Give or take a few games here or there for various teams around the league, we’re approximately one-third of the way through the MLB season! It’s been a pretty solid one for the Red Sox all things considered. They currently sit 2.0 games out of first place in the American League and hold the top Wild Card spot. It’s time to hand out some grades for the first trimester to some of the key players this season. Here are the 14 individuals I deemed worth grading on their performances so far:
Xander Bogaerts: A+
There’s pretty much nothing bad you can say about Xander Bogaerts right now. He’s seventh in the league in batting average, he’s on pace to have his second career 30+ home run season, and he currently boasts the third best odds to win AL MVP. The Red Sox offense is top three in baseball and Xander Bogaerts is one of the top two reasons why and the other is…
Martinez isn’t far behind Bogaerts in that MVP race, sitting in 8th at 25-1. Martinez has continued to hit at an elite level all season, ranking fifth in the league in average. However, his power hasn’t been as consistent. He’s only hit three home runs in May after hitting nine in April. If it wasn’t for that, he’d have an A+.
After starting the season with a batting average of .105 through his first 19 at bats, Devers has been pretty much perfect. He’s tied for sixth in the league in home runs and tied for the league lead in doubles. The Red Sox three-headed monster of Bogaerts, Martinez and Devers pretty much ranks first, second and third on the team in every major hitting category besides batting average.
Alex Verdugo: B
The only player to crack the top three in batting statistic that’s not a part of the aforementioned three-headed monster, Verdugo has followed up his solid showing in 2020 with a pretty decent start to 2021. His batting average is down significantly, but he’s already hit one more home run and has eight more runs batted in than he finished with last season. Verdugo is nowhere near the level of the Red Sox top three hitters, but he’s been a solid compliment to their dominance at the plate and unquestionably their fourth best hitter.
Bobby Dalbec: D+
Despite getting consistent at-bats, Dalbec hasn’t produced the way it was hoped he would after 23 eye-opening games in 2020. Dalbec’s average is way down (.209) and he hasn’t shown anything close to the same power he did last season. Dalbec hit eight home runs in 80 at bats last year and has only left the yard five times in 139 at bats so far this season. A sophomore slump doesn’t mean all hope is lost for Dalbec to become an everyday ball player, but he certainly isn’t playing like one now.
The Red Sox might’ve been better off keeping Andrew Benintendi after all. Boston’s former left fielder is hitting .283 with the Royals this season while their main chip from the deal that shipped him to Kansas City is batting an abysmal .179. Cordero gets an F for his lackluster performance and so does Chaim Bloom. Holding onto Benintendi to give him the opportunity to replenish his value, whether the Red Sox wanted to keep him or not, was always the smart move and it seems like everyone in Boston knew that except Bloom.
Nathan Eovaldi: A-
Eovaldi’s only really had three bad outings this season. He’s allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of his 11 starts and in one of the games in which he gave up four runs, Cordero should’ve been charged with an error for inexplicably losing track of a fly ball in left field that allowed one of those runs to come in and another was scored after he had already been pulled. Eovaldi also posted a season-high 10 strikeouts in that game and all of that was against the White Sox, one of the best offenses in baseball. The Red Sox pseudo ace also boasts a 1.17 WHIP and has only given up one home run this season, both by far the best amongst Boston’s starters. That’s also while leading the team in innings pitched this season.
Nick Pivetta: A-
Pivetta has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. He’s second amongst Red Sox starters in WHIP and strikeouts per nine innings. His 3.86 ERA isn’t anything special, but it’s been good enough for him to remain undefeated through May. Although he doesn’t deserve all the credit for his 6-0 record, it’s still pretty impressive. Pivetta has been exactly as good as the Red Sox have needed him to be on a nightly basis to have a chance to win behind their stellar offense.
Garrett Richards: A-
After just about the worst debut you could’ve possibly asked for, giving up six earned runs in two innings to the dreadful Orioles, Richards has actually been okay. His $10 million dollar price tag doesn’t look quite as embarrassing as it did after his first outing. Richards has proved to be a more than reliable arm in the Red Sox rotation. Since that horrible game against Baltimore, Richards has posted a 2.94 ERA over his last nine starts. That would rank 7th in the MLB for the entire season.
So far, 2021 hasn’t been all that much better than 2020 for Rodriguez. For two straight years now, he’s been penciled in as the Red Sox ace to start the season with Chris Sale sidelined. A case of COVID-19 stopped him from fulfilling that duty last season and this year, he’s proven that anointing him with that title was never going to be the right decision. He has the worst ERA on the staff and has given up seven home runs, three more than any other starter despite having the fewest number of innings pitched. His 5.06 ERA is more than a full run higher than anyone else on the starting staff. He’s been a disaster and probably the most disappointing player on the roster through the first two months.
Matt Barnes: A-
In the long run, the Red Sox might still be better served to find an upgrade at closer, but Barnes is doing a better job than anyone could’ve expected. He been almost perfect. He’s posting a career-best ERA that’s a full run better than he’s posted in any other season in his career. Here is where Barnes ranks among the league’s closers in a few major stats:
Matt Barnes ranks among closers (minimum 8 save opportunities, 23 qualify):
His ERA stands out as subpar, but he’s getting the job done at an elite level in every other key category. The most important thing, he’s only blown one save so far. As long as he’s closing out wins most of the time, nothing else matters.
Garrett Whitlock: A+
The biggest surprise of the Red Sox season, Whitlock has been a godsend. He leads the team in innings pitched out of the bullpen and has been exactly what Boston has been lacking for years: a reliever that can come in and get you safely to the 8th inning. Not only has he been the Red Sox best reliever, he’s almost certainly been their best pitcher and you could make a real argument he’s been their fourth most important player this season.
Why the Red Sox feel the need to keep going back to Andriese is beyond comprehension. He’s been the polar opposite of Whitlock this year. He has the worst ERA and WHIP of any pitcher on the team, he has the worst strikeouts per nine innings average of any Red Sox reliever, he’s tied for the most home runs given up among Boston relief pitchers and yet he’s pitched the 3rd most innings out of the bullpen behind Whitlock and Barnes. It boggles the mind why Alex Cora won’t go to LITERALLY ANYBODY ELSE. The fact that Andriese is even still on the roster is astonishing.
Alex Cora: A-
Besides some questionable pitching moves, Cora has provided the Red Sox with exactly what they needed him to. A leader that the players like and want to play for. It’s hard to imagine Xander Bogaerts being back at the top of his game doesn’t have something to do with Cora being back in the manager seat. It’s fair to question the role of a manager in baseball, especially in this day and age, but Cora’s impact is clearly real.
Photo: (John Bazemore – AP Photo / Michael Dwyer – AP Photo / Chris Szagola – AP Photo)