The youth movement has begun. Well, kind of. Will Middlebrooks has seemingly won the third base job for the forseeable future after a dramatic home run on Thursday night. Ryan Kalish will be starting in the outfield almost every day until Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford get healthy. Daniel Nava, while at 29 he’s not so young, we’re still counting him, has only hit .339 since being recalled on May 10th. Honestly, with the way these guys are contributing, it’s hard to believe that there’s even more talent that could be on the way in the minor leagues. Let’s take a look at some of the top performers:
Bryce Brentz- After jacking 30 home runs in 2011, Brentz is putting up very solid numbers in Portland. He’s hitting .287, with nine home runs, a .340 OBP, and 16 doubles in 244 at bats. While he still needs to improve his plate discipline, Brentz is not that far off. A former pitcher, he has a nice arm to go along with a power bat for a corner outfield spot.
Xander Bogaets- It won’t be long until he moves up another level. Currently playing shortstop for Salem, there are reports that Bogaerts will move eventually move to third base because of his size. He’s hitting .287 with 9 homers, 15 doubles, and A .366 OBP in 247 at bats. His 60 strikeouts are a little concerning, but he’s still a raw hitter. He’ll get even better as he continues to learn the strike zone, and it’s not out of the question that he’ll eventually develop into a Troy Tulowitzki type player. A scary thought indeed.
Matt Barnes- At this point, it’s hard to believe that the Red Sox drafted him 19th overall. The way he’s pitching, he should have been a top 5 pick easily. Since he got moved up a level to Salem, all he’s done is post a 1.37 ERA, strike out 53 batters in 46 innings pitched, and held hitters to a .201 average. Recently named to the Futures game, there’s little question that Barnes is the Red Sox’ most valuable prospect at the moment. Now, the question becomes, do you trade him as the lynch pin in a blockbuster deal? I doubt it happens, but if the Red Sox are looking to acquire a front line starter at the deadline, there’s little doubt that Barnes would be involved in the deal.
Ryan Lavarnway- He’s certainly not displaying the power numbers that he did last year, but he’s at least making the catching situation interesting. With a .308 average, seven home runs, and a .399 OBP, it’s hard not to argue for the fact that he should be starting at the major league level. That being said, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is in the midst of what is undoubtedly the best season of his career, and Kelly Shoppach has been more than serviceable. Lavarnway’s time will come, but I doubt that he sees much time, if any at all, this year in the majors, barring injuries.
Jose Iglesias- Quite the turnaround for a player who was having trouble hitting .200 for the better part of the beginning of the season. Iglesias is up to .269 at Pawtucket, drawing 12 walks in 167 at bats, along with eight stolen bases. Iglesias was shut down with a back injury for a bit, but he returned last night. He still only has a .634 OPS, but at this point, we kind of know what to expect from the defensive wizard. It really won’t seem long before Xander Bogaerts is the highest regarded shortstop in the system, not Iglesias.
Anthony Ranaudo- He’s finally started pitching in minor league games after an extended spring training stint in Fort Meyers. He’s had mixed results so far, posting a 6.51 ERA in only 27.2 innings pitched. He’ll be in Portland for a while if he continues to pitch like that. The most important thing is that he seems to be completely healthy after battling elbow injuries throughout his junior year in college and beyond.