The Low-A Greenville Drive and Double-A Portland Sea Dogs have announced their 2015 Opening Day rosters, and they look great. Well, the Drive's looks great -- Portland's needs a little bit of help, but as we've discussed before, we might only need to wait until sometime in June for that. That's little consolation when it comes to watching them beforehand, but hey, this is a time for optimism, so let's get to it.
The Drive's full roster can be found at their website, so we'll hit the highlights. First-round picks from 2014, Michael Chavis and Michael Kopech, will both play for the Drive in their first taste of full-season ball. The 19-year-old Chavis, Boston's first-overall pick and the 26th overall, batted .269/.347/.425 in Rookie ball last summer (against the average of .249/.331/.346 produced by 20 year olds). As for Kopech, he threw just 13 innings for the same squad, but he's the same age as Chavis and was taken just seven picks later in the draft.
While he's not a draft pick, Rafael Devers still stands out, as the top hitter from the 2013-2014 international signing period is still all of 18 years old. As a 17-year-old playing in the Dominican Summer League and then the Gulf Coast League, Devers batted .322/.404/.506, showing off the advanced approach and swing that got Boston's attention in the first place. The Red Sox are unlikely to rush Devers this year, not at his age at a level that's meant to transition players to a more major-league, daily setting, but it's easy to see him getting the rocket strapped to him in 2016 if he continues to thrive.
These two aren't along as far as promising youths go, as Ty Buttrey and Jamie Callahan will make their returns to the Drive's rotation. Both of them struggled for Greenville in 2014, but Buttrey just turned 22 years old and Callahan won't turn 21 until the season is at its end. It's too early to give up on them just yet, especially when they were selected with the knowledge they were long-term projects. The same goes for outfielder Nick Longhi, who has dealt with injuries during his first two seasons as a pro, but showed promise in short-season ball that could realize itself with the move to a full-season schedule.
A name you won't notice among the Opening Day bunch is Cuban 19-year-old Yoan Moncada, as the Red Sox are going to have him continue to prepare for his professional debut by sticking in extended spring training. The Boston Globe's Alex Speier notes that Moncada could get the call to Greenville in a matter of weeks, so the wait should not be long, but there is a wait nonetheless.
As for Portland, 2012 sandwich pick Pat Light earned a promotion, but at the expense of his career as a starter. It was always expected Light would move to the pen in time to get to the majors, and while the Red Sox prefer to let future relievers pitch themselves into the role as close to the majors as possible, Light has struggled too much as a starter to let that continue. At some point, you just have to see if he'll have the career in relief you believed he could, and that seems to be the stance they're taking with him now.
He'll join toolsy outfielder Henry Ramos, who returns to the squad in the hopes of translating his potential into results, as well as Justin Haley, who got the late-season call-up to Portland last summer. Haley is likely a future reliever, but there is potential to start here still: he seems to be over his control problems that resulted in over five walks per nine over his first two seasons as a pro. If he can put together another campaign anywhere near 2014's, then he might need to be taken a little more seriously as a starter.
Reed Gragnani, who batted .300/.409/.406 for Salem in 2014, will show up in Portland, but keep in mind that he's already 24 years old and was a 21st-round pick. Still, he's done well in his limited pro time, so it's worth seeing how long he can succeed.
The most intriguing prospect on the Sea Dogs roster from day one is Carlos Asuaje, Boston's 11th-round pick from the 2013 draft. Asuaje hit .305/.391/.542 for Low-A Greenville and then .323/.398/.516 in 39 games with High-A Salem, and now he's been pushed aggressively to Double-A. The 23-year-old isn't a highly touted prospect or anything like that, but he's quietly crushed opposing pitching while keeping his strikeouts down. How he responds to this jump to the upper minors is something we should all be looking forward to, as it might tell us if there is legitimately something here.