Boston Red Sox first-half report card
It's the time of (half-) year again.
The grades are in for the Red Sox at the All-Star break.
This season, the class has performed far better than the last two years, though there's still room for improvement.
This year, we'll group them not by position, but by grades.
Without further ado:
DAVID ORTIZ: A+
What more is there left to say? Ortiz is seemingly in mid-career form in his last season, leading the league in a number of key offensive categories and among the leaders in a handful of others.
At 40, Ortiz is setting the standard for retiring players.
STEVEN WRIGHT: A
And to think that he wasn't going to be in the starting rotation had it not been for the knee injury to Eduardo Rodriguez. Wright has been a staff-saver, providing innings and quality start after quality start - enough to warrant an All-Star selection that absolutely no one could have anticipated a few months ago.
XANDER BOGAERTS: A
Bogaerts has been the picture of offensive consistency, and other than a 10-day period in which he played and fielded as though he was exhausted, has been, arguably, the team's best two-way player. Bogaerts is in control of himself at short and the power that everyone projected for him is beginning to show as he's already eclipsed his home run total from a year ago.
MOOKIE BETTS: A-
Betts continues to flash five-tool talent, able to win games with his power or speed. He's seamlessly made the transition to right field, so much so that it's easy to forget he didn't start playing the outfield until two years ago. Only a couple of protracted dips at the plate stand in the way of a straight A.
JACKIE BRADLEY: A-
For those wondering whether Bradley could sustain the kind of offensive run he went on last August could be sustained, we have an answer: yes. So much for all the talk of 'If he could just hit .250...' Minor sticking points: Some occasionally erratic play in center with off-target throws and a high strikeout rate.
DUSTIN PEDROIA: B+
Pedroia's first half has, for a change, been injury free and Pedroia has taken that opportunity to remind everyone that he can still be an elite player. His GIDPs are high, and his .256 average with RISP isn't ideal. But Pedroia has displayed range and decent sock again.
HEATH HEMBREE: B+
Hembree has quietly been something of a revelation in the bullpen, and his work in recent weeks may land him more work in high-leverage spots as the Red Sox seek to find alternatives in set-up situations.
MATT BARNES: B
Barnes has taken a major step forward this year, finally seeming comfortable in the bullpen role. His fastball has recently reached 98 mph, and his improved curveball has been a nice weapon. The home runs are down, as are the walks -- both of which augur well.
HANLEY RAMIREZ: B
Admit it: you had no way of knowing he'd be this good at first base. But his work at the position at the spring has resulted in the season's nicest surprise.
Additionally, he's had a good attitude and run the bases hard and well. The lone disappointment: just a paltry .435 slugging percentage.
MARCO HERNANDEZ: B
For someone obtained for Felix Doubront, Hernandez has been a useful utility piece, playing a solid third base while hitting .295 in limited duty. The acquisition of Aaron Hill and Michael Martinez, coupled with the return of Brock Holt, may limit his contributions in the second half, but he served a useful depth role.
RICK PORCELLO: B
Quietly consistent, this is the pitcher the Red Sox thought they were getting when the obtained him after the 2014 season. He's routinely pitched the Red Sox deep into games and his lesser outings this year have resulted in giving up, say, four runs, rather than a year ago when he would get blasted and allow six or seven runs.
TRAVIS SHAW: B-
Shaw got off to a terrific start at third, and made everyone forget about Pablo Sandoval at third. As the first half progressed, his play at third became a little sloppier and he really struggled offensively, particularly against lefties. Nonetheless, he's provided pop and infield versatility.
CRAIG KIMBREL: B-
In his first year in Boston, Kimbrel has been maddeningly up-and-down. Sure, he's converted 17-of-19 save situations and went more than a month without allowing a run. But he's been undependable in non-save situations. Overpowering and unhittable at times, he's prone to walks at others, making him an adventure in the late innings.
JUNICHI TAZAWA: C+
As recently as the final week of June, Tazawa sported a sub-3.00 ERA and looked to have regained the dependability after missing the final month of last season with arm concerns.
But he then allowed runs in three of his next five appearances and needed a week off with shoulder weakness. That's ominous, though his batting average against (.215) and WHIP (1.05) suggest there's still reliability left.
CHRIS YOUNG: C+
Young couldn't find playing time in the first month as the Red Sox faced almost no lefties and that left it difficult to gain any rhythm at the plate. He since has found his stroke with more playing time, but his homers come grouped together and his play in left has been only adequate. He is what he is: a platoon player who occasionally, because of injuries to others, been asked to do more.
JOSH RUTLEDGE: C
Like Hernandez, Rutledge has been a valuable spare part and his defensive play has been improved over last year. His offensive contributions have been scant, but he has his value as a trusted utility infielder.
TOMMY LAYNE: C-
Ostensibly a lefty specialist, Layne has actually been performed slightly better against right-handed hitters this season, which is a mystery. Last year, the Sox were forced to expose him to righthanders more and he was hit hard. His walk rate has again been high (4.3 per nine innings), making him someone the Sox usually use only in low-leverage spots.
BROCK HOLT: C
Most of Holt's season has been a mess because of a concussion suffered in the first week of May. It cost him more than a month on the DL, and the Sox scrambled to replace him. His return in the final 10 days of the first half provided a spark. He's probably still best utilized as a super-utility guy rather than an every day outfielder.
DAVID PRICE: C
Points for the workload, the strikeouts and the refusal to make excuses. Clearly, Price cares and desperately wants to be better. To that point, he's been very good after the first 10 days of May, with 10 good starts in his last 12. But for $31 million annually, everyone -- Price included -- expected much, much more than a 4.34 ERA.
ROBBIE ROSS: C-
In spots, Ross has been quite effective in relief, providing multiple innings in long relief, saving the staff when some starters have faltered early. His improved velocity was encouraging, but he's been prone to some big innings. And there's no glossing over a 4.71 ERA.
KOJI UEHARA: D+
For the first two months, Uehara appeared to successfully make the transition back to set-up man. But lately, he's left way too many splitters over the middle of the plate, resulting in an alarming eight homers in just 33 2/3 innings. How well he performs in the closer's role will be critical to the team's fate over the next month or so.
CHRISTIAN VAZQUEZ: D
There was so much hope and promise associated with Vazquez's return to the big leagues in mid-April. Pitch framing! Arm strength! But in time, it was clear that the Sox were asking too much, too soon after his Tommy John surgery last year. He was inept at the plate at times, and slopping with his receiving at times.
EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ: D
First, it was disappointing that it took three months to overcome what was supposed to be a minor knee tweak. Then, when Rodriguez finally returned, he was ineffective, with diminished velocity, predictable with his pitch mix, and once again, guilty of tipping pitches. Is this a lost season for a talented arm? The next few weeks may tell.
RYAN HANIGAN: D-
Hanigan has not been the same player he was a year ago. He's provided almost nothing with the bat, and his throwing has been only average. Worse, while catching a knuckleballer like Wright is no picnic, there were times when Hanigan seemed overwhelmed by the task.
CLAY BUCHHOLZ: F
Let's be frank: Buchholz's first half was an unmitigated disaster. In 13 starts, he had exactly one (1) good one: in early May against the White Sox. The Red Sox keep hoping against hope that he'll get on one of his patented streaks and rip off eight-to-10 quality starts, but that hope seems entirely misplaced at this point.
Sandy Leon; Blake Swihart; Pablo Sandoval; Deven Marrero; Mike Miller; Ryan LaMarre; Bryce Brentz; Aaron Hill; Rusney Castillo; Carson Smith; William Cuevas; Pat Light; Sean O'Sullivan; Roenis Elias; Joe Kelly; Henry Owens; Noe Rodriguez; Brad Ziegler.