Grading the Red Sox: McAdam's first-half report card


As befits a team that has been, alternately, putrid and improving, the grades for individual Red Sox players for their first-half performances are all over the proverbial map -- some good, a lot bat and some just average. Here are the grades...

The hope was that Barnes could offer the Sox a swing-and-miss weapon in the late innings, but that hasn't been realized. He allowed runs in seven of his last nine outings before the break, and like fellow set-up man Alexi Ogando, has been suceptible to the long ball (6 home runs allowed in 22 1/3 innings).


Along with the improvement shown by Xander Bogaerts, the play of Betts has been one of the few highlights of the first half. He's not an elite center fielder -- yet -- but he's plenty good enough, with enough athleticism to overcome some poor reads. Offensively, he's been strong. Even when he had a poor stretch in May, resulting in him being dropped from leadoff to No. 2, and eventually,all the way to the bottom third of the order, he didn't appear lost and he never seemed to be fighting himself.


Bogaerts has shown himself to be a far better player than a year ago, with huge gains on the defensive side and at the plate. He's more sure-handed in the field, his range has improved and his instincts are surer. At the plate, he's cut way down on strikeouts, become a much better two-strike hitter and was the team's best performer with runners in scoring position.


It was something of a surprise that the Red Sox brought Breslow back after a poor 2014, and he's done little to justify the decision. He's used sparingly, and when he does appear it's mostly in mop-up situations.


After a terrific Opening Day performance, the season got off to a poor start for Buchholz. But since May 10, Buchholz has been as effective as any starter in the American League, with a 2.17 ERA. Subtract his disastrous outing at Yankee Stadium in the first week and his ERA is still under 3.00 for the season. For all the talk of the club not having a true ace, Buchholz has very much pitched like one with the exception of two poor starts. Now, of course, he's on the DL with the rest of the season in some doubt.


No, this doesn't signify that Castillo is a $72.5 million bust. But it does reflect how disappointing he's been in his brief pro career. A series of injuries -- an oblique pull in spring training; a shoulder strain early in the season at Pawtucket -- didn't help, certainly. But in his time in the majors, Castillo has had next-to-no impact. Worse, at 27, his instincts appear faulty.


Obtaining him in a minor deal with Baltimore seemed inconsequential at the time, but it turned out to be GM Ben Cherington's best in-season move to date. De Aza provided energy and solid defense in the corner outfield spots and contributed offensively, too. Thanks to the situation the Sox find themselvesin in left field with Ramirez, De Aza's playing time has been more limited of late. But he's a nice piece as a platoon or fourth outfielder.


Who knows how differently May and June may have played out had Hanigan stayed healthy. Remember, he wasn't expected to be the No. 1 catcher; that role was carved out for Christian Vazquez. But Hanigan gave every indication he would be a stablizing influence behind the plate - until a broken knuckle got in the way. Since he's returned, he's continued to get on base, provide tough at-bats, and lend his expertise and experience to the pitching staff.


Kelly was supposed to be the one member of the rotation with a higher upside and the potential to perform like a front-of-the-rotation starter. That may still happen -- he's only 27 -- but it surely didn't happen in the first half of this season. Kelly was enough of a flop that he was sent to Pawtucket to figure things out. The stuff is there, but the command often isn't and the approach seems to be scattershot. He could still be salvaged, perhaps even as a reliever.


Laybe started the season well and earned John Farrell's confidence to become the team's primary lefty reliever. He was especially effective at retiring the first batter he faced. But over the last month, his performance has dipped, suggesting that the first two months were something of an aberration.


Leon's had a handful of offensive contributions here and there, but his real value has come in shutting down the running game. Leon has thrown as well as any catcher in the big leagues, but his game-calling leaves something to be desired. He is what he is: a valuable backup receiver with one outstanding tool -- a powerful right arm.


The hope was that he would reclaim his form from 2013, his last fully healthy season, but that hasn't come close to materializing. Instead, Masterson's velocity has been down and, with little margin for error, he's been pounded by hitters. Shuttled to the bullpen before the break, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if the Red Sox walked away from him sometime in the second half.


Like Clay Buchholz, he had a brutal April. And also like Buchholz, he's rebounded somewhat ever since, with a 4.09 ERA since the start of May. He's second on the team in quality starts, which counts for something. One continuing issue: Miley has gotten into the seventh inning only seven times in 18 starts, leaving too many outs for the bullpen, too often.


Unquestionably the biggest disappointment among the regulars, Napoli performed a belly flop in the first half. Take away one week in May and Napoli had almost no impact whatsoever on the Red Sox. He looked overmatched and lost at the plate and constantly unsure of the strike zone. Worse, his offensive futility carried onto the defensive side of things where he went from being a plus defender to a certfiable risk.


For the first week of the season, it looked like Nava was poised for good start -- in direct contrast to how poor he was in the first 2 1/2 months of last seaosn. Alas, it was just a mirage. Nava soon became a singles hitter, and got himself squeezed out of playing time at both first and the outfield. Had he produced even a little bit -- and stayed healthy -- he might have been in position to get some meaningful playing time over Napoli at first. Instead, he remains on a minor-league rehab assignment, and seemingly, not on the team's immediate radar.


The Red Sox won the bidding for Ogando by giving him a guaranteed major-league deal, and for the most part, he's been a good find, providing the club with another right-handed set-up option beyond Junichi Tazawa. But overuse has to be a concern, and his propensity for giving up homers (8 in 40 1/3 innings) is more than a little disconcerting.


It's true that Ortiz's numbers against right-handers remained pretty good, but he was at a loss to do much of anything against left-handed pitching, with an OPS well under .400. Even allowing for the fact that his batting average isn't terribly important in big picture, his run-producing ability is down, too. His current OPS is the lowest it's been during his time with the Red Sox. That said, he IS second on the team in homers and he's tied for the team lead in RBI.


A hamstring strain cost him a few weeks on the DL in late June and early July, and his absence coincided with the team's best stretch of play. But make no mistake: Pedroia remains a critical player. He took over the leadoff spot when Mookie Betts faltered and also showed he has regained the ability to drive the ball, with nine homers, and a .452 slugging percentage. Don't be fooled by the five errors (three more than all of last season) - he remains an elite defender at second.


Porcello's final performance before the All-Star break at least offered hope that he had started to figure things out and can be a useful starter the rest of the way. But it's hard to overstate just how poor he was for almost two months. In a first half that was mostly characterized by team-wide underperformance, no one was worse than Porcello


There's little denying how important Ramirez is to the everyday lineup. When he hurt his shoulder in the first week of May and was restricted for the next few weeks, the team's offensive production suffered greatly. When Ramirez got better, so did the lineup. And he clearly carried them in the first few weeks. But his defense has been atrocious, especially at home, and his attention/focus has been sometimes lacking. He's not quite the enigma that Manny Ramirez was at times -- but he's close.


As might be expected, there's been some inconsisteny, some of it seemingly inexplicable. Twice, starts that began well suddenly veered into the ditch. In retrosepct, some of that was due to inadvertant pitch-tipping, which looks to have been addressed. Length has been an issue, but consider: in his first nine starts in the big leagues, Rodriguez limited the opponent to two runs or fewer seven times.


Ross has been up and down from Pawtucket, making it difficult for him to establish any rhythm, and he's also occasionally, he's been forced into serving as the team's long man. Additionally, while he's been effective against lefties, righties have mashed against him (.856 OPS against).


Offensively, he's about what the Red Sox expected with one big caveat: He was so inept from the right side that he gave up hitting right-handed altogether, a development the Red Sox surely didn't anticipate. In the field, Sandoval's range has slipped. He still possesses quick hands and a strong accurate arm, but he has difficulty getting to balls hit to his backhand side.


Swihart was thrown into the unenviable position of catching in the big leagues at 23, with only a couple of months' experience at Triple A. Initially, he was overmatched at the plate before having more success as May turned into June. A toe injury sidelined in early July and he may not be back until rosters expand. But in the two-month period, there was a glimpse of just what the Red Sox like about him.


Tazawa has been invaluable to the Sox, and again, is proving to be durable and effective, limiting hitters to a .206 batting average. He's also the only non-closer who has averaged more than a strikeout per inning. The case could be made that he's the pitcher the Red Sox could least afford to lose.


The notion back in April that he was done now seems laughable. He's 21-for-23 in save opportunities, has proven to be still resilient at age 40, and, despite a fastball that seldom tops 88 mph, still strikes out a batter per inning. Any more questions?


As has been the case too often the last few years, durability has been an issue. He played in just 27 of the first 89 games, and offensively, had very little impact, with three extra-base hits in those 27 games. Also, partly thanks to a series of leg and muscle injuries (calf, hamstring), he has ceased to become a baserunning threat. In the outfield, he remains the team's best right fielder, especially in Fenway. It's hard to reasonably expect a whole lot more from him in the second half.


Wright gave the Red Sox four spot starts while Justin Masterson was stashed on the DL for a month and didn't allow more than three earned runs in any of them. Additionally, five times he gave the Red Sox multiple-inning relief outings to keep them in games and preserve the rest of the bullpen. If the Sox don't obtain another starter at the deadline, it would be interesting to see how he does taking a regular turn in the rotation.

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