In 2013, the Boston Red Sox turned from a last-place franchise into a World Series champion.
This sort of transformation, while rare and difficult, was the direct result of a number of key moves from general manager Ben Cherington—moves that combined incumbent stars with the right type of free agents to solidify what would be a championship team.
Looking forward to 2014, Boston will once more rely upon some magic.
This time, instead of focusing heavily on free-agent acquisitions, a number of young and talented rookie prospects will likely be asked to fill the voids left by certain players who are no longer with the team—or at least pending departure as is the case with shortstop Stephen Drew.
Along with Drew, Boston lost a number of the players that helped it win its third World Series in the last nine seasons. Gone is center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury along with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The Red Sox major free-agent acquisition to address these needs was catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Other acquisitions landed bullpen depth as well as the needed retaining of first baseman Mike Napoli.
These losses open up the door for minor league and rookie prospects to have a shot at making the Red Sox's Opening Day roster.
For the purposes of this article, we shall examine the top five Red Sox prospects and determine their chances of making the Opening Day roster. This author shall use the rankings provided by Alex Speier of WEEI for Baseball America.
The report tells us much of what we already know—Boston has a very deep farm system and should be in excellent shape in coming years. Yet, given the cast of incumbent Red Sox starters, many of these players will not have an impact in 2014, which leaves the door open for only a few guys to make the roster.
Some, like Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., have an excellent chance given the opportunity. Others may have to wait their turn.
In any case, let us evaluate these top five prospects and determine whether or not we will see them at the start of the 2014 season.