Every year, the Red Sox hold an orientation of sorts for their rookies-to-be. The jump from the minors to the majors is the biggest they'll ever make, after all, and unlike all the jumps before, it's not just one of skill. Yes, the major league players are better. But the bigger difference is found in the environment. Minor league teams play in relative obscurity in small parks with small crowds. Their seasons don't matter to many, with team strength changing wildly over the course of the season at the whims of the greater franchise's player development needs.
Then they hit the majors, and everything changes. They're not playing with the guys they faced in college or high school, but players 10 years their senior. The average major leaguer isn't scraping by on a pittance chasing a dream. Everyone is pulling in at least six figures--yourself included!--and living that dream. The small crowds now number in the tens of thousands, and the wins and losses really matter. Your 0-for-4 in your third game will make at least one talking head wonder aloud if you're ready for the majors, which is a nice change of pace from those other three jerks who just assume you're no good to begin with. Also that's Clayton Kershaw who just brushed you back, and what are you going to do about it?
It's a lot to take in, so an orientation program seems the least the Red Sox can do. And yet, this year, they're going without. No camp, no invites, no nothing. Why?
The Pawtucket Gap. Formerly known as the Portland Gap, the Salem Gap, and so on and so forth. There's a blank spot that's been moving through an otherwise stacked farm system, and it's finally reached the top. Who are the Red Sox going to call up in 2016? Guys like Henry Owens, Christian Vazquez, Brian Johnson, Roenis Elias, and Deven Marrero (if, indeed, they don't start the year in Boston). All of whom have either participated in the program before or, at least, been in the majors elsewhere in Elias' case.
Christian Vazquez' missed chance, and future opportunities
Christian Vazquez had the perfect opportunity to establish himself with the Red Sox. He missed it. With Blake Swihart now seemingly locked in, what does the future hold for Boston's other catching prospect?
There are players on the horizon, of course. But they're a bit too far away. Guys like Sam Travis and Andrew Benintendi seem the likely to be the first of the next bunch to push the major league level--maybe Yoan Moncada too, depending on how aggressive they are with him in 2016--and it's hard to see any of them getting to Boston before the Red Sox have another chance to run one of these programs in 2017.
It's not a good thing, exactly, that the Red Sox have this gap. One would prefer a slightly better distribution of talent throughout (and watch out, there might be another one forming at the bottom of the ladder depending on how last year's draftees rebound in their first full seasons, save Benintendi). But for the Red Sox, they've largely managed to mitigate that issue. Last year's crop is mostly serving as backups now. While some of them are perhaps more likely to be called into service than a typical backup given some of the uncertain commodities in Boston's starting lineup and rotation, it's still something of a perfectly-timed log jam. With 2016 sorting those positions out, the pressure will be released, and the flow will continue as normal with, again, players like Travis, Benintendi, and Moncada filtering into the top levels of the minors, ready for the call when it comes.
So no rookie camp for now, but it will be back in 2017, possibly with some very big names getting ready to make their debut.