Red Sox minor league roundup of the roundup: End of the season, restoration of a youthful blueprint
|09.15.13 at 10:17 am ET|
The Red Sox’ minor league season came to an end on Saturday, when the Durham Bulls dominated Triple-A Pawtucket, 7-0, to claim a 3-1 win in the best-of-five Governor’s Cup championship series. In a series where Pawtucket produced just three runs in four games, the lineup depleted by the absence of players like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, the outcome wasn’t necessarily shocking. Nor, in a sense, was it lamented, given the bigger picture of what is happening with the Red Sox.
“We watched the Red Sox win (Saturday afternoon in their 5-1 decision over the Yankees), and — no matter what the names are — you see them contribute to a 90-plus-win team, and that’s what it’s all about,” PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina told the Pawtucket Times. “The fun part for me watching them get there, watching guys play and relax and work their way up.”
What the Red Sox accomplished this year went beyond the success of some of the individual minor league affiliates or even the success of the Red Sox at the major league level. What the Red Sox have done this year is to restore a model of system-wide depth in which they were and are positioned to address the lion’s share of struggles and/or underperformances through their minor league system while maintaining championship-caliber ambitions.
That hasn’t been the case in every aspect of the team. The Sox ended up deciding to trade for Jake Peavy with Clay Buchholz down — though the deal came at a point when Brandon Workman was pitching well enough to suggest that he had a chance to offer scaffolding for a struggling rotation — and the team’s attempt to find internal answers to its bullpen struggles (with pitchers such as Workman, Drake Britton, Rubby De La Rosa, Pedro Beato, Jose De La Torre and Alex Wilson) yielded some promise but not yet consistent results. Still . . .
Workman stabilized the rotation after not only Buchholz went down but also after Allen Webster could not offer stability. Workman represented second-level starting depth, the kind that the Red Sox had not featured in either the slow-motion collapse of 2011 or during the yearlong exercise in failure in 2012.
The Red Sox were in position to get key season-opening contributions from Jackie Bradley Jr. in New York, permitting them, at a time when David Ortiz was down, to shift to an athletic, dynamic run-prevention model. Bradley likewise offered a midyear depth charge when Shane Victorino went on the DL.
When Will Middlebrooks struggled, the team proved capable of summoning Jose Iglesias to play third base. Iglesias not only performed brilliantly, but he also elevated his value to the point where he could be traded for Peavy in a three-way deal.
When David Ross was lost due to his two DL stints for concussions, the team had Ryan Lavarnway available to fill in. He’s hitting .310/.342/.451 in 22 plate appearances.
The team has had Xander Bogaerts ready as an available alternative capable of making an impact at the big league level.
Workman, Britton, Webster, Bradley, Iglesias, Bogaerts and Brock Holt are all 25 or younger (in Bogaerts’ case, considerably younger). So is Middlebrooks. So is Felix Doubront. Lavarnway just turned 26 last month.
Overall, the Sox had 11 players in their age 25 seasons or younger — tied (with the Yankees) for the most in the American League, and ahead of the Orioles (10), Blue Jays (10) and Rays (7). By and large, the young players upon whom they relied were more than just organizational filler — they represented early glimpses of players with considerable promise in terms of the long-term roles they might occupy for the team going forward. And further reinforcements are on the way with some of the organization’s top prospects such as Anthony Ranaudo and Christian Vazquez and Garin Cecchini and Matt Barnes and Deven Marrero all positioning themselves to keep the pipeline flowing in the next year-plus.
Some of those prospects will take steps back. Some might never reach the major leagues.
Nonetheless, at this moment, the Red Sox are showing signs of emerging as an organization that matches up largely with the blueprint laid out by GM Ben Cherington at numerous times, particularly last offseason as the team tried to decide how to renovate in the aftermath of the mess of 2012. For the first time since 2007-08, when the team leaned on players like Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester and Justin Masterson and Jed Lowrie to occupy key roles, there is a homegrown path forward in which the Sox possess not only a deep and talented big league core but also the farm system — where there is evident prospect strength in the upper levels — capable of supporting it in the face of inevitable injuries.
That model offers no guarantees, but for now, the Red Sox look like an organization with at least the simultaneous foundations of short- and long-term success. Less than 13 months removed from a point where it was hard to comprehend how the Sox would find their way out of a claustrophobia-inducing position of roster inflexibility, the team’s outlook could not be much further removed from that point.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-0 LOSS VS. DURHAM (RAYS)
– Jonathan Diaz had the only two hits for the PawSox.
– Catcher Dan Butler was the only other member of the PawSox to reach base, getting hit by a pitch. In seven postseason games, he hit .286 with a .400 OBP, performing as the most consistent offensive contributor on the team.
– Right-hander Brayan Villarreal tossed a scoreless inning on Saturday, concluding a postseason series in which he did not give up a run in his four appearances spanning 2 2/3 innings. However, he also did not strike out a batter in that time.
There are two more episodes of Down on the Farm, to air each of the next two Saturdays (Sept. 21 and Sept. 28) at 8:30 a.m. on WEEI. Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett will answer reader/listener questions in the final show of the season. To submit a question, email email@example.com or ask it on twitter @alexspeier by Sept. 23.
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