Some believe that a strong farm system, filled with many a strong prospect, defines the greatness of a major league baseball franchise. There are many guys that have been bouncing around AA and AAA for years. Many factors go into the decisions involved in why these players are playing for the Portland Seadogs or the Pawtucket Red Sox, and not moving up to their final destiny, Fenway Park. Anything from contractual issues, investment for the future, injuries, and other baseball hijinks may hijack opportunity from becoming reality.
We see contractual issues and the front office very much involved in the chatter around Jackie Bradley Jr. Despite the amazing numbers he continues to put up, namely a team leading .444 batting average, there is still a lot of nail biting. Uncertainty reigns because the team does not want to lose him as a player in the present or future, nor do they want him to start too early, or affect the viability of his contract later.
Then there are other players for whom it is a much easier decision to send to Pawtucket or Portland. Most recent big names include Daniel Bard, Rubby de la Rosa, and Allen Webster, the latter two players acquired in the blockbuster 2012 trade with the LA Dodgers. These decisions, made based on skill, are easy. They are just not ready for prime time.
Perhaps, their time will come, as it has for Jose Iglesias, who is a contender for the shortstop position with recent acquisition, Stephen Drew still looking as if he will be unable to play. Iglesias stuck around, put in his time for the last 4 years in the farm, and got the invite to Spring Training 2013 to prove his worth. He may not have the hottest bat with a .224 batting average, but he may fit the mold as shortstop.
Iglesias is a positive story of what a deep farm system can do, but there are also the outliers. Those that many fans do not know exist, like Anthony Ranaudo (RHP) who last year was rostered on the Seadogs, but was plagued with a groin pull and something called dead arm. The Red Sox acquired him in 2010. He has yet to reach his full potential, which by all scouting accounts in current baseball magazines is still notable enough for him to be included in a few lists of top ten prospects.
So what have we learned? You must be in the right place at the right time. You must play well. And you might have to hope a higher ranking player is injured, in order to be rostered. Most importantly, though, farm players, you must stay healthy.
Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s do not come around all that often. The rewards of having him on the field in April outweigh the risks. The potential for injury is great and a proven theme among our top ten prospects on the farm. One would hope that the ever mounting disabled list at the major and minor level would push the decision makers in the clubhouse towards starting Bradley Jr. as soon as possible. Strike while the iron is hot. The time is now. The year is 2013. The goal is a place in the pennant race.
Can you hear that? That is opportunity knocking…open the door!