The college football season is over. The NFL regular season is over and the playoffs are marching endlessly on towards the biggest event of the commercial broadcasting calendar. Sports fans still have hockey and basketball to help ease the long winter away, but for some of us, there are times when only baseball will do. If that means watching archives of minor league baseball with an eye on future Red Sox stars, so be it.
In Part One we looked at the Red Sox low-level affiliates in the New York-Penn League and the South Atlantic League. Part Two took us to the Carolina League and the Eastern league for some more advanced prospect watching. In the final installment, we get the last stop before the show: Triple-A Pawtucket. The 2013 PawSox were stacked with talent to start the season and they only got better as the year went on, with more names from the various top prospect lists landing a few miles south down I-95 in Rhode Island.
The full PawSox season is available through MilB.tv, making for the champagne problem of picking from too many games. Once again, we turn to Soxprospects.com for the prospect rankings and the 2013 Baseball America Prospect Handbook for some opponents worth keeping an eye on. The broadcasts are now fairly close to the level of quality most fans are accustomed to, complete with graphics, replays and most of the technical bells and whistles we know and love. There are fewer angles available to the director and that is probably the most noticeable aspect separating these games from a major league production, but this limitation has the effect of allowing more wide views of the field, which is a happy accident, particularly if your focus is watching these young players' defensive work.
It's a productive day for Lavarnway and Bradley at the plate, but this game is all about Allen Webster. Beyond Myers, the Bulls lineup isn't stacked with impact talent, but Webster just blows them away. He allows one run on two hits and no walks while striking out nine in six innings of work.
Prospects to watch: Xander Bogaerts (1) Jackie Bradley, Jr.(2) Bryce Brentz (16) Alex Hassan (20) Ryan Lavarnway (NR) Allen Webster (8)
There was no more exciting arrival in Pawtucket than Bogaerts' debut on this day in June. The newest PawSox star scores the only run of this abbreviated night. In the seventh and final frame, Bogaerts singles off Lincoln and steals second to put himself in position to score on Alex Hassan's hit. Webster also impresses, allowing just one hit and one walk over six innings, striking out six in the process.
Prospects to watch: Xander Bogaerts (1) Jackie Bradley, Jr.(2) Bryce Brentz (16) Alex Hassan (20) Brandon Workman (9)
This is the prefect game for tracking pitcher Brandon Workman's progress from Double-A to the duck boats. Here Workman shuts out the Clippers through seven innings allowing four hits and two walks while striking out five. It isn't a flat-out dominant showing from the perspective of strikeouts, but Workman has little to worry about outside a minor threat in the fourth which he puts down in the short order. Bradley and Hassan help put Pawtucket go up early and behind Workman they don't need any more.
Matt Barnes didn't make it quite as far as Portland teammate Workman did in 2013, but he ranks ahead of his former SeaDogs rotation mate in the Soxprospects rankings thanks to a two-year age advantage. Here, he shows the ability to dominate at the last stop before the majors with a shutout over 5 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and two walks while racking up seven Ks.
Prospects to watch: Jackie Bradley, Jr.(2) Bryce Brentz (16) Alex Hassan (20) Ryan Lavarnway (NR) Allen Webster (8)
Notable Opponents: JR Muphy
Another strong performance from Webster doesn't result in a win for the Sox prospect as a first inning home run from Scranton/Wilke-Barre Corey Patterson is the only run on either side until the ninth. After Patterson's dinger, Webster holds the Yankees farm hands to just one other and three walk while striking out five. Pawtucket pulls off an inspiring comeback in the final frame led by Bradley and Lavarnway. The heir-apparent to Ellsbury doubles behind a Jeremy Hazelbaker walk to set the table for Lavarnway. The catcher ties the game with a sacrifice fly, then Mark Hamilton scores Bradley with a single for the win.