By: Joe Spinosa
Throughout Major League Baseball, teams are hitting home runs at a record pace, but the Boston Red Sox are not following this trend. While the team has scored the eighth most runs in baseball, the team ranks last in the American League in terms of home runs. This is a startling statistic not only for this season, but also for the future of the club.
When looking at the Red Sox core offensively, plenty of young players come to mind including: Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers. The fact that these players are 27 years old or younger is very promising, but it appears that most of them have already reached their respective offensive ceilings.. First of all, outside of Devers, none of the players listed above are pure power hitters. Betts, Bradley, and Bogaerts have all regressed offensively this year and likely flashed their ceiling offensively in 2016. One interesting note about Jackie Bradley Jr. is that outside 3 outlier months, August 2015, May 2016, and June 2017, the centerfielder is a career .217 hitter. Almost every fan of the club knows that Bradley is streaky, but for the most part, he is a black hole in the lineup. Additionally, Betts and Bogaerts have regressed in 2017 and appear to be more like complementary stars rather than MVP candidates. Likewise, Benintendi has shown flashes of brilliance and is still young; nonetheless, he still doesn’t project to be a powerful superstar. This is a problem because as the league is hitting record amounts of homeruns, having a lineup whose best hitters are at around 20 homers does not bode well. In 2016, 111 players hit 20 or more home runs. With a over a month left in 2017, 75 players have already reached that mark, and none of those names are on the Red Sox. Rookie sensation Rafael Devers is the only young player who has 40 home run potential, but he has only been a big leaguer for a month.
Continuing with the signs for concern is the physical stature of the Red Sox young bats. Mookie Betts, the reigning runner-up for the AL MVP, is listed at 5’9 and 180 lbs; Andrew Benintendi is nearly the same size. Bogaerts is bigger than both but has yet to flash his power, especially in 2017. Now I’m not saying that a hitter has to be the size of Giancarlo Stanton or Aaron Judge to be a legitimate power threat, but it is hard for someone smaller than the average American male to be a premier home run hitter. Some people may say, “well Betts hit 31 homers last year,” and that is true. However, Betts relies on lightning quick hands and bat speed to produce power when pulling the ball, so even when hitting 30 bombs, Mookie does not have power to all fields. Bogaerts hit 21 dingers last year, but that looks to be more like the exception than the rule. Furthermore, even if he becomes a consistent 20 homer guy, that figure has become so common that hitting .300 is much more valuable. Likewise, the same logic applies to Benintendi who will likely top the 20 home run mark this season. With other young stars like Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, and Kris Bryant lighting up stadiums with towering moonshots, Red Sox Nation must remember that Boston's youngsters aren't built the same way, and it could hurt the team in October.
Organizationally, all the top talent is on the big club, and the farm system looks like a barren wasteland. Therefore, For at least the next few seasons, the current lineup looks to be the core of this team and the heart of the lineup, so fans should not anticipate to see a great number of home runs fly out of Fenway for the next season and a half. The Sox should still be able to manufacture runs and play an exciting brand of baseball. And hey, maybe in the vaunted 2018-19 offseason, John Henry can open up his purse and splurge on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.
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