The Pawtucket Red Sox tasted championship success in 2014.
The PawSox won their second Governors’ Cup in three seasons, highlighting the talent that continues to filter through the Boston Red Sox’s Triple-A affiliate. Several players even jumped to the majors and could factor into Boston’s 2015 plans.
Triple-A is interesting because September call-ups often create a depleted roster. The PawSox pushed through losing a few players, though, and more success could be on the horizon with a talented crew making its way through Double-A Portland.
Pawtucket’s 2014 Season
— 79-65 (second place, 2 1/2 games back in International League North)
— Won wild card, won Governors’ Cup, lost in Triple-A Baseball National Championship Game
— Offense: .256 average (11th), .329 on-base percentage (ninth), 110 homers (sixth), 639 runs (sixth)
— Pitching: 3.60 ERA (fourth), 1.31 WHIP (sixth), 1,095 strikeouts (fourth)
Most Valuable Player: Mookie Betts, 2B/OF (45 games, .335/.417/.503, five homers, 31 RBIs, 11 stolen bases)
Betts’ time at Pawtucket was nothing more than a pit stop in the 21-year-old’s road to the majors. Judging by Betts’ early major league results, it’s possible he might never return. The kid looks like the real deal.
Betts left his mark on the PawSox despite playing in just 45 Triple-A games. Other farmhands certainly aspire to travel a similar path.
Most Valuable Pitcher: Anthony Ranaudo, RHP (24 starts, 138 innings, 14-4, 2.61 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Ranaudo, like Betts, made his way to the majors. Like Betts, his call-up also came after considerable success at Triple-A.
Ranaudo probably will return to Pawtucket to begin the 2015 season, as his big league stint featured ups and downs. But 2014 marked Ranaudo’s second consecutive strong campaign, as the 25-year-old was named the International League’s Most Valuable Pitcher.
— Travis Shaw put himself on the map.
Shaw, who started the season with Double-A Portland, jumped to Triple-A following a red-hot start. He showed pop, particularly at the end of the year. Shaw finished with 10 homers in 81 games, which is encouraging for an organization thin on first base depth.
— Matt Barnes reasserted himself.
Barnes had become an afterthought in the Red Sox’s crowded pool of pitching prospects following a dismal start to the season. The former first-round pick finished strong, though, going 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA over his final six starts.
Barnes showed promise pitching out of Boston’s bullpen in September, featuring a fastball sitting in the mid 90s and good offspeed stuff.
— Tommy Layne looks like a major league-caliber pitcher.
Layne already had reached the majors with the San Diego Padres. The left-hander eventually made his way to Boston after showing an ability to dominate lefties at Triple-A. He enjoyed big league success with the Red Sox, too.
— Jackie Bradley Jr. struggled upon returning to Pawtucket in August.
Bradley was shipped to Triple-A to improve offensively. The 24-year-old responded by hitting .212 (14-for-66) with 18 strikeouts in 14 games.
— Ryan Lavarnway’s power hasn’t returned.
Lavarnway hit 32 homers in 116 games between Portland and Pawtucket in 2011. The 27-year-old has hit just 15 long balls in 200 minor league games over the last three seasons.
— Drake Britton was underwhelming.
Britton pitched well in 2013 and made a case for a roster spot in spring training. The 25-year-old lefty went through a difficult first season as a full-time reliever, finishing with a 5.86 ERA in 45 Triple-A appearances spanning 58 1/3 innings.
The Red Sox’s top two prospects — left-hander Henry Owens and catcher Blake Swihart — both earned promotions to Triple-A late this season and should begin 2015 with Pawtucket. Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez also might join the PawSox’s rotation, though it’s obviously contingent on what Boston’s big league pitching staff looks like.
Some would argue Portland boasted the organization’s most intriguing roster this season. It’s time for those guys to take the next step, meaning Pawtucket will be an interesting — and perhaps successful — squad again in 2015.
Photo via Twitter/BostonGlobe
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