RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Bloom's early acquisitions provide hope for the future

RED SOX INSIDER
Alex Verdugo, Tanner Houck, Bobby Dalbec
Alex Verdugo, Tanner Houck and Bobby Dalbec have all had success in their first seasons with the Red Sox.
USA TODAY Sports photos

The Red Sox may be losing like never before, but Chaim Bloom is on a winning streak.

Boston's chief baseball officer hasn't completed any blockbusters since sending MVP Mookie Betts to the Dodgers in February, but he has started showing tangible results in his quest to rebuild the talent base.

On Tuesday night, right-hander Nick Pivetta provided the latest evidence, shutting out the Orioles for five innings and striking out eight in his Red Sox debut. But Pivetta is far from alone, and if Red Sox fans haven't noticed because the team is a tough watch, let's get up to speed.

It's worth noting that since arriving somewhat under duress last fall -- the Red Sox interviewed no other external candidates because no one else wanted the job -- Bloom hasn't exactly been blessed with resources.

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First, ownership handed him a crisp $5 bill and told him to make it last the winter. Then he found his hands tied by a Betts trade that wasn't consummated until spring training. Then the pandemic put a halt to transactions. Then when the trade deadline arrived, Bloom shopped mostly spare parts of middling value.

It hasn't stopped him from connecting on a number of moves that already appear to be paying off, however. Consider the following:

* Red Sox fans viscerally hated the Betts deal, but they should give Bloom his due on centerpiece Alex Verdugo, who has actually done a reasonable job replacing the former Fenway favorite, hitting .333 with six homers, an .891 OPS, and some tremendous defense in right field, where he has showed off one of the best arms in the game.

 

He might not be Mookie, but at age 24, and still four years away from free agency, he represents a perfect combination of talent and value. Add his exuberant personality and refreshing swagger, and that's a potential building block.

* Prospects Bobby Dalbec and Tanner Houck have emerged after spending most of the season at the alternate site in Pawtucket, establishing themselves as either pieces of next year's roster or trade sweeteners this winter. Bloom and his player development staff did not rush either of them, and it's hard to argue with the results.

Power Surge

Bobby Dalbec's team-leading OPS in 18 games (Mitch Moreland's was higher, but he's been traded).
1.008

Dalbec is already third on the team in homers (7) despite playing in just 18 games, while Houck used his extra time in Pawtucket to refine his offerings to left-handed hitters, the result being 11 innings of one-run (unearned) ball.

Houck's emergence is particularly encouraging, because the Red Sox hired Bloom from the Rays partly because they envied Tampa's ability to develop young pitching. If Houck ends up hitting, that's a huge win early in his tenure.

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* Speaking of developing pitchers, the Red Sox were persistent in their pursuit of Pivetta because they recognized the makings of above-average big league stuff. Only two years ago, the right-hander finished fifth among National League starters in strikeouts per nine innings (10.3). His arsenal includes a four-seam fastball that has reached 99 mph, as well as a two-seamer checking in at 98. On Tuesday night, his slider was a weapon, too.

"I'm just really grateful for this opportunity," Pivetta said. "It's been over a year since I've been able to start in the big leagues. To be able to go out there and put five pretty good innings out there, I was very elated.

"Just getting back as a starter, building back up, getting better command with all four of my pitches, because that's the pitcher that I am. You can't go out there with two pitches. Being able to have a solid mix-up of four pitches, which I showcased pretty well tonight, I think that's just what we've been working on and it paid off."

While rival organizations viewed Pivetta as a potential reliever because of inconsistency, Bloom and the Red Sox will give him every opportunity to succeed as a starter. If they're right, that's another win.

* The Red Sox caught heat for drafting California high school second baseman Nick Yorke 17th overall in the first round, with multiple draft previews suggesting he barely qualified as a top-100 prospect.

The 18-year-old may be years away from Fenway Park, but he received a surprise summons to Pawtucket to get his feet wet at the alternate camp, and he responded by reaching base five times in his first six intrasquad plate appearances (single, two doubles, two walks), recording his first hit after a 99-mph Bryan Mata fastball that he estimated was the hardest pitch he had ever seen.

 

"It was completely different," Yorke said. "I remember that first pitch he threw me, he threw for a ball, but I was like, 'I didn't know a ball could move like that.' So, then I put on the batting gloves and just tried to compete, put a barrel on a ball and do the work."

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Even accepting that only so much can be gleaned from six at-bats, the fact that the recent high schooler wasn't completely overwhelmed is a good sign.

* A number of other prospects acquired at the deadline are playing at the alternate site, from right-hander Connor Seabold to outfielder Jeisson Rosario to third baseman Hudson Potts. The Red Sox are planning to send players to Fort Myers for instructional league this fall, which will give them an even better handle on where these young talents stand.

There's a ton of work left for Bloom to do, but the early returns are encouraging, providing our first wisps of evidence that the Red Sox are in good hands.