A deep farm system is a good problem to have, but it still causes problems that will eventually need to be solved by the front office. For example, the Boston Red Sox, heading into the all star break, have been fielding three natural second basemen in their lineups (Dustin Pedroia, Brock Holt O/, and Mookie Betts). This while having to soon make some decision on the left side of the infield with Xander Bogaerts, Stephen Drew, and (hopefully) Will Middlebrooks-Dell all looking for reps in the SS/3b positions.
These are good baseball players. Some of them still have some projection left, others are exceeding expectations, and still others are good-great major league players.
But, while this is complex enough to find at bats, up in Portland, there is another situation brewing. Deven Marrero, who we knew could field the short stop position (there have been defensive comps to Jose Iglesias, which probably over states the truth a bit)
tore the cover off the ball against AA pitching (.291/.371/.433 with 26 extra base hits) and is not hitting well in AAA in an admittedly small sample (.326/.356/.419 in 46 plate appearances). This is all despite being only a .256 hitter as a professional coming into this season.
Marrero is an exciting prospect if he can continue hitting as he climbs the organizational ladder. It looks like he has found something reminiscent of his .397 batting average as a freshman at Arizona State that announced himself as an elite prospect for the 2012 draft, before he began to trail off at the plate until his encounter with Rich Gedman in Portland.
But Marrero is not the only player who has emerged in Portland this year. Sean Coyle has proven to be a more than able replacement for Mookie Betts at that level. Mookie raked at the AA level (.355/.443/.551 at AA Portland in 2014), Coyle is also raking at the same
park, for the same team, at the same level, in the same position (2b). Behold the numbers: .336/.412/.585. There is a lot of similarity there. In fact, Peter Gammons – this week – cited Red Sox sources claiming that Coyle may be there 3b of the future.
If Marrero and Coyle continue to develop, this leads to questions that Ben Cherington will need to answer, or have answered for him. Does Will Middlebrooks-Dell have a future in Boston? Where is Mookie Betts going to play? If the answer is CF because Jackie Bradley, Jr. cannot hit (which he has actually quietly begun to do), what do we do with him? Does Xander Boagaerts’ bat potential and athleticism supersede the development of the Coyle’s and Marrero’s of the world? Does Garin Cecchini fit at all into this bottle neck?
Some of these questions will be evaluated in Boston, before our eyes in the second half of the season. We may see Marrero in September. We might see Xander shift back to short and see what is there. We might see Mookie Betts bouncing around to see where
his future is.
With all of these exciting prospects, however, there is still one gaping hole in the organization: the power corner bat. For all that we have to mix and match, there does not seem to be a surefire 30 home run, middle of the order bat. Therefore, the future may actually be seeing some of these players moved for an expensive left fielder or first baseman who can hit in the middle of the order for the next 3-5 years.
Of course, that is speculation, but even if the Red Sox remain ten games out through the second half, what is clear is that there is still a lot to watch for. And, none of this article even begins to address what the Red Sox have (or don’t have) in terms of pitchers.