Red Sox

Here are the Red Sox prospects worth watching in spring training opener

Here are the Red Sox prospects worth watching in spring training opener

The Boston Red Sox' nightmare of an offseason officially ends Friday.

The Red Sox open their 2020 exhibition schedule with their annual matchup against the Northeastern Huskies at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

None of Boston's everyday starters will suit up in the Friday afternoon spring training opener; you'll likely see them over the weekend when the Red Sox begin playing major league competition.

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But it does give Sox fans the chance to check out some of the team's top prospects, one of whom just came over from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Mookie Betts trade.

Here's the Red Sox' lineup for the game, which begins at 1:05 p.m. ET:

Marco Hernandez, 2B
Jarren Duran, CF
CJ Chatham, SS
Rusney Castillo, RF
Nick Longhi, 1B
Connor Wong, C
John Andreoli, LF    
Chad De La Guerra, 3B
Juan Centeno, DH

Pitchers: Daniel McGrath, Denyi Reyes, Robinson Leyer, Trevor Hildenberger, Austin Brice

Here are the four players in the lineup most worth watching (besides 32-year-old minor-league mainstay Rusney Castillo, who's entering the final year of his massive contract):

Jarren Duran, CF: The 23-year-old is the seventh-ranked prospect in Boston's system, per SoxProspects.com, and hit .303 in 132 games last season while earning a call-up to Double-A Portland.

CJ Chatham, SS: The Red Sox' 10th-ranked prospect, Chatham has steadily moved up the farm system and hit .302 in a 20-game stint with Triple-A Pawtucket last season. If he has a strong spring, he could be a potential 2020 call-up.

Connor Wong, C: Acquired from L.A. along with Jeter Downs and Alex Verdugo, the 23-year-old joins an intriguing minor-league catching group that includes recent signing Jonathan Lucroy.

Juan Centeno, DH: Centeno re-signed with Boston a minor-league deal this January and could factor into the catcher conversation if he plays well with spring.

As spring training progresses, it will also be worth watching Downs and corner infielder Triston Casas, Boston's only two prospects in MLB.com's Top 100.

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 75-51

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 75-51

With MLB players and owners struggling to come to terms on a return-to-play strategy for 2020, we're focusing on the actual players who will take the field when games eventually get back underway.

Over the next several weeks, NBC Sports Boston is counting down the Top 100 players for 2020. While our list won't include several aces who will definitely not play this season — Noah Syndergaard of the Mets, Luis Severino of the Yankees, and Chris Sale of the Red Sox — our countdown includes many other All-Stars.

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Red Sox closer Brandon Workman kicked off our list at No. 100, and there's another Boston hurler in the next group of 25 players. 

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez finally delivered on his considerable promise in 2019, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA and finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young race.

He was the rock of a rotation missing Nathan Eovaldi for most of the season, David Price for large chunks, and Chris Sale for what amounted to the final two months. Just 27 years old, E-Rod remains firmly in his prime, and with another strong season should climb even higher next year.

Click here for Part 2 of our Top 100, featuring players 75-51.

 

In battle of MLB owners vs. players, best choice feels like 'none of the above'

In battle of MLB owners vs. players, best choice feels like 'none of the above'

I hate them all.

MLB's owners, with their bad-faith labor proposals designed to make the players look greedy so they'll have someone to blame if the season can't be salvaged. The players, who are too stupid and undisciplined to decline the bait.

The billionaire owners, for crying poor and refusing to pay their minor leaguers. The millionaire players, for treating every offer like an insult to be doused in urine.

The owners, for using a pandemic to ram through a series of long-sought changes to the draft, the minor leagues, and maybe even a salary cap. The players, for failing to recognize the need to stop swinging the gold-plated Boras Corp. hammer of public messaging they typically wield like Thor.

I hate it, hate it, hate it. All of it.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

As we seek a return to normalcy, at least there's baseball to ground us in all of its infinite stupidity. While the NBA quietly negotiates a 16-team tournament with surprisingly little rancor, and the NHL announces that it will conduct a 24-team playoffs as soon as it is safe to do so, baseball and its players take turns poleaxing the sport in the face.

The owners started with a 50-50 revenue sharing model they were so certain was a nonstarter, they never even officially offered it to the players. They did leak it far and wide, however, which led to inevitable pushback from union boss Tony Clark, who sniffed that it was a blatant attempt to install a salary cap, which the players will never accept, certainly not with CBA negotiations looming next year.

Cue the predictable bemoaning of baseball's out-of-touch millionaire class, which is exactly what the owners wanted. They're skillfully waging asymmetrical warfare, since they need to shut only 30 mouths to close ranks. There are 900 players, though, and it only takes one of them swallowing his leg above the knee to sway public opinion.

Enter Rays lefty Blake Snell, a Twitch streamer depressingly short on brain matter who announced to his followers that, "I gotta get my money," in a tone-deaf rant last week that immediately overshadowed more nuanced discussions of health and safety from the likes of Andrew Miller, Chris Iannetta, and even Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo. Snell apologized, but damage done.

It should come as little surprise that he then fired his agent and hired Boras.

Ahhh, Boras. In normal times, he's unfairly maligned for securing monster deals. No one forced the Padres to fork over $300 million to Manny Machado, for instance. Boras is the best in the business and someone we'd all want on our side in a negotiation.

In normal times, anyway. But now?

If there's anyone who needs to stand down in the midst of a messaging battle, it's the man many fans consider the sport's avatar of avarice. "You don't privatize the gains and socialize the losses," might be an accurate appraisal of MLB's initial proposal, but it's not a sentiment anyone wants to hear from the man who just negotiated over $1 billion worth of contracts this winter.

Spending all this time focusing on Boras and the MLBPA, however, plays right into the hands of the owners. Their latest proposal, which calls for a sliding scale of pay cuts that would leave the lowest earners making most of their prorated salaries and the highest earners staring at cuts of $30 million (sorry, Mike Trout), feels designed to provoke another round of public whining.

That means they're still more concerned with PR than actually saving their game, and once you view their actions solely through the lens of assigning blame, it becomes clear how cynical their attempts at resuming play really are. It wouldn't surprise me if there's a faction willing to blow up the season to gain massive leverage when the CBA expires in 2021. These guys didn't become billionaires by playing nice.

We're already hearing about furloughs and pay cuts in the front offices of even storied franchises like the Cubs, and the A's just eliminated a $400/month stipend to their minor leaguers that ESPN's Jeff Passan estimated would've cost them only $1 million to maintain through August. The move feels as distasteful as whatever bubbles up through the drains in the Coliseum.

Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick. If the sides really want baseball to return by July 4, they'll need to reach an agreement sometime in the next 10 days in order to leave time to conduct a three-week spring training.

It's entirely possible the two sides are withholding their best offers until the 11th hour, and all of this posturing is just so much saber rattling before everyone finally acts in the game's best interests.

If that's the case, may I politely suggest they all go to hell? We've got our own problems at the moment, and picking a side in this loser battle ain't one of them.