There’s two ways to upgrade a roster during the course of the season: make a trade or promote from within.
In the case of the Boston Red Sox, they have the option to do both.
With a talent-laden farm system, Boston is certainly in a position to swing a couple of highly touted prospects to make a splash (Giancarlo anyone? Unlikely, but man can you imagine?). Or of course, and probably preferred, they can keep those prospects and build a team that can contend in 2014, and for years to come.
For the purposes of this article, let’s pretend the Red Sox don’t relinquish any of their minor league talent. Who can step up and improve this club right now? Let’s take a look:
In my 2014 preview of the Boston Red Sox, I mentioned that an injury at third base could open the door for Garin Cecchini. Well, well, Will Middlebrooks is on the DL for the second time this season, and despite the play of Brock Holt and the inevitable move to third for Xander Bogaerts, there is still an opportunity for Cecchini to make his Major League debut later in the season.
Cecchini, who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, has progressed nicely through the minor leagues. Through his first 163 at-bats at the Triple-A level, he’s posted a slash of .288/.368/.344, with 20 walks and 37 strikeouts. His patient approach at the plate — 192 walks to 232 strikeouts in his minor league career — makes him a perfect fit for the Red Sox style of play. It may take some time for his glove to catch up with is bat, but Cecchini’s potential may be hard to ignore for too much longer.
The Red Sox have yielded little production out of the third base spot so far in 2014 and Cecchini could really make a difference given the chance. As I mentioned earlier, the signing of Stephen Drew makes things a little trickier because Bogaerts will undoubtedly be the starting third baseman. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’ve learned over the years that you don’t have to start to make an impact a la Mike Carp.
It may not take long for Allen Webster to make an impact. With the injuries to both Felix Doubront (5.12 ERA) and Clay Buchholz (7.02 ERA), Webster could make his first start for Boston this year as soon as Friday or Saturday.
Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the mega-deal that alleviated a quarter of a billion dollars in salaries for the Red Sox, Webster has proven his worth in the minors, taking over the role as the ace for the PawSox over the last few seasons. He’s back at it again this season, posting a 3.17 ERA in 59.2 innings pitched albeit a poor K:BB with 25 walks and 43 strikeouts.
This won’t be Webster’s first trip to the show.
Last season for Boston, he struggled with his fastball command early and often, allowing 7 home runs and watching his ERA balloon to 8.60. But it wasn’t all bad. Seriously, it wasn’t. He allowed 3 runs in 6 innings in his first start against the Royals, and 2 runs in 6 innings in another start against the San Diego Padres.
The kid has electric stuff. Webster is a groundball pitcher with a fastball/sinker that reaches the mid-to-upper 90′s. Add that to a pretty nasty change up, and Webster definitely possess the make-up of a Major League pitcher. The problem: he needs to work on keeping the ball down, something he didn’t do in his time with Boston in 2013. If he can do that with more consistency, there’s no reason to think that Webster can’t carve out a spot for himself and impact the bottom of the starting rotation.
Out of all three guys, Webster could be the one to make the greatest impact because of the complete incompetence of Doubront and Buchholz this season.
Ok, so this is the Charlie Kelly of the group: the wildcard.
The reason I make this comparison is because Mookie Betts is still just
playing dominating in Double-A Portland (Who needs seasoning anyways?).
The 5-foot-9 uber athletic Betts, who was taken in the 5th round of the 2011 draft, is absolutely burning up the minor leagues, and garnering a lot of attention because of it. In 190 at-bats at Double-A, Betts has posted a slash of .363/.451/.568, with 6 homers, 30 RBI’s, and, oh yeah, 22 steals.
With numbers like that, Betts could be on the fast track to Fenway Park. He’s not projected to appear in the Majors until 2015, but things change and crazier things have happened.
And to make things even more interesting: Betts has recently started getting some work in center field — a position he played in high school before transitioning to the infield. With Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts blocking second and third base respectively for the next decade, playing the outfield gives Betts his greatest chance at making the club.
The Red Sox need outfield help and they need speed. Betts possesses both. If he can develop fast enough in center, get a promotion up to Triple-A sometime in the near future, and hit there, we may see a potential game-changing type of guy who could give the Red Sox a type of player that they don’t have on the roster.
Of course, that is a whole lot to ask, but dream big friends.
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