Hidden beneath the disappointing way in which the 2012 season is coming to a conclusion for the Boston Red Sox, the team announced the winners of their annual year-end minor league awards just over a week ago. The group was honored before the team’s game on September 22nd and collectively make up just part of the reason behind the hope that this Red Sox team will turn things around and be competitive once again. Right-handed pitcher Brandon Workman was named the team’s Pitcher of the Year while shortstop Xander Bogaerts received the honors for the system’s Offensive Player of the Year. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (Defensive Player of the year), third baseman Garin Cecchini (Base Runner of the Year), and outfielder Daniel Nava (Lou Gorman Award) were also recognized.
Workman posted a combined 10-8 record and 3.50 ERA on the year over 25 starts between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. The 2010 Draft pick (2nd Round) impressed in his second professional season, finishing among the organization’s minor league leaders in wins (4th) and strikeouts (tied for 2nd). The former University of Texas product threw a total of 138.2 innings on the year, walking 25 while striking out 130 and allowing just 127 hits. While he did receive a handful of starts (five) at Double-A to close out the season, that is likely where his 2013 campaign will begin. Workman was ranked 15th in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook prior to the 2012 season, so it will be interesting to see how much higher his stock has grown thanks to his 2012 performance.
Bogaerts, meanwhile, has already stepped into the role of the team’s top overall prospect by most accounts and only turns 20 years old today. Over 532 plate appearances between Salem and Portland, Bogaerts batted .307/.373/.523 on the year, adding 20 HR and 81 RBI. Bogaerts finished the season among the organizational leaders in home runs (tied for 2nd), RBI (3rd), and batting average (4th). He was also named to the Carolina League Mid-Season All Star roster and participated in the MLB Futures Game in Kansas City, a game in which he went 1 for 4 as the World team’s starting designated hitter. Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Bogaerts isn’t what he’ll accomplish once he reaches the Major Leagues, but rather what position he’ll ultimately play once he reaches Boston. Many scouts seem to believe that he’ll eventually outgrow the shortstop position and could slide over to third base, but with the presence of Will Middlebrooks at the hot corner that may not prove to be a viable option, barring a move involving Middlebrooks. Bogaerts could end up in a corner outfield spot, potentially, but there doesn’t seem to be any rush to make any significant changes to the plan surrounding his development.
Bradley and Cecchini both also figure prominently in the team’s top prospect lists and future plans, though one is certainly more well known than the other. Bradley is often viewed as a possible in-house replacement in center field after the 2013 season if the team is unable to keep Jacoby Ellsbury under contract. He hit .315/.430/.482 on the year, split between Salem and Portland, while displaying all five tools and the potential for Gold Glove defense. Meanwhile, Cecchini is further back in the organization that the rest of this year’s award winners, having spent the 2012 season with Class-A Greenville. The third baseman hit .305/.394/.433 and added 51 stolen bases.
The Lou Gorman Award is given annually to a Red Sox minor leaguer who’s persevered and worked to overcome obstacles while playing for the organization and Nava is certainly a deserving recipient. His story is one that’s also largely well known by the team’s fan base – he was a standout hitter in college but went undrafted and unsigned, leading to a stint in an independent league, before finally signing an unlikely minor league contract with the Red Sox in 2008. He’d work his way up to the Major Leagues, debuting on June 12, 2010 in historic fashion, becoming just the second player in Major League history to hit a grand slam on the very first pitch seen in his debut at bat. Nava’s spent a fair amount of the 2012 season with Boston’s big club, receiving 300 plate appearances over 84 games in which he batted .246/.356/.373 and played well enough to get himself into the discussion for next season’s Opening Day roster.