Sure, the amateur entry draft is coming up, but since the Red Sox haven't picked any shiny new baubles that we can ooh and ahh over just yet, let's take the time to check up on some of those Triple-A players who may have just a bit less left to dream on at this point (but are, at least, just one step away from the majors).
If you were hoping Lars Anderson was someone the Red Sox could move in a trade for a starter to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka, you may want to just let that dream go right about now. Anderson, in his second stint at Pawtucket, is hitting .278/.408/.381, bringing his career line at the level to .267/.362/.414. There will be no market for a starting pitcher at the deadline--at least, not one who is better than anything the Red Sox can bring up on their own--that could be acquired for a first baseman who hits like a middle infielder, even if he is just 23 years old.
Anderson's star has fizzled out, and it looks more and more likely that Lancaster made him look like a better hitter than he was, and that his short stint of success at Portland had more to do with the sample size than his actual ability. This would be more disappointing, but as of last year, the Sox had Anthony Rizzo, and this year--and for the next several years--they have Adrian Gonzalez manning the position. That allows them to let Anderson figure things out, but to this point, it hasn't happened.
The .408 on-base percentage is wonderful, but the way he gets it that high is the issue. Anderson is far too passive, to the point where he can't attack pitches he should. In the majors, against the top pitching in the game, he would see far more strikeouts and plenty of weak contact to go along with a drop in his walk rate.
Think of Anderson's situation as the opposite of Josh Reddick's heading into this year--while Reddick was overly aggressive, Anderson is far too passive. Reddick is still aggressive, but is learning to take pitches and wait for one he can hit--Anderson, conversely, needs to start surprising pitchers, and attacking pitches he can do something with earlier in the count, just to keep them on their toes.
Felix Doubront has been out since May 9 due to injury, but returned to pitch 3 1/3 innings on May 30. He struck out five and walked a pair while allowing just one hit and no runs. While the Sox want to get Doubront into a role as a starter, his constant injuries and the need for another left-handed reliever now that Rich Hill's elbow exploded on live television may mean yet another switch to the bullpen for the Venezuelan southpaw. The Sox haven't spoken on the issue either way, but it's something to consider.
At the least, he is the front runner for Matsuzaka's 2012 spot in the rotation, assuming his elbow problem does require Tommy John surgery, and not rest and rehab. Anthony Ranaudo is too far off, Stolmy Pimentel has been too inconsistent, and Casey Kelly is in another uniform--that leaves Doubront last man standing.
Kyle Weiland was drafted in the third round of the 2008 draft, and has steadily moved up through the Red Sox system without too much notice. The right-hander didn't make Kevin Goldstein's top 20 Red Sox prospects list this past winter, and didn't crack Baseball America's top 10, either.
It's not that he was ever bad--in fact, his minor league career has been pretty solid--but the buzz factor around picks outside of the first round doesn't pick up until those players are close to the majors, or absolutely killing it in the minors.
With 57 strikeouts in 52 innings, Weiland is killing it and is close to the majors. It was expected he would have a career in the majors as a relief pitcher, a la Justin Masterson, as Brian MacPherson pointed out a few days back, but thanks to an evolving repertoire and a growing knowledge of how to pitch against more advanced hitters, Weiland is making a case to get the chance to start full-time, all the time.
Boston may want to keep him as a reliever, but you have to think he is earning a chance to show them what he can do in the majors as a starter. I don't mean the next time Dice-K's turn in the rotation was supposed to come up--he's not quite ready for showtime yet--but at some point in the year, possibly before the trade deadline comes and forces Boston's hand. Worst case scenario, he doesn't perform well, and he is sent back down to keep working on the starting thing, or becomes a reliever for a Boston bullpen that is dealing with injuries and some ineffectiveness. It's a long shot he would stick as a starter, but given his recent growth, there may be something there.