It's the spring of Jackie Bradley, it seems, as he keeps getting to play in Boston's early contests. Add to that what can be perceived as manager John Farrell's appreciation of the club's top outfield prospect, and there's plenty of Bradley love to go around in the early goings of spring training. On Tuesday, Farrell went to far as to say that we shouldn't rule out Bradley making the big-league club out of camp.
However, let's back up before we start to figure out what his number will be. This is a thing that managers do with positions that are kind of, sort of, not really available to a prospect, because there is a remote chance said young player could play themselves into a role. Basically, Farrell is just confirming that a non-zero chance is different than a zero one. Remember, this time last year, Bobby Valentine was pushing Jose Iglesias as the starting shortstop, and, more quietly, preferred Will Middlebrooks to Kevin Youkilis at third. Neither started with the big-league team to begin the year, in part because the front office -- and rightfully so -- gets a say in who is far enough along in their development to contribute, as well as determining which assets get to be where to begin the year.
It was determined Iglesias had more to learn, and Aviles -- who might have even been inspired in his play because he didn't have a stranglehold on the job to start the spring -- would be plenty capable. Middlebrooks began the year at Triple-A Pawtucket, and while he came up early, that was due to injury -- something the Sox and everyone else knew would eventually happen with Youkilis. Getting Middlebrooks more playing time in the meantime at Pawtucket was a conscious decision to help prep him for life in the majors, and it's hard to argue with the results.
Bradley is in kind of the same place. He was at Double-A, and while he could certainly work in the majors, there is value in letting him continue his development in the minors while the Red Sox see what they have in the bigs. Should Bradley tear Pawtucket apart, and someone is hurt or, say, the left field platoon doesn't bear the fruit everyone hoped, Bradley will still be there, now with more experience.
Guess who's in Red Sox camp this spring? No, don't look at the headline, where the answer lies, that's cheating! But yes, Mike Lowell, former Red Sox third baseman, is in uniform and helping out the Sox as a temporary coach this spring. What is he doing, you ask?
Mike Lowell is in Ft Myers to work with Will middlebrooks at the request of Dustin Pedroia.— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) February 26, 2013
I approve of everything in this tweet. When he had two working hips, Lowell was an excellent defender at the hot corner. Middlebrooks, while owning plenty of potential to be great defensively, isn't quite there yet -- tutelage from someone with Lowell's ability is a positive in his quest to get to that level. Throw in that Dustin Pedroia stuck his nose in here to bring in an old teammate to help out a current one, and you've got to feel good about that whole Pedroia as leader thing.
How does Manny Ramirez work his way into a Red Sox notes column in spring training, 2013? By heading overseas to play baseball in Taiwan. Manny, who last played in the majors in 2011, where he hit .059 across the board in all of five games, is joining the China Professional League, assuming no Major League Baseball team employs him by March 7. Given he played in all of 17 games last year at Triple-A, is going to be a 41-year-old, and has the Manny baggage, it's safe to say his ticket will remain valid past that report date deadline.
Say what you will about Manny -- and people do -- but there's something kind of nifty about his desire to just keep playing baseball. Or sad, given what he used to be in terms of talent. There are plenty of stories of the lengths people went to in order to keep him happy and invested, and it didn't always work out, so if he's just getting the importance of all of that now, after things are over, sad is the correct word to employ.
That being said, there are far worse individuals who have played this game than Manny Ramirez, even if he had a tendency to drive many people crazy with his Mannyness.
As for a Manny currently in the organization, Manuel Margot was rated as one of the top 20 prospects in the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues by Baseball America's Ben Badler. While the top 20 are just sorted alphabetically, it's good to see the Sox have some representation regardless. Plus, there's plenty to be excited about with Margot, who is a potential "five-tool player", one Badler sees as developing more than gap power thanks to quick hands. Throw in that he's also in possession of excellent speed and instincts defensively, and you've got yourself an exciting prospect that could shoot up the lists once he produces in a full-season format.