Over the last three years, I have written an exhaustive review of nearly every single player in the Red Sox’s minor leagues. I called them the “Organizational Depth Charts.” While I may one day return to them, my life has been so crazy these past few months with the Red Sox, MVN.com launching, and oh yeah, school. (Who cares about school, right?) I never got the time to sit down and start my research, and it is too late now. It literally took me six months to produce six articles. It was a matter of finding all the people, looking at their statistics, and cobbling it all together.
This year, I will present to you the 2006 Fire Brand Minor League All-Stars. These are my handpicked choices for the best at the position the Red Sox has to offer, and will be in the form of a 25-man roster. By the way, if you haven’t seen the joy that is SoxProspects.com yet… well, you need to. Please note this roster does not include Craig Breslow (please, Tito, put him in the major leagues next year!) Manny Delcarmen, Craig Hansen or Jon Lester because I felt they spent too much time in the major leagues – and they did, as they are not considered prospects anymore. They must also have played for the minor leagues, thereby disqualifying people such as Daniel Bard and Lars Anderson.
First, the lineup:
CF Jacoby Ellsbury – Ellsbury split time between Wilmington and Portland this year. For Wilmington (high-A) he notched 244 AB, hitting .299/.379/.418 with seven doubles, five triples, four home runs and 25 stolen bases (nine caught). In 198 AB for Portland, he hit .308/.387/.434 with 16 SB (8 CS). While his stolen base ratio needs to improve, he is showing the same kind of level to level consistency Pedroia has displayed. He played in the Arizona Fall League for Peoria, hitting .276/.342/.371 and should be in Boston no later than September, or earlier if injuries ravage our outfield. But let’s think positive!
2B Dustin Pedroia – Pedroia is likely to man second base for the Red Sox come Opening Day and continue to do so for quite a number of years. Before I turn to his minor league numbers, for the Red Sox Pedroia hit a meager .191/.258/.303 in 89 AB. Welcome to the majors, kid. Pedroia’s predicted 2006 PECOTA forecast (make sure you note it’s 2006, not 2007, a potential negative) was a .297/.371/.467 line in 551 plate appearances. Personally, this sounds like Pedroia’s ceiling (attainable ceiling, not maximum ceiling), not his rookie year. Either way, Pedroia looks like he could be a great complement in the bottom of the lineup next year, even if you adjust those crazy PECOTA numbers downward. Anyways, in the minor leagues in 2006 he hit .305/.384/.426 and provided a steady presence at shortstop while also seeing time at second and third.
RF Brandon Moss – Moss repeated the year at Portland and improved on his .268/.337/.441 numbers from a year ago, this time going .285/.357/.439 and drawing interest from several teams as trade bait. Moss, who hit 12 HRs, also led Portland to the Eastern League Championship, first in franchise history. Moss has an outside shot at developing into a starting outfielder as evidenced by his 36 doubles, but he strikes me as a career tweener – a backup outfielder good enough to pass as a starting outfielder on the right team. Jay Payton redux, I suppose. This is not a knock on Moss, but the fact that he and the next batter are in the power positions in the lineup is … well, bad.
1B Luis Jimenez – Signed as a minor league free agent, Jimenez opened in Portland and the 24-year old hit .276/.371/.471 with 22 2B and 17 HR. He struck out 90 times in 395 AB and we are his sixth organization. He has high power potential, but strikes out far too much and is inconsistent. Expected to break camp with the Pawtucket Red Sox, if he can put it all together he could become a viable option at first base. Until then, he’s just filler and as I expressed with Moss, Moss and Jimenez in our power positions for our All-Star minor league lineup is a bad thing.
3B Chad Spann – Spann arrived on the scene in 2003, hitting .312/.379/.413 after a lousy debut in 2002 as a fifth rounder. It took him until 2006 again to realize that 2003 potential, and was a cog of the lineup, hitting .294/.361/.472. He has had injury troubles and has too much inconsistent year to year stat totals, but if the 23-year old can ever put it together … look out. He could man third for us in the coming years, but odds are against that. Hitting 28 doubles and 10 HR for Portland however will grab some eyes and he could be trade bait, just like Brandon Moss.
LF David Murphy – Long frustrating the Red Sox, Murphy has shown enough solid development that he can be considered a future major leaguer – maybe even as a starter. Hitting .267/.355/.447 for Pawtucket, the 24-year old earned a promotion to Boston and hit .227/.346/.409. The plate discipline is what I like to see, and his name has been bandied about in trade rumors with the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies. Lately we’ve been hearing the Texas Rangers, too. If he is not dealt, expect Murphy to be the first option for an outfield need at the big league level.
C George Kottaras – Theo has said Kottaras is not big-league ready, but after a full season at Pawtucket, could be joining the Red Sox for good in 2008. I for one believe he’s the minor league option should Doug Mirabelli or Jason Varitek get hurt. For San Diego’s AA team in 2006, he hit .276/.394/.451 and earned a promotion to their AAA club, but hit only .210/.286/.361. For the Red Sox he was returned to AA and helped spark the SeaDogs to the title. (Wouldn’t that be weird – your season being over, but then being traded and winning it all with your AA club? Would you feel like you could celebrate hard?) Anyways, his AAA experience was the first time his OPS had been below .813, so there’s definite offensive potential here. I’m not ready to anoint him the next Jason Varitek, but I’m excited about this guy.
DH Jeremy West – The DH for the club spent the year at AA. The 25-year old hit .269/.342/.431 with 13 HR and is mainly a DH, but has caught and played first base. Considering his age and the fact he didn’t exactly destroy AA pitching, I wouldn’t get too excited. Not to harp on this, but with our #3, #4 and DH minor league All Stars who they are … we really should hang onto Wily Mo Pena.
SS Kris Negron – Bit of a surprise, right? The 20-year old was drafted out of Cosumnes River (sorry, Kris. Never heard of it.) and hit .261/.340/.373 for the GCL Red Sox before being promoted to Lowell and dazzling the Red Sox fans at ‘Futures at Fenway.’ For Lowell, he hit .393/.485/.536 and while it’s too early to get excited, he did steal 15 bases combined with only one caught stealing. He could develop into a nice leadoff man and could be stepping into Julio Lugo’s shoes in five years (or earlier, considering he’d be 25 by that time).
Now, your bench…
C Mark Wagner – The 22-year old came out of nowhere to have a .842 OPS for Greenville and put him on the prospects map. Doesn’t excel in one area, but isn’t below average in any either.
IF Jed Lowrie – Struggled after a move from 2B to SS . Flat out hit in college and continued that for Lowell but his defensive switch and injuries may have contributed to his .726 OPS for Wilmington. He will have to have a big 2007 to establish himself.
IF Tony Granadillo – Picked in the AAA phase of the Rule 5 draft in 2004, Granadillo hit .283/.360/.455 in his age-21 season. He can play second, third and short and looks to be an intriguing option as a future utility man.
OF Jason Place – We all know who Place is – drafted in the first round this past year, he hit .292/.386/.442 with 4 HR and whiffed 33 times. The to be 19-year old (I’m getting old) is ticketed for Greenville.
OF Carlos Fernandez – The 20-year old surprised in 2005 when he hit .347/.416/.505 for the Venezuela Summer League. Coming to the GCL for 2006, he hit .297/.376/.458. Signed as an international free agent, Fernandez has some serious potential here and will be tested in Lowell. He could end up being a five-tool player in Boston if he keeps progressing.
And our starters who will be taking the ball every fifth day…
SP Clay Buchholz – Is there anything Buchholz can’t do? He went 9-4 with a 2.62 ERA for Greenville. A promotion to Wilmington didn’t faze him at all as he went 2-0 with a stellar 1.13 ERA. Named the second best Boston prospect behind Jacoby Ellsbury, Buchholz supposedly has “ice-water” running through his veins and has very good pitches. Buchholz has the potential to become a #1 starter for us, and could anchor our rotation for a long time to come. Considering the young pitchers currently on the Red Sox plus Buchholz and Bowden (listed below) … pitching could be very easy to come by the next decade.
SP Michael Bowden – Paired up with Bowden for the last year, Bowden figures to pair up with Buchholz again in Lancaster (formerly Wilmington). For Greenville, he went 9-6 with a 3.51 ERA and then moved onto Wilmington and got rocked in his only start, coughing up five runs in five innings. Bowden’s fastball tops out at 95 and has an unorthodox delivery. Having the delivery tested out returned that he was not harming himself at all with the delivery, so it remains. I have not seen the delivery, but can’t wait to see how exactly it is unorthodox.
SP Kason Gabbard – Gabbard made his debut for the Red Sox this past year, notching a very respectable 3.51 ERA in four starts and three relief appearances. The 6’2″ lefty was promoted after a 2.57 ERA for Portland in 73.2 IP, but staggered a bit in Pawtucket with a 5.23 ERA and going 1-7 in eight starts (one relief appearance). Expected to return to Pawtucket, Gabbard could be the first option out of the gate ahead of Lester should a starter be needed.
SP Devern Hansack – Hansack went 8-7 with a 3.26 ERA for Portland. While there are questions about his age (he could be anywhere from 24-28 ) he did impress in two starts with the big league club, tossing a five-inning no hitter and ending up with a 2.70 ERA over 10 IP. Hansack has been bandied about in some circles as a possible solution to Boston’s closer void this year. I’m not going to comment on whether or not he’d be the right man because I simply don’t know, but anytime you throw an unknown into the closer’s role …
SP Kris Johnson – Undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2005, Johnson majorly impressed after being selected in the first round this past year. Starting 13 games and relieving in one, he tossed 30.2 IP of an 0.88 ERA. How does a 22-year old with an 0.88 ERA go 0-2? I don’t know, but the lefty flat out dominated Lowell and should get the call up to Greenville.
Those are our starters, who have the luxury of being followed by our shutdown bullpen.
CL Bryce Cox – A 97-mph thrower, Cox completely stole the show at Lowell and Wilmington. For Lowell he posted a 1.59 ERA in 5.2 IP. The majority of his time came at Wilmington where he had a 0.74 ERA in 24.1 IP, 25 K, and a 2.78 ERA. Has already been anointed Boston’s future closer.
RP Justin Masterson – Masterson easily stole the show at ‘Futures at Fenway’ and posted a 0.88 ERA for Lowell, all 14 games coming in relief, throwing 31.2 IP. Drafted in the second round, Masterson was so giddy in his post-game interview at Futures at Fenway that a lot of us are rooting for him, and he will become a starter for Lancaster behind Buchholz and Bowden next year.
RP Edgar Martinez – E-Mart spent the whole year in Portland, and the 24-year old had a 2.61 ERA and 12 SV in 69 IP, also with an encouraging 3.26 K/BB (59/18). He was selected for the 2006 Future Games and could come up in 2007 to help what will probably be a beleaguered bullpen.
RP Phil Seibel – Recently dealt for Brendan Donnelly, Seibel completely shut down the competition at three Boston levels after recovering from Tommy John Surgery. The 28-year old lefty could see the majors at some point in his career (and likely will) and there is reason for that. He pitched for the Red Sox a couple innings in 2004, but the only thing holding him back is that he is already 28.
RP Kyle Jackson – Jackson had been a starter as recent as 2005 (full-time in 2004) but in 2005 and 2006, has been used as a reliever. For 2006, he had a 1.59 ERA for Wilmington and then a 2.45 ERA for Portland, logging 45.1 and 36.2 innings at each respective level. He got lit up in the AFL but nonetheless had a good year.
RP Ryan Phillips – Okay, I’m cheating. He’s a starter, but we need a long man and a spot starter. So Phillips it is. The 22-year old had a 3.26 ERA in 16 GS for Greenville, after dominating Lowell the year before. Picked in the 11th round in 2004, the lefty threw four innings for West Oahu in the Hawaiian Winter League and holds a lot of promise.
Let’s hope that we see all of them in a Red Sox uniform one day.