The High-A Salem Red Sox and Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox -- work on those team names, guys -- joined in on the roster announcement fun, releasing their Opening Day looks on Wednesday, a day before both clubs open their 2015 seasons. The Salem roster is loaded, and while things are maybe a little quiet at Double-A this year, at Triple-A, there is no shortage of intriguing, almost-big-league-ready players to watch this summer.
At High-A, you will find a consensus top-10 Red Sox prospect in 20-year-old center fielder Manuel Margot. He actually finished his 2014 with Salem after a torrid run at Low-A Greenville, and while he's unlikely to receive a promotion to Double-A immediately, his previous experience and success at the level could see him earn that bump sooner than later so long as it keeps up.
In addition to Margot is 2013's seventh-overall pick, Trey Ball, who struggled to begin his professional career but turned things around in the second half of 2014: over his final 10 starts, Ball threw 51-2/3 innings with a 2.96 ERA. He still has a ton of work to do, as the big lefty still walks far too many batters and doesn't strike out enough, but the Sox knew when they selected Ball that he was a long-term project. Remember: he's still just 21 years old, and was two years younger than your average Sally League player a year ago.
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Sam Travis, Boston's second-round pick and third overall from the 2014 draft, will play first base for Salem. He's not skipping Greenville entirely, but he might as well have rocketed straight to High-A, as he played in just 67 games between short-season Lowell and Low-A before getting this assignment. That actually might not be aggressive enough, as there are those out there, such as ESPN's Keith Law, who believe Travis could succeed in Double-A right now. He's also just 21 years old, and won't be 22 until the season is at its end.
Wendell Rijo and Teddy Stankiewicz are the other two standouts from the Salem roster. Rijo batted .254/.348/.416 for Greenville a year ago as an 18-year-old, and while it's a line that needs work, it's also full of promise given his youth. Stankiewicz is the forgotten pitching prospect in the system, a 6-foot-4 right-hander who will be 21 all season long. While he didn't miss a ton of bats in the Sally League, he struck out 3.5 times as many hitters as he walked while keeping the ball in the park. There is mid-rotation potential here, and if Stankiewicz can start to generate swings and misses, he could jump through the system.
As for the PawSox, you'll find plenty of familiar faces. Jackie Bradley Jr., Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero, Blake Swihart, and Rusney Castillo will all be part of the starting lineup, giving Pawtucket an impressive array of future big-league players all in one place. In addition, the rotation will feature lefties Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson, and right-hander Matt Barnes, at least until the Red Sox transition him to relief.
That's not all, of course. Travis Shaw, who still might have a career ahead of him, is at first base. Bryce Brentz could still end up being a lefty-mashing big-league corner outfielder, and he'll man left for the PawSox. Brandon Workman is exclusively going to pitch in relief, as will Noe Ramirez. Keith Couch is getting a chance to pitch in the Pawtucket rotation while Steven Wright is in Boston and Edwin Escobar is on the minor-league DL. Couch is another pitcher who could maybe relieve in the majors someday, though, it depends on how effective he can be as mostly a ground ball pitcher.