For Red Sox prospects 2019 is the year of opportunity

The Boston Red Sox roster for 2019 is a closed society for prospect talent, but beyond will offer a wealth of opportunity.

Imagine being employed in a place in which your movement within the organizational chart was just lateral? The options that unfold when you internally check your future are nil. Your position is a career dead-end if you stay. If you apply the same concept to a young baseball player especially one that is emerging as a future contributor you can fully embrace another human emotion – frustration.

The Red Sox are an almost closed society for the 2019 season. The roster is not terribly fluid unless trades, a PED issue, or injuries force a shifting of personnel. The stark reality is if you are a promising prospect you simply chalk up 2019 as a stay in the minor leagues with the intention of constructing a rather formidable resume for Boston or elsewhere.

Time is of the essence applies to haste, but it also may apply to a baseball player’s shelf life within the game. Careers can be a brittle item, especially under conditions often not in your control. Blake Swihart’s career went into a tailspin due to an unfortunate ankle injury. Others may have an arm turn to mush and still, others reach a professional plateau that is similar to hitting a bridge abutment with a speeding Harley Softail.

There is a lifeline for the rising prospects within the Red Sox system. The first is to have a personal resolution regarding patience. Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec, in particular, are examples of what is quaintly referred to as the seasoning process that has nothing to do with cooking. They and the bulk of their cohorts need more times beating the bushes – another quaint term for the minors. Production at all levels gets the attention of baseball operations.

The second lifeline is the maddening structure of baseball that can have a roster resemble a Merry-Go-Round as players approach free agency or have a contract expire. The fortunate thing for the Red Sox collective in the minors is another year under their cleats may give all the impetus for job opportunities as management just use the jettison option for those now padding their service time and accumulating more pension points. A natural and fiscally responsible roster turnover. The football Patriots seem rather adept at this concept in that “other” sport.

Best to start small and build up to a crescendo of the best of the best. Both Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are on one-year deals that combined approach $13 MM. Both are reliable veterans with a baseball presence that is defined as “solid teammates” and “good clubhouse guys.” But a big season in the minors by – for sake of debate – a Dalbec could make both expendable.

Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez have a combined salary in the very nice range of $9 MM. Holt will be a free agent as will Nunez and that means the Red Sox could look elsewhere for what is designated as a utility player. One Tzu-Wei Lin is such a player. Lin hit a very respectable .307 at Pawtucket (AAA) in 2018 and a ho-hum .246 in 37 games with the Big Club. Another fine PawSox performance and career – at least in Boston – death knell could be rung for Holt and Nunez.

Pitchers can take that famous Superman “leap tall buildings” to a baseball level and advance rapidly or – unfortunately – disintegrate just as rapidly, but concentrate on the old positive uptick. With Chris Sale and Rick Porcello possibly taking their soon to be lush or even lusher contracts elsewhere more opportunity can surface. Maybe Tanner Houck and/or Darwinzon Hernandez will take that leap? The opportunity for the real big brass ring – an enormous contract – is certainly an incentive motivation.

The contract of Xander Bogaerts offers a possible advancement opportunity for any and all who cannot be an embarrassment at the key shortstop position. Bogaerts is the proverbial “Big Fish” in the free agent lottery after 2019 season is in the books. C.J. Chatham will start at Portland (AA) and maybe finish at Pawtucket? And if you have a good bat and a deficient glove DH could be your position if J.D. Martinez does the unthinkable.

Players in the minors pay rapt attention to the ongoing at each level. An unfortunate injury or a regular whose box score is either a collection of zeros or a pitcher whose ERA is suddenly in the infinite. A failure by others can create an opportunity. That may seem to be a brutal assessment but it is part of the human condition.

As 2019 starts to unfold that will take place on many levels with the most important being just what is happening with the World Series champions? But a microcosm exists within the structure that filters down. The smallest fish in the development pond also keep a wary eye on their own performance, but those above them.

The 2019 season could be a watershed in Red Sox history with the departure of players who most certainly would be missed, but also with the potential for those just itching to make their try at a big score. How it plays out will decide just how the Red Sox of 2020-25 will be.

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About Rick McNair

Born in Boston and have lived in the area all my life but not as a Red Sox fan. My first game was actually at Braves Field where I saw a very young Eddie Matthews hit a home run. The Braves left and I quickly switched loyalties. I enjoy discussing the Red Sox past and the connection of that past to the present. I will often bring in remembrances of that into posts. As a retired teacher I have the time to occasional travel to foreign baseball soil and love meeting up with other fans of RSN on the road. I am also a fan of the NY Football Giants (via NJ) - a dwindling breed in Massachusetts.
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