Red Sox

Red Sox find out who their best bat really is on West Coast trip


Red Sox find out who their best bat really is on West Coast trip

With all of the frustration that came during their 11-game West coast trip, the Red Sox saw the continued emergence of the team’s best hitter.

Early in the season, Xander Bogaerts made the case that he was the best hitter -- in the league -- leading the bigs in hits and average.

And he’s still a great hitter, despite hitting a major rough patch in the last 11 games. And while he provides great value, being an offensively gifted shortstop, it almost seems like if it rains with Bogaerts, it’s pouring -- good or bad.

Some still think David Ortiz is the best hitter on the team.

Honestly, the numbers make the case that he is.

He’s hitting .309 (17th best in MLB, 6th in AL and 3rd on the Red Sox), with a .397 on-base percentage (10th best in all of baseball) and leads all of baseball in both slugging percentage (.617) and OPS (1.014)

Not to mention he’s in baseball’s top-20 in homeruns with 25, second in RBI with 87 and leads everyone in doubles with 36, too.

But the problem with Ortiz without question is his durability. Come playoff time -- if the Sox get there -- he’ll survive. But Ortiz’s performance has begun to fade, as well. Since July, Boston’s DH is hitting .243 (26-for-107) with a .311 OBP and .486 slugging percentage. The decline had to be expected given his age and general discomfort when playing.

Now it has become clear who the Red Sox offense needs to be centered around -- Mookie Betts.

Boston’s leadoff hitter finds himself near the top of every offensive category, not just in the AL, but all of baseball.

He’s tied for the 12th highest RBI count (74), in the top-25 in homeruns (23), 15th in batting average (.311), 18th in slugging (.545) and tied for 5th in doubles (31). Not mention he has 18 stolen bases in 21 tries.

Again, those are his rankings in all of baseball, not the AL or among other leadoff hitters. Statistics don’t always tell the story, but his numbers are staggering. And if you look at his monthly splits, he’s been consistent. April was a down month in average (.266), but strong everywhere else. He had a jump in homers in May with eight. And in July he had a huge jump in average in July (.368).

It doesn’t hurt that he’s riding a nine-game hitting streak and is 15-for-38 (.395) with three doubles and three home runs during it.

With the offense inconsistent of late, his model for consistency is something Boston needs now more than ever, and may be best served at the third spot in the lineup, especially since he doesn’t walk much (.352 OBP).

On top of Betts being so young, the other thing Boston can look forward to: he’s the one Killer B who isn’t represented by Scott Boras.

So it’s safe to assume he could be the Red Sox’ marquee bat for a long time.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge are about to go global.

Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy on Monday confirmed the Sox are interested to play the Yankees in London during next year's regular season. Bloomberg reported the clubs are nearing an agreement to play two games there in June 2019. Discussions are indeed taking place, but a deal is not done.

MORE - Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

“We would love to participate in a series in London against the Yankees but this is a decision that MLB and the MLBPA will make," Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said.

Bloomberg reported the games would be played at London Stadium, which was the main facility for the 2012 summer Olympics.

MLB has not played any games in Europe before. The Red Sox have made trips before, including to Japan before the 2008 season.


Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Blake Swihart’s strong spring seems to have the Red Sox more inclined to deal one of their natural utility infielders, such as Brock Holt or Deven Marrero, rather than Swihart, a converted catcher with high upside who's getting a look in other roles.
"Sounds like they’re holding Swihart to open," a rival executive said. "More likely to move a utility guy."
A true utility guy, that is.


The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported Sunday that Marrero has been drawing interest from other teams.

"We do have depth with our middle infielders," Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday. "However, [I] would not get into potential trade discussions."
Swihart, who turns 26 on April 3, is most valuable as a catcher. But he could still be useful in a bench role for the 2018 Red Sox, and a win-now mentality may be the driving force here. (It is possible, as well, that there is nothing available via trade for Swihart that has piqued the Sox’ interest. Marrero or Holt wouldn’t require as much in return.)
The potential drawback is that Swihart won’t grow much if he’s not playing every day -- and in particular, if he's not catching every day. But the Sox may be be at a juncture where they feel his bat is a worthwhile experiment off the bench, at least for this season. They can figure out his future -- and their future at backstop -- later.
"He’s a great athlete," Cora told reporters on Sunday. "We’ve seen it in the batter’s box. It’s not only the results, but the way he’s driving the ball to left field as a left-hander, the quality of at-bats as a right-hander. [On Saturday], as a pinch-hitter, that kid was throwing 99 and he throws a breaking ball and squares a ball up."
Swihart entered Monday with a .283 average in Grapefruit League play, with a .905 OPS and a pair of home runs. But he does not have the infield experience that Marrero or Holt has, and the Red Sox essentially have to carry one of those two to start the year. 
Eduardo Nunez, the temporary replacement for Dustin Pedroia, is coming off a knee injury, and a sure-handed infielder -- Marrero’s glove is particularly good -- is a must. Rafael Devers is still coming into his own at third base. 
Tzu-Wei Lin is available in the minors too, and the Sox could see some redundancy with him, Holt and Marrero. Lin, unlike Marrero, has minor league options remaining. Lin also has some limited outfield experience.
The way the Sox roster looks now, they have two spots available for the three guys: Marrero, Holt and Swihart. Health can change that. Holt, despite being the most veteran of the group, has minor league options remaining, so he theoretically could go to Triple-A to start the season. But if the Sox don't see a role for him on this year's team any way, they'd be wiser trading him, considering he's due to make $2.225 million. It also would be kindest choice for Holt, to let him have an opportunity elsewhere, if one exists.


Swihart has played first base, third base and left field in addition to catching this spring. Perhaps, in time, there will be a way to work Swihart in behind the plate for the Sox. At the least, retaining him would be insurance if Christian Vazquez or Sandy Leon do not perform well offensively.
There was a clear personal-catcher system for the Red Sox in 2017. Leon was Chris Sale’s guy, for example. Manager Alex Cora said he is not taking that approach. As an auxiliary effect, moving away from a personal-catcher system might make it easier for Swihart to receive more time behind the plate, if called on.
"Whoever I feel comfortable with that day behind the plate, he'll catch," Cora told reporters in Florida. "Christian already caught him. Sandy's going to catch him today. And then the next turn, Christian's going to catch him. Everybody's going to work with everybody."