Monday, October 1, 2018

2018 Red Sox Player Reviews Part 1

Yesterday was the 162nd and final regular season game for the Boston Red Sox in what proved to be a truly historic season. 

In a game that I was fortunate enough to see in-person, the Sox bested the Yankees 10-2 to secure their 108th victory of the year. 

Now, we're all turning our attention to see what the Red Sox and all the other playoff teams will do in the 2018 postseason.

I had to hold off on my division predictions recap until Wednesday due to the 2 tiebreaker games taking place today. As I'm writing this, the Cubs just lost a tough game to the Brewers, meaning the 2nd best team in the NL has to play in the Wild Card game while the best get home-field advantage for the entire playoffs. 

Sometimes I really dislike the way MLB playoff teams are seeded. It should really be 5 teams by record with the bottom 2 in the Wild Card game.

Regardless, I'm here today to recognize and recap the major contributors to the 2018 Boston Red Sox offense with the pitchers' version of this post set to come out tomorrow. Basically, I'll be looking at players' stats and then giving them a letter grade based on their 2018 season performance. In an effort to save time and not go too crazy, I'll only be posting players with 300 or more at-bats.

As far as 250 at-bat players go, the Red Sox had 9 players that fell into that category, so it's time for me to get started. First up, we have the player who led the Red Sox team in at-bats with 579.

In his 2nd full MLB season, Andrew Benintendi wasn't needed to provide as much power as he did with the 2017 Red Sox. With the absence of a true slugger in 2017, Benintendi hit 20 home runs with a .274 average last year. It seems J.D. Martinez's presence has had an effect on everybody, and that includes Benny. He hit 16 homers and 87 RBI this season while also launching 41 doubles. Additionally, Benny was able to do all of this while improving his average to .290. In a year where the Sox had plenty of offensive help, Benintendi found a way to contribute big time without being the primary offensive contributor. 

Letter Grade; B+

Next up, we have the guy whose presence in the clubhouse alone was able to help nearly every player improve on the offensive level. In addition to Mookie Betts calling him "one of the greatest things that have ever happened to him," J.D. had an MVP-caliber season. The slugger hit an incredible .330 with 43 home runs and 130 RBI. He finished the 2018 season top 2 in each of those 3 categories while also finishing 5th in OBP, 2nd in SLG, and 3rd in OPS. Although Mookie played slightly better all-around, Martinez's astounding offensive accomplishments cannot be overlooked.

Letter Grade; A+

The best way to bounce back from a sub-par 2017 season in which you hit .264? Improve all the way to a .346 batting average while also nabbing the batting title and setting a personal record for home runs in a season. Mookie being a leadoff hitter took a toll on his RBI total which reached 80 this year, but his 47 doubles and 180 total hit are is enough to speak for itself not to mention his 30 stolen bases, making him the 2nd player in Sox history with 30 homers and 30 stolen bags in 1 year.

Letter Grade; A+

At the beginning of this season, I recall saying that my ideal stats for Xander Bogaerts would be a .280 average with 20 homers and 80 RBI. Bogaerts not only reached these goals but impressed me and the rest of Red Sox nation alike with his offense in defense in 2018. In 513 at-bats, Xander hit .288 with 23 home runs and 103 RBI, making him one of two Red Sox to reach 100 runs batted in. His 45 doubles impressed without a doubt, and he even won AL Player of the Week back in July. But it was Xander's overall athleticism that made 2018 a bounce-back season for the star shortstop.

Letter Grade; A

Sorry, I haven't been able to pull a Nunez card from his time with the Red Sox quite yet since he's only been featured in 1 or 2 products since joining Boston. Anyway, I don't think many people expected Nunez to have the type of impact on the 2018 Red Sox that he did, for many thought Pedroia would return and that would be that for Eduardo. However, Pedroia's playing of just 3 games allowed Nunez to have over 450 at-bats with the Sox this year. His veteran leadership is valued throughout the clubhouse, and his 44 RBI helped contribute to an already dynamite offense.

Letter Grade; C+/B-

Even though he drove in 59 and had an excellent offensive 2nd half of the year, 2018 did not deliver good offensive production from Jackie Bradley Jr. His .234 batting average can attest for that, but there's more to JBJ than just that average. He had yet another stellar defensive season and is once again a front-runner for AL Gold Glove. Even if his offense is adequate at best, I think we can all agree that Bradley's defense is something you don't see every day.

Letter Grade; C

Despite having some flashes of brilliance, Rafael Devers' first full MLB season did not necessarily go according to plan. He ended the year with 450 at-bats due to being injured, but he also hit just .240. Granted, his 21 homers were a big plus and he drove in 66 with limited playing time, but I've come to expect more from Devers, especially after what I saw last year. He struck out over 100 times which is a lot, especially for his at-bat total, and he didn't do enough to stand out on this stacked team. 

The good news for Devers is that he's only 21 and he definitely had some great moments this season and a ton of upside in general. I'll be looking at him more than anyone else to see how he does once 2019 rolls around.

Letter Grade; C/C+

I'm trying to take the first half of the season into consideration as much as I can when it comes to Mitch Moreland. After all, he made the All-Star team, and deservingly so back in July, but he's basically hit .200 since then. However, he does provide another much-needed veteran presence and is a Gold Glove-type defensive 1st baseman. He ended the year hitting .245 with 15 homers, but he did provide 68 RBI in barely 400 at-bats, so there's definitely something to say about what Moreland can bring to the table when he's playing his best.

Letter Grade; C+

His recent heroics such as a pinch-hit home run still fresh in my mind, I'm sure Brock Holt isn't too upset being a backup player on this Red Sox team. After all, he finished the year with 321 at-bats which is the most since 2015 when he was a starter. He provided a reasonable 7 homers, including 4 in his last 30 games, along with 46 RBI and 7 stolen bases. All of this while hitting .277 and playing a superb defensive 2nd base, shortstop, and left field throughout the year.

Letter Grade; B-

Although I would be able to form a starting 9 with the players above, there was not a single Red Sox catcher with 300 or more at-bats which is alarming that Vazquez, Leon, and Swihart get injured so much and that none of them have been all too good this year. Still, I couldn't include everyone, so I felt setting the limit at 300 at-bats was fair. 

Tomorrow, I'll be doing the same thing for the pitchers that, for better or worse, made a difference for the Red Sox in 2018.

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