Minor League games to watch: Part 2 -- Salem and Portland

Jared Wickerham

Our winter baseball menu turns to the heart of the Red Sox farm system with games packed full of top prospects.

In the first installment of Minor League Games to Watch, we looked at the low minor league levels where a number of the lesser-known prospects plied their trade in 2013. Moving on to the Salem Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs for part two, the names get bigger and the prospect watching gets better. Players from the Salem lineup are climbing the prospect charts right now as the 2014 lists come out, and a number of the Sea Dogs' top players are practically household names at this point. A couple of the men who started last season in Portland even finished the year as important members of the Red Sox, exchanging the prospect tag for the more glorious label of World Series Champion.

Once again, I've listed Sox prospects to watch for each game with their rankings from SoxProspects.com while notable players from their opponents have been pulled from the 2013 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.

Salem

Like Lowell, the Red Sox Advanced-A team doesn't have regular video coverage so we are limited to away games against the teams that do for this list. It is a shame too, because the propects that made Greenville the team to watch the two previous seasons were mostly sent to Salem and Portland for the 2013 season.  The first two levels offered just a sprinkling of players to watch, but from here on, the rosters are stacked with names to know. The quality of the broadcasts is still fairly low, but it is improving at least, and we start to get more of the technical goodies we're used to in the way of replays and graphics.

May 4: Red Sox 9, Dash 4

Prospects to watch: Henry Ramos (31) Keury De La Cruz (32) Blake Swihart (8) Garin Cecchini (3) Sean Coyle (27) Brandon Jacobs (traded) Matt Price (49)

Notable opponents: Kevan Smith

Sean Coyle leads a prospect-stacked early version of the S-Sox lineup with two home runs and five RBIs while Ramos and Cecchini both go 2-4. Swihart flashes some patience with two walks, too, but the real story is on the mound. Henry Owens just dominates here. He allows two runs on a Jeremy Farrell home run (yes, that's the son of Sox manager John), but he limits the Dash to just one other hit and two walks while piling up 10 strikeouts in six innings.

August 22: Red Sox 10, Pelicans 3

Prospects to watch: Henry Ramos (31) Keury De La Cruz (32) Blake Swihart (8) Mookie Betts (10)  Luis Diaz (22) Matt Price (49)

Notable opponents: Drew Robinson, Hanser Alberto

The Salem Sox beat the Southern division champs soundly here, powered by all those names above. Ramos doubles twice, driving in two and scoring two. De La Cruz goes 3-for-5 with a walk and three RBIs, Swihart doubles twice and scores two, and Betts goes 4-5 with two RBIs. On the hill, our friend from Greenville, Luis Diaz gets the call and goes six innings allowing three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out two.

August 16: Red Sox 2, Dash 1

Prospects to watch: Henry Ramos (31) Keury De La Cruz (32) Blake Swihart (8) Sean Coyle (27) Mookie Betts (10) David Chester (47)

Notable opponents: none

This games doesn't feature much offense. Betts, Chester and Swihart all manage a to reach base a few times. Chester is the big hero of the day for the Sox, driving in both of their runs. The pitching on both sides lacks prospects of real interest and despite the score, no one really dominates. This is just a tight, exciting baseball game. Both teams threaten several times and it takes a two-out single from Chester in the eighth to keep it from going into extra innings.

Portland

Surprisingly, the SeaDogs are also only available in road games against a few select teams, but there is no lack of games to choose from here. Portland was the team to watch in the Sox system at the start of 2013 and a large number of the key SeaDogs prospects earned promotions at some point. The rotation up in Portland was particularly exiting, featuring big names like Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and Henry Owens over the course of the year.

April 27: SeaDogs 6, Thunder 0

Prospects to watch: Michael Almanzar (27) Travis Shaw (46) Kolbrin Vitek (NR) Anthony Ranaudo (6)

Notable Opponents: Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, JR Murphy, Tommy Kahnle

This version of the SeaDogs is a little lighter on prospects than later incarnations of the club, but watching Anthony Ranaudo steamroll a lineup featuring four of the Yankees' top position prospects makes up for that completely. Ranaudo limits the future Yankees trade chips to two hits and no walks over six innings while striking out nine. Daniel Bard makes an appearance as well, though it isn't particularly worth remembering.

April 30: SeaDogs 5, Fightin' Phils 3

Prospects to watch: Xander Bogaerts (1) Christian Vazquez (13) Michael Almanzar (27) Travis Shaw (46) Brandon Workman (11)

Notable Opponents: Sebastian Valle, Cameron Rupp, Zach Collier

Two of the prospects taking the field in this late April game will go on to end their season at Fenway Park in October, celebrating as World Series champions. Bogaerts doesn't particularly wow here, going 1-2 with a walk, but Workman is excellent. The big righty allows just one run on two hits and one walk over 6 2/3 innings while striking out six.


May 1: Sea Dogs 2, Fightin' Phils 1

Prospects to watch: Xander Bogaerts (1) Michael Almanzar (27) Travis Shaw (46) Matt Barnes (5) Kolbrin Vitek (NR)

Notable Opponents: Cameron Rupp, Zach Collier, Brody Colvin

One day after Workman impressed against the Phillies farm team, Matt Barnes dominates over six innings, allowing one run on three hits and two walks while striking out 10. This one has the added benfit of being a great game as Phils prospect Brody Colvin handles strong SeaDogs line up for the first three to match Barnes and the 1-1 tie lingers into the late innings.

June 5: SeaDogs 6, SeaWolves 0

Prospects to watch: Xander Bogaerts (1) Michael Almanzar (27) Travis Shaw (46) Kolbrin Vitek (NR)

Notable Opponents: Tyler Collins, Tyler Clark, Eugenio Suarez, Hernan Perez, Daniel Fields

By the time the 2013 season was over lefty Drake Britton had assumed the role of a relief specialist for the big league club, but here he is blowing away a prospect heavy SeaWolves lineup stocked full of future Tigers bats. Britton goes eight innings and allows one hit and one walk while striking out eight. On offense, Bogaerts and Almanzar both go deep to lead the SeaDogs charge.

August 16: SeaDogs 4, Senators 1

Prospects to watch: Garin Cecchini (3) Devan Marrero (17) Michael Almanzar (27) Christian Vazquez (13) Henry Owns (4) Travis Shaw (46)

Notable Opponents: Brian Goodwin, A.J. Cole, Jason Martinson, Rick Hague, Billy Burns

Owens goes five no-hit innings, but allows one run in the first inning as he struggles to find his command early. Once he finds it though, he knows exactly what to do with it. The SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Year strikes out ten while facing a prospect-rich Nationals farm club and after the first, he doesn't allow another base runner. Vazquez, Almanzar and Shaw all score runs on the offensive and the game is close into the late innings.

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