I know what you’re thinking, but trust me, it’s not going to happen.
Spring training is a good time to evaluate players of all ages and experiences, throwing them onto a field together and seeing what they’re capable of. It’s the perfect strategy.
Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and the rest of the front office love this time of the year—it makes their lives a little easier with all the players being in one location.
But one shouldn’t rely too much on spring training numbers. Sure, they mean something, but they don’t always tell the entire story. I shouldn’t have to explain it, but I will in short.
Players are going up against an enormous pool of players that aren’t necessarily compatible. If a Triple-A pitcher gets rocked against major league hitters, well, that’s what we’d expect. Assumptions can be made on the futures of many players, but if a prospect gets hot early, you can’t take it too seriously just yet.
Here are a couple of players in Boston’s camp vying for a spot on the team, but who really have no shot at making the 25-man Opening Day roster no matter how well they continue to play.
Rubby De La Rosa, Pitcher
In the near future, Rubby De La Rosa is going to be a star in Boston’s starting rotation. But it won’t come in April 2013, and it probably won’t come until near the end of the season, barring an injury.
De La Rosa is one of the top pitching prospects the Red Sox have in their system. He shows a lot of promise, and it’s clear that he has some nasty pitches up his sleeve. Just Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was making some regulars look foolish.
The flame-throwing right-hander has been all Boston could have asked for this early in spring training. He’s yet to allow a run through four innings of work (two outings) while surrendering just one hit.
After De La Rosa’s perfect performance against Pittsburgh, manager John Farrell crushed the dreams of those who thought that the pitcher could break camp with Boston, according to Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe:
Farrell said that De La Rosa “would be in the minor leagues someplace” to start the season and mentioned that could well be Double-A Portland. “At this point, probably not,” Farrell said when asked whether De La Rosa would make the team.
We shouldn’t be shocked by these comments by the skipper, though. De La Rosa is coming off of Tommy John surgery and still needs to be stretched more into a starting pitcher. He’s only thrown 61.1 innings between the minors and the majors in his career, and even though his recent performances may have you thinking otherwise, he isn’t ready.
Jackie Bradley, Outfielder
As much as every Red Sox fan would love to see Jackie Bradley make the team once spring training comes to a close, he won’t. I want to see him play at Fenway Park, but to start the season, Bradley will be in the minors.
There’s no doubt that Bradley has made a name for himself in camp. He’s 8-for-14 (.571) with four runs in five games. He’s hitting the ball to all fields, playing well defensively and showing why he’s one of Boston’s top prospects—arguably second behind Xander Bogaerts.
B/R MLB Prospects Lead Writer Mike Rosenbaum even deemed Bradley as the hottest prospect in spring training. Rosenbaum says that “although he’s a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, the left-handed hitter’s mature bat, secondary skills and defense have already made a strong impression on the coaching staff and front office.”
But once again, Farrell was there to shoot down any kind of hope, according to Abraham:
Any time you’re looking at a young player who’s still developing, if he’s not going to get a minimum of three days a week at the major league level, it’s probably working against him as he develops into what we would project as an everyday player, said Farrell.
And Farrell is 100 percent correct. Bradley wouldn’t be starting if he made the team, although he would have a strong case to if he continues to play this well. The Red Sox have three starting outfielders and aren’t going to rush a prospect through the system to see what he can do.
Bradley has only been in professional baseball for two seasons and has yet to play for Triple-A Pawtucket. At the start of 2012, he was still in Single-A. It would be stupid for Boston to advance him so quickly.
As of now, he looks good. But the Red Sox can’t afford to risk anything with him.
Jose Iglesias, Shortstop
Through the first couple of spring games, I’ve already talked about Jose Igelsias’ chances of making the 25-man roster a little bit. But I’ll expand a little bit more on the defensive-minded shortstop here.
Recently, I analyzed Boston’s options about what it could do if Iglesias continues to hit well, coming to the conclusion that the likeliest option is still sending him back to Triple-A to continue to develop into more of a hitter. Iglesias can hit in camp all he wants, but that won’t change much.
Boston would have an extremely difficult time moving Stephen Drew, who signed to be the everyday shortstop over the offseason. It would likely take an injury to Drew for him to be on the Opening Day roster. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but there just isn’t room for Iglesias right now.
So even though Iglesias won’t make the team, he has to stay positive. He still has a bit of time before Xander Bogaerts is ready to make the jump to the majors. Drew is only signed for one year, and Igelsias could easily take over at some point this season—if he hits in the minors, though.
Iglesias would then have to play well enough in that opportunity in order to force the Red Sox to transition Bogaerts to a new position—likely third base or a corner outfield spot due to his size. That’s the ideal situation for Iglesias at the moment.
Or—and this is a big or—he waits and hopes that Boston doesn’t extend Dustin Pedroia and Igelsias becomes the second baseman. For now, however, he’s a minor league shortstop and will start the season in that role.