Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 12:00 PM
The SoxProspects community has voted for its 2012 pre-season All-Stars at each position. These are the players that are expected to have the best season in the Red Sox minor league system at their respective positions, and ideally does not take prospect status into consideration.
Lavarnway is coming off a fantastic 2011 season in which he won his second consecutive Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year award. Lavarnway began the season in Double-A Portland, hitting .284/.360/.510 with 14 home runs in 55 games before his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket. He was even more impressive in his 61 games with the PawSox, compiling a .295/.390/.612 line and adding 18 home runs. Lavarnway made his major league debut on August 18, and appeared in 17 games, with his most memorable performance a 2-home run, 4-RBI game in an 8-7 win against Baltimore in the penultimate game of the season. Continued concerns about his defense mean Lavarnway will begin the season back at Pawtucket to work on that side of his game, but expect the Yale alumnus to get the chance to contribute at the major league level at some point in 2012.
Entering his sixth season in the Red Sox organization and now three full years removed from his position atop the 2009 prospect lists, it is easy to forget that Anderson is still only 24 years old. He is coming off a 2011 season that saw unspectacular but steady production in the shadow of two potentially major distractions: being blocked by the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, and a deadline deal that would have sent Anderson to the Oakland Athletics but was aborted when pitcher Rich Harden's medicals came into question. Through the tumult, he hit .265/.369/.422 and led the International League with 80 walks. Anderson will return to Triple-A as insurance in case of a Gonzalez injury and potential trade bait.
Coyle, a third round draft pick in 2010, is coming off an impressive first full season in the Red Sox organization. In 106 games at Low A Greenville, Coyle had well-rounded production, using a compact swing and patient approach in compiling 27 doubles, 7 triples, 14 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 60 walks. However, 110 strikeouts led to a mediocre .247 batting average. Coyle’s top developmental goals in 2012 will be to work to improve his pitch selection within the strike zone and using the opposite field more effectively while continuing to pull the ball with authority.
Though Cecchini’s 2011 season ended with a fractured wrist after only 32 games at Lowell, his excellent production during that time gave a glimpse of why the Red Sox organization is excited about this 2010 fourth round pick. His .298/.398/.500 slash line included 12 doubles, 17 walks, and 12 stolen bases in only 117 at-bats. Reportedly completely healed, Cecchini is a candidate to have a breakout season. Expect him to be assigned to Low A Greenville to begin the 2012 season.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts
As an 18-year-old, Bogaerts made a huge leap forward in 2011, and was named the SoxProspects.com Breakout Player of the Year. A home run rate of 1 every 16.5 at bats highlighted an overall .260/.324/.509 slash line and is leading to Bogaerts receiving national attention as a prospect. Going into 2012, his biggest questions involve his high strikeout rate and whether he will grow out of the shortstop position and need to move to a corner infield or outfield spot. While these concerns are important, if Bogaerts’ power and hitting continues to develop it will play at any position.
Outfield: Bryce Brentz
Brentz, the second of three Red Sox first round picks in the 2010 draft, initially struggled with the transition to wooden bats in 2010. However, in 2011 he put fears that his college power was an aluminum-generated mirage to rest. Beginning the year at Greenville, Brentz had a phenomenal .359/.414/.647 slash line with 11 home runs in 40 games before being promoted to High A Salem. Against the tougher competition of the Carolina League, Brentz battled to a .274/.336/.531 with 19 home runs in 288 at bats. Overall, his 91 runs scored and 94 RBI led Red Sox minor leaguers, while his .574 slugging percentage and 30 home runs placed him second. Brentz will likely begin 2012 at Double-A Portland.
Jacobs made a huge step in 2011 in his transition from raw athlete to polished baseball player. The 2009 tenth-rounder, who was given a $750,000 bonus to forgo a football scholarship at Auburn, turned heads at Low A Greenville. Jacobs’ combination of power and speed was impressive, compiling 32 doubles, 17 home runs and 30 stolen bases. However, it was his .376 on-base percentage, placing him ninth in the South Atlantic League, that shows how far Jacobs has come with polishing his baseball skills and improving his approach at the plate.
Outfield: Jackie Bradley, Jr.
A supplemental first rounder in the 2011 draft, Bradley is looking forward to his first full season in the Red Sox organization. Expected to be a high first rounder after an excellent sophomore season at South Carolina, his stock fell some when he struggled to a slow start his junior year and later injured his wrist, limiting him to only 37 games. Fully healed, Bradley appeared in 10 games after signing at the end of the 2011 season. Bradley has a high upside as a hitter, and has earned a reputation as a sterling defensive outfielder. Scouts see him as a true center fielder in the long term, with solid speed and excellent instincts.
Drafted by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2011 Draft, Barnes is likely to start his 2012 campaign with the Greenville Drive with a possible call-up to Salem depending on his success. Barnes posted impressive numbers in his sophomore and junior years at the University of Connecticut. In his sophomore season, he went 8-3, posting a 3.92 ERA, and striking out 75 batters over 82.7 innings. He walked only 25 batters for a 1.26 WHIP. In his junior season, he threw significantly more innings (116.7), but had even more success. He went 11-4, posting a 1.62 ERA. He struck out 111 batters and walked only 31, and also allowed only 71 hits for a 0.87 WHIP. Dealing with the workload of a professional season may cause some road bumps, but he is relatively polished for a first year pitcher and is expected to transition smoothly.
In his first full professional season, Ranaudo split time between the Greenville Drive and the High A Salem Red Sox, but spent the majority of his season with the latter. He dominated in Greenville, where he went 4-1 with a 3.33 ERA. He struck out 50 batters and walked only 16 for a 1.11 WHIP. He didn’t dominate as much in Salem, posting a 4.33 ERA over 81 innings. He struck out 67 batters and walked 30. Ranaudo is nearly unanimously considered the top pitching prospect in the organization, and is likely to start 2012 with Double-A Portland.
Starting Pitcher: Alex Wilson
Alex Wilson has come a long way since being drafted by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2009 draft. He excelled at the lower levels of the minors—skipping Greenville and making it to Double-A in only his first full season, but struggled in his initial call-up to Portland, posting a 6.66 ERA over 78.3 innings. Wilson quelled whatever doubts there might have been with an extremely solid 2011 campaign with Portland that warranted a late call-up to Pawtucket. With Portland in 2011, Wilson went 9-4 with a 3.05 ERA, striking out 99 batters over 112 innings. In 21 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket, he posted a 3.43 ERA, struck out 24 and walked only 7. Wilson is likely to start the 2012 season with Pawtucket, where he will be a fixture of their rotation.
Henry Owens is a tall, left-handed pitcher who was drafted by the Red Sox in the supplemental first round of the 2011 draft. After dominating in his senior year of high school—he went 11-0 with a 1.10 ERA, striking out 114 over 77 innings and walking only 25—he decided to sign with the Red Sox instead of playing Division-1 baseball at the University of Miami. Owens’ arsenal includes a fastball, a slider, and a circle changeup. He is working on improving his arm strength and adding velocity to his fastball. He is likely to start the 2012 season with the Greenville Drive.
After missing the entire 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery, Tazawa threw only 59.6 innings in 2011, where he spent the majority of his time between Salem, Portland, and Pawtucket, and also threw 3.0 innings for Boston. The Red Sox initially signed Tazawa as a starter, after he went 13-1 with a 1.80 ERA, striking out 114 over 113 innings in 2008 with the Nippon Oil. Tazawa had an impressive 2009 campaign, splitting time between Portland and Pawtucket, but didn’t see as much success in his 25.3 innings with the big-league club. Tazawa began his 2011 rehab with Salem, where he posted a 6.05 ERA over 19.3 innings, but saw his statistics improve when he moved on to Portland (4.70 ERA over 23 innings, 1.17 WHIP), and again in Pawtucket (2.51 ERA over 14.3 innings, 1.19 WHIP). Tazawa will likely continue his development out of the bullpen, and should start the 2012 season with Pawtucket. Tazawa will likely make appearances with the big-league club throughout the season, and has the potential to stick with the club midseason.
The Red Sox signed Erasmus as an international free agent in March 2007. He had success with the Gulf Coast League in both 2009 and 2010. In 2009, he posted a 2.05 ERA and struck out 25 batters over 26.1 innings. In 2010, he had similar numbers, posting a 2.12 ERA over 29.2 innings, striking out 33 batters. Erasmus began the 2011 season in Extended Spring Training, but was called up to and stuck with Greenville for the rest of the 2011 season. He worked out of the bullpen, where he went 4-1, posting an impressive 1.11 ERA over 40.2 innings. He also struck out 36 batters and walked 11. Erasmus is likely to begin the 2012 season working out of the Salem bullpen.
Relief Pitcher: Josh Fields
Fields was acquired in the Erik Bedard trade that sent former Red Sox prospects Chih-Hsien Chiang to Seattle and Tim Federowicz, Stephen Fife, and Juan Rodriguez to the Dodgers. The Mariners drafted Fields in the first round of the 2008 draft. He spent his first two seasons in Double-A, showing improvement in his second season in which he posted a 3.14 ERA over 28.7 innings and a 1.29 WHIP. In 2011, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A before being traded to Boston. He posted a solid 2.77 ERA over 26 innings in Double-A before struggling in his 13 innings with Triple-A Tacoma where he posted a 6.23 ERA. After being traded to Boston, he spent the rest of 2011 with Double-A Portland, where he posted a respectable 3.12 ERA over 17.3 innings. He struck out 25 batters and allowed only 10 walks and 10 hits for a 1.15 WHIP. Fields is likely to begin 2012 in the Portland bullpen again.
James Dunne is a Staff Writer & Elizabeth Dreeson is a Special Contributor for SoxProspects.com. Follow James on Twitter @JamesMDunne and Elizabeth @Eli_Dreesox.