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Tomase: Predicted second-half Red Sox report card

John Tomase
July 14, 2017 - 12:01 pm
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The midseason report card is a staple of All-Star break coverage. Everyone writes them. Here's one. Here's another. And another. And another.

They're easy to write, easy to read, and they fill space. I've written dozens of them over the years. You can bang out one of those suckers in 90 minutes, but because they're so long, they look like two day's work.

I'm way too late to make a meaningful contribution to the midseason report card game, so let's try something else. Since the No. 1 rule of writing for the internet is (1992 Alec Baldwin voice): Always. Be. Looking. Forward, we give you WEEI.com's predicted second-half report card.

These are the letter grades we expect Red Sox players to earn down the stretch and presumably into the playoffs. This is just a select sampling of mainstays, because let's be honest, most of you are skipping right over the Sandy Leons, Josh Rutledges, and Heath Hembrees of the world anyway.

Mitch Moreland -- C-minus

After a surprisingly productive first half, it feels inevitable that Moreland will wear down, right? He has never topped 515 plate appearances in a season, but he's on pace to blow past that total by 100. Moreland typically experiences a 60-point drop in OPS in the second half, and don't be surprised if that decline is exacerbated by the fact that he has already appeared in 82 games.

Dustin Pedroia -- B-plus

Is Pedroia suddenly a single-digits home run hitter? Maybe, but I doubt it. One year after blasting 15 homers, Pedroia has just four. His most recent, an opposite-field shot in Tampa, suggests he could be regaining his past power stroke. He remains an elite defender, and he boosted his OPS from .720 to .779 in the final two weeks of the first half. He now ranks 11th there among big league second baseman, and it's hard to imagine he won't finish the season in the top 10.

Xander Bogaerts -- C-plus

Bogaerts' second-half trends in recent years have been concerning. He hit .329 in the first half last year and .253 in the second. He entered June batting .330 and is at .256 since. On a Red Sox team devoid of power, Bogaerts' six homers qualify as mystifying. Prediction: He won't be repeating as a Silver Slugger winner, not with Carlos Correia around. While Mookie Betts has made the leap to superstar, Bogaerts hasn't yet broken free of Pretty Good.

Andrew Benintendi -- A-minus

Do you feel like Benintendi has had a great first half? Me neither. And yet he's still hitting .279 with 12 homers and an .803 OPS. He has survived the worst slump of his young career, enduring a 27-game stretch that saw him hit just .170 on a steady diet of off-speed pitches away. Benintendi has hit .310 with a .942 OPS in the 24 games since, and I've got a feeling we could be looking at a Mookie Betts-in-2015 second half.

Jackie Bradley -- B-plus

Bradley has hit the ball consistently hard virtually all season. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up, and he has very quietly put together two solid months since heading to the bench to simplify his swing in early May. Now 27, Bradley has yearned for consistency ever since catching fire in August of 2015 with the first ridiculous hot streak of his career. It feels like he's finally getting there. Expect it to continue.

Mookie Betts -- A

Unlike Bogaerts, who lurks around the periphery of stardom, Betts is a bonafide monster. Even though he ended up starting the All-Star Game, he still hasn't really kicked it into gear. It just feels like that breakthrough is coming. He finished last year with 31 homers and an .897 OPS, and don't be surprised when his 2017 numbers end up looking awfully similar.

Hanley Ramirez -- A-minus

Time to take a gamble. Ramirez is traditionally a second-half player, which is at odds with the perception that he's lazy and doesn't care. It's easy to forget that last year at this time, Ramirez only had eight homers. He ended up with 30. With four homers in his last 14 games, he looks close to breaking through. I'm going to bet on the track record, as well as some decent peripherals -- compared to last year, his walk rate and line drive rates are up, and his strikeout rate is down.

Deven Marrero/Tzu-Wei Lin -- D

Let's not get carried away. Marrero is a 4-A player with a decent glove who can hit lefties a little, but if he plays as much in the second half as he did the first, he'll be exposed. Lin is a nice story, but the other shoe is waiting to drop on him, too. With Pablo Sandoval officially gone, it looks like Dave Dombrowski will either turn to the trade market, or less likely, prospect Rafael Devers at third base.

Chris Sale -- A

Much is made of Sale's second-half struggles in recent years, but strip win-loss record from the equation and he's really pretty much the same pitcher. Last year he went 14-3 in the first half and 3-7 in the second, and while he did experience what amounted to a season-long drop in velocity, he still posted a 3.28 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 101.2 innings. While 2015 represented a definite decline, in 2014 his 4-3 second half masked a 2.28 ERA and increased strikeout rate of 12.1/9. Sale's on a really good team, and he's going to keep rolling.

Rick Porcello -- C

Porcello has to be better than he was in the first half, but that doesn't mean he won't be anything other than average. The command simply hasn't been there, with two-seamers consistently leaking over the plate. His margin for error was razor thin to begin with, and some years just don't feel meant to be. This is one of them.

Drew Pomeranz -- C-plus

Pomeranz was one of the unsung heroes of the first half, winning nine games. He still needs to prove he can handle a full workload, however, and he wore down noticeably in the second half last year. He's on pace to match last year's career-high of 170 innings, and I remain skeptical he'll be able to maintain his current level of performance (3.60 ERA, 9.8 K/9) over the final two-and-half months.

Eduardo Rodriguez -- B

E-Rod was the teams' second-best pitcher before tweaking his knee, and injuries represent the great unknown with this young left-hander particularly. However, let's assume both he and the Red Sox learned something from last year's debacle, when he ended up altering his mechanics, flaked out on a start in Detroit, and just generally left the team in an unnecessary bind that was masked by the emergence of Porcello and All-Star knuckleballer Steven Wright. E-Rod will get it right this time.

David Price -- A-minus

Leaving aside Price's abhorrent behavior and focusing on his stuff, it's clear that this is a much-improved player over last year. Price struggled to ramp up his fastball last year and never really looked comfortable, even when he was pitching well. The guy we've seen for the last month, however, looks capable of fronting a rotation. With a fastball back up in the 97 mph range and the confidence to pitch to both sides of the plate, Price looks like his old self, distasteful outbursts aside.

Craig Kimbrel -- A

This guy is simply unhittable, and it's hard to envision that changing, unless he gets hurt. We only learned after the fact that he pitched with an injured finger last year. If he stays healthy, he's as automatic as automatic can be.

Rest of bullpen -- B-minus

Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes and Hembree have shouldered the load, with Robby Scott showing recent signs of strain. They can't possibly be as consistent as they were in the first half, but don't be surprised if enforcements arrive, because Dombrowski tends not to stand pat when there's a need to address.

John Farrell -- B-plus

Does he galvanize a clubhouse like Terry Francona? No. But his guys play hard, they play right, and they're back in first place after last year's division title. Farrell has been masterful with the bullpen -- the area where a manager can have the greatest impact on a game. He gave Bradley the mental break that his kickstarted two excellent months. He replaced Sandoval in the lineup. He has pushed the right buttons thus far.

Dave Dombrowski -- B-minus

Whatever Dombrowski does to address the bullpen will trace in part to a pair of bad trades for injured relievers Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg. Don't be surprised if he finds a way to plug the gap at third to give the club passable production there. Just don't expect fireworks, because the Red Sox lack the prospect inventory or financial flexibility to be major players at the deadline.

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