Sox #1 Prospect: Will Middlebrooks
All the while, 60 days is still a lot of time remaining to see some major changes for many baseball clubs. While certainly one would think that general managers might like to keep their baseball shopping completed in line with their holiday shopping, this year there are still several major players on the market with just five days remaining until Christmas.
There are still deals to be made, players to be signed and rumors to be spread. However, this time of year fans seem to neglect to think about one thing: organizational depth. I myself am guilty of this sin.
We all like to throw out trade ideas as fodder for thought, while not realizing the importance of organizational depth during the course of a grueling 162-game season. The Red Sox are blessed with considerable depth, even after the amount of trades they've made over the recent years.
With that being said, every year we see players get injured or tired who need some time on the shelf. Here is a look at seven of the most likely candidates you'll see spending time in the majors in 2012.
Who knows? There is still some time left. Some may even land a starting gig—on another team via trade.
For the purpose of this article, I am going to omit two names up front: Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick. Why? I firmly believe that Kalish will be your starting right fielder in 2012 and therefore leaving Reddick as your fourth outfielder. Neither in my mind should be, or will be considered a prospect in the 2012 season.
Drafted fifth overall by the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 June Amateur Draft, 23-year-old Will Middlebrooks is the No. 1 prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization.
While Middlebrooks has yet to play a single game for the Boston club, his numbers in the Minor Leagues have been exceptional. His ascension through A ball for the Red Sox has been speedy, starting in 2008 with the Lowell Spinners and currently on the Triple-A affiliate Pawtucket Red Sox lineup.
His numbers have been solid, offering up a career batting record of .272 BA, .330 OBP, .440 SLG and a .770 OPS. The one chink in his armor is the fact that when he made it to Pawtucket for the final 16 games of their season, his numbers were less than impressive: .161 BA, .200 OBP, .268 SLG and a .468 OPS.
This has been some cause for concern with his development and begs the question of if he in fact would be ready for big league ball.
Since posting those numbers, Middlebrooks was named to the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars Game, and he put up solid numbers there before jamming his thumb and missing the remainder of the season. He was batting .250 with four home runs and 11 RBI after just 13 games and was selected as an All-Star in the league.
I asked Middlebrooks about his time in Pawtucket as well as his role in Arizona, here is what he had to say:
"Of course it meant a lot to me to go down to Arizona and play well... my short stint in Pawtucket wasn't as bad as the numbers showed.. I gained experience that will help me get off on the right foot in 2012. Were the numbers bad? Yeah they were; but I hit a lot of balls hard that just didn't find holes and I had some good at bats. I wasn't over-matched at all... just hit a rough patch and got away from my approach for a few games."
I feel that Middlebrooks will likely see playing time for the Red Sox when Kevin Youkilis suffers another injury this season. When healthy, Youkilis is an All-Star-caliber player; but over the course of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Youkilis only played in 222 games. That is just two more games than the much-criticized J.D. Drew.
When I asked Middlebrooks how he thinks the transition to the majors would be for him, he replied:
"I have no idea.. all i do know is that the Red Sox organization has prepared me for everything at any level in every situation."
With Drew gone, Youkilis will likely be the resident oft-injured player, allowing Middlebrooks ample time to work out his game in the majors.
I for one have no hesitation in seeing Middlebrooks as the everyday third baseman for the Red Sox, especially if Youkilis is used as trade bait.
Going into the 2011 season, Jose Iglesias was the top prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization.
Then, on May 8, 2011, he was called up to the big club and appeared quite comfortable. While he only played in 10 games for the Red Sox in 2011, he managed a .333 batting average—in only six plate appearances, though.
Upon his return to the minors, Iglesias went on to have his worst statistical season to date, batting just .235 with an OBP of .285, SLG of .269 and an OPS of .554. These numbers are far from what he had put up previously in 2010 on two different levels of A ball. There he averaged .295 at bat with a .339 OBP, .379 SLG and a .719 OPS.
With the Red Sox bringing back Marco Scutaro for another rodeo on the last year of his deal, at 36 years, I would think that Iglesias will start the season in Pawtucket and at the very least be brought up when rosters expand.
That of course will all depend upon how well he bounces back for the Paw Sox. While his defense has never been a cause for concern, he really needs to get his bat back in order if he wants to make the leap to playing full time for Boston.
I'll admit it: when Ryan Lavarnway came up I sang his praises in such silly prose as: "Red Sox have a savior, Lavarnway be thy name!"
Yeah, I really did say that. I'm pretty sure that was my Facebook status for about a week and a half.
Now, I don't disagree with the sentiment behind my absurd remarks, Lavarnway is a hell of a ball player. The problem is that now with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach on the Red Sox depth chart, I don't see them carrying Lavarnway as a third catcher in the majors.
This might actually be the best thing for Lavarnway, though. While only batting .231 for the Red Sox in 17 games for the Red Sox, he did show that he could perform in the clutch. He is still only 24 years old and could benefit greatly from playing almost an entire season in Pawtucket, while Shoppach performs the backup catcher duties for the big club.
This would make for a smooth transition for Lavarnway to step in next season as a more regular player.
I do think that we will see him come up on occasion for the team, for his development, most of the season he will be in a Paw Sox uniform.
24-year-old Felix Doubront is no stranger to the Red Sox bullpen. He has spend considerable time pitching for the Red Sox in both 2010 and 2011.
His Minor League statistics are fairly solid, offering up a career ERA of 3.65 with a WHIP of 1.284. Frankly, those numbers would be awesome productivity out of fourth or fifth starter if they could translate to Major League hitters.
The problem is, Doubront has not been able to replicate the same success in the majors, posting an ERA of 4.84 with a WHIP of 1.613 in 23 games total, three of which he started.
While he has been serviceable to fill in on occasion as a spot starter and as relief in the bullpen, he has not amazed anyone yet.
I think this may be a result of his lack of consistency in his utilization. Right now the Red Sox are in need of one, maybe two starting pitchers. I wouldn't mind letting Doubront start a few games for the Sox and see how he does.
At some point during the season, Beckett will likely go down and Doubront may get the call to do this at that point, so why not start the season with him getting some MLB mileage under his belt?
While just 22 years of age, I think that Brentz may get his first taste of the majors this season if the circumstances fit.
In his short minor-league career, Brentz has put together a fairly impressive stat line: .267 BA, .327 OBP, .489 SLG, .815 OPS with 35 home runs and 133 RBI in just two seasons, in 184 games.
I could see a situation develop that has Josh Reddick being traded away to fill needs on the roster. This would leave a gap for a fourth outfielder, and Brentz would likely be the man to fill that ticket.
While right field is his weakest position to play defensively in the minors (.932 fielding percentage), he could still develop nicely playing alongside great defensive players such as Ellsbury and Crawford.
Anthony Ranaudo was drafted 39th overall by the Boston Red Sox in the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft and is currently the highest-rated pitcher and is considered the third overall prospect for the Red Sox.
While just 22 years old, Ranaudo could see himself called up sooner than later for the Sox. Right now, there are obvious holes in the lineup. Pitching is a premium commodity that costs a lot to acquire and if the Sox believe he can perform, Ben Cherington may just decide to use his ace pitching prospect to bide some time.
In 26 games for two different teams in Single-A ball, Ranaudo posted a 3.97 ERA with a 1.268 WHIP.
While I don't think it would be wise to bring him up so soon, stranger things have happened. Boston is a pressure cooker that could destroy his potential. See Craig Hansen for that.
Once again, though, Ranaudo's name is one you will find in any daydreamer's potential trades for other players, so there still remains the possibility that he could find himself starting in 2012—for another team.