PORTLAND, Maine — Several top Red Sox prospects, including 2011 Red Sox Minor League Offensive Co-Player of the Year Bryce Brentz, will be on Thursday’s opening day roster of Boston’s Double-A affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs.
Brentz hit .306 with 25 doubles, 30 home runs and 91 RBIs between the Single-A Greenville Drive in the South Atlantic League and the Single-A Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League.
Portland’s roster includes five out of the top 30 prospects in the organization according to Baseball America: Brentz (5), Kolbrin Vitek (19), Oscar Tejeda (24), Derrik Gibson (25) and Heiker Menses (30). Tejeda is also the lone member of the Red Sox 40-man roster on the 2012 Sea Dogs roster. Eighteen players assigned to the Portland roster have previously seen time with the Sea Dogs.
The Sea Dogs open the season on the road in Reading, Pa., on Thursday, with a 4:05 p.m. doubleheader against the Reading Phillies. Portland’s home opener at Hadlock Field is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, April 12 against the Binghamton Mets.
Eastern League rosters expanded to 25 players in 2012. The Portland roster currently holds 26 players and a roster move will be made before Thursday’s season opener.
The pitching staff will include Brock Huntzinger, who led the Sea Dogs with 123 strikeouts last year. Left-handed pitchers Chris Hernandez and Will Latimer were both Carolina League All-Stars in 2011. Hernandez tied for second among Red Sox farmhands with 10 wins and ranked fifth in the organization with a 3.18 ERA last year. Jeremy Kehrt, the Sea Dogs 2011 Citizen of the Year returns.
Billy Buckner is the only player on the roster with major league experience having appeared in 36 big-league games with the Royals and Diamondbacks, notching a 6-11 record with a 6.25 ERA. Other pitchers include Chris Balcom-Miller, Caleb Clay, Josh Fields, Aaron Kurcz, Michael Lee, Chris Martin and Eammon Portice.
The infield will include Ryan Dent, Gibson, Jon Hee, Meneses, Reynaldo Rodriguez and Vitek. Gibson was rated as the “Best Athlete” in the Red Sox farm system in Baseball America’s “Best Tools” survey. He was the Sea Dogs’ 10th Player Award winner last season.
Meneses, the 30th-ranked prospect in the organization, ranked fourth among Red Sox minor leaguers in hitting (.295) in 2011.
Rodriguez was a Carolina League All-Star before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland. He hit .286 and recorded career highs in doubles (39), home runs (18), RBIs (77), and runs (73).
Vitek was a Red Sox first-round draft pick (20th overall) in 2010, and ranked eighth in the Carolina League in hitting (.281) last season.
The outfield will consist of Brentz, Ronald Bermudez, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Peter Hissey and Tejeda.
Hazelbaker hit 17 home runs and ranked second among Red Sox farmhands with 47 stolen bases in 2011.
Hissey had a career-high 25 doubles and 27 stolen bases last season with Single-A Salem.
Tejeda, who served as the Sea Dogs second baseman last year, will move to the outfield.
Behind the plate will be Daniel Butler, Matt Spring and Jayson Hernandez.
Butler was a Carolina League All-Star last season. He hit .241 with 12 home runs and 71 RBIs with stops in Salem, Portland and Pawtucket. He threw out 35.5 percent of attempted base stealers and paced qualifying Carolina League catchers with a .995 fielding percentage.
The 2012 roster is again a team filled with homegrown talent. Only three players on the roster were originally signed from another organization; Buckner, Fields and Kurcz.
Buckner was signed as a minor league free agent in March 2012 and was drafted by the Royals in the second round of the 2004 draft.
Fields was acquired at the trading deadline last season from the Seattle Mariners organization in the deal that sent Erik Bedard to the Red Sox.
Kurcz was part of the compensation from the Chicago Cubs for Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein.
Kevin Boles returns for his second season as Sea Dogs manager. Hitting coach Dave Joppie and pitching coach Bob Kipper also return to Portland.