It is good to be a Red Sox fan. We are anxiously braving winter in expectation of an unveiled banner. Xander Bogaerts is the consensus number 2 prospect in baseball. There are another 5 to 8 prospects among the best 100 or so in baseball. Pitching is here (De La Rosa/Workman) or is coming (Barnes/Owens/Ball). We have Dustin Pedroia locked up for the totality of his brilliant career. The Yankees are still trying to win VIA high rolling in Free Agency.
Good times!The major question remains for the Red Sox: what are they going to do at 1b? Mike Napoli is as fun a player as has plied his trade on the field at Fenway, but he is on the wrong side of 30 (though, terrifyingly, a few months younger than your author) and has the mysterious hip ailment/degeneration. He was the most important re-sign the Red Sox had to make this offseason because there was no one to replace him. Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley came just in time to cushion the blow of losing Jacoby Ellsbury and [potentially] Stephen Drew.
But you know all this.
The real issue in front of us today is this: Who is Travis Shaw? Can he replace Napoli in due time? Why is there no such thing as a 1b prospect anymore?
No one is particularly excited about Travis Shaw. He will not appear on any Top 100 prospect lists this offseason, he will not even appear on any Red Sox Top 10 lists. But, then again, only one 1b prospect (Jonathon Singleton) in all of baseball showed up on Jason Parks and Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101 list [released yesterday].
But it appears that the industry is moving toward evaluating based on position as much as talent because a SS in the minors can play 2b in the majors (and not the other way around). A 3b can play 1b in the majors (and not the other way around). An infielder can move to the outfield, but not the other away around.
As such, Travis Shaw, though rated the 42nd best Red Sox in the minors is not a waste of space – but he is limited. He may provide something in the majors over the next few years while covering an injury, but he is what he is – a low hit tool player with a good idea of the strike zone and limited defensively. That is not exciting, but neither is it worthless. He was, after all, assigned to the Arizona Fall League in 2013 and displayed himself nicely (.361/.452/.705). If the ability to hit for average and maintain the pop (40 home runs at all levels in the last two calendar years) he could be a guy.
More likely, however, if the prospect lists tell us anything it is that the industry is moving toward shifting players off more demanding positions. So, if Travis Shaw proves himself to be the 42nd best prospect we have, we are far more likely (and may be so anyway) to see Garin Cecchini or Rafael Devers (if he is able to utilize that bat speed to progress in a way reminiscent of Xander Bogaerts) as the next first baseman of the Boston Red Sox.
After all, Will Middlebrooks is better than you think he is, and he is blocking those other promising fellows.
Isn’t minor league depth a fun problem to have? Where do you see the next first baseman of the Red Sox coming from?
Categories: Boston Red Sox