Over the course of the 2016 season, the Red Sox had re-established themselves as a powerhouse in the American League. There were several factors. The additions of David Price and Craig Kimbrel played an important part of the team’s success. David Ortiz also had a farewell season to remember. The biggest reason though was that the Red Sox young core had established itself as a force to be reckoned with. What made Red Sox Nation excited about this was that it wasn’t just going to impact the the 2016 season, but the team had a very bright future and would likely be a contender both short term and long term.
In 2016, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts all started in the AL All Star Game. Betts finished second in the MVP voting and a strong case could have been made that he should have won it. He hit .318 with 31 home runs and 113 RBI. In addition, he also led the league in total bases with 359. Bradley had a 29 game hit streak and finished the season with 26 home runs and 87 RBI. Both of these outfielders not only made their presence at the plate, but were also elite defensively. Bogaerts hit .294 with 21 homers and 89 RBI. He won the Silver Slugger Award for his position. Lastly, there was Andrew Benintendi. He was a late season call up who made a huge impact on the Red Sox late season run to win the AL East. He hit .295 with an .835 OPS in 34 games at age 22.
These four players were expected to continue their All Star caliber play and, in some cases, continue to develop. In Betts’ case, it’s tough to top a season where you’re a top two player in the league. However, at age 24, it was certainly a possibility that he could still improve. Bradley has been inconsistent at the plate from the start of his career, but another 25 homer, 85 RBI season was the trend that was set last year. As for Bogaerts, his power numbers really improved in 2016 and that was expected to continue to trend upward this season. Andrew Benintendi was the runaway choice for Rookie of the Year at the start of spring training.
As we sit here today, on August 2nd, here are the numbers of these four players:
Mookie Betts – .273, 17 HR, 67 RBI
Jackie Bradley Jr. – .260, 12 HR, 41 RBI
Xander Bogaerts – .281, 6 HR, 43 RBI
Andrew Benintendi – .262, 12 HR, 54 RBI
In summary, of these four players, only Bogaerts is hitting over .280 and he trending downward significantly. He’s close to an automatic out right now. Betts is the only player of the four projected to hit over 20 home runs. He’s also the only player of the four projected to get over 85 RBI. In fact, Bradley and Bogaerts aren’t even projected to reach 65. These four players, along with Hanley Ramirez, were expected to pick up where they left off last year and continue to produce offense.
It hasn’t happened.
We have to ask the question. Has the Red Sox young core already peaked? Certainly, Benintendi gets a pass. He’s a rookie and there’s going to be growing pains. He has shown signs of strong production, but has also struggled especially recently. In fact, it’s at the point now where John Farrell is starting Brock Holt over Benintendi on consecutive days. This is not supposed to be a platoon player. Betts is getting lumped into this group because he production is well off of what it was last year. With that said, overall, he’s still having a very good year. He started in the All Star Game for the second consecutive year and his defense remains outstanding. He also is on pace for 101 RBI from the leadoff spot. That’s right the best run producer on the team is in the leadoff spot! That’s a story for another day.
Bogaerts and Bradley haven’t produced at the plate this season. Most Red Sox fans can’t remember the last time Xander hit a home run and it’s gotten so bad for Bradley that he’s batting 9th tonight against the Indians. Remember…these were two players who hasn’t reached their prime yet who were All Stars last year.
The overall lack of production from the Red Sox core group is alarming. A team that, at this time last year, was said to be set up for success for money years is now in question long term. The reason is simply because the core players who had reached stardom have taken a step back in 2017 with the exception of Betts.
With that said, we can all hope that this is just a bump in the road and what we saw last season is what can be expected going forward. If not, the Sox long term future is in major jeopardy.