J5: Sox surprises for 2019

Last week in the Jackson 5 I talked about 5 of the biggest questions the Boston Red Sox face in the 2019 spring training. Continuing on that spring feel, let’s take a look at five players that could possibly answer some of those questions, or at the very least surprise some people.

 

  1. Darwinzon Hernandez: It’s become clear that the Red Sox front office plans on going with a “strength in numbers” approach when it comes to filling their bullpen. Whereas in the past we’ve looked to big name, established players, now they’re planning on using guys that haven’t been proven quite yet. That’s where this guy comes in. All of the Sox brass has already taken some time to watch him in spring training, and he certainly has the stuff. With a high 90’s fastball he struck out 124 batters in 101 innings in Salem last year. While the jump from High A to MLB is significant, this seems like the type of player the Red Sox are planning on filling the bullpen with.
  2. Zach Putnam: You’ve likely never heard of this guy, but he’s actually had some success in the majors. He made his debut in Cleveland in 2011, but really hit his stride with the Chicago White Sox in 2014, finishing the year with a 1.98 ERA over 54 innings. His next season saw the ERA up over 4, and he’s been up and down with varying success since then. He’s coming off Tommy John surgery in 2017, but before that had a cutter and fastball in the low 90’s complemented by his top pitch, a mid 80’s splitter. He might need a little time in AAA to start the year, but he’s definitely a bullpen candidate.
  3. Sam Travis: Unfortunately for Sam Travis the questions surrounding him are not positive ones. It seems like forever ago that the young first baseman, at the time a top 3 prospect in their system, lit spring training on fire with a .536 batting average. He then went to AAA and continued to mash before a knee injury ruined his 2016 season. He hasn’t been the same since. Travis now has one option left, so it’s put up or shut up time for him, especially considering that neither Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are anything more than a band aid at first. If he can prove this spring that 2016 wasn’t a fluke he might have a future in Boston. Otherwise, he might be just another player to be named later in a deadline deal.
  4. Chad De La Guerra: The 26 year old finds himself buried beneath a ton of players at the second base position to start camp, but it’s a shallow grave. Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez may not be healthy enough to play baseball full time anymore. Brock Holt has shown cracks when he’s anything other than a super utility man. Tzu Wei Lin has never really been a real option long term, as is the case with Marco Hernandez. That brings us finally to De La Guerra. At 26 he’s a bit of a late bloomer, but he was great for Portland in 2017, hitting 31 doubles with a .283 average. Last year he lost some average at .242, but split time in AA and AAA while also hitting 16 home runs. With more pop than Hernandez or Lin and more health than Nunez or Pedroia La Guerra may find himself playing some second at Fenway if he has a good spring.
  5. Colten Brewer: Let’s go back to the bullpen for this last name. Brewer is a player the Red Sox picked up in a deal with San Diego. Alex Cora and Dave Dombrowski are said to have been targeting him for a while now, so they obviously see something there. He had a 3.75 ERA in AAA but a 5.59 ERA in the majors, which isn’t inspiring. His fastball isn’t awe inspiring in the low 90’s, but also mixes in a cutter, slider and curveball. This might be a case of the Sox seeing something in a guy that other teams didn’t, and it could unlock potential that otherwise wasn’t there.

 Aaron Jackson is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.