(Photo Credit: Sun Journal)
By Joshua Nord – @nordjoshua
It’s April, it’s still early, but most importantly the Red Sox are winning. At the time of this writing the Sox sit atop the American League East while their rivals sit below the Blue Jays, and around .500. This by all means is a good start. A great start in fact, historically the best start to a season Boston has had since 1920 in terms of record. However, there is always room for improvement.
I have selected three players that have gone under the radar to start the season. I expect these three to get it together because all of them are proven talents, making their slow starts all the more frustrating to watch.
This is perhaps the biggest source of under performance of anyone on the team with the only notable bullpen comparison being perhaps Joe Kelly, who has actually improved since the complete disaster that was opening day. Smith on the other hand, really hasn’t.
To show you what I’m talking about let’s look at his line this year thus far. The former Mariner has posted a 7.71 ERA, 2.14 WHIP, and five walks to six strikeouts in only 4.2 innings. This is terrible, even for just a handful of innings. What’s most concerning are the walks. Five of them in nearly five innings of work. You may remember one of these coming out of that 8th inning meltdown the the season opener after offering up a bases clearing triple to Denard Span.
Even in one of Smith’s most recent appearances in that stunning come from behind win against the Rays, his inning was less than stellar. He got three outs somehow without giving up a run despite a hit and two walks. Smith might be a special case since his stint with the Red Sox started with Tommy John surgery. That trade saw dear friend Wade Miley depart from us to Seattle with a prospect, in exchange for Smith and a starting pitcher who has yet to see the majors, Roenis Elias. However what was built around the trade doesn’t matter because the Smith was the primary target of that deal.
Tommy John surgery is an unfortunate reality for many pitchers nowadays, and it absolutely stinks to lose a perceived valuable set up man in a season you’re trying to compete in.
Smith has finally recovered, but it’s still it’s going take sometime to work out the kinks before he can bridge the gap to Kimbrel in close games. Boston needs a reliable setup man, so the sooner he delivers, the happier we will be.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley has always been especially frustrating to Sox fans as a player with limitless potential, and flashes of a stellar four to five tool player that never fully manifests itself for any sustained period.
What is a constant however, is that glove work. Even without any gold gloves, which of course is more owed to his extreme competition in center field, rather than any perceived defensive weakness. JBJ has proven even before he had consistent playing time that he was a magician in the outfield. Fooling the audience into believing circus catches and acrobatic acts were as easy as riding a bike.
Unfortunately, his bat never really caught up to the glove. Even in his best year, 2016. He had only hit a middling .267, with 87 RBI’s & 26 homers.
The streakiness of Bradley’s hitting often gets overlooked due to the fact he has two extremely offensively talented corner outfielders who take pressure off him. That remains the case this April as the former Gamecock is only hitting .133 before Wednesday’s game boosted it to .206. But still zero RBIs, just seven hits in 34 at-bats. Those numbers will rise with a healthy hitting streak, but with every peak there’s a valley, and it’s a shame he’s begun 2018 in a deep one.
Moreland is in a difficult situation due to being platooned Hanley Ramirez at first base. The signing of J.D. Martinez meant even less time on the field for the gold glover, which ironically his two counter parts are far, far from in terms of defense. Much like the aforementioned JBJ, his glove is better than his bat, and has also been a streaky hitter. The difference is that the outfield has less of a player surplus than first base.
So far in 2018, Moreland has 16 at-bats and two hits, albeit one was an impressive rally starting double, which eventually brought us back from a near certain loss to an improbable win.
The Mississippi native doesn’t have the weight on his shoulder as some other players in the lineup do, but solid plate appearances will be key in how the Red Sox juggle all these players around.