5 Boston Red Sox Prospects You Must Watch During Spring Training
Boston Red Sox Look to Use Youth to Continue Success
Ever since a John Henry bought the Boston Red Sox back in 2002, the organization has dedicated great resources towards developing young talent to the MLB level. Of course this has meant investing heavily in both the international free agent market and the draft in addition to hiring a great scouting team with the main goal of securing a core group of homegrown talent.
This strategy has paid off in the best way possible for the Red Sox as they have won three World Series titles since Henry took over and become a model franchise. Establishing a reputation as one of the best organizations in MLB would not have been possible without the output of Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Junichi Tazawa, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonathan Papelbon, who have all come up through the organization during the last 12 years.
Heading into the 2014 season, the Red Sox will again be relying on having a few youngsters come up to the big leagues and play a big role as veteran guys such as Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have each moved on this offseason. These losses have left a number of open roster spots that will seemingly be filled by youngsters who will fill the next generation of youngsters to come up through the organization's minor league system and help compete for the AL East title.
With this influx of young talent in mind, I have formed a list of the five prospects all Red Sox fans must watch during spring training. Each of the players that have been selected maintain rookie eligibility at the MLB level, meaning they have not taken 150 at-bats in the big leagues or thrown more than 50 innings. Additionally, they are each highly regarded prospects who have a great chance to head to Boston out of spring training and surely will be in the majors at some point in 2014.
5. Garin Cecchini
Garin Cecchini has a classic corner infielder bat with Baseball America ranking him the best hitter for average and best strike zone discipline in the Red Sox organization. During the 2013 season, Cecchini split time between High-A and AA ball, compiling an overall slash line of .322/..443/.471 with seven triples, 33 doubles, seven home runs, 23 stolen bases and 61 RBI. Expect the third baseman to put balls all over the field during spring training, receive a bit more seasoning in the minor leagues and challenge Will Middlebrooks for the starting spot in Boston midway through 2014.
4. Allen Webster
Allen Webster was mightily impressive at AAA last year as he went 8-4 with a 3.60 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 105 innings pitched. Unfortunately the 23-year-old was not quite as successful in the majors as he had a 8.60 ERA over 30.1 innings pitched. This was surely a learning experience, and with a fastball that sits near the mid-90s and above average change up and slider, Webster could certainly earn a spot as the long relief man for Boston out of spring training. If not, he will surely be up the first man up as a spot starter or cover for an injured starting pitcher.
3. Henry Owens
Henry Owens is one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in all of baseball as his mix of a low-90s fastball, great change-up, hard biting curveball and projectable 6-foot-6, 205-pound frame leaves scouts salivating. During the 2013 season Owens dominated both High-A and AA, combining to pick up a 11-6 record with a 2.67 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 135 innings pitched. Owens faces an up hill battle to make the Red Sox out of spring training, but he have an arm that wows teammates which could play well out of the bullpen come August and September.
2. Jackie Bradley Jr.
The center field job is seemingly being handed to Jackie Bradley Jr., who is regarded as the best outfield prospect in the Red Sox system and a long term solution in the outfield. There may be some lumps along the way, though, as in 95 at bats in Boston during 2013 the 23-year-old only compiled a .189 average. Still, Bradley has good gap to gap power and should be able to take advantage of the Green Monster with his left-handed stroke as he learns to conquer big league pitching.
1. Xander Bogaerts
Xander Bogaerts is another player who is virtually a guaranteed starter in Boston right out of the gate, and after watching him during the 2013 postseason this should be no issue. After only playing 18 games during the regular season, Bogaerts took advantage of a Will Middlebrooks injury to play 12 postseason games, compiling a slash-line of .296/.412/.481. During the 2014 season Bogaerts will slot in at shortstop instead of third base, and he looks like the next superstar power bat in the middle of the diamond.