The Red Sox farm system is currently overflowing with an embarrassment of riches. There are already 4 products of the Red Sox farm system contributing to the major league team. Those players are Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen and Dustin Pedroia. And boy are they contributing.
Those two hitters are hitting a combined .333 and getting on base at a clip of .404. And while Delcarmen has seen limited time, Papelbon has been one of the best relievers in the league. The Red Sox have good prospects at all levels of the organization. To touch on them all, it would take an entire book. But for now at least, I wanted to take a moment to look at some of the highlights. I will especially focus on the Red Sox prospects with the ability to help the Red Sox in the near future.
I’ll start with the Red Sox best position prospect, Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury has been deemed both the best all around athlete and the best defensive outfielder in the entire Red Sox organization. At the beginning of the month, Ellsbury took the final step in his minor league development when he was promoted to the Triple-A level. Since he was promoted however, he has struggled a bit.
Before being promoted to Triple-A, Ellsbury was hitting .452/.518/.644 in 73 at bats. Since being promoted, he’s hit .284/.358/.358. He is beginning to turn the corner however. If he stays on schedule he’s likely to get a second half call up and if Crisp continues to struggle, Ellsbury may even get some regular playing time.
The Red Sox in fact have a lot of outfield talent at the Triple-A level. Pawtucket right fielder Brandon Moss probably won’t have a spot on the Red Sox any time soon. He could however, be used as quality trade bate. In 47 games, Moss has hit .293/.391/.540 with 9 home runs and 36 runs batted in. At 23-years-old, Moss’ power likely isn’t completely developed yet. Still, he’s managed to hit a home run more often than every 20 at bats this season.
Outfielder David Murphy has also been putting in solid work. In 46 games, he’s hit .304/.394/.431 with 2 home runs, 28 runs and 22 runs batted in. Murphy however is already 25 years old. He has average power considering that he’s a center fielder, but hasn’t shown anything that would make him an above average trade chip or prospect.
In addition to outfield talent, the Red Sox have a plethora of talented relief pitchers in their farm system. Although Manny Delcarmen struggled to begin this season (5.03 ERA), he has pitched much better lately. In May he’s allowed only 2 runs over 8 innings while striking out 12 batters at the Triple-A level. He’s since pitched a single perfect inning in relief for the Red Sox. Delcarmen may have gotten the call up because he’s the hot hand, but he’s not the most impressive relief talent in the farm system.
Given J.C. Romero’s struggles, lefty reliever Craig Breslow may be the first reliever to be called up. Breslow’s pitched 24.2 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket. Over that span he’s allowed 16 hits, 4 runs (1.46 ERA) and 5 walks, while striking out 26. What’s most impressive is that most of that work has come against righties. In the 7.2 innings he’s pitched against left-handed hitters, he’s allowed only 3 hits, keeping them scoreless and holding them to a BAA of .120.
Righty relievers Travis Hughes and Edgar Martinez have also been phenomenal. It may be only a matter of time before the Red Sox make room for Hughes at the major league level. In 30 innings of work at the Triple-A level, Hughes has allowed only a single earned run (0.30 ERA) while walking 11 and striking out 28.
Martinez has an ERA of 3.70 while walking 8 and striking out 28 in 24.1 innings. Those numbers on their own are good but not anything spectacular. Now consider that Martinez, a former catcher, only began pitching less than three years ago. That he’s developed so quickly is incredible. Martinez is still only 25 years old, so he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.
The area that the Red Sox farm system is most stacked with however is starting pitching. Words simply can’t do justice to the work that Buchholz has done this year at Double-A Portland. To give you an idea of just how superhuman Buchholz has been, here’s how his numbers compare to the ones put up by a more famous prospect at the same level.
Phil Hughes – 2.25 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 5.66 H/9 IP, 2.48 BB/9 IP, 10.71 K/9 IP
Clay Buchholz – 1.75 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 5.96 H/9 IP, 1.76 BB/9 IP, 12.11 K/9 IP
The Red Sox have plenty of other good starting pitchers in the minor league system. The two big names are Michael Bowden and Daniel Bard. Both however are a couple of years away from the majors. If the Red Sox need more than a couple back up starters, they will most likely look again to Kason Gabbard.
Gabbard has been putting in solid work at the Triple-A level. Over nine starts for Triple-A Pawtucket, Gabbard has gone 4-1 with an ERA of 3.02 and a WHIP of 1.16. He’s also been reliable, providing spot starts for the Red Sox both this year and last. Over the past 2 years, Gabbard has gone 2-2 for the Red Sox with an ERA of 3.20. One alarming number however is the WHIP of 1.81 which he’s had over those starts. Still, a higher than normal WHIP is normal when players first make the transition to the majors. Gabbard doesn’t have incredible control to begin with (3.86 BB/9 in the minors) and since Pawtucket starters are usually kept to only 5 or 6 innings, Gabbard has tired late in his major league starts.