November 20, 2013 at 3:51 PM
Before Wednesday's deadline to place players on the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft on December 12, the Red Sox have made three additions: third baseman Garin Cecchini, outfielder Bryce Brentz, and right-hander Anthony Ranaudo. Following these moves, Boston has one open slot remaining on its 40-man roster.
Cecchini is coming off a breakout season in which he hit .322/.443/.471 across two levels and rose to the number three prospect in the Boston system on SoxProspects.com. A fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, Cecchini has been an All-Star in each of the last three seasons, earning honors in the New York-Penn League in 2011, South Atlantic League in 2012, and in the Carolina League in 2013. He was promoted to Double-A Portland on June 21, and selected to play in the Futures Game during the All-Star break. Cecchini projects to begin 2014 as the starting third baseman at Triple-A Pawtucket.
The 2013 campaign represented a huge turnaround for Ranaudo. The 39th overall pick in 2010 struggled mightily both with injuries and effectiveness in his first exposure to Double-A. Starting the season late due to a groin strain, Ranaudo was hit hard, posting a 6.69 ERA and 1.805 WHIP in 37 2/3 innings before his season ended due to shoulder fatigue. Healthy going in to 2013, Ranaudo was a different pitcher, delivering a 2.96 ERA in 25 appearances between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, striking out 127 in 140 innings pitched, while walking only 47. While an assignment to Pawtucket is likely out of spring training, Ranaudo seems primed to make his major league debut by the end of 2014.
Brentz finished the 2013 season tied for the most home runs in the Red Sox system despite appearing in only 88 games. Another member of the 2010 draft class, the second-round pick has flashed plus power at every level of his development, peaking with 30 homers in 2011. Brentz's plate discipline lags behind his other skills, with 86 strikeouts and only 20 walks in 349 plate appearances for Pawtucket, but his prodigious power keeps him among the top 20 prospects in a strong Boston system. A return to Triple-A is likely for the 25-year-old outfielder in 2014.
A few players were not added despite some speculation that they could be targets in the Rule 5 draft include third baseman Michael Almanzar, outfielder Keury De La Cruz, and pitchers Luis Diaz and Keith Couch. Almanzar originally signed in July 2007 to a $1.5 million bonus, but years of ineffectiveness dropped him off the prospect radar. After a bounceback season with Salem in 2012, Almanzar got off to a fast start in 2013 but cooled as the season progressed, finishing with a .268/.328/.432 in Portland. De La Cruz began the season in the SoxProspects.com top 20. Despite leading the organization in doubles and runs batted in, his lack of plate discipline, reflected in his .297 on-base percentage, dropped him out of the top 30. Diaz had a strong 2013, posting a 1.96 ERA in 101 innings between Greenville and Salem, but the 21-year old out of Venezuela is likely too far away to hold a roster spot in 2013. Couch has shown pitchability that is ahead of his stuff, leading to some solid minor league numbers. He posted a 3.65 ERA in 2013 and was better when used in the rotation, with a 3.14 ERA in 16 starts.
While three players taken in the 2010 draft were added, two prominent selections from that year were not. Top pick Kolbrin Vitek has struggled as a professional due to ongoing problems with bursitis in his back. No longer regarded as a prospect, he complied a .204/.260/.254 in 219 Double-A plate appearances before going on the disabled list in late July. Chris Hernandez, taken in the seventh round in 2010 out of the University of Miami, had posted solid ERAs in previous seasons despite a fastball that regularly sits in the mid-80s. Triple-A hitters were not fooled by his collection of off-speed stuff and hit him hard, posting a .308/.385/.472 against the left-hander before he was moved back to Double-A Portland in July.
The following is the full list of players who meet the eligibility requirements were not added to the 40-man roster, and are therefore available to other teams in the Rule 5 Draft:
Mario Alcantara, Michael Almanzar, Chris Balcom-Miller, Carson Blair, Chris Carpenter, Keith Couch, William Cuevas, Keury De La Cruz, Luis Diaz, Leonel Escobar, Derrik Gibson, Dreily Guerrero, Jayson Hernandez, Chris Hernandez, Peter Hissey, Aaron King, Aaron Kurcz, Tommy Layne, Juan Carlos Linares, Mario Martinez, Mike McCoy, Heiker Meneses, Boss Moanaroa, Yunior Ortega, Oscar Perez, Mathew Price, Nate Reed, David Renfroe, Pete Ruiz, Felix Sanchez, Kyle Stroup, Francisco Taveras, Raynel Velette, Jose Vinicio, Kolbrin Vitek, Stefan Welch, Shannon Wilkerson, and Madison Younginer.
Boston has had a player selected in the major league portion of each of the last four Rule 5 drafts. Last season, pitchers Josh Fields and Ryan Pressly were selected by Houston and Minnesota, respectively. Both remained on their team's rosters all season and were met with mixed success. Fields had a 4.97 ERA in 41 appearances but lowered his ERA by more than a run with a solid September. Pressly had a 1.20 ERA in his first 30 appearances but slumped in the second half, finishing a 3.87. His 76 2/3 innings were second among Twins relievers.
Photo Credit: Garin Cecchini by Kelly O'Connor