers show the Red Sox shortstop deserves to be there.
Bogaerts leads all AL shortstops not named “Iglesias” with a .296 average and a .340 on-base percentage. He trails only Alexei Ramirez (22) with 21 RBIs and only Marcus Semien (.744) with a .742 OPS. Not to mention Bogaerts currently is playing his best baseball of 2015, so it’s onward and upward.
Defense, however, remains the biggest difference between last season’s version of Bogaerts and this season’s edition. He’s taken a tremendous step forward, to the point where the debate over whether he belongs at shortstop or third base has dissipated. Now, it seems, the Red Sox have an offensively gifted young player who will stick at a premium position for the foreseeable future, only enhancing his value.
Does an All-Star selection matter? Sure, it’s nice. And it might be especially advantageous for a player like Bogaerts, whose confidence is on the rise after a 2014 season in which he dealt with struggles and criticism for really the first time in his professional career.
But Bogaerts’ continued development and ability to remain consistent are paramount. He has the potential to be a special player and is just scratching the surface of what he could become.
Did you know that Sunday will be the 100th time the American flag will be dropped over the Green Monster? Flag Crew!
— Carl Svendsen
I did not know that. I also would have taken the “over” if presented with that number beforehand.
These colors don’t run.
When are the Red Sox going to get an ace and better pitching?
— Kenneth Lynch
They got one. Didn’t you hear? His name’s Eduardo Rodriguez.
In all seriousness, the Red Sox’s pitching has been remarkably better over the last month, leaving one to wonder whether Boston really needs to pursue an “ace.” While the Sox certainly would be better off with a proven No. 1 starter leading the improved unit, this team’s success — or lack thereof — will be predicated on the offense’s ability to produce up to its potential. Clay Buchholz, for instance, pitched like an ace for four straight starts before Sunday’s dud and had just one win to show for it.
Red Sox starters entered the final game of Boston’s homestand Sunday with a 3.30 ERA over their last 23 games, good for fifth in the American League in that span. Sox starters, who allowed two earned runs or fewer in a major league-high 17 of 23 games during that stretch, owned a 5.86 ERA through the team’s first 33 contests.
Is the Red Sox’s better pitching an aberration or a testament to what they truly have this season? It’s a fair question. But Boston’s mound work has been good enough of late to justify playing out the string a little bit longer to see what it has before making any drastic moves that could jeopardize the future of the franchise for the betterment of the present. After all, the trade market still is taking shape and it’s still unclear whether this year’s Red Sox will be legitimate players in the AL East.
Will more pitching prospects, like Rodriguez, be brought up soon? Possibly Henry Owens?
— Brian Liu
Brian Johnson is ready. There just isn’t a spot for him right now given how well the rotation has performed collectively of late.
Steven Wright, who pitched admirably in four starts before being bumped back to the bullpen, is the next man up as far as starters are concerned. And Justin Masterson still is in the equation, though it’s hard to envision him returning to the Red Sox in anything other than a relief role.
Johnson will receive his shot at some point. Owens is further away based on some struggles at Triple-A Pawtucket this season. Right now, it’s about getting the most out of the guys in tow.
What are the Red Sox going to do with their surplus of outfielders? Trade maybe? Could Jackie Bradley Jr. get traded?
— Ethan Butterfield
To say the Red Sox have a “surplus of outfielders” might be overstating the situation a bit. General manager Ben Cherington felt compelled to add Carlos Peguero and then Alejandro De Aza — two left-handed-hitting outfielders — recently, which speaks to Boston’s mindset as it pertains to the outfield.
Shane Victorino (calf) and Daniel Nava (thumb) are on the mend, and the Red Sox will have a couple of interesting decisions to make when the veterans are ready to return. Having both Victorino and Rusney Castillo on the major league roster is redundant, so Castillo’s performance could dictate how that situation goes. And Nava did nothing this season before landing on the shelf, so turning away from De Aza, whose early returns have been good, would be ill-advised unless a compelling reason arises.
Bradley and Allen Craig need to remain at Triple-A for the time being. If a nice trade offer for either comes around or they’re involved in a larger package, fine, but Bradley, in particular, needs everyday at-bats to continue his development and he simply wouldn’t garner those with Boston based on the current roster construction. Perhaps there will come a point soon when that changes.
Right now, I suspect Boston will stay the course. Someone, perhaps Nava, will need to go at some point once everyone’s healthy. But the Red Sox can cross that bridge when they get to it.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports Images