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The Red Sox have enough relievers in the minors that a few just might be major-league hurlers someday.
We've reviewed the Red Sox farm system, level-by-level, position-by-position, and now it's time to finish up our look at individual positions with looks at relievers. Not everyone who is a reliever in the minors is a prospect -- in fact, few of them are, given that many starters in the minors are future bullpen pieces. But, these relievers are potential future major-league hurlers just the same.
Part one has already been published, covering the lower levels and the rest of Portland's relief corps.
Josh Fields, RP
Fields was acquired by the Red Sox from the Mariners in the 2011 Erik Bedard trade. At the time, not much thought was given to this: it was Boston taking back an arm the Mariners had tired of waiting on, one who had shown promise before he was drafted, but had little in the way of optimism surrounding him since. Walks were the main issue -- he walked 13 batters in 13 innings at Triple-A Tacoma, 19 in 26 frames for Double-A Jackson, and had put nearly six men on per nine innings via the free pass in the two seasons before that.
Fields was the #20 pick in the 2008 draft, though, and even if a future relief arm might not be fit for that early of a selection, there was still talent here at one point. He has shown off some of it while with the Sox: Fields struck out nearly 12 per nine at Double-A Portland, 3.7 times as many batters as he walked. He had never had a full-season K/BB over two, and now he was approaching four in his first full stint with the Sox. That continued -- improved, even -- in his short time with Triple-A Pawtucket, with Fields striking out 19 batters against two walks in nearly 14 innings of work. He threw strikes around 68 percent of the time, too, a huge improvement for a pitcher who could barely strike out more than he walked in the recent past.
Fields is Rule 5 draft eligible this off-season, so the Red Sox might have to make a decision on him -- a former first-round pick coming into his own will not be ignored by other teams, especially one who can be shoved into a big-league bullpen and hidden away if necessary. Between non-tendering players, designating others, and possibly a trade or two, the Red Sox might be able to open up room that Fields can fill. He's not the only arm they might need to protect, though, so it isn't a given.
Pedro Beato, RP
Beato is on the 40-man roster after the Red Sox acquired him for catcher Kelly Shoppach. He has an option remaining, but it's not clear if the Red Sox intend to keep him around, either. He didn't have a great year in the minors by any stretch, giving up too many homers at Buffalo and too many walks for Pawtucket, and his brief time in the majors was solid, but forgettable. He's a project arm, like so many others in the system, but at some point, the Red Sox will need to decide which projects they are going to keep around, and which they can get away with designating. Even if Boston removes Beato from the 40-man, it's not a given he'll be claimed. He's right-handed, will be 26, and would need to be on another club's 40-man after putting together a poor campaign in the minors. If anything, now might be the time for Boston to designate him in the hopes of Beato clearing, so they can retain him, but get back their 40-man spot.
Chris Carpenter, RP
Carpenter might be on next year's Opening Day roster, but he'll likely bring his high walk rate along with him. That won't matter so much if he can also bring his excellent swing-and-miss stuff to Boston. In his first stint with the team, that didn't happen -- Carpenter walked 10 batters in six innings, and struck out just two. But his minor-league career suggests he can be much more than a frustrating bullpen arm, and it's hard to avoid giving him a chance because of it.
He underwent elbow surgery early in the year, and spent most of the season on the 60-day disabled list because of it, but still struck out 25 batters in 21 minor-league innings before heading to the majors. That's something to build on, and makes Carpenter one of the many potential options to be in the Red Sox bullpen in the near future. He'll have to earn his way there, though, after the uninspiring September tryout.
Alex Wilson, RP
Wilson was invited to spring training as a starter, and began the 2012 season that way, but moved to relief after posting a 5.45 ERA in three starts. It was an inevitable switch of role for Wilson, who is almost entirely fastball/slider when he pitches. That's a good thing in relief, and it was a good thing for Wilson in that role: in 37 relief appearances and 59 innings, Wilson struck out 62 against 29 walks. The walks aren't great -- and neither was throwing strikes 61 percent of the time -- but it's a good first step for him on the path to the majors.
Wilson will likely be added to the 40-man roster before 2013, and will also end up with a spring training invite. Whether he opens the season in Boston or Pawtucket is unknown, but he'll be in the former eventually for good soon.