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Red Sox minor league affiliate roster analysis: High-A Salem Red Sox

04.01.14 at 9:51 am ET
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The roster for the High-A Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League:

Pitchers

William Cuevas

Dayan Diaz

Luis Diaz

Justin Haley

Brian Johnson

Kyle Kraus

Corey Littrell

Austin Maddox

Kyle Martin

Simon Mercedes

Kyle Stroup

Madison Younginer

Catchers

Carson Blair

Leonel Escobar

Jayson Hernandez

Infielders

David Chester

Ryan Dent

Matt Gedman

Reed Gragnani

Dreily Guerrero

Mario Martinez

Jose Vinicio

Outfielders

Kevin Heller

Matty Johnson

Jonathan Roof

Aneury Tavarez

PITCHING PROSPECTS

A few pitchers of particular intrigue will open the year in Salem:

– Left-hander Brian Johnson didn’t have a real offseason to prepare for his first full pro season in 2013. He spent most of the winter of 2012 recovering from a line drive to the face, and he was limited in terms of not only the strength training work he could do but also the more fundamental need to eat (he had a liquid diet for months). He started slowly last year but, after being shut down with shoulder tendinitis early in the year, finished strong, ultimately earning a promotion at the end of the season to Salem while posting a 2.54 ERA with 8.9 strikeouts and 3.7 walks per nine innings. The 2012 first-rounder is a 23-year-old left-hander with a four-pitch mix who showed the ability to work up to 94 mph by instructional league last year. Johnson has a chance to follow a trajectory that is somewhat similar to Brandon Workman, advancing slowly in his first pro year but then accelerating as he moves up the ladder.

– Right-hander Simon Mercedes forced his way past Greenville and to Salem with perhaps the standout performance among Red Sox lower-level minor leaguers in spring training. More on that here.

– Right-hander Kyle Martin, a 2013 ninth-rounder, had a fantastic pro debut, posting a 1.25 ERA between Lowell and Greenville with 30 strikeouts and 10 walks in 36 innings. His over-the-top delivery — something he returned to as a senior at Texas A&M — led to tremendous results, with command and the ability to use his length (he’s 6-foot-7) to get groundballs in droves. He has no prospect profile to speak of, but that could change in Salem.

– Left-hander Corey Littrell has a good feel for pitching with a potential starter’s mix.

POSITION PLAYERS

This is a thin, thin group.

– Shortstop Jose Vinicio takes the notion of thin to a new level, as he may well be the lightest prospect in the minor leagues, tipping the scales at less than 140 pounds. He’s got great defensive actions and speed, but the switch-hitter couldn’t hit at all last year (.192/.225/.256, 108 strikeouts, 12 walks) while repeating in Greenville. This will be a bit of a make-or-break year for a player who was signed to a bonus of approximately $2 million in 2009.

– Catcher Carson Blair had a very strong spring. At 24, he’s old for a prospect, but he’s about to get his first opportunity to catch everyday in the Red Sox organization, and he has some interesting tools — notably, raw power and athleticism behind the plate — that offer intrigue.

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