July 1, 2012

Who's next? Middlebrooks gets his chance, others may follow

Fan favorite Kevin Youkilis has been traded and replaced, and there are plenty of other prospects waiting to get their chance at Fenway Park.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Goodbye Youkilis, hello Middlebrooks. Could this be the start of other former Sea Dogs replacing the old guard with the Red Sox?

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Boston could let Ellsbury walk (or even trade him) and welcome Jackie Bradley Jr., currently in Portland and drawing raves for his hitting, plate discipline and graceful defense (yes, he’s better than Ellsbury in the field).

RIGHT FIELD

Right-handed hitter Cody Ross, 31, is on a one-year contract and left-handed hitter Ryan Sweeney, 27, can be a free agent after next season.

Kalish, 24, may have his sights on the job in the coming years. There is also Bryce Brentz, 23, to consider. He it slugging away in Portland (.294 average/.848 OPS through Thursday) after hitting 30 home runs in Class A last year.

PITCHING

Daisuke Matsuzaka is coming off the books after this year (assuming the Red Sox don’t re-sign him), but that still leaves Beckett and Lackey (both through 2014), Jon Lester (2013, with a club option for 2014) and Clay Buchholz (2016 with club options for the two years after that).

Franklin Morales, who is looking more and more like a starter, is under Red Sox control through 2014.

Rookie Felix Doubront will be with Boston for some time.

But replacements will be needed.

Two top-round picks, Anthony Ranaudo (in Portland) and Matt Barnes (Salem), are the best bets to slide into the rotation in the coming years.

Left-hander Drake Britton is a prospect in Portland, but Boston can’t take its time because Britton is on the 40-man roster and will run out of options after 2014. He could work his way to the majors through the bullpen.

Projecting players to make it to Boston – and stick – is no exact science. In 2008, first baseman Lars Anderson closed the season in Portland hitting .316 with five home runs in 41 games.

Named Boston’s top prospect in 2009, Anderson figured to start the year in Portland, hop up to Pawtucket and make it to the majors at the end of the season. But Anderson slumped in 2009. He has been in the shadows since, especially with Gonzalez signed.

Months before the 2011 season, two prospects were being showcased at the Sea Dogs Hot Stove Dinner – Oscar Tejeda and Middlebrooks. Tejeda, an infielder who moved to the outfield, was released last week. Middlebrooks is in Seattle today as the Red Sox face the Mariners.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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