Boston Red Sox: Players Who Will Be the Toughest to Demote
Spring training is not as simple as a typical tryout. He who performs the best, puts up top numbers or comes in with the a strong past, does not automatically make the team—no matter how loud the fans cheer.
This Red Sox camp, a number of young prospects have broken out, showing the kind of talent, competitiveness and heart that in a perfect world, would easily place them on the Opening Day roster.
But alas, this is baseball.
There are only 25 spots available and a lot of other complicated factors to consider before handing out a roster spot.
Hence sometimes, a breakout spring training performance does no more than put a player on the radar for next year, or in some lucky cases, lead to a late season call-up.
The name of the game is patience.
On Friday, the Red Sox sent down a few of those spring training stars. They optioned Allen Webster to Pawtucket—arguably one of camp's biggest surprises—who with a 97 mph fastball pitched himself to the head of the fill-in pack of starting pitchers with a 1.64 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 11 innings.
With Webster went Rubby De La Rosa (both were acquired in the Dodgers megatrade), who despite a few rocky innings, made a statement when he hit 100 mph on the radar gun more than once.
And there's also Christian Vazquez, sent down to Portland despite revealing an arm stronger than any of the catchers that sit ahead of him in a long waiting line to Red Sox starter.
Will Webster be the first called up to the rotation to fill in for a starter in 2013?
As April creeps up on us, the final demotions aren't far off and it's likely that a few more strong suitors will take their place in the minors. But they definitely won't have made the decision easy on management.
The hardest to let go will be Jackie Bradley Jr.
No matter how many times Sox manager John Farrell insisted that the young outfielder's time is not yet upon us, fans can't stop the wishing and the hoping to see Bradley on the Opening Day roster.
After all, the kid just hasn't stopped producing since Day 1 of camp. He's batting .444 this spring, an average that dropped slightly on Sunday, but was leading the Grapefruit League earlier in the week.
Moreover, his defense has been just as impressive as his offense.
Farrell finally gave in to the possibility of Bradley sticking around for Opening Day on Sunday due to the deteriorating probability of David Ortiz being healthy for the start. But if Bradley ultimately does end up in the minors, this little glimmer of hope will turn into a big tease of what's to come.
Another player that will be particularly hard to send down at this point is shortstop Jose Iglesias, who actually has a better chance at making the 25-man cut than Bradley.
A few weeks ago, Iglesias' prognosis for starting 2013 in the majors looked slim. But with Stephen Drew out and now possibly beginning the season on the disabled list, Iglesias could get his (rather lucky) shot.
His triple in Saturday's victory over the Rays raised his spring training average to .237 (though he went 0-for-3 on Sunday). Iglesias' improvement at the plate from an abysmal .118 average in 2012 is the key to him making the Opening Day roster.
If the choice was based solely on defensive skills, Iglesias' ticket would already be punched. But he needs to continue to prove he can hold his own at the plate if he wants to beat out Pedro Ciriaco or Brock Holt for that roster spot.
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