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Red Sox Rookie Report

David Hamilton swings during a home game for the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox came into the season needing performances from younger players. Some rookies have fared better than others so far.

All the hype in Spring Training for the Boston Red Sox was about the class of rookies that could appear in 2025. Prospects Marcelo Mayer, Roman Anthony, and Kyle Teel dominated the storylines, even though it is doubtful any will appear this season. The current crop of rookies decided to do something about it and have been making statements of their own this season. Speaking of statements, owner John Henry made some concerning ones in his first exclusive interview in years. More on that later.

The rookie performing the best this season for the Boston Red Sox struggled the most in spring training. OF Wilyer Abreu has been one of the best rookies in the American League thus far. Utility man Ceddanne Rafaela has been irreplaceable in the field. His versatility has greatly aided the Sox in staying afloat amongst a plethora of injuries. SS David Hamiliton has flashed the speed that made him a major wonder in minor league games. 2B Enmanuel Valdez has also spent time at second base. After an early demotion he has begun showing flashes of promise. Lastly, the most satisfying rookie performance this year goes to 2B Jamie Westbrook. Westbrook finally made his major league debut after 11 seasons in the minors.

The Outfielders

As mentioned above, Wilyer Abreu has stolen the show on behalf of Red Sox rookies. Abreu was acquired in the C Christian Vazquez trade with the Houston Astros in 2022 alongside Valdez. This is looking like one of the few good deals made by former GM Chaim Bloom. Abreu is currently the third favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year, and the top ranked position player. Unfortunately, he is currently on the 10-day IL. Prior to that, Abreu had a .272/.344/.485 slash line with six home runs, 22 RBIs, and seven stolen bases. His hitting has been great, but his rifle of an arm from right field is even more impressive. Abreu and Rafaela are not there yet, but this tandem could rival the defensive prowess of OF Jackie Bradley Jr. and SS Mookie Betts someday.

Speaking of Rafaela, he is an electric centerfielder by trade. However, he has also proven his worth at shortstop. Being effective at both of those positions is enough of an asset. His hitting is volatile to say the least, with flashes of brilliance, but also fantastic flops. For instance, he has 37 RBIs, most on the Red Sox. Seven came in one game versus the Chicago Cubs, which is the most in a single game in MLB this year. Other games he will go 0-4 with two strikeouts, which is why his average is .212. Most people could guess better on a multiple-choice test than that percentage. Regardless, Rafaela’s defense will keep him on the field, and his contract extension means he has time to grow and work on his hitting. He even has the luxury of growing in an uncharacteristically easier-than-normal Boston market.

Does Henry Want to Be Hated?

The reason Rafaela has the chance to grow in an easier Boston market than past players is because of owner John Henry. This article is primarily about rookies, and Henry made some rookie mistakes in his interview. You can see a good summary here. The main lowlights from this interview are as follows: Henry does not plan to sell the team, fan expectations set them up for disappointment, and the odds of winning the World Series are roughly 1 in 30 each year. I have already made my opinions of ownership clear, but in light of these comments I have a couple other new thoughts.

The first is clearly no one in Red Sox Nation will be asking John Henry for his John Hancock anytime soon. Unless they plan on stealing his signature to put on a sale of the team. The second is Mr. Henry must be an intelligent man to have the wealth he has. Therefore, it is foolish of him to say that each team has an equal shot at winning the World Series each year. At the beginning of his tenure, the Sox were a perennial contender because he was willing to spend. Now, the Sox are perennial contenders for fourth in the AL East because he refuses to spend. No one could look at the 2004 Red Sox and the 2024 Red Sox on Opening Day and say “Yes, both teams had the same odds of winning the World Series that season.”

Also, as a businessman, it must hurt him to know the Sox only have one sellout at Fenway this year, the home opener on April 9. These are the same Red Sox who ten years ago set a professional sports record with 820 consecutive sellouts. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

The Infielders

Rafaela has played in the infield this year, but so have David Hamilton and Enmanuel Valdez. Hamilton made a name for himself by looking like the second coming of Ricky Henderson in the minors (70 swipes in one season). Expectations have been tampered thus far, but his 13 stolen bases are a good start. He has begun to realize that as long as he gets on base, he can reliably get into scoring position with a steal of second. Hamilton’s improvements offensively and defensively have allowed Rafaela to spend more time in center as well.

Enmanuel Valdez has had a bumpy road so far this season. He was sent down to Triple-A at the start of May because of his struggles at the plate. Fortunately, he used his time wisely because he had a two-homer game when he returned to the Majors. With 2B Vaughn Grissom’s health looking like it will be a perpetual question mark this season, Valdez can carve out a consistent role for himself at second base. As a lefty, he and Jamie Westbrook (righty) could form an admirable platoon.

The Feel-Good Story

Jamie Westbrook is from Holyoke, Massachusetts, in the heart of Red Sox Nation. Westbrook was drafted in 2013 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He then went on an odyssey of Greek proportions, playing in 1,159 minor league games for six organizations over 11 years before finally making his major league debut on June 2, 2024. He came in as a pinch hitter and drew a walk. As he took his free pass, he knocked off the first 90 feet of his walk to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not likely, but one can dream.

Westbrook followed that up with his first hit on June 5 (a single) and then his first home run the next day. Even in a season of frustration, it is nice to see a man be rewarded for his commitment and passion to the game. Alex Cora certainly rewarded him on June 8 by being ejected for the first time all season. Westbrook was called out looking by umpire Alan Porter, and Cora was not having it. It is good to see a reminder that Cora cares about every player on the roster, or maybe he was just looking for an excuse to not watch the Chicago White Sox anymore. Either way congratulations to Jamie Westbrook, a feel-good story for a team left to fend for itself after being forgotten by its owners.

All statistics are through Monday, June 10.

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