Sox Grades Part 1: Outfield
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As the offseason drags on, Prime Time Sports Talk is introducing a new series, Sox Grades. We will grade two or three players from the Red Sox at a time, based on both the eye test and the numbers. This is just our opinions on how certain players have overperformed or underperformed. This is taking into account the season a whole, both regular and post.
Writers Jordan Leandre and Jeremy Guerin will be giving their own individual take on each player. We will be excluding players like Sam Travis and Bobby Poyner, players who didn’t spend enough time in the majors to garner a grade. Without further ado, let’s jump into our first batch of players: the Killer B’s manning the outfield.
Andrew Benintendi- 2018 stat line: .290/.366/.465, 16 HR, 87 RBI, .830 OPS, 3.9 WAR
Jeremy: I couldn’t figure out Andrew Benintendi early in the year. He was downright putrid in April and picked it up come May—punctuated by a monster series against Houston at the beginning of June. Then he was quiet for the rest of the season. He didn’t put together a bad stat line—it was just quiet. Come the postseason, Benintendi was again just average batting-wise. But he made a huge catch to give Boston the win in Game 4 against Houston. The one thing I really liked to see from Benintendi? He ranked fourth in the AL in stolen base percentage. He showed a much better sense of baserunning this year than in years prior.
Jordan: I love what Andrew Benintendi provides for the Red Sox in all facets of the game. Benintendi had 20 home runs in 2017, which is where all of the “Benny Biceps” stuff came out. However, he got even bigger going into 2018 and wound up hitting just 16 homers. But his whole slash-line improved from 2017, he drove in more runs; but even as a Gold Glove finalist, his defense dropped off a little bit. I’d like to see him hit more home runs, and I think he will eventually be a constant 20/20 guy. Overall, he definitely deserves credit for improving on almost every aspect of his game.
Jackie Bradley Jr.- 2018 stat line: .234/.314/.403, 13 HR, 59 RBI, .717 OPS, 2.1 WAR
Jeremy: Jackie Bradley J. killed me. His average was hovering around the Mendoza line throughout most of the year until he went on one of his patented hot streaks and raised his average late. Bradley really paid dividends come the playoffs though. His monster American League Championship series was perhaps the biggest reason that Red Sox got past the Astros. But he was also getting benched midseason. A potent Red Sox lineup couldn’t even cover for him at times. He is always good at fielding, but it’s the same old story. Just figure it out with the bat—it doesn’t have to be .300, but even a mediocre bat could make Bradley Jr. very dangerous.
Jordan: I actually loved what Jackie Bradley Jr. did for the Red Sox in 2018. Even though his offense was pedestrian in the first half, he did a lot of work with J.D. Martinez and his personal coach for the second half. The results? A far more respectable slash-line of .269/.340/.487. Unlike what Jeremy said, Bradley did this with much more consistency than one hot streak; hitting .260 in July, .282 in August, and .264 in September. Not to mention he won his first career gold glove last season. His value far exceeds the offense, which he was able to contribute a lot more in the second half, especially with his ALCS MVP-winning performance against the Astros.
Mookie Betts- 2018 stat line: .346/.438/.640, 32 HR, 80 RBI, 1.078 OPS, 10.9 WAR
Jeremy: I mean, this was by far the easiest grade I have to give. MVP? Check. Batting champ? Check. He was the best player in baseball from wire to wire, and it wasn’t particularly close. He had a brief stretch where he was hurt, but overall he was a beast. His 13-pitch at-bat against the Blue Jays was one of the most memorable Sox moments during the regular season. His putrid playoff performance was only saved by the fact that he hit a homer in the deciding Game 5 against the Dodgers. Hats off to Mookie Betts; he deserves the money.
Jordan: I mean, the dude just won MVP. So, naturally, I’m sure all of us will be singing the Mookie Betts praise in this assessment. If you’re having a hard time finding flaws in how he performed in the regular season, that’s because there is nothing really to critique. However, hitting .210 in October isn’t really something to be proud of from an MVP-winning right fielder who wants to break the bank in a few years. He just settled for $20 million in arbitration, which means he’s on track to sign a lucrative contract when he officially hits the market. Having won a gold glove, a silver slugger, an All-Star game berth, and obviously the MVP award. The only thing keeping me from giving him an A+ was his mediocre performance in the playoffs.