FT. MYERS FL: Juan Carlos Linares #86 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during the Boston Red Sox Photo Day at the Boston Red Sox Player Development Complex in Ft. Myers Florida (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Steven Wright, SP
Boston's newest knuckler pitched well enough in his one start with Double-A Portland, but has done very well while with Triple-A Pawtucket to end the regular season. Wright started four contests for the PawSox, averaging five innings per outing, while keeping the ball in the park, the walks under control, and the ball missing enough bats to strikeout three times as many batters as he walked.
Wright is 27, and no sure thing in the majors, or even in Triple-A. But knucklers can take some time to get going, if they go at all, and Wright is no exception. Not to get too crazy about what Wright could become, but former Red Sox hurler Wilbur Wood didn't become a successful starter with the knuckler until he was 29 years old and in his dozenth professional season. Tim Wakefield didn't get a stable gig until he was 28, same with Tom Candiotti. R.A. Dickey, the game's current premiere (and okay, only) knuckler, didn't really figure things out until he was in his mid-30s. Wright isn't necessarily going to turn into any of those guys, but there's reason to be patient with knucklers. Just in case they do become one of them.
J.C. Linares, OF
Linares has been solid at Pawtucket in some regards, but lacking in others. The .297 batting average is in the solid column, and not entirely unexpected from a hitter that doesn't strike out overly often -- more opportunities for hits thanks to more balls in play helps. More troublesome is the .321 on-base percentage despite the quality batting average, as Linares has walked just three percent of the time. The bit of power he's shown has helped to alleviate the stress of getting on base to a degree, but you wouldn't be wrong in showing concern over what a jump to the majors would do to his walk and strikeout rates, as well as power production.
The 27-year-old will likely be in Pawtucket once more in 2013, as he doesn't need to be added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft until November of next year. That season is going to be huge for his career with the Sox, as a performance at Pawtucket that shows adjustments would mean he will likely end up on the 40. Otherwise, he might end up continuing his development in another organization. We'll see, though. A lot can happen in a year.
Danny Valencia, 3B
Danny Valencia knows something about that. There was a time where he was a quality prospect, and then a well-thought of rookie, but a down 2011 changed that. A repeat effort in 2012 has done nothing to dispel the pessimism borne out of last year's struggles, either.
He's been much better in Pawtucket than he was in Rochester, but the major difference is in the batting average. The walk rate is about the same, his Isolated Power is actually a bit lower, and he's striking out more often, too. All hail the .389 batting average on balls in play that can just happen in 50-ish plate appearance samples.
Valencia is interesting, in that he has previously had potential, but hasn't done much for a couple of years now. One wonders if he'll be a victim of the 40-man roster this winter, when Boston starts to protect the likes of Alex Wilson, and maybe brings some new bodies in via trade or signing.