Why Josh Winckowski’s Red Sox Debut Could Mark Start Of Something Bigger

Will more prospects soon arrive in Boston?

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One need not look any further than the Red Sox’s recent surge to feel better about Boston’s chances of bouncing back from a slow start to contend in 2022.

The Red Sox won six straight before Wednesday night’s loss to the White Sox in Chicago. Overall, Boston entered Thursday having won 10 of its last 14 to improve its record to 20-23.

But there are reasons for optimism beyond the sudden uptick in victories and decline in defeats. The Red Sox’s potent offense finally is clicking, their starting pitching has held up and additional help could be on the way, beginning this weekend with right-handed hurler Josh Winckowski.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora indicated Wednesday that Winckowski, acquired before the 2021 season in the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals, could start for Boston on Saturday as part of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park.

If he takes the ball, Winckowski would become the first Red Sox player to make his major league debut this season. And it’s probably safe to say he won’t be the last, as Boston has several other prospects waiting in the wings who ultimately could make an impact at the big-league level in 2022.

Among them: right-handers Brayan Bello, Bryan Mata and Frank German, left-handers Jay Groome, Brandon Walter and Chris Murphy, first baseman Triston Casas, middle infielders Jeter Downs and Ryan Fitzgerald and catcher Ronaldo Hernández.

These players join several prospects who’ve already debuted with Boston — including right-handers Connor Seabold, Kutter Crawford and Eduardo Bazardo, outfielder Jarren Duran and catcher Connor Wong — to give the Red Sox a solid depository of talent in the upper levels of the minors.

The pitching depth is especially encouraging, as it’s something the Red Sox have lacked in recent years, even when Boston has been in contention. While it’s unclear how each young pitcher’s repertoire will translate in The Show, it’s always nice to have power arms in the system.

“I think we’re deeper in that aspect. If you look around, that’s something I noticed last year in spring training,” Cora said, per MassLive.com. “This year, of course, with the guys we have, it’s something we didn’t have in ’19.

” … I think, stuff-wise, we’re probably way more ahead of ’18 and ’19, to be honest with you.”

The timing of call-ups will depend on several factors, including health, performance, need and the overall development of the prospects in question. The Red Sox don’t want to stunt a player’s long-term growth for the sake of a short-term fix or infusion of energy, and every case obviously is unique.

The debuts of Casas (top position-player prospect) and Bello (top pitching prospect) probably are the most highly anticipated, with the former seemingly a bit closer in his trajectory. But you never know who’s going to burst onto the scene and carve out a meaningful role. Garrett Whitlock, chosen in the Rule 5 Draft before last season, remains a classic example.

So, as Boston tries to climb its way back into the American League mix, keep in mind the in-house options working hard to join the party. Such conversations undoubtedly start with Chris Sale and James Paxton — two established major leaguers recovering from injuries — but Worcester and Portland are stocked with young players who eventually might be summoned to contribute in some capacity this season.

Consider that this weekend if/when Winckowski toes the rubber at Fenway.

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