Boston Red Sox: Most Exciting Prospects to Look Out For in Spring Training
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The 2013 baseball season is officially under way Monday for the Boston Red Sox, as pitchers and catchers report to camp in Fort Myers, Florida. Other players will arrive shortly after that, along with a number of top prospects whom fans should look out for in spring training.
Although the Red Sox made a number of acquisitions this past offseason through free agency and trade, the lifeblood of the team’s future lies with their young players.
After last year’s disastrous 93-loss season, Boston general manager Ben Cherington was firm in his belief that the team needed to return to cultivating a strong farm system to have a sustainable major league roster. He admitted to how the team had strayed, in an interview with The Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont:
I hate to use this word, because it gets thrown around so cavalierly, but I don’t think we were disciplined enough. I don’t think we were disciplined enough getting past, or continuing what we had done to build those teams in 2007 and 2008. I think we got away from some of our core values — and there were reasons...
When we have been really good we have found the right veteran players. Guys who have fit Boston and fit what we are trying to do at the major league level, and we have been able to integrate the right young players in with them to create a team, and played together as a team.
While Boston will continue to be major players in free agency, it is already excited about its players of the future—some of whom will be featured prominently this spring.
Some prospects like pitcher Matt Barnes and outfielder Bryce Brentz didn’t get an invite to the major league spring training camp. While they are considered among the team’s top young players, this apparently won’t be the year they’ll get a chance to prove themselves this spring.
Click through to see the most exciting Boston prospects to watch out for this spring training.
Brock Holt, Infielder
Holt has flown under the radar since being acquired by the Red Sox in a trade this offseason.
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The slight left-handed hitter can play second base or shortstop and knows how to handle a bat. While he has little power (11 professional home runs), he has posted a .317 batting average and .381 OPS in four minor league seasons, and batted .292 during a 24-game stint with the Pirates last year.
He has stolen a total of 34 bases during the past two seasons, but has been thrown out 23 times, an indication that baserunning is not his forte.
While he has played multiple infield positions, SoxProspects.com writes that his range and arm are much better suited for second.
Holt is unlikely to break camp with Boston, but could see time in the majors if the team needs additional infield help at any point this season.
Allen Webster, Pitcher
The Red Sox have high hopes that Webster is close to being ready to join their pitching staff.
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Having pitched just two games in Boston’s organization, Webster was still ranked as their fourth-best prospect for 2013 by Baseball America’s Jim Callis.
Webster has a 34-23 record and 3.43 ERA in five professional seasons. The 23-year-old has been favorably compared to former Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe.
Chuck Crim, Webster’s former pitching coach, gave a more definitive scouting report on the youngster to WEEI’s Alex Speier:
The type of pitcher he reminds me of probably, but possibly with better secondaries and better stuff, is Derek Lowe. Just imagine Derek Lowe with a sharper, harder, gnarlier secondaries. That sink is insane.
Boston would be ecstatic if Webster can achieve the same success of his more famous comp.
For now, there is no spot on the major league roster for Webster. However, if he breaks out in spring training or pitches well in the minors, he could find himself filling in as a starter or shoring up the bullpen in Boston before the year is over.
Rubby De La Rosa, Pitcher
De La Rosa is a high-risk, high-reward kind of prospect.
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De La Rosa was the other prospect of note the Red Sox obtained in their trade with the Dodgers.
The right-hander will turn 24 next month and could start or relieve for Boston. Since he’s not expected to break camp with the team, his ultimate role could be determined by need.
De La Rosa had a successful major league debut in 2011 with the Dodgers, going 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA in 13 games (10 starts), while averaging a strikeout per inning. However, in August, he underwent Tommy John surgery that kept him out of action until late last season.
The youngster is no stranger to injury, logging only 294.1 total innings in his six professional seasons. His eclectic arsenal of pitches and rare pedigree has the Red Sox intrigued with his potential fit in their future plans.
ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reported De La Rosa grew up closely connected to Boston legend Pedro Martinez and learned how to throw his changeup from the future Hall of Famer. With Martinez recently hired by Boston and in camp working with pitchers, the continued development of De La Rosa will be a major storyline to watch this spring.
Deven Marrero, Shortstop
A strong showing in spring training could help propel Marrero quickly through the minors.
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Although he was Boston’s first-round draft choice last year, Marrero’s recent invitation as a nonroster player to spring training came as a bit of a surprise.
The 22-year-old was considered an advanced player in college at Arizona State, but played in just 64 games with short-season Lowell last year, hitting .268 with 19 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases.
WEEI’s Alex Speier writes that Marrero’s surprise invitation may indicate that the Red Sox view him as a potential candidate to move quickly through their system.
The Red Sox already have several other top shortstop prospects, but as Marrero said last summer in an interview with the blog The Baseball Historian, he doesn’t expect a position switch:
That’s the one position I’ve played my whole life and I don’t think I’ll move from there. But I’m just going to go out there and keep working at short, and if they tell me to move, I’ll move. As for now, I’m a shortstop.
Seeing how Marrero interacts and plays with the major leaguers will likely determine Boston’s plan of action for him this season, making him someone to watch this spring.
Xander Bogaerts, Shortstop
Bogaerts is considered the jewel of the Red Sox farm system.
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Bogaerts is just 20 and already displaying an impressive set of raw skills. He split his time last year between High-A and Double-A, hitting a combined .307 with 20 home runs, 37 doubles and 81 RBI in 127 games.
Because he will be representing the Netherlands in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Bogaerts won’t have as much opportunity to showcase himself this spring. However, Boston fans should follow him as closely as possible since he is considered such a major piece of the future.
A bit taller (6’3”) than most shortstops, it was speculated that Bogaerts might have to switch to third base or the outfield. That has quieted down as he has developed and shown he can hold down shortstop, according to The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham.
Since CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam wrote that Bogaerts is “as close to untouchable as any player in the Boston organization,” it will be interesting to see if he can live up to that label, starting this spring.
Jackie Bradley Jr., Outfielder
Bradley is Boston's most polished prospect entering spring training.
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The left-handed-hitting, right-handed-throwing Bradley may contribute more than any Boston prospect at the major league level in 2013.
A 2011 first-round draft pick, he’s an above-average defensive outfielder with the most advanced bat in Boston’s minor league system.
Last year was Bradley’s first full professional season, and he didn’t disappoint. He hit a combined .315 with nine home runs, 63 RBI, 24 stolen bases and a .420 OBP in 128 games between High-A and Double-A.
Not only is Bradley a skilled player, but he's also extremely outgoing and well-spoken, prompting the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton to dub him “the face of the Red Sox’s future.”
The outfielder agreed with Britton’s assessment, explaining, “I feel like I should get out there a little more and start to become a little well-known. I want to bounce around, be able to speak and make myself known.”
With recent news that Ryan Kalish will miss a large portion of the year because of injury and oft-injured Jacoby Ellsbury is due for free agency after this season, it’s only a matter of time before Bradley sees major league action.
A natural center fielder, Bradley could also fill in as needed until he is given the opportunity to settle into his permanent position.
ESPN.com’s Keith Law, who recently ranked Bradley as his 40th-best prospect for 2013, was effusive in his praise for the outfielder: “He is just an average runner but his reads on balls in center rival those of the other elite defensive center fielders in the minors.”
There are plenty of reasons for fans to keep a close eye on Bradley this spring training, because he could Boston’s outfield for years to come.
Statistics via BaseballReference