The Portland Sea Dogs are absolutely stacked this season
Top prospects Xander Bogaerts and Matt Barnes will likely start the season in Portland, two big reasons to pay attention to the Sea Dogs. Beyond that, though, Portland is stacked with other players who have a shot at the big leagues.
In the rotation, Brandon Workman and Drake Britton look to build on solid 2012 seasons. Workman was named the Sox Minor League pitcher of the year last season. Featuring a strong fastball and excellent cutter, Workman projects as either a solid back of the rotation starter or capable late inning reliever. Britton has exciting stuff but has struggled to harness it throughout his minor league career.
The everyday lineup features several other quality prospects outside of Bogaerts. Catcher Christian Vazquez’ defense has earned much praise this spring, and he looks to improve his offensive skills in Portland. Outfielder Brandon Jacobs saw his power in 2012 sapped by a hand injury. A return to full health could see him bounce back to the power numbers he posted in his breakout 2011 campaign. First baseman Travis Shaw had a very solid season in 2012, reaching Portland by the end of the year. He will need to show he can handle more advanced pitching in the upper minors.
Finally, two high picks from the Sox 2010 draft will have a chance to turn their careers around. Anthony Ranaudo and Kolbrin Vitek both had terrible 2012 seasons marred by injuries and ineffectiveness. Both hope to rebound with healthy and productive seasons this year.
Shortstop has become a position of strength in the Red Sox system
The shortstop position has been a wasteland for the Red Sox in recent years since the trade of Nomar Garciaparra in 2004. The Sox have been unable to find an everyday regular to fill the position despite spending millions of free agent dollars to do so.
Help is finally on the way, with two shortstops in the upper minors almost ready and others in the lower minors looking to push them.
Jose Iglesias is ready right now strictly based on his defense. The Sox have been unwilling to take the hit on offense as his bat has lagged far behind his glove. At this point, he might end up as a utility infielder if Xander Bogaerts continues his rapid ascent. Bogaerts has an all star quality bat, and has improved on defense as well. He could possibly be ready by the end of 2013 with a solid season this year.
The Sox also have a trio of shortstops in the lower minors who might make some noise this year. 2012 first round pick Deven Marrero will likely start the season in High A Salem after spending time in major league camp. Speedster Jose Vinicio will look to improve on a solid 2012 season. He’s currently held back by his small frame, but showed good offensive numbers in Greenville in 2012. The Sox also signed Taiwanese shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin for 2$ million in 2012, and he should debut in short season Lowell this year.
Pitchers to watch this year
The 2012 draft class is a good place to start, as the Sox took eight straight pitchers after the first round selection of Deven Marrero.
The top two college arms the Sox selected were Brian Johnson and Pat Light. Johnson is a tall left hander with four solid pitches. He doesn’t have a ton of upside and projection left, but as a college pitcher with lots of experience he may not be tested until he gets out of the lower minors. Light has more upside but less experience as a starting pitcher. He has a mid-90’s fastball and solid slider, and the Sox will give him every opportunity to develop as a starter, although the option of using him as a closer is always there.
The Sox also took two high school pitchers in the early rounds, Jamie Callahan and Ty Buttrey. Callahan is a lefty who features a low 90’s fastball and good curve. Buttrey has a plus fastball and solid curve. Based on scouting reports, Buttrey looks to be ahead of Callahan on the development track and has a shot to start the season in Low A Greenville.
Finally, lefty Cody Kukuk will look to make his mark after a disciplinary issue delayed the start to his 2012 season. He did end up pitching 10 innings in the Gulf Coast League, displaying a live fastball and a sharp slider. He has the stuff for a breakout season in 2013.