6 Prospects the Boston Red Sox Will Promote in September
With their playoff hopes dashed long ago, the Boston Red Sox are left to evaluate the players on their roster with an eye toward 2015 for the rest of the season.
That’s a task that will become easier in September, when MLB rosters expand and the Sox are afforded the chance to view more players in a major league setting and to get their ever-increasing pool of young players some experience in the big leagues.
The Sox have a tremendously deep farm system rich in prospects in the upper minors, which should make September an exciting time. Fans will get to lay eyes on some heralded prospects for the first time, and Boston’s player evaluators will get a better idea as to who belongs in Boston’s 2015 plans.
To be sure, the Red Sox won’t be able to summon every interesting or deserving name to the majors next month. And don’t expect every player promoted to be wildly interesting.
Matt Barnes, Travis Shaw and Blake Swihart are names Red Sox fans will be familiar with, and their prospect statuses may suggest that we’d see them in September. None of these players is currently on the 40-man roster, though, and none play at a position of particular need for Boston right now.
Players like Bryce Brentz and Drake Britton do occupy spots on the 40-man roster, but they haven’t played well enough in the minors to warrant any sort of playing time in the majors this fall. Even if they’re thrown on the roster, don’t expect them to see any time.
And finally, players like Dan Butler, Ryan Lavarnway and Alex Hassan could all be promoted in September, but their futures with the Red Sox are so marginal that they’re not worth covering in-depth here.
With those caveats out of the way, let’s take a look at the six Red Sox prospects likely to see promotions in September who could have meaningful impacts on 2015 and beyond.
Deven Marrero, SS
As of Monday morning, I assumed Marrero might not see a call-up to the majors in September. The 23-year-old is struggling mightily at Triple-A and isn’t on the 40-man roster, giving Boston relatively little incentive to summon him to the majors even when rosters expand.
However, on Monday afternoon, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reported that utility infielder Jonathan Herrera would miss the remainder of the 2014 season with elbow surgery, depriving the Red Sox of another bench option capable of playing in the middle infield this fall.
Jonathan Herrera said that he will undergo season-ending surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow. Hoping to be ready to play winter ball.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) August 18, 2014
Marrero’s bat isn’t MLB ready right now. He’s hitting just .229/.273/.314 through his first 152 games in Triple-A, and he needs plenty more seasoning at that level.
His defense is already ready for the next level, though, and Boston could look to give Marrero a glimpse of the majors down the stretch. It’s tough to see a scenario in which Marrero sees meaningful playing time in September, but he could be on the active roster nonetheless.
Garin Cecchini, 3B
There are no two ways around it: Cecchini has had an awful 2014 season. The 23-year-old is hitting just .250/.323/.354 in 406 PA in Pawtucket, displaying a startling lack of power and an inability to make frequent adjustments.
When the season began, it looked like Cecchini would have ample opportunity to perform in the majors if Will Middlebrooks struggled again. Instead, it was Brock Holt who stole the show when Middlebrooks went down, and Cecchini has received just two MLB PA this year.
The good news is that Cecchini has performed well as of late, hitting .302/.351/.491 in August. Plus, Cecchini is already on the 40-man roster, and while his 2014 season has been forgettable, he could be a 2015 contributor if he turns his performance around.
The Sox are also still relatively thin at third base, though Cecchini is unlikely to see any time over Middlebrooks or Holt. There’s little reason for the Red Sox not to add Cecchini to their bench come September, even if he doesn’t play much.
Edwin Escobar, LHP
One of two pitching prospects the Red Sox received from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Jake Peavy, Escobar is yet another potential back-end starter whom Boston has added to its impressive stockpile of young arms.
Rated as the No. 56 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America before the season began, Escobar’s had a tough 2014 campaign, struggling in 20 starts at Triple-A Fresno as a 22-year-old. The left-hander has been better since coming to the Sox, though, allowing just four earned runs in three starts and 19 innings as a member of the PawSox.
Escobar doesn’t have the upside of a Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes or even an Allen Webster, so his long-term future as a starter is somewhat in doubt if he remains with Boston. He’s not a particularly good bet to see starts in the majors this year, either, as he’s behind Webster, Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa and Anthony Ranaudo on the depth chart.
But the Sox would be wise to put Escobar in the bullpen this September and to let him pitch in some low-leverage situations for his first taste of MLB action. The Sox will likely make a trade to clear up some of their Triple- and Double-A pitching depth this offseason, but if Escobar is among the names who stays, he’ll likely be needed at some point in 2015.
Heath Hembree, RHP
The second arm acquired from the Giants in the Peavy deal, Heath Hembree has nearly as much to gain from playing time in September as any other Red Sox prospect. Though he's spent nearly the entire year in Triple-A, Hembree has little left to prove at the level and should get the chance to test his stuff against MLB hitters.
In 42.2 innings in Fresno and Pawtucket this season, Hembree has a 4.02 ERA with a 10.8 K/9 and a 3.6 BB/9. Those aren't numbers that pop off the page by any means, but Hembree has shown the ability to command the ball better in the past, and if he can maintain his high strikeout rate while lowering his free passes, he has upside as a late-inning reliever.
The Red Sox already have a full bullpen and will be faced with even more options once rosters expand, but Hembree should see semi-frequent work as the season winds down. If he's lights-out, there's a chance he could start 2015 as the last right-hander in Boston's bullpen.
If not, he's likely to start next season back in Pawtucket, but he'd likely be "next man up" in the bullpen anyway.
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
Ranaudo is stuck in a tough situation right now. He, Workman and Webster seem to be in a continuous competition for the fourth and fifth spots in the Red Sox rotation, and Ranaudo has been promoted and demoted a few times as a result.
Right now, Ranaudo is the odd man out, especially after Workman’s solid performance against the Angels Monday night. In truth, Workman and Ranaudo are pretty similar pitchers in terms of upside and probability, but Workman is getting the nod right now thanks to his more established MLB track record.
Still, when rosters are expanded this September, you can expect Ranaudo to be one of the more prominent names summoned to the majors. It’s unclear whether the Sox will go with a six-man rotation or move Ranaudo to the pen for the time being, but he’ll see some action either way.
One would expect the Red Sox to bolster their starting rotation this offseason, but Ranaudo could still factor in the 2015 picture as a back-end starter.
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
We’re cheating a bit here, as Bradley Jr. is no longer technically a prospect. But after Monday’s demotion to Triple-A in favor of the offensively gifted Mookie Betts, Bradley is most certainly the highest-profile name we’ll see rejoin the club in September.
By now, everyone is acutely aware of Bradley’s strengths and shortcomings as a player. He’s an absolutely tremendous defender and will be a perennial Gold Glove candidate in center if he can carve out a career as an everyday player.
Unfortunately, he was nearly as bad at the plate as he was spectacular in the field. Bradley hit just .216/.288/.290 in 387 MLB PA this season, showcasing no power and a lack of speed to boot. His 28.7 percent strikeout rate represents just how awful Bradley’s two-strike approach had become, and his .311 BABIP reveals that his lack of success had nothing to do with bad luck.
As Manager John Farrell told Boston.com’s Peter Abraham, there’s no guarantee that Bradley will rejoin the team in September, though Abraham “certainly anticipate[s] him coming back” later this season. Bradley will have to show meaningful improvement in the minor leagues to warrant such a promotion, however, and the next few weeks will go a long way toward deciding his role in 2015.