The Red Sox have made a large series of cuts to their spring training roster on Thursday, reassigning or optioning 12 minor-league players out of big-league camp. They are almost entirely names even someone vaguely familiar with the Red Sox farm system should recognize, as it's a list with both top prospects as well as a few players from the 40-man roster.
Top prospects Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, and Blake Swihart were reassigned, as they are not on the 40-man roster yet, while Garin Cecchini, Anthony Ranaudo, Bryce Brentz, Alex Wilson, and Alex Hassan were all optioned to the minors. None of these eight are a surprise to be cut at this point in the spring -- Boston's farm is loaded, but so is their major-league roster, and there is just no room for any of these players right now regardless of how well their spring is going. Brentz was having the best spring of the bunch, as he was batting .409/.480/.818 with three homers in nine games, and had even managed to draw three walks.
It's just spring training, though, and following his age-24 campaign in which he batted .264/.312/.475 for Triple-A Pawtucket, he needs to get as many plate appearances as he can: sitting on the Boston bench as a platoon option wasn't the optimal use for him and his development. If Brentz is going to be more than just a platoon bat, he needs time to refine his approach and improve his game. He'll get that chance as Pawtucket's starting right fielder.
Red Sox outfielder Alex Hassan takes a cut in a spring training contest. Photo credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The same goes for Hassan, who, while having a better 2013 than Brentz, still has work to do. He finally incorporated his lower half into his swing, resulting in both improved power and more opportunities to draw walks as pitchers recognized him as a threat at the plate, but he also accumulated just 225 plate appearances due to injuries last summer. Another year of starting at Triple-A will be of more use to him than sitting on the bench in the majors (and again, that's if you pretend there is room on the bench to begin with -- there isn't).
Cecchini similarly has nowhere to play at present, and hasn't spent any time at Triple-A, anyway. He was just added to the 40-man roster at the start of the off-season, so he has all three options remaining. It will be more of a story if he's cut at this time next year, but even then, there might not be somewhere obvious for him to play, given the presence of not just Will Middlebrooks, but also Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava. Blake Swihart might be Boston's top catching prospect, but he's yet to play in Double-A yet, and is behind both Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler on the emergency catcher depth chart as well.
Owens, Barnes, and Ranaudo are all in the same boat, with nowhere to pitch in Boston that would make sense at this point in their development. This goes for Owens and Barnes especially, since the southpaw hasn't pitched above Double-A yet, and Barnes just graduated from the level at the end of 2013. Ranaudo might see some major-league time in 2014, especially since he's already on the 40-man roster unlike Owens and Barnes, but he's likely behind Brandon Workman for any big-league frames right now. Alex Wilson, similarly, might spend time in the majors this year, but wasn't called up in 2013 until injuries decimated the bullpen, and is in the same situation this season.
In addition to these eight, relievers Noe Ramirez and Miguel Celestino were sent to minor-league camp, as well as Travis Shaw, who will likely return to Double-A Portland once again in an attempt to rebound from a difficult 2013, and Heiker Meneses, who was mostly around to fill in at second base when split-squad opportunities arose.
Boston's spring training roster is now down to 46 players, with 11 of them non-roster invites. More cuts can be expected before Opening Day, except in later rounds, some of them might involve actual releases, instead of just reassignments and options.