Due to all of the hubbub surrounding whether or not the Red Sox will be sellers, buyers or holders at the trade deadline I wondered just who do we as the fanbase see as the "core" to this team now and going forward. I decided to do a little exercise to see just who was important enough to hold onto in my own eyes, so here goes.
The Approach: Lay out all of the Sox assets by position and then "protect" 10 of them as if there was to be a redraft of the entire league (kind of like the expansion philosophy). I'm including well-known prospects at the A - AAA levels as well. 2012 Draftees are not included.
Starting Pitchers: Lester, Beckett, Buchholz, Doubront, Cook, Germano, Duckworth, Matsuzaka, Lackey, Morales, Barnes, Stewart, Ranaudo, Owens, Workman, Britton, Pimentel
Relief Pitchers: Padilla, Bard, Melancon, Bailey, Aceves, Albers, Mortensen, Wilson, Tazawa, Atchison, Hill, Miller, Carpenter, Kurcz, Balcolm-Miller
Catchers: Shoppach, Saltalamacchia, Lavarnway, Swihart
Infielders: Gonzalez, Ortiz, Aviles, Ciriaco, Iglesias, Middlebrooks, Pedroia, Punto, Gomez, Cecchini, Bogaerts, Coyle, Shaw, Lillibridge
Outfielders: Crawford, Ellsbury, Ross, Bradley Jr., Nava, Kalish, Podsednik, Sweeney, Anderson, Linares, Lin, Brentz, Jacobs, Westmoreland, De La Cruz
1. Dustin Pedroia: I'm biased toward the little guy as he is my current favorite player, but he is also the heart and soul of the team (apologies to David Ortiz). He is also signed to a very affordable contract and is one of the top 2B in the league so there is that.
2. Jackie Bradley Jr.: I bought a case of JBJ Kool-Aid the moment I considered his on-base ability, center-field defense and general goodness. A lead-off hitter and center-fielder with a knack for the game to replace Mr. Ellsbury in 2013/2014 - sign me up.
3. Matt Barnes: The Sox haven't had an arm this exciting since well Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz were trolling the minors some years ago. Barnes just looks like a top 1-2 starter with his size and arsenal and he is currently tearing up the minors. Good young arms with potential - that is an asset you hold onto
4. Jon Lester: Ok, there has been some talk of Lester being frustrated, leading to the inevitable "trade him" posts, etc. but he's only 28, is proven in the trenches of the AL East and while maybe not an ace, he's a darn good #2 guy to have around.
5. Xander Bogaerts: The IFA signing has already drawn the inevitable comparisons to a former Sox SS prospect one Hanley Ramirez. While he may not stick at SS due to development of his frame, Bogaerts, at a mere 19 years of age is showing huge promise at the A+ level. Whether a SS, 3B or RF he projects to be a middle-of the order guy with power and could hit the majors at the young age of 21/22.
6. Will Middlebrooks: I worry a bit about his plate patience, but it seems that he at least has plate coverage that allows him to limit the holes in his swing. While he may never walk enough to be a top-level player, he has the power and defense to be a valuable player at the hot corner for the near future.
7. Adrian Gonzalez: I have to believe (21 million reasons) that Gonzalez is just going through one of those inevitable "down years" that occurs on the path to stardom. While the power was down in 2011, he still managed an incredible season and I think that we are in store for more of those that what is occurring in 2012 unless, of course, he's injured.
8. Henry Owens: Lefty Starter - check, Tall Lefty - check, Plus Arsenal - check, Strikeout Guy - check. The 19-year old Owens is showing high-ceiling tools and I like that and would like to see what he develops into.
9. Garin Cecchini: How do you steal 30+ bases in a half-season without being a speedy guy? You have what some scout recently stated about Cecchini, 80 rating base-running instincts. Combine that with high OBP and you have a serious prospect worth holding onto. Some may argue that he is "blocked at 3B" by Middlebrooks, but an athlete like Cecchini could easily pick up a new position - say LF?
10. David Ortiz: I'll be honest, I thought Papi was done circa late 2010. If Pedroia is the heart of the team, then Ortiz is the face of the franchise and I think he may even have a few more quality years left in him. It would be extremely odd to see Big Papi in another uniform and here's hoping that he finishes an awesome career in the Red and White.