I’ve cautioned in the past about the perils of overvaluing prospects. Because of that, there’s a nasty misnomer out there that I’m anti-farm system.

On the contrary, I completely recognize the worth of having a young stable of up-and-comers. It’s paramount to develop that talent for the future of any franchise. My quibble is that when you’re a team with the payroll ceiling of the Boston Red Sox, you’re not always nurturing the skills of those prospects for yourself.

Small-market clubs like the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins have to stockpile as many promising players from the most recent generation that they can. Strapped with a lack of funds and being in non-destination cities for free agents, that’s their best chance to construct a contender.

However, for general manager Ben Cherington and company, cashing in on the seductive potential of youngsters is equally as important as building up the farm system in the first place. 

There will always be the Mike Trouts and Bryce Harpers who are untouchable. But peruse the archives of Baseball America’s rankings and it becomes apparent that evaluating prospects is still a crapshoot. If a contending club has the ability to take on salary to address a need and can turn a dice roll into a proven, high-caliber entity, then that’s a no-brainer. 

Don’t interpret that as an endorsement to rush a trade, as playing hardball when trying to acquire someone is commonplace. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports Boston isn’t the only team waiting out Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. in the Cole Hamels sweepstakes. To those who still doubt the validity of the three-time All-Star, here’s a nice stat from BaseballSavant.com‘s Daren Willman. 

Even after dealing away young pieces in multiple trades this offseason, the Red Sox still have a strong group of prospects at their disposal. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Boston’s farm system the fifth-best in baseball entering 2015.

There are two late-bloomer candidates to keep an eye on this spring in Garin Cecchini and Matt Barnes. Cecchini is an on-base machine transitioning to a new position in 2015. With Pablo Sandoval now entrenched at third base, the soon-to-be 24-year-old will work to learn how to play the outfield. 

Barnes, on the other hand, will try to regain some of his value after a lackluster 2014 season in Triple-A. The right-handed pitcher is still ranked among Boston’s top 10 prospects, but he’s approaching 25 years old with only nine innings of MLB experience and a big league rotation spot looking highly unlikely. 

While those two have promise, three exciting youngsters on the cusp of big things warrant greater attention. Whether it’s auditioning for Boston’s 25-man roster or showing well for a potential trade partner, spring training will be crucial for the following three players.

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