While some of the more devout Red Sox fans may already know everything about the non-roster invitees to 2010 spring training, such knowledge often eludes and frustrates those serious fans who don't understand the farm system's nuances.
Here then is a series of articles designed to introduce you to some of these players whose names and stats will be cluttering up March box scores.
Everyone knows the big guys, the big leaguers. Here are the little guys, the minor leaguers.
They've all got high hopes.
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Batting .288 with 10 homers, Lars Anderson was impressive back in 2007, his first full season with manager Gabe Kapler’s Greenville Drive (A). Anderson advanced quickly and continued to produce.
In 2008, splitting his season between the Lancaster JetHawks (A+) and the Portland Seadogs (AA), Anderson hit at a .317 clip and went yard 18 times.
However, 2009 spelled a significant downturn in Anderson’s progress. During his first full season with the Seadogs, Anderson managed to bat a mere .233, and for the first time in his minor league career, his on-base percentage sunk below .400.
While 2009 was a horrible year for the frequently discussed potential trade chip, 2010’s spring training offers new possibilities for this non-roster invitee.
Hometown: San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic
A fastball, line-drive hitter, the 22-year-old Yamaico Navarro has followed a path similar to Lars Anderson’s in the Red Sox farm system.
After three full seasons, peaking with a .319 average with the 2009 Lancaster JetHawks (A+), Navarro struggled mightily when called up to the Portland Seadogs (AA).
In Portland, Navarro batted an awful .185 with a .270 on-base percentage.
Still, aside from some intermittent difficulties rolling up double plays, Navarro’s defensive strength encourages optimism.
At the same time, with Marco Scutaro manning shortstop at Fenway and the highly touted Jose Iglesias expected to make a meteoric rise to the majors, Navarro will have a tough time proving himself, at least in the Red Sox organization.
Hometown: Humacao, Puerto Rico
Not to be confused with the Angel Sanchez who designs wedding dresses.
In a similar predicament to that of Yamaico Navarro, Angel Sanchez joined the Red Sox organization in December 2009 as a minor league free agent.
The 26-year-old spent three years in the Royals minor league system from 2006 to 2008 before moving to the Blue Jays in 2009.
After a hot start at the AA level, Sanchez cooled a bit with the Royals’ AAA Omaha in the Pacific Coast League. There he batted just .221 in 38 games.
However, after being claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays in November 2008, Sanchez went on to hit .305 with 60 RBI during the Las Vegas 51s' 2009 campaign.
As he gets up there in age, Sanchez will need a big opportunity to break through at the MLB level. This spring training is an important one, particularly in the shortstop-heavy Red Sox system.
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Talk about running out of opportunities.
With all this youth in Iglesias, Navarro, and Sanchez biting at Gil Velazquez’ heels, the 30-year-old probably feels like one of the baseball ancients.
Sadly, Velazquez’ future with the Red Sox is probably relegated to the upper minors. Marco Scutaro stands solidly before him, and the future isn’t 30.
That said, Velazquez has never exactly been more than a solid utility player. With Boston’s shortstop position a proverbial carousel, Velazquez has had chances, but he’s never shined enough to be given a serious shot at the starting job.
Honestly, this former Twin is a weak hitter and a sub-par fielder. Velazquez has had enough success to stick around, but spring training is about as close as he’ll ever come to playing with the big league club for more than a cup of coffee.