Each fall, major-league baseball teams send a few prospects they want to see get more work over to the Arizona Fall League. Things are no different in 2013, with the Red Sox sending six players out to Arizona to continue their development with live baseball action even after the minor-league season comes to an end in September.
This year, it will be one of Boston's very best prospects in Garin Cecchini making the trip, as well as fellow position players Derrik Gibson and Travis Shaw. The other three headed to Arizona are pitchers: Noe Ramirez, Pete Ruiz, and Keith Couch.
The AFL is a hitters' league, so you don't tend to see many high-quality pitchers going there unless they absolutely need the work put in, or if a team wants to put them in a difficult environment to see what happens. The Red Sox haven't sent their better pitching prospects out there, but instead went with wild cards like Ramirez and Couch, both of whom could be big-league relievers. Couch, specifically, is Rule 5-eligible this November, so seeing how he performs in the AFL could give the Red Sox some indication of his value -- whether they use that info to move or protect him is something we'll have to wait and see, though the former is far more likely given the limited spaces available versus the volume of players in need of one.
The primary story line for Sox players in the AFL will be Cecchini, who could very well use this plus spring training to springboard from Double-A to Triple-A by Opening Day, wrapping up a year-long stretch in which he broke out at High-A and found himself on the Futures Game squad at this year's All-Star Game. The other primary thing to watch for, other than Couch's performance, is how often Noe Ramirez is able to keep the ball in the park in a league designed to punish pitchers.
Read more Red Sox:
- GIF: Xander Bogaerts' first MLB RBI and extra-base hit
- Is Jacoby Ellsbury another Carl Crawford waiting to happen?
- What to do with Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks, and Xander Bogaerts in 2014?
- Jacoby Ellsbury's resurgence
- Red Sox lineup rotations a complicated matter