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Ballou on Baseball: September 5, 2023

September 6, 2023

Triple-A baseball is not high school, but it is all about getting ready for the real world of Major League Baseball. Triple-A does not do caps, gowns and tassels, but it does do graduations and has graduation classes. The Class of ’23 will be Worcester’s third. To date, seven WooSox

Triple-A baseball is not high school, but it is all about getting ready for the real world of Major League Baseball. Triple-A does not do caps, gowns and tassels, but it does do graduations and has graduation classes.

The Class of ’23 will be Worcester’s third. To date, seven WooSox have made their major league debuts this season. The list includes Ceddanne Rafaela, Wilyer Abreu, Brandon Walter, David Hamilton, Joe Jacques, Chris Murphy and Enmanuel Valdez.

That’s about average. The Class of ’22 had eight graduates, the Class of ’21 seven.

It more about quality than quantity, though. To some extent, Triple-A teams have become temp agencies, especially with the injury epidemic showing no sign of slowing. The more important perspective is how many keepers there are in each class.

The Class of ’23 shows a lot of promise in that area, especially including the most recent promotions of Rafaela and Abreu.

Worcester’s Class of ’21 featured Connor Wong, Jarren Duran and Kutter Crawford. The season of 2022 was highlighted by the debuts of Triston Casas, Brayan Bello and in Washingtonwith the Nationals,* Joey Meneses*,. That looks like it will be remembered as a very strong class.

What has been the best graduating class since Boston moved its Triple-A affiliation to Pawtucket in 1973, then eventually to Worcester? We go back to the early days for that one, 1974.

That season marked the MLB debuts of shortstop Rick Burleson, outfielders Fred Lynn and Jim Rice and catcher Tim Blackwell. That foursome combined to play 5,830 major league games. Rice is in the Hall of Fame — enough said. Lynn was MVP and Rookie of the Year in 1975 and played in nine All-Star Games. Burleson played in four All-Star Games and got MVP votes in four seasons. Blackwell had a 10-year career as a backup catcher and that’s a long time to be a big-leaguer.

Second would be the Class of 2006, which produced Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and David Murphy. Pedroia and Lester were among the best major league players of their era and were key contributors to two Red Sox World Series triumphs, 2007 and 2013. Murphy’s Boston time was short. He spent most of his time in the Rangers outfield but had a very solid career that lasted 10 seasons and 1,110 games.

Next up is the Class of 1980, the largest of all these classes. Ten players made their major league debuts that season including WooSox batting coach Rich Gedman. While none were MVPs or Hall of Famers, almost all all had significant careers.

The 10 were pitchers Bruce Hurst, Keith MacWhorter, Bob Ojeda, Steve Crawford and Luis Aponte; Gedman, infielders Glenn Hoffman, Chico Walker and Dave Stapleton and outfielder Reid Nichols. All but MacWhorter played in at least 100 major league games.

The grand total for that group was 4,578 big league games led by Gedman’s 1,033.

Number Four is the most recent, the Class of 2014. It was not a big class but produced important players in Mookie Betts, Christian Vazquez and Matt Barnes.

Betts is the most notable, a slam-dunk Hall of Fame candidate who became one of the best players in Red Sox history. Vazquez was a dark horse who spent years in the minor leagues before establishing himself as one of the best catchers the team has ever had.Barnes’ career has been unspectacular with a peak season in 2021 with 24 saves. Unspectacular, but productive. This is his 10th year in the big leagues and he has pitched in 453 games — exactly 453 innings, too.

Finally, there is a small class, the Class of ’96. It includes just two players, but both made huge impacts in Boston. They are Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon; quality more than quantity.

Nixon got into 982 regular-season games for the Red Sox. More importantly, he played in 42 post-season games and hit .357 in the 2004 World Series. He was a big part of some good Boston teams and in general was one of those players who was better than his raw numbers said he should have been.

Garciaparra was Rookie of the Year in 1997, a five-time All-Star for Boston and got MVP votes in six different seasons. From ’97 through 2000 he was arguably the best position player in baseball.

It takes a while for players to prove themselves through the years, so the final evaluations of the WooSox’ various graduating classes are a ways off. The team is off to a promising start, in any case.



1. Which WooSox pitcher has had the longest streak of scoreless innings this season?

2. Who is the oldest player, to date, to appear in a game for the Worcester Red Sox?

Answers below.



The WooSox visit suburban Atlanta to play the Braves’ Triple-A partners, the Gwinnett Stripers, for the first time ever. This series will leave six International League teams Worcester has not yet played — St. Paul, Iowa, Nashville, Indianapolis, Memphis and Omaha.

The Stripers are 61-69 for the season, 28-27 in the second half. Their roster includes WooSox fan favorite Yolmer Sanchez, who is batting .246 in 101 games for Gwinnett after hitting .247 in 78 games last year in Worcester.



Brandon Workman, who appeared in 52 games for Pawtucket in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018; and in seven games for Worcester in 2011, is busy in his native Texas. Workman is a private pitching instructor and also works in sales and real estate.

Daniel Nava is managing the Great Lakes Loons of the High-A Midwest League, a Dodgers affiliate. Nava’s team has the second-best overall record in the league at 73-51. Nava spent parts of five seasons with Pawtucket from 2010-15 and hit 28 home runs in 261 games there.


The WooSox set a new six-game series record for home attendance during the Norfolk visit. They drew 51,904 for the series, an average of 8,651. The previous six-game best occurred last season when 47,641 showed up for a series vs. Rochester from May 10-15, 2022. The weekend games marked the fourth, fifth and sixth times in its history that Polar Park reached its full capacity of 9,508. … Now for the rest of the story. Worcester has played before 9,000 or more fans 14 times at home and is 7-7 in those games. … David Hamilton shows signs of finishing the season the same way he started it — red hot — which bodes well for his major league future. Hamilton ended the homestand working on a seven-game hitting streak that lifted his average from .237 to .250. In that span he hit three home runs and broke the Boston Triple-A record for most stolen bases in a season. …



  1. Cam Booser worked 11 straight shutout innings from June 13 through July 16. He gave up only five hits and three bases on balls in that span.

2. Pitcher Corey Kluber was a little more than 37 years and three months old when he made a relief appearance for Worcester on July 26.