Futures Game good test for 3 Sox prospects

OAKLAND -- The Red Sox will be represented by three players at Sunday’s All-Star Futures Game in New York’s Citi Field: much heralded shortstop Xander Bogaerts on the World team and 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher Anthony Ranaudo and third baseman Garin Cecchini on the U.S. team. Cecchini, who like Ranaudo is playing for Double-A Portland after a promotion last month from Class A Greenville, was a late addition, replacing Joey Gallo of the Rangers.

Bogaerts, who is batting .260 in 29 games for Pawtucket, is starting at short and batting third for the World Team in a game that will be televised by ESPN2 beginning at 2. It also can be seen on MLB.com. The 20-year-old Bogaerts, who batted .311 in 56 games in Portland before being promoted, already has more home runs for the PawSox (7) than he did for the Sea Dogs (6), in slightly more than half the number of games.

ESPN analyst Keith Law ranks Bogaerts as the fifth best prospect in the big leagues, with three of the players listed ahead of him -- infielder Jurickson Profar of the Rangers (No. 1), pitcher Dylan Bundy of the Orioles (No. 3) and outfielder Wil Myers of the Rays (No. 4) -- already promoted to the majors.

Law ranked Bogaerts as being one of the top two power-hitting prospects in the Futures game.

“Bogaerts doesn't have that enormous, grade-80 power yet, but the ball comes off his bat well and he has 30-homer potential down the road," Law wrote.

Ranaudo, who took a step backward last season when he fought a series of injuries, has had a terrific bounce-back season this year, going 8-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 16 starts. Cecchini, meanwhile, is batting .361 in 19 games with the Sea Dogs after batting .350 in 63 games for Salem. Ranaudo is 23, Cecchini 22.

Sox vice president/assistant GM Mike Hazen extols the benefits of playing in the Futures game for Sox prospects.

“Very valuable," he said. “Being around really good players is important for these guys to watch how -- we talk about this a lot, and you’ve seen it up here. These guys a lot of times don’t believe it until they see it. Dustin Pedroia is the hardest-working player on this team, and Dustin Pedroia may be the best player on this team. And the minor-league guys don’t get that all the time. They don’t understand that. They know, yeah, he’s the best player. But he’s the best player because he’s also the hardest-working player. And yeah, he’s supremely talented, but while you can be good without the work, you can’t be elite without the work.

“And I think when they go see these other players, these elite-type players (at the Futures Game), they do that, too. I think they see that: ‘Man, that guy is ridiculously talented, and look how hard he works.’ I think that’s one.

“And I think playing on that stage. They’re going to be nervous, there's going to be a lot of people watching, it’s going to be their first time on national TV in a lot of cases. Good. You have to go and perform. For 162 games in Boston, you’re on TV, and people are watching. Start getting used to it. You might be unsettled, you might stink, you know? You might lay an egg. OK. You know what? In the big leagues, the key is coming out the next day and making that adjustment.

“Everybody lays an egg, but you have to be able to come back the next day and be good. That doesn’t necessarily meaning getting hits, doesn’t necessarily mean throwing a shutout, it means, be good. That’s the mark of a big leaguer who gets to stay up here. So I think when they get on that stage, and development is so hard, because we talk about the prospects, and wins and losses at the minor league level -- we want to win, we try to win, but everybody knows what the ultimate goal is. These guys want to climb the ladder.

“So they know, ‘OK, if I got two hits, I’m still on the path I need to go.’ Yeah, but you made that crucial error that lost the game. At the major league level, that gets you sent down. On the minor league level, we don’t do that. You get to go out and play the next day.

“So that’s why the minor league playoffs are so important. That’s when they play for keeps. Take the focus off development. And that’s what the Futures game will be about. It’s not about development. It’s about performing and succeeding. That’s why it’s such a great stage for those kids."