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Posts Tagged ‘Red Sox Prospects

Xander Bogaerts in Futures Game Showcase

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Is Xander Bogaerts the Manny Machado of 2013?

We will get another data point in this weekend’s All-Star Futures Game.

Bogaerts is batting #3 in the World team line-up.

Bogaerts has boosted his already very high stock this season – quickly moving through Double A Portland up to Triple A Pawtucket at age 20.

He has been picking up production with the PawSox, batting .286 with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs in his last ten games. Bogaerts has 7 HRs in 29 Pawtucket games – compared 6 HRs in 56 games with Portland.

Jim Callis has Bogaerts ranked #6 among the prospects on this week’s list to have Fantasy Baseball impact this season (subscription required).

What to watch for next: if Bogaerts plays games at third base (moving Will Middlebrooks to first base or DH), start the countdown: Bogaerts is getting ready to hit Fenway this season.

With Jose Iglesias performing well (and veteran Stephen Drew also on the team) – third base is Bogaerts’ path to Boston in 2013.

One More Futures Note

Reymond Fuentes is leading off for the World team.

The Red Sox shipped Fuentes to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez trade.

Fuentes has rebounded well from a down 2012 season.

Like to see former Red Sox prospects do well – it’s good for the business of trading prospects in future deals.

Written by Albie Jarvis

July 13, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Red Sox Bolster Bullpen with Matt Thornton

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The Red Sox made a good deal getting lefty reliever Matt Thornton from the White Sox for toolsy OF prospect Brandon Jacobs.

Boston hopes Thornton can fill the shoes of lost-for-season reliever Andrew Miller – something Thornton can probably only partly accomplish.

Don’t expect Boston to stop here in the trade market.

This deal is a good indicator on how GM Ben Cherington will try to go to market again.

Use Boston’s financial strength to pick up a contract a team is looking to shed. For example, Thornton has $3.5 million left on his 2013 contract.

And the other part of the trade strategy: send one or more surplus prospects to close the deal.

That’s a good formula – and look for the Sox to repeat it.

Thornton’s Role

Looking at the numbers, Thornton is no Miller – but he could help. Relievers can get hot – and the Sox are looking for Thornton to put it together for two-and-half months with the adrenaline of a pennant race.

Thornton still throws heat (although a little less than before). He dominates lefty batters – but righties have knocked him around.

Manager John Farrell said he plans to use Thornton mostly in sixth- and seventh-inning situations – similar to his role with the White Sox.

And Chicago players sent their well wishes to the veteran Thornton.

What Boston Gave up in Jacobs

Jacobs was ranked the 11th prospect in the Red Sox organization.

He was hitting .247 with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs, 46 runs scored and 10 stolen bases over 84 games between Class A Salem (81 games) and Double-A Portland (three games).

Jacobs hit over .400 in his final 11 games at Salem before his promotion to Portland (a little showcasing to boost his trade value for Boston).

Alex Speier positioned Jacobs this way – he has all the talent in the world (outshining even Jackie Bradley Jr.) but that talent has not translated into consistent production on the field.

Jacobs is a good grab for the ChiSox – they wanted to dump Thornton’s contract and also got a prospect with upside.

What do you think the Red Sox will do next in the trade market?

Written by Albie Jarvis

July 13, 2013 at 8:37 pm

State of the Red Sox Farm System

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Prospects are like Spring Training. All’s we see is the upside.

Every top prospect will be a star. Fed by the hype of the organization – and the media that’s plays them up (probably more so in Boston with its media overload than other cities – like this John Tomase story).

So it’s good to review independent assessments – like the ones that ESPN’s Keith Law recently published.

Law looked at (sorry, ESPN insider subscriptions required), the Top 100 Prospects in baseball and the Top 10 prospects of each team in AL East.

Overall, the state of the Red Sox is good – which should be encouraging for fans that are looking for Boston to build its next pennant contending team.

But, patience will be required. The strength of the Red Sox organization is in the lower minors – with not too much talent deemed by Law to be big league ready in 2013.

The Top 100

The big news here is SS Xander Bogaerts landed in the number five position with Law writing a shortstop who can hit like Bogaerts is a “special commodity.”

This position is the highest spot Bogaerts has placed in prospect rankings. For instance, Jonathan Mayo ranked him number 20 in the MLB.com prospect watch. (Still waiting to read Baseball America’s lists.)

Boston scored three other players in the top 100 – OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (# 40), RHP Allen Webster (# 63) and RHP Matt Barnes (# 79).

No big surprises here – except maybe that Law likes Webster better than Barnes, which is not the typical evaluation of other prognosticators.

Note: Mayo also had LHP Henry Owens and SS Jose Iglesias on his top 100 list. Law placed Owens at number 101.

It’s worth noting that RHP Rubby De La Rosa is not listed because he has major league experience – even though, from a Red Sox perspective, he is still a prospect.

Most likely, De La Rosa would fall in the Webster – Barnes range, maybe higher because of the heat he brings to the plate.

AL East

One thing we all know is the American League East is very competitive.

It’s not surprising the high level of competition extends to farm systems.

So, as well as the Red Sox are doing with prospects, it is worth noting their competition is not standing still. In fact, according to Law, they are doing better for the most part.

Here are Law’s AL rankings:

  • Tampa Bay – # 3 in MLB overall, with six top 100 prospects
  • New York – # 10 in MLB overall, with four top 100 prospects
  • Baltimore – # 13 in MLB overall, with four top 100 prospects
  • Toronto – # 24 in MLB overall, with two top 100 prospects

Toronto probably gets a pass this year – they typically have a top-tier farm system – after cleaning out their prospect list in the Miami and Mets trades.

Given Boston’s strength is in the lower minors, the team could move up the team rankings this season if players like Blake Swihart and Garin Cecchini take expected big steps in their development.

Which Sox prospects do you see making an impact in 2013? And which prospect do you see making the biggest leap forward in the coming season?

Why You Won’t Be Able to Judge Red Sox by Opening Day Roster

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In recent years, the Red Sox were built to contend from the get-go.

Big Names. Big Contracts. Ready to do battle with the Yankees and all other contenders.

Of course, that strategy has not worked so well the last two years.

So this off-season, GM Ben Cherington has retooled the club, signing a bunch of 30+ year old free agents to fill the team’s holes. All on short-term deals (compared to previous free agent contracts).

It appears Cherington’s intention is fielding a club that’s in the pennant hunt, rather than building.

The player acquisition results have been pretty underwhelming for Red Sox Nation.

But it may be wise to withhold judgment on Boston’s roster when the season starts on April 1.

Look for the Red Sox roster to be more of a work-in-process during the season – much more than previous years.

What if it Works

Let’s suppose Cherington has accomplished what he set out to do – transforming a 69 win team into a 90+ win team (AL teams needed 91 or more wins to grab a wild card spot in 2012).

By going the free agent route as opposed to building through trades, Cherington has held onto his top prospects – including ones who could be major league ready soon.

Young players who could provide Boston a turbo-boost during the season.

It’s possible that Jackie Bradley Jr. or Bryce Brentz starts off on fire in Pawtucket and moves into position to play a role on the big league club.

How about a Jonny Gomes – Bradley platoon in left? (I am going to pretend a Jacoby Ellsbury injury replacement may not be necessary.)

Or Brentz emerges – setting up Brentz, Gomes and Shane Victorino to share starting duties in left and right.

And maybe Xander Bogaerts really is the next Hanley Ramirez, and bursts into the majors in 2013.

On the pitching side – Allen Webster or Rubby De La Rosa could be big league ready sometime during the season – adding a boost to the Sox staff either as a starter or in the bullpen.

Or perhaps Steven Wright goes Tim Wakefield on us – and rides his knuckleball into a hot streak.

Another option could be: Boston finds itself needing another veteran bat or (more likely) pitcher around the trading deadline.

So the team packages some of these prospects in a trade that attempts to put the Red Sox over the top.

What if it Doesn’t Work

Let’s suppose Cherington has failed at creating a pennant contender; he has great flexibility to make some in-season moves.

Boston can become a seller and move veterans to teams battling for playoff positions for young talent.

Cherington could transform himself into a modern day Frank Trader Lane.

  • Stephen Drew is on a one year deal. If he comes back but the team doesn’t, move him. Contenders like Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis and San Francisco all could be looking for a shortstop during the season.
  • Ryan Dempster was a hot commodity last mid-season – and he has no no-trade clause this year. Pennant contending teams are always on the prowl for starters at the trading deadline. If Dempster’s second year on his contract is an obstacle, Boston has payroll room to eat some money if the talent the team gets in return is worth it.
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia. While his pending free agency may limit the return on trading him, teams like the White Sox, Yankees and Rays may be looking for a short-term catching solution. The Sox could get a little younger by moving Ryan Lavarnway into a starting role – provided he demonstrates, he’s ready.
  • Mike Napoli is a crapshoot going into this season. But if the bat returns and the hips hold up, Napoli is on a one-year deal and could be the type of power-hitter teams are looking to add. Clubs like Baltimore, Tampa Bay, San Francisco and maybe even Texas may buy into a short-term risk.
  • Joel Hanrahan. Another pending free agent, Boston could sell this power arm to the highest bidder at the trade deadline. Options could include: Detroit, Los Angeles and Cincinnati. And that doesn’t take into the consideration the one or more teams which eventually have some type of bullpen injury and need to hit the market.

And we have not even mentioned Ellsbury in a trade scenario. The thinking here is Boston wants to make a run at keeping Ellsbury long term. So if that’s the case, the team may want to hold onto him.

What’s your prediction – will the Red Sox be sellers or buyers at the 2013 trading deadline?

Red Sox Quick Hits

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Here are some Red Sox stories and links that caught my eye.

Middlebrooks Ready

Will Middlebrooks has declared himself healed from the wrist injury that knocked him out last season.

Middlebrooks says he is “beyond ready” for Spring Training to start – with a top goal of cutting down on the number of times he strikes out this season.

The big question is: What can the Red Sox expect from Middlebrooks in his sophomore year?

If he produces numbers like the ones Bill James projects, the Red Sox will be quite happy.

They are: .277 AVG, 29 HR, 75 RBI. I think he will do better.

Red Sox Prospects

Been reading Jonathan Mayo’s review series on the top MLB prospects – by position.

The Red Sox have been faring okay – not great – so far.

Of course, Xander Bogaerts shows up well – coming in at # 4 among all shortstop prospects. Keep in mind, this is a stud position – so # 4 is excellent.

It was great to see Henry Owens land at # 9 for lefty pitchers. Especially since Matt Barnes did not make the top 10 grade for right-handed pitchers.

Blake Swihart also placed at # 9 – in the catcher category.

Only first base and outfield are left – so the next player to watch for is Jackie Bradley Jr.

Speaking of Bradley, if you want to get to know him better, check out this MiLB video interview.

MiLB.com also posted interviews with pitcher Allen Webster and catcher Dan Butler – both are expected to join Bradley in Pawtucket this coming season.

Welcome Back Pedro

Yes, it was great news to see Pedro Martinez rejoin the Red Sox organization.

In addition to having awesome talent, Martinez always showed himself to be a true craftsman on the mound. Hopefully, he can translate his pitching smarts into teaching prospects and identifying young players.

Plus, all-time greats like Pedro need to remain part of the organizations where they best stood out.

How Red Sox Left Field is Shaping Up

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Here’s the latest on left field for the Red Sox – a situation that doesn’t appear to be following in the Manny Ramirez, Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski tradition.

Jonny Gomes says he is planning to grab more than a platoon role in left.

Of course, the issue is Gomes posts strong offensive numbers against lefty pitchers and weak ones versus righties.

The Red Sox are pretty much a by-the-numbers team – so it will be interesting to see how much opportunity Gomes gets when right-handers are on the mound.

We also have the sad story of Gomes’ potential platoon player – Ryan Kalishneeding surgery once again, a move that will delay Kalish getting on the field in 2013.

Unfortunately, it looks like Kalish is Boston’s version of Grady Sizemore (without first demonstrating the big league performance) – a player whose body betrays his all-out, aggressive style of play.

Here’s hoping Kalish can finally put the injury bug behind him.

Of course, with every setback, there is opportunity.

Enter: Daniel Nava, who will be fighting for a roster spot this spring.

Nava is hoping to make the team as its fourth outfielder, with a role as the lefty hitting, Gomes platoon partner.

More likely – given Mike Napoli and his hip issue – the Red Sox will be looking for a lefty bench bat, who can play both outfield and first base.

That’s not something Nava has done – and may be tough to demonstrate without some minor league experience doing it.

This blog has previously suggested Colorado’s Tyler Colvin for that spot. Another, more expensive, option would be Pittsburgh’s Garrett Jones – although it’s hard seeing the Pirates part with him unless being blown away by the offer.

Logan Morrison of Miami could be another fit – but right now, he is penciled in as the Marlins starting first baseman. So Miami getting a replacement would need to figure in the trade equation – not necessarily coming directly from Boston.

One more name to include in the left field mix is Ryan Sweeney.

We know what can be expected from Sweeney: good field (especially arm), decent average, no power.

Sweeney re-signed with Boston on a minor league contract, so he could provide some depth at AAA Pawtucket.

Lastly, the Red Sox could have a new left field candidate develop over the course of the 2013 season.

Top prospects – Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz – are expected to start the season in Pawtucket.

A fast start by either player could rocket him up the organizational depth chart with a trip to Fenway.

In particular, keep an eye on Bradley who is a model of what the Red Sox want to be in 2013 and beyond.

What’s your plan for the Red Sox in left field?

Red Sox Roster Ramblings

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Mike Napoli Almost in the Fold

There have been media reports the Red Sox and free agent Mike Napoli finally reached an agreement – although GM Ben Cherington says nothing is done yet.

Instead of three years and $39 million, Napoli will now get a one year, $5 million deal – which includes incentives that can bring the contract value to $13 million.

The Red Sox will be getting a motivated or upset-at-management player – or maybe some of both.

Napoli’s health situation must really be bad if he had no other alternative than Boston’s low-ball offer.

The situation leads one to wonder how much the Sox can expect to get out of Napoli.

Figure the physically demanding position of catcher is probably out for Napoli if he is an injury risk.

And don’t expect too much DH’ing with David Ortiz manning that spot.

With Napoli at first – expect the Red Sox to grab a lefty bench bat to back him up.

Casey Kotchman and Lyle Overbay have been suggested as possibilities – but their drawback is they are first basemen only. Ideally, Boston would want more versatility for the bench with a player who can handle both first and the outfield.

Another candidate to consider: Tyler Colvin – The Rockies are building and Colvin is a bench player. Boston should be able to match up for Colvin with an arm and/or good prospect. A lefty bat, Colvin can play first and outfield.

The Boston Herald looked at the top five Red Sox seasons from a first baseman. We will see if Napoli can crack the list in 2013.

Bogaerts Goes Classic

Red Sox super-prospect Xander Bogaerts will represent The Netherlands in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

This will be the first glimpse of Bogaerts against big league competition. Here’s a nice profile of the native Aruban from MiLB.com.

Find the classic’s schedule here.

Prospects to Watch

Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Matt Barnes are universally seen as the current Big Three of Red Sox prospects.

A couple of second-tier prospects to keep an eye on:

  • Bryce Brentz. He is Boston’s best power-hitting outfield prospect – a spot the big league team could use some help. Brentz had a strong post-season run with Pawtucket last season. The Red Sox hope Brentz’ late season taste of AAA positions him for a strong season. And if that happens, he could be the first outfielder to be called up in 2013, if needed.
  • Anthony Ranaudo. Never give up on young pitching, especially if they haven’t had arm trouble in the pros. That’s the position the Red Sox find themselves in with Ranaudo, who had an injury-plagued 2012 season (but not involving his arm). Ranaudo is on a mission to return to form – and if he does, Ranaudo should rise on the Sox prospects list.

Red Sox Searching for Next Lester or Buchholz

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If the Red Sox are going to create the next Great Red Sox Team – a team that can annually be a top contender for a string of years like the club formed under former manager Terry Francona – developing a top-flight starting pitcher is one of the key building blocks.

The Francona-led team developed Jon Lester – who until last season looked like a world-beater, going 76 wins – 34 losses in his MLB career prior to 2012.

We are seeing this off-season how difficult – and expensive – it is for a team to add a number one or two starter.

The power behind the Dodgers’ costly acquisition of Zack Greinke ($158 million) is they already had Clayton Kershaw (home-grown) on board to be their number one.

The Blue Jays acquired a Cy Young winner (R.A. Dickey) but at a heavy price to their organization – delivering more to the Mets than what the Red Sox were probably willing and able to deal, even with Boston having a strong farm system.

Both of these acquisitions provide proof points on how last year’s Gio Gonzalez trade by the Nationals was a masterstroke. Getting a top pitcher at a reasonable cost in prospects.

Short-Term Priority

For the Red Sox to contend in the AL East in 2013, getting Lester and Clay Buchholz to pitch like number one and two starters is a must.

That’s probably one of the key reasons John Farrell was brought back to Boston to manage.

Farrell knows both pitchers – and had good success as a pitching coach with the Red Sox.

Based on the current off-season, GM Ben Cherington and Farrell are betting Lester and Buchholz can deliver – otherwise, we would have seen more aggressive moves on the pitching front.

Long-Term Priority

Looking at a longer horizon, it appears Boston believes they can develop a top starter from among Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Henry Owens.

Says Cherington, “We have some guys we really believe in. I know that from my standpoint, building a team not just for one year but over a longer time horizon, it sure is valuable to have young players with the ability to make an impact to sort of pencil into a spot here and there.”

Getting one or more of these pitchers to step up as a quality major league starter will help us judge both Boston’s ability to develop pitching and Cherington’s eye for evaluating young talent.

Perhaps closest to contributing to the big league club is De La Rosa, who says he has now mastered the change-up under the tutelage of Pedro Martinez, which obviously would be a great pitch for anyone’s arsenal.

Identifying the Keepers

The Red Sox have a top-tier farm system.

Baseball America expert Jim Callis recently ranked Boston as having the fifth best minor league talent in all of baseball.

Developing that talent. Identifying which ones are keepers; which ones are expendable. Dealing non-keepers at the height of their potential value. These will be key measures in determining Cherington’s success as a general manager.

It is important to note: Typically about 60 percent of top pitching prospects don’t succeed in the majors – here’s a good analysis.

Determining who could be a star among Barnes, De La Rosa, Webster and Owens (if any of them) – and which players the team can “sell high” to acquire “better” talent are vital to the team’s long-term success.

How would you rank Boston’s top pitching prospects? And do you see any of them as “sure bet” big leaguers?

A Look at Red Sox Farm System in 2007 – and What It Tells Us about Today’s Sox Prospects

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After losing 93 games and a last place finish, the Red Sox are in building mode.

This off-season, Boston GM Ben Cherington has taken a creative approach – primarily using free agency to restock the roster in an effort to return to contention, while hoarding the organization’s best prospects for the future.

If the Red Sox can pull this off it will be a masterstroke in team development – simultaneously building for the short and long term.

Red Sox Farm System

Let’s look at the farm system part of this equation. Prospects are like Spring Training – hope springs eternal.

We are approaching one of my favorite times of the year – Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook will be coming out soon. Giving us a glimpse into both the how deep is the Red Sox farm system and how it stacks up in comparison to other organizations.

And, John Sickels is working his way through each team’s prospects – with the Red Sox still to come.

As we are getting ready for these perspectives, thought it would be a good time to look back to where the Red Sox farm system stood six seasons ago (plenty of time for player to make it to The Show) – with the idea of seeing how we should examine the upcoming prospect reviews.

Sox Prospects in 2007

The Red Sox had a stacked farm system in 2007 – one deep with prospects, much like today. Some takeaways:

  • Figure if the Sox are really successful about half make the majors. In 2007, Baseball America pegged Boston as the number nine farm system – and so far, 17 of the 30 players listed have made the big leagues. Check out Minnesota (#8) – 15 players and Cleveland (#10) – 11 players. And of those making the majors just a handful will most likely develop into long-term, big difference makers – Jacoby Ellsbury (#2 in the Red Sox team rankings), Clay Buchholz (#3) and Dustin Pedroia (#7).
  • Don’t get hung up on the individual rank positions. Daisuke Matuszaka (#1) was ahead of Ellsbury and Buchholz. Michael Bowden (#4) and Lars Anderson (#6) outranked Dustin Pedroia (#7). Jason Place (#11) was positioned above Brandon Moss (#14) and David Murphy (#15). And the imprecision extended to the overall prospect rankings. Matuszaka (#1) outscored Ryan Braun (#23 – he hit 34 HRs in 113 MLB games in 2007) and Clayton Kershaw (#28). Ellsbury (#40 among MLB prospects) was behind Delmon Young (#3) and Brandon Wood (#4).
  • Remember this is just a snapshot in time. Prospects move up and down the list each year. In particular, keep an eye on the younger prospects down near the bottom of the list – to see how (and if) they move up. Example: a pair of 19 year olds during the 2007 season – Ryan Kalish (#17) and Felix Doubront (#18). And don’t forget to look at the prospects who miss out on the top 30 list (in 2007 – Josh Reddick who produced big power in 2012).

Where do you think Red Sox prospects like Xander Bogaerts, Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr. will stack up in the overall prospect rankings from Baseball America?

A Look at Red Sox Off-Season Strategy

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The 2013 edition of the Boston Red Sox is taking shape. And it reflects an entirely different strategy than Boston has taken in previous years.

While the roster is most likely not finalized, there are a few takeaways that jump out.

General Manager’s Stamp

Next year’s team will be Ben Cherington’s team.

While there are still a number of holdovers from the teams that Theo Epstein put together, the Red Sox have taken a dramatically different approach in team building. There was no wild spending this year.

It’s fair to say no pundits will be picking Boston as the “winners” of the off-season.

But give Cherington credit – taking the big-name, big-money course did not pay off in recent years.

In 2013, we will learn whether Cherington can evaluate major league talent that can perform at a high level, in Boston.

That was a problem for the previous regime (witness: Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, John Lackey, Bobby Jenks).

Sure, it looks like Cherington overpaid for this year’s crop of free agents – but the team gained the value of keeping the contracts relatively short (with three years the max in any deal).

Mike Napoli (assuming a deal is finalized) and Shane Victorino had down seasons in offensive performance last season. Were they off-years or starting a trend of decline?

Jonny Gomes and David Ross are platoon players – will they be exposed if asked to play more?

Can aging veterans Ryan Dempster (age 36 next season) and Koji Uehara (age 38 during 2013) perform at high levels?

Not to mention, the offensive players are all 30-plus – ages where injuries can be more frequent with a return that can take longer (see: David Ortiz last season).

We will find out if Cherington made the right free agent bets for 2013 (and beyond).

Number One Starter

Going into the off-season, the Red Sox number one need was a number one starter.

It appears Cherington is counting on a rebounding Jon Lester to fill that role.

Lester’s 2012 was a disaster. There was nothing in Lester’s performance that creates confidence he can be a number one starter.

Apparently, Cherington believes getting reacquainted with John Farrell and a fresh approach with new pitching coach Juan Nieves are exactly what Lester needs to return to form.

The Red Sox cannot contend without a number one starter.

Right now, Lester is slated to play that role – and we will find out if Cherington made the correct call there.

The Kids

The Red Sox have used their financial superpower strength to land the free agents they wanted.

In stocking the team, Cherington, so far, has avoided trading any valued prospects.

This sets the stage – in 2013 and beyond – to address just how good is Boston’s farm system?

At this point, it appears Cherington is counting on the farm system to be the foundation for the next great Red Sox team.

It will take some more time – probably three to five years – to make the call on this one.

But if in 2015 and 2016, you see players like Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Bryce Brentz, Blake Swihart and others playing a prominent role on a pennant-contending Red Sox team, Cherington will have made the right call.

What are your thoughts on the Red Sox team building strategy this off-season?

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