By MyFM's Jake Archer - Every year when spring training rolls around I love to get a look at some of the lesser known guys that are either prospects, non-roster invitees or players on the roster bubble. Some of them remain the same every year because I get hooked on one young guy and watch him over and over while waitiing for him to pan out before realizing it's been four years and this guy stinks. Others are newer faces that I want to learn more about while studying their every move. This year, I came up with a list of guys I've got my eye on for a variety of different reasons. Here is it, my 10 Red Sox to watch this spring...
10. Michael Chavis- I'm including Chavis on this list despite the fact that he is currently shut down with an olique injury. Had he been healthy, he was going to be high up on this list. Chavis apparently injured himself last Wednesday while working out in the cage and although he is reportedly feeling better since then, he's going to make sure to take his time with this. Chavis, if you don't know, is the Red Sox top position prospect and this is his first spring training camp. The third baseman broke out last year in 126 games between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. He smacked 31 homers, drove in 94 and batted .282 with a .910 OPS. I was excited to watch him rake but he'll be out "a while" according to Alex Cora as he has had an injury history in the past and wants to make sure he takes care of this the right way.
9. Jeremy Barfield- The big guy Barfield is probably not going to make the big league roster. He's got to be one of the most interesting guys in camp though as he comes from a baseball family and has spent ten years as a journeyman in his pro career. After bouncing around a bunch, he contemplated retirement before last season. Ultimatley he ended up in Double-A Portland and things took off. He smoked 27 homers and slashed .288/.359/.584 in 88 games before being promoted to Pawtucket at the end of the season. Now, he's in camp as a non-roster invitee and is expected to open the season with the PawSox. So far in spring training, he's continued to mash and it'll be worth watching him to see if the Sox consider him as a bat off the bench.
8. Rusney Castillo- Don't get me wrong, I've given up on Castillo and I'm resigned to him being one of the worst signings I've ever seen. He's got to be the most expensive minor leaguer of all time besides guys that are down there to make rehab starts. Can Castillo see some time in Boston this year? I guess, if injuries hit and he's mashing in Pawtucket. I hope I don't see him roaming the outfield in Fenway this year though.
7. Roenis Elias- Here comes the string of guys that are candidates to earn a spot in the back of Boston's rotation. Elias is probably the forgotten man of the group but he bears watching in Spring Training as he could just steal the spotlight.
6. Hector Velazquez- We saw Velazquez have some success in both starting and relief roles for the big club last year, but his numbers on batting average on balls in play (.258) certainly contributed to that. He could regress a bit there and still be effective, but it's something to keep in mind.
5. Carson Smith- I'm sure anyone is interested in watching the hard-throwing setup man on the mound for the Sox, considering that he barely has been in the last two years. Smith was acquired in the offseason before 2016 as billed as one of the most dominant relief arms in baseball, yet Boston has not really benefited from any of that. He returned from Tommy John surgery to make eight appearances for the Sox in 2017 and was obviously rusty, so seeing him fully healthy now should be interesting.
4. Brian Johnson- Most of us know the long, somewhat crazy story of Brian Johnson's career thus far. He's still a young guy but he's been through quite a lot and that's why it was so great to see him have success in spot starts with Boston last year. He's the guy I want to see break camp with the Sox and fill in for Rodriguez or Wright.
3. Jalen Beeks- The 24-year-old lefty wasn't supposed to be all that interesting. He was drafted in the 12th round in 2014 out of Arkansas as an undersized non-prospect. The pitcher only stands at 5-foot-11 and weighs 195 pounds, but he's shown that he's worth monitoring as he's improved every single year of his pro career. This is his first big league camp and he pitched well in his first start of the year (although it was against Northeastern). Last year, he was named the 2017 Red Sox minor league Pitcher of the Year. In 145 innings between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket Beeks went 11-8 with a 3.29 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Opponents hit only .224 against him. He'll likely begin the year in the PawSox rotation but could see a call to the bigs at some point.
2. Blake Swihart- Swihart wouldn't really be this high on the list if I had written this before games started. Yes, I'm intrigued to see what happens with him and what position he ends up landing at but I had kinda written him off to be honest. He seemed like a lost cause, a guy the Red Sox had mishandled and broken. His best tool had always been his bat and it really wasn't good enough to warrant a roster spot on it's own. Now, Swihart has hit the ball well through the first couple of games and I'm starting to gain interest. Does it really matter right now? Will he keep this up? No, and probably not. I am intrigued though and I'll keep an eye on him to see how this story evolves.
1. Sam Travis- Remember when I said I get hooked on one guy and keep watching him until I realize he's not that good? That could very well be Sam Travis here pretty soon. This is it for him in my opinion. I want to see something out of the first baseman otherwise he'll be falling by the wayside as another overhyped prospect that ended up being a zero. I still have faith in Travis for now though, and despite the fact that 2017 was his worst season as a pro, I'm looking for him to make some sort of impact in Boston this year.
Travis can certainly put the bat on the ball, and that's honestly what has got him to this point. The problem is, he's never really shown enough in-game power. He's been more of warning track bat and he knows it, so word is that he was working on that big time over the offseason. So far this spring, he's smacked the ball around but has yet to put one over the fence. I'll be looking for that to tell me if he's got what it takes to be the first baseman of the future in Boston.