FORT MYERS, Fla. -- During Boston's run to the World Series last season, fans got a taste of the talent of shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who is ranked No. 2 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list. As September gave way to October, Bogaerts played an ever larger role until he was the youngest Red Sox player to start a postseason game.
Now, as the Red Sox prepare to begin the defense of their World Series title, Bogaerts is slated to become their starting shortstop. And he represents just the beginning of a wave of prospects expected to soon arrive in Boston.
Of the players ranked on MLB.com's latest Red Sox Top 20 prospects list, nearly half are expected to debut in the next two years.
"I think we've got some talented players, a group of whom are getting close to the big leagues and getting their teeth cut at the upper levels this year," said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett.
Several factors contribute to the creation of a wave such as the one the Red Sox believe to be coming. But Crockett said the two most important have been the quality of the players the Red Sox have in their system and the coaching they have received.
"We've had talented players, first and foremost," Crockett said "I think the staff has worked really hard with those guys to help develop routines and to help them be more consistent in their performance. Those are things that are always going to be our focus that, in a lot of places, was successful last year."
Even as players like Bogaerts and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. prepare to graduate full-time to the Major Leagues, the Red Sox are trying to develop the next wave of talent. Crockett said the organization feels it has another group of talented players beginning to matriculate in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues.
Leading that charge is left-hander Trey Ball, Boston's top selection in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. He made his debut in the Gulf Coast League last season and enters his first full professional season ranked No. 9 on MLB.com's Red Sox Top 20 prospects list. Ball is joined by fellow '13 draftees right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz and catcher Jon Denney, as well as international signee, third baseman Rafael Devers.
"I think we've got a number of guys that maybe don't get as much attention as the upper-level guys, just because [the more experienced players] have proved it more and they should get more attention," Crockett said. "But there's a young group of guys that were either in short-season last year or at the early full-season level that have a chance to continue to push. Whether it's a breakout season or continued, more gradual gains, you know [they] have a chance to be good big leaguers."
Three questions with Trey Ball
The Red Sox selected Ball with the seventh-overall Draft pick in 2013.
MLBPipeline.com: What has been the biggest lesson you've learned since you were Drafted last June?
Ball: The biggest adjustment in coming from high school to professional baseball was the competition, and how everyone's professional. Anyone can be at any level at any given day and just adapting to that. That's been the biggest eye-opener.
MLBPipeline.com: What does it mean when you can look around here and see so many young players having success in big league camp and so many talented players over here on the Minor League side?
Ball: Whenever you see [fellow left-hander] Henry Owens -- all the guys who were just drafted a couple years ago -- already in big league camp, it just shows the hard work that you have to put in, and how if you work at it and you keep working hard, you'll be there shortly.
MLBPipeline.com: What have you been working to improve during Spring Training?
Ball: Just becoming an all-around better pitcher. Going through the Draft and going through high school, I was a two-way player, so I had to focus on both pitching and hitting. So, now, to be able to just focus on pitching has been great. It's helped me a ton.
Breakout candidate: Jamie Callahan
Callahan was Boston's second round Draft pick in 2012. The right-hander was one of the youngest players in his Draft class and pitched almost all of last season as an 18-year old in the New York-Penn League. He was the youngest pitcher in the league to take a regular turn in the rotation and more than held his own against the older competition. With that success under his belt, Callahan should be ready to handle a full-season league this year.
Callahan fills up the strike zone with his four-pitch arsenal, and hitters find it difficult to drive his low-90s fastball because of its movement.
Some scouts think his delivery is a little rough for a starter, but as a strike-throwing teenager, Callahan could be in position to make some noise this season.
Camp standout: Garin Cecchini
Nearly half the players on MLB.com's Red Sox Top 20 prospects list began the spring in Major League camp. Some, like Bogaerts, are expected to break camp with the team. But among those a little further away from the Major Leagues, Cecchini made an impression on manager John Farrell.
"He's got a very keen awareness of the strike zone," Farrell said last week. "We knew that coming in that he had a very advanced approach to hitting.
"All the things that he's demonstrated throughout his Minor League career have been on display here."
Cecchini went 3-for-16 with three walks in his brief time with the big league club. He was among the players optioned to Minor League camp last week in the first round of cuts. With his track record, however, it might not take Cecchini long to find his way back.