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September 11, 2012 at 7:00 AM

2012 SoxProspects.com All-Stars

The SoxProspects.com community has voted on its selections for the 2012 year-end All-Stars. Included on the list are some familiar faces, along with breakout prospects who were not on the radar when the season began.

Catcher: Ryan Lavarnway
For the third consecutive season, the Yale graduate was honored for his continued excellent work behind the plate. Lavarnway got off to a slow start with Pawtucket, but turned around to post a .295/.376/.439 line, winning SoxProspects.com Player of the Month honors in June. In addition to his noted offensive prowess, Lavarnway also earned plaudits for his defense in 2012, as he was recognized by International League managers as the top defensive catcher in the circuit. The six-foot-four backstop, ranked the #5 prospect in the system on SoxProspects.com was promoted to Boston on August 1.

First Base: Mauro Gomez
Gomez began 2012 as an unheralded minor league free agent and finishes it as the International League Most Valuable Player with a prominent role in the Red Sox lineup. The 27-year-old led the league with 59 extra base hits and a .589 slugging percentage. He also was near the top of the leaderboard with his .310 batting average, 24 home runs, 34 doubles, and 74 RBI. After over 700 minor league games, Gomez finally made his major league debut with the Red Sox, and has appeared in 22 games in three stints at the major league level. 

Second Base: Pedro Ciriaco
Like Gomez, Ciriaco was a minor league free agent signed in the offseason to provide minor league depth. He entered the consciousness of Red Sox fans with an excellent spring training, catching the eye of the major league coaching staff and ending up the last player cut in Fort Myers. Ciriaco earned International League midseason All-Star honors, hitting .301/.318/.406, but he would not be available to play in the midsummer classic in Buffalo - he was called up to the Red Sox on July 8th, and has remained there since.

Third Base: Garin Cecchini
The 2010 fourth round draft pick was enjoying a breakout season with Lowell in 2011 before breaking his wrist, ending his season prematurely. Given a placement in Low A Greenville to begin the year, Cecchini showed no lingering effects of the injury, either on his durability or quality of his play. He appeared in 118 games while posting a strong .305/.394/.433 line that he paired with an organization-high 51 stolen bases.

Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts
The #1 prospect in the Boston system was the only unanimous choice for the post-season All-Star team. Looking at Bogaerts' production, it is easy to see why. After abusing Single A pitching to a .302/.378/.505 line for 104 games, Carolina League pitchers were given a reprieve, and the 19-year-old was promoted to Double-A Portland. Only three players younger than Bogaerts reached that level (or higher) in 2012 - National League Rookie of the Year favorite Bryce Harper and phenoms Jurickson Profar and Dylan Bundy. Far from intimidated by the promotion, the precocious shortstop began his Portland career on August 9 with a game-winning home run, on his way to 15 extra-base hits in only 92 at bats with the Sea Dogs. Bogaerts was also named the SoxProspects.com Offensive Player of the Year.

Heading into the 2012 season, the discussion for this 2011 supplemental first round pick was whether he would begin the year at Low A Greenville, or be challenged with a placement with Salem. Ultimately, Salem was the destination, but it was the opposing pitchers who were the ones being challenged. Bradley used a plate approach that was uncommonly advanced for such young player to post a eye-popping .359/.480/.526 line. Promoted to Double-A Portland at the All-Star break, Bradley posted a .271/.373/.437 that was more modest in general, but just as impressive for a 22-year-old only a year out of college. After beginning the year as the #18 prospect in the system, Bradley currently sits at #3 on the SoxProspects.com rankings.

Outfield: Bryce Brentz
For the second consecutive season, Brentz has earned All-Star recognition. Taken in the supplemental first round of the 2010 draft, the 23-year-old continued to build on his breakout 2011 season. After a difficult adjustment to Double-A pitching in April, Brentz made adjustments and gone on track posting a .296/.355/.478 line with the Sea Dogs that included 17 home runs and a career high 30 doubles. Brentz was given a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket during the final week of the regular season. As he did in Portland, Brentz had a difficult adjustment at first, starting 0 for 12 and ending up 2 for 17 in his five games. He then showed his ability to make adjustments, stepping up as the main offensive cog as the PawSox defeated the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees three games to one in the International League semi-finals. In the series, Brentz went 6 for 14 with two doubles, two home runs and five RBI. He is currently ranked the #6 prospect in the organization.

Outfield: Keury De La Cruz
Entering the season ranked as the #54 prospect on SoxProspects.com, De La Cruz came into 2012 an unknown. The outfielder opened eyes in spring training, appearing noticeably stronger in his upper body. The off-season workout program paid serious dividends, as De La Cruz was the only 20/20 player in the Red Sox system, and led all Boston minor leaguers with 153 hits. By midseason, he had set career highs in nearly every category, on his way to a .307/.350/.533 line with Greenville that earned him a final-week promotion to Salem, where he is likely to begin 2013. De La Cruz flew up the rankings all season long, and currently sits at #20.

Starting Pitcher: Matt Barnes
The 19th overall pick in the 2011 draft exceeded all expectations along the way to winning SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Year honors. As has often been the case with pitchers in recent years, the Red Sox gave Barnes a conservative placement to begin 2012, starting him off at Low A Greenville. Barnes, however, dominated that level like few others have, allowing exactly one run in his five starts, striking out 42 and walking four before earning his promotion to Salem. At High A, Barnes continued to impress, tossing 93.0 innings, striking out 91 and walking 25 while posting a 3.58 ERA. The UConn alum's 133 strikeouts led the organization, and Barnes finishes the year ranked the #2 prospect in the system.

Starting Pitcher: Brandon Workman
The tall right-hander, taken in the second round out of Texas in 2010, continued to move forward as one of the top pitching prospects in the Boston system. Workman made 20 starts at High A Salem, striking out 107 batters in 113.2 innings while walking only 20, posting a 3.40 ERA. Promoted to Double-A Portland at the beginning of August, Workman had a 3.96 ERA in 25.0 innings, striking out 23 and walking only 5.

Starting Pitcher: Keith Couch
For the second consecutive year, the unheralded Couch has impressed the SoxProspects.com community, earning All-Star honors. The 22-year-old right-hander continued to move forward, posting a career best 3.46 ERA at Salem while proving to be one of the most durable arms in the system, compiling 145.1 innings pitched. Couch anchored Salem with a team-high 11 wins and 109 strikeouts

Starting Pitcher: Henry Owens
At first glance, one may see Owens' 4.87 ERA at Greenville and believe that perhaps the 2011 supplemental first round pick was a bit of a disappointment. Digging deeper, though, and Owens debut has to be considered a success. Only a year out of high school, the six-foot-seven left-hander was facing mainly opponents with previous professional or college experience, and holding his own. Most impressive was the frequency with which Owens was able to miss bats - 130 strikeouts in 101.2 innings gave the Huntington Beach native the best strikeout per nine-inning ratio (11.5) of any pitcher in the South Atlantic League. As Owens gains polish and better control of his arsenal, he is a strong bet to return to this list in 2013.
Relief Pitcher: Michael Olmsted
The 25-year old minor league veteran is almost certainly the most unlikely name on this list based on preseason expectations. Olmsted was originally drafted by the Mets in 2007, but had elbow trouble that eventually led to Tommy John surgery and his release. After being unable to catch on in Japan, Olmsted signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox in 2011, appearing in 21 games as he worked his way back. Placed in Salem to begin the year, Olmsted was a force of nature. In 33 appearances, he used a fastball that touched 97 to notch 16 saves, and struck out 61 while walking only 8 in 39.1 innings. After a promotion to Double-A Portland on July 24, Olmsted was even better, not allowing an earned run in 20.0 innings, striking out 31 and walking 7. Overall, his 1.23 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) across the two levels was the best in all of the minor leagues in 2012.
Relief Pitcher: Josh Fields
Acquired as part of the Erik Bedard trade at the 2011 trade deadline, Fields will be the one with a chance to make a long-term impact. After a difficult April, Fields tinkered with his delivery, and, working from a different arm-slot, found himself having the best season of his career. In 32 appearances with Portland, Fields posted a 2.62 ERA, striking out 59 and walking only 16 in 44.2 innings pitched. This earned him a promotion to Pawtucket, and, like Olmsted, Fields was even more unhittable at the higher level. The 2008 first round pick did not allow an earned run in his 10 Triple-A appearances, striking out 19 and walking 2 in 13.2 innings of work.
Relief Pitcher: Junichi Tazawa
The right-hander joins Couch as the only pitchers to earn All-Star recognition for a second time. Unlike Couch, Tazawa had to wait three years in between appearances on this list. Originally signed before the 2009 season highly regarded out of the Japanese amateur league, Tazawa had a fine rookie season. Unfortunately, he blew out his elbow in 2010 spring training, requiring Tommy John surgery. It has been a long road back for Tazawa - one that included a transition to the bullpen during 2011. Entering 2012, with his role defined, Tazawa was able to focus on his fastball and changeup. The results have been apparent. In 25 appearances out of the 'pen for Pawtucket, he posted a 2.55 ERA in 42.1 innings, striking out 56 and walking 17. After making the trip back and forth from Boston to Pawtucket several times over the past two years, he was recalled for good on July 15, and, with a 1.62 ERA in 33.1 innings for the big club, has established himself as one of the most important pieces of the Boston bullpen heading into 2013. Tazawa graduated from prospect status on August 17.
Swingman: William Cuevas
The lanky right-hander, signed in 2008 out of Venezuela, had a record-setting season for Lowell. Splitting his time between the rotation and bullpen, Cuevas posted a 1.40 ERA in 77.1 innings, breaking the Spinners record for single-season ERA previously held by former prospect and current Houston Astro Kyle Weiland. Cuevas dominated the New York-Penn League with an 8-2 record and 72 strikeouts against only 15 walks. In addition, Cuevas continued his reputation for keeping the ball in the park - in 230.0 professional innings, he has allowed only seven home runs.