Six Former Portland Sea Dogs in MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim


Six Former Portland Sea Dogs in MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim Kevin Youkilis
doesn’t look like he’ll be getting a call to the 2010 All-Star Game.

American League manager Joe Girardi chose Paul Konerko to replace Justin Morneau at first base instead of Youkilis, so six players will represent the Boston Red Sox in Anaheim.

Girardi’s decision had similar repercussions for the Sea Dogs in Portland, Maine. The Double-A team was hoping to have seven former players make the All-Star rosters, but six isn’t too shabby. Former Sea Dogs Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and David Ortiz (who had a three-game rehab stint in Portland in 2008) made the AL roster after being voted in on the player ballot.  Meanwhile, former top Red Sox prospect Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins (fan vote) and San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (player vote) will take the opposing dugout on the National League side.

The Sea Dogs are the most-represented Eastern League team in the Midsummer Classic, ahead of both the Akron Aeros (Cleveland Indians) and Reading Phillies (Philadelphia Phillies), who each sent five.

Only one other Double-A organization can compare with the six former Sea Dogs this year. The Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers) of the Texas League also are sending six former players to the All-Star Game: Josh Hamilton, Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez.

In Triple-A, the International League’s Indianapolis Indians and Scranton Wilkes-Barre also are each sending six former players to the game. Indianapolis’ six alumni span three different affiliations since 1993: the Reds, Brewers and currently Pirates. Scranton Wilkes-Barre is now a Yankees affiliate, but six former Phillies prospects (from their days as the Red Barons) are headed to Anaheim.

Portland is right there with all of them. While Ortiz was in Maine for only a brief time in ’08 and Adrian Gonzalez played for the Sea Dogs when they were a Marlins affiliate, the flood of talent through Portland bodes well for Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and his staff, who have emphasized the importance of player development since day one.

Jonathan Papelbon (a four-time All-Star selection), Pedroia (a three-time All-Star) and Youkilis (a two-time selection) are all former Red Sox draft picks and Sea Dogs who have represented the Red Sox in multiple Midsummer Classics under the Epstein regime.  Lester and Buchholz are both enjoying the first All-Star appearances of their young careers, but could join this list in the near future.

Since 2002, the presence of former Sea Dogs at the All-Star Game has been as commonplace as a sellout crowd at Fenway Park, with at least two former Sea Dogs making the All-Star Game. Since 2006, there have been at least three former Dogs.  However, in recent years, that number has become even more impressive, with the Sea Dogs boasting at least six former players in the MLB All-Star Game since 2008.

For the Portland franchise, the number of former players in the All-Star Game since 2002 has been an incredible feat. But since 2006, when Papelbon made his first All-Star appearance, the Red Sox have sent at least one homegrown talent each year, and at least three since 2008.

Pedroia, Lester, Buchholz and Ortiz also are alumni of the Pawtucket Pawsox. Lester and Buchholz both spent time with the Greenville Drive. And Buchholz is the lone Lowell Spinners alumnus to round up the Red Sox’ affiliate representation at the 2010 All-Star Game.

Very few organizations have seen their prospects blossom through the system and achieve All-Star success in the major leagues quite like the Red Sox. The Atlanta Braves are one, and they are well-represented at the All-Star Game this year with former minor league farmhands.

The Braves Rookie Level team of the Gulf Coast League led all MiLB clubs by sending eight former players to this season’s All-Star Game: Andrus, Feliz, Rafael Soriano, Adam Wainwright, Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, Martin Prado, and Rafael Furcal.

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans – the Braves’ advanced Single-A affiliate — are sending seven former players, including Atlanta ace Tim Hudson, who made one rehab start for them in 2009.

But despite the great success of the GCL Braves’ alumni in the majors this year, only Heyward, McCann and Prado will be representing the Atlanta Braves, compared to the four Sea Dogs representing the Red Sox.

With Adrian Beltre leaving Sunday’s game in Toronto with an apparent hamstring injury, Youkilis could have an outside shot at working his way into the AL dugout for the All-Star Game. However, one would hope Beltre is healthy, and early reports are that the hamstring is more of a cramping issue than debilitating injury.

Whether Youkilis makes the AL All-Star team or not, the system is working. Since Epstein took the reins as GM, the Red Sox organization has drafted and developed a league MVP, a Rookie of the Year and six All-Stars. They even traded away a future NL Rookie of the Year and batting champion (Hanley Ramirez) in exchange for a World Series MVP (Mike Lowell) and ALCS MVP (Josh Beckett).

The Portland Sea Dogs just so happen to be the top beneficiary of that system this year, and have been for the past several years. Sure, it has become more rule than exception for multiple Red Sox to make the All-Star Game, year in and year out, but as more and more talent works its way up the East Coast, more and more affiliates can take pride when tuning into the Midsummer Classic.

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