These are heady days for the Red Sox. Not only are they coming off a third World Series championship in the past 10 seasons, but the future of the organization looks exceedingly bright.
As Friday's Rookie Program workout at Harvard was still in progress, the Sox announced that lefty Henry Owens, MLB.com's second-ranked southpaw pitching prospect, will be an invite to Major League Spring Training. He will be joined by righty Matt Barnes, another young arm who is creating excitement.
"We've got a few horses," said Owens. "We'll see how it all plays out. We're, technically, the best team in the world. Maybe somewhere along the line, we'll prove that we're the best organization, too, if we haven't already."
Add in the presence of right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, who was added to the 40-man roster earlier in the offseason, and Boston has three highly-touted starting pitchers who will be in big league camp for the first time.
"It's awesome," said Barnes. "That's the first stepping stone any Minor Leaguer takes toward their dream of being able to play in the big leagues. I'm very fortunate that I'm getting that opportunity this year. I'm going to continue to work hard and try and make an impact in Spring Training."
For a pitching prospect, there's nothing quite like that first time they stare down a Major League hitter.
"There will be a lot of nerves, and I'm going to be pretty anxious, but hopefully I can keep my emotions under control and just be aggressive and just attack them like I would any other hitter," said Ranaudo.
Of course, much of the competition in Spring Training is internal.
"I think I'm most excited about seeing the competition and seeing how I stack up," said Owens. "Not in any sense of worrying, but I'm just wondering."
The progress of the young pitchers certainly looks to be an early storyline in Spring Training for a team that won't have a lot of position battles at the Major League level.
"Yeah, I think it's an exciting part of this group in particular, where we are with the farm system right now," said director of player development Ben Crockett. "I think having a group of guys who we're pretty excited about that at least got their feet wet at the upper levels last year, you know, we feel good about it. There's a lot of work left to be done with that group, but given the caliber of arms there, I think we're excited about the progress that can be made this year."
The last time the Red Sox had a group of live arms like this knocking on the door at once was in the middle of the 2000s, with Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon and Clay Buchholz. Obviously, that group worked out pretty well.
"They've laid a pretty good foundation for us," said Ranaudo. "If we keep working hard and doing things the right way, good things will hopefully happen."
Of course, there are no guarantees for this group, even as good as things look right now.
All three pitchers are still in the development phase, albeit in the late stages.
"It's [a matter of] introducing more advance reports, more scouting reports, and also building a rapport with the catchers that they hopefully will be moving up with," Crockett said. "It's getting them to think about the game in a little bit more analytical fashion, to prepare for the way they're going to do it in the Major Leagues."
For a lefty like Owens, the chance to watch Lester go about his daily routine is invaluable. Ditto for Barnes and Ranaudo when it comes to Buchholz and John Lackey.
"I'll be all ears," said Owens. "I have big ears. I'll listen and watch."
But in truth, there will be many observers at Spring Training who will be watching Owens, Barnes and Ranaudo.