Christian Vazquez, Bryce Brentz Among Red Sox Prospects Eyeing 2014 MLB Debut


Bryce Brentz, Christian VazquezThe Red Sox have won three World Series titles in 10 years after going 86 years without a single championship. Boston’s current big league talent, organizational depth and financial flexibility should ensure that the Red Sox will continue to enjoy success well into the future.

The future is rapidly approaching for many of the Red Sox’ top prospects. Boston is holding its 2014 Rookie Program this week, in which 10 of the organization’s top prospects will participate in workouts and seminars focused on easing each player’s transition to the major league level. It’s obviously not a guarantee that any of the players participating in the program will make their way to The Show in 2014, but the camp typically involves players who are believed to be 12 to 18 months away from making the majors.

Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. — two players expected to be in the Red Sox’ 2014 Opening Day lineup — participated in the Rookie Camp last offseason and made their major league debuts in 2013.

The complete list of 2014 Rookie Camp participants can be seen at the link below. But with the program in full swing, this seems like a good time to look at which players in the Red Sox organization could make their MLB debuts in 2014. Let’s sort them according to their odds of being called up at some point this year.

(Bogaerts, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and some others technically can be considered prospects, but let’s focus on those who have yet to taste the majors.)

Click for the 2014 Rookie Camp participants >>

Strong chance of making MLB debut in 2014

Christian Vazquez, C

Christian Vazquez‘s rocket arm turned heads at spring training last year, and the Red Sox have high hopes for both him and fellow catching prospect Blake Swihart. Swihart is a year or two away from breaking into the majors, but Vazquez is on the cusp of a call-up and could find himself in The Show at any moment. The Red Sox were reluctant to give Jarrod Saltalamacchia or any other catcher a multiyear contract this offseason because they view Vazquez and Swihart as their future catching tandem.

Vazquez spent most of his 2013 season with Double-A Portland, where he threw out a league-best 47 percent of would-be base stealers. The 23-year-old also made strides offensively, hitting .289 with a .376 on-base percentage in 96 Eastern League games. A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross are penciled in as Boston’s two major league catchers for 2014, but both are aging veterans, and Ross has a concussion history. Vazquez could find himself in the majors if either gets hurt.

Vazquez is one of this year’s Rookie Camp participants.

Dan Butler, C

If Pierzynski or Ross gets injured, the Red Sox have options. In addition to the aforementioned Vazquez, Boston could turn to Ryan Lavarnway or Dan Butler. Butler, like Lavarnway, is on the 40-man roster, so he’d be a more likely early-season call-up than Vazquez, even though Vazquez has a higher ceiling.

Butler, 27, spent the entire 2013 season with Triple-A Pawtucket. He hit .262 with 14 homers, 45 RBIs and an .829 OPS. The Red Sox could look to trade either him or Lavarnway, particularly if they feel like dealing from an area of depth to upgrade in a different area. If Butler stays aboard, he could find himself in the majors at some point, even if it’s just for a cup of coffee.

Bryce Brentz, OF

Bryce Brentz, selected 36th overall in 2010, regressed in 2013. He accidentally shot himself in the leg last offseason and then suffered a knee injury during the year that limited him to 82 games with Triple-A Pawtucket. Brentz still has excellent power potential, though, so there’s a good chance that he’ll find his way to the majors in 2014 if/when the Red Sox lose an outfielder, especially since he’s already on the club’s 40-man roster.

Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, Bradley and Mike Carp give the Red Sox five major league outfield options, and it’s possible that Boston could add a non-roster veteran or two prior to spring training. But Brentz, who just turned 25, could make a case for a midseason call-up if he gets off to a hot start in Pawtucket.

Brentz hit 19 home runs in 88 total games last season and hit 30 dingers in 115 Single-A games in 2011. Perhaps Brentz eventually will emerge as a bench option for the Red Sox in 2014, with an eye toward an even bigger role in 2015.

Anthony Ranaudo, RHP

It’ll be difficult for an up-and-coming starting pitcher to crack the Red Sox’ rotation in 2014. Boston already has six viable major league starters — Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Ryan Dempster, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront — and De La Rosa, Webster, Brandon Workman, Drake Britton and Steven Wright all are waiting in the wings. We’ve seen in the past that depth can diminish rather quickly, though, and Anthony Ranaudo could be the next man up, as Boston added him to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

Ranaudo sputtered in 2012 but bounced back in a big way in 2013. The 24-year-old finished the year with an 11-5 record and 2.96 ERA in 25 appearances (24 starts) split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. Ranaudo’s potential is obvious. It’s a matter of him maintaining enough consistency and durability this year to become an option if an opportunity suddenly arises.

Outside chance of making MLB debut in 2014

Matt Barnes, RHP

Matt Barnes, like Ranaudo, might not find his way to the majors in 2014 because of the Red Sox’ starting pitching depth. In fact, it’ll be even tougher for Barnes to earn a call-up because he’s currently not on Boston’s 40-man roster, and he’s coming off a season in which he endured some struggles at Double-A Portland.

Barnes has filthy stuff, which is why the 23-year-old has an outside chance of earning a call-up in 2014. He’ll need to get off to a hot start, though, or else a 2015 MLB debut will be the more likely scenario.

Garin Cecchini, 3B

Garin Cecchini was the breakout star of the Red Sox minor league system in 2013. The strong campaign earned him a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster, moving him one step closer to a major league call-up. It’s possible that Cecchini could get that call-up in 2014 if the Red Sox don’t re-sign Stephen Drew and something happens to third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

Cecchini, who turns 23 in April, showed remarkable on-base ability last season, which is encouraging within an organization whose major league offense is built around OBP and driving up pitching counts. He hit .350 and got on base at a .469 clip in 63 games with High-A Salem, and then hit .296 with a .420 on-base percentage in 66 games with Double-A Portland.

Cecchini’s power is still developing — he hit just seven homers in 129 games in 2013 — so the Red Sox probably would prefer to see him spend the entire 2014 season in the minors. But sometimes, circumstances dictate when a player gets called up, and Cecchini’s plate discipline might be very appealing at some point later in the year.

Wild Cards

Dalier Hinojosa, Shunsuke Watanabe and Hideyoshi Otake, RHPs

The Red Sox dipped into the international talent pool for a trio of right-handers this offseason, and each hurler’s chances of making Boston’s major league roster could largely depend on spring training performance. Shunsuke Watanabe (a 37-year-old Japanese submarine pitcher) and Hideyoshi Otake (a 25-year-old Japanese independent league hurler) are long shots, but it’s reasonable to expect that Dalier Hinojosa (a 27-year-old Cuban defector) will wind up in the majors at some point in 2014.

The Red Sox gave Hinojosa, who is one of this year’s Rookie Camp participants, a $4.25 million signing bonus as part of his minor league deal. Hinojosa — who is equipped with a 88-92 mph fastball, a changeup/splitter and a “slurvy breaking ball,” according to Baseball America’s Ben Badler — likely will begin the season at Pawtucket, but he could make his way to Boston as a reliever at some point later in the year.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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