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Fan Favorite, Dan Butler, Designated for Assignment

The Red Sox have designated catcher Dan Butler for assignment to clear roster space for left-hander Craig Breslow, who was re-signed recently.
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The acquisition of Ryan Hanigan (trade from San Diego for Will Middlebrooks in December) as a backup to Christian Vazquez and the presence of Blake Swihart on the 40-man roster made Butler an expendable asset for Boston. The 30-year-old Butler made his Major League debut (4-for-19, 3 doubles) in 2014 after signing with the Sox as an undrafted free agent in 2009. He has a nice track record at the Triple-A level. In 192 games with Pawtucket, Butler hit .248 with 22 home runs while throwing out 31 percent of those who attempted to steal bases against the PawSox. He was Pawtucket’s team MVP in 2013 and slugged a career high 14 homers.

Butler could end up back with Boston on a new minor league deal if he isn’t traded and passes through waivers unclaimed.

Former PC Standout Retires

For a guy who didn’t think he’d ever get a shot in the big leagues, veteran infielder John McDonald has decided to retire after 16 major league seasons.

McDonald, 40, said in September that he recognized the 2014 season could be his last, telling reporters that he got more out of his career than he ever thought possible. “I didn’t think I’d get a day in the big leagues, let alone parts of 16 years,” McDonald told MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez.

McDonald’s career closes with a .233 batting average, 28 homers and 34 steals in 2,651 Major League plate appearances split between the Indians, Blue Jays, D-Backs, Pirates, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels and Tigers. On an anecdotal note, he also holds the rare distinction of being traded for himself. In July of 2005, Toronto sent him to the Detroit in exchange for a player to be named later, only to complete the deal by re-acquiring him from the Tigers in exchange for cash considerations four months later.

More to come later today!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Red Sox Sign Mitchell Boggs to Minors Deal

Just two years ago, right handed reliever Mitchell Boggs was one of baseball’s top set-up guys with the Cardinals. He has fallen on tough times since and has been nomadic as a result.

The Red Sox have inked the 30-year-old to a minor league deal, according to Peter Gammons and Rob Bradford.
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Boggs struggled through 51 minor league innings between the White Sox and Giants in 2014, totaling an alarming 8.59 ERA after a rough 2013 at the big league level (0-3, 8.10 ERA in 27 games with St. Louis and Colorado). The former 5th round pick in 2005 out of Georgia University was both durable and effective for the Redbirds from 2010-12, notching a 3.08 ERA with 158 strikeouts in 201 1/3 innings.

Former PawSox Stand Out Available after being DFA’d

The Rockies have designated RHP Chris Martin for assignment, the club announced. His departure from the 40-man will open roster space for Nick Hundley, who was signed yesterday.

Martin, 28, reached the big leagues with Colorado despite not pitching in the minors until age 25. He had signed with the Red Sox after a successful independent ball stint, and came to the Rockies with Franklin Morales in last winter’s Jonathan Herrera trade.
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Though Martin did not put up an impressive ERA (6.89) in his 15.2 innings of MLB action, his work at Triple-A with Colorado was strong, as he struck out 12.2 and walked 3.0 batters per nine over 26.2 frames. While Martin posted only a 4.39 ERA, he was pitching at a hitter-friendly park and in a hitter-friendly league.

Martin was Pawtucket’s set- up man on their North Division winning team in 2013 going 3-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 30 games adding 47 strikeouts. Over 12 games in Double-A Portland, prior to his promotion to the PawSox, he did not allow a run in 12 games (21 innings) adding 3 saves and 27 strikeouts while giving up just 9 hits. Overall, he was 5-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 42 games in 2013 while opponents hit just .228 against him.

He could be a big, no pun intended since he is 6’8″, pick up for the willing team to claim him. Really electric right arm.

Finally, don’t forget, the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 will be announced early this afternoon.

Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

2015 Hall of Fame Class and More

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2015.

Let’s start the New Year off with a friendly debate. The Hall of Fame.

Who’s in? Who’s out? Who gets snubbed?

And for the second consecutive year, anticipation about the Class of 2015 is very high. It’s possible a large new group of players will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Electees from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot are set to be announced Tuesday at 2 p.m.

A star studded group highlighted the 2014 class with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas joining managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa forms one of the greatest classes in history. BUT, the prospective group in 2015 is just as impressive.

This year’s ballot features newcomers Randy Johnson (a 303-game winner) Pedro Martinez (a .687 career winning percentage is 6th best in Major League history and is by far the tops of his era), John Smoltz (213 wins and 154 saves in 21 seasons), Gary Sheffield (509 home runs and drove in 100 or more runs nine times) and six-time All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.
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Add Craig Biggio, the multi-positioned star who had 3,060 hits in 20 seasons with the Astros and the stage is set for another impressive class this summer in Cooperstown. Biggio is the only player with 3,000 or more hits who has not yet been elected.

Last year, Biggio finished with 74.8 percent of the vote (75% in necessary). He was followed by Mike Piazza at 62.2 percent, Jack Morris at 61.5 percent and former Astros teammate Jeff Bagwell at 54.3 percent. The names most often heard around scandal Roger Clemens (35.4%), Barry Bonds (34.7%) and Sammy Sosa (7.2% barely remaining eligible) are all back on the ballot for a third time. Clemens was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame last summer.

Of this year’s new crop, Randy Johnson seems to be a shoe-in. He struck out 4,875 batters (most ever by a left-hander) and ranks second behind Nolan Ryan’s all-time record of 5,714. He played for six teams, winning his 300th game for the Giants in 2009, pitching a perfect game for the D-backs in ’04 against the Braves and sharing the ’01 World Series MVP Award with teammate Curt Schilling (appearing in 3 games/2 starts and even pitched in back to back games starting Game 6 and earning the win in Game 7 out of the bullpen). He won five Cy Young Awards, one in the American League for Seattle in 1995 and four in a row in the National League for Arizona from 1999-2002. Like I said, shoe-in!

Oh, and he blew up a bird with a pitch as it flew across the plate in a spring training game (sorry PETA).
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Then there is Pedro, who also appears to be a likely first-ballot selection.

Martinez pitched for five teams in 18 seasons, but his claim to fame centers on the seven years, 1998-2004, he pitched for the Red Sox, where he went 117-37. His career record was 219-100. He won the Cy Young Award three times, twice while with Boston, including 1999, when he took the AL’s pitching Triple Crown with a career-high 23 wins, 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts. With it all, Martinez should punch his ticket to Cooperstown.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Martinez said. “There’s only so much I can do. As of now, I’m just like you, hoping and waiting to get a chance to make it. I think I should have a shot, but it’s not up to me. Like I said, it’s not up to me. I can only hope and wait.”

John Smoltz is a tweener for me. I DO think he ends up in the Hall, but maybe not on the first ballot. The right-hander played 20 seasons for an Atlanta team that went to the playoffs in 14 consecutive seasons from 1991-2005, won five NL pennants and the 1995 World Series. Smoltz was a huge part of all that wining, posting a 15-4 mark in the postseason, four wins fewer than Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, who holds the playoff record with 19 victories.

Between Smoltz and 2014 HOF class members Gregg Maddux and Tom Glavine, they own 6 Cy Young Awards…all in a Braves uniform.

Smoltz transitioned to relieving after undergoing Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2000 season. He saved 144 games from 2002-04, then returned to starting, going 44-24 from 2005-07. 210 of his wins and all 154 of his saves came for the Braves.

If I had a vote, and I don’t, I’d have Martinez, Johnson and Biggio all making it this year. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if both Martinez AND Johnson receive more than 90% or more. Who do you think makes it in?

And from the “Brock”ford Files…the Holidays in California were great and my little guy even got to meet Santa on Christmas Day.
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And he was dressed to the 9’s on New Year’s Eve!
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Finally, Happy birthday to my wife! She’s puts up with a lot with my schedule during the season (and off-season). She holds our little family together and I couldn’t do any of what I do without her!

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com,

Long Time, No Blog

Yes, it’s been a few days since our last update, but things have been a little hectic in this broadcasters life lately.

Friday last week a cross country flight to Los Angeles…do play-by-play for back to back High School State Championship games Saturday afternoon for Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Comcast…Sunday fly to Sacramento to spend the holidays with my family…Tuesday, fly to Phoenix for 24 hours…hop back on a plane back to Sacramento shortly. Phew….

The family did manage to make it to the ocean while we were in Southern California to give the little Brock Star his first dip in the Pacific Ocean.
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So what’s going in Red Sox nation? Not too much, but here a few tidbits.

Minor League Signing

The Red Sox agreed to terms with LHP Casey Crosby. At one time in his career, he landed amongst the Tigers’ top thirty prospects seven times. The oft-injured 26-year-old only received three big league starts in Detroit, however, and continued to have control issues after being converted to relief last year at Triple-A.

Lavarnway’s Odyssey

The former Red Sox farmhand, Ryan Lavarnway has made his way around MLB since being designated for assignment by the Sox on Nov. 25, being claimed by three different teams in less than three weeks.
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Lavarnway was originally claimed on Dec. 5 by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who DFA’d him five days later. The Chicago Cubs claimed Lavarnway on waivers Dec. 19, and it looked like he was headed to Wrigley Field to join former teammates Jon Lester and David Ross. But he lasted just four days in the Cubs organization before being placed on waivers again and claimed by the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.

David Ross Chicago Bound

The Cubs announced that they have signed catcher David Ross to a two-year contract. Ross will reportedly earn $5 million over the life of the deal, including a $500,000 signing bonus and identical salaries of $2.25MM in each of the contract’s two seasons. He joins fellow former Sox Jon Lester on the North Side and will back up recently acquired catcher Miguel Montero.

And…

Pawtucket Times PawSox beat writer, Brendan McGair checked in with the City of Pawtucket…http://pawtuckettimes.com/node/11166

I hope everyone enjoyed their final night of Chanukah and will enjoy a Merry Christmas Eve tonight!

From all the Lev’s from California to all of you.
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Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Will Middlebrooks Traded to San Diego

The Padres have been very busy the last few days acquiring outfielder after outfielder (Wil Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton) and now they can add a third baseman to the mix.

With a logjam at third base and a need for a backup catcher, the Red Sox traded Will Middlebrooks to the Padres on Friday in exchange for catcher Ryan Hanigan.

The signing of Pablo Sandoval earlier this offseason made it likely that Middlebrooks would be on the move or headed back to Pawtucket, the former was hard to fathom.
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Hanigan was acquired by San Diego from Tampa Bay earlier in an 11-player, three-team deal (the Wil Myers deal).

Adding Hanigan answered the question of whether the Red Sox would re-sign free-agent David Ross, who signed with the Cubs late Friday night.

After hitting 15 home runs in just 267 at-bats during his rookie season in 2012, Middlebrooks could never seem to duplicate that same kind of success over the last two seasons. In 157 games during that span, he hit just .213 with 19 homers and 168 strikeouts in 608 plate appearances int he big leagues while battling a series of injuries.

This came from Middlebrooks fiance, Jenny Dell.

Hanigan, an Andover, Mass., native, has a caught-stealing rate of 38 percent for his career and led the Majors in caught-stealing rate (minimum 50 games) in 2012 (48 percent) and ’13 (45 percent).

However, the veteran backstop has battled injuries each of the past two seasons. He played in only 84 games for the Rays last season (hitting .218) and 75 for the Reds in 2013.

Hanigan owns a .256 career batting average with 57 doubles and 25 home runs and has a lifetime .353 on-base percentage over the better part of eight seasons.

The 34-year-old Hanigan is set to make $3.5 million next year and $3.7 million in 2016, with a $3.75 million option for ’17 as part of a contract extension he negotiated following his trade to the Rays last offseason.

The Sox also re-signed LHP Craig Breslow as he looks to bounce back after an off year in which he owned an ERA over four for the first time in his career.

Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Red Sox Make a Trade; Sign a Few Others

The Red Sox bolstered their bullpen on Wednesday, acquiring right-hander Anthony Varvaro from the Braves in exchange for Minor Leaguer Aaron Kurcz and cash considerations.

The Braves designated Varvaro for assignment on Monday to make room for INF Alberto Callaspo on the 40-man roster.

Varvaro went 3-3 with a 2.63 ERA in 54 2/3 innings last year, posting a career-high 50 strikeouts in 61 relief appearances while opponents hit .228 against him. Over the last two seasons, Varvaro has gone 6-4 with a 2.74 ERA. He is one of just 18 Major League relievers with at least 50 innings logged and an ERA of 2.85 or better.

Kurcz spent this past season with Double-A Portland and went 3-2 with three saves, a 2.14 ERA and 54 strikeouts over 34 games. He allowed just six extra-base hits on the season (all doubles). The 24-year-old also threw for Surprise in the Arizona Fall League, going 1-0 with one save, a 3.86 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 10 appearances.

Adding to the Red Sox minor league depth, Boston signed right-hander Nestor Molina and catcher Luke Montz to minor league deals. Molina struggled in parts of three seasons in the White Sox’ minor league system after being acquired in the Sergio Santos trade. Montz is a 31-year-old veteran with 56 big league plate appearances and a .232 batting average in parts of four seasons at the Triple-A level. Montz played in just 14 games last year in the Oakland system.

And, back on July 30th, the Red Sox traded Felix Doubront to the Cubs for a player to be named later. That player has finally been named…Minor League shortstop Marco Hernandez
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Hernandez, a native of the Dominican Republic, began his professional career with the Cubs in 2010 and spent last season as a 21-year-old at Class A Advanced Daytona. The left-handed batter played 122 games, all at shortstop, and hit .270, with three home runs, 55 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. Along the way, he earned a spot on the Florida State League’s Midseason All-Star team. In five Minor League seasons, he owns a .273/.314/.375 overall line with 17 homers and 84 steals.

Defensively, Hernandez has played exclusively at short over the past three years but previously logged 27 games at second base, five at third and one in right field.

Scouting report on Hernandez from mlb.com’s Jim Callis:

Hernandez once ranked as one of the top middle infielders in the Cubs’ system but was passed by several players in recent years as the organization amassed the best collection of position prospects in baseball. He has leveled off in Class A the last three years, though he did show progress at the plate by hitting .270/.316/352 at Class A Advanced Daytona at age 21 this past season. Hernandez’s best tool is his plus arm, and he has the quickness and defensive chops to stay at shortstop, where he’s not flashy but can make the plays he’s supposed to. He probably won’t produce enough offense to become a regular. He’s a decent hitter but lacks the strength to provide much power and doesn’t draw many walks.

That’s all from me this week…unless something earth shattering takes place. Off to California with my family for the Holidays and I have a chance to call the California High School D-II and D-III State Championship games for Time Warner Sports.

My little reindeer is already 11 weeks old!

My little reindeer is already 11 weeks old!


Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

MILB.com’s Red Sox Organizational All-Stars

It was a good year to be a member of the Red Sox Minor League system.

The Major League club had trouble defending its World Series title and, with a 71-91 record, finished in the American League East cellar for the second time in three years. While their big league counterparts struggled, Red Sox prospects flourished in a big way.

From a team prospective, the PawSox won the Governors’ Cup for a 2nd time in 3 years. Portland owned one of the best records in minor league baseball. Salem made the playoffs and the Gulf Coast League Red Sox won their league title (Rusney Castillo played for both Pawtucket and GCL championship teams…double bling). The system finished with a .546 winning percentage, good for fourth among the 30 Major League organizations and earned a MiLBY nomination for Farm System of the Year.
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Mookie Betts worked his way from Double-A to becoming one of the big leagues’ most exciting young players. Blake Swihart took another step toward becoming arguably the top catching prospect in the game and now the Sox top prospect. Henry Owens continued to rack up strikeouts and no-hit performances. Rafael Devers and Manuel Margot showed the system isn’t exactly top-heavy.

These were the top players who made that happen according to milb.com.

Catcher — Blake Swihart, Portland (92 games), Pawtucket (18 games): The 22-year-old handled the jump to Double-A ball with relative ease, hitting .300 with 12 homers, 3 triples and 23 doubles in 92 games at Portland. He moved up to Pawtucket in August and played a key role in their quest for a Governors’ Cup title, lest we forget his incredible pick at the dish in Game 4 of the Finals to save the season.

What’s more, he took another jump defensively, throwing out 31 of 68 (45.6 percent) would-be basestealers across the two levels.

“I think Blake has really improved in all facets of the game,” said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. “The focus early on when we had him was the defensive side, and you can already tell that’s come a long ways. Offensively, he’s started to do a lot of different things with the bat and he’s made himself a guy that’s really close to the Majors.”

The prospect landscape has taken notice as Swihart, who was added to the Red Sox 40-man roster, has jumped to No. 24 on MLB.com’s list of Top 100 Prospects, up from No. 61 during the preseason. He’ll more than likely be be the PawSox backstop to start 2015, but with fellow defensive wizard Christian Vazquez already in Boston, the Sox boast one of the most exciting young catching duos in baseball.
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First baseman — Travis Shaw, Portland (47 games), Pawtucket (81 games): After batting .221 in his first go-round in Double-A ball in 2013, Shaw carried the momentum from an excellent turn in the Arizona Fall League (.361 average, 1.157 OPS, five homers in 17 games in 2013) into a much more productive 2014 season. The 24-year-old left-handed hit .305 with 11 homers and 37 RBIs in the Eastern League before getting the bump to the International League in late May, where he held his own with a .262 average and 10 dingers. His 21 total homers were tops in the system.

“With Shaw, it started with a more aggressive mind-set,” said Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles, who also coached the first baseman in Portland in 2013. “He was looking to do damage and be a more productive run-producer with runners in scoring position. From a physical standpoint, it came from his lower half being on time and having it established with improved balance.”

Like Swihart, he was rewarded with a spot on the 40-man roster, and Shaw could make his Major League debut in 2015.

Honorable mention: Jantzen Witte (.312, 12 HR, 93 RBI in 130 games with Salem and Greenville)
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Second baseman — Sean Coyle, Portland (96 games): To simply look at the 5-foot-8 Coyle is not the way to get the whole picture when it comes to MLB.com’s fourth-ranked second base prospect. The 22-year-old right-handed hitter has plenty of pop, as he showed this season with 16 homers (third-most in the system) and hit .295, a career high. Hand and hamstring injuries limited him to 96 games, but when he was in the lineup, he proved to be a masher. He also appeared in the Arizona Fall League.

“He had a really good offseason coming into 2014,” Crockett said. “He implemented a few new techniques that helped keep him on the field a little more. He also bought into the approach we’ve been preaching. We saw him driving to right-center more than in previous years and, offensively, that really helped his game.”

Third baseman — Rafael Devers, Dominican Summer League (28 games), Gulf Coast League (42 games): Until a player makes his debut, he’s more or less a question mark. Devers, who signed for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, provided a lot of early answers this summer. At 17, the left-handed slugger started in the DSL, where he quickly proved to be too much for after he hit .337 with 3 homers, 3 triples and 6 doubles. The Sox gave him another challenge by sending him to the GCL, and he cleared that hurdle by batting .312.

Having turned 18 in October, the Red Sox couldn’t have asked for a much better organizational debut than Devers’. And considering he could still be in high school, it’s difficult not to think about what the next step could be.

“He’s already got an advanced approach at the plate,” Crockett said. “He has a great ability to use the whole field. There’s some raw power there. He really isn’t afraid to see the ball get deep into the strike zone and drive it the other way. … To play third base, he needs continued reps, but that will come in time. It’ll be exciting to watch him grow.”

Shortstop — Deven Marrero, Portland (68 games), Pawtucket (50 games): To talk about Marrero in any context is to discuss his defense foremost. MLB.com gave him 60 grades for both his glove and arm, and he’s lived up to that billing at one of the most demanding defensive positions in the game.

“He’s above-average in all facets of defense,” Crockett said. “It can be incredible to watch. He can make the challenging plays with relative ease and, what’s more, without sacrificing the easy play, either.”

The 2012 first-rounder also started to show something offensively at Portland, where he hit .291 with 5 homers, 2 triples and 19 doubles in 68 contests. Marrero struggled some at Pawtucket (.210 average), but the Sox are optimistic after a positive Fall League campaign (.328 average in 17 games).
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Outfielders

Mookie Betts, Portland (54 games), Pawtucket (45 games): No player forced his way from Double-A all the way to the Majors quite like Betts did in 2014. The 22-year-old had no problem acclimating to Double-A ball, reaching base in each of his first 53 games to run his on-base streak to 66 contests (71 if you include last year’s playoffs). When it became apparent that his bat could carry him even further up the organizational ladder, the Sox moved him from second base to the outfield (mostly center) in May as a way to keep him from being blocked by Dustin Pedroia. Given his impressive speed, Betts adapted well to the new position. He moved up to Pawtucket in early June, made his Major League debut on June 29 and stuck with the big club for good in mid-August after hitting .346 with 11 homers, 5 triples, 30 doubles and 33 steals in 99 Minor League games.

Including this unforgettable moment in Pawtucket…he would be called up to Boston the next day.

“The thing about Mookie is he’s really consistent from at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch,” Crockett said. “He doesn’t change his approach for anything. Now he obviously has the physical ability to back that up as well. He controls the strike zone, isn’t afraid to hit with two strikes or in any situation. That’s something he carried with him to every level, no matter the competition he was facing, and that’s what made the transition easier for him each time.”

Betts batted .291 in 52 games during his first turn in the Majors and, barring a trade for a top-of-the-line pitcher, is likely to be the Sox’s Opening Day leadoff hitter.

Manuel Margot, Greenville (99 games), Salem (16 games): Margot was a popular pick as the system’s breakout star in 2014, and while that designation might belong to Devers, the 20-year-old center fielder did his best to fulfill those predictions. The right-handed hitter showed off plenty of tools hitting .293 with 12 homers and an organization-best 42 steals during his first full Minor League campaign. The native of the Dominican Republic climbed from No. 11 in MLB.com’s preseason ranking of the Red Sox system to No. 6 and could go even higher if he develops a smidge more power.

“He’s made steady progress since we signed him [in 2011],” Crockett said. “He’s been expanding the zone a little bit as he gets more experience, and he has plenty of natural running and hitting ability to succeed as well.”

Matty Johnson, Salem (132 games): For the reasons Johnson earned his spot on this list, look no further than the speed categories. The 26-year-old center fielder swiped 40 bags, second in the system to Margot and more than double his previous career high of 19 in 2011 and 2013. With a .276 average and .377 OBP, he proved to be the prototypical leadoff man for Salem. Pretty good for someone who was plucked from the independent Frontier League in 2010.

Honorable mention — Alex Hassan. The veteran .287 hit 8 HR with 55 RBI in 114 games with the PawSox. He made his big league debut with Boston in June, going 1-for-8, and got his first big league hit against Tampa Bay. Hassan was designated for assignment by Boston in November, claimed by Oakland, then DFA’d again and claimed by Baltimore.

Utility player — Carlos Asuaje, Greenville (90 games), Salem (39 games): Asuaje is the reason there is a utility player category in the Organization All-Stars series. The 2013 11th-rounder’s bat played well enough to be honored (.310, 15 homers, 12 triples, 38 doubles), but he saw equal time at second base, third and left field in 2014, making it difficult to place him anywhere other than this spot. That defensive flexibility should help the 23-year-old as he tries to climb the ladder.

Right-handed pitcher — Anthony Ranaudo, Pawtucket (24 games), Boston (seven games): The Red Sox would have been happy with a repeat of 2013 (2.96 ERA, Eastern League Pitcher of the Year) for Ranaudo, and that’s essentially what they got. The 6-foot-7 New Jersey native was named International League Most Valuable Pitcher after leading the Triple-A circuit in wins (14) and ERA (2.61) while posting a 1.20 WHIP, .223 average against and 111 strikeouts over 138 innings. He made his Major League debut on Aug. 1 getting a win against the Yankees while striking out Derek Jeter for his first big league punch out.
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Given the rotation moves the Red Sox have made this offseason (Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson) and what could still come, Ranaudo could head back to Triple-A this spring.

“I think it’s just about having more consistent execution at the Major League level,” Crockett said. “The batters obviously get more talented at every level and you have to be more consistent if you’re going to succeed. Now his fastball plays at every level, we saw that. It’s just a matter of continuing to improve execution of the other pitches, and he knows that.”

Left-handed pitcher — Brian Johnson, Salem (five games), Portland (20 games): Johnson’s first two seasons in the system were marred by a line drive he took to the face on Aug. 18, 2012 during a Futures at Fenway game with Short-Season Lowell.

Armed with an above-average fastball and curve, the 2012 first-rounder broke the 100-inning barrier for the first time — 143.2, to be exact — and was dominant, especially at Portland, where he went 10-2 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, .189 average against and 99 strikeouts in 118 frames. His 2.13 ERA for the season was easily best in the system.

“This was the first year he was really able to get in a full offseason, and what he did was a result of being able to maximize that time,” Crockett said. “You could tell it really paid off. He came in stronger, and even as the season progressed, his velocity ticked up from what we had previously seen. Between strength and conditioning and being able to repeat his delivery consistently all season long, he had exactly the type of season we could have hoped for him.”

Johnson also made one playoff start at Triple-A, tossing six innings of two-run ball against Durham in Game 2 of the Governors’ Cup Finals, and Pawtucket is where he’ll move in what should be another stacked rotation.
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Honorable mention: Henry Owens Another great year, but in the eyes of milb.com, Johnson just out-did him. Tough with these numbers, 26 starts, 17-5, 2.94 ERA, 170 k’s, 159 IP and a .208 average against.

Relief pitcher — Tommy Layne, Pawtucket (37 games), Boston (30 games): The 30-year-old left-hander was signed by the Red Sox as a free agent last offseason with the hope he’d provide veteran depth and left-handed help in the Pawtucket bullpen. He did more than that, posting a 1.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .173 average against with 11 saves in 11 chances for the PawSox. He was tougher against Triple-A lefties, holding them to a .136 average. Layne defined the term “Stopper”.
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“He set the tone for our bullpen,” Boles said. “He was consistent, had solid work habits and was a great example for our club. He executed pitches when we needed them and was our most consistent reliever this season.”

Layne moved to Boston full-time in mid-July, putting up a 0.95 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 19 innings there, and, with Craig Breslow’s departure, should be the club’s go-to left-handed option in 2015.

Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

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