I get a lot of pleasure as my age advances in rebuilding my fantasy keeper teams, and that means I always enjoy watching the Major League teams do the same thing.
Over the past seasons, pretty much led by Tampa 15 years ago, Kansas City and Seattle and Houston are a few of the teams that have embraced the rebuild philosophy of trade with an eye on the future, looking for star prospects, and then drafting in the same vein, with the thought of building as much of a roster as permits out of talent that has more or less come up the ranks together, and thus gelling as a team in the Majors collectively.
This season, there are a couple of teams I have been watching for this, and those teams are both storied, and touched by the hand of Theo Epstein (and probably the joy of my mate, Lord Z).
The first are those inhabitants of Wrigley, the Cubs, with a ton of talent awaiting advancement.
Alas, they are a National League team, the focus of this feature is the American League.
No problem, for the Red Sox offer no fewer choices.
What is amazing, and even a tad scary about the Red Sox is the team just won a World Series last year with a largely veteran team on which only one of the players I will note today on that postseason roster.
Irrespective, let's take a look at some of the riches the Red Sox will bring forth in the next year or so, making them a formidable--and potentially dominant--team in the AL East.
Xander Bogaerts (SS/3B): Let's start with the player we know, who did indeed earn his way onto the Boston Series roster, with Bogaerts, whose debut against the Giants I actually witnessed last year. The .235-6-22 line might seem disappointing, but remember that Bogaerts doesn't turn 22 till sometime during the 2014 postseason (October 1). In the Minors, over four seasons and 378 games, he banged 36% of his hits for extra bases, and logged a .373 OBP (.862 OPS). Bogaerts plays short and third so far, fitting what I believe is the new Billy Beane defined prototype for a player, who can not just hit, but play several defensive positions effectively. I see Bogaerts as the shortstop in the future.
Brock Holt (1B/2B/3B/OF): Quite a splash the hard-nosed playing Holt has made this year, hitting .327-6-21 with six swipes at age 26. Holt is going to have to work a bit on his plate discipline (18 walks to 51 whiffs) but even if he is low on walks, Holt does put the ball in play. And, that means as he is able to draw more walks, he will get that much better (in watching him play, I see his eye improving simply because he is a heady player). I see Holt settling in maybe at first, but more likely in left field over the long haul.
Mookie Betts (2B/SS/OF): Just brought up, at age 21 (he turns 22 a week after Bogaerts), Betts logged 164 walks to 120 strikeouts (.408 OBP) in the Minors, and that alone tells me tons. With 23 minor league homers over his 276 minor league games, Betts has pretty good pop--a quick bat that is--for a player of slight build (5'9", 155 pounds, but expect his power to increase as he fills out). He has speed as well (88 steals), and though Mookie has been playing the outfield with his call-up, I see him as the second base complement to Bogaerts in future years. The only question is when Dustin Pedroia is done? Otherwise, Mookie will play in the outfield.
Garin Cecchini (3B): Probably the best bet to simply grab one spot, and hold it (as in the hot corner), Cecchini has a .299-17-178 line in the Minors over 358 games, with 93 doubles and a great .399 OBP (201 walks to 299 whiffs). At 23, Cecchini is an old guy among this bunch, but I see him on the left side full time starting next year.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. (OF): Another youngin' with a good eye, Bradley is playing in his second season, but his big league numbers (.227-1-6) don't really yet reflect his eye and skills. Another great OBP (.404) guy, with 132 walks to 172 strikeouts along with a .297-20-101 line over 218 games, Bradley also has 31 swipes. He will stay in the outfield, but I really see Bradley and Bogaerts kicking it up next year in their third season of play in the Majors.
Christian Vazquez (C): Considering Vazquez has arrived with a lower profile than his somewhat shinier predecessors (like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway), there is something about it that makes me think Vazquez might indeed be the answer. A 23-year-old Puerto Rican product, Vazquez nevertheless has seven years of professional play with a .265-38-251 minor league line. Again, a good enough 204 walks to 361 strikeouts and as a catcher, we can expect that number to improve.
Henry Owens (P): A 6'6", 205 pound southpaw, Owens, who is 12-3, 2.21 at Double-A Portland this year, turns 22 next week. In the Minors, he has a 35-14, 3.18 over 342.3 frames with 410 punchouts. Owens has allowed 155 walks and 253 hits--just 24 of them homers--in the Minors (1.192 WHIP) and has 111 whiffs this year over 105.6 innings. Owens might get a fall call, but look for him to challenge for a Major League roster slot next year.