Marathon Monday was quite the let down for Boston fans that are expecting big things from the Red Sox’ high-profile youngsters. Brayan Bello, who is technically not a rookie anymore after logging 57.1 innings last season, was beaten up for five earned runs on eight hits while recording only eight outs in his first start of 2023. It was a cold, rainy day that saw even Shohei Ohtani’s outing end early due to a lengthy rain delay, but Bello getting tagged so hard and so early (thanks largely to a three-run home run from old friend, Hunter Renfroe) was the exact opposite of what we had hoped to see from the 23-year-old stud that is expected to anchor Boston’s rotation in the near future.

On the bright side, second-year swing man Kutter Crawford looked fantastic in relief of Bello, going 6.1 innings of near-perfection (aside from the two sixth-inning errors he committed), surrendering only one hit while striking out five and walking none. It was a huge step forward for Crawford, who has given up only one run in 14.1 innings since his disastrous first start of the season against Pittsburgh.

While Crawford’s success over his last three appearances is encouraging, he does not have the upside or expectations of Bello or the two rookies that the Red Sox are hoping will add some potency to a revamped lineup that now features only three starters from Opening Day of 2022 (Alex Verdugo, Rafael Devers, and Kiké Hernandez). One of those rookies had a golden opportunity to send the Fenway crowd home happy on Monday afternoon. However, with the tying and winning runs on base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Masataka Yoshida ended the game with the quintessential Joe Castiglione excited-then-dejected special: “SWIIIING, and a pop up.”

The lazy flyout to left field was but one of many instances of weak contact we’ve seen from Yoshida this season. Triston Casas, a heralded home-grown rookie, has been just as pedestrian so far in 2023. Despite being tied for fourth in MLB with 5.44 runs per game, Devers and the injured Adam Duvall have been the only Sox hitters to inspire any kind of fear in the opposition over the first 17 games.

The typical starting lineup features four regulars whose averages are below the Mendoza line. The starting pitching has been, to put it mildly, abysmal. And Tampa’s white hot start has already left Boston a whopping six games out of first place in the AL East.

If Yoshida and Casas cannot start pulling their weight in short order, the 8-9 Red Sox could quickly find themselves in a very precarious position despite this early stage of the baseball season.


Masataka Yoshida (12 games):
.186/.340/.279/.619, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R, 8 BB, 5 K, 2 SB

It’s only normal to expect a rocky transitional period for a Nippon Professional Baseball League alum making his initial foray into the world of American professional baseball, especially if he is doing it in one of the biggest pressure cookers in all of American sports. But an 8 for 43 start with two extra base hits is far from what us optimistic fans were anticipating after watching Yoshida set a WBC record with 13 RBI in the weeks leading up to the season.

He’s been patient at the plate, which we did expect, but the consistently weak contact has been concerning. Even a few of the eight hits he’s mustered up have been of the bloop or blip variety. He’s taken some ugly swings against the disproportionate amount of lefthanded pitchers he’s faced to-date (about 40% of his plate appearances), yet he’s hit lefties surprisingly well (.267 average, .421 OBP entering Monday’s game). It’s the righties that have really stifled Masa thus far, holding him to a .167 average and a .310 OBP.

You can’t take much stock from seeing reverse splits like this after 12 MLB games, especially from someone who was such a stud overseas and just dominated on a global stage in front of world record TV audiences. Yoshida knows how to play pro ball, and he knows how to deliver in high stakes situations. Doing it in Boston is a very different animal than doing it Orix, Japan, and it’s unfair to expect him to rake right out of the gate. However, he was not brought in to bat seventh on a stacked offense while he slowly acclimates himself to the American game. Chaim Bloom acquired Yoshida to hit fourth in the Boston Red Sox starting lineup while patrolling the same position that Ted Williams, Carl Yastrezmski, Jim Rice, and Manny Ramirez played before him. The piranha-like Red Sox fans are fed up with mediocrity, and thy have little interest in seeing an “unproven” 29-year-old rookie gradually ease into his new situation like Tommy Boy shadowing Richard around the Callahan Auto offices. 

The results we’ve seen from Yoshida are not going to cut it around here, and his adjustment period has already begun to drag a bit.


Triston Casas (16 games)
.146/.222/.333/.555, 2HR, 7 RBI, 4 R, 5 BB, 16 K

Casas’ start to 2023 has been decidedly worse than his abbreviated Major League stint last year. He only hit .197 in his 27 games with the Red Sox in 2022, striking out 23 times in 95 plate appearances. Yet he also accumulated an OBP of .358, walking an impressive 19 times during that month in The Show. We’ve been hearing about Casas’ mature approach at the plate and steely resolve to rarely swing at anything out of the strike zone for a couple years now. His patience and ability to reach base came to be the calling cards that we looked forward to enjoying once he got the chance to be a mainstay in the Boston lineup.

This year, however, Casas has already struck out 16 times in 54 plate appearances, drawing only five walks in the process. 

Now, after putting up anemic production in the first two-and-a-half weeks of the season, it feels as though Casas is trying too hard to be the second coming of Wade Boggs. Pitchers are coming after him early in the count with a lot of breaking pitches in the strike zone. Casas, a hitter who seems to drastically narrow his batter’s eye until he has two strikes on him, has been letting those early breaking balls go by for called strikes. As a result, he’s found himself stuck in a lot of pitcher’s counts. As advertised, he’s taking a lot of pitches. The problem is that most of those pitches are strikes.

He’s not flailing at bad pitches, but he is not yet respected enough for Major League pitchers to fear the repercussions of giving him a good pitch to hit. 

Now that he’s off to such a cold start, we can literally see Casas pressing at the plate. He’s good for two or three check swings per at bat right now; close, conflicted check swings where he can’t decide if he wants to swing or not. He’s questioning the approach that served him so well in the minors, and a hitter who doubts his bread and butter is a hitter who will routinely find himself at a severe disadvantage.

We saw a confident, self-assured Triston Casas in Boston last season. The Triston Casas of 2023, however, has a lot of work to do mentally to reclaim that self-assurance.

Like Yoshida, Casas very rarely made solid contact in the first ten or so games of the season. He has squared up a handful of balls in the last week though, several of which have been nothing more than hard outs. Such is life when you’re mired in a slump. If he can connect on a few more hard line drives, maybe even pop a ball or two into the seats, his confidence will return and he won’t have to think so much about waiting for his pitch to hit. That positive mindset is exactly what Casas needs in order to develop into the kind of hitter that the Red Sox had in mind when they penciled him in as their first baseman of the future two years ago. 


Masataka Yoshida and Triston Casas are big pieces to Chaim Bloom’s puzzle for the next five years. They each have the potential to be foundational pieces in building the next generation of the Boston Red Sox. Potential, however, has an expiration date; especially in Boston.

If we’re still waiting on these two potential stars to develop into actual stars when spring gives way to summer, Yoshida and Casas could potentially be added to the pile of kindling at the feet of Chaim Bloom, which a vocal majority of Red Sox fans would just love to set ablaze.  

By Luke

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