With 2014 spring training just around the corner, the Boston Red Sox look to start the first on-the-field portion of defending their World Series title.
Boston has spent the offseason relatively quiet. Not only did they elect to part ways with veteran starters like Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew (pending what happens after being offered a two-year deal, per NESN), but they also stayed out of a number of high-profile player sweepstakes.
Free agents like Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka landed elsewhere.
There is one simple reason for all of this.
According to MLB draft and prospects analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com, the Red Sox boast the No. 2 farm system in the majors.
The article, published by Ian Browne of MLB.com, lends credence to Boston's ability to not only put a championship-contending club on the field, but also to scout, draft and develop future stars just as effectively.
With more expensive players seeking long-term and lucrative contracts elsewhere, the Red Sox are proving that they have what it takes to supplement the losses and continue matching the challenge of remaining one of baseball's elite teams.
In 2013, we caught glimpses of some of these future stars. Players like Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brandon Workman all made their major league debuts in 2013 and are all but assured larger roles this upcoming season.
Yet what about some of the Red Sox's deeper prospects?
In addition to the aforementioned players, Boston enjoys a plethora of future stars. The 10 best, according to Alex Speier of Baseball America, can be viewed here.
In this slideshow, let us take a look at six sleeper prospects that fans should keep an eye out this spring training.
While some, or potentially all, of these prospects may not play a significant major league role this season, their continued development and maturation will be of worthy consideration in the coming weeks and months.