Highlighting the crop of young Boston talent is a 6-foot-4, 250-pound designated hitter and catcher out of Yale by the name of Ryan Lavarnway. The rising prospect will be joined by five other Sox prospects — Jose Iglesias, Juan Carlos Linares, Jason Rice, Daniel Turpen and Seth Garrison.
Top farmhands from the Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners will help fill out the rest of the Javelinas roster.
For Lavarnway, the AFL season (which runs from Oct. 12-Nov. 18) will most likely be spent focusing on his defense behind the plate. As of now, he's the only catcher on the Javelinas roster, which should accelerate his development defensively. Lavarnway split time this season between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland splitting time between catcher and DH.
Offensively, Lavarnway will look to improve upon some of the gaudy numbers he posted this summer. Between Salem and Portland, the 23-year-old led all Boston minor leaguers in RBIs (102) and slugging percentage (.489). He also ranked in the top five in the organization in batting average (.288, fifth); hits (133, fourth); on-base percentage (.393, fourth) and home runs (22, second).
A pair of Cuban-born players will round out the Boston position players on the Javelinas in the form of Iglesias and Linares.
Iglesias is no stranger to the AFL, having participated last season after signing with Boston as an international free agent. Although 2010 was a productive year overall for Iglesias, it was also somewhat of a "lost year" for the 20-year-old shortstop who was limited to 57 games due to a finger injury.
The AFL season should be good for Iglesias to continue to gain more confidence at the plate and make up for some lost at-bats. His .315 OBP and 49 strikeouts are alarming, and something he must improve upon.
Linares is a 26-year-old outfielder who signed with Boston as an international free agent in July. His time in Arizona should give the organization a chance to get a better look at him. Linares played in four games with the GCL Red Sox before a promotion to Portland where he played in just 13 games and hit .239 (11-for-46).
Rice, Turpen and Garrison will represent the Boston organization’s pitching talent this fall.
The most consistent pitcher in Portland this season was Rice, who posted a 3-2 record with a 2.85 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 60 innings. He led the Sea Dogs’ bullpen with 13 saves in 17 chances, and posted a stingy 0.81 ERA in the ninth inning this season.
Rice continues to do all the right things on and off the field, as he was selected to the Eastern League East All-Star Team and named the Sea Dogs’ Citizen of the Year for his work in the community. A strong month of work in Arizona could secure him a spot as a non-roster invitee to spring training and could potentially land him on the 40-man roster.
For Turpen, who was acquired from the San Francisco Giants organization in the Ramon Ramirez deal, the AFL season will be a chance for him to hone his plus stuff. At times, the 24-year-old’s fastball and slider were just as impressive as his numbers in between Double-A Richmond and Portland were unimpressive (7-6, 4.30 ERA, 60K/69.0 IP).
The final spot, for now, goes to Garrison, the only Boston farmhand heading to Arizona who did not reach Double-A Portland this season. The 25-year-old appeared in 16 games between the GCL Sox, Short-Season Lowell, and High-A Salem and posted a 1-1 record with a 3.41 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings of work.
Although there are six players who have already been selected, there could be additions and subtractions in the short span of a month. A couple players to keep an eye out for would be a pair of Portland pitchers.
Reliever Eammon Portice’s strong finish has some in the organization whispering "prospect," while starting pitcher and top prospect Casey Kelly, who was sidelined with a strained lat muscle late in the season, has some empty innings that the Red Sox might like to see him fill.
In the end, the select few heading to the AFL will have the eyes of plenty of scouts on them as they look to improve upon their skill sets. With a chance of climbing up the prospect totem pole it is time for Lavarnway and company to get a head start on the 2011 campaign.