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Garin Cecchini (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

The 2014 Boston Red Sox already boast plenty of depth in the starting rotation — with Lester, Lackey, Buchholz, Peavy, Doubront and Dempster all returning to the bump at Fenway Park this April, barring a spring-training trade — but it never hurts to have a deep well.

Look back at the recent campaign. 

Sure, it ended with Boston claiming its third World Series title in 10 years, but it could just as well have been a complete bust thanks to the ongoing shoulder saga of Buchholz, the loss of reliable lefty setup man Andrew Miller and the fact that both of the team’s closers — Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan — were out by the All-Star Break with season-ending injuries.

That alone would be enough to plant the kiss of death on most franchises, but thanks to the strength of Boston’s farm system, guys like Brandon Workman, Drake Britton, Daniel Nava, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Jose Iglesias quickly became household names in the Nation and more than admirably stepped up to fill the void and stop the bleeding.

Thankfully, that trend shows no sign of abating anytime soon.

Because injuries can come at a fast-and-furious clip during the span of a 162-game season and playoffs, fans should take heart in the fact that there’s plenty of Boston talent waiting at the gate for their shot to break into the bigs.

Here are the top-three position players and pitchers waiting in the wings for the Red Sox (aside from those mentioned above, who have already made the jump), with thanks to our trusty and knowledgeable colleagues at soxprospects.com:

POSITION PLAYERS

Garin Cecchini, 3B
22 years old
6-2, 200 lbs.
Bats: left
Drafted by Boston in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft

Cecchini, who played shortstop and second base in high school before moving over to the hot corner, is described as having excellent strike zone judgment, a plus arm and above-average power potential. Splitting time between Salem and Portland last year, Cecchini hit .322 with seven homers, 33 doubles, 61 RBI and 23 stolen bases and led the minor leagues in OBP (.443) among qualified players. Playing in the Arizona Fall League, Cecchini posted a ninth-best OBP of .434 and hit .277 with four doubles and nine RBI in 18 games.

Blake Swihart, C
21 years old
6-1, 175 lbs.
Bats: switch
Drafted by Boston in the first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft

While Swihart is described as being on the small side and may need to switch positions in the future, he’s also labeled as having the bat speed, reflexes and athleticism to make a successful transition elsewhere on the diamond. Playing in Salem in 2013, Swihart hit .298 with 29 doubles, seven triples, two homers and 42 RBI, caught 42 per cent of base stealers and was named a 2013 Carolina League All-Star as well as the 2013 Red Sox ML Defensive Player of the Year.

Mookie Betts (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)
Mookie Betts, 2B
20 years old
5-9, 156 lbs.
Bats: right
Drafted by Boston in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft

A four-sport high-school athlete with a compact swing, good strike zone judgment and plus defensive potential, soxprospects.com named Betts its offensive and breakout player of the year in the Red Sox system and moved him up from 53rd to 12th in their rankings. Playing in Greenville and Salem in 2013, Betts hit .314 with 36 doubles, 15 homers and 65 RBI while stealing 38 bases and was named the 2013 Red Sox ML Offensive Player of the Year. He was also named a Rising Star in the 2013 Arizona Fall League, where he hit .271 with one homer, five RBI and eight stolen bases.


PITCHERS

Henry Owens
Henry Owens, LHP
20 years old
6-6, 205 lbs.
Drafted by Boston in the first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft

Owens, who compiled an 11-6 record and a 2.67 ERA while striking out 169 in 135 innings between Salem and Portland in 2013, was named Boston’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year by soxprospects.com. In Salem, Owens posted a 2.92 ERA and struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings. After moving up to Portland, Owens put up an ERA of 1.78 and a 1.09 WHIP. He’s described as having an 88-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94 mph as well as an above-average, low-80s changeup and a slow curveball with deep break and hard bite.

Matt Barnes, RHP
23 years old
6-4, 205 lbs.
Drafted by Boston in the first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft

A tall righty who posesses a heavy fastball that sits 91-95 mph but can rise to 98 mph, a 74-77 mph curve with tight rotation and deep break and an average changeup, Barnes is tabbed in his scouting report as a potential third starter. Playing for Portland and Pawtucket in 2013, Barnes went 6-10 with a 4.13 ERA and struck out 142 in 113 IP.

Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
23 years old
6-7, 230 lbs.
Drafted by Texas Rangers in the 11th round of the MLB 2007 Amateur Draft and by Boston in the first round of the 2010 MLB amateur Draft

Ranaudo, who was limited to only nine games in 2012 by injury, was named the 2013 Comeback Player of the Year by Soxprospects.com after he went 11-5 with a 2.96 ERA and struck out 127 in 140 IP between Portland and Pawtucket. Ranaudo has a 94+ mph fastball and a plus curveball but an inconsistent changeup. He was named the Red Sox ML Starting Pitcher of the Month in April 2013 and was also tabbed a 2013 Eastern League and Futures Game All-Star as well as the 2013 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year and a Eastern League Post-Season All-Star.

Keep the Faith. Drink the Dirty Water. Connect with me on Twitter: @jan_doh

Jan-Christian Sorensen 1/07/2014 04:06:00 PM Edit
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