Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Welcome to the Milliken Mailbag! A few days back, I asked for a bunch of questions about the Red Sox from the big leagues to the DSL. Here are some of the best ones that got sent in.

Before I respond below, I wanted to give some quick thoughts on John Schreiber being flipped to the Royals for pitching prospect David Sandlin. There was immediately a bunch of negative reaction to the move, but I think it makes sense based on the arms at the Red Sox disposal. The weakest part of the organization is the starting pitching pipeline, so they took from their collection of right-handed relief arms and chased a guy with the potential to be a backend starter.

Schreiber was nothing short of lethal in 2022, as he became the anchor of a Red Sox bullpen running on absolute fumes. 2023 was definitely a step-back for the righty though, after he posted a 3.86 ERA/4.52 FIP in 46.2 IP. It didn’t help that he dealt with a shoulder impingement that kept him out for a large portion of the summer either.

Even before Schreiber was hurt, his stuff had ticked down. It’s one of the reasons he spent this past offseason at Driveline trying to add a cutter and expand his arsenal. He had been down in Fort Myers for over a month, so you have to wonder if the organization wasn’t overly impressed with how his stuff bounced back.

That’s no disrespect to Schreiber either, who still profiles as a fine 7th-inning arm. But the Red Sox have plenty of guys that could fit into that same role in Isaiah Campbell, Greg Weissert, and Zack Kelly. Justin Slaten and Bryan Mata also factor into that mix since they need to be on the big league roster on Opening Day (Slaten because of the Rule 5 Draft, Mata is out of options).

If the Red Sox had properly addressed the big league roster, I think everyone sees this as good business. But they haven’t, which is why any subtraction from the major league roster immediately makes fans groan. Truth is, if Craig Breslow acquired the right arms this offseason, it shouldn’t be hard to replace Schreiber.

David Sandlin is an 11th-round pick of the Royals back in 2022. He was ranked as the #20 prospect in the Royals farm system by Baseball America, but landed much higher at #5 for Kiley McDaniel and #7 by Keith Law. In July, a lat injury ended his season prematurely, but he registered a 3.51 ERA/3.68 FIP in 14 starts between Single-A and High-A in 2023.

It was clear Sandlin didn’t have a problem missing bats, as he put together a 11.7 K/9 with a lethal fastball/slider combo. His changeup is still a work in-progress, but he also features a curveball that gives him another average secondary to work off of. The hope is he can become a starter down the line, but with the fastball and slider already being above-average pitches, it should give him a solid floor as a reliever.

This is Breslow calling his shot with an arm that caught his eye. It’s going to be fascinating to see what the pitching infrastructure can do with him and Richard Fitts. If they both become impact arms in the future, Breslow will look like a pitching development savior.

For years, people wondered why Chaim Bloom didn’t make more moves for prospects he liked, especially on the pitching side of things. Well, Breslow is doing just that. Time to see if he can actually hit on them.

Here’s some video of Sandlin hitting 100 MPH during a live bullpen the other day. We know Breslow loves his velocity. Alright, enough blabbing, it’s time for the mailbag!

If you submitted a question and didn’t see it here, I also answered a few on the latest episode of the Name Redacted Podcast. Give it a listen. Thanks again to everyone who cared to send one in.

  • 1. Who do you think of the big 3, will be the first to reach the big leagues? – @GMagz

    Kyle Teel

    Jul 21, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox draft pick Kyle Teel speaks to a media member prior to a game against the New York Mets at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    No disrespect to Marcelo Mayer, but I felt myself choosing between Kyle Teel and Roman Anthony. Teel was the most obvious answer since he spent 3 years at the University of Virginia and is older than Mayer and Anthony. Still, it feels like Anthony has the chance to surge to the big leagues like Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers did in their age-20 seasons.

    I’m going to lean towards Teel in this conversation because he’s so advanced from a defensive standpoint behind the plate. He displayed a 1.9 second pop time last season and threw out 41% percent of runners between the FCL, High-A, and Double-A. The last puzzle piece is getting more experience calling games, which he didn’t get the chance to do at the college level, but he’s already shown strong leadership skills behind the plate.

    Offensively, Teel’s ceiling isn’t that of Adley Rutschman, but he consistently displays a strong feel for the strike zone. He walked almost as much as he struck out last season with a 19.3% K% and 18.4% BB%. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of projection left for him with the bat either, because it’s a hit over power profile that shined with a .363/.482/.495/.977 slash line in his first taste of pro ball (114 plate appearances).

    It feels rare to see a catching prospect that carries such a strong floor on both sides of the ball. There are no terrifying defensive limitations (Jorge Alfaro) with Teel or a non-existent bat (Austin Barnes) that will stall his ascension through the minors. Not to mention, Connor Wong and Reese McGuire aren’t blocking him by any means, so the Red Sox won’t hesitate to pull the trigger once he’s proven himself in Triple-A.

  • 2. Andrew Bailey may have been the best signing of the offseason, regardless of where Jordan Montgomery goes. How big of an impact does he have in his first season? – @BryanRiggs

    Aug 12, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants pitching coach Andrew Bailey (84) walks to the mound during the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers at Oracle Park. Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 12, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants pitching coach Andrew Bailey (84) walks to the mound during the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers at Oracle Park. Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

    At the end of the day, Andrew Bailey can only cook so much with the ingredients he’s been given, but it’s impossible to ignore what he did with the Giants and not dream a bit. Over the last 3 seasons, the Giants’ pitching staff was 6th in ERA, 1st in FIP, and 1st in xFIP. That’s with GM Farhan Zaide operating in a similar way compared to Chaim Bloom, where the focus was on fixing arms or unlocking them.

    Bailey was able to turn Kevin Gausman from a failed starter to a guy who received Cy Young votes in the last 3 seasons. When Carlos Rodon arrived in San Francisco, he was hoping to get paid and he did just that by leading the National League in FIP and hitting the 30 start benchmark for the first time. Then there’s Logan Webb, who Baseball America projected to be a #4 starter before he went on to finish as the runner-up in NL Cy Young voting in 2023.

    That doesn’t mean every pitcher the Red Sox have is going to magically turn into an impact piece, but there are some solid young arms in Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck, and Josh Winckowski to work with. Getting Bello and Crawford to take another step forward could help transform the Red Sox rotation for the foreseeable future and if he unlocks any of the other names mentioned above, that’d leave them with 3 controllable starters at their disposal. For an organization that recently went more than a decade without developing a homegrown starter, that’d be quite the accomplishment.

    Right after Bailey was hired by the Red Sox, he made it clear that he viewed Bello as a potential “frontline” starter one day. There are some interesting similarities between Bello and Webb, who are both ground ball merchants and don’t rack up a ton of strikeouts. The dream is Bello evolves into that type of #1 starter this year, which he flashed consistently in the first half of 2023.

    Maybe I’m coping and it’ll take a year before any major changes happen with the Red Sox pitching staff, but I’m expecting a solid step forward. Breslow, Bailey, Kyle Boddy, and Justin Willard have to be better than the Dave Bush led group that got exposed by the Dodgers and Ryan Brasier last year. It’s clear some big changes are already taking place on the pitching frontline with all the starters throwing live bullpen sessions in the first week of camp, which hasn’t been the case in recent years.

  • 3. Next 10 years who would you rather have Rafael Devers or Triston Casas? – @SamuelTannous_

    BOSTON, MA - JULY 26: Triston Casas #36 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his home run against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning at Fenway Park on July 26, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MA – JULY 26: Triston Casas #36 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his home run against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning at Fenway Park on July 26, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    I want to make this clear, I think Rafael Devers and Triston Casas are going to anchor this lineup for a long time. But if you’re asking me which player I want for the next 10 years, I’m going to land in the Casas camp. That’s because I think Casas and Devers are going to be somewhat similar in terms of offensive production, but I think Casas has the ability to at least be an average first baseman in the big leagues.

    Many Casas haters tend to highlight his -4 Defensive Runs Saved or -10 Outs Above Average in 2023 as a sign he can’t play the position, but Alex Cora has hyped up the strides he made down the stretch. I’ll also add that scouts never had any concerns about whether he’d be able to handle first base in the big leagues. It felt like things snowballed early last season on both sides of the ball and the team’s shooty defense only made things harder.

    Casas attending Trevor Story’s offseason camp seemed like a great opportunity for him to get off on the right foot defensively in 2024. He’s now already worked with Story and Vaughn Grisson before even arriving in Fort Myers, which should give the infield a nice head start on coming together as a group. Also, despite all the workout videos I’ve posted of him doing different hitting drills, he told Ian Browne of how much work he’s been putting in on the defensive side of the ball.

    Truthfully, I believe we’re looking at a Joey Votto and Matt Olson hybrid that is going to put up numbers for a long time in this league. How many rookies are having the best offensive year on their team despite having one of the worst Aprils in the entire sport? Not many.

  • 4. Who was your favorite pitcher growing up? – @IWrestlingGod

    Red Sox

    DENVER – OCTOBER 28: (L-R) David Ortiz #34, Josh Beckett #19, Julio Lugo #23 and Jonathan Papelbon #18 of the Boston Red Sox celebrate with the trophy in the locker room after winning Game Four by a score of 4-3 to win the 2007 Major League Baseball World Series in a four game sweep of the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 28, 2007 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

    I’m on the younger side, so I have a soft spot for Josh Beckett. The 2007 Red Sox were my first championship experience and Beckett defined being an ace. He checked off every box by throwing 200 innings, making 30 starts, and dominating with a 3.20 ERA and an AL leading 3.09 FIP.

    That all set the stage for him in October, where the Red Sox didn’t lose a single game he started. He was untouchable with a 1.20 ERA/1.64 FIP in 4 starts (30 IP), where he pitched 7 or more innings in 3 of those outings. The Indians were so shook that they invited his ex-girlfriend to sing the national anthem and it didn’t do a damn thing.

    It sounds weird, but with the Red Sox starving for an ace in recent years, my mind always goes back to the qualities 2007 Beckett had. He was that old school bulldog who didn’t give a damn about the guy at the plate and also thrived when the lights were the brightest. If I could pick one member of the 2007 squad and drop him on the 2024 team, I’m picking him every single time.

  • 5. Which prospect are you most excited to watch/follow this season? – @Kots205

    Tyler Milliken ⚾️ on Twitter: "Yordanny Monegro's curveball has me in a chokehold.He's been FILTHY since being bumped up to affiliated ball with the @salemredsox. 3 Starts - 15 IP - 0.00 ERA/1.60 FIP - 23 K (13.8 K/9) - 4 BB (2.4 BB/9) / Twitter"

    Yordanny Monegro's curveball has me in a chokehold.He's been FILTHY since being bumped up to affiliated ball with the @salemredsox. 3 Starts - 15 IP - 0.00 ERA/1.60 FIP - 23 K (13.8 K/9) - 4 BB (2.4 BB/9)

    I’m going with Yordanny Monegro, who could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new pitching pipeline. He put himself on the radar in 2023, as he jumped from the Florida Complex League to High-A with a 2.06 ERA/2.55 FIP in 65.2 IP at 20. That included a 12.8 K/9. 3.6 BB/9, and .193 BAA.

    There’s some real starter upside with Monegro, who racked up a ton of strikeouts with a Bugs Bunny curveball last season. Currently his fastball sits 93-95, but he’s 6’4″ and 180 pounds with a loose arm, so there’s a ton of projection still there (hello, Kyle Boddy). While he also throws a slider as part of his arsenal, he needs something in-between his breaking balls and fastball, which is why he was working on a changeup last spring. 

    I’m curious to see if Monegro’s changeup makes another appearance in the coming weeks, because he decided to scrap it all last season. Maybe the new pitching infrastructure can crack that code with him or they tweak his arsenal in a different way, but this feels like the type of arm that can pop with the right guidance. It’s all about trying to find the next Brayan Bello that can transform the organization.

    There is some effort in his delivery, but it felt like his mechanics looked more fluid as the season went along. Something that also stood out was his swagger on the mound, where he had no problem showing his emotions. It gave him a rare presence for a minor league arm that isn’t on a lot of people’s radar yet.

  • 6. Which player from the 2023 roster will have the biggest improvement? – @Huckabee2023

    BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 27: In his first game back from injury, Trevor Story #10 of the Boston Red Sox is congratulated in the dugout after scoring against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Fenway Park on August 27, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    Trevor Story of the Boston Red Sox is congratulated in the dugout after scoring against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on August 27, 2022. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    I’m stuck between Trevor Story and Garrett Whitlock. But I’ll go with Story because it’s impossible for him to be as bad as he was offensively in 2023. It was clear he was trying to find his footing after missing a majority of the year with the internal bracing procedure on his elbow, but it was a tough watch.

    It’s not easy to go from a player of Story’s caliber to someone with a 52 wRC+ in 43 games. Still, the floor for him is rather high because he showed that his defense at shortstop is still some of the best in baseball. He finished with 8 Outs Above Average in 36 games at the position, which would’ve easily been the best mark in baseball if he kept that pace over a full season.

    For Story to be a productive player, he just needs to get back to his 2022 levels, where he was a league-average bat with a 100 wRC+. He could easily string together a few 2 to 3 WAR seasons that resemble 2021 J.P. Crawford or 2023 Willy Adames at that rate. Still, his K% needs to get under control because being over 30% the last two years is a slippery slope for his power/speed profile.

    Credit to Story, he’s stepped-up as the leader of the Red Sox this offseason and early in spring training. He looks noticeably stronger and seems to have a chip on his shoulder with a lot of fans writing him off. It’s fair to question whether he’ll ever match his pre-2021 form with the bat again, but he brings a ton of value in the other parts of his game and shouldn’t be falling off a cliff at 31.

    Sign me up for the redemption tour.

  • 7. Which prospect throughout your fandom were you the most surprised didn’t make it? And which one who had success did you not see coming? – @GMagz

    Feb 26, 2018, Bradenton, FL, USA: Boston Red Sox outfielder Blake Swihart works out prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park. (Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

    Feb 26, 2018, Bradenton, FL, USA: Boston Red Sox outfielder Blake Swihart works out prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park. (Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

    Blake Swihart. I can’t count how many times I shook my head at trade proposals that included him for Cole Hamels. After seeing him hit at every single level of the minors with rare athleticism behind the plate, I was completely sold.

    It felt like almost everyone was on the Swihart hype train going into 2015. He was a consensus top 20 prospect in the sport by Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, and Baseball Prospectus. That only grew after he hit .274/.319/.392/.712 in his first taste of big league action.

    Swihart’s defense was always a concern, but he posted impressive pop times in the minors and had many scouts thinking he’d be above-average behind the plate. Obviously, the Red Sox were never sold on that after falling in love with Christian Vazquez’s glove and his work with the pitching staff. That led to Swihart getting time in left field, where the ankle fracture he suffered sent his career off the road.

    I’m still traumatized by the experience, but maybe that’s because of the Ryan Lavarnway hype back in the day too. Connor Wong has eased that pain a bit though, even if he’s best-suited to be a back-up catcher in the future. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the Red Sox handle Teel’s promotions as he inches closer to the majors.

    One prospect that surprised me a bit was Manuel Margot. I was thrilled he was the main piece going to the Padres in the Craig Kimbrel deal. Truth to be told, I was upset about Logan Allen being included as the last piece in the trade.

    Margot just never wowed me in any way. Seemed like a collection of fine tools with above-average defense that reminded me too much of Rusney Castillo. Yet, he’s stuck around in the big leagues for 8 years and is a fine platoon option for the Dodgers going into 2024.

    I thought Margot was destined to be an AAAA outfielder that was consistently getting sent up and down. Now, I’m terrified each time he plays against the Red Sox. In 45 games against the organization that signed him, he’s hit .312 with 22 RBI.

  • 8. Do you think the concern with Marcelo Mayer is genuine? He obviously was injured but it seems like some scouts think there’s a serious hole in his swing and it’s hard to know what’s real with him. – @azuremurkrow

    Marcelo Mayer

    Boston Red Sox prospect Marcelo Mayer is all smiles when trying on a WooSox hat during the Red Sox Development Program inside the Sox clubhouse at Fenway Park on Wednesday.

    Right off rip, I can’t agree with Fangraphs ranking Mayer as the 69th-best prospect in baseball. If you want to talk about some swing-and-miss concerns and him chasing pitches out of the zone, that’s one thing. If we’re trying to label his defense as a major liability, I have a problem considering there isn’t another major publication that agrees with their stance.

    2023 wasn’t kind to Mayer. He dominated High-A by hitting .290/.366/.524/.890 with 7 homers in 35 games out of the gate. Unfortunately, he injured his shoulder on May 7th while trying to leg out a triple and it sent his season off the tracks. He played through it which led to a promotion to AA, but it got worse as the summer went on and it eventually led to him getting shut down in August with a left shoulder impingement.

    The results in AA were ugly. He hit below .200 and his OPS was barely above .600 across 190 plate appearances. It didn’t help that his K% continued to climb up to 25.8%,which led to more questions coming up about his hit tool.

    Most haven’t jumped off the Mayer bandwagon yet, with MLB Pipeline ranking him the 14th-best prospect in the sport, Baseball America putting him at 15, and Keith Law having him at 8. Just looking at his splits last season from before the injury, he owned a 168 wC+ before and a 78 wRC+ after.

    It’s clear Mayer wasn’t fully healthy and I think one of the more surprising things is that we didn’t see a dropoff defensively. Offensively, he has work to do in certain spots, but so do most prospects. Especially guys who are one of the youngest players at the AA level.

    Mayer needs to start performing better against breaking balls and limiting his swing-and-miss. 2024 is a major year for him to prove that his development isn’t stalling. One thing I’ll be keeping an eye on is his max exit velocity, which topped out at 112 MPH last season after working out with weighted bats.

    I know some think Mayer has to be Corey Seager to live up to the hype, but the more I think about it, I see a version of Brandon Crawford that leans a bit more towards offense.

  • 9. How concerned are you about Wilyer Abreu’s K%? His swing is long and hard. His .431 BABIP last year is not sustainable. Will he make enough contact to be a starting RF, or is his ceiling a 4th OF on a good team? – @JChalifour

    HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 24: Wilyer Abreu #52 of the Boston Red Sox hits a one run single in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on August 24, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

    HOUSTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 24: Wilyer Abreu #52 of the Boston Red Sox hits a one run single in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on August 24, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

    I’m not too worried about Wilyer Abreu not being able to avoid strikeouts in the big leagues. Last year, he did a great job of cutting down his K% to 20.4% in AAA after it was 26.4% in 2022. Obviously, he saw it spike up to 27.1% during his first stint in the big leagues, but it goes a long way to see he’s made that adjustment before.

    Abreu’s .431 BABIP definitely won’t be repeated, but I also don’t think anyone expects him to carry a 135 wRC+ across a full 162-game schedule. Cora will almost certainly protect him against lefties like he did with Casas and Devers. That’ll be important with Tom Werner expecting him to get 400 at-bats this season.

    I’ll also add that Abreu’s BABIP was a product of him hitting lasers. You can’t ignore a 49.1% HardHit% or a 91.3 Average Exit Velocity. Throw in a 10.6% BB% and you have a young hitter with a deadly approach at the plate and habit of putting the barrel on the ball.

    Honestly, I believe Abreu will be able to give you more than Alex Verdugo did at the plate. He might not repeat those numbers from last September, but I’m expecting something along the lines of a 110 wRC+. That’d be a massive stepping stone for him as he continues to grow at the highest level.

    It’s hard not to envision Abreu settling in as an above-average corner outfielder. I’d consider his floor to be something like Robbie Grossman, but with the chance to be a Jay Bruce type player with a little less power. Not a bad return for two months of Christian Vazauez (can’t forget Enmanuel Valdez either).

    What also separates Abreu is his defense, which the Red Sox are seemingly a believer in. We saw them try him in all 3 outfield spots, and while it was somewhat obvious he shouldn’t be in center field regularly, he showed a laser in the corners. Replicating Verdugo’s Gold Glove finalist is a tough task, but I don’t expect Abreu to be a defensive liability going forward.

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