Red Sox poised to regain prominence on farm
Position players Middlebrooks, Lavarnway knocking on the door
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A few years back, the Red Sox were drafting and developing with the best of them. Look no further than the 2007 World Series championship team, which relied heavily on home-grown prospects like Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis.
After somewhat of a lull the last couple of years -- Daniel Bard in 2009 was the last rookie to play a major role for the Red Sox -- Boston seems on the verge of regaining prominence on the farm.
Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway and Will Middlebrooks are three position prospects who are knocking on the door. Lars Anderson appears close to Major League-ready as well, but simply doesn't have an opportunity with the Red Sox, where he is blocked by Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz.
where to watch
|8||Chris Carpenter||Disabled List|
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There are also recent pitching Draft picks -- particularly Anthony Ranaudo, Alex Wilson and Matt Barnes -- who are rising through the system.
The lower and middle Minors also appear to be in solid shape, as the Red Sox are thrilled with the progress of their recent Draft classes, which have produced players like Kolbrin Vitek, Bryce Brentz and Blake Swihart.
"I think overall we're happy the way things are," said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. "We're certainly continuing to try to push players and help guys with our staff on the field leading the charge. We've been very happy with the progress of the whole group. We feel we have a strong group up top, in the middle and towards the bottom. We're all pushing each other."
Not to be overlooked are some of the prospects who were signed as free agents. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is a name Red Sox fans should play very close attention to.
With the Minor League season getting under way, fans can keep track of the Red Sox's top prospects throughout the year on Prospect Watch. And get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of the Red Sox' Minor League teams on the Red Sox' affiliates page.
For the first time in a while, the Red Sox are loaded at the Triple-A level. That's where defensive wizard Iglesias will be flashing his glove and trying to improve his offense. That's where Middlebrooks will try to prove that the scouting reports are accurate and that he truly is Boston's third baseman of the future. That's where Lavarnway can show off his big bat and steadily improving catching skills. That's where Anderson will complete his development and at least create an opportunity to be traded to a team that has a spot for him.
At some point, PawSox fans will also get to see outfielder Ryan Kalish, who was on the fast track to Boston before a vicious collision last April halted his progress. Kalish has had a strong spring of rehab and should get a decent stint at Pawtucket and perhaps work his way back up to Boston before the summer is over.
At Double-A Portland, you can watch Ranaudo, the organization's best pitching prospect, take the ball every fifth day.
Debuts and Draftees
Right-hander Barnes, the 19th overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, will see his first professional action. The Red Sox are excited to see what the former University of Connecticut star can do. He is considered the best pitching prospect in the organization after Ranaudo.
This will essentially be the debut season of Swihart, the high school catcher the Red Sox drafted out of New Mexico. Swihart played in two Gulf Coast League games last summer. Jordan Weems, a catcher the Sox drafted in the third round last year, is another one to keep an eye on. He played in 14 Gulf Coast League games last year.
"Swihart and Weems have both played very well on the Greenville club here [in Spring Training] and have both been developing as catchers and have made great strides from when they got into camp Aug. 20 of last year, from instructional league to now a full Spring Training," said Crockett.
Jackie Bradley Jr., the left-handed-hitting outfielder who won a national championship with the University of South Carolina, gets his first extended look in Minors action after playing 10 games last year. Bradley was a fourth-round pick.
Teams on TV
The Pawtucket Red Sox are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2012 MiLB.TV package will include more than 2,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.
This can give die-hard Sox fans close looks at how Iglesias and Lavarnway are faring in their quest to be promoted to Boston.