For Portland Sea Dogs players, Boston probably often feels more like a world away than a 99-mile jaunt down I-95. When they get to the show, though, former Sea Dogs tend to make their mark on the American League.
This season, free agent acquisitions like Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval have been a disaster for the Red Sox. Trades that brought Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly have fared even worse. Those few players having success for this year’s Red Sox, and any reasons for optimism in the near future, have come through Hadlock Field.
Mookie Betts has been worth 2.7 Wins Above Replacement (per fangraphs) this season, making him Boston’s most valuable position player. Betts hit .355/.443/.551 and stole 22 bases in 25 attempts as the Sea Dogs’ second baseman in 2014, when the Dogs went 88-54 and made the Eastern League Championship Series. Mookie’s bat started catching up to his excellent centerfield defense in June this year, when he hit .330 with three home runs, three triples, and eight doubles.
The next former Sea Dog on the WAR list is Dustin Pedroia at 2.3 (Brock Holt, the Red Sox’ lone All-Star, was in the Pirates system in AA). Pedroia played only 66 games in Portland on his way up to Boston in 2005, batting .324/.409/.508 for a strong Sea Dogs team that went 76-66. Pedroia quickly proved he was ready for the big leagues, where he would be named Rookie of the Year for the World Champion Red Sox in 2007 and MVP on the 2008 team that made the American League Championship Series.
Xander Bogaerts has been worth 2.2 WAR this season, in the same stratus as Betts, Holt, and Pedroia. He hit .311/.407/.502 for the SeaDogs in 2013, and has hit .302/.340/.416 with excellent shortstop defense for the Red Sox this year and looks like he may be a perennial All-Star.
Boston’s most valuable player overall this year has been pitcher Clay Buchholz (3.1), who had a 1.77 ERA and more than 12 strikeouts per nine innings for Portland in 2007. Buchholz raced to the majors and threw a no-hitter for the Red Sox that same season. His results in Boston have been mixed, but he’s pitched extremely well this season, even if his 7-6 record and 3.27 ERA don’t scream All-Star.
No other Red Sox player has been worth more than one WAR in 2015, but there have been other bright spots. Eduardo Rodriguez has given up one run or none in six of his eight starts this season. After being traded for Andrew Miller last summer, Rodriguez had a 3.60 ERA and struck out 108 batters in 120 innings for the Sea Dogs. Blake Swihart has filled in ably for a host of injured Red Sox catchers in 2015, a year after hitting 300/.353/.487 in Portland. 2012 Sea Dog Jackie Bradley, Jr. has seen limited action in Boston, but is among the game’s elite defensive outfielders.
Last year’s Sea Dogs team also included current Red Sox Matt Barnes, Deven Marrero, Noe Ramirez, and Travis Shaw. If these players leverage their Portland experience like Bogaerts and Betts, or Buchholz and Pedroia before them, the Red Sox are in good shape for the future.