The Portland Sea Dogs have been the Red Sox AA affiliate since 2003, playing in the Eastern League. They are managed by Billy McMillon, a nine year major league veteran outfielder McMillon was the Eastern League Manager of the Year last season. Their hitting coach is Dave Joppie, who never played baseball professionally but has coached in the minors for 20 seasons. Red Sox fans might recall the team signing journeyman outfielder Joe Thurston earlier this off-season. Thurston retired from playing and now coaches for the Sea Dogs. Portland’s pitching coach is Kevin Walker who spent parts of four seasons in the majors between 2000 and 2005.
Let’s take a look at some players you should know about who are two steps away from the majors.
Left-handed reliever Robby Scott was a Red Sox invitee to the Arizona Fall League this past season. While Rusney Castillo was the focus of the media’s attention for his appearance on the team, Scott made the league’s All-Star team posting a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings, striking out 11 batters. Scott built on last season’s success at Portland, where he posted a 1.96 ERA in 59.2 innings, striking out 51 batters. For his professional career, Scott’s ERA is just 1.92 in 173.1 career innings, allowing just 135 hits (seven per nine innings).
Justin Haley made an impressive debut last season with Portland. Haley posted a 1.19 ERA in six starts after his promotion from High-A Salem where he posted a 2.82 ERA, over 92.2 innings. The 23 year old six foot five inch righty was a sixth round draft choice out of Cal State Fresno in 2012.
Pat Light was a 2012 first round draft choice for the Red Sox out of Monmouth College. The six foot five inch righty went 6-6, with a 4.93 ERA last season at High-A Salem last season. Considering last season’s stats, Light’s first round draftee status likely earned this promotion, but he might be running out of chances to prove he was worthy of that selection.
Since his selection in the 11th round in the 2013, utilityman Carlos Asuaje has done nothing but hit in the Red Sox system. 2014 saw the 23 year old drive in 101 runs in 129 games in A and High A ball last season. His 15 homers and .310/.393/.523 batting line vaulted him to the upper echelon of the Red Sox’ trove of minor league talent. He has played third base, left field, second base and shortstop in his two minor league seasons.
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Henry Ramos was having a spectacular season last year, batting .326 before fouling off a pitch that broke his leg. Ramos was drafted in the fifth round out of Puerto Rico, in 2010. Ramos also possesses a strong arm from right field.
Blake Tekotte was signed this offseason as a minor league free agent. The outfielder was the 2008 third round draft pick out of the University of Miami by the San Diego Padres. Tekotte has spent 100 days in the majors with the Padres and the Chicago White Sox over parts of three seasons. He showed well at Spring Training, knocking in five runs in seventeen plate appearances (six for 15 including a double, with two walks) including one hit that tied a game with two outs in the ninth inning. Though the Red Sox glut of outfielders will be tough to push through, if he performs well at AA, the Red Sox might consider a call up in an emergency.
The AA level can be one in which the more serious player evaluations begin. Often a player can dominate at the A level but get to AA and find himself just ordinary. Lefthander Robby Scott would have to be considered a favorite to get to the majors within the next two to three seasons. His excellence in the Arizona Fall League against premium major league prospects as well as his stellar numbers throughout his professional career, make him a candidate for a relief spot at Fenway.
Considering the level of talent and the contract lengths of players manning the infield currently for the Red Sox, there may not be much of an opening in the future for a hitting talent like Carlos Asuaje. He has to continue to prove himself at AA and AAA to make it difficult for the Red Sox to keep him down on the farm if one of the current players starts to falter a few years down the line.
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