Not that the farm system has completely fallen apart, but there were enough struggles among top prospects to give one pause when declaring any of them ready for the leap to the majors. And as 2010 showed us, there is always a need for youngsters to be called up. Keeping in mind the struggles of a few prospects and that ever-present need for organizational depth, we wonder which minor league talents will make the biggest splash if and when called up to the majors in 2011?
The problem with being a highly regarded prospect in an organization known for producing talent from within is that you rarely catch anyone by surprise. We’ve known about Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick for a few years now. Casey Kelly is nearly a household name among Red Sox fans in the know. Ryan Kalish will not be sneaking up on anyone if he goes off at the minor league level again in 2011.
So when looking for that “big splash,” we simply have to find someone who is ready to not only fill in for an injured player, but who can do so in standout fashion.
The discussion starts with Kalish, who will be given a chance to break camp with the Red Sox next spring but may begin his season at Triple-A Pawtucket. In 53 games with Boston last year, he showcased power, speed, a rifle arm, production in the clutch and an aggressive (sometimes a tad reckless) style in the outfield. There was never a moment that made one stop and say, “He’s just not ready.”
In fact, classifying Kalish as a “minor league talent” might be a bit late. He may have already turned the tassel to the other side of his graduation cap and stepped off the stage. Therefore, in the interest of keeping you satisfied on all things Red Sox during these lean months, here are the three other minor leaguers who may not only make an appearance in Boston in 2011 but could have a serious impact.
Felix Doubront, LHP
Like Kalish, Doubront’s minor league days may be completely behind him. Doubront pitched in 12 games for the Red Sox in 2010. Then again, he may still be spending some time on the farm. If the club determines that it wants to continue to develop Doubront as a starter, as it had until a late-season shift to reliever was made to help the ailing Boston bullpen, the Red Sox will start him at Pawtucket. In that scenario, he would undoubtedly be the first man called upon when a starter goes down. And a starter will go down.
Jose Iglesias, SS
Let’s be honest. The constantly fluctuating shortstop position remains in a state of flux. Marco Scutaro is 35 and may not even be in town when the season starts, as several teams are reportedly interested in acquiring him. Jed Lowrie is a nice backup option but may not be the long-term answer, at least not at that position. Therefore, everyone in the organization has their hands clasped together in the hope that Iglesias is ready for the majors sooner rather than later. His first full season in the system was sidetracked by injury, but Iglesias showed he can at least handle the bat. That’s all the Red Sox will need to see at each level. They don’t need a Nomar-like bat at the position, but they’ll take .260 and a glove that is the stuff of legend. Perhaps that legend comes to Fenway at some point in 2011.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
He has surpassed fellow first baseman Anderson on several top prospects lists and has taken his place as the best power threat on the farm. The 21-year-old still has to refine a few things at the plate, but the potential is there, and like Iglesias, he has other intangibles (glove, leadership, attitude) to make the leap without a serious issue. Rizzo is more likely to see the bigs in 2012, but with the way he has progressed over the past year, he could be placed on a faster track.
Anderson and Reddick remain intriguing players and are still young, but they need to show something in the coming year in order to engender confidence that they will ever make that big splash. Kelly, after a somewhat trying first full season as a pitcher, likely needs another solid year of work before he is on the major league radar. Keep in mind that everyone mentioned here could be making their big splash somewhere else if Boston trades them away for major league talent such as Justin Upton or Adrian Gonzalez.
Each day of November, NESN.com will explore a different issue facing the Red Sox this offseason.
Nov. 19: Is Daisuke Matsuzaka ready to give the Red Sox a solid season once again?
Sunday, Nov. 21: Is Jarrod Saltalamacchia a candidate to start at catcher someday?
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