Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Of Bates, Bailey and Brown…and Buchholz’ not-so-short-stop at Pawtucket

It's been a good month for longtime Red Sox prospects Dusty Brown and Aaron Bates. Photo from this site.

Maybe Clay Buchholz should have remained a shortstop. Buchholz continues to pine away on the farm despite posting ace-caliber numbers for Triple-A Pawtucket, though it will be interesting to see what happens if John Smoltz, who struggled for the second time in three starts in a 6-0 loss to the Athletics Monday, is ineffective again against the Royals this weekend.

Meanwhile, it remains a good month for the Sox’ second-tier position prospects. Dusty Brown, a 2000 draftee, earned his first recall June 21 but did not record an at-bat in four days with the Sox. Aaron Bates won’t have to worry about heading back to the minors before he steps to a big league plate: Bates was promoted to the Sox last night to replace the injured Jeff Bailey and went 0-for-3 as the Sox’ first baseman.

That the Sox have called up Bates and Bailey, in particular, points to their thoroughness and resourcefulness on the farm.

Bailey was signed as a minor league free agent by the Sox following the 2003 season, at which point he was a displaced catcher with all of 24 Triple-A at-bats on his resume. Non-prospects who are in their mid-to-late 20s, limited to first base or a corner outfield position and lacking a spot on the 40-man roster are the type of players who are usually ignored by the parent club no matter how well they fare, and it seemed as if Bailey was consigned to 4-A status when he performed well for Portland and Pawtucket for the next three-and-a-half seasons. But the Sox recalled him for three games prior to the All-Star Break in 2007 and he earned another cup of coffee last year before spending more than a month this season with the Sox in a reserve role.

Bates was a third-round pick in 2006 who surged into Double-A a little more than a year after he was drafted, but he stalled there and was surpassed—on the organizational totem pole, if not on the actual minor league ladder—by fellow ’06 draftee Lars Anderson. And with Anderson at Portland this season, the Sox moved Bates to left field, where his defense was a work in progress when my wife and I saw him misplay a ball against Binghamton in upstate New York in mid-April.

But Bates hit .340 with 39 RBI and 20 extra-base hits in 206 at-bats for the Sea Dogs to earn a promotion to Pawtucket, where he was hitting .182 in 88 at-bats when Bailey’s injury created his big league opportunity.

Bates is one of three 2006 draftees currently with the Sox, a pretty impressive haul for a class that is not held in as high regard as the 2005 batch and one with several notable players (Anderson, Jason Place, Caleb Clay and Josh Reddick, to name a few) still in the developmental phase and still viewed as potential big leaguers.

It’s probably little consolation to Buchholz, but these things are as much a matter of good timing as anything else. Bailey and Brown got their initial call-ups when the sox wanted depth as Youkilis and Jason Varitek, respectively, battled nagging injuries. And Bates needed 754 at-bats at Double-A to earn the promotion to Triple-A but just 88 at-bats at Pawtucket before he received a ticket to Boston.

Good timing. If I’m Buchholz, I start taking grounders at short again, just in case.

Email Jerry at jbeach73@gmail.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment