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.
Bryce Brentz, RF
Brentz didn't have the kind of campaign that got us all excited about him heading into 2012, but he showed flashes of excellence that were buttressed by disappointment. It's those flashes that brought him to Pawtucket after 504 plate appearances for Double-A Portland, and while we don't want to ignore the problems in his game, it's those moments of greatness that make him intriguing.
Brentz has great power potential, but the concern is how often he is going to make contact. He'll have to hit the ball in order to drive it, and striking out 26 percent of the time gets in the way of that. If he walked more often, it'd be less of a problem, but he doesn't. The batting average hasn't cratered or anything, but he was just in Double-A. The real test for Brentz, as it was for other free swingers before him, is going to be in Triple-A and the majors, where pitchers experienced enough to ruin his day reside.
Hazelbaker has slowly made progress towards getting to the majors. It's still no guarantee, but you can see the makings of a bench outfielder here. While he started out slow at Double-A Portland, he eventually exploded, hitting 10 homers in 40 games for Portland. Considering he had just nine homers in the previous 74 games, this was a huge change in production for him. He still did the typical Hazelbaker thing, striking out often, and this time, he didn't walk nearly enough. But there's still improvement here, and it makes Hazelbaker, at the least, interesting again.
It might be awhile yet before we know whether or not he can hack it in the majors, as it took time for Hazelbaker to adjust to Portland. He'll be 25 and in Pawtucket for the first (real) time in 2013. Well, if he isn't selected by someone in the Rule 5 draft, anyway -- Hazelbaker either needs to be added o the 40-man, or the Red Sox have to hope no one wants to roll the dice on him, for him to be in the organization next season.
J.C. Linares, OF
J.C. Linares hit very well at Portland, and not quite as well at Pawtucket. There are things to like about his time with the PawSox -- he showed some power, for instance, and managed to hit nearly .300 -- but also plenty to dislike. Just seven walks in 216 plate appearances, a drop in walk rate from an already iffy seven percent down to three. His strikeouts didn't rise very much, but still, more whiffs combined with fewer free passes is a negative. And the power wasn't so good that it makes up for it, either.
Linares has one year left before he needs to be added to the 40-man roster or face Rule 5 eligibility, but now that he's made it to Pawtucket with his performance, the Red Sox will at least be able to see if he merits such consideration (or, if he does hit well enough during the year, if it's time for him to come up and help the big-league club before he turns 30). Whether he turns out to be a late-20s revelation like Daniel Nava is up for debate, but it's a debate that will be settled on the field in the next season or two.