I have been rather lax in viewing the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate at Pawtucket, so I will take advantage of an excellent source, that being Fansided’s own Aaron Somers for an in-depth view of the PawSox at the mid point of the IL season.
Aaron is a regular attendee at the PawSox games and will present a far more insightful view than I am capable of. I popped some questions his way so enjoy his analysis.
Rick: Mookie Betts is the next greatest. I’ll confess, I really love this kid since I saw him at Lowell. Your impressions of his switch to CF?
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Aaron: Considering his natural position is in the infield, the transition to center field appears to be going pretty smoothly. His instincts are strong. Betts has a great first move from what I’ve seen thus far. I’ll admit, I’m not completely sold on him being a center fielder though. I’m certainly not ready to proclaim him as “the next big thing” in terms of center fielders at least. He’s good and has shown the potential to get better, but I fear that his development could be rushed a bit if the organization isn’t careful. For as much talk as there has been lately about Brock Holt‘s development, with comparisons to Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist, I think that Betts falls into that comparison much more appropriately.
Rick: Next one I have displayed man-love for is Christian Vasquez. Offensively what do you see as his strengths and weaknesses? Defensively do you see any liabilities?
Aaron: Vazquez isn’t going to be a typical power-hitting catcher. He will be able to hold his own at the plate though. He’s a line drive hitter who knows how to take advantage of the gaps well. I’m not suggesting he’ll be this prolific, but think about Joe Mauer in his early days before that random power surge (and his eventual move to first base). Mauer was a slap hitter who knew how to get on base. Vazquez could fill a similar role, but he won’t challenge for any batting titles.
Rick: I have never seen Travis Shaw play aside from televised games. How do you project him for the next 12 months?
Aaron: .I was glad to see Shaw get a bump to Triple-A. I thought he could have started the year there, but roster construction didn’t really allow for it. It has been a challenge watching Ryan Lavarnway at first base on a regular basis. He just clearly doesn’t belong there. Brandon Snyder is a suitable option, but he’s not an everyday option. I think Shaw could be. He’s fairly solid defensively but I’m not convinced that he’s going to be able to produce enough offensively to make him a viable option long-term.
I think he spends the rest of the season with Pawtucket. They need to see what he can do against the tougher competition. Barring a significant injury though I wouldn’t expect to see him in Boston until next year at the absolute earliest. Even though it’s hardly a guarantee, as Mike Napoli will still be on the roster and eventually the team is going to need to find a place for Will Middlebrooks if he’s still around.
Rick: Garin Cecchini appears to be spinning his wheels. Any comments on his development?
Aaron: The biggest question appears to revolve around his defense, which is why the team is now using him in left field a bit (his first start in left came today/Sunday). I don’t completely see the concerns though. His instincts are solid. He’s got a strong first step. He’s not afraid to lay out for a ball if needed. His arm isn’t always accurate, but some of that comes with experience.
Rick: Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa may stay in Boston. If the Sox need another starter from Pawtucket who would you look for, taking I-95 North?
Aaron: Webster seems like the most likely candidate to get called first, but Ranaudo is rapidly catching up to him. He may have passed him already, actually. Ranaudo has better stuff and I think he profiles better in the rotation long-term. Webster’s control issues concern me and I wonder if he isn’t better suited for a bullpen role when things are all said and done. Of course, I said the same about De La Rosa and he’s performed brilliantly since joining the Sox rotation.
Rick: I saw Chris Hernandez pitch a few times and he just seems to get the job done. Do you see him as a potential starter or bullpen guy?
Aaron: I like Hernandez’ versatility. Long term he’ll end up in the bullpen though. There are just too many other rotation options ahead of him. He doesn’t really overpower opposing batters either, which doesn’t help his cause. Hernandez could be a solid swingman type, like Chris Capuano is now. I wouldn’t expect much more than that though.
Rick: Break down some of the players you have an eye on.
Aaron: Generally the team at Pawtucket has been somewhat disappointing this season. Betts and Holt are the only ones hitting over .300 on the year, which is telling in itself. Bryce Brentz has impressed me defensively, further explaining many of the Jeff Francoeur comparisons that I’ve heard over the years. His struggles at the plate are concerning though. This was all before the hamstring injury that put him on the shelf, of course. Dan Butler has also had a horrendous season at the plate after a strong season a year ago. His stock was never truly high to begin with, but he’s definitely been knocked down the depth charts a bit with the strong play of Vazquez and Blake Swihart at Portland.
Lavarnway and Alex Hassan have both seen callups to Boston already this year and I don’t really think that either was warranted. They could both be 40-man roster casualties before the season ends.
On the pitching side, the ones who’ve impressed me most are Workman, De La Rosa, and Ranaudo. The former two are already in the rotation and Ranaudo could make a start or two come September. Webster could be traded and I don’t think the organization would miss a beat, considering the names rising in the system behind this group. Matt Barnes still seems slowed by the injury that delayed the start of his season.
In the bullpen the only real consistent options have been Rich Hill and Chris Resop, two veterans with a fair amount of experience. I had high hopes for Drake Britton once he was converted full-time into a relief role, but he was inconsistent before he went down with his own injury.
Rick: Who have you seen in the IL this season that you would love to see the Sox have on their roster?
Aaron: I’ve seen a fair share of prospects on the year, some who’ve impressed and some who haven’t at all. Gregory Polanco looked fabulous before he was called up to the Pirates. Maikel Franco looks highly overrated, based on what I saw early on in the season (he has a real hitchy throwing motion at third base that concerns me). Most of the big name pitching prospects who’ve come through Pawtucket this season threw on days that I wasn’t in attendance, so it’s tough to comment on them with any real accuracy.