'07 Red Sox ripe with farm-fresh produce.

Position:SPORTS
 
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Byline: Bill BALLOU

COLUMN: BILL BALLOU'S BASEBALL NOTES

There is no statistic for promises, kept or broken, but in the expedient world of baseball most promises have the lifespan of a fruit fly. Long-range planning is the seventh inning.

Give the current Red Sox administration credit for a kept promise, however, in rebuilding the Boston farm system.

The last three "classes" of rookies to graduate to the major leagues from the farm system looks like this:

- 2007 - Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brandon Moss.

- 2006 - Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, David Murphy, Kason Gabbard.

- 2005 - Cla Meredith, Kelly Shoppach, Manny Delcarmen, Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Hansen, Hanley Ramirez.

It has been the most productive period for Boston's farm system in almost 20 years, or since the early 1990s when Aaron Sele, John Valentin, Paul Quantrill, John Flaherty and Mo Vaughn all made the majors in a span of three years.

Buchholz already has a no-hitter to his credit, and Ellsbury looks like he can be a once-a-decade kind of impact position player. But it would be hard to rate this year's class ahead of last year, which produced Pedroia and Lester, plus Murphy and Gabbard, who could both become fine players.

How about 2005, though, with Papelbon, potentially a perennial All-Star reliever, and Ramirez, who could be a National League MVP one of these seasons?

For sheer quality, that Class of '05 is probably Boston's best in recent years. The best graduating classes, chronologically, since the amateur draft began in 1965:

- Class of 1996 - It included three graduates, but two of them became important players, Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon. The third, second baseman Bill Selby, had a decent big-league career in mostly a backup role.

- Class of 1992 - Valentin, Quantrill, Flaherty. Only Valentin had his best years with Boston, but the three players combined for 39 major-league seasons.

- Class of 1987 - For pure volume, nothing beats Jody Reed, John Marzano, Sam Horn, Todd Benzinger, Tom Bolton, Ellis Burks and Danny Sheaffer. Only Burks was an All-Star, but there were a lot of solid major-league seasons in that group.

- 1982 - Wade Boggs, Marty Barrett, Oil Can Boyd. The trio includes a Hall of Famer, a very effective second baseman for about six years, and a solid starter whose career was shortened by injury.

- 1980 - Bruce Hurst, Glenn Hoffman, Dave Stapleton, Bobby Ojeda, Steve Crawford, Rich Gedman, Reid Nichols. Three future All-Stars in Hurst, Gedman...

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