Triple-A Pawtucket: Matt Barnes, RHP
Matt Barnes made a start on Monday night, his first of the season, but for now, it never actually happened so far as the records go. The game was suspended due to rain with the PawSox up 8-3, so Barnes' start is just out there in the ether until the game is completed on Tuesday afternoon. It's probably for the best, though, as he was a bit shaky, though maybe that's understandable given he was used in relief throughout spring training and it's been awhile since he pitched in any way.
It's also unclear if it matters much how Barnes performs as a starter from here on out. Red Sox manager John Farrell seems enthused by Barnes' performances out of the bullpen, and with the right-hander now 25 years old and still without a consistent third pitch, maybe it's for the best that he transitions to relief full-time. The Sox shouldn't just give up on him as a starter of course, not after one April appearance, and not after a strong second half at Triple-A last year, but with so much of the future rotation seemingly locked into place and arms like Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson, and even maybe Edwin Escobar also around, Barnes doesn't have to be a starter in the same way the organization might have needed him to be just a couple of years ago.
Barnes has his issues in the rotation, and while they could be worked out, they are also unlikely to hinder him in the pen. His velocity could play up in short bursts -- we know he can hit the upper 90s -- and it matters less if he pitches a game where his control just isn't there, as a reliever can be yanked after an inning or even before then without the same kind of fallout pulling a starter would leave behind. Both his curveball and change are promising but inconsistent, but if he only has two of his three offerings working for him in relief on a given day, he can still thrive.
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Like with Rubby De La Rosa before him, shifting Barnes to the pen would not be a failure so much as it would be the proper allocation of Sox' resources. They have a pitcher who could be lights out coming out of the pen, and maybe someday be capable of high-leverage setup innings or even closing. There is real value in a player like that, especially when you can discover them yourself rather than spend big for them on free agency.
Double-A Portland: Henry Ramos, RF
Ramos is still an intriguing prospect, but he's not one you'll see many get excited over. He has the athleticism and the tools, but he's also 23 and in his second season at Double-A. That's not old for the level, but it looks less impressive than when he was 22 and playing in Portland.
Injuries kept him from playing a full season, though, he was productive when he did get on the field, hitting .326/.368/.431 with some impressive plate appearances along the way. You can still see him learning on the job both at the plate with his approach and on the field, but all of the ability is apparent as well. Whether Ramos is able to put it all together and translate potential into production remains to be seen, but for now, he's one of the more promising projects spending his summer in Maine, as evidenced by the Sea Dogs moving him to the middle of the lineup whereas in 2014, he was left in the back to settle in behind kids who have left Portland behind already.
Remember that the idea of "more promising" is relative, too: Ramos doesn't project to be a regular who would crack Boston's outfield, but there is hope for him as a bench bat on a good team, or as a starter for a poor one.
High-A Salem: Manuel Margot, CF
Manuel Margot, on the other hand, is one of Boston's top prospects without any need for further clarification. Baseball America rated the 20-year-old center fielder the number 72 prospect in the game this offseason, and Baseball Prospectus ranked him even higher, at 61. It's easy to see why there is love for him, too: he batted a combined .293/.356/.462 across two levels as a teenager in 2014, and he hasn't even developed the power that many scouts believe is coming.
Even if Margot doesn't turn into a power-hitting outfielder, he could still develop into a quality defender in center who can produce on the basepaths and get plenty of singles and doubles to make up for the lack of the long ball. As he already has 19 games behind him for High-A Salem, a mid-season promotion to Double-A Portland is very likely in his future, so long as he keeps succeeding against Carolina League pitching like he has to this point. In those 19 games and 67 plate appearances, Margot is batting .344/.364/.541. That line will come down even if he succeeds in getting his walks up, but it's mostly lovely to see that his promotion didn't drive his low strikeout rate up.
Low-A Greenville: Jamie Callahan, RHP
Jamie Callahan's 2014 season was a disaster, and that's why he's back at Low-A Greenville for a second go of things. It should be pointed out, though, that even while repeating Low-A, Callahan is still over two years younger than the average Sally League player, as he just turned 20 last August. There is still promise here, even if it's hard to see it through the 6.96 ERA and 1.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio he posted last year.
As is often the case with young arms, Callahan's command and control need to improve if he's to be anything more than a reliever or career minor-league arm. If they do, though, there is potential for a big-league starter here. He's currently working on four pitches according to Sox Prospects, none of them where they need to be for him to succeed, but another summer in the Sally could help Callahan sort things out and reclaim the promise he showed when he was one of the New York-Penn League's youngest successes in 2013.