In response to Archer1's comment:
A few seasons ago the Sox system was said to be loaded with talent in the lower levels, but lacked major league ready talent. Fast forward and we have a handful of players knocking at the door for their first opportunity in The Show. Tough, long-term decisions loom for management regarding what to do with these prospects and what to do with the incumbents at their respective positions? Trades, positional changes, letting incumbents walk into free agency are all likelihoods. Let's discuss the players and the options...
1) Xander Bogaerts: We will get this one out of the way first. Already an offensive contributor for the Sox at the age of 21. Sox should look to offer him a young-Lester type contract after this season or next like (5YR, 35M with team options on the end to extend it to 7 years). However, defensively long term he may need to be a third baseman, first baseman, left fielder, or DH. Something to keep in mind when discussing long-term positions for other players. For now he is a SS and the Sox won't make that move until it's necessary, but it is a real possibility.
I agree with this. Ive never said he wont move, but because SS has been his only position, he has improved the last couple years, and he has more value at the position, Im willing to bet unless out of necessity or just unbelievably horrible defense he will remain at SS all year. Hes going to kick some balls and needs to not be flat footed when the pitch is thrown, so I would think they would allow for some rookie errors and mistakes. Same goes for another rookie on the roster.
Next in line is Deven Marrero, besides a couple UI type guys, and he still needs to prove he can make it through AA. What Xander is doing so far is what you can expect from a lot of good prospects when they first arrive in MLB full time. Its early, so lets give the kid some rope this year.
2) Henry Owens: Impressive lefty pitcher may force his way into the rotation sooner rather than later. The rotation going into 2015 is completely up in the air with Lester, Lackey, Peavy for contract reasons and Buchholz and Doubront for performance reasons. There is nothing holding him back to make the jump. I hope that the Sox don't view him as the reason to let Lester walk, however. It took Lester time to become what he has - just as it will take Owens time to reach his potential. Losing Lester and replacing him with Owens would result in a drop in performance and productivity.
If its true, it was a lowball offer to Lester. With that said, Im sure the Sox will come up significantly and work out a long term deal with him. Lester has no injury history, has a smooth easy delivery, and has now become a "pitcher". Id offer him a 5-6 yr deal. Sometimes you have to look what you have in front of you and decide if hes worth the risk. I say yes. Doubront is the LHP Id worry more about.
Owens still has some work to do, but is showing consistent improvement. We Could see him get a cup of coffee in sept depending on how theyre doing, But other than that, I think he'll remain in AA-AAA this year with a couple guys ahead of him.
3) Mookie Betts: This kid is amazing, but his long term position is unknown. Second base is ideal, but Pedroia is locked up long-term. Is he trade bait? Does he have the arm/range to play short? The arm to play 3rd? Could the IF be arranged with Bogaerts at third, Pedroia at short, and Betts at second? I don't know what to do with him, but his offense is dynamic.
Betts can play SS and 2b. He also hinted that he could play CF and maybe 3b too if needed. From what I know and read, hes very athletic and could handle playing another position if they ask him to. I think they will hold on to him, and like Owens, he could jump to AAA depending on how he and Marrero develop this year in AA. I dont see any trips to Boston other than a COC, and thats not even realistic this year IMO.
4) Garin Cecchini: Appears to be a prototypical Red Sox offensive player. Patient, gap-power, plus-power potential, some speed on the basepaths, good baserunner, and a rare lefty hitting third baseman. He can supplant Middlebrooks with some good play from himself and poor play from the latter. But if Middlebrooks improves or if Bogaerts needs to move to third, what is next for Cecchini? Left field? First base? DH? Trade bait? Would Middlebrooks be traded?
Cecchini needs work defensively. Hes a good candidate to switch positions if he cant handle the hot corner. For now, he will get his work in this year in AAA and take his bumps on defense in the hopes of some improvement. Offensively hes advanced and is the prototypical patient, work the count, Red Sox hitter. Possibly has more power to come, but right now reminds me of a Joe Mauer. High BA and High OBP with a bunch of XBH, BB, and about 10HR power. Have to wait and see on that. Like everyone else, it depends on how the guy ahead of him is doing and if there becomes a need and the right situation to give him a shot. That would be 2 rookies on the left side and another one in CF, so Im not sure they will give him a shot until his defense improves.
5) Pitching Glut: Every starter not named Owens ie; Ranaudo, Workman, Barnes, Johnson etc. I think this will work itself out. Those that perform this season will be first in line to get a crack at the rotation next season. With all of the flux in the current rotation, it is possible that we have three rookies pitching next year.
It'll work itself out.
6) Catchers: Vazquez, Swihart, Butler are the ones in question. The Sox obviously think highly of their catching prospects and elected to let Salty walk and bring in a one year stop gap to hold the position. I wouldn't be surprised to see Vazquez as the starter next season. I don't think Swihart is quite ready yet.
Defensively, Vasquez is about ready. He has made good improvements offensively too, but Im not sure he will be a high OBP catcher, but theres been hints of improvement there. We'll have to wait and see how his offense comes along. .289 .376 .395 .771 was his line in AA last year. Hes batting .279 with a .312OBP, .774 OPS right now. 9 2b and 7 RBI. Looking good so far.
Swihart is about the same offensively as Vasquez. (theres a .010 difference in OPS). Defensively, Vasquez is ahead of him defensively right now, but Swihart has been looking good so far. Vasquez will get the first shot between the two as it stands now. Swihart maybe in 2015 sometime.
Are these prospects good enough that we move the incumbents? Should the blocked players (Betts, Cecchini etc) be packaged in a trade? What positional changes should happen?
All of the players mentioned above could be in a trade, Although I would say unless the return is pretty special, I dont see most of these guys going anywhere. Have to re evaluate at the deadline and the end of the season. As of right now, there staying.