- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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The final installment of a five-part series looking at the biggest questions facing the Red Sox leading into spring training:
5: Which young players will help this season?
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox begin camp next week with what appears to be few open roster spots and little competition for jobs. One injury could change all that, of course, but at the moment, the bullpen and a backup reserve spot or two would appear to be the only jobs up for grabs in February.
Still, there are a number of young players who may not break camp with the club on Opening Day but almost certainly will make an impact before the end of the season, some for years to come.
Here are seven to watch:
Ryan Lavarnway: Lavarnway's immediate future took a detour when the Red Sox signed veteran David Ross as a backup catcher to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, leaving Lavarnway looking at a return to Pawtucket, where he certainly has little left to prove, especially at the plate. Coaching guru Gary Tuck praised the strides Lavarnway made behind the plate, although that still remains a matter of debate in some circles. Lavarnway batted just .157 in 153 at-bats in 2012, far too small a sample size to draw any conclusions, and with Saltalamacchia just a year away from free agency, a trade is not out of the question.
Jose Iglesias: 2013 was the year the Red Sox had projected for Iglesias to arrive, but his light bat and this winter's signing of Stephen Drew have postponed any coming-out party for the gifted shortstop, whose defensive skills may have no equal. Yes, that's saying a lot, but it may all be for naught if Iglesias, who has looked woefully overmatched at the plate in two big league exposures, doesn't pick up his offense. It's much too soon to quit on him -- he is still just 23 -- but Xander Bogaerts, the player regarded as the best prospect in the system, is closing fast.
Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa: They're served as a parlay here because they came together from the Dodgers in the Gonzo/CC/Beckett deal, and both have legitimate shots at cracking the rotation at some point this season. De La Rosa has the more spectacular assets, including a 100 mph fastball and a changeup inherited from Pedro Martinez, but he also has had Tommy John surgery. Webster, who turns 23 on Sunday, may actually be the more polished pitcher, and has outstanding sink action on his fastball that should play well in the big leagues. They may be in Pawtucket in April, but check back at midseason, if not sooner.
Jackie Bradley Jr.: We all may be getting just a little ahead of ourselves here. Bradley, after all, began last season in high Class A and has just half a season of Double-A experience. Don't be surprised if he opens 2013 back in Portland, although a promotion should not be long in coming. Bradley is an above-average defender with a strong arm who has not only been productive at the plate but also disciplined, which accounts for his rapid rise. He projects as the team's center fielder of the future if Jacoby Ellsbury leaves as a free agent, but it's no certainty that he'll contribute to the big club this season. Still, I wouldn't bet against it.
Steven Wright: The knuckleballer with the comedian's name is 28 -- old for a rookie but equivalent to puberty for the practitioner of the pitch that made Tim Wakefield famous. Wright came to the Sox from Cleveland, and if any organization is inclined to give a fair hearing to a knuckler, it should be this one.
Alex Wilson: He may have a tough time cracking what looks to be a crowded bullpen, but the former Texas A&M star successfully made the transition to the 'pen in Pawtucket last season and could receive a summons at some point.
2dRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com
3dRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com
3dRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com