Your 2016 Boston Red Sox starting outfield. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
Red Sox made it through a very tough April schedule (although it was loaded with home games) with a respectable 14-10 record. Pretty remarkable given the fact that they had the worst starting rotation in baseball for the majority of the month.
I only ranked the main players. Guys like Noe Ramirez and Josh Rutledge will get graded when they have proved they are worthy of my consideration. Let’s get right into it.
[I think this goes without saying, but these grades are relative to my expectation for each player coming into the season. Not who has the best numbers.]
He’ll probably never win the Silver Slugger, but ended April on a 5-game hitting streak. More importantly, when he returned from the DL, the starting pitching made a miraculous turnaround. This guy is a great game caller and receiver, and made an immediate, tangible impact on the Red Sox pitching staff. Grade: A-
Blake only appeared in 6 games before his demotion in the middle of the month. He was batting .278 when he was sent down, but was without an extra base hit. His trip to Pawtucket wasn’t due to his performance, but due to a backlog at the catcher position once Vazquez returned form injury. The Sox like his bat and are trying him in the outfield in AAA. Grade: Incomplete
A solid backstop who’s struggling at the plate. Sound familiar? If he doesn’t pick it up, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sox called up Swihart to get a little more pop out of the catcher position. Grade: C-
His approach at the plate has been refreshing – he’s toned down the leg kick and his hitting for average – but his power numbers have been pretty weak. Obviously the big question coming into the season was his defense at first base… Dude hasn’t made an error all year and has shown he can pick it. Given his history as a middle infielder this shouldn’t exactly be surprising, but after last year’s misadventure in left, you’d be forgiven for being nervous. Grade: B-
He’s healthy (for now), raking, and flashing the leather up the middle. Ho hum. Grade: A
He got off to a slow start, but his average is coming back up and he’s drawing walks at a better rate than last season. His power still hasn’t developed like we expected, but maybe that’ll come as the weather heats up. No errors in the field. Grade: B+
Hitting .300 with good power, while playing rock solid defense at third. Couldn’t ask for anything more. Grade: A+
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Mr. April. He’s piling up clutch hits and ended the month with a bang, going 3 for 3 last night with two triples, a double, a walk, and 3 knocked in. He’s riding a 7-game hitting streak and his average is up to .272 after a rough start.
And the gold glove caliber defense in center goes without saying. Grade: B+
The homers and defense have been there, but everything else has fallen short of our (stratospheric) expectations of Mookie. Nothing to worry about, he got off to a slow start last season too, but just not what we expected thus far. Grade: B-
He’s shown some pop, but his batting average is about 20 points below what we’re used to seeing. I blame this largely on being part of a platoon with Chris Young. It’s tough to stay locked in when you’re riding the pine every few games. Grade: A gentleman’s C+
He’s supposed to be the right-handed platoon guy, but he’s inexplicably had more plate appearances against righties thus far in 2016. The former All-Star is hitting .185. Grade: D-
Bizarre. He appeared in one game and went 2-4 and was promptly demoted. Given his upside I’d like to see him platoon with Holt and send Young packing. He can’t do much worse than .185. Grade: Incomplete
He’s slashing .321/.418/.654. His 1.071 OPS is tops in the league. Leading the team in average, home runs and RBIs. Seriously, why is this guy retiring? Grade: A+
Hasn’t been a pretty start for Boston’s new ace. His 5.76 ERA is an accurate barometer for how he’s performed so far. But there are reasons for optimism: he’s striking out a ton of guys (fanned 14 in his last start, though it was against the hapless Braves), and he’s a notoriously slow starter. I’m not worried, but he’s certainly underperformed. Grade: D+
Hoo boy. I’m a pretty shameless Buchholz defender but this has been a disastrous start to the season. He’s had one decent start and four pretty bad ones, leading to a 6.51 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP, striking out only 19 in 27.2 innings. Grade: F (sorry Clay. You’re still my boy)
Well, well, well. After a shaky start, Freddy has settled in to a nice little groove. His home run bugaboo is still there, but outside of the gopher balls, he’s been dominant. 2.76 ERA, 0.918 WHIP, 36/6 K/BB in 32.2 innings. And he hasn’t given up a homer in his last two starts (again, thank heaven for the Braves). Grade: A
He’s on the shelf with a shoulder impingement, but owned a truly impressive 9.35 ERA before he got hurt. Given the emergence of Steven Wright and the imminent return of Eddie Rodriguez, look for Pumpsie to be returning to the bullpen. Grade: F
His 1.37 ERA is second in the AL and has locked down a rotation start for the foreseeable future. Grade: A+
Decent in two starts. Probably gets bumped from the rotation when Eddie returns. Grade: C
Lefties are hitting .385 against him. Righties are hitting .143. Go figure. Grade: D
Robbie Ross Jr.
Not terrible, not great. Grade: C
His numbers are ok, but he hasn’t passed the eye test. I don’t trust this guy. Grade: B
Lefty’s boy owns a 0.93 ERA and a microscopic 0.621 WHIP. Good to have the old Taz back to hold down the late innings. Grade: A+
He’s had some rough patches which is worrying given his age. It’s too early to tell whether or not he’ll be able to regain his old form, but his load should be lightened with the return of Carson Smith. Grade: B-
Papelbon 2.0. His control abandons him at times which gets him into trouble that he can’t always escape. His 4.09 ERA is twice as high as we expected, but I’m not worrying yet. Grade: C-
Comparing him to Don would be cruel and pointless. But he’s just not Don. He’s crisp, professional, knowledgable, and has interesting anecdotes. But he doesn’t giggle like Don did and he doesn’t have the chemistry with Jerry (not yet at least). Grade: A*
*but he’s no Don Orsillo
The offense has been spectacular, and the pitching is coming around. Bring on May.