Jim Cowsert/Associated Press
Mike Napoli, 1B – A
It’s not hard to make the argument that Napoli has served as Boston's MVP to this point in the season. According to FanGraphs, he's second amongst hitters on the team in fWAR with 1.0, and his .274/.408/.460 line indicates that he's still hitting for power and reaching base at above-average levels. Add in his solid defense at first, and he's been a boon for the Sox in 2014.
While the sample size is too small to make any sweeping conclusions, Napoli has cut his strikeout rate by more than 7 percent this year, down to an even 25.0%. He appears more willing to use the entire field, and that's led to him driving in 21 runs thus far. If his new approach is here to stay, he could be in for a monster season.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B – A
While some may prefer the offensive output of Napoli, it's Pedroia who ranks first among Red Sox hitters with 1.2 fWAR. He's boasting a .289/.361/.421 line with two homers and 14 (yes, 14) doubles, and he's been especially potent after recovering from an early season wrist injury.
Pedroia's been doing what he does best since the injury, using the entire field to shoot balls into the gaps when at the plate and making head-turning plays in the field. He needs to improve his base running—he's just two-for-six on the season in steals—but otherwise, it's business as usual for the Red Sox's sparkplug.
Xander Bogaerts, SS – C+
On the one hand, it's hard to criticize a 21-year-old rookie with a .361 on-base percentage fighting through his first 144 PA of the year. On the other hand, Bogaerts has failed to live up to expectations, showing none of his trademark power and struggling in the field on occasion, too. Bogaerts has just one homer, is striking out in one-fourth of his PA and looks far too passive at the plate.
The great thing about Bogaerts—and part of what made him such a big-name prospect—is his ability to adjust quickly. It's clear that the young Aruban has already made strides in the field, and odds are as the weather warms up, his power at the plate will return soon. The Red Sox will need it to, as his struggles have created a bit of a hole in the No. 5/6 spots of their lineup.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B – C
Middlebrooks has played in just 17 games thus far thanks to a hamstring injury that saw him make a brief DL stint. The .211/.338/.368 line "WMB" has produced in 68 PA has been none to inspiring, though, and while his elevated walk rate is nice to see, his lack of power is not.
This is far too small a sample size from which to derive meaningful patterns, and Red Sox fans know that Middlebrooks can get hot just as quickly as he can turn ice cold. Add in Middlebrooks' solid defense this season, and we'll give him a generous "C" for now. But if he keeps this pace up, he'll be in "F" territory next time I issue grades.
David Ortiz, DH - A
2014 represents another season of dominance for Big Papi, who boasts a .267/.370/.481 line with seven homers and 19 RBI through his first 154 PA this year. While his triple-slash line is down somewhat from his 2013 campaign there's nothing in Ortiz's strikeout or walk rates to suggest he's in decline. That's pretty amazing when you consider that he's 38 years old.
With some better luck on balls in play, expect Ortiz to near his 2013 totals if he stays healthy. His march toward an interesting Hall of Fame debate continues.
Group Grade – B
Bogaerts' slow start and Middlebrooks' injury have slowed this group somewhat, but Napoli and Pedroia are firing on all cylinders and Ortiz is a big part of the solution, too. This should be a well above-average group by season's end.