PORTLAND — The Portland Sea Dogs are headed for a fourth straight losing season.

Disappointing? Well, sure. But you have to add an asterisk to the 2012 campaign.

If the Eastern League were like the other two Double-A leagues — the Texas and the Southern — it would divide its standings in first and second half.

And these Sea Dogs have been one of the best teams in the second half, including 31-17 since the All-Star break.

Improvement is always better than a collapse (see Red Sox, Sept., 2011).

And there is the crux of the Sea Dogs — developing players for Boston. Several prospects are passing through the Hadlock Field gates these days.

Today will mark the annual Field of Dreams Game, followed by the traditional awards handed out on the final home game Monday.

Here is my take on superlatives and other noteworthy items from the 2012 season:

• Most valuable player: Bryce Brentz. He may not have hit 30 home runs like he did in Class A last year, but Brentz made a solid adjustment to Double-A, leading the Sea Dogs in hitting (.296), doubles (30), RBI (76) and OPS (.833). He was second in home runs with 17.

Brentz, 23, is a true corner outfield prospect for the Red Sox and was just promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. He still has work to do, as his 130 strikeouts indicate.

• Most valuable pitcher: Jeremy Kehrt. The true underdog as a 47th-round draft pick pitching alongside first-rounders and 40-man roster guys. Kehrt, 26, did everything asked of him — relieve or start — and led the team with an 8-3 record.

After three years in Portland, Kehrt’s challenge is to made the Pawtucket roster out of spring training next year.

• Top every day prospect: Xander Bogaerts. When Sea Dogs fans watched 19-year-old Adrian Gonzalez star in Portland in 2002 and 20-year-old Anthony Rizzo in 2010, they saw the saw thing — a strong, effortless swing that screamed “major league material.”

You see the same thing in Bogaerts, 19, who was batting .321 (.966 OPS) through 20 games with the Sea Dogs. So gifted, but also with a work ethic that has him searching for improvement instead of praise (i.e., his cap still fits his head).

• Top pitching prospect: Chris Hernandez. He does not have the fastball of other lefties like Jon Lester and Felix Doubront, but Hernandez commands a variety of pitches and knows how to use them. He led Sea Dogs starters with a 3.13 ERA until his promotion to Pawtucket in late July.

Hernandez, 23, will surely be in major league spring training camp next year, and a phone call away from Fenway.

• Most frustrated player: Kolbrin Vitek. The Red Sox first-round draft pick in 2010 arrived as Portland’s opening-day third baseman. He played only 46 games because of troublesome back. He batted .242 with one home run.

Vitek, 23, will be fighting for playing time next year with third baseman Michael Almanzar arriving from Salem.

• Most frustrated pitcher: Anthony Ranaudo. In spring training, we hailed Ranaudo’s starts as must-see events. But he made only nine of them, and rarely met expectations (1-3, 6.69 ERA).

Slowed before the season with a strained groin muscle, Ranaudo, 22, joined the Dogs late and then experienced a disturbing tired arm after his ninth start. The 2013 will be a do-over for Ranaudo.

• Most improved: Drake Britton, 23, and Stolmy Pimentel, 22. Consider that, last year, Britton was 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA in Class A, and Pimentel was 0-9 (9.12) in Portland before being demoted, and you see how far they’ve come.

Britton (3.72) kept improving while Pimentel (4.84) was dominating in spurts. They are Pawtucket-bound in 2013.

• Best personality: Jackie Bradley Jr. arrived in June as a confident, can’t-miss center field prospect. He may be the most gifted to play the position at Hadlock.

But Bradley, 22, also possesses a child-like demeanor that makes him a joy to be around. After a game, he almost always stays to sign autographs, and has even helped the bat boys carry in the water coolers.

• Best character: Matt Spring. He’s batting only .200, but every team needs a Matt Spring, an experienced catcher who can positively influence a pitching staff as well as the clubhouse. Spring, 27, came from the Rays organization, where he handled the best of Tampa Bay’s prospects, from David Price down.

• Best transformation: Brock Huntzinger. Hammered in his first four starts, Huntzinger, 24, joined the Sea Dogs bullpen and emerged (4-1, 2.44 ERA) as a prospect, recently promoted to Pawtucket.

• Best comeback: Michael Olmsted. He was pitching in an independent league tryout last year when the Red Sox signed him. With a 0.00 ERA in 13 appearance, Olmsted, 25, looks ready for the 40-man roster.


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