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Out of Cape Cod: Boston Red Sox Keep an Eye to the East

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Earlier this week the Red Sox signed their top draft pick, Arizona State short stop Deven Marrero. Like Anthony Ranaudo and Jackie Bradley Jr, Boston was able to land Marrero, who is widely regarded as a premium talent, despite picking late in the first round because of a drop in his performance in his final year in college. Hampered by an ankle injury and possibly some mechanical issues with his swing, Marrero hit .284 his junior year after being well above .300 in his first two college seasons. The Red Sox are hoping that those struggles are just a small blip on the radar for the talent youngster. One of the reasons they believe that to be the case may be Marrero’s stellar performance in 2011, when he played just down the road from Fenway in the venerable Cape Cod Baseball League for the Cotuit Kettleers.

The Cape Cod Baseball League is considered the premier collegiate summer league, meaning that the players are unpaid so as to retain their NCAA eligibility. Such leagues are sanctioned by the NCAA and the Cape Cod Baseball League also receives some financial assistance from Major League Baseball. It is a wood bat league and thus it offers many college players the chance to showcase their abilities for the major league scouts in the more challenging context. Due to the quality of competition and the prevalence of top college players, it is sometimes said to be comparable to the High A minor league level. According to the league’s website, 1 in 7 major league players have spent time there.

Marrero played in the Cape Cod Baseball League two years during his college career. In 2010, he hit .328 in 122 at bats, with 6 doubles, 1 home run, 8 stolen bases, 14 walks and 24 strike outs. In 2011, he hit .326 in 46 at bats with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 stolen bases, 2 walks and 6 strike outs. The numbers there are hardly enough to draw broad conclusions from but it certainly seems Marrero handled the wood bat well, hitting for average just as well as he had with graphite. As a player without much projection in the power department, that is probably the most important thing for him.

Marrero is represented by one of the Cape Cod League’s biggest fans, super-agent Scott Boras. Prior to the new CBA, Boras routinely encouraged players he represented to pitch in the CCBL before signing to boost their bonuses. Red Sox pitching prospect Anthony Ranaudo was a famous example of that. After being selected 39th overall by the Red Sox, Ranaudo went out to the Cape and dominated, pitching 29 2/3 innings without giving up a run and striking out nearly four times as many hitters as he walked. Boston gave the righty a $2.25M signing bonus following that impressive stint.

The Red Sox are hardly the only ones watching the CCBL. You would be hard pressed to find a team that doesn’t scout the league heavily and with 240 alums on MLB rosters and even more players in the minor, the CapeLeague is represented in every organization in some way. The Red Sox have an obvious advantage in scouting the league, however, thanks to proximity and to the fact that Fenway hosts the CCBL All Star Game. That advantage has lead to a deep list of players who have played on the Cape and then landed in Boston in one way or another.

Just for fun, here is one or many possible alignments for an All CCBL alum Red Sox team. Like the 2012 team, it would feature a powerhouse offense, a deep and capable bullpen and a dearth of starting pitching options.

RedSoxAllCape Cod Baseball League Team

CF Jacoby Ellsbury

2B Mark Bellhorn

1B Kevin Youkilis

SS Nomar Garciaparra

DH Mo Vaughn

3B Mike Lowell

LF JasonBay

C Carlton Fisk

RF Eric Hinske

UT Mike Aviles

UT Mark Kotsay

OF Sean Casey

OF Bobby Kielty

BUC Jason Varitek

SP Justin Masterson

SP Brandon Duckworth

SP Brandon Workman

SP Anthony Ranaudo

SP/RP Andrew Miller

SP/RP Scott Atchison

SP/RP Daniel Bard

RP Rich Hill

RP David Aardsma

RP Jeff Reardon

RP Billy Wagner

Honorable Mention: Pitching Coach John Farrell