While the bulk of the baseball world will be watching the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers play in the deciding game of their American League Division Series on Tuesday, others with an eye toward the future will have their sights set on Arizona, including several in the Red Sox organization.
Tuesday marks the start of play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, which will include appearances by a sprinkling of highly rated Red Sox prospects. Top pitching prospect Casey Kelly, star shortstop Jose Iglesias and slugging catcher Ryan Lavarnway will each play for the Peoria Javelinas, along with four others in the system.
Here is a look at where the big names stand heading into the 32-game AFL schedule:
The 21-year-old was shut down in August due to a muscle strain in his back, finishing his first full season as a pitcher in the system at 3-5 with a 5.31 ERA. It left him with 95 innings, about 30 shy of what the club had hoped to see. Those will be made up in the desert sun.
Kelly’s numbers did not sparkle the way one might expect from the organization’s top pitching prospect, but those who are charged with bringing him along were not concerned in the least. Facing many older, more developed and more experienced players at Double-A Portland he managed to hold his own in most of his starts.
Squaring off with other top prospects in Arizona will be a great way for Kelly to get that extra work in, and provide a stiff challenge heading into 2011.
Like Kelly, Iglesias had an injury (broken finger) that sidetracked his season and left him a handful of at-bats short of what the organization would’ve liked. Those he did receive thrilled the club, which signed the Cuba native based on his reputation as a great glove man. How he adapted to the professional game at the plate was the big question, one which Iglesias answered well.
The 20-year-old hit .285 in 57 games at Portland and had a .350 showing in 13 rehab games with Lowell.
He’ll build on that progress and hope to improve on his unrefined plate discipline (.315 on-base percentage for Portland) at Peoria. Iglesias hit .275 with a pair of homers in 18 games last season in Arizona after he was signed by the Sox.
The system’s Offensive Co-Player of the Year along with first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Lavarnway may have leapfrogged the highly touted Luis Exposito on the pecking order at catcher. The Yale product hit .289 with Salem before earning a promotion to Portland and actually improving on several of his numbers.
The 23-year-old finished with 22 homers and 102 RBIs in just 126 games between the two levels.
Also on the roster is right-hander Daniel Turpen, the hurler the Sox received in the Ramon Ramirez deal July 31. He was 2-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 12 games out of the bullpen for Portland.
Fellow Sea Dogs relievers Jason Rice, an Eastern League All-Star, and Eammon Portice, as well as Portland outfielder Juan Carlos Linares — signed as an international free agent this summer — round out the Red Sox’ representation.