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2018 Pawtucket Red Sox Preview

Looking ahead to the Triple-A Season

MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at Boston Red Sox Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Team

Pawtucket Red Sox

The Level

Triple-A; This is the final level of the minor leagues before the majors and where you will find the strangest mix of players. There are major leaguers you will recognize being stashed for depth, big-time prospects, former stars looking for comebacks and organizational players just hanging on for their last couple years of their careers. It’s kind of underplayed as a developmental level, but I feel it’s underrated. It’s a good test for prospects to face a steady diet of players who have experienced what it’s like at the major-league level.

Where they play

McCoy Stadium; Pawtucket, Rhode Island

What to expect in 2018

The PawSox don’t have a whole lot of big-time prospects, though in Sam Travis and Jalen Beeks they do have some exciting young(er) players who could make an impact at the highest level. In fact, there is a ton of depth on this roster that you can and should expect to see in Boston at points in 2018. Of course, that’s what Triple-A is for. As far as sections of the roster, the bullpen is probably the most exciting part of this team to start the year just because of the sheer number of major-league possibilities it contains.

The Lineup

  • Sam Travis is the headliner in this PawSox lineup, though he’s a little buried on the major-league depth chart behind Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland. Still, Travis still has an outside shot at being the long-term answer at the position if he can finally develop his in-game power. He did have a hot spring, and while it’s not the first time we’ve seen that Travis has been working on new mechanics over the offseason to lift the ball more often
MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Minnesota Twins Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
  • Tzu-Wei Lin may be the first position player from Pawtucket to be called up to the majors this season. The infielder went through a major breakout last season, showing off potential with the plate that he had never shown prior to that in affiliated ball. Lin’s biggest asset, though, is his defense and his ability to play all over the diamond. The Red Sox also want him to get more comfortable in the outfield, so pay attention to how often he gets playing time around the outfield at Triple-A.
  • Chad De La Guerra isn’t a high-ceiling prospect and is far from the most exciting guy in the system, but he impressed the organization last season in a year that included a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. De La Guerra is another guy who can play all over the infield, and if he hits well for Pawtucket don’t be surprised if he works his way up to the majors at some point in the coming year.
  • Rusney Castillo almost certainly isn’t going to be in the majors. I say almost because I don’t want to get roasted if he does indeed get called up. The disappointing former Cuban League star appeared to turn a corner last year, getting the ball up off the ground much more often and putting up consistently strong numbers all year. If he didn’t have the large (relative to his risk) luxury tax hit attached to himself he’d certainly get a chance in the majors. With it, though, it seems he’s stuck in no-man’s land.

The Rotation

  • Jalen Beeks probably wouldn’t be the first starter from Pawtucket’s Opening Day rotation to be called up to the majors if a need arose quickly — and it should be noted that Hector Velazquez will likely be part of this group for a big chunk of the year — but he has the highest ceiling of any of them. The southpaw showed off big stuff and an improved delivery in 2017 splitting the season between Portland and Pawtucket. Some still believe the bullpen will be his ultimate home, but I’m a believer in a long-term future in the rotation.
  • Chandler Shepherd has been a reliever for his entire professional career, but he started shifting to a rotation role over the winter and that continued in spring training. I’m still curious how long this will keep up and if he’ll actually end up helping in the majors at some point this year as a multi-inning reliever, but he’ll be a very interesting name to watch early in the year in his new role.
  • Justin Haley emerged as an actual contender for that final major-league rotation spot occupied by Velazquez, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he got the call if the Red Sox suffer another rotation injury before others heal. Haley doesn’t have a huge ceiling, but he could be a solid back-end arm and he has some major-league experience after being selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Twins last year and kept until the middle of July.

The Bullpen

  • Brandon Workman may have been the biggest surprise among cuts from the major-league roster at the end of spring training, though he did struggle in the Grapefruit League. Still, he showed last year that he can still contribute at the major-league lever even if his ceiling isn’t huge, and he’ll get a chance to prove that again at some point soon.
  • If Workman wasn’t the most surprising cut, it was Robby Scott. He emerged as Boston’s top lefty in relief last year, and while he’s not going to overwhelm anyone he’s always done well against left-handed opponents. He’ll likely have to wait until the moment Bobby Poyner struggles to get another chance, if that comes at all.
  • Roenis Elias is listed as a reliever on Sox Prospects’ depth chart, but he’ll probably get some work as both a starter and a reliever. I maintain that he can provide more value in shorter stints, but the Pawtucket roster might need someone who can slot in the rotation every five days.
  • Ty Buttrey needs to work on his command before he gets a shot at the major-league level, but if he shows good control over the early parts of the Triple-A season then he could be an exciting summer promotion.
  • Williams Jerez is slept on as a piece of left-handed bullpen depth, but he has intriguing stuff and is already on the 40-man roster.