With all the attention that’s been paid to the roster makeup of the big club, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at another team with some strong postseason aspirations: the suddenly exciting Pawtucket Red Sox. Last year’s PawSox club was a strong one in the International League, where it finished second with a 75-69 record. led by standouts like Kevin Youkilis, Roberto Petagine, Kelly Shoppach, Jonathan Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia, the 2005 PawSox gave Sox fans a glimpse of the future; still, in terms of accomplishments, the PawSox were overshadowed somewhat by the AA Portland affiliate, which won their division and nearly took the Eastern League crown.
This year, however, additions from both the big club and from Portland, along with a few holdovers, promise to make the 2006 Pawtucket Red Sox one of the top AAA clubs in the game. With a rotation led by Jon Lester – and filled out by Lenny DiNardo, Abe Alvarez and Phil Siebel (with the possible addition of David Pauley) – starting pitching would appear to be a strength; so too is the bullpen, which contains enough quality arms to rival several MLB clubs. Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen, Jermaine Van Buren, Tim Bausher, and Cla Meredith promise to make most PawSox games a 6 or 7 inning affair, at least until that pen is utilized by the Boston club.
The lineup – a weakness of last year’s club – will have a different look this year. Hee Sop Choi will at least begin the year in Pawtucket, and should put up monster numbers at McCoy. Dustin Pedroia should rebound from his injury-related struggles at the close of the 05 season to give the PawSox an impressive presence at the top of the order. Joining them will be journeyman Luke Allen, a left fielder who put up very impressive numbers at AAA Salt Lake in 2005, and David Murphy, promoted from AA after a solid back-end of the season. The top half of the PawSox order should be able to produce a very solid number of runs, though its season-long potential depends on how long Choi is held down in AAA.
Though the Red Sox 2006 season promises to be one of the most entertaining in recent memory, keep an eye on the guys to our south. You’ll be able to see many of them at Fenway before too long, sure. But the club assembled in RI this year has the look of a contender. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.