By Jeff Louderback
The Red Sox farm system is well-stocked with high-ceiling prospects who are slated to open the 2013 campaign at Double-A or Triple-A. Boston’s front office believes in this group so much that it has limited free agent signings this offseason to short-term deals so prospects are not blocked for the long term. Baseball America’s Jim Callis agrees with that confidence.
Callis recently named Boston’s farm system the fifth best in baseball, only behind St. Louis, Seattle, Miami and Texas and ahead of Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Arizona and Houston.
Many of the organization’s top prospects are currently in Boston for the 2013 rookie development program, which helps them get acclimated to the city and work on strength training and fundamentals. Jason Varitek and Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers are among the featured speakers. Designed to help with the transition from the minors to playing baseball on the center stage, the program includes prospects who are expected to make their Major League debut within the next season and a half.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who is one of the top prospects in baseball; center fielder Jackie Bradley, who is projected to take over for Jacoby Ellsbury in 2014; and right fielder Bryce Brentz, who could get called up at some point in 2013, are among the participants.
The others include highly regarded right-handed pitchers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, both of whom the Red Sox acquired in the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers last summer; catchers Dan Butler and Christian Vazquez, the latter of whom could emerge as a quality Major League backup as early as 2014; left-handed pitcher Drake Britton; outfielder Alex Hassan; and versatile infielder Brock Holt, who Boston obtained from Pittsburgh along with Joel Hanrahan.
The 23-year-old De La Rosa is the most intriguing Red Sox pitching prospect to watch in 2013. He has a chance to make the Major League team out of spring training, but likely the club will get him starts at Triple-A Pawtucket to build his arm strength since he will report to spring training around 17 months after Tommy John surgery.