PORTLAND — After posting a franchise-best 88 wins two years ago, and franchise-worst 89 losses last year, the outlook for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2016 would seem to land somewhere in the middle.

That doesn’t mean the players can’t aim high. Or the new manager for that matter.

The Sea Dogs, who are set to begin their 23rd Eastern League season on Thursday at Reading, Pa. (weather-permitting), posted those best and worst seasons under manager Billy McMillon, who has been replaced by new manager Carlos Febles.

McMillon spent two seasons as the skipper in Portland before taking on a new role as a roving minor-league instructor in the Red Sox organization. Febles was with the Red Sox’ High-A club in Salem, Va., the past two seasons.

The new manager hopes to duplicate what the old one did in his first season in Portland.

“On paper we look pretty good,” Febles said. “If we stay healthy, it’s no doubt that we’re going to have a good season. It’s going to be about health. And if that’s the case, it’s going be interesting to see what they can do.”

This year’s Sea Dogs roster doesn’t have the star power that past versions flaunted — yet. Prized prospects Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi are all starting the season in Salem and could be promoted to Portland quickly if they perform well. Those are the top three players in the Red Sox’ system, according to Baseball America.

They are all hitters — Moncada and Devers in the infield, Benintendi in the outfield — which could boost a Sea Dogs Opening Day roster that appears to be heavy on pitching.

Five pitchers ranked in the Top 30 in the Red Sox system are starting the season in Portland, led by No. 18 prospect Ty Buttrey. Williams Jerez (No. 19), Teddy Stankiewicz (20), Kevin McAvoy (21) and Luis Ysla (25) round out the pitching prospects.

“We’ve got some studs,” veteran Sea Dogs pitcher Mike McCarthy said. “Some of the top prospects in our organization that are really on the verge of pushing themselves into being a big part of the Red Sox organization at the higher levels, and then potentially into the big leagues.”

The pitching staff goes deeper than the five highly-ranked players, boasting Double-A experienced starters Justin Haley and Aaron Wilkerson and reliever Simon Mercedes.

“We do have great arms in the rotation, and our bullpen is pretty good,” Febles said. “We got three or four guys that can finish games for you, and that’s a luxury that not many teams have.”

Febles lauded Buttrey’s fastball and Stankiewicz’ four-pitch mix. Stankiewicz was a second-round pick of the Red Sox in 2013.

The Sea Dogs have just one position player on their Opening Day roster that is among the Top 30 prospects — infielder Wendell Rijo, who is ranked 15th. But don’t confuse lack of prospects with lack of hitting ability. These Sea Dogs think they’ll be able to hit, too.

Jantzen Witte was an Eastern League All-Star last year before a wrist injury ended his season prematurely. Witte, who led all of Double-A baseball in doubles prior to the All-Star break, said he was starting to raise some people’s eyebrows before his injury.

Mike Miller spent more than half his 2015 season in Triple-A Pawtucket but will start 2016 back with the Sea Dogs. Miller, who can play multiple positions, hit .273 in 40 games for Portland last year.

Rijo was one of Salem’s best hitters last year, while Jose Vinicio batted nearly .300 last year between Salem and Portland.

Henry Ramos is the biggest name in the Sea Dogs outfield, and will be looking to stay healthy all year after his first two seasons in Portland ended early due to injury.

“I think we’re going to surprise some teams. Maybe not quite as much power as we’ve had two years later,” McCarthy said. “But this team’s got some guys that know how to play the game, and they play the game hard. There’s a lot of aggressive mentality on this team, guys that have some grit to them. And that’s always a fun team to play with, whether you’re pitching or hitting.”

“A bunch of guys that will play the game hard,” Febles said of his new team. “Guys that will come in, work their tails off every day and will give their best. As a manager you can’t ask for more.”

These Sea Dogs might end up more resembling dirt dogs this season, playing a grind-it-out style rather than just mashing (sound like a certain World Series champion in Kansas City?). Miller said this team is filled with “hard-nosed” players who have a good work ethic and are smart.

“When I look at this team, I see that this is going to be a very competitive team,” McCarthy said. “And a team that’s going to come out ready to rock and roll.”

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