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Boston might not have an ace at Portland, but there are plenty of arms that just might end up in the majors someday.
With the minor-league regular season over, it's time to look back at what the farm has accomplished in 2012. The plan is go to team-by-team, as we did for our daily prospect updates, but this time around, we'll review by position, so you get a sense of where the Red Sox are strong and where they are lacking depth.
Anthony Ranaudo, SP
Ranaudo's season was easily the most disappointing of any Red Sox pitching prospect, and really, any prospect in the system. No one else saw their stock drop this precipitously, with the concerns of a few -- that Ranaudo was a better fit for relief because of inconsistency in his mechanics and results -- becoming the concerns of many. It's just 37 innings, so it's hard to get too worked up in the negative sense about it, especially since Ranaudo's season was cut short by injury. But it was unarguably fuel for the fire stoked by those who don't think much of his future as a starter.
Ranaudo's velocity came and went, depending on the day, and his command and control never seemed to be where they needed to. The discerning reader could figure that out by looking at his even K/BB, and his hit rate, which might be part bad luck, but also due to his approach this season. There's a lot of work that needs to be done for Ranaudo to regain the kind of prospect status he had, but for now, he's been leapfrogged by more than one pitcher in the system.
Stolmy Pimentel, SP
Pimentel's lack of consistency was once again the focus, but this time around, he at least managed to be tolerable most of the time. In 2011, Pimentel caused many to lose hope entirely, as he was awful both at Double-A and in High-A Salem after a demotion. He was able to right the ship while remaining at Portland this season, though, posting a 3.17 ERA over his last 10 starts and 54 innings, with 45 punch outs against 18 free passes, and just a pair of homers allowed. This is more like the Pimentel Boston thought they were getting when they placed him on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, and more of this going forward would be huge for Boston's prospect depth.
Pimentel still isn't a sure thing by any means -- again, consistency is the issue, and the least shocking thing for him would be to start 2013 on the kind of sour note that's ruined his season lines the last two years. The actual shocking thing would be for Pimentel to pick up where he left off, and pitch well either for Portland once more, or at Pawtucket, where he just might end up as a 23-year-old, depending on how convinced Boston's front office and scouting are by this strong stretch to close out the year.
Chris Hernandez, SP
Chris Hernandez is already in Pawtucket, where he will spend the 2013 season as well. The 2010 draft pick was selected in the seventh round, but has made it to the last stop before the majors ahead of both Ranaudo and Brandon Workman, who were also taken that summer. Hernandez isn't really a scout's dream or anything -- he throws in the high-80s, and strikes out a below-average rate of hitters. But, there are positives: he's left-handed, he's succeeded to this point, and ground balls are a thing that he knows how to do, and often. With Portland, 1.7 times as many outs were recorded on the ground as in the air. That ratio dropped closer to 1:1 in Pawtucket, and will need to jump back up again for him to be able to continue to pull off the whole poor K/BB thing. But his initial stint with the PawSox went well enough, all things considered.
Hernandez, if he can pitch well for Pawtucket in 2013, might very well be part of Boston's pitching depth for that season. Not the first line of defense or anything like that, but someone they don't mind adding to the 40-man roster if the need arises. Whoever bet on Hernandez to be the first of the 2010 draft class for the Sox to make the majors will be a very rich individual if that goes down.
Drake Britton, SP
Britton, like Pimentel, sank his own prospectdom with his 2011 campaign. The 2012 season represented improvement in that area, though, with Britton struggling to begin the year at Salem, but eventually showing Boston enough progress that he was promoted rather than allowed to sit and fix his stat line. The promotion proved to be the right move, with Britton remaining a starter, moving up a level, and continuing to pitch well. There are still issues with his game -- again, like Pimentel, he can't seem to remain consistent, and is just horrible when he's off -- but he's in a better place than he was a season ago.
If you forced me to bet, I'd say Britton still ends up in relief in the majors in the long run. But that's said a little more hesitantly now than it was a year ago, and that's a step in the right direction. If he ever figures out his command, then he can definitely start. Until then, it's up in the air.