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Top Ten Prospects: Boston Red Sox
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By Jim Callis
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.
Perhaps the Red Sox’ New Year’s resolution should be to achieve resolution. As 2005 drew to a close, outfielder Manny Ramirez, who demanded a trade Oct. 29 and threatened to not report to spring training otherwise, remained Boston property.
But the burning question in Red Sox Nation is whether former general manager Theo Epstein will be in the club’s employ in 2006. Talks on a contact extension with team president Larry Lucchino broke down after they agreed on a three-year, $4.5 million deal, and Epstein stepped down on Oct. 31 without detailing the reasons behind his decision.
Yet rumors that Epstein, the architect of the 2004 championship team and the first three-year streak of postseason appearances in Boston history, will return in some capacity have persisted since he left. When the Red Sox officially replaced him with former Epstein lieutenants Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer on Dec. 12, Lucchino said at the press conference that Epstein was welcome to come back.
Cherington, 31, joined the Red Sox in 1999 as an area scout and was promoted to farm director in December 2002. Hoyer, 32, was hired by Cherington in 2002 and was an assistant to Epstein for the last two years.
Even if Epstein stays away, the in-house promotions mean that Boston will keep a good chunk of its braintrust. Assistant GM Josh Byrnes took the Diamondbacks’ GM job before Epstein resigned, and Byrnes brought director of baseball operations Peter Woodfork with him. But Cherington and Hoyer are obviously sticking around, as is scouting director Jason McLeod. The Red Sox also would like to retain special assistants Bill Lajoie and Craig Shipley, though Lajoie, 71, has health issues, and Shipley may join Byrnes and Woodfork in Arizona.
All the front-office machinations and the sudden loss of Johnny Damon have helped obscure the fact that the Red Sox system is percolating with its most talent in years. Jonathan Papelbon came up at midseason and quickly asserted himself as the top set-up man in a beleaguered bullpen. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, catcher Kelly Shoppach, righty relievers Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen and lefty starter Jon Lester may be counted on for key contributions in 2006. The Red Sox had the prospect depth to not have to think twice about including shortstop Hanley Ramirez, righthander Anibal Sanchez and two power arms in a November blockbuster that landed them Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota from the Marlins.
Boston also added plenty of talent in 2005. In his first draft as scouting director, McLeod had five picks before the second round. All five of his choices—outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Hansen, righthanders Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden, infielder Jed Lowrie—had very promising debuts. At the Winter Meetings, the Red Sox traded for a blue-chip prospect, getting third baseman Andy Marte from the Braves for Edgar Renteria.
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