Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Mysterious Decline of Allen Craig



The Red Sox will pay Allen Craig $9 million to play in Pawtucket this season, which is astonishing. Craig was an All Star just three years ago, but his last two seasons have been a disaster.

Craig is only 31-years-old, yet his career fell off a cliff at the still youthful age of 29 -- a time when he should have been solidly in his prime.

For example, here are Craig’s batting averages in recent years:

2011 - .315
2012 - .307
2013 - .315
2014 - .215 (29 games in the majors)
2015 - .152 (36 games in the majors)

Craig slugged .555 in 2011 and .522 in 2012, the marks of a true star. Now he can’t even crack a big league roster.

This is one of the most stunning player downturns in memory. Craig was never associated with PEDs. His sudden, and rather stunning, loss of ability is seemingly without explanation.

Craig suffered through a foot injury in September 2013, but appeared healthy just a month later in the World Series. Playing against Boston, Craig batted 16 times and collected six hits for a .375 batting average.

Though he did not play in the field, Craig served as the designated hitter at Fenway Park and as a pinch hitter at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Clearly, his foot was not affecting his ability to hit.

But Craig started the 2014 season slowly with St. Louis before being traded to Boston at the deadline. His foot seemed to give him some problems after arriving in Boston, to which his poor performance was attributed.

However, he was fully healthy last season, yet continued to struggle anyway.

It's as if he suddenly forgot how to hit, or as if his foot injury somehow affected his vision.

The concern is not just Craig's rapid loss of ability at the big league level; it’s his tepid performance against minor league pitching as well.

After going 7-for-52 (.135) with one extra-base hit to start last season, Craig was demoted in early May and spent the majority of the 2015 season at Triple-A Pawtucket. There he managed to hit a respectable .274, but with with a meager .718 OPS and just four home runs in 93 games.

That’s not the sort of stuff that warrants a big league promotion.

The Red Sox owe Craig a total of $20 million over the next two years ($9 million this season, $11 million next), yet he is no longer on the 40-man roster. He is in camp this spring merely as a non-roster invitee.

Craig and the Red Sox can only hope that he gets off to a fast start this spring and creates some interest for another team. Even then, the Red Sox will end up picking up the majority of the remaining contract, paying Craig to play for someone else.

What an odd and unfortunate situation. This is surely not what the Red Sox -- or Craig for that matter -- were expecting when they acquired him in July, 2014 in exchange for John Lackey.

Back then, Craig seemed like a prized hitter, one who would solidify the heart of the Sox lineup and torment AL pitchers for years to come.

Less than two years later, he is merely an afterthought, and a mystery without explanation.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Red Sox Place Four Players on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects List



Baseball's minor league system is the pipeline to the big leagues and, as such, the future looks bright for the Boston Red Sox.

Boston has the distinction of having four of its minor league players rank among baseball's top 100, according to MLB.com.

First, a look at Boston's top 10 prospects for 2016:

1. Yoan Moncada, 2B
2. Rafael Devers, 3B
3. Brian Johnson, LHP
4. Andrew Benintendi, OF
5. Michael Kopeck, RHP
6. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
7. Deven Marrero, SS
8. Michael Chavis, 3B
9. Sam Travis, 1B
10. Trey Ball, LHP

Moncada (No. 7), Devers (No. 17), Benintendi (No. 25) and Espinoza (No. 39) all made MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list. Devers made a huge leap, jumping 80 spots from No. 97 last year.

Moncada is the top second base prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. He batted .278/.380/.438 in 81 games for Greenville last season. The 20-year-old also had 49 stolen bases in 52 attempts.

Devers is the second-best third base prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Devers has outstanding bat speed and a huge offensive upside. The 19-year-old is known for a great plate approach, having struck out just 84 times in 115 games in 2015.

Benintendi is the fifth-best outfield prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. The Red Sox took him No. 7 overall last year, and he hit a combined .313/.416/.556 across two levels. The 21-year-old is expected to move quickly through Boston's farm system.

Espinoza is the tenth-best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. He advanced to low Class A at age 17 in his pro debut, hitting triple digits with his fastball and showing advanced secondary pitches and command. He is still quite young, but he could be very special.

Travis is the tenth-best first base prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. The 22-year-old reached Double-A and hit .307/.381/.452 in 2015, his first full pro season. He could be vying for playing time with the Red Sox by 2017.

The rankings were compiled with input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. They are based on an “analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams."

A weighted scoring system is used to determine which farm system has the most elite talent, awarding 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to No. 2 and so on.

The Red Sox ranked fourth in baseball, with 316 points.