February 17, 2014 at 8:00 AM
The Fort Report is back for another year! Every Monday during spring training, we will be detailing all the Red Sox minor league news and notes from the week that was down in Fort Myers. With pitchers and catchers reporting on Saturday, and position players reporting tomorrow, baseball if officially back.
Here are this week's minor league notes:
- ESPN's Keith Law joined Chris, Matt, and Ian to discuss his Red Sox top 10 prospect list on the latest edition of the SoxProspects.com Podcast. Keith provides great insight on his selections, and also discusses a few highly touted prospects who just missed the list.
- Law also ranked his top 20 impact rookies for the 2014 season on ESPN Insider, and Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, Jr. ranked second and third, respectively.
- The Red Sox announced on Friday that they will have 17 non-roster invitees in spring training, with Matt Barnes, Henry Owens (pictured, above), Blake Swihart, Deven Marrero, and Travis Shaw headlining the list. Expect these players to see some playing time when games start in a couple weeks.
- With Derek Jeter announcing that he will retire at the end of the 2014 season, WEEI.com's Alex Speier talked to Bogaerts about the player who Bogaerts idolized while growing up in Aruba. Bogaerts will wear No. 2 this year, a number he always wore when he was younger in honor of his favorite player.
- Coming off a challenging year in 2013 that he described as a "circus", Bryce Brentz spoke with Speier about what he was able to take away from the season, as well as how he was able to work on his approach in the Dominican Winter league.
- "Will Jackie Bradley be able to adequately replace Jacoby Ellsbury?" A question which has been asked many times this offseason was brought up to Bradley, and he responded by saying that he will simply play his own game. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal took a look at what that means, and also the competition that Bradley faces with Grady Sizemore.
- Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com did a great series called 25 Players in 25 Days, taking an in-depth look at the 25 most impactful Red Sox as the 2014 season draws closer. Last week he wrote about Brandon Workman and whether he will be a starter or reliever. With Ryan Dempster announcing that he will not pitch in 2014, the chances of Workman remaining a starter seem to have increased, making him one of the more interesting players to watch in big league camp.
- There has been a lot of talk about the Red Sox catching depth in the minor leagues, but that talk usually only centers around Swihart and Christian Vazquez. Ryan Lavarnway (pictured, right) has seen his stock fall a bit in the past few years, but many fans still remember when he was one of the premier power bats in the system. Lavarnway told Speier that he will be using a different size bat this season, and has made some mechanical adjustments to help bring back some of the power he showed in 2011 when he slugged 34 home runs in 133 games across three levels.
- With Vazquez likely to get most of the catching reps in Pawtucket, Lavarnway has been getting a tutorial on how to play first base from Brian Butterfield. This versatility gives Lavarnway the best chance to contribute to Boston this season, as he can provide a right-handed complement to either Mike Carp or Daniel Nava at first base if Mike Napoli were to get injured.
- Shunsuke Watanabe, who will get lots of recognition in spring training for his submarine-style delivery, told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that he holds the Japanese record for skipping stones. Watanabe also gave up a 525-foot home run to David Ortiz back in 2004. This is a reminder that Ortiz hit .301/.380/.603 that season.
- The 37-year-old Watanabe will not be the oldest player on a minor league contract, as the Red Sox signed 38-year-old Francisco Cordero on Sunday. Cordero last pitched in 2012, when he was with John Farrell and the Toronto Blue Jays. Cordero was a good closer for the Rangers and the Reds, and saved 37 games as recently as 2011, but his performance fell off completely in 2012 and he did not pitch at all in 2013. There is little risk here, but the chances of him throwing a pitch for the Red Sox are slim.
- When mentioning young pitchers who could help this year, Farrell mentioned Henry Owens as a possibility. This shows how highly the organization thinks of Owens, as he was drafted out of high school less than three years ago. While he will not match the pace of Jose Fernandez from that 2011 draft, he is on a similar timetable as Archie Bradley, who is considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.
Photo Credit: Henry Owens and Ryan Lavarnway by Kelly O'Connor