Editor's note: This is the third of a five-part series on depth in the Red Sox farm system.
In this installment, let’s take a look at the middle-infield depth in the Red Sox organization. The system is fairly well stacked up the middle, with a number of potential impact players, including a projected All-Star, some potential starters, and more than a handful of raw high-ceiling players that could develop into productive major-leaguers.
POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE STARTERS
SS Xander Bogaerts, 20, is the top prospect in the organization, profiling as an All-Star caliber player. On offense, he projects to be a solid-average contact hitter with plus power. While he still needs some work on pitch recognition, his bat is close to major-league ready. On defense, Bogaerts may get the chance to break into the majors as a shortstop and it’s certainly not out of the question that he’s able to stick at the position, but it’s still more likely that he’ll end up at third base or left field. This is not because he’s “too big” to play shortstop at the major league level, or to make room for the other shortstops in the organization. It’s because his agility, fluidity, and footwork on defense are below-average compared with other major league shortstops. While he still has plenty of time to develop, these tools tend to be the type that diminish as players grow into their frames. And while errors are by no means a true indicator of future defensive performance, it’s still worth noting that Bogaerts has averaged 44 errors per 162 games over his minor league career (extrapolating out to 29 errors per 162 games in 2012). The major league average for shortstops was 19 per 162 games; the worst was the Dodgers, with exactly 29 shortstop errors in 2012. All that being said, it’s certainly not out of the question that he sticks at short, as he’s known as a smart, hard worker who will put in the necessary work in his developmental areas. In 2013, Bogaerts is expected to break camp with Double-A Portland.
SS Jose Iglesias, 23, has opposite issues. His defensive prowess is well known and doesn’t need to be reiterated. On offense, he has excellent bat speed and a smooth swing, but he’s extremely impatient, struggles with off-speed stuff, and his power is well below-average. Another year of development time in Triple-A Pawtucket may help him improve his approach, which has improved somewhat this spring. For now, Iglesias profiles as a passable No. 9 hitter that gets by because of his glove.
SS Deven Marrero, 22, was Boston’s first-round pick (24th overall) in 2012. After the draft, he spent the 2012 season in short-season Lowell, where he hit .268/.358/.374 with 2 home runs and 24 stolen bases. He projects as a slightly above-average contact hitter with doubles power and solid speed on the base paths. Marrero is above-average defensively, with fluid actions, very good range, a decent glove, and an above-average arm. Some have questioned his level of engagement, as on occasion he has shown an aloofness reminiscent of JD Drew. Overall, he could develop into a solid No. 7 hitter with above-average defense. Marrero is likely to start the 2013 season with High-A Salem, but Low-A Greenville is not out of the question.
POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE ROLE PLAYERS
SS/2B Brock Holt, 24, was acquired from Pittsburgh in December with Joel Hanrahan for Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel, Jerry Sands, and Ivan De Jesus. He’s a gap-to-gap contact hitter with minimal home-run power, average plate discipline, slightly below-average speed, and decent defensive skills. Likely to start the 2013 season playing second base for Pawtucket, Holt projects as a utility infielder over the long term, with the ability to be a respectable spot starter.
SS Jose Vinicio was signed to a $1.95 million bonus on his 16th birthday in July 2009. Now 19, he still has yet to mature much physically. He’s outstanding defensively and projects to stick at the position long-term. On offense, Vinicio has good mechanics from both sides of the plate and he’s at the beginning stage of developing a solid approach, but he’s so small that he’s not able to put much power behind the ball. If and when he develops physically, he could make substantial offensive strides. He’ll start 2013 in either Greenville or Salem.
SS Tzu-Wei Lin, 18, received a $2.05 million bonus when he signed as an international free agent out of Taiwan in June 2012. Another defensive-minded shortstop, Lin makes average contact and has below-average power, plus speed, and solid fundamentals. He’ll likely start 2013 in Lowell.
2B Sean Coyle, 21, is a small-frame second baseman who was drafted in the third round in 2010. He has solid offensive and defensive tools, but he had a subpar season in 2012, hitting .249/.316/.391 with Salem. He’ll likely return to Salem this season, and he’ll still be on the level younger side for the Carolina League. Like Vinicio and Lin, Coyle has the potential to develop into a major league regular, but as of today profiles as a role player.
Others to watch: IF Jonathan Diaz will provide emergency depth in Pawtucket; IF Heiker Meneses, a 21-year-old Venezuelan capable of playing several positions, will likely start the season in Portland; 2B Mookie Betts, an athletic infielder selected in the fifth round in 2011, should start the season in Greenville; SS Mike Meyers, 19, hit .337 in 30 games with the rookie-level GCL Red Sox in 2012; SS Raymel Flores was given a $900,000 bonus in 2011 and is expected to play in the Gulf Coast League this season; and SS Wendell Rijo, 17, is slated to be the starting shortstop for the rookie level DSL Red Sox in 2013.