As we all know, it’s a dawn of a new age in Boston when young, vibrant players don the Red Sox uniforms and play integral parts of being a defending world champion team. The roster is littered with Red Sox born-and-bred players, and there are plenty reinforcements on the way. Everyone’s heard of Jed Lowrie, now manning shortstop and being compared to Bill Mueller. Michael Bowden is a rising star on the mound and Lars Anderson is supposed to be our answer to the question of who our long-term power hitter will be.
That’s not all the Red Sox have, however. Following is a position-by-position glance at what the Red Sox have to offer past the prospects that get plenty of ink…
- C: Luis Exposito, Lancaster — 21, Exposito may be the answer for the catching position long-term. He speaks English and Spanish, has a great arm and is a popular teammate. He was picked in the 31st round in 2005 and hit .283/.328/.508 for Greenville before moving up to Lancaster and hitting .272/.318/.494. He certainly needs work on plate discipline, but possesses the power and intangibles to be a major league starting catcher.
- 1B: Mike Jones, Lancaster — Jones, 23, was drafted in 2004 and signed in 2005. He used to play the outfield before moving to first and is destined to be a DH at the major league level if he makes it. He’s young for Single-A at 23, and was only just promoted to Lancaster. The left-hander may be a late-bloomer and could develop into a 40-homer hitter — his power ceiling is very high. The only question is if he can get to that ceiling.
- 2B: Ryan Dent, Lowell — Dent, a first round pick in 2007, is at Lowell this year after a less than stellar 11-game swing in Lowell last year. He has questionable defense sans his superior range, and is working to come along with the bat. He is hitting just .162/.292/.333 in 99 at-bats for Lowell. As a first-rounder, however, Dent possesses the ceiling to make him a name to keep an eye on.
- SS: Yamaico Navarro, Lancaster —Most of these names on this list are as young as Navarro, just 20. SoxProspects.com says that Navarro “has an Ozzie Smith-like electricity in the field.” He was just promoted to Lancaster. For Greenville, he was hitting .280/.341/.412, encouraging numbers for someone who put up a similar line in Lowell last year. Oscar Tejeda is another shortstop worthy of keeping an eye on.
- 3B: Michael Almanzar, Greenville — Almanzar was perhaps the most coveted international free agent signing last year (quick aside: they really need to enter the draft and not be available to the highest bidder) and is the son of a former big league pitcher, Carlos Almanzar. He is 17 years old and is playing in Greenville. That is not a typo. This 17-year old is also hitting .348/.414/.472. This guy may make the big leagues before he turns 20.
- LF: Jason Place, Lancaster — Place was drafted in the first round of 2006 out of high school, extremely raw. He projected as a power hitter and was supposed to pair with Lars Anderson to solve the future power woes. At age 20, his career isn’t doing so hot as he’s only at .246/.328/.426 in Lancaster. He’s still plenty young at 20, though, and has many more years to advance. He was considered a project when he was drafted, so it is unsurprising that he’s not raking. He also is apparently ultra-self confident and needs to work on his teamwork skills.
- CF: Che-Hsuan Lin, Greenville — Acquired as an international free agent a year ago, Lin just won Most Valuable Player honors in the Futures game last week. He has incredible defensive talent but the 19-year old is still working out the bat, hitting .248/.344/.363 with 30 stolen bases. A 19-year old in Greenville putting up these numbers bodes for a special player.
- RF: Josh Reddick, Lancaster — Drafted in the 17th round of the 2006 draft, Reddick is perhaps the one making the most noise and may have already graduated from this list to the names most bandied about when mentioning the Sox minor league system. He opened the year in Greenville but has seen most of his time in Lancaster and has a .343/.375/.593 line to go with 17 HR in 312 at-bats. And no, he’s not a Lancaster creation; he does most of his damage away. His away splits have him at .409/.458/.591. He could very well be the person to man right field when J.D. Drew’s contract expires.
- SP: Brock Huntzinger, Lowell — Huntzinger, interviewed on Fire Brand last year, has made six starts for Lowell and has a scant 0.58 ERA in those starts, totalling 31 innings. He’s struck out 25 and walked only two, and goes roughly five innings a start. He may earn a promotion shortly, but it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll throw him in the fire at Lancaster or send him to Greenville. Thank god we’re moving to Salem next year.
- RP: Richie Lentz, Portland — Lentz, 23, is the elder statesman of this lineup. He was a starter until Tommy John surgery derailed him in 2005 and was drafted in 2006. He didn’t dazzle with Greenville in 2007 but with the move to Lancaster in 2008, earned a promotion to Portland. For Lancaster, he had a 2.87 ERA in 53.1 innings, 77 strikeouts and a blemish with 30 walks. His debut in Portland has gone well as he has not walked any, struck out ten and pitched 5.1 innings of no-run ball.
Let’s hear it — who do you think will be a future major league regular for the Red Sox? I’d be tempted to say Exposito, Almanzar and Reddick are the best bets.