Top 100 Baseball Blog

Monday, June 30, 2014

Scouting the Boston Red Sox's Newest Prospects

The Boston Red Sox have rebuilt their farm system over the past few years into one considered among the strongest in baseball. Many of their prospects make one of their first professional stops in Lowell to play for the short-season Spinners in the rookie level New York-Penn League.

There is a lot of coaching going on to get these players acclimated to professional ball, but Spinners manager Joe Oliver has tried to simplify the instructional philosophy, explaining, “I don’t really think it’s too difficult here. It’s basically just trying to relay consistent mechanics, staying in a consistent routine, and really tweak the style that they have to throw or hit, and just try to modify it.”

Everyone in the minors is a superior athlete with varying levels of baseball ability. Being able to harness those attributes and have them translate during actual games is what sets the true prospects apart.

Lowell hitting coach Noah Hall believes that even the simplest adjustments can dramatically impact hitters. “The one skill at this level, cause it’s the rookie level, first, second-year guys is just controlling their effort level. It’s plain and simple. Everybody here has a nice swing; they all have the ability to have success and hit the ball hard but what holds them back is their effort level. The guys that can control it at this level, it’s something special. Usually guys aren’t doing that until early twenties, mid-twenties to late twenties, and learning to really control it.”

It’s always exciting to see the newest crop of Red Sox prospects. Although many have started to generate buzz, they are also at the point of their careers where the possibilities of what kind of players they will end up becoming are limitless.
The Spinners played a three-game series in Burlington, Vermont June 27-29 against the Vermont Lake Monsters. Here are some observations about a number of Boston’s youngsters I was able to see during that time.

First Baseman Sam Travis: The 2014 second-round pick made a big splash during the series, including hitting his first professional home run, which was a moon shot to left field. He finished with seven hits, six RBIs and a second home run in the three game series.

Prior to the first game, the 20-year-old out of Indiana University discussed the biggest adjustments he’s had to make since being drafted. “There’s a lot more hours at the field, but then again, I love coming to the park so it is obviously a good time. Maybe getting adjusted to wood bats. We used the aluminum bats. Other than that, it’s the same game; it’s just going out there and having fun.” Clearly, he is learning quickly and if his production is any indication, he is having a great time!

Making comparisons can be an iffy proposition but Travis is very reminiscent of Mike Napoli with his build, big power and extremely quick wrists.

Right-Handed Pitcher Willie Ethington: The 2012 17th-rounder received a $200,000 bonus and posted a sub-3.00 ERA in his first two professional seasons in the Gulf Coast League. Unfortunately he had his worst outing of 2014 against Vermont, allowing six hits and four runs (three earned) in 4.2 innings. He struggled with his command, hitting the first batter of the game. His fastball sat in the 86-88 mph range—touching 89-90 occasionally (which was a notch lower than’s scouting report). A comebacker to the mound off his pitching hand resulted in him leaving the park with a wrap (however he later confirmed it was not a serious injury).

Second Baseman Raymel Flores: Signed to a $900,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, the 19-year-old switch-hitter has been handled carefully. Flashes of what made him so intriguing to the Red Sox came out in the two games he played against Vermont, as he lined his first career professional home run to right, smacked a triple, stole a base and looked very slick on defense.

Outfielder Bryan Hudson: Blazing fast, the 19-year-old has just one stolen base in three attempts in 13 2014 games. However, he legged out an infield single on a relatively routine grounder to shortstop and generally flew around the field. If he continues to develop as a player, he could be a difference maker based on his legs alone. It doesn’t seem like the left-handed hitter will ever have much power but the nine walks he has already drawn this season is a positive sign of plate approach for someone his age.

Right-Handed Pitcher Karsten Whitson: The 10th overall selection of the 2010 draft (to the San Diego Padres) elected to attend the University of Florida instead of signing.  He struggled with injuries over the next few years, including missing the entire 2013 campaign before rebounding with a solid senior season and getting selected by Boston in the 11th round of this year’s draft. describes the 22-year-old’s arsenal as including a low-90s fastball and a slider and changeup that have the potential to be plus pitches. He has yet to make his professional debut but is pleased with the work he has been putting in. When asked which of his offerings he is currently happiest with he responded, “Probably my changeup. I was able to throw it a lot in college while progressing through my throwing program and coming off shoulder surgery. It’s a pitch I really worked on, and I’ve thrown it my first three of four bullpens and it’s been working really good for me, so hopefully I can continue that.”

It will be a long road to get back to top-prospect status but he is already thinking about how he can best finish 2014, explaining, “I think for me, getting back on the mound and having some fun, competing and getting an opportunity to go out there and pitch. I don’t really have any specific goals; I just want to command the strike zone and throw all of my pitches for strikes if I can.”

Right-Handed Pitcher Jason Garcia: A year removed from Tommy John surgery, the 21-year-old looks like he is roaring back with a vengeance in his fourth appearance since the procedure. Starting Game 2 of the series, he registered 93 mph on his first pitch and scattered two hits (including one infield dribbler) over six shutout innings. He was consistently sitting 92-95 mph, and mixed in an effective changeup and slider. He punctuated the performance by blowing away Vermont outfielder Justin Higley with a 96 mph fastball on his final pitch.

Since being taken in the 17th round of the 2010 draft, Garcia has matured physically and could be poised to make a leap forward among Sox pitching prospects in the next year.

He exuded positivity in talking about coming back from the difficult injury. “Rehab, the last half year has been going great. It’s tough at first but the hard work seems like it is paying off. My goal right now is just to continue to work on that command with my off-speed. My fastball command has gotten a lot better. I’m just trying to get that confidence back with slider and changeup. Hopefully finish out the year in Salem or Portland.”

Outfielder Danny Mars: It’s easy to see why Boston likes this year’s sixth-round selection out of tiny Chipola College. He’s a hard-nosed grinder who plays his heart out every second he is on the field, showing off solid fundamentals by laying down a great bunt, taking pitches and showing smart overall play during the series.

When asked what his greatest attribute as a player is, the 20-year-old switch-hitter didn’t pause before explaining, “I come out every day and I play a hundred percent. I give it all I have, and it kind of shows, diving and sliding head first. I love the game and I never take any day for granted.”

Although he has good plate patience and some speed, he doesn’t stand out in any one area. However, players with his kind of motor and heart often exceed expectations, so it will be interesting to see how he progresses.

Third Baseman Jordan Betts: The power-hitting infielder started his pro career off with a splash, quickly belting three home runs out of the gate. However, as he explained, the transition to the Boston organization was anything but easy. “The first couple of weeks, coming from college baseball with metal bats and also not playing for three weeks after my last game at Duke, it was just getting used to the timing of the game, getting back to the game rhythm, and getting used to wood bats.”

The right-handed former Blue Devil has a long swing (14 strikeouts in 12 games) but if that can be corralled he has the power to make some noise in the system.

Right-Handed Pitcher German Suarez: Living up to his reputation of a big arm, the 21-year-old hit 97 mph during his two-inning appearance on the 28th. Overall, it wasn’t an especially impressive performance, as he allowed a run on two hits and a walk. He is striking out a batter per inning thus far this season but has a long way to go to start getting the hype to match his fastball.

Shortstop Mauricio Dubon: Last year’s 26th-round pick had an up-and down series. The painfully slender infielder showed some ability with a glove and smacked a triple to deep right-center off Oakland Athletics’ 2014 second-rounder Daniel Gossett. He was also picked off from first and had some other at-bats where he looked a bit overmatched. Just 19, there is plenty of time for him to develop.

Infielder Nick Longhi: The Red Sox thought enough of the right-handed hitter to give him a $440,000 bonus after taking him in the 30th round in 2013. Still just 18, he is leading Lowell with a .347 batting average, and has the kind of projectable frame to indicate room to grow as a hitter- especially in the power department.

Statistics via

Disclaimer: Author is not a professional scout but has followed and written about baseball for more than 25 years.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Boston Red Sox Face Major Free Agent Questions

This piece was originally published on

Following their capture of the 2013 World Series trophy, the Boston Red Sox have limped into 2014 the tune of an uninspiring 36-44 record that has them sitting in fourth place in the American League East. Other than a seven-game winning streak in late May, the team has won as many as three consecutive games just one other time.

The lackluster performance has stifled high hopes of another postseason run this autumn. Although the season cannot be chalked up as a lost cause just yet, the slow start will likely be a determining factor next offseason when the team decides what direction it wants to take. However, the biggest questions will come from the slew of players set to become free agents, and the decisions Boston will have to make on whether they should be retained as part of the future.

Let’s take a look at the Red Sox players in their contract year and review how they may or may not fit into long-term plans.

Starting Pitcher Jon Lester: The reported wide gulf in previous negotiations between the veteran left-hander and the team has been widely discussed. The fact of the matter is Lester is in his prime, has proven his ability to lead a rotation in Beantown (winning two World Series) and has been extremely durable (well on pace for his seventh consecutive season of at least 191 innings). The Red Sox don’t have another pitcher behind him with his experience, ability and track record, so if he is allowed to leave, there will be an enormous hole to fill this offseason.

Verdict: A must to re-sign unless the dollar amount gets too out of hand.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski: The 38-year-old receiver is hitting .250 with four home runs and 31 RBIs in his first season with Boston. He has drawn just seven walks, has a disappointing 75 OPS+ (100 is league average) and has caught just 21 percent of base stealers. If you throw in his higher veteran salary and the questions that have come up regarding his compatibility with the pitching staff, it seems likely he won’t have an extended stay in Boston. With highly-regarded catching prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart getting steadily closer to being MLB-ready, it would be a surprise to see Pierzynski return.

Verdict: Do not re-sign.

Starting Pitcher Jake Peavy: The former National League Cy Young winner is a combined 5-7 with a 4.57 ERA since joining Boston in a mid-season trade last year. The once overpowering right-hander is primarily an innings eater at this stage of his career. With youngsters like Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa having strong showings with the big league team in 2014, Peavy doesn’t have the upside and low salary to be kept around.

Verdict: Do not re-sign.

Outfielder Jonny Gomes: The heavily bearded and tattooed slugger has been a beloved member of Red Sox Nation since joining the team prior to last year. He personifies a team-first atmosphere but has hit just .243 with 18 home runs in 176 regular season games with Boston. About to turn 34, and with defensive skills that can be charitably called adventurous, it’s hard to imagine him having a large role with the team beyond this year.

Verdict: Love him, but unless he signs a minimum contract and earns a spot in spring training it’s probably time for him to go.

Shortstop Stephen Drew: Thought to be gone after not re-signing with the Red Sox last offseason, the 31-year-old veteran ended up returning on a pro-rated contract last month. Although he is still working his way into mid-year form, he has barely made a blip in 2014, hitting just .135 (including a recent 0-for-29 stretch) with one RBI in 15 games since his return. Since Xander Bogaerts has held his own at the MLB level this year, he will continue to be groomed as the shortstop of the future and force Drew to find a new home in 2015.

Verdict: Do not re-sign.

Relief Pitcher Craig Breslow (Team holds a $4 million option or must pay a $100,000 buyout): After a stellar 1.81 ERA with Boston in 2103, the 33-year-old lefty has seen that figure jump to 4.39 in 27 2014 games, along with an unsightly 6.1 walks per nine innings. He has not locked down lefty hitters (.765 OPS against him this year), so it seems the team would be able to find a younger and cheaper replacement once his contract expires.

Verdict: Do not re-sign.

Relieve Pitcher Burke Badenhop: The right-handed pickup from last offseason has been a revelation, posting a 1.77 ERA in 35 appearances—often spanning more than one inning. He consistently keeps the ball in the ballpark, and with rising salaries for relievers, he stands to make good money on his next contract. The Red Sox certainly have the money to keep him around but may be better served rolling with a cheaper option.

Verdict: Re-sign if the price is right.

Relief Pitcher Andrew Miller: The former top starting pitching prospect finally found his niche in the Boston bullpen as a shutdown southpaw reliever. He has struck out over 14 batters per nine innings during the past two years, and is holding left-handed hitters to a ridiculous .453 OPS in 2014. While paying big bucks for relievers is always an iffy proposition, Miller has emerged as one of the best in the game.

Verdict: Re-sign even if it costs a little extra.

Catcher David Ross: The 37-year-old backup has slipped this season, hitting just .174 and throwing out only 19 percent of base runners in 27 games. An outstanding teammate and handler of pitchers, those qualities alone are worth keeping him around to help groom the young receivers coming up through the system.

Verdict: Re-sign.

Relief Pitcher Kohi Uehara: The 39-year-old right-hander has been essentially historic since joining the Red Sox last year. In 107 regular season games, he has a 1.15 ERA, 37 saves and 11.94 strikeouts per nine innings. Throw in a 2013 ALCS MVP, and he has been one of the team’s best players in recent memory. Despite his age and past injury issues, he is not a flame thrower, so he may be able to sustain his success a bit longer. It’s unlikely he will get a monster offer from another team, making a return to Boston all the more probable (perhaps one a one or two-year deal) as long as they can find common ground. As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Verdict: Re-sign.

Statistics and contract information via

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Luis Lopez: Baseball's Timeless Wonder

With rapidly escalating salaries, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep in mind that people play baseball for reasons other than a paycheck. The love of the game is still strong with many, and perhaps none more so than Luis Lopez, who has played for over 20 different teams in his career, is currently in his 20th season and still going strong.

The right-handed Lopez went undrafted following a solid career with Coastal Carolina University but latched on with the independent leagues, suiting up for two teams in 1995. Playing third base, he batted an impressive combined .325 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs in 59 games, which earned a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Over the next eight years, Lopez put up outstanding numbers, including a 1997 season that ended with a .358 batting average, 11 home runs and 99 RBIs. However, he became stuck at the Triple-A level until 2001 when he finally made his MLB debut with Toronto. Appearing in 41 games, he batted .244 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.

Among Lopez’s highlights in Toronto were his second major league hit being a home run off the Seattle Mariners’ Jamie Moyer on May 13, and a three game series against the Tampa Bay Rays from July 3-5 that saw him go a combined 8-for-12 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs.

Despite proving he could play in the majors, his only other time on the game’s biggest stage was an 11 game stint with the Montreal Expos in 2004. He has played in the organizations of the Atlanta Braves and the Oakland Athletics, and also spent time playing in Japan and Mexico but returned to the independent leagues- where it all started for him- in 2007 and has been there since.

Now 40, Lopez is still plugging away, playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League. He is in his seventh season with the team, the longest tenure he has ever had with any one stop in his career. Although he has perhaps slowed down a bit from his headier days, he still sees regular playing time. In 53 games, he is hitting .218 with two home runs and 18 RBIs, and was even recently managed for a day by Pete Rose, who made a promotional appearance with the team.

Lopez’s major league stats (.228, three home runs and 10 RBIs in 52 games) may seem meager but what he has done in his other opportunities show the impact he has had on the game. In his 2,154 career non-MLB games, he has hit a combined .293 with 170 home runs, 1,253 RBIs and 2,346 base hits, all while garnering numerous awards and distinctions. For more information on his career numbers, make sure to check out his page.

Back in 2011, I had an opportunity to ask Lopez some questions. Check out what baseball’s timeless dynamo had to say—and don’t count out seeing him play for a team near you sometime in the future.

Luis Lopez Interview:

Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up, and why?: The Yankees. I have a few players; Edgar Martinez, Julio Franco, Tony Gwynn, Juan Gonzalez, Cal Ripken; because they all played hard and all could hit.

Can you describe what your first signing experience out of college was like?: Thank God for independent leagues. If not I would have never had a chance.

Who has been your most influential coach or manager, and why?: Wow! There are a few. If it wasn't for minor league managers like Rocket Wheeler and JJ Cannon, I never would have gotten a chance. Then there's Buck Martinez, my first big league manager. Also, our assistant GM was Dave Stewart. He felt I should have been in the bigs way before I got there.

What is your favorite moment from your playing career?: Playing in Yankee Stadium in front of about 30 family members. Growing up in New York, it was a dream come true. 

How much does the thought of getting back to the majors drive you to continue playing?: Every day. I know I still can hit and I have the mentality to be able to come off the bench or spot start. A lot of my friends in the bigs still feel I can do it at that level. 

If you could do anything differently about your baseball career to date, what would that be?: I probably wouldn't have left Atlanta to go to Japan. It was a great experience but I went there too young. Atlanta wanted me to be the righty off the bench, and they let one of the players I looked up to walk; Julio Franco. He signed with the Mets. 

Can you describe what your experience was like during your stints in the majors?: Great! Everything you worked for. I have great stories. One I will always remember was my first at bat. I was intentionally walked! Hahaha.

How long do you think you will continue to play professionally?: As long as I keep producing and that fire is there, I will play. And it's still there! 

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

The MLB All-Underrated Team

This piece was originally published on

Baseball is a game of stars. The likes of Derek Jeter and David Ortiz, who make their mark in the flashiest of ways have a knack of sticking around the limelight throughout their careers. While they may get the bulk of the attention, there are certainly many underrated players who can be just as valuable, yet toil away in relative obscurity.

Although there are many worthy candidates, here are my picks for the 2014 MLB all-underrated team.

Catcher- Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers (.338, 8 Home Runs, 38 RBIs): The 28-year-old can flat out hit, and is quite possibly the best hitting catcher in the game today. Since the start of the 2012 season, he has hit a combined .306 and seen a spike in his power numbers. He doesn’t have the strongest arm (25 percent career caught stealing) behind the plate but is overall a solid defensive receiver.

First Base- Brandon Moss, Oakland A’s (.259, 17 Home Runs, 55 RBIs): A classic pick-up from the scrap heap, he was a prospect of moderate expectations who showed little in stints with three teams prior to arriving in Oakland in 2012. His calling card is his power, which has resulted in 51 home runs his previous two seasons combined. His ability to play the outfield and first base, and more than hold his own against southpaw pitchers (.847 OPS in 2014) as a left-handed batter only adds to his value.

Second Base- Daniel Murphy, New York Mets (.300, 5 Home Runs, 26 RBIs): The 29-year-old left-handed hitter is a jack of many trades and a master of none. He can hit a little (.291 career), has a little pop (.758 career OPS but never more than 13 home runs in any one season) and can swipe a bag when needed (double digits in steals the past three seasons). Not the strongest defensive player, his 110 career OPS+ on a generally weak Mets’ lineup during his six year career is what makes him particularly underrated.

Shortstop- Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox (.304, 7 Home Runs, 36 RBIs): Perhaps overrated during the first six years of his major league career, he is now well under the radar despite being in the midst of a career season. He remains an effective and flashy defender, and his 12 stolen bases to date indicate he still has game-changing speed even as he enters his mid-30s.

Third Base- Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (.307, 8 Home Runs, 35 RBIs): Now in his 17th MLB season, and looking like a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame, it’s funny to think he is underrated. However, it is an unfortunate truth. He is still a plus defender at the age of 35, and as long as he stays healthy should surpass big career milestones like 2,500 hits and 400 home runs this year. He already went past the 500 double mark, and his career WAR of 72.4 is the best of any third baseman of all-time who is not in the Hall of Fame (except for Chipper Jones who is a mortal lock for enshrinement as soon as he is eligible in 2017).

Outfield- Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (.290, 8 Home Runs, 39 RBIs): A converted third baseman, the 30-year-old is now one of the strongest defensive outfielders in the game, with 73 assists in five seasons. With a career .784 OPS and 111 OPS+, he can also hit a little. Although he was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft and has never become a superstar, he is far from being a bust.

Outfield- Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians (.326, 11 Home Runs, 46 RBIs): The 27-year-old has already surpassed the career of his father, former outfielder Mickey Brantley. Now in his sixth season in the majors, he has gotten better with each passing year and has been at his best in 2014, already surpassing his previous best in home runs. The left-handed hitter has just a .664 OPS against lefties in his career but has seen that figure skyrocket to .872 this season.

Outfield- Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants (.307, 3 Home Runs, 19 RBIs): He has made a career on doing the little things, as evidenced by his .283 batting average, 144 stolen bases and strong defense over nine major league seasons. The 32-year-old switch hitter hasn’t lost a step and is having a prototypical year for the National League West front-running Giants. Pagan may not get a lot of attention but he is often in the thick of the action for his team.

Starting Pitcher- Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros (8-4, 2.63 ERA): After posting an ERA of over 5.00 his first two major league seasons, the southpaw has made a huge leap in 2014. He has significantly cut his walks while allowing fewer hits and home runs, and posting the  best strikeout rate of his career. Just 24, he was never a major prospect but appears to have made himself into a frontline starting pitcher. He doesn’t throw especially hard but has a varied arsenal that allows him to keep hitters off balance. His steady results on a rebuilding team have been invaluable, as he has pitched at least five innings in every one of his starts this year.

Relief Pitcher- Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals (5-1, 1.11 ERA in 29 Games): Once a highly regarded prospect, the big right-hander had several decent seasons in Tampa Bay before coming over to the Royals in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade in 2012. A miserable 8-11 record and 5.32 ERA last year pitching primarily as a starter was erased by his triumphant move to the bullpen this year. Now used exclusively in relief, he has become a shutdown option, striking out 54 while permitting just 13 hits in 32.1 innings. Now that he is pitching in shorter stints, his velocity is up (averaging a career-high 95.2 MPH on his fastball). If the team ever decided to trade All-Star closer Greg Holland, Davis would be the logical choice as successor.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ted Williams, My Father: A Review

This piece was originally published on

The legacies of baseball players are largely represented in popular culture by their statistics and the retelling of their greatest physical feats. Rarely is the curtain truly drawn back to permit a full view of the person who exists beyond the diamond. Not all compelling baseball books have to be about the player’s career. An excellent example of that is the recently released Ted Williams, My Father (Ecco Books- an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers), which is a memoir written by the Hall-of-Fame outfielder’s daughter Claudia Williams.

Although there are the occasional mentions of accomplishments like the magical .406 season, the MVP awards and the famous “red seat home run,” this is not a book about Ted Williams’ baseball career. It’s a revelation of his personal life and his experiences as a father, which may have been much less successful than his athletic endeavors, but were not a failure either.

Claudia Williams was born in the early 1970s, a decade after her father ended his legendary career. Growing up, she was rather unaware of his exploits as a baseball player and decorated war veteran. Although she saw countless people attempt to get close to him based on those merits, that never mattered to her. It was all about having a familial relationship with her complicated father.

As perfect as Ted Williams was as a baseball player, he could never match that same success in his personal life.  A volatile personality that frequently erupted in bouts of aggravation and profanity-laced outbursts of anger earned him the nickname of “the Beast” from his daughter. He also struggled with women, going through three divorces and a contentious relationship with his first-born daughter Bobby-Jo. Claudia makes no bones about acknowledging her father’s chauvinistic and often difficult attitudes and behaviors, but also acknowledges they may have originated from his childhood, which came in a non-ideal situation where his parents were frequently absent.

Instead of pushing away the man with so many personal foibles and faults, Claudia chose to embrace him and adapt her expectations accordingly. By doing so, she was able to forge a strong connection that she admits was more like being “buddies” than the traditional father-daughter. Nevertheless, she got the most out of what he was capable of providing.

As she came to know her father, Claudia began to understand that like everyone else, her father had many good points among his shortcomings. He was an extremely charitable man, not only working with organizations like the Jimmy Fund but often assisting individuals in need. He was also an early champion of black baseball players, helping pave the way for their inclusion in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For as difficult as his inter-personal relationships could be, he Claudia warmly remembers his softer and giving side which was often almost to a fault.

She shares countless stories that show a side of Williams that are likely completely unknown to the common fan, including:

-His obsession with oral hygiene, which consisted of an aggressive brushing routine, and a love of mouthwash so strong that at one point he had a crystal decanter of it in his bathroom.

-A love of the space program spawned out of a lifelong curious nature and a lengthy friendship with astronaut John Glenn.

-His burning desire to silence critics and please his fans. He cared deeply about how people saw him, and wanted to avoid making himself a target of criticism. Naturally, being such a prominent public figure, that often didn’t work out well.

Being a hero athlete and veteran, Ted saw a steady stream of people latch on to him throughout his life, looking for his money and influence, his companionship and even just his time. Claudia takes to task some of the people she believes let her and her father ranging from fans and groupies, to unscrupulous memorabilia dealers, to family members like Bobby-Jo. Although she and her brother John Henry were often lampooned in the press in their father’s final years and after his death for their influence in his life, she takes great care in explaining that these stories were frequently half-truths or out-and-out falsehoods.

Following Ted’s death in 2002, much of the public conversation about him focused on his decision to participate in cryonics, which is the low-temperature preservation of remains in the hopes that an eventual revival is achieved through future advances in science and medicine. Instead of glossing over this topic, Claudia attacks it with gusto and detail, expressing her disappointment that a private family decision about such a sensitive matter became a bull’s eye for criticism and vitriol.

Ted literally wrote the bible of hitting, as his 1971 The Science of Hitting is still regarded a seminal work. Even though he may have been better at hitting a small leather ball with a piece of worked lumber more than anyone else before him or since, it was inconsequential to his daughter. She realized early on that his superior skills as an athlete and soldier didn’t translate to parenting. However, she embraced this imperfect man with patience and persistence, and came away cherishing his presence in her life. Her journey to understand and feel accepted by her father is the compelling driving force of Ted Williams, My Father, and shows a side of the famous ballplayer that numbers and barroom anecdotes never will.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Checking On the 2015 MLB Free Agents

This piece was originally published on

The 2014 MLB season is a little bit past its first third, with plenty of excitement having already transpired. While there is still untold action and drama left to unfold, it’s never too early to discuss the future, especially when it comes to impending free agents.

Here’s a look at what some of the best 2015 free agents are doing leading up to what they hope will be a bountiful offseason leading to rich contracts that will keep them and their families buying brand name only for generations to come.

Outfielder Nelson Cruz- .308 with 21 home runs and 55 RBIs for the Baltimore Orioles: The right-handed slugger lost out on his first big contract last offseason after serving a 50-game suspension in light of the Biogenesis investigation. Settling on a one-year deal with the Orioles, he seems determined to show his baseball skills remain intact, leading the American League in homers and RBIs. He should see plenty of multi-year offers, but his abysmal defense and age that is creeping into the mid-30s will keep teams from extending anything too foolhardy.

Starting Pitcher Jorge De La Rosa- 6-4 with a 3.68 ERA for the Colorado Rockies: One of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, the southpaw rebounded from injuries in 2011-2012 to regain his steady form. His career record of 38-13 with a 4.09 ERA in the notorious pitcher graveyard known as Coors Field is a testament to his abilities. If the Rockies don’t bring him back, any number of teams would be pleased to bring him aboard to lock down the middle of their rotation.

Shortstop Stephen Drew- .000 with 0 home runs and 0 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox: After failing to land a long-term deal to his liking last offseason, Drew resigned with Boston only recently on a pro-rated basis. His steady glove will be a plus, but his age (32 next season) and having not hit better than .253 since 2010 will hold him back from getting a monster deal. Regardless, some team with a hole at shortstop (hello New York Yankees?) will go after this veteran now that he will no longer be tied to qualifying offer compensation.

Starting Pitcher Jon Lester- 6-6 with a 3.15 ERA for the Boston Red Sox: Seemingly the most natural fit to return to his current club because of all he has been through with them, that is far from being a lock right now. After a down 2012, the lefty returned to elite status last season, and is pitching even better in 2014. He is on pace for a career high of 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings, and at the age of 30 is in the prime of his career. A reported extension offered earlier this year by Boston seemed surprisingly light in both years and dollars, and was rejected. Nevertheless, it will be somewhat of a shock if he is pitching in a different uniform next year.

Designated Hitter Victor Martinez- .332 with 14 home runs and 36 RBIs for the Detroit Tigers: The definition of a professional hitter, the veteran is the heir apparent to David Ortiz for the title of best DH in baseball. Able to play first base (or even catch) in a pinch, Martinez is best-suited for a team looking to exploit his potent bat. The switch-hitter will be 36 next season but is showing no signs of slowing down, currently standing second in the league in batting average and posting a .976 OPS that is on pace to shatter his previous career high. He will be a fantastic addition for any team lucky enough to get him to sign his name on the dotted line.

Starting Pitcher Justin Masterson- 3-4 with a 4.72 ERA for the Cleveland Indians: One of the nicest guys in the game, it appeared the tall righty was turning into an ace with his work over the past few years. However, he has taken a bit of a step back in 2014, especially with his control, as he leads the league in walks and is on pace for a career-high 4.5 free passes per nine innings. Death on right-handed hitters (career .590 OPS permitted), he is a welcome sight to lefties, who have tuned him up for a .786 OPS. Although he may find it difficult to get paid like an ace, he will have no shortage of suitors who will covet what he does bring to the table and the 200 innings he has averaged over the past four seasons.

Shortstop Hanley Ramirez- .258 with 9 home runs and 35 RBIs for the Los Angeles Dodgers: Never known for stellar defense, Ramirez’s potent bat will earn him his money this offseason. With a career .300 batting average, the 30-year-old right-handed hitter can still swing the stick and has power, but has lost some of the speed that saw him swipe 32 bases as recently as 2010. A near-lock to be signed as a third baseman, he is still a strong candidate for a deal that reaches nine figures.

Third Baseman Pablo Sandoval- .247 with 8 home runs and 26 RBIs for the San Francisco Giants: It’s feast or famine (figuratively, not usually literally) with the big slugging corner infielder who has famously struggled with fluctuating weight. After a horrendous start to this season that saw him hitting .177 with two home runs through April, the 27-year-old switch-hitter has batted .299 with six homers since. Interested teams will have to reconcile the possibility maintaining his conditioning with his .294 career batting average and being a key member of two World Series winning teams in his first seven seasons.

Starting Pitcher Max Scherzer- 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA for the Detroit Tigers: The 29-year-old flame-throwing righty bet on himself when he turned down a reportedly huge contract extension from the Tigers this spring. Last year’s Cy Young Award winner has made at least 30 starts in each of the past five seasons and seems to have surpassed his more celebrated rotation-mate Justin Verlander. If Scherzer can’t elicit the largest contract next offseason on his production alone, he may be able to mesmerize one on the strength of his two-toned peepers.

Starting Pitcher James Shields- 6-3 with a 3.68 ERA for the Kansas City Royals: Appearing well on his way to eclipsing the 200-inning mark for the eighth consecutive season, the right-handed Shields is a durable workhorse. Still an extremely effective pitcher, teams may want to exercise caution when vetting his contract demands. He will be 33 next season and there have to be questions about how much longer he can remain so durable. Additionally, his hits allowed per nine innings have been on the rise in each of the past three years, while his strikeouts per nine have declined during that same time. He should be a valuable addition to any rotation, but betting the farm on him heading a rotation for a long stretch may be a dangerous proposition.

Statistics via

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Texas Rangers' Pitching Prospect Cody Ege Starting Out Hot

Professional baseball players hope to hit the ground running at the start of their careers. With so many peers surrounding them, competing for limited jobs, getting out strong is of the essence. A player with one of the best starts one could hope for belongs to Texas Rangers pitching prospect Cody Ege, who has piled up positive results in the early going.

The left-handed Ege was a three-time All-State selection at Washington High school in Cherokee, Iowa, finishing with the seventh-lowest ERA in state high school history. After a 6-2 record and 0.97 ERA as a senior, he headed off to college at Louisville.
Ege immediately became a shutdown reliever for the Cardinals. In 78 career games over three seasons, he was an impressive 6-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 58.2 innings.

He was 4-1 with a 1.04 ERA in 2013, with his biggest contribution being the game-clinching strikeout he had of Vanderbilt’s Mike Yastrzemski (grandson of Carl) to send Louisville to the College World Series. His production was enough to earn the junior a 15th-round selection by the Rangers in the that year’s MLB Draft.

As previously mentioned, the southpaw burst out of the gate like he had been there before. He pitched at three different levels last year, going a combined 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA in 17 games, while striking out 39 in 30 innings.

The 23-year-old is off to another strong start this season, pitching for High Single-A Myrtle Beach. He is 3-0 with a 4.00 ERA and two saves in 14 relief appearances, and has struck out 25 in 27 innings.

This past offseason, I was able to ask Ege some questions about his career. Keep reading for more information on this fast-moving prospect.

Cody Ege Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: While I was growing up I had a few favorite players. A couple to name would be Cal Ripken Jr., Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez.

I liked Ripken because of the toughness he had. To play in so many consecutive games is insane.

I liked Palmeiro because of his beautiful left handed swing. And A-Rod always had my attention from the beginning because he dominated at a young age.

How did you wind up attending Louisville?: Matt Koch, a former high school teammate, attended Louisville the year before me. His dad, Scott, was our high school coach, and he made sure I would throw every time someone was there to watch Matt. The deal was sealed after I went down to Jupiter, Florida and threw down there for a team from Chicago. Took my visit to Louisville and knew that’s where I wanted to call home for the next few years.

Can you describe what the draft process was like for you?: The draft process was simple for me. I didn’t want to think about it at all because we had a chance to go to Omaha. So the process was simple. I was so focused on the game I didn’t have time to think about the draft.

What pitches do you throw and which do you think you need to work on the most?: I throw a fastball, slider and changeup. I think I just need to develop every pitch and build confidence to be able to throw any pitch in any count. Just to develop my game all around.

You had a great professional debut in 2013. How can you top that?: The three months I played professionally was as fun as it gets. Every outing I wanted to show everyone what I was made of. The one thing I will never be is complacent. To be called complacent could be the worst thing you could ever be called. I will always be hungry for more no matter who I’m playing or what level I am at.

What was the most difficult thing to get used to about being a professional player?: The toughest thing to get used to was playing every day of the week. In college you have to be ready for three days of the week. Professionally, it’s every day. Every single day you need to go out and work your tail off to get yourself better without a coach holding your hand.

Who has been your most influential coach or manager?: There have been several coaches that have influenced me throughout my career. I have been blessed with coaches that have only wanted the best for me and the teams. It makes it easy to play for guys like that.

What will you need to do to be able to make the major leagues?: I think to make the league it’s all about consistency and resilience. The guys that play in the majors are exactly that. Each and every day they go out you know what you’re going to get from them. And when they fail, they bounce back the next day and are hungry for another opportunity. 

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Boston Red Sox Prospect Watch for June 1, 2014

This article was originally published at

That whirring sound you may be hearing is the motor of the Boston Red Sox’s farm system churning out players for the big league club at an impressive rate. Despite winning the 2013 World Series, the team is also in the midst of a youth movement and has had a number of youngsters making their mark of late.

Right-handed pitcher Rubby De La Rosa was summoned to Boston following the placement of starter Clay Buchholz on the disabled list with a hyper-extended knee. The 25-year-old, known as “Baby Pedro” to some, did a reasonable impression of his nickname-sake last night by scattering four hits in seven shutout innings while punching out eight batters against the Tampa Bay Rays. Not only did he dial up his fastball to 97-98 MPH, he also showed a nasty changeup that had batters flailing all night. Although it is one start, it was a reminder of the vast potential of this pitcher, who came to the Red sox in the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett/Nick Punto trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

One player who seems to be flying under the radar is infielder Brock Holt. He has done a very nice job of filling in at third base for the injured Will Middlebrooks, both in the field and at the plate. The left-handed hitter belted his first career home run last night, and is batting .305 with nine RBIs and two stolen bases in 21 games. He profiles as more of a utility player but his recent run has proven his ability to be a productive major league player.

Outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. hit his first home run of 2014 last night. While his bat has heated up a bit over the past week (6-27 with six RBIs), he is still struggling to get back to his standard patient plate approach. He has walked just once in the past 19 games, after drawing 16 free passes in his first 32 games. Surprisingly, his 3.91 pitches seen per at-bat still ranks 42nd in the American League. If he can just get a little streak going, he may finally break through into the player so many have anticipated.

Third baseman Garin Cecchini was just called up to make his major league debut. The 23-year-old left-handed hitter has a career .307/.408/.440 split in four minor league seasons. Despite a big frame (6’3” and 220 pounds) he has never shown much power but has always been an extra base hit machine. Although he is hitting .278 this season, he has just one home run and seven doubles in 50 games at Triple-A. A short-term roster fill-in while Stephen Drew continues to get ready, it will at least get his feet wet and give fans a chance to see a player with Kevin Seitzer-like abilities.

Infielder Xander Bogaerts continues to rake, posting a .408/.482/.612 split over the past two weeks with seven doubles, a home run and six RBIs. Despite various rumblings about supposed struggles earlier in the season, the 21-year-old ranks third in the American League in on-base percentage and 16th in OPS, carrying himself like a seasoned veteran.

The relative struggles of catcher Christian Vazquez with his bat at Triple-A have to be somewhat alarming. Often mentioned as possibly taking over the starting reins in Boston as early as 2015, he is not showing much right now that indicates he can fulfill that prophecy. His is hitting .264 in 39 games with just 10 RBIs and an 11/30 BB/K ration that projects to be the worst of his seven-year professional career. However, he continues to show a plus glove and arm, which was always his ticket to the bigs anyways.

Right-handed starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo may be the next hurler summoned to Boston’s rotation if the need arises. The 24-year-old has been dominant at Triple-A, allowing just one run in his past three starts, spanning 19.1 innings. On the year, he is 5-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 53 in 59 innings. The only blemish to speak of is the 32 walks he has issued, which represent a significant spike from past seasons.

He doesn’t get the publicity of many of the organization’s other top prospects, but left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson is turning into an intriguing player to watch. The 23-year-old former first-round draft choice has split this year between High Single-A and Double-A, going a combined 6-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 11 starts. He has struck out 62 in 61 innings while giving up just one home run. He doesn’t have the kind of overpowering arsenal that can attract attention; he just knows how to pitch. There are many reasons to believe he could be a serious option for the Boston rotation at some point in the coming years.

The power potential of catcher Blake Swihart seems to finally be emerging. Playing at Double-A Portland, he already has five homeruns after hitting just a total of nine in his first three professional seasons. He has appeared in 42 games, hitting .293 with 10 doubles and 24 RBIs. While the switch-hitter’s bat is garnering the attention, it’s the 50 percent of base stealers he has nabbed that should have people buzzing.
Could the Red Sox have another prospect in corner infielder Jantzen Witte? The right-handed hitter is batting .364 with five home runs and 43 RBIs in 51 games with Single-A Greenville. He also has 22 doubles and a ridiculous .453 OBP. While he may certainly have a future, it is important to note that last year’s 24th-round pick is also 24, which is old for the league. The proof will be in the pudding once he is promoted and can show if he is able to sustain his high level of play.

Statistics obtained from and

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