As the Red Sox embark on the offseason in rebuilding and retooling mode, one positive is that the club has several rookies who could make an impact in 2013. While there aren't many prospects who project to break camp with the club out of spring training (at least at this stage), there are a handful of potential rookies who might be able to make an early-season or midseason jump to the majors, others who could serve as emergency depth options in case of injury, and still others who have the potential to make contributions later in the season.
As the offseason begins, and before trade season heats up, here's a breakdown of those options.
POTENTIAL IMPACT ROOKIES
Jackie Bradley Jr. -- Bradley is polished defensively and will be an above-average major league center fielder from day one. He also projects as a plus hitter with excellent plate discipline, slightly above-average speed, and impressive instincts on the basepaths. He still has some work to do on his approach, including working on hitting the ball the other way more. He could also stand to add a bit more size to his frame this offseason, but he doesn't profile as a power hitter at the major league level. Bradley should see extended time with the major league club in spring training, and then he'll be on the bubble to start the 2013 campaign either in Triple-A Pawtucket or Double-A Portland. A midseason promotion to Boston wouldn't be a surprise.
Allen Webster -- Webster has four major league-caliber pitches in a 92-97 mph sinking fastball, a plus 82-84 mph changeup, an average low-80s slider, and an average 76-78 mph curveball. Developmentally, he still needs to improve his command and learn to mix his arsenal. He profiles as a middle-to-back-end starter for a contending club. Having already pitched 47 games at the Double-A level, Webster will almost surely begin the 2013 season in Pawtucket. He'll also be added to the 40-man roster next month, meaning he'll have three option years left. Barring an emergency call-up due to injuries, he should spend at least the first half of the season with the PawSox.
Jose Iglesias -- Iglesias is an interesting case. There are some scouts who are totally down on his offensive abilities, and there are others who believe he could post adequate numbers, and perhaps even thrive, if given the chance to play every day at the major league level. His playing time will be a function of what the club decides to do with Mike Aviles this offseason. The most likely scenario has the club bringing back Aviles and starting Iglesias in Triple-A, but it's plausible that the team could cut bait with Aviles and give Iglesias a chance to sink or swim during what likely will be a rebuilding year. It seems unlikely that Iglesias ends up on the Boston bench, given that Pedro Ciriaco and Ivan De Jesus are both more versatile and out of options.
Bryce Brentz -- An impressive power hitter and a solid right fielder, Brentz still needs some development in the areas of pitch selection and plate discipline. With improvements in those areas, he could become a 25-home run hitter, albeit with high strikeout numbers. It may take Brentz a few years to adjust to major league pitching, as was the case with Josh Reddick. Look for the Tennessee native to open the season as Pawtucket's right fielder with the possibility of a mid-to-late summer promotion. One interesting storyline to follow this offseason will be how Boston's outfield situation shakes out. Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Sweeney are slated to return. There appears to be mutual interest in a return engagement for Cody Ross. You could see the club acquiring another outfielder, possibly a starting left fielder. Then you have Jerry Sands, Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish, Juan Carlos Linares, Che-Hsuan Lin, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Alex Hassan, Brentz and Bradley left battling it out for the 4th/5th outfielder spots in Boston or for starting roles in Pawtucket. Unfortunately for Brentz and Bradley, the determining factor might be 40-man roster status, meaning they could get passed over until they force the team's hand.
Alex Wilson -- After being named the organization's minor league pitcher of the year as a starter in 2011, Wilson was converted to the PawSox bullpen early in the 2012 campaign. His pitch mix involves a mid-90s fastball, a very good slider, and a below-average mid-80s changeup. He shows average command and control, but struggles with consistency. He could currently be used as a long man for a major league bullpen, but projects to develop into a passable 7th inning reliever. He'll be given an opportunity to break camp with the major league club out of spring training, but the fact that he has three options left will probably land him in Pawtucket come April.
Notes: This list does not include Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront, Junichi Tazawa, Rubby De La Rosa, Ryan Lavarnway, Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava, or Pedro Ciriaco, all of whom have exhausted their rookie eligibility. However, it's quite possible that De La Rosa, Kalish, and perhaps even Lavarnway could begin the season in the minors.
Xander Bogaerts -- The organization's top prospect, Bogaerts just turned 20 and needs continued development on offense and defense. He profiles as a run-producing middle-of-the-order bat down the road, but he can stand to improve his approach. He's a willing and eager learner with a mature demeanor and a high baseball IQ, so it's believed that Bogaerts will continue to make the necessary adjustments. On defense, he'll probably stick at shortstop in 2013, but might need to move off the position a couple years down the road. He still has a lot of work to do in virtually every aspect of his defensive game. At the very least, a September call-up seems likely.
Drake Britton -- The 23-year-old left-hander has a solid 92-95 mph fastball, but his curveball, changeup and slider are all works in progress. Britton has struggled mightily with consistency and composure over his career, but was able to string together a consistent string of impressive outings over the second half of 2012 with Portland. Currently a starter, his stuff is better suited as a reliever over the long term. He'll likely begin 2013 in Pawtucket's rotation, although an early move to the bullpen isn't out of the question. Given that Britton is already on the 40-man roster and will be in his second option year next season, he should get a late-season opportunity to face major league competition.
Brandon Workman -- Workman is riding high coming off of a 2012 campaign in which he was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. His arsenal includes a solid 91-94 mph fastball, a plus 88-90 mph cutter, a fringe curveball, and a work-in-progress changeup. In addition to refining his off-speed pitches, Workman may need to loosen his mechanics to be able to repeat his delivery better and harness his command. While he still could prove to be a back-of-the-rotation starter at the major league level, he profiles better as a setup man at this stage. More than likely, he'll be back in Portland in 2013, with an outside shot at getting a sniff of the big leagues in September.
Stolmy Pimentel -- Pimentel will be in his third option year in 2013, so it's put-up-or-shut-up time for the 22-year-old Dominican right-hander. While he has a great pitcher's frame and a mix of three very good pitches, his command is fringy, he has significant issues repeating his delivery and landing point, and like Britton he's had issues getting rattled too easily. All of his issues could be correctable, in which case he could still develop into a good fourth starter. But he hasn't made enough progress over the past two seasons to create a lot of confidence that will happen. It's quite possible that the organization could move Pimentel to the bullpen this upcoming spring.
Anthony Ranaudo -- This past season couldn't have gone much worse for Ranaudo. While he looked impressive early in the spring, he ultimately missed most of spring training and the first six weeks of the season with a groin strain. Upon his return, his delivery was inconsistent, his command was off, and his velocity was way down. After posting a 6.69 ERA in 9 games with the Sea Dogs, he landed on the disabled list in July with shoulder fatigue and didn't pitch again. That being said, he's come back from similar adversity before and he still has major league starter potential if he can get back to his 2009 or 2011 form. Don't hold out much hope that he'll be an impact contributor to the 2013 major league squad, but it would be a step in the right direction if Ranaudo gets back on track enough to earn a late-season promotion to Boston.
Notes: Other prospects who could be September call-ups include catcher Christian Vazquez, who is expected to be added to the 40-man roster in November, outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker, who hit 19 home runs and stole 33 bases for Portland in 2012, and Chris Hernandez, a lefty starter who has posted impressive minor league numbers in 2012 despite having fringy stuff.
Jerry Sands -- He is a first baseman and corner outfielder acquired from Los Angeles in the Adrian Gonzalez megadeal, so it might be shortchanging Sands to list him as emergency depth. He hit .296 with 26 home runs for Triple-A Albuquerque in 2012, after hitting 35 home runs in 2010 and 29 home runs in 2011. While he still has an option year left, he may be in Boston's plans as a full-time major leaguer in 2013. The problem is that he's yet to prove himself against major league pitching, and many scouts believe he will have problems with advanced off-speed stuff. Over the long term, he profiles as a solid bench player with the ability to fill in as a starter during extended stretches.
Mauro Gomez -- Gomez is another first baseman vying for a spot with the major league club. Like Sands, he's likely on the bubble for an assignment to Pawtucket or Boston. He posted impressive numbers in 2012 -- .310/.371/.489 with 24 home runs for Pawtucket and .275/.324/.422 with 2 home runs for Boston. Already 28, he's not likely the long-term solution at first base, but he does have two option years left.
Juan Carlos Linares -- The 28-year-old Cuban outfielder has impressed during his time with the Red Sox in spring training in 2011 and 2012, and he posted a decent line in Portland and Pawtucket in 2012, but he's yet to get a sniff of the majors. He's a dark horse to make the 2013 major league roster but more than likely will open the season with Pawtucket. Due to his contract status, he doesn't need to be added to the 40-man roster until next offseason.
Josh Fields -- Acquired from Seattle as part of the Erik Bedard trade, the 27-year-old righty showed an improved fastball and an above-average curveball with Portland in 2012 and that earned him an early August promotion to Pawtucket. In 58.1 innings between the two affiliates, Fields posted a 2.01 ERA and 0.96 WHIP while striking out 12.03 batters per nine innings. He may open 2013 as Pawtucket's closer, but he may prove to be valuable bullpen insurance for the major league club as the season goes on. There is even potential for Fields to develop into a late-inning reliever if he sustains his 2012 success. However, there's a danger that he could be picked up by another club in the Rule 5 Draft this December if Boston doesn't add him to the 40-man roster by Nov. 20.
Michael Olmsted -- One of the minor's best closers in 2012, Olmsted is actually slated to become a minor league free agent next month, but it's rumored that there is mutual interest in a return engagement. In 47 appearances with Portland and High-A Salem, the 25-year-old earned 19 saves, posted a 1.52 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP, and struck out an eye-popping 13.96 batters per nine innings. Another indy league project, Olmsted should see some time with the major league club in spring training, after which time he'll be on the bubble for a spot between Portland and Pawtucket. If he continues his success of 2012, Boston may be forced to give him a major league opportunity.
Notes: Other depth options at Pawtucket will likely include pitchers Steven Wright (eligible for minor league free agency), Zach Stewart, Chris Carpenter, Brock Huntzinger, Jose De La Torre and Pedro Beato, catcher Dan Butler, third baseman Danny Valencia and outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin. Ivan De Jesus is out of options, so he'll either make the major league club, be sent elsewhere via trade, or he'll need to clear waivers to be sent to the minors.