Young Names to Watch
Travis Shaw, 26, 1B
After beginning 2015 with Triple-A Pawtucket, Shaw made an immediate name for himself at the major-league level in 2015, appearing in 65 games for the Red Sox and making 248 trips to the plate, finishing with a .270/.327/.487 line. Shaw displayed power at a level he’d never shown before in the minors, slugging 13 home runs and 10 doubles with the big league club. Shaw also played a pretty good defensive first base, posting a 4.6 UZR in just over 450.0 innings at the position. Shaw is blocked from the starting lineup by Hanley Ramirez, who the club plans to have play first base in 2016 after a brief but disastrous stint in the outfield. However, should Shaw continue to hit well and play good defense, he could force himself into the lineup more regularly, especially if Hanley fails to transition to first base well.
Sam Travis, 22, 1B
Travis has never played above Double-A in his professional career, but he’s shown the definitive ability to hit at every level of the minors so far. Since being drafted as a 20-year-old out of the University of Indiana – Bloomington in 2014, Travis has put together a .310/.371/.457 line with 16 home runs, 48 doubles and a 70:109 BB:K ratio in 848 minor league plate appearances. Travis will likely begin the season with Double-A Portland or Pawtucket, but he’ll be in camp as a non-roster invitee this spring.
Deven Marrero, 25, SS
After a four-year minor league career, Marrero finally cracked the major-league ranks in 2015, batting .226/.268/.283 in 56 plate appearances with the Red Sox. Owner of a lifetime .258/.333/.350 line in the minors, Marrero’s calling card is his glove, which has proved above-average thus far in the minor league, prompting scouts to declare him a potential future gold glove candidate at the premium shortstop position. While he’s blocked from the majors by rising star Xander Bogaerts, Marrero can still prove himself valuable to the club should he improve offensively. Look for Marrero to try and show his skills at the plate against good competition this spring, as he’ll be in camp as a member of the 40-man roster.
Marco Hernandez, 23, SS
One of many good infielders in the Red Sox minor league system, Hernandez will get a chance to show his stuff in major-league camp this spring. While Hernandez doesn’t have the type of defensive ability that Marrero posseses, he’s still a capable infielder with a solid bat that could play as average in the majors. Two years younger than Marrero, he’s not as MLB-ready, but he could project as a solid utility man in the future with good versatility. Between Portland and Pawtucket last season, Hernandez batted a solid .305/.330/.454 with 30 doubles in 484 plate appearances.
Edwin Escobar, 24, LHP
Once named a top 50 prospect in the game by Baseball America, Escobar’s stock has fallen dramatically since being traded to the Red Sox in July of 2014. In two Triple-A seasons, Escobar has struggled to the tune of a 4.98 ERA in 188.0 innings, mostly as a starter. Escobar has proven to be very hittable, allowing 213 hits and 27 home runs in those two seasons. While his only shot at an MLB career is likely as a reliever, Escobar should get a few chances to prove himself, this spring being a very big one. Escobar will have to impress not only in spring training, but also this season, if he wants to retain his spot on the 40-man roster.
Henry Owens, 23, LHP
As was mentioned previously, Owens broke into the big leagues last season, and will be looking to earn his way back on to the Red Sox roster this spring. Owens’ biggest challenge will be improving his command and control, which were inconsistent at times last season. Owens is young and has time to improve, so there’s no rush in forcing him to the majors quite yet. However, this spring will determine his role with the organization to start the season and could earn him a shot at the rotation earlier than some would expect.
Brian Johnson, 25, LHP
Another guy who’s in the conversation for a starting job this year, Johnson will look to prove his worth to the big-league club after an excellent minor league season in 2015. While his one MLB start was underwhelming, Johnson has shown consistently in the minors why he has been one of the Red Sox top prospects for so long now. Entering his age-25 season, Johnson’s time to impress may be running out, as his peak years aren’t far off. While he’s a long way away from being moved on from as a future impact player, Johnson will need to have a good spring and good start to the season in order to earn himself a larger role with the MLB club in 2016.
Williams Jerez, 24, LHP
After failing to hit at all after being drafted as an outfielder out of high school, the six-foot-four Jerez has been impressive out of the bullpen in his first two professional seasons as a pitcher. In 123.0 innings as a reliever, Jerez has posted a 2.63 ERA with 126 strikeouts and 42 walks across four levels of professional baseball, making it as high as Double-A last season. While Jerez isn’t likely to make the MLB roster this season, he’ll be in camp as a member of the 40-man roster, and will get the chance to show off his impressive stuff against major-league hitters.