Boston Red Sox Spring Training Stock Watch: Players Who Are on Fire and Slumping
Less than a month away from the regular season, the Boston Red Sox are trying to determine their roster, using spring training performances as one of their tools of evaluation. Now in the second week of spring games, the team is undoubtedly taking a stock watch of players that are on fire and those of which are slumping.
Although Boston is largely comprised of veteran players and has a 2013 payroll of approximately $162 million, they still need to fill their roster gaps with the best candidates, and address those who may be struggling.
Coming off a 93-loss season in 2012—the team’s worst record since 1966—there’s extra pressure to field a successful team in 2013.
The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy wrote that the upcoming season is about redemption for the Red Sox.
The first step in accomplishing that goal will be putting the best team possible on the field every day. As spring training progresses, player performance will be scrutinized more and more closely.
Click through for a full report on which Red Sox players are on fire and which are slumping.
David Ortiz, Designated Hitter: Slumping
Ortiz, the team’s longest tenured player and lineup anchor as the designated hitter, has played in only one game since last July 16 after suffering a partial Achilles tear.
Although he has participated in some light drills, he’s not yet seen game action this spring, which should be a cause for concern for the 37-year-old slugger.
Recently, the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham reported that Ortiz was excused from camp for several days to go the Dominican Republic for personal business.
Now that Ortiz is back, Boston manager John Farrell said he hopes Ortiz will be able to play in a game within the next week, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.
Combining age and his prolonged inactivity, Ortiz has a long row to hoe in order to be ready and able to produce when the Red Sox open their regular season on April 1 against the New York Yankees.
Rubby De La Rosa, Pitcher: On Fire
He appears to be anything but a throw-in.
He has missed a lot of time early in his career because of injury, including Tommy John surgery, De La Rosa is still looking like a major pitching prospect.
He has allowed just one hit in four innings so far this spring, lighting up radar guns with his mid-to-high-90s heat in the process.
The youngster has even impressed new Boston manager John Farrell with his performance, according to the Boston Herald’s John Tomase.
No matter how well De La Rosa pitches this spring, it’s already been determined he will start the 2013 season in the minors. But, nothing has been indicated he wouldn’t be called up quickly if the team had an opening.
Junichi Tazawa, Pitcher: Slumping
The 26-year-old right-hander turned a lot of heads last year by posting a 1.43 ERA and 0.96 WHIP with the Red Sox in 37 games. This prompted some, including The Boston Globe’s Chad Finn, to wonder if he was the team’s closer of the future.
Once a starter, the Japanese pitcher shifted to relief following Tommy John surgery in 2010.
While he’s not assured a spot in Boston’s bullpen this season, a strong spring would go a long way towards reserving him a spot.
Unfortunately, Tazawa has stumbled out of the gate, not yet displaying the shut-down ability he showed last year.
The good news is that Tazawa still has excellent stuff and has not lost the confidence of the Boston front office, as The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham reported.
It’s also still early. While Tazawa is struggling now, there’s still time for him to turn things around for the regular season.
Jackie Bradley Jr., Outfielder: On Fire
Entering spring training, there was little chance that Bradley, who has just one full professional season under his belt, would be considered for a roster spot when the team broke camp.
The way the young outfielder has been conducting himself and performing, it may be time to reevaluate that, according to the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman.
Bradley has reached base in nine of his 19 spring plate appearances, carrying over from an excellent 2012 season, when he had a .430 OBP in 128 games at two different minor league levels.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his game has been his defense. A natural center fielder, he has looked comfortable also playing the corner positions this spring.
Manager John Farrell marveled at Bradley’s defense to The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham, gushing, “He’s had a hell of a camp.”
Despite the accolades, Bradley will likely open the 2013 season in the minors.
It won’t be for lack of effort or production, but that they will want him to be an everyday player to ensure he’s ready when a full-time spot eventually opens in Boston.
Allen Webster, Pitcher: On Fire
Like his counterpart De La Rosa, Webster came to the Red Sox in the trade with the Dodgers.
Although the 23-year-old right-hander has never appeared in a major league game, he’s making major waves this spring with the Red Sox.
He’s been consistently mowing down hitters with a fastball touching the upper 90s, according to the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman.
That velocity has been especially impressive because it’s a tick or two above what he’s been attributed in the past.
Webster’s performance has opened up the possibilities of how he could be used in 2013.
While he will likely begin the year starting in the minors, he could reach Boston by the end of the year as a starter or reliever.
The youngster has caught the eye of manager John Farrell, who told WEEI’s Rob Bradford, “Velocity is one thing, but… he has three very good weapons you can go to.”
If his spring thus far is any indication, Webster will be a major part of the Red Sox’s future.
Now the wait will begin to see when that will be.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference