Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By Kevin Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - If not for THE TRADE, Mike Hazen would have spent Wednesday morning at Boston College talking about Anthony Rizzo being the real deal, how Casey Kelly's numbers should catch up with his potential and why Reymond Fuentes is going to remind people of Johnny Damon or Jacoby Ellsbury.
Instead, Hazen, the Boston Red Sox director of player development, spoke of saying goodbye after all three were traded to San Diego on Dec. 6 for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
"We don't necessarily like to see it happen, but it's part of the business," said Hazen, addressing reporters during the media segment of Boston's annual rookie program for its players projected to be getting close to the major leagues.
Kelly attended the program last year. Rizzo, Kelly's teammate with the Portland Sea Dogs last season, would have been invited this year and Fuentes probably in 2012.
Hazen was not saying he did not like the trade, but it does not make it easy.
"We invest pretty heavily in the people we draft," Hazen said. "It's tough to make those phone calls, to tell those guys they're going to go somewhere else, especially with the caliber of talent with those three players and the people they were."
But Boston still has prospects.
"We feel like we have a really strong farm system overall," Hazen said, "even with the removal of three of our top prospects."
Some of those prospects already have been through the program, including former Sea Dogs Ryan Kalish, Felix Doubront, Yamaico Navarro, Lars Anderson, Josh Reddick, Mark Wagner and Luis Exposito, and current Sea Dogs Jose Iglesias and Kyle Weiland.
This year's group of 11 consisted of pitchers Robert Coello, Stephen Fife, Jason Rice, Alex Wilson, Stolmy Pimentel and Clevelan Santeliz, a minor league free agent; catchers Ryan Lavarnway and Tim Federowicz; infielders Oscar Tejeda and Will Middlebrooks; and outfielder Juan Carlos Linares.
Coello is a lock for at least a Triple-A job. The rest could wind up in Portland for at least the start of the season.
In this year's group, there was not necessarily a go-to prospect for the media like Kelly and Iglesias were last year and Rizzo would have been this year.
Lavarnway received his share of attention, partially because he is putting up good numbers and partially because the Red Sox are seemingly always in search of their next catcher.
Lavarnway, 23, was Boston's minor league co-offensive player of the year. Between advanced Class A Salem and Double-A Portland, Lavarnway hit .288 with 22 home runs and 102 RBI. He also walked 70 times and had a .393 on-base percentage.
"Tremendous approach at the plate," Hazen said. "He has right-handed raw power, which is something that we haven't necessarily been the best at developing."
Lavarnway was considered a raw catcher coming out of Yale, but his mechanics continue to improve.
"He is, if not the hardest, one of the hardest-working players we've had," Hazen said. "He's made himself into what we've seen today. We feel like he's going to make himself into even a better defensive player."
Boston is full of catching prospects, with former Sea Dogs Wagner and Exposito slotted for Triple-A and Federowicz joining Lavarnway in Portland.
Federowicz, rated by Baseball America as the best defensive catcher in the Boston system, played all last season in Salem, batting .253 with four home runs and 61 RBI. He has teamed with Lavarnway before.
"It's good competition," Federowicz said. "Makes you play your best."
Federowicz's comments are a reminder that while all these minor leaguers are teammates, they are also competitors for a major league job.
Those jobs may not be so easy to come by as they were last season when so many Red Sox went on the disabled list, forcing Boston to reach into the minors for replacements.
Kalish, Navarro, Anderson, Doubront and Coello all began last season in Portland, and all were summoned to Fenway Park.
Kalish, who played two months in the majors, was at Boston College Wednesday working out.
"He is a shining example of going about it the right way and seeing things pay off," Hazen said.
"It's not going to pay off for all these guys at the same time frame as it did for Ryan because hopefully we're not going to go through the injury situation we went through last year."
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411, or at: