One of the best parts of spring training is that players who aren’t on the 40-man roster still get to come to camp with those who are that lucky.
The Boston Red Sox tend to have a bit of luck with these types of players, whether they are veterans or promising prospects. Last season, the player who turned most heads in Fort Myers was Pedro Ciriaco, a non-roster invitee at the time.
Ciriaco hit .414/.444/.651 with 14 runs and eight stolen bases in a team-high 26 games. He started the season with Triple-A Pawtucket but was called up midseason and made a big impact in Boston. This year, Ciriaco heads to Florida with an extremely high chance of making the 25-man roster as a regular coming off the bench.
But getting back to 2013, there are a handful of players who everyone should be keeping an eye on. Let’s take a look at the most intriguing non-roster players Boston is bringing to camp.
Deven Marrero, Shortstop
It was a bit of a surprise that Deven Marrero was invited to spring training because it involved making some history. Marrero is the first Red Sox position player to attend spring training the season following the year he was drafted since Scott Hatteberg in 1991 and 1992.
Marrero, a shortstop, spent 2012 in Single-A Lowell, where he hit .268/.358/.732 with 19 extra-base hits, 45 runs and 24 stolen bases in 64 games.
General manager Ben Cherington mentioned in Florida that Boston felt comfortable giving Marrero and invite, according to Tim Britton of the Providence Journal:
Typically, it’s not something we do very much, bringing a draftee the previous year into camp...We felt like in this case, we knew him well enough because we had scouted him all the way to high school, and he’d been through a lot and played a lot of baseball at a high level—college, Team USA—and played a premium position. We just wanted to get him exposed to the major-league staff and felt like it was appropriate to do in this case.
Although Marrero still has a few levels within the organization to play for before he gets a true shot at the Red Sox starting shortstop role, he seems to be on the fast track. It’s expected that Marrero open the 2013 with Single-A Salem and could end up in Double-A by the end of the year if all goes well.
Jackie Bradley, Outfielder
Jackie Bradley is one of the best assets the Red Sox currently have, and they’d like to see how he does when surrounded by veterans, All-Stars and MVP candidates this spring.
Bradley had a very impressive 2012 campaign, playing for Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. In the 128 games he took the field in, he hit .315/.430/.482 with 42 doubles, nine home runs, 63 RBI and 90 runs. In what was his first true season a professional, he was more than impressive.
Bradley played well enough and has enough potential that Keith Law of ESPN put him in his Top 100 prospects list as the 40th best in baseball. Law also deems him the second-best Red Sox prospect, citing his plate discipline and ability to potentially be the long-term replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury in center field.
Since Bradley progressed so well in 2012, it’s tough to imagine that he could play much better in 2013. He is expected to start the season back at Double-A Portland and could easily be promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket sometime in the season.
Law believes Boston could even call up Bradley sometime in 2013. But in order for that to happen, the Red Sox would have to deal Ellsbury, according to Law. Ellsbury is in the final year of his contract, and the Red Sox could look to sell him before he gets the chance to burn them in the offseason. That would give Bradley the opportunity to shine immediately instead of sometime in 2014.
Xander Bogaerts, Shortstop
Xander Bogaerts is without question the top prospect in the Red Sox minor league system. He has the talent to become a mainstay in the heart of Boston’s major league lineup in the near future and could potentially be the next best thing at Fenway Park.
Keith Law of ESPN recently deemed Bogaerts the fifth-best prospect in baseball in his annual Top 100 list:
A year ago, Bogaerts looked like a high-ceiling bat who’d have to find a new position, most likely third base, but a year of full-season ball at shortstop with continued work on maintaining his conditioning has his odds of remaining up the middle of the field up over even money. And a shortstop who can hit like this is a pretty special commodity.
In 127 games last season between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland, Bogaerts hit .307/.373/.523 with 37 doubles, 20 home runs, 81 RBI and 71 runs. His offensive game clearly speaks for itself, but as Law mentioned, it’s his defense that raises questions.
For now, Bogaerts is a shortstop. He is going to enter spring training as a shortstop and will likely start the season as a shortstop. But will he be a shortstop by the time he reaches the major leagues, which could come as early as 2014? That I’m not sure about.
I’d like to think that Boston would keep him at his natural position, but there are other factors that come into play. Boston has a bunch of talented shortstops in the system who could be just as effective on defense, if not better. Moving Bogaerts could help his career. But, again, for now, he’s a shortstop.
Lyle Overbay, First Baseman
Lyle Overbay isn’t even close to one of the top players who received a minor league contract with an invite to spring training this season. He’s a veteran player who is well past his prime and trying to show he’s capable of playing at a moderate level one more season.
But don’t count him out just yet. I think that out of all of the players who got spring training invites, he has one of the best chances at making the 25-man roster on Opening Day.
Lyle, a left-handed hitting first baseman, hasn’t been productive for awhile. In 65 games between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves last season, he hit .259/.331/.397 with 12 extra-base hits and 10 RBI. He hasn’t played a full season since 2010, the final year he played for the Toronto Blue Jays.
What’s important to consider is that Overbay does not need to play every day. Mauro Gomez still does. Gomez, however, isn’t going to be playing every day if he makes the team. He is much more valuable in Triple-A Pawtucket. Overbay is the obvious choice to backup Mike Napoli at first. That is, though, if Overbay can play well this spring.
Oh, and one last point: Out of all the stadiums Overbay has played at, Fenway Park is where he has the second-highest career OPS when playing at least 20 games.
Other non-roster spring training invitees include Pedro Beato, Chris Carpenter, Anthony Carter, Jose De La Torre, Terry Doyle, Chris Hernandez, Villarreal, Jonathan Diaz, Mark Hamilton, Justin Henry, Drew Sutton, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Mitch Maier and Ryan Sweeney, according to Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe.
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