Miami Marlins Series Preview: Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox Visit Miami

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Aug 2, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Fans congratulate Boston Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez (13) after scoring a run during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Marlin Maniac: What has gone wrong with the Boston Red Sox in 2015?

Brandon Nickel: Everything at different times. When the pitching was at least sub-par, the Red Sox couldn’t score runs; when the hitters got a bit hot, the pitchers gave up big runs. The biggest issues lie with the big-name signings. Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez have been either hurt or hitting poorly for the expectations in their contracts. Maybe they were unrealistic expectations, but it still stings. Rick Porcello signs a huge contract before he even plays a full season for the Red Sox and now is on the disabled list after posting a 5-11 record. Justin Masterson just got designated for assignment, so very possibly we’ll never see him again in a Red Sox uniform. And Wade Miley‘s success on the mound has been a roller coaster affair, not knowing which one will show up.

The only thing worse than the signings, committing huge amounts of money to people who didn’t pan out, is trading John Lackey for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig. Kelly has been absolutely brutal when he tries to strike everyone out, keeping the ball up in the strike zone for opposing batters to crush, and Craig hasn’t found a way to get himself out of Triple-A limbo in Pawtucket.

All of those players were expected to make a big splash this season to resurrect the Red Sox from the AL East cellar this season, and, if anything, condemned the Fenway faithful to another year of misery.

Injuries to Clay Buchholz, Koji Uehara, and Christian Vazquez haven’t helped either.

MM: What were your initial reactions to the Hanley Ramirez/Pablo Sandoval signings and what do you think now? Can either player salvage their Red Sox career?

BN: Some of my colleagues on our staff at BoSox Injection held out great hope for the pair, especially Ramirez. Myself and a couple of others were not so sure. Speaking for myself, I felt that the Ramirez signing made very little sense. Sure he’s known for a great bat, but the man keeps getting hurt and had to adjust to one of the toughest positions in baseball, especially with the Green Monster in left field. I just did an article this morning about how Ramirez hit most of his home runs and RBIs early in the season and now is languishing in a funk at the plate. When I read that Ramirez was only taking 20 fly balls a day in spring training, with a couple pinging off of the left field fence, I knew that he wasn’t putting the time in to work on the craft and it’s shown in his being last place in terms of fielding percentage and range factor for all qualifying left fielders in both major leagues. You give up Yoenis Cespedes, who is fielding and hitting better than Ramirez, for a pitcher who can’t find the strike zone and a shortstop whom gets injured regularly. That’s not going to cut it. In fact, it shows how little Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington must think of how hard left field is to play.

With Sandoval, I felt that it was better than having Wil Middlebrooks stumble at third base. However, his sub-par batting with his defensive fumbles haven’t been the greatest. He hasn’t been a complete disaster, but when you’re being paid that much money to play, anything less than stellar is going to be noticed. The big issue for him (no pun intended) is his weight. John Farrell, the manager himself, even told the media that he needs to manage his body better, after that embarrassing incident when he ran from first to home and had to leave the game with ‘dehydration’. What professional athlete does not keep himself hydrated or takes care of his body? Nobody’s asking him to be a runway model, but have the energy to at least run around the bases without having a major health concern, please! He can add veteran advice about postseason play next year, as this year is a wash, but it must be hard for the younger players to take his words seriously when he can’t even take care of himself properly.

MM: There are rumblings of a potential front office change. What’s the latest on that situation and how do you think the team should handle it?

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BN: Larry Lucchino steps down with Sean Kennedy taking his spot. At the moment, I don’t think the team will feel one way or the other about it, as there are enough veterans on the squad who will just worry about their own problems on the field. The only ones who will worry about it more are the younger players who haven’t cemented their spots yet, but that would happen even if Lucchino was staying. Any of the big signings will likely start worrying more about the move at the end of the season, as Kennedy will want to put his stamp on the new regime. If I was Porcello, Sandoval, or even Cherington himself, I’d be nervous. Kelly, Craig, and Masterson should, maybe, already be thinking about new destinations to play with the way that 2015 worked out for them. Possibly Ramirez as well, although something big will have to happen because the Red Sox can’t afford to lose Ramirez’s bat at the moment.

MM: Let’s turn to something positive. What about this Sox season has been fun to watch? Which players have emerged onto the scene and made a name for themselves?

BN: The Beantown Babes, as I’ve called them, have been a blast to watch.

Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts were question marks at the beginning of the season and have turned into leaders. Arguably, Betts and Bogaerts should have made the All-Star team, especially Bogaerts as he’s got the numbers and the defensive plays that seem far better than Kansas City’s shortstop whom actually started the game. You can thank the fan-voting process of Major League Baseball for that one, although Boston’s fans could also have stepped up more, knowing the process in advance and how the Royals’ followers swarm the online voting. Betts’ highlight reel catches and clutch-hitting have come up big to win close ballgames as well, making him the legitimate center fielder for the Red Sox for years to come.

Rusney Castillo is finally showing the bat that Boston paid a huge lump of money for from Cuba, playing in right field for the traded Shane Victorino. And Jackie Bradley had a huge game on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers, after being criticized for his weak bat. Put the prospects-turned-starters Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, and catcher Blake Swihart into the mix and you can see the young talent growing and blossoming brightly. Add a Christian Vazquez next season and we could have two All-Star caliber catchers very soon.

The team clearly needs to go with the youth movement, as those players are the ones who are carrying the team. Them and Big Papi David Ortiz, whose bat is so hot that they will need to have a fireman close by to put out the flames if it keeps going like this.

MM: What is the current state of the Boston Red Sox farm system and how soon will some of their top prospects be in Boston to help the team?

BN: The farm system is arguably one of the best. The only issue becomes whether Boston’s required need for replacements is bringing up some of the players too early. However, with recent improvements in the play of the recently-called-up, there’s some room for other players to move up the ladder. The big name to watch for is Yoan Moncada, another big signing earlier this year. He’s a second baseman who is only 20 years old and yet had every MLB team whom could afford him drooling. He’s playing for Class-A Greenville at the moment, but many scouts have expected him to rise quickly. When Dustin Pedroia decides to call it a career, you can bet that Moncada will take his spot alongside Bogaerts to be a dominant central infield, as long as the kid keeps developing well. My humble opinion is that it will still be a couple of years for that to happen, especially with Pedroia signed on for a number of years; however, if Pedroia keeps getting hurt, like he has this season, you never know.

Next: Pitching Matchups and Predictions