Allen Webster, RHP
If Webster can improve his control and command -- something the Red Sox are hoping a shift on the mound will do -- he could turn out to be the club's top pitching prospect, even over Matt Barnes. We won't know if there is any real progress on that for quite some time, but just know that the above statistics don't truly reflect what Webster has done in the early going at Pawtucket. His second start was cut short by rain before the numbers could count, but just know he struck out four batters without giving up a walk in those two innings. That would put him at seven innings, nine strikeouts, and three walks for the year. You could certainly live with that.
This is Webster's first go of things at Triple-A, as he pitched a level below for both the Red Sox and Dodgers organizations in 2012 as a 22-year-old. He's not quite considered ready for big-league duty -- if the Sox thought he was, he might be up in the majors while John Lackey is on the disabled list -- but it shouldn't be long. Assuming that he can harness his stuff and improve his control and command, anyway. That's going to be the key to his season, and his career.
Ryan Lavarnway, C
Lavarnway's stock took a serious dive with his 2012 season, as he failed to hit for impressive power in his second stint with Pawtucket, then bottomed out in the majors by hitting .157/.211/.248 in 166 plate appearances. A poor spring followed, and now he's back in Triple-A to try to erase last year from his history, and remind everyone of why he was noticed in the first place. It's not as simple as hitting reset, however, as Lavarnway has issues in his swing that make him susceptible to pitchers that know what they are doing. Throw in that his defense, in the eyes of some scouts, actually took a step backwards in his first full season as a catcher, and you can see why he's less popular than he was a year ago.
It's not all bad, however, as last year he was dealing with the fallout from getting sick -- it contributed to his drastic weight loss -- and he believes that might have had something to do with the lack of pop, and his late-season issues. This off-season, he worked on becoming stronger, rather than just dropping weight, so maybe with the right kind of weight, he'll be better both at and behind the plate. That's to be seen, though, as he has quite the hole to dig himself out of, and it's only mid-April.
Chris Hernandez, LHP
Hernandez is kind of the forgotten man of the PawSox rotation, as the likes of Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and Steven Wright all have something that draws the eye. Hernandez, however, should be remembered, even if he doesn't have anywhere near the ceiling of those first two, nor a standout pitch like a knuckler, as Wright does. Hernandez was drafted the same year, 2010, as Anthony Ranaudo and Brandon Workman, but in the seventh round. He's the first of the bunch to reach Pawtucket, and actually did so last year, early enough for his first start of 2013 to be his eighth start at Triple-A overall.
His first start of 2013 was a mess, with four walks and three strikeouts in four innings, but he somehow escaped with just one earned run scoring. So, of course, in his next game with five strikeouts against two walks, he gives up two runs in 4-2/3. Baseball!
Hernandez could be pitching depth for the Red Sox late in the year, or, if the bullpen finds itself struggling with injuries, he could come up to fill a spot there as a left-handed option. He's not on the 40-man roster, however, so if it's just the one arm that's needed, then Alex Wilson will likely continue to get the call, as he already has this April.