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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Boston Red Sox Prospect Watch for June 1, 2014

This article was originally published at

That whirring sound you may be hearing is the motor of the Boston Red Sox’s farm system churning out players for the big league club at an impressive rate. Despite winning the 2013 World Series, the team is also in the midst of a youth movement and has had a number of youngsters making their mark of late.

Right-handed pitcher Rubby De La Rosa was summoned to Boston following the placement of starter Clay Buchholz on the disabled list with a hyper-extended knee. The 25-year-old, known as “Baby Pedro” to some, did a reasonable impression of his nickname-sake last night by scattering four hits in seven shutout innings while punching out eight batters against the Tampa Bay Rays. Not only did he dial up his fastball to 97-98 MPH, he also showed a nasty changeup that had batters flailing all night. Although it is one start, it was a reminder of the vast potential of this pitcher, who came to the Red sox in the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett/Nick Punto trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

One player who seems to be flying under the radar is infielder Brock Holt. He has done a very nice job of filling in at third base for the injured Will Middlebrooks, both in the field and at the plate. The left-handed hitter belted his first career home run last night, and is batting .305 with nine RBIs and two stolen bases in 21 games. He profiles as more of a utility player but his recent run has proven his ability to be a productive major league player.

Outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. hit his first home run of 2014 last night. While his bat has heated up a bit over the past week (6-27 with six RBIs), he is still struggling to get back to his standard patient plate approach. He has walked just once in the past 19 games, after drawing 16 free passes in his first 32 games. Surprisingly, his 3.91 pitches seen per at-bat still ranks 42nd in the American League. If he can just get a little streak going, he may finally break through into the player so many have anticipated.

Third baseman Garin Cecchini was just called up to make his major league debut. The 23-year-old left-handed hitter has a career .307/.408/.440 split in four minor league seasons. Despite a big frame (6’3” and 220 pounds) he has never shown much power but has always been an extra base hit machine. Although he is hitting .278 this season, he has just one home run and seven doubles in 50 games at Triple-A. A short-term roster fill-in while Stephen Drew continues to get ready, it will at least get his feet wet and give fans a chance to see a player with Kevin Seitzer-like abilities.

Infielder Xander Bogaerts continues to rake, posting a .408/.482/.612 split over the past two weeks with seven doubles, a home run and six RBIs. Despite various rumblings about supposed struggles earlier in the season, the 21-year-old ranks third in the American League in on-base percentage and 16th in OPS, carrying himself like a seasoned veteran.

The relative struggles of catcher Christian Vazquez with his bat at Triple-A have to be somewhat alarming. Often mentioned as possibly taking over the starting reins in Boston as early as 2015, he is not showing much right now that indicates he can fulfill that prophecy. His is hitting .264 in 39 games with just 10 RBIs and an 11/30 BB/K ration that projects to be the worst of his seven-year professional career. However, he continues to show a plus glove and arm, which was always his ticket to the bigs anyways.

Right-handed starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo may be the next hurler summoned to Boston’s rotation if the need arises. The 24-year-old has been dominant at Triple-A, allowing just one run in his past three starts, spanning 19.1 innings. On the year, he is 5-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 53 in 59 innings. The only blemish to speak of is the 32 walks he has issued, which represent a significant spike from past seasons.

He doesn’t get the publicity of many of the organization’s other top prospects, but left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson is turning into an intriguing player to watch. The 23-year-old former first-round draft choice has split this year between High Single-A and Double-A, going a combined 6-2 with a 2.80 ERA in 11 starts. He has struck out 62 in 61 innings while giving up just one home run. He doesn’t have the kind of overpowering arsenal that can attract attention; he just knows how to pitch. There are many reasons to believe he could be a serious option for the Boston rotation at some point in the coming years.

The power potential of catcher Blake Swihart seems to finally be emerging. Playing at Double-A Portland, he already has five homeruns after hitting just a total of nine in his first three professional seasons. He has appeared in 42 games, hitting .293 with 10 doubles and 24 RBIs. While the switch-hitter’s bat is garnering the attention, it’s the 50 percent of base stealers he has nabbed that should have people buzzing.
Could the Red Sox have another prospect in corner infielder Jantzen Witte? The right-handed hitter is batting .364 with five home runs and 43 RBIs in 51 games with Single-A Greenville. He also has 22 doubles and a ridiculous .453 OBP. While he may certainly have a future, it is important to note that last year’s 24th-round pick is also 24, which is old for the league. The proof will be in the pudding once he is promoted and can show if he is able to sustain his high level of play.

Statistics obtained from and

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