Red Sox Report Card: Mid-year review

175737.jpg

Red Sox Report Card: Mid-year review

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
PHOENIX -- It's the All-Star break, and you know what that means: time for first-half grades for the Red Sox.

There's a wide variance here for a first-place team. While there are several players headed for the Honor Roll, some others are in danger of flunking.

Of course, there's time to bring those grades up. Here's hoping there's plenty of homework being down over the break.

Without further ado:

POSITION PLAYERS:

Adrian Gonzalez - A
Simply put, Gonzalez has been everything the Red Sox hoped he would be when they
traded for him last December. He leads the majors in a host of offensive categories (RBIs, total bases, extra-base hits, doubles) and has played a superb first base. About the only deficit in his game is speed, of which there is none and accounts for his eye-popping 20 GIDP. Other than that, however, he's been virtually flawless.

Dustin Pedroia - B
For the longest time, Pedroia couldn't seem to get untracked, with a batting average hovering around .250. Then, Pedroia got his ailing knee checked and received an injection and his game began to take off. His defense has been as good as ever and quietly - if such a thing is possible with him - he's become a real stolen base threat (16-of-19).

Jed Lowrie - B
Just when it seemed like he finally make good on his potential, Lowrie got hurt. Again. In April, when no one else was producing, Lowrie hit so well that he took the starting shortstop job from Marco Scutaro and for a month and a half, had an OPS of better than .850. But then he collided with Carl Crawford in late May, injuring his shoulder, and his offense began to spiral. Also troubling: his limited range to his right, even when healthy.

Marco Scutaro - C
Scutaro began the season as the starting shortstop, lost the job, then regained it. He hasn't produced much with the bat, but he's played a solid shortstop. The last season and a half may have revealed that Scutaro isn't necessarily an everyday player, but he is a valuable one. And tough, too.

Kevin Youkilis - B
Like Pedroia, Youkilis started the year slowly but has recently come around. He's second on the team in RBIs and third in slugging while reaching base at a near .400 clip. One negative: his defense, which has been only slightly better than average, a reminder that the transition from across the diamond hasn't been a seamless as some projected.
David Ortiz - A-
No slow start this season, or, for that matter, no struggles against lefthanders. This may not quite be the Ortiz of 2004-2007, but for the Red Sox purposes, it's plenty good enough.

Carl Crawford C-
His first half season has been a mixture of disappointment sprinkled in with occasional high points. He's won a handful of games with walkoff hits but mostly, he's dramatically underachieved. It took him weeks to get his average over .200 and his speed hasn't been much of a weapon. Sidelined with a hamstring pull, Red Sox fans everywhere are asking themselves: "We're going to see a much better player when he's healthy again, right? Right?"

Jacoby Ellsbury - A
If not for Gonzalez, Ellsbury could lay claim to first-half MVP. Whether his first half is the result of a player motivated to put last season and its attendant controversies behind him or simply his skills naturally evolving and maturing doesn't really matter. Ellsbury has developed into an elite center fielder.

J.D. Drew D-
At the halfway point, Drew is on pace to finish with fewer than 40 RBI and recently went more than 90 at-bats between extra-base hits. He looks, frankly, disinterested much of the time, as though he can barely muster the energy to play. His lone saving grace: he remains a good outfielder.

Darnell McDonald - F
It's July and McDonald has 10 hits. Ten. The hope had been that he could provide some righthanded pop. Instead, he's played like an overmatched 4A outfielder.

Mike Cameron - F
Perhaps Cameron can salvage the season - to say nothing of his career - in Florida. For now, however, Cameron, a terrific competitor and teammate, sadly appears to be done.

Josh Reddick - A
Had it not been for a shoulder injury to Ryan Kalish, Reddick likely wouldn't have had this chance to contribute in Boston. But he sure has made the most of it with improved play in the outfield and a far more disciplined approach at the plate.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia - C
On that fateful April night in Anaheim when he couldn't find a pitch that eluded him and literally looked lost, Saltalamacchia was a day or so away from being returned to the minors. After that, he gradually looked less overwhelmed and everything seemed to improve - from his throwing, hitting and handling of the staff. Moreover, as often happens with catchers, it appears as though he's still improving.

Jason Varitek - C
The Sox seem to have stumbled upon just the right amount of playing time for the 39-year-old catcher. He's still streaky at the plate but has plenty of value, not the least of which is his mentoring of Saltalamacchia.

Incomplete: Drew Sutton, Jose Iglesias and Yamaico Navarro.

STARTING PITCHERS:

Josh Beckett - A
The Red Sox had to be wondering what they would get from Beckett after last year's disastrous season - to say nothing of the dread they must have felt over the four-year contract extension that didn't kick in until this season. Now they know - Beckett is, again, one of the league's premier starters. After three seasons of frustration and mixed results, Beckett is an ace.

Jon Lester - B
Lester leads the staff with 10 wins and was three outs away from his 11th when a pulled lat muscle interceded. He might have been a worthy All-Star selection but his season has been inconsistent at times and he hasn't always shown the dominance one normally associates with him.

Clay Buccholz - B-
After a slow start, Buchholz seemed to finally be getting on a roll when back spasms came along and eventually sent him to the disabled lost. Until then, he was good - just not good as he was last season.

Daisuke Matsuzaka - D
It may well be that the enigmatic one has thrown his last pitch as a member of the Red Sox thanks to Tommy John surgery. If so, his final season was somehow emblematic of his time in Boston: flashes of brilliance mixed with a heaping portion of underachievement.

John Lackey - F
Sure, there have been a few gems - last Saturday against Baltimore, two weeks ago against the Phillies and two back-to-back starts on the West coast. But too often he's failed to even keep his team in the game, as evidenced by his unsightly 6.84 ERA.

Tim Wakefield - C
For the first few weeks, Wakefield seemed to be a spare part the Sox didn't need. Then, the inevitable injuries struck the rotation and Wakefield re-established his value in a hurry. Key stat: the Sox are 7-4 in his starts.

BULLPEN:

Scott Atchison - C-
Atchison has been the human yo-yo this season, up-and-down from Pawtucket, seemingly on an almost weekly basis. That's a tough dynamic for a pitcher. Still, Atchison hasn't been nearly as reliable as he was in the second half of last season.

Matt Albers - B
Albers was a cheap free agent signing in the off-season, but has far out-performed his more expensive teammtes (Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler). Except for an eighth-inning meltdown against the Cubs in interleague play, in fact, he's been stellar, averaging about a strikeout per inning.

Dan Wheeler - D
If it weren't for Carl Crawford, Wheeler would be considered the team's biggest off-season bust. (What it is with these former Rays?). Relegated to mop-up by his own ineffectiveness, there were weeks where it was easy to forget that Wheeler was on the roster. Of late, though, he's pitched far better, suggesting that a second-half market correction could be in the offing.
Bobby Jenks - D
It hasn't helped his continuity that he's gone to the DL twice in three months. Then again, his conditioning hasn't helped him stay healthy, either, so he probably gets some of the blame. Like Wheeler, there's time to make amends in the second half. But to date, a disappointment.

Daniel Bard - A
If it weren't for a squirrely first few weeks, when Bard seemed to be inventing ways to lose games (chalk-kicking double on Opening Day, suicide squeeze in Cleveland, etc.), he might warrant an A. As it is, Bard has, again, been the Red Sox' best reliever. Three numbers make the case: 1) a WHIP of 0.80; 2) a scoreless streak that dates back to May and 3) stranding 16-of-20 inherited runners.

Jonathan Papelbon - B
As always with Papelbon, the saves can be adventures. And the non-save appearances, well, those can be real thrill rides. But the bottom line is this: it's the All-Star break and Papelbon has blown exactly one save. And his 7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio illustrates how much better his command has been.

Incomplete: Rich Hill, Hideki Okajima, Michael Bowden, Tommy Hottovy, Kyle Weiland, Dennys Reyes, Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Youkilis weighs in on Valentine possibly being Japan ambassador

Youkilis weighs in on Valentine possibly being Japan ambassador

Among the reactions to the news that Bobby Valentine was possibly being considered to be the US amassador to Japan in President Donald Trump’s administration was this beauty from Kevin Youkilis. 

Valentine famously called out Youkilis early in his stormy tenure as Red Sox manager in 2012. Remember? "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason," Bobby V said of Youk at the time. 

The Red Sox traded Youkilis to the White Sox for two not-future Hall of Famers, outfielder Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, later that season.

Youkilis, now Tom Brady’s brother-in-law by the way, had a 21-game stint playing in Japan in 2014 before retiring from baseball. 

 

Report: Bobby Valentine could be Trump’s US ambassador to Japan

Report: Bobby Valentine could be Trump’s US ambassador to Japan

Major league manager. Inventor of the wrap sandwich. Champion ballroom dancer.  And…

US ambassador to Japan?

Bobby Valentine is on the short list for that position in President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a WEEI.com report.

The former Red Sox manager (fired after a 69-93 season and last-place finish in 2012), and ex-New York Mets and Texas Rangers, skipper, also managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons. 

When asked by the New York Daily News if he's being considered for the post, Valentine responded: "I haven't been contacted by anyone on Trump's team." 

Would he be interested?

"I don't like to deal in hypotheticals," Valentine told the Daily News.

Valentine, 66, has known the President-elect and Trump's brother Bob since the 1980s, is close to others on Trump’s transition team and has had preliminary discussions about the ambassador position, sources told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. 

Valentine, currently the athletic director of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., is also friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like Valentine, attended the University of Southern California.