Boston Red Sox's Biggest Winners and Losers for the Month of April
April is nearly in the books, and the Boston Red Sox's depth chart already looks quite different than it did when the team broke camp a month ago.
Boston has new faces atop its lineup, in center field and in the setup role, and seems to be providing a case study for why consistency is so hard to come by in the majors—even for the defending World Series champs. Prominent players have already lost their jobs and been sent to Triple-A, while lesser known acquisitions and prospects have proven to be more valuable than we once thought.
The Red Sox enter the final day of April with a 13-14 record, which is equal parts disappointing and completely redeemable. Perhaps the World Series hangover does exist, but Boston is hardly in an insurmountable hole. They're still in contention, and they're still one of the deeper teams in the league.
With that being said, let's take a look at the three biggest winners and losers in the Red Sox organization for the month of April.
Loser: Daniel Nava, OF/1B
April Stats: 17 G, 75 PA, .149/.240/.269, 2 2B, 2HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB
Daniel Nava's meteoric rise from Independent League scouting success story to World Series champion was mirrored by his precipitous fall from grace this April. One season after finishing in the top 10 in the American League in OBP and appearing in 134 games for the best team in the league, Nava finds himself back in Triple-A. Baseball is a humbling game.
While Nava's April MLB performance was obviously quite poor, he's also somewhat of a victim of circumstance. Grady Sizemore proved incapable of handling center field defensively, and neither Sizemore nor Mike Carp could be sent to the minors upon Shane Victorino's return. That led to the demotion of Nava, despite the fact that he's probably the best and most reliable of the three.
Given the precarious injury histories of Sizemore and Victorino, it would not at all be surprising to see Nava back in the majors at some point soon. His ability to reach base against right-handed pitchers should be highly valued, and he's made himself into a competent defender in left field. Yet no Boston player lost more in April than Nava. Given his personal story, that's a shame.
Winner: Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
April Stats: 25 G, 90 PA, .244/.344/.372, 8 2B, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 3 SB
It's been a strange few months for Jackie Bradley Jr. The Red Sox brass spent all offseason stating they were perfectly content entering the season with Bradley as their center fielder. Then came the signing of Grady Sizemore and his insane spring, leading to news that Bradley would begin the season in Triple-A. Yet when Shane Victorino was forced to begin the season on the DL, Bradley was allowed to stick in the majors, and now it looks like he's here to say.
Thanks in part to a poor defensive showing in center from Sizemore, Bradley has indeed become Boston's full-time center fielder, and you don't have to watch him field for long to figure out why. Bradley is a monster with the glove, making very difficult catches look easy and tracking down fly balls with the efficiency of a 10-year veteran. He's also come alive at the plate as of late, and his eight doubles are second only to the Yankees' Yangervis Solarte among rookies.
Bradley was still the Red Sox's center fielder of the future after the Sizemore signing, but now it's hard to see him sitting out more than 10 games the rest of the way. He's simply too dominant a defender to rest, and when you factor in his ability to reach base, steal occasionally and hit for doubles power, it becomes evident why he was so highly regarded as a prospect.
Loser: Edward Mujica, RHP
April Stats: 10 G, 9 IP, 10.00 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 6 K, 4 BB, 1 HR
When the Red Sox signed Edward Mujica to a two-year, $9.5 million contract this offseason, most analysts praised the move as savvy. This was after looking at other, more volatile relievers signed to much larger deals. There's still plenty of time for Mujica to turn his season around, but it's tough to imagine a rougher beginning to his Boston career. The right-hander has allowed more than an earned run per inning and has thrown just one clean inning all season.
Mujica has never been a strikeout artist, but he's always had good control and induced his fair share of ground balls, which has allowed him to thrive. Mujica posted a 2.93 ERA in 206 innings from 2011-2013, serving as a setup man in Miami and then as a setup arm and closer in St. Louis. Yet this season, Mujica has consistently fallen behind batters, has had trouble spotting his breaking ball and induced ground balls at just a 38.7-percent clip.
Mujica was signed to be the primary setup option in Boston and a backup closer on days Koji Uehara couldn't pitch, but that's not the role he holds right now. Instead, the Sox will need to use Mujica in low-pressure situations until he regains his form, and given the plethora of young pitching talent in Boston's system, it's an adjustment he must make sooner rather than later.
Winner: Chris Capuano, LHP
April Stats: 11 G, 14.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 15 K, 2 BB, 0 HR
It's somewhat incredible that Chris Capuano finds himself in a Red Sox uniform. First, the Red Sox seemingly had no need for his services before the abrupt semi-retirement of Ryan Dempster. Even after Dempster disappeared, the Red Sox could easily have decided to go with an internal option for the last spot in their bullpen—likely in the form of Brandon Workman. And finally, given the demand for quality pitching in the majors, it's amazing Capuano was still available so late in the offseason.
Capuano's availability is even harder to believe in the wake of his dominant start to the 2014 season. The veteran lefty is perfect on the year so far in terms of churning out scoreless appearances, and has clearly earned the trust of John Farrell. He's been used as a multi-inning reliever in five of his 11 appearances, but has found himself used in high-pressure scenarios lately, as well.
Just four of the 23 left-handed batters Capuano has faced this season have reached base, but the Red Sox can use Capuano as more than just a LOOGY or a mop-up reliever. He's become an incredibly important part of a Boston bullpen that's perhaps not as deep as it once looked, and he's joined Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow to form one of the best trios of lefty relievers in the game today.
Loser: Felix Doubront, LHP
April States: 5 GS, 24 IP, 6.00 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 16 K, 11 BB, 3 HR
Slow starts are nothing new to Felix Doubront. The southpaw has a career 4.88 ERA with an opponent slash line of .263/.352/.437 throughout his career in April—numbers that actually look quite good compared to what Doubront has done so far in 2014. In five starts this year, Doubront has been good once, OK twice and horrible twice, and it’s fair to speculate about his job security moving forward.
Doubront has always been a maddening pitcher, one whose stuff suggests a ceiling of a No. 3 starter, but whose inconsistencies have led to him serving as a back-end option. He's still just 26, but you have to wonder if the Venezuelan is ever going to show enough of a commitment to make 30 competitive starts in one season. He's capable of dominant stretches, as we saw last year, but he's equally capable of looking like he doesn't belong in the majors.
While a move isn’t imminent, Doubront will need to snap out of it sometime in his next two or three starts if he wants to remain in the rotation. With Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman and Allen Webster all down in Triple-A vying for a spot, the Red Sox have no shortage of options should they tire of Doubront's roller coaster act. May will be a very important month for him.
Winner: Jon Lester, LHP
April Stats: 6 GS, 40.2 IP, 3.10 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 43 K, 8 BB, 3 HR
Whether or not Jon Lester is a "true ace" is a topic of frequent debate among Red Sox fans and pundits. He's clearly the most consistent starter in the organization, and with apologies to Clay Buchholz, he might have the highest upside, too. Yet he lacks the dominance of a Jose Fernandez or a Clayton Kershaw, and lacks the gunslinger attitude of a Justin Verlander or a Max Scherzer.
Despite these perceived deficiencies, Lester is proving once again why he is among the most important members of the current Red Sox team, finishing April with a team-leading 1.4 fWAR, according to FanGraphs, and furthering his case for why he deserves baseball's next mega-contract for a pitcher.
Lester was dominant in his first four starts, allowing seven earned runs in 29 innings, and has been good if not great in his two starts since. His dominance has come at a time when the Red Sox need a rotation anchor thanks to the struggles of Doubront and Clay Buchholz, and Lester is proving yet again why consistency is such a valuable asset in a pitcher. If he keeps pitching like this, the reported $70 million contract extension offer the Red Sox made him is going to look even sillier.