Twelve months ago, I was eagerly looking forward to today because it would be then that the logjam at the shortstop position in the low-minors could be resolved. There were five guys: Oscar Tejeda, Yamaico Navarro, Kris Negron, Will Middlebrooks, and Ryan Dent; that could potentially play the position down the road. Luckily, not all five guys were on the same team, but it sure was something to worry about had they all progressed at the same rate. There were certainly plenty of variables that typically unscrew these logjams, such as injuries, lack of production, etc. To quote Sox Director of Player Development Mike Hazen, “things like these will work themselves out, we just have to make sure to get everybody equal opportunity”.

Well, Mike was right. Oscar spent the first few weeks in Extended Spring Training with arm issues and is more suited for third base. Navarro played very well and is now a top ten prospect. Negron struggled to make consistent contact in Greenville before becoming a product of Clear Channel Stadium in Lancaster. Middlebrooks was never really given a shot at shortstop and is handling third base well. And finally, Dent has failed to make much contact and is more than likely going to switch to either second base or center field. That leaves Navarro as the only one who will be playing the majority of his time at the shortstop position.

If we could take away anything from the Sox draft strategy the past few years, it’s been their insistence on taking guys who play premium positions (SS, C, CF). We saw it the past year with Casey Kelly, Derrik Gibson, Ryan Westmoreland, Pete Hissey, Ryan Lavarnway, Tim Federowicz, and Christian Vazquez all in the first ten rounds. There is a huge demand for these positions at the major league level, and should be a continuing trend in the near future. I think it speaks to the quality of players signed when you have a potential logjam at any position. 

Given that one of those guys in the “logjam” last year will actually be playing shortstop this year and the quality of shortstops selected of the 2008 draft class, what does the potential logjam look like this year? Perhaps related, perhaps not, but Casey Kelly will start Greenville in the rotation, where second-rounder Gibson will man shortstop everyday until Kelly reaches his 100 inning max. Michael Almanzar and Ryan Dent, who were both signed as shortstops, have grown out of the position and will play third and second, respectively. Will Middlebrooks, who impressed a lot with his transition from short to third, will rotate with Almanzar at the third base and DH positions. Almanzar is really the only guy to see time above short-season, so I don’t see any of the above getting a promotion to Lancaster during the time that Kelly is pitching. So unless someone does, things could get very interesting in Greenville.