OF Bryce Brentz
Headed into the 2012 season, I ranked the Boston Red Sox’s farm system as one of the worst in the game because, well, it was. However, over the course of the season, many of organization’s more highly regarded prospects came into their own and surpassed expectations.
Although the team’s future—at least from a prospect standpoint—is brighter than it was at this time last season, it’s somewhat doubtful that they’ll receive substantial contributions from top prospects like Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley or Matt Barnes. While any of the aforementioned players may conceivably reach the major leagues in late 2013, it’s doubtful that’ll make a significant impact until 2014.
But that’s not to say the Red Sox won’t receive contributions from their prospects. Even though they aren’t especially well known, these five players have the potential to make an impact for the team at the big league level in 2013.
One of the more ill-advised first-round draft picks of the last five years, at least in my opinion, Fields—a college reliever—was selected 20th-overall by the Seattle Mariners in 2008. After three disappointing seasons in their system, the right-hander was shipped to the Red Sox in July of 2011 as part of a three-team deal.
Since then, however, the now-27-year-old has shown signs of putting it all together, faring considerably better since the change of scenery.
Last season—his first full season in Boston’s system—the right-hander split time between Double and Triple-A, posting a 2.01 ERA and 0.960 WHIP with 12 saves, 12.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 58.1 innings.
I don’t see him as a closer like the Mariners did at the time of his draft; however, after drastically reducing his walk rate last year, Fields may have a future as a seventh or eighth inning arm in the Red Sox’s bullpen.
Drafted in the first round of the 2010 after a phenomenal college career at Middle Tennessee State, Brentz, 23, has moved at a steady, one-level-per-year pace through the Red Sox’s system.
Despite his high strikeout totals, the right-handed hitting outfielder has continued to post a respectable batting average while showcasing plus power. Brentz batted .296/.355/.478 with 17 home runs and 130/40 K/BB last season in 122 games for Double-A Portland before receiving a very late season promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.
He figures to open the 2013 season with Pawtucket, where he’ll once again have to prove to the organization that the strikeout situation is under control. His defense is more than enough to handle right field, as he also possesses one of the better outfield arms among all outfield prospects.
If he continues to produce as he has over the last three seasons, Brentz should spend a majority of the season in the major leagues.
An 18th-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008, Webster, 22, didn’t start moving up the organizational ladder until the 2011 season, which he split between High-A and Double-A Chattanooga. At the latter, the right-hander struggled to adjust to the more advanced competition, posting a 5.04 ERA and 1.51 WHIP with 7.2 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 91 innings.
Beginning the 2012 season at the same level, Webster made significant improvements, posting a 3.55 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 8.7 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 121.2 innings prior to the trade. The right-hander will presumably begin 2013 back at Double-A Portland (where he made two starts following the trade), and has a chance to move quickly given the state of the Red Sox’s starting rotation.
Workman, a 6’4”, 195-pound right-hander, was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Texas. And, as the Red Sox hoped, he’s moved quickly through their system after making his professional debut for Low-A Greenville in 2011.
This past season, the 23-year-old spent most of the season at High-A Salem where posted a 3.40 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.5 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 113.2 innings over 20 starts. His improved command translated following a late-season promotion to Double-A Portland, where he was 3-1 with a 3.96 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in five starts.
Given his experience as a college player, improved command and four-pitch mix of average to above-average offerings, the Red Sox will continue to move Workman through their system. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the first player from this list to reach the major leagues in 2013.
A 10th-round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2010, Kurcz was the PTBNL in the deal that landed general manager Theo Epstein from the Boston Red Sox, and was officially traded mid-March of 2012.
After a brief but impressive professional debut for the Cubs’ rookie-level affiliates in 2010, the 6’, 175-pound right-hander was excellent in his full-season debut for High-A Daytona in 2011. Appearing in 35 games, 12 of which were starts, Kurcz registered a 3.28 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.95 K/9 and 3.72 BB/9 in 82.1 innings.
Following the trade, the 21-year-old received a bump to Double-A Portland, where he showed true swing-and-miss stuff but shaky control as a full-time reliever. Overall, he notched four saves with a 3.04 ERA, 12.87 K/9 and 4.83 BB/9 while logging 50.1 innings.
Along with the aforementioned Josh Fields, Kurcz figures to be another new face in the Red Sox’s bullpen at some point during the 2013 season.