Kason Gabbard shutting out the Royals last night made me realize the major difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox the last few years. The Sox have a TON of young talent coming up through their system. Gabbard, Jon Lester (who we already know can pitch in the majors), Ellsbury, Pedroia, David Murphy (who I really liked when he came up at the end of last season), and especially Clay Buchholz, who has one of the deadliest curve balls I've ever seen. They even highlighted one of them on the 'Baseball Tonight' segment 'That's Nasty' when he was pitching in AA Portland!
Let's not forget about Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen who have had their share of problems, but seem to be getting things together just in time for the September roster expansions. Delcarmen in particular has looked very effective in his middle relief role. Not walking batters can do that.
Meanwhile, the Yankees' system is close to barren. Besides the two Phillips (pitcher and first baseman) who do they have that is close to being ready? It could be that I just hear more about the Red Sox prospects because I live in Boston, but I keep reading that one of the reasons the Yankees are having trouble making trades is because they don't have any prospects other teams want. Cashman has also publicly said one of his priorities was to replenish the farm and the Randy Johnson trade was one of the steps towards doing just that.
While they're busy with that long term project, let's take a look at what is coming or has already arrived from Pawtucket.
Kason Gabbard: Gotta admit, I never heard of this guy until he filled in for Beckett. He's 3-0, just pitched a three hit shutout (granted, it was the Royals, but still) and looks like an above average 4 or 5 starting pitcher. Nice to know he's there to replace Tavarez when he implodes, if he hasn't already.
Dustin Pedroia: Doesn't look like much, but he's stubborn at the plate (getting on base nearly 40% of the time), solid in the field and it appears all his teammates love having him around. Solid Rookie of the Year candidate.
Jacoby Ellsbury: Everyone keeps talking about Johnny Damon when they talk about this kid, but I see him as our own version of Jose Reyes. He brings a level of excitement to Fenway I haven't seen since Fred Lynn was here. Plus, seven year old loves that fact that we saw him play in Lowell when he was in single A. Remember that, DA? You were there.
Jon Lester: Was 7-2 last year before he was diagnosed with Lymphoma and spent the winter thankfully getting healthy. Doesn't seem quite back yet, but will conceivably be on the roster at the beginning of next year.
Clay Buchholz: I'm going to allow a scouting report to describe this kid. 'Buchholz has a low-to-mid 90s four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball with decent movement, a slider, a hard 12-to-6 curveball, and a change-up'. That's five pitches he throws. And his fastball has hit 97 on occasion. Oh, he also throws what he calls a 'circle change'. No idea what it is (think Mussina uses it) but that is officially six pitches he can throw and all are effective. If he can put all this together and throw them all for strikes he could be the best pitcher the Red Sox have ever had. Giddy is the name of the game. I would really like to see the Sox win the AL East early just to see him come up and pitch in the majors a few times.
David Murphy: Left hand hitting outfielder who, if he can hit for more power, will be a nice addition to this team. In his 23 ML games, he's hitting .357 with 1 homer. When is Manny's contract up?
Brandon Moss: Another lefty outfielder who has hit .306 with 13 homers in AAA this year and has a CANNON for an arm. International League All Star and hits to all fields for average and power. Don't hear much about him, but could be fantastic when he arrives. I'm picturing a more athletic, more white, David Ortiz which probably isn't even close. I can dream, though.
Those are the highlights, but there is also lesser known players like first baseman Aaron Bates who is hitting .317 with 19 homers in Greenville. Jed Lowrie, Portland's shortstop who is hitting .297 with an on base percentage of .406. Lars Anderson, another Greenville player. Word has it he has one of the best swings of any prospect and he's just 19.
All of this doesn't even include players already established. You know like Jonathan Papelbon or Kevin Youkilis. Or how about the players that came up through the Sox system that were traded away. Like Kelly Shoppach or Hanley Ramirez or Cla Meredith or .....oh, let's just stop there before I ruin my own good mood.
One more thing: You can put all the stats and scouting reports in the trash once you report to the big leagues. It's a completely different animal than most of these players have never experienced. I don't know how to put this precisely, but the young players that have come up and played for the Boston team just seem READY. They don't panic, they don't look scared and they have a great approach. Pedroia is a perfect example. He had a shitty first month, but just kept at it; kept working hard and taking the same approach. Look at him now. This seems to be the common denominator with all the young guns. They look like they belong.
Obviously, you can't always depend on your own internal players. You need signings like Papi or Manny. Trades that bring you the Variteks. But the teams that seem to stay good for the longest time always find players from within to plugs gaps. Teams like the Braves, the Twins, the As. They have a rich, full system of players that always seem ready when they get their chance. I never could figure out how they did it.
Now the Sox are doing the same thing, but can still be a major player in the free agent signings and Dice-K type auctions. This is a very good thing for Sox fans.
Today's distraction: Familiarize yourself with some of the future Sox Legends. It's the Lowell Spinners (the Sox single A affiliate) 2007 roster. I have to admit, Willy Mota looks like a keeper. No idea if he's good or not, but just the name sounds like a superstar.
'Now starting for the American League All Stars....Willy....MOTAAAAAA!!!'