The Detroit Tigers are under .500 and enter Friday's MLB action 11 games behind the Kansas City Royals in the AL Central. However, with just four games between them and the AL wild card leaders, they still have something to play for this season. The Boston Red Sox, a trendy preseason playoff pick after a spending spree last offseason, also face an 11 1/2 game deficit in their division. However, they own the worst record in the American League, and are nine games out of the wild card.
In other words, they probably aren't making the playoffs this season.
No matter, though. Our good friends at Over the Monster, SB Nation's excellent Red Sox community, have already turned their eyes towards 2016. The Red Sox have one of the best farm systems in baseball, and are already relying on young talents like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Blake Swihart at the major league level. In order to get better acquainted with Red Sox old and new before this weekend's series, we spoke with Ben Buchanan, the managing editor of Over the Monster.
1. Usually I start out by trying to get a general sense of how the season has gone, but I have to ask: what happened to Rick Porcello?
Well, that would certainly be nice to know! I'd like to tell you he's a victim of defense. That's kind of what we were betting on when we picked him up from you guys--that years in front of Miguel Cabrera and occasionally Prince Fielder were predictably unfriendly to him. It would be much easier if we could just blame this on Mike Napoli and Pablo Sandoval underperforming defensively.
Unfortunately, though, Porcello is just not Porcello. He's not getting the ground balls for Napoli and Sandoval to mess up in the first place. The real culprit is the changeup, which Porcello has seemingly lost all control of and has just been hammered repeatedly for homer after homer. In an ideal world, he could just drop the pitch entirely, but that's kind of a big piece of the Rick Porcello puzzle, and without it, he just can't get by. At this point, it feels like he needs to be shut down and rebuilt for anything to really improve.
2. Many people picked the Boston Red Sox as AL East contenders at the beginning of the season. Instead, they are in last place and fading fast after a slow start after the All-Star break. However, your colleague, Marc Normandin, recently called this season a success for the Red Sox. Do you agree with his assessment?
Yes and no. Marc is right in everything he hits on. The Red Sox are establishing an excellent young core to build around and have one of the best farm systems in the game even after graduating some very good players these last two years.
So that's the yes. But I would struggle to actually call it a success. The Red Sox expected to be a good team this year. They probably expected there'd be some struggles along the way and they'd have to make a move or two at the deadline to push them over the top, since they certainly didn't believe all of their offseason moves would work out. But they didn't put this team together to be completely out of it in late July, and while there was some small glimmer of hope when Marc wrote what he did, they're clearly dead in the water now.
It's not a black and white situation. There's been good, there's been bad. But when it comes right down to it, the Red Sox will finish in last. That's not successful.
3. The Red Sox have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, led by the $62 million man, Yoan Moncada. He's the big name, but is he even Boston's best prospect? Just how bright is the future for this Red Sox franchise?
I would say he is, yes. I'd even have put him ahead of Blake Swihart before he graduated, personally, though it really would be neck-and-neck. Now the only real challenger (if Eduardo Rodriguez is also considered to have graduated) is Rafael Devers, but Moncada is a pretty similar prospect with a higher defensive upside.
The hope, of course, is that the future is bright. Prospects will break your heart, but the system finally seems to be producing as expected with Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts among Boston's best players this season and Eduardo Rodriguez flashing brilliance when he's not tipping his pitches. There's a pretty sizable gap between Boston's best pitching prospects who are all pushing the majors and their best position prospects who mostly in Single-A or lower, with Manuel Margot the only real top prospect found in between, but if there is one part of this organization that's been consistently headed in the right direction these past few years it's the farm system.
4. Tigers fans will forever hate David Ortiz for his grand slam in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS, a play that I think turned the tide of that entire series. Papi has fallen off this season, though, batting just .231/.322/.430 in 86 games. Is this the beginning of the end for the 37-year-old Ortiz, or is there something else going on with him?
Ortiz has been better in recent weeks and even months than his overall line suggests, but even since he put his awful start behind him, he's definitely not his old self. And at this point in his career, with no real injury to blame, you do have to assume he's just reaching the end of the line. He's been particularly miserable against lefties, but it's possible that's just statistical noise, and frankly given that a platoon DH isn't really a thing to begin with, it doesn't matter.
The thing is, Ortiz is not one to call it quits, and he's got an option which is going to vest very soon. I think most around here would prefer he exits on his own terms rather than letting it get to the point where the Red Sox just can't afford to keep him in the lineup or on the roster anymore. I think many are secretly (or not so secretly) hoping he chooses to do so after 2015 since it would not only avoid that awkward situation, but also solve the question of where to play Hanley Ramirez.
I'd say it's always hard to say goodbye to a figure like David Ortiz, but I honestly can't say. There hasn't been anyone quite like him for Boston in my time as a fan. Not Nomar, not Pedro, certainly not Manny or Lester. David Ortiz has been here for well over a decade, and has authored huge moments en route to three World Series wins. He may not have been Boston's best player at any given point in time, but if you're going to give a name to this period of success, it's the era of Ortiz.
5. We have fallen in love with Jose Iglesias, who made the AL All-Star team and is batting a surprising .324/.372/.404 this year. The man that was blocking him in Boston, Xander Bogaerts, actually has more WAR. Does anyone in Boston regret letting Iglesias go?
You'll find nobody more tired of the constant second guessing of the Peavy trade than myself and Marc. Jose Iglesias is certainly hitting far better than we would have believed, and in terms of raw value it's going to be an ugly one when all is said and done.
The argument, though, is always that Peavy wasn't great with Boston in 2013. And he wasn't. But he was serviceable in a time when the Sox were facing the prospect of letting a worn-down Felix Doubront start playoff games. And anyone who wants to take back the Peavy trade had better be willing to give the Rays a rematch in Game 4 of the ALDS, then deal with all the consequences that could fall from that. They won the World Series. That should probably be justification enough.
6. Hypothetical scenario: An actual sharknado occurs in Boston and you can only choose one of the following weapons: Justin Masterson's fastball, Mike Napoli's bat, or Pablo Sandoval's Instagram account (pretend that this is somehow effective). Which would you pick, and why? Does humanity have any hope for survival?
Are you kidding? Justin Masterson's fastball! He almost took out the entire Astros team with that thing. Just tell him he's trying to throw a strike to the Sharknado and he's almost guarnateed to deal some damage.
Once again, a big thank you goes out to Ben and the rest of the Over the Monster staff for answering our questions. Be sure to check out Over the Monster for the very best Red Sox news coverage and analysis all season long!