10 Non-Roster Invitees to Watch in Boston Red Sox Camp
2013 Boston Red Sox Spring Training
Who will be the next Pedro Ciriaco? That's not exactly a popular question floating around Boston Red Sox camp right now, but it is a valid one. Remembering back to 2012 Spring Training, Ciriaco had a remarkable run through 26 Grapefruit League games. The infielder batted .419 and posted an OPS of 1.096, second among all players with at least 40 spring at-bats. Though he wasn't able to break camp with the big league club, Ciriaco earned the first callup and never looked back.
Now, as the preseason schedule is set to begin, a new crop of non-roster invitees will be hoping to perform somewhere near the level that Ciriaco was at last year. There aren't a whole lot of spots up for grabs on the Red Sox 25-man roster, but there are just enough to make for some exciting spring competitions.
I've put together a list of ten players, some you've heard of and some you haven't, that will be trying to make a big impression this spring. A couple of these guys have a real shot at making the team, while others will be hoping for an early callup sometime during the 2013 season. Either way, Red Sox fans should be keeping tabs on these guys throughout the spring schedule, as they may just provide an indication of what the team's future may hold.
10. Terry Doyle, P
Right-hander Terry Doyle makes this list after a succesful 2012 campaign, in which he split time between Triple-A and the Japanese Pacific League. Doyle's cumulative numbers as a starter were solid: 7-4, 2.93 ERA, and 78 strikeouts in 89 innings. The Red Sox don't have a whole lot of depth in their starting pitching, so if someone goes down, the team may choose to call up Doyle rather than use one of their many relievers to spot start.
9. Drew Sutton, INF
Utility fielder Drew Sutton has received major league callups in each of the last four seasons. Over the last couple of years, the 29-year old has played every position except pitcher, catcher, and centerfield. His versatility and experience in the majors give him a shot to compete for one of the backup infielder spots this spring.
8. Oscar Villarreal, P
It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since Oscar Viallarreal made his debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks, giving the team 10 wins as a rookie. Having battled injuries throughout his career, the 31-year-old is hoping for a chance to contribute to the Red Sox very deep bullpen. His success in the past includes that 10-win season in 2003 as well as a 9-1 performance out of the bullpen for the Atlanta Braves in 2006. If he can stay healthy, Villarreal will further strengthen Boston's depth in relief.
7. Chris Hernandez, LHP
Lefty Chris Hernandez has been impressive thus far in the minors. With a 3.23 ERA in 275 minor league innings, the 24-year-old has consistently kept his team in games. But if he hopes to contribute at the big league level, he'll have to cut down on his bases on balls (career 3.4/9) He won't break camp with the team, but pitching in games this spring will be an important step in Hernandez' development.
6. Mark Hamilton, 1B/LF
One of the biggest unknowns for the Red Sox heading into the 2013 season is how much time off first baseman Mike Napoli will need. And with little depth behind him, slugger Mark Hamilton will vie for the job as Napoli's backup. Hamilton was signed as a free agent over the winter and invited to camp after being out of baseball since last August. The 27-year-old has a big bat (89 home runs and 367 RBI in the minors) and plays good defense, however, he struggled last season at the Triple-A level. Hamilton has some major league experience, but not nearly enough to consider him a front-runner at this point. The Red Sox will be keeping a close eye on his at-bats all spring.
5. Pedro Beato, P
Dominican native Pedro Beato has been given a new lease on his baseball life. After failing as a starting pitcher in the minors, Beato was successfully converted to a reliever in 2010, and the results have been pretty good (9-4, 2.61 ERA in 107 innings). Though he's entering his eighth season in pro baseball, Beato is still just 26 years old and has plenty of upside. He's slated to throw two innings in Saturday's preseason opener.
4. Ryan Sweeney, OF
Outfielder Ryan Sweeney was brought back to Boston when Ryan Kalish went down with a shoulder injury just before the start of camp. Sweeney enters spring training as the favorite to win the fifth outfielder spot. He plays above average defense and has proven that he can handle himself as a spot starter. The Red Sox do, however, have to be very careful in balancing their left field situation this year, with Sweeney, Daniel Nava, and Jonny Gomes expected to get playing time there. Giving any of the three too many at-bats will risk exposing their deficiencies at the plate
3. Lyle Overbay, 1B
Well, I've said it before--If the Red Sox wanted a defensive specialist at first base that can't hit anymore, they would have been better off signing Casey Kotchman. But that ship has sailed. Now, Lyle Overbay will be given the opportunity to prove that he can still play. Over the last three seasons, Overbay batted just .241 with 31 home runs in 1,179 plate appearances. That'a far cry from his 2006 season of .312/22/92. Overbay has an out in his contract that allows for his release if he doesn't make the team out of spring training. Expect the slugger to make a strong case for the chance to back up Mike Napoli at first and David Ortiz at DH.
2. Xander Bogaerts, SS
The number one prospect in the Red Sox farm system is 20-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The native of Aruba will take time off from camp this spring to join the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. Bogaerts is by all accounts a future superstar. In 127 minor league games last season, he batted .307 with 20 homers and 81 RBI, showing the organization that his bat will be an essential part of their lineup for years to come. Whether or not Bogaerts will stay at shortstop remains to be seen, but with Will Middlebrooks at third and Dustin Pedroia at second, it seems the only logical path. He's expected to play third base for the Netherlands.
1. Jackie Bradley Jr., OF
All eyes will be on star outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. this spring for a couple of reasons. First, the guy is an unbelievable talent and should be a MLB all-star someday. Second, everyone wants to see firsthand whether or not Bradley Jr. can adequately replace Jacoby Ellsbury in centerfield. With Ellsbury headed to free agency after the 2013 season and no chance of a contract extension, the Red Sox need to know exactly what they have in Bradley Jr. In 128 games last year, the 22-year-old posted an absolutely ridiculous .430 OBP. He batted .315, hit 9 homers, knocked in 63 runs, and stole 24 bases. Bradley Jr. is a five-tool player that will join the big league team soon. The only question is how soon.