Restoring the rosters: No. 8 – Boston

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
No. 12 – Minnesota
No. 11 – Arizona
No. 10 – Los Angeles (AL)
No. 9 – Toronto
The Red Sox miss Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Trot Nixon, who would have proven pretty useful even in the twilights of their careers, but a first-rate infield and bullpen gets them the eighth spot here.
Rotation
Jon Lester
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Justin Duchscherer
Clay Buchholz
Justin Masterson
Bullpen
Jonathan Papelbon
Frank Francisco
Hideki Okajima
Daniel Bard
Manny Delcarmen
Rafael Betancourt
Ron Mahay
It’s difficult to rate the rotation when Matsuzaka has been a bust this year and Duchscherer has missed the entire season. In 2008, both were among the AL’s top pitchers. The Red Sox do have depth behind them in the form of veterans Anibal Sanchez, Carl Pavano and Jeff Suppan and prospects Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa.
The bullpen, though, is undeniably a strength. The career batting-average againsts for the top three relievers are .200, .222 and .213. Delcarmen and Betancourt are also under .240. I went with Mahay for the last spot over the aforementioned starters and Cla Meredith. He hasn’t pitched well this year, but he’s typically been a pretty reliable left-hander.
Interestingly, both Betancourt and Mahay were originally signed as position players by the Red Sox. Betancourt spent three years as an infielder in the system, while Mahay was an outfielder for five years.
Lineup
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
SS Hanley Ramirez
1B Kevin Youkilis
3B Freddy Sanchez
LF David Murphy
DH Nomar Garciaparra
RF Brandon Moss
C Kelly Shoppach
Bench
INF Jed Lowrie
INF David Eckstein
OF Matt Murton
C Dusty Brown
The Pedroia-Hanley-Youkilis combination in the middle of the order would be a site to behold, but the Red Sox scored fewer points for their outfield than any other team ranked this high and the DH spot was another major problem. Garciaparra was really the only option, and perhaps there’s still a chance he could post an 800 OPS if he’s not constantly getting hurt playing the infield. Moss gets the nod in right for now, since he is a quality defensive outfielder. Murton would still play over him against lefties. By next year, Josh Reddick could prove to be the better player.
Summary
While Dan Duquette doesn’t deserve the shunning he’s received since being ousted as Boston’s general manager, his strengths didn’t lie in developing talent. What intriguing players the Red Sox did produce then usually made their marks elsewhere. The farm system has bounced back in a big way under Theo Epstein, and it’s currently churning out legitimate players about as frequently as any in baseball. What makes it even more impressive is that the team hasn’t had a pick in the top half of the first round since 1998 (Adam Everett, 12th).

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.