Photo by Kelly O'Connor / www.sittingstill.net
A few years ago, the Red Sox's farm system was ranked one of the best in baseball with talents like Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury working their way to the bigs. Since those names have arrived in the bigs and have stuck, it has left the Red Sox without much Major League-ready talent. This is one reason why the Sox's system isn't ranked that high among the rest of the majors.
However, there are a few players in the Red Sox system that haven't popped up in Boston yet that could be factors in 2010.NOTE: I chose players that a) haven't played in the major leagues yet, b) have been in the Red Sox system for a considerably amount of time and c) could potentially provide a service down the line.
Bubba Bell, of
2009 (AAA): 240 ab, 1 hr, .208/.298/.271, .263 babip, .269 wOBA
Bell, 27, is an interesting candidate to see time with the Red Sox in 2010. He's only really had two strong stints in the minors, and one of those years came in very, very, very hitter friendly Lancaster. He hit 22 bombs with a 1.120 OPS that season. Amazing stats, but tainted nonetheless. His other strong showing was 2008 in Double-A Portland. He worked a .374 wOBA in 312 at-bats. His time in Pawtucket last year wasn't too swell (as you can see by the numbers above), but he also didn't get fulltime work.
Bell's ceiling isn't very high, but he does some things well. He gets on base at a good clip and can plays the outfield well. He's like a poor man Trot Nixon. Think of him that way and I think you have a good picture of what Bell brings to the table.
Felix Doubront, lhp
2009 (AA): 121 ip, 3.35 era, 7.51 k/9, 3.87 bb/9, .259 oba, 1.41 whip, .316 babip, 3.90 fip
Doubront, 22, is the Red Sox's own "King Felix." Sure, he doesn't quite have the same stuff, but he could still be a good pitcher down the line for the Red Sox. Despite the 3.35 earned run average, Doubront's numbers slipped in 2009 with the jump to Double-A Portland. Doubront should start the season in Triple-A Pawtucket after a full year in Portland. With a little time -- and hopefully a refining of those walk numbers -- we could see Doubront work some innings late in the year for Boston. Doubront could end up being a strong starter down the road.
Adam Mills, rhp
2009 (AA): 110.1 ip, 4.24 era, 5.95 k/9, 2.12 bb/9, .280 oba, 1.33 whip, .316 babip, 3.93 fip
2009 (AAA): 31 ip, 3.48 ear, 4.65 k/9, 1.16 bb/9, .308 oba, 1.39 whip, 3.47 babip, 2.97 fip
Mills, 25, has quietly gone under the radar while climbing up the Red Sox's organization ladder. Mills' best asset is his ability to hit the strikezone. In 141 innings between Portland and Pawtucket last year, Mills walked just 30 batters. He won't strike out a ton, but if he sees time with the Sox, he could end up being a reliable innings eater down the road.
Jeff Natale, 1b/dh
2009 (AAA): 170 ab, 3 hr, .282/.397/.400, .319 babip, .364 wOBA
If Bubba Bell is a poor man's Trot Nixon, Jeff Natale is a poor man's Kevin Youkilis. Natale, 27, is an OBP monster that has worked his way through the Sox system since leaving Trinity College in 2005. He's older, yes, but he still has potential to fit with a major league club -- maybe even the Sox. Natale can play all the infield positions, but most don't think he could stick there (specifically second base), meaning first base or designated hitter is a better fit. Perhaps Natale could improve his defense at first and be a nice late-game option for the Sox down the road. Natale has proved he can hit AAA pitching; the Major Leagues is his next step. Maybe we'll see him soon.
Mark Wagner, c
2009 (AA): 153 ab, 3 hr, .301/.410/.477, .347 babip, .404 wOBA
2009 (AAA): 154 ab, 3 hr, .214/.268/.351, .246 babip, .278 wOBA
Wagner, 25, is a strong defensive catcher that can throw runners out. Offensively, he gets on base at a good clip with little power. With George Kottaras out of the picture, Wagner and Dusty Brown are the next catching prospects to see considerable time with the big club. Wagner will need a touch more seasoning in Pawtucket after struggling there in 43 games last season, but a call up at some point in 2010 certainly isn't out of the question.