Spring Training brings optimism every year. It’s actually painful to look back and see how optimistic i was last season, because I spent all of March talking myself into Bobby Valentine. Sure, I told myself, he’s had his problems with the media, but he’s had success in his first year with every team he has coached. We all know how that turned out.
This year, the biggest optimism and excitement for me has been the performance of the young players. I can’t remember the last time the Sox have had so many young players perform so well. Whether it’s Jackie Bradley Jr. with his .500 batting average or Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa hitting 100 mph out of the bullpen, this Spring Training has been tremendous.
I started paying more attention to the Sox minor league system about four years ago. It was a way for me to retain my sanity during the stressful baseball season. I would check the box scores and recaps for each minor league game at Sons of Sam Horn and SoxProspects. When the Sox lost a tough game to the Yankees, checking these games would get me away from the ledge.
Heading into this season, I was really excited about the new direction the Sox had taken, starting with the salary dump trade to the Dodgers. Even with all the players the Sox brought in this season, they kept all their prospects and didn’t surrender any draft picks. So while it has been interesting to see the new veterans the Sox have brought in, like Mike Napoli and Ryan Dempster, I was even more excited for the prospects in camp.
It is one thing to see the names in the box scores and read the scouting reports, but it’s even better to see these guys live on television. Top prospects Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster and Deven Marrero have all been in the Major League camp, getting invaluable experience at the big league level. Bradley Jr. has played so well that John Farrell has had to answer questions about whether he will make the team out of Spring Training. A .500 batting average and .600 OBP will do that.
Not only are the prospects fun to watch, but there are also the other young players who have established themselves on the team (like Will Middlebrooks) or who are still fighting for spots on the roster (Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway). These players push the players in front of them and bring energy and enthusiasm to the team.
It is also much easier to follow the action, even if the games aren’t on television or online, with the rise of Twitter and other social media. When Allen Webster struck out four straight Blue Jays and hit 99 mph on the stadium radar gun, I knew about it right away even though I wasn’t watching the game.
Now that minor league spring training has also started, we will start to get reports on Matt Barnes, Garin Cecchini and the other top prospects who weren’t invited to Major League camp. Hopefully they will get off to the same type of starts that Bradley Jr. and Webster have enjoyed.