January 4, 2012 at 8:49 PM
Happy New Year! Here’s a look at the top 10 stories to watch in the Red Sox minor-league system in 2012:
1. When will the next round of top prospects emerge as major-league ready?
In Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Lavarnway, Jose Iglesias and Alex Wilson, the Red Sox have a group of prospects that could be ready to step in and make an impact with the major-league club at some point in 2012. All four should make Boston intriguing to watch this March during the club's first spring training at JetBlue Park.
Middlebrooks is the top prospect of the bunch, but could be the furthest away. Look for the 23-year-old third baseman to get the call to the big club in August or September, but any injury to Kevin Youkilis could require an earlier promotion for the third baseman.
Boston's signing of Kelly Shoppach meant that Lavarnway will start 2012 in Triple-A Pawtucket, where he should see extended time behind the plate. While the Yale grad is essentially major-league ready offensively right now, it will be interesting to watch how the backstop's defensive skills improve over the course of 2012, and if and when he can force his way onto the major-league roster.
Iglesias is just the opposite, as his glove is more than major-league ready right now but his offensive approach still needs some seasoning. He's just 21, so it's far too early to write off the Cuban shortstop as an offensive liability. It's all a matter of how quickly he can develop offensively. This should be a key year in that development.
Wilson, the club's 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, could make contributions to Boston's bullpen by mid-season. But given the club's lack of depth in the starting rotation, it wouldn't be surprising if the front office allows him more of a chance to develop as a starter in 2012. In that case, he could spend the entire minor-league season in the PawSox