By Kevin Aherne
Based on their moves thus far, it appears that Moneyball was on the Required Winter Reading List for the Red Sox front office this off-season. Last season, they were playing Yankees, starting by hunting down FA Carl Crawford and blasting him in the face with a bucket of cash. They continued this strategy by trading top prospects for Adrian Gonzalez, then immediately signing him to a 9 figure salary.
This off-season, the Sox have been playing Beane-Ball. Rather than chasing the 5-tooled Reyes, or sluggers Pujols and Fielder in cash filled dump-trucks, new GM Ben Cherrngton has been shopping in the bargain bins for veteran leaders with usable parts. Additions like Vincent Padilla, Nick Punto, and Carlos Silva will provide some veteran depth, leadership, and maturity to this squad.
However, the issue with veterans... they break. Injuries are part of any MLB team's season, and the Red Sox have no immunity to this reality. In past years, their farm system has lacked majors-ready talent who could be called upon to help cover injury gaps. This year, Pawtucket and Portland have plenty of talent that are ready or near-ready to get their MLB chops. Lets take a look at a few:
Jose Iglesias, SS
Potentially a perennial Gold-Glover, this young infielder is considered to be major league-ready on defense. Offensively, he has a very natural swing with great bat speed, but lacks the strength to drive the ball to the opposite field. He will not amount to much of a power threat either.
MLB Comparison: Alexei Ramirez (CWS)
Lars Anderson, 1B/DH
Lars was originally viewed as the Sox best hitting prospect, but after some issues with injury and anxiety set him back some. He has rebounded nicely, putting up some nice offensive numbers at AAA in the past two seasons. He has also looked servicable in his few MLB appearances last year. If he can stay on the field, he could be a good long-term backup for Gonzalez, and also serve as a power-hitting DH after the departure of Ortiz.
MLB Comparison: Lyle Overbay (TOR)
Ryan Kalish, OF Age: 23
Considered to be the prospect with the biggest upside, Kalish is truly a 5-tool prospect. He has power, speed, and can cover ground at all 3 outfield positions. He is currently rehabbing an injury that will cause him to miss opening day, but expect to see Kalish at the Major League level this season.MLB Comparison: Grady Sizemore (CLE)
Will Middlebrooks, 3B Age: 23 Yet to make his MLB debut, Will Middlebrooks has quickly climbed the Sox system to be considered its gem. He can hit for power to all fields, he can field his position, and he is patient at the plate. His upside could be tremendous. If he gets the chance, he should be able to step in to this team and contribute. MLB Comparison: Scott Rolen (CIN)
Ryan Lavarnway, C
He has impressed at the Major League level in a limited sample size, but Lavarnway is still very much a work in progress. He has a big hole in his swing, and still needs some defensive help, but the Sox are confident in this youngster's ability to compete at a professional level.
MLB Comparison: Chris Iannetta (COL)
Other Sox News
Carl Crawford underwent wrist surgery last week to remove some scar tissue away from his left wrist. He will miss some of spring training, but is expected to be ready for Opening Day. Whether Crawford's struggles were mental or physical, this surgery should help his confidence in 2012.
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