How do Red Sox's prospects fit Boston's needs?
Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. should help in 2014, other farmhands not far behind
This series is designed to evaluate the role prospects play in each Major League organization, looking at the short- and long-term needs of each club and illustrating how prospects fit in both scenarios.
Here's my look at the Red Sox:
The Red Sox lost Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees, but for the most part they return a club that can effectively attempt to defend its World Series championship.
PROJECTED 2016 RED SOX LINEUP
Jackie Bradley Jr. will get the opportunity to win the job in center field. A first-round selection of the Red Sox in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Bradley got 107 plate appearances with the parent club last season, hitting .189 with three homers and 10 RBIs. He stole two bases.
Bradley is a mature, complete player with a Minor League composite batting average of .297 in his three seasons in the Red Sox system. He will bring quickness and good contact to his role. While Bradley isn't a burner, he should be able to steal some bases and chase down fly balls from his position in center field.
Xander Bogaerts is an exciting infielder with the ability to play at shortstop or third base, depending on the team's needs. With the the loss of Stephen Drew to free agency, it's likely Bogaerts will start the season at shortstop.
In Bogaerts' first 50 Major League plate appearances late last season, and then in 12 postseason games during Boston's World Series run, he showed why his club is excited about his presence. He hit .250 with a home run and five RBIs in late August and September, then went 8-for-27 (.296) in the high-pressure postseason atmosphere, starting all six World Series games against the Cardinals. Bogaerts made consistent contact and played a solid third base.
Bogaerts is a barrel-of-the-bat contact hitter with a very natural, fluid swing. He makes hitting look easy. Bogaerts has the potential to bang the ball off the Green Monster with some regularity. He'll get his share of home runs as well.
Garin Cecchini is a third-base candidate with barrel-of-the-bat hitting mechanics. He makes consistent contact, but his power may lag behind. Cecchini has a good knowledge of the strike zone and enough speed to steal a base. A good athlete, he could probably play any corner on the field. For Cecchini, hitting comes first.
If a replacement starter is needed, right-handed Brandon Workman has the ability to join the rotation. He threw 41 2/3 innings for the Red Sox in 2013, making three starts and pitching to an ERA of 4.97.
Workman is tall and slender at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds. He has excellent control and rarely walks hitters. In fact, Workman's walk rate in his Minor League career is 2.1 per nine innings.
Workman throws four pitches, including a high-velocity fastball, an equally effective cutter and curveball, and a less-advanced changeup. He uses all those pitches at any point in the count.
Like Workman, Allen Webster has Major League experience. Also right-handed, Webster threw 30 1/3 innings in 2013, making seven big league starts. His ERA was 8.60. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound, 24-year-old Webster also is a high-velocity pitcher, with his fastball touching 98 mph. He gets sink on his pitches and induces ground balls. Webster also throws a good slider, a moderately effective curveball and a better-than-average changeup. As is the case with most young pitchers, he has to work on his command.
Left-hander Henry Owens is not as advanced in his development as either Workman or Webster. He is 6-foot-6, 205 pounds and could stand to add more bulk to his tall, thin frame.
Owens does not yet have the cleanest delivery. He has issues getting that tall frame going in the right direction every time. Owens throws a low-90s fastball, a curveball and a changeup, but he isn't throwing strikes consistently. He can certainly miss bats, as he struck out an average of 11.3 hitters last season at advanced Class A Salem and Double-A Portland, but he also walked 4.5 hitters per nine, and that's the issue.
Right-hander Matt Barnes is another possible starting-pitching option for the future. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Barnes has had good strikeout rates in his Minor League career, but he also needs to work on his fastball command.
Mookie Betts is a solid second-base candidate for the future. He is athletic and is a good defender. Betts also has good contact and batting average upside. He has a difficult path to the Major League club, playing behind Dustin Pedroia, but his presence will be felt.
Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez are both solid catching prospects for the future. Vazquez, at 23, is more advanced in his development than the 21-year-old Swihart. But Swihart has a bit more upside because of his excellent combination of defensive and offensive skills. Either way, the team has catching options developing in the pipeline.