March 18, 2014 at 7:00 AM
Position in a Nutshell: The Red Sox likely have their long-term answers at second and short in the majors already, but there are a handful of other intriguing players in the system, meaning those players will likely either change positions or end up traded, barring catastrophe.
Does the organization think Deven Marrero is ready for Triple-A? – Marrero (right) has the chance to impact the game with his defense, while hitting enough to profile as a bottom-of-the-order bat. He has looked good in both respects in his second major league Spring Training this year, and avoided the first round of cuts (although he was eventually reassigned to minor league camp on Monday), giving rise to the question of whether the club could push him to Pawtucket to start the year. After just 85 plate appearances in Portland last season, we will stay conservative, but this is worth watching. Projection: Portland
So with Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia in Boston, what will happen to all of the potential major leaguers at these positions? – For the most part, just do not worry about it. Marrero might just be a utility infielder if his bat does not progress, making him a great potential backup. Mookie Betts (more on him below) is athletic enough that if he is not traded, he could move to another position or become a multi-position player in the Ben Zobrist mold. And as for any players farther down the ladder, the Sox will deal with that (nice) problem if they need to down the line.
Who to watch
Top Prospect: Xander Bogaerts, Projection: American League All-Star Team – I mean, really though, is there anything left to say here but this?
Stock rising: Mookie Betts, Projection: Portland – No prospect took as large a leap forward as Betts last year, rising from a fringe prospect to a consensus top-100 prospect in all of baseball. In Lowell in 2012, Betts showed flashes but lacked consistency, although he did look a lot more comfortable, both defensively and at the plate, once he moved to second base following the signing of Marrero. In 2013, Betts put it all together, translating those flashes into consistent performances all season long across two levels and the Arizona Fall League. Betts is an excellent athlete and that athleticism translates on the field. He is a plus runner with solid instincts on the base paths. At the plate, he has a short, compact swing and an advanced approach, projecting as a potential plus hitter. Though he is slight of frame, Betts has some pop, but it is more gap power than over-the-fence power. Defensively, Betts has excellent range and soft hands. He has a solid-average arm that could play at shortstop if the Red Sox choose to give him some reps there to increase his versatility and value. Betts likely will be challenged this year with an assignment to Portland, and if he succeeds there against advanced pitching, his stock will continue to rise.
Sleeper: Wendell Rijo, Projection: Greenville – Rijo (pictured) was a known commodity heading into the 2012 international signing period, but an ACL tear led to his signing for a bonus of just $575,000 and uncertainty regarding how he would recover. He was clearly limited last spring training, sporting a large brace for the entire season. Rijo exceeded expectations though, hitting .271/.368/.359 and earning an end-of-season promotion to Lowell, where he immediately was one of the most impressive hitters in the lineup. With another season like that, he would move into the discussion as one of the top 10 prospects in the system. Rijo hits from a wide-open stance with his hands high. He brings his hands down and closes the stance on approach, ending up in a good hitting position, although at times his timing with all this movement can be off, resulting in him being caught out in front. Defensively, Rijo shows soft hands and smooth actions at second, but he has a tendency to get sloppy with his defensive mechanics. He was clearly still tentative during the GCL season because of the knee injury, but he no longer had his bulky knee brace at Fall Instructs and looked quicker.
At a crossroads: Jose Vinicio, Projection: Salem – Since he signed for $1.95 million in 2009 and skipped the DSL to go straight to the GCL in 2010 for his age 16 season, expectations have been high for Vinicio (pictured). After an aggressive assignment to start 2012 in Greenville, he put together a solid, if injury-plagued season, but upon a return trip to Greenville in 2013, Vinicio struggled mightily putting up a triple slash of .192/.225/.256. The biggest issue with Vinicio is still his lack of size—even four-and-a-half years after signing, Vinicio still is extremely slight of frame and looks unlikely fill out much, if at all. His frame also impacts his ability at the plate, as he lacks the strength to get the head of the bat through the zone. He has little-to-no power and does not project to have more in the future. Furthermore, his approach and pitch recognition have not improved much. Defensively, however, Vinicio, has shown an impressive skill set with soft hands and fluid actions, exuding confidence in the field. It is unclear whether Vinicio will start with Greenville for the third straight year or get bumped up to Salem. Though he probably is not ready for it, he may have to get pushed with shortstops like Tzu-Wei Lin, Raymel Flores, and Javier Guerra coming through the pipeline.
On the Radar
Sean Coyle, Projection: Portland – Struggled with injuries last season, limiting him to 60 games. Has shown raw power, but struggles to make contact and needs to improve his approach.
Brock Holt, Projection: Pawtucket – Profiles as a utility player with solid bat-to-ball skills, but limited power. Defensive skill set is better suited for second base, but passable at shortstop. Outside chance at Boston backup job, but has two options remaining while Jonathan Herrera has none.
Heiker Meneses, Projection: Pawtucket – Meneses (pictured) shown decent contact skills, but needs to improve his plate discipline and approach in order to reach his ceiling at the plate. Defensively, has played all around the infield, started catching during Fall Instructs, and played some outfield in Venezuela this winter in attempt to become a true utility player.
Tzu-Wei Lin, Projection: Greenville – His defensive chops are far ahead of his offensive skills. Hitting ability could be limited by his size, as he has a small frame that does not project to allow him to add much size without sacrificing some of his above-average speed. Wore down at the end of last season, ceding starts at short as Lowell made a playoff push.
Raymel Flores, Projection: Lowell – Signed for $900,000 back in 2011, but his raw tools have yet to translate in game action. Size limits his present hitting ability, but showed nice-to-fluid actions, soft hands in the field, and plus speed.
Javier Guerra, Projection: GCL – A bit of a surprise in Fall Instructs, Guerra’s line was unspectacular in the DSL last season. Those who saw him commented on his swing and tools at short. Will be a player to watch this year.
Mauricio Dubon, Projection: Lowell – Honduran was draft-eligible after spending two years in California as an exchange student. Has shown flashes of ability in limited action in the GCL.
There is a lot of variability in the projection given the fungibility among infielders. There are a number of utility players in this group that could wind up wherever in the system there are roster holes that need filling.
Boston: Dustin Pedroia
Pawtucket: Brock Holt (SS/3B), Mike McCoy (Util), Ryan Dent (Util)
Portland: Mookie Betts, Sean Coyle (pictured, left), Derrik Gibson (/SS/3B)
Salem: Mike Miller, Bryan Johns (/2B/3B)
Greenville: Wendell Rijo, Carlos Asuaje (/3B), Reed Gragnani
Lowell: None currently
GCL: Victor Acosta
DSL: Luis Alejandro Basabe, Luis Benoit
Boston: Xander Bogaerts (pictured, right), Jonathan Herrera (/2B/3B)
Pawtucket: Heiker Meneses (Util)
Portland: Deven Marrero
Salem: Jonathan Roof, Jose Vinicio
Greenville: Tzu-Wei Lin, Deiner Lopez (/3B/2B), Dreily Guerrero (Util)
Lowell: Raymel Flores, Mauricio Dubon (/3B)
GCL: Javier Guerra
DSL: Rafael Toribio, Carlos Tovar
Photo credits: Deven Marrero, Wendell Rijo, Jose Vinicio, Heiker Meneses, Sean Coyle & Xander Bogaerts by Kelly O'Connor
Follow Director of Scouting Ian Cundall on Twitter @IanCundall
Follow Executive Editor Chris Hatfield on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield