Outlook: Skipper Kevin Boles, now in his third season with the Sea Dogs, should be very pleased with the cards he has been dealt to start the 2013 season.
It begins with the Red Sox top prospect Xander Bogaerts at shortstop who will share the infield with 2010 first-rounder Kolbrin Vitek at third and Travis Shaw (who belted 19 home runs last season) at first. Michael Almanzar, who batted .300 with 12 home runs in Salem last year, has only played at first and third base during his career, but his bat may require him to adjust to other positions in order to crack the lineup.
Christian Vazquez’s stock has soared over the last year or so and following an eye-opening stint in the Arizona Fall League, following the 2012 season, his momentum is as high as anyone’s in the organization heading into 2013. Now when people speak of the catcher the words “big league ready” tend to accompany his name.
Vazquez will have a great opportunity to show what he can do with a talented staff of arms as well, working with a starting rotation of Drake Britton, Brandon Workman, Kyle Kaminska, Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo.
With a starting five that is potential-packed, the bullpen may be overlooked. If Daniel Bard can use this opportunity to find himself and simply enjoy the game once more, than he will be as reliable as they come for the time they can keep him in Portland. But up-and-down the staff is a slew of reliable arms from Keith Couch to Will Latimer to Miguel Celestino.
Thoughts: There are plenty of reasons to be excited in Portland this season with a roster that is packed with talent prospects, many of whom are just reaching their potential.
The pitching rotation looks amazing on paper at first glace. In Britton and Ranaudo we have two guys looking to live up to hype that many feel they have fallen short of since arriving in the farm system.
Workman and Barnes are both riding high off of very successful 2012 campaigns and will want to prove they can do it once again. Kaminska, acquired in an offseason trade for Zach Stewart, is the unknown in this formula, which could help him just slip through and just pitch his game when he hits the hill.
Vitek still ceases to impress at this point in his career, but a back injury slowed him a season ago, leaving the door open for this year to be his chance to finally prove himself on this level.
Player to watch: Bogaerts – With Jackie Bradley doing his thing in Boston, some of the pressure on Bogaerts as the org’s top prospect should have waned, allowing him to simply go out and do his job. With some added game experience versus some top opponents while with the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, expect Bogaerts to be ready from the jump. If he picks up where he left a year ago, then he will light things up in Portland and at a rate not seen around these parts in a VERY long time. It’s doubtful he will last the full season with the Sea Dogs so his at-bats will be must-see events while he is there.
Strengths: Pitching – As has been the case for most of these previews, the pitching is once again a standout of a roster. Four of the Red Sox top 15 pitching prospects (per BA) sit in the starting rotation. If Ranaudo stays healthy and the others do what they have done of late, then it will be a special staff to watch. The nature of this group will lead to some friendly, in-house competition that could help ratchet up the intensity of these guys when they are pitching.
Weaknesses: Outfield depth – Tony Thomas is a second baseman by trade and has played in only 24 of 499 games in the outfield. Yet he is listed on the roster as one of four outfielders for Portland this season. The other three – Peter Hissey, Ronald Bermudez and Shannon Wilkerson – combined for only 141 games at this level last season.
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