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Red Sox players who could make their major-league debuts in 2016

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The top of the Red Sox farm system is loaded with young talent, but who's ready to come up and debut this season?

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Hello everyone. Let me be the first to officially welcome you to prospect season. Team top-tens have been slowly getting released over the last few weeks, but the main even is finally here. Last Friday marked the first top-100 (or, in this case, a top-101) of the season, and there are many more than will follow. Once again, the Red Sox put up a strong showing, placing five prospects on Baseball Prospectus’ list. Unlike previous years, however, all of the Red Sox top minor-leaguers are relatively far away and doubtful to make an impact in 2016. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any impact from the farm system this season, though. While they won’t carry the same excitement as previous years, here are a few prospects who could make their major-league debut for the Red Sox this year.

Probable

Pat Light

One of the biggest story lines of this offseason for Boston has been Dave Dombrowski’s ability to rebuild their bullpen. A few low-profile arms will probably be added to the fold at some point over the next few weeks, but even without them there is already much more depth than there was in 2015. With that being said, the team will still need to dip into its minor-league pool at some point. Injuries and underperformance will happen, without a doubt. Light will be right near the top of that depth chart to start the year. The right-hander was added to the 40-man prior to the Rule 5 draft, making his road to the majors that much easier. He struggled in his first taste of triple-A ball last season, but if he can improve upon his control and command, he’ll get his chance in the majors. It’s only a matter of time.

Williams Jerez

The former outfielder has made eye-opening strides in the two years since he converted to the mound. Although he’s certainly behind Light both in terms of the depth chart and overall development, there’s a good chance he gets at least a cup of coffee in 2016. After putting up impressive strikeout numbers in the lower levels of the minors, Jerez struggled a bit with his first try in Portland. There’s a good chance he’ll start there again this year, with the opportunity to move up quickly. Like Light, Jerez was added to the 40-man prior to Rule 5 protections. Even if it’s just a September call-up, his own performance is the only thing standing in the way of Jerez’s major-league debut.

Possible

Marco Hernandez

The player-to-be-named-later for Felix Doubront had a very successful first season in the Red Sox organization, splitting 2015 between Portland and Pawtucket. Hernandez, along with the previous two players on this list, was the third prospect added to the 40-man roster this winter. Unlike Light and Jerez, however, Hernandez is not a pitcher and therefore has a tougher road to the majors. While he has an impressive combination of defense and contact skills that will give him a major-league career impressive — albeit probably as a utility player — the road to the majors in 2016 is tough. The Red Sox look pretty good at the infield right now, and they also have Deven Marrero in front of Hernandez at the moment. With that being said, a couple of simultaneous injuries could very well open the door for the 23-year-old.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Coyle

If Hernandez is iffy to make his debut this season, Coyle would probably be qualified as "unlikely." At the same time, however, he was added to the 40-man roster last winter, so the path isn’t too difficult to envision. This is the point of the program where we mention his rough 2015 in which injuries and underperformance were the themes. Luckily, he’s just one year removed from being one of the more exciting young players in the system, and a bounce back to that status isn’t impossible to see. If that happens, he should at least get a September call-up in 2016.

Probably Not But It’s Not Impossible And It’d Be Pretty Neat

Andrew Benintendi

Here, we have the only top Red Sox prospect who has any chance whatsoever to make his debut in 2016, and even this is unlikely. To his credit, Benintendi is the reigning College Player of the Year who tore up the lower levels of the minors he was exposed to last season. He’s also in an organization with tons of questions in the outfield, both in the majors and the high minors. Those two things give Benintendi a realistic — if unlikely — chance to fly through the system. With that being said, it’s hard to see them being that aggressive with one of their top young players. He'd really have to play out of his mind this summer, which isn’t completely out of the question. For as improbable as this scenario is, expect it to be a major storyline all season, especially if Jackie Bradley and/or Rusney Castillo struggle this year.

Sam Travis

While he’s not quite on Benintendi’s level, Travis does have a leg up in terms of development stage. The first baseman will probably start the year back in Portland, and has a chance to get up to Pawtucket by midseason. Even if he’s not a top-100 guy, this is a legitimate prospect, even if he’s a bit overrated by some. As Marc went over recently, he desperately needs to add some power to his game. Even so, we all know that first base has the potential to be a real problem area for the Red Sox this year. Obviously, the Hanley Ramirez could fail, but there’s also a chance that Travis Shaw doesn’t work out behind him. Now, a trade is the more likely solution to this scenario, but if Travis is playing well we could very well see him get a chance at first base in 2016.

Honorable Mention

Henry Ramos

I wasn’t sure where to put Ramos, but felt like he deserved a mention. The outfielder’s minor-league career has been decimated by injuries over the last few years. If 2016 is the year he’s finally healthy, he could get his chance this season. All of the tools are there for him to carve out a major-league career, even as a fourth outfielder. As I said before, there are tons of question marks in the outfield, both at the top and in terms of depth. Someone will need to step up in the minors in case of injury. Ramos has a good of a chance as anyone.