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November 29, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects
State of the Farm: “It's a love that lasts forever, it's a love that has no past. Don't let me down, don't let me down.”
The Top Ten
1. Xander Bogaerts
What Happened in 2012: You mean, besides hitting for power and average in the Carolina League before moving up to Double-A as a teenager and continuing the offensive onslaught by ripping 15 extra-base hits in only 23 games?
Strengths: Simple, fluid swing mechanics; very natural barrel-to-ball relationship; projects to hit for both plus power and batting average; shows plus-plus bat speed; shows ability to drive the ball all over the park; can square velocity; arm is plus; plays game with feel and instincts; solid glove; could have above-average defensive profile at third base.
Weaknesses: Aggressive in the box; soft and spinning can get him off-balance; will need to expand pitch appetite (fastball eyes); exaggerated swing plane limits stay in the zone; good athlete, but lacks plus speed; physical maturation process could leave speed below-average; limited range at shortstop; fielding actions can be stiff; not ideal profile for middle-of-the-diamond.
Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star
Explanation of Risk: High risk; excellent makeup, but lofty ceiling; still lots of developmental space between present/future.
Fantasy Future: At his peak, Bogaerts could approach a .300 average and 30-plus bombs a year; bat will play anywhere on the diamond, but most likely will find a home at third base.
The Year Ahead: It’s hard to imagine Bogaerts taking another step forward in 2013, but it’s entirely possible. His swing is full of grace, and the power that flows from the hit tool could make him a very special player if everything goes according to plan. He still needs refinement in all phases of the game, and an extended stay in Double-A could expose some of the weaknesses in his offensive approach. While its possible that he remains at shortstop going forward, his defensive profile isn’t ideal at the position at the highest level, and as the 6’3’’ 175-lb. 20-year-old continues to grow into his body, his average-at-best speed will tick down and his range at the position will prove to be inadequate. Regardless, his bat has middle-of-the-order potential, and could make him an all-star if he reaches his ceiling.
Major league ETA: 2013
2. Jackie Bradley
What Happened in 2012: In his first full-season, Bradley crushed in High-A, and after a promotion to Double-A, continued to show a mature approach to all phases of the game.
Strengths: Special baseball instincts; plus glove; strong arm; average speed, but preternatural feel for position; moves before ball is put in play; precise routes and angles; plus-plus overall profile at premium position; advanced approach at the plate; good pitch-recognition skills; knows his pitch pocket and attacks; solid-average hit tool; tough out.
Weaknesses: Lacks plus speed; relies on first-step quickness and instincts for range; game power plays below-average; most likely a down-the-lineup offensive threat.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; Bradley is a natural baseball player with now skills; only risk is full development of bat.
Fantasy Future: Should make enough solid contact to hit for average; good on-base skills; potential for doubles, but most likely a single-digit home run threat; could steal some bases despite average speed.
The Year Ahead: Bradley isn’t long for the minors, with a glove that is ready for the bright lights. The bat isn’t special and could use more reps in the minors, but he’s a mature talent that should be ready for a major-league assignment at some point in 2013. Bradley can make every play in center, and he can do so without making it look like a big production. He has Gold Glove potential at the position, and as long as the bat can play in the average range, he’s a first-division talent.
Major league ETA: 2013
3. Matt Barnes
What Happened in 2012: The 19th overall pick in 2011 made his professional debut, and looked like the steal of draft, overwhelming the competition in Low-A before a jump to High-A, where his performance was still strong despite tiring some down the stretch.
Strengths: Good size/strength; repeatable delivery; plus-plus fastball; pitch will routinely work 92-95 and touch higher; has shown ability to work as high as 94 mph with consistency; movement is easy plus, with excellent vertical action; command of offering is sharp; can work low in the zone and create steep plane; premium pitch; curveball works in mid-70s with heavy break; solid-average (present) that can get to plus; changeup took big developmental step forward; plays as average offering; plus command profile
Weaknesses: Can be too fastball dependent; curveball lacks consistency; doesn’t finish pitch and loses rotation; changeup can get too firm and lack quality action.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; inherent risk with pitchers; needs more secondary development.
Fantasy Future: Has the body/delivery to log innings; has the stuff to miss bats; has the command to limit hard contact/walks; could develop into high wins/high strikeout starter at the major-league level.
The Year Ahead: Barnes is ready for Double-A, where the utility of his secondary offerings will be put to the test. Even without big jumps from the companion pitches, the fastball is good enough to ride all the way to the majors, as it features not only plus-plus velocity, but also movement and command, making it a near elite offering.
Major league ETA: 2013
4. Allen Webster
What Happened in 2012: After a repeat of the Double-A level saw Webster make developmental progress, the Dodgers included the promising right-hander in a package to the Red Sox in exchange for half of their roster.
Strengths: Prototypical size for a starter; fastball is easy plus, routinely working in the mid-90s with good downward movement; ball is extremely difficult to lift; changeup is near plus-plus; heavily pronated offering that is effective to both lefties/righties; can miss bats and induce weak contact; slider emerged as solid-average offering, working in the 83-87 range with two-plane break.
Weaknesses: Command is below-average and limits full-function of the arsenal; loses his delivery; slips under breaking ball; curveball is fringe-average; could end up in the bullpen without command progress.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; iffy command is limiting, but arsenal features two plus (to plus-plus) now pitches; has impact potential at major-league level.
Fantasy Future: Has the potential to be a workhorse arm in a major-league rotation, with two bat-missing pitches and an improving slider that will help complete the arsenal.
The Year Ahead: Webster should slot into the Triple-A rotation, where the Red Sox can get an extended look at the soon to be 23-year-old right-hander. His overall command is the biggest factor in his future success, as the raw stuff is good enough to play effectively wild, but has the potential to thrive with more command/control refinement. He could be a dominating late-inning presence, but with a starter’s arsenal and upside, his future role looks brighter in the rotation. Webster is another arm that should taste the major leagues in 2013.
Major league ETA: 2013
5. Blake Swihart
What Happened in 2012: Swihart made the big jump from the complex level to full-season ball, where his development took positive steps despite not producing a slash line that tickles the fancy.
Strengths: Plus athlete; arm is strong; good catch/throw skills; shows quality actions behind the plate; nice swing from both sides of the plate; shows bat speed; potential to drive balls; hands work well; some power potential.
Weaknesses: Still raw as a receiver; body needs to gain physical strength/lower-half strength; approach needs work; still learning what pitches he can handle; big talent jump from facing high-school pitching to Sally League pitching; long developmental road ahead/slow to the show.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: high risk; big gap between present and future; difficult to develop behind the plate and develop solid-avg to plus bat.
Fantasy Future: At maturity, could hit ~.270-plus with 15-plus home runs from a premium defensive position, giving him excellent overall value.
The Year Ahead: Swihart is just getting started as a player, and the developmental process can get ugly before the results start to look pretty, especially for a catcher. He possesses a fluid swing from both sides of the plate and some hittability, with a profile that should produce some power down the line. But it’s a tough assignment to take steps forward at a demanding position while taking steps forward at the plate. Some patience is required here, but the payoff could be well worth it, as Swihart has all the necessary ingredients to develop into an above-average player.
Major league ETA: 2016
6. Garin Cecchini
What Happened in 2012: Finally healthy, Cecchini showed a promising offensive attack at the full-season level, hitting over.300 with 38 doubles.
Strengths: Baseball rat; good size/strength; fluid swing; hips and hands work very well; line-drive stroke; shows good bat control; good approach; potential in the profile for 5+ game power; arm is 6; excellent overall feel for the game; game speed plays up with instincts.
Weaknesses: Struggles against arm-side pitching; will expand zone and is susceptible to off-speed offerings; offensive tools lack crazy projection; defense is suspect at third base; stiff actions/hard hands; limited range; fringe 5 run; bat first profile.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: High risk; offense needs to carry profile; big grade jumps necessary; big baseball makeup
Fantasy Future: Bat-first third baseman with potential for batting average, 20+ home runs, lots of doubles, and some stolen base ability because of instincts/game awareness.
The Year Ahead: Cecchini will move to High-A, where he needs to continue to tighten his approach and improve against sequence. He can rake against right-handed pitching, and has the necessary bat speed to turn back quality velocity, so he should continue to make hard contact and produce batting average. The power exists, but could take time to manifest itself into over-the-fence production. If the bat steps up, the soon-to-be 22 year-old could finish the year in Double-A, which is the level that separates the men from the boys.
Major league ETA: 2015
7. Henry Owens
What Happened in 2012: Owens made his professional debut by jumping straight to full-season ball, where the projectable lefty missed bats but also struggled with his command and secondary utility.
Strengths: Size and length that can’t be taught; fastball works upper-80s to low-90s, touching 94; good arm-side movement and deception in the delivery helps pitch play up; curveball with multiple looks, but flashes plus potential in the 75-76 range with good depth;
Weaknesses: Lots of moving parts limit present command; struggles to stay over the ball/finish his pitches; frame needs to add strength; changeup is below-average at present; deliberate and without much deception; some questions about maturity level.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; arsenal projection not a given; secondary pitches and command need grade jump.
Fantasy Future: Has the size and projectable strength to log innings; profiles as innings-eater with solid-average arsenal from the left-side.
The Year Ahead: Owens will move to High-A, where the projectable southpaw can prove the believers right by showing arsenal progression, with enhanced fastball velocity that he can hold throughout games/season and improved secondary offerings. The doubters aren’t as sold on the projection, despite the lengthy body, and without easy plus raw stuff and questionable pitchability, Owens might stumble without an arsenal boost.
Major league ETA: 2015
8. Bryce Brentz
What Happened in 2012: After a big 2011 campaign, Brentz continued to hit well after the promotion to Double-A, where his aggressive approach didn’t suffocate his ability to for power and average.
Strengths: Big raw power; torque-heavy swing that produces above-average bat speed; makes good contact despite aggressive approach and vicious hacks; good game power; plus arm in the outfield
Weaknesses: Aggressive approach leaves him vulnerable to off-speed offerings; legit questions about pitch-recognition ability; power plays, but hit tool doesn’t offer same projection; fringe run.
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division player
Explanation of Risk: High risk; approach and pitch-recognition issues could spoil the power in the bat.
Fantasy Future: Prototypical right field profile; has legit over-the-fence power; hit tool utility and approach will decide how much it plays in games; could hit 25-plus.
The Year Ahead: Brentz avoided exploitation at the Double-A level despite a suspect approach, but he might not fare as well against the craftier arms in Triple-A. Brentz can drive the baseball, but refining his approach will be a must against better pitching. Once the book is out, arms with a plan will be able to exploit the aggressiveness with sequence, and if the pitch-recognition skills aren’t up to the task, Brentz could see his prospect status shrink and his progress halt in the upper minors.
Major league ETA: 2013
9. Jose Iglesias
What Happened in 2012: After an inconsistent Triple-A season, Iglesias failed the offensive test at the major-league level, hitting an anemic .118 and only reaching base at a 20 percent clip.
Strengths: Massive defensive skills; wizard; 7 range, with instincts and a quick first-step; big arm; pillow hands; silky smooth actions; flare for the big play; 8 total defensive package; above-average run; some bat control and hittability; smart player.
Weaknesses: Lacks strength in swing; doesn’t drive the ball; chewed up by secondary stuff; struggles to turn around velocity; doesn’t project as quality hitter; no power.
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-0division regular
Explanation of Risk: High risk; so many questions about the bat; glove is ready
Fantasy Future: Is there a fantasy category for slick plays at shortstop? There should be. That’s about all Iglesias is going to produce; some contact is possible; low average; no power; some game speed.
The Year Ahead: Iglesias’s offensive production often takes unfair criticism because of the elite nature and major league readiness of his defense. Despite playing in Cuba, Iglesias only has ~1000 minor league plate appearance, and yet has already been pushed to the upper minors with some major league looks. He lacks strength and the approach isn’t great, but with more seasoning and developmental patience, he should be able to hit down the lineup on a team without high offensive expectations from the position. He is unlikely to ever hit for a high average or make a pitcher sweat, but his glove is so good that he can provide value to a team with only a minimal offensive presence. He should get another chance at the major league level at some point in 2013.
Major league ETA: 2011
10. Brian Johnson
What Happened in 2012: After a long collegiate season, Johnson dipped his toes into the professional waters, logging just over five innings before taking a line drive to the face, fracturing his orbital bone and effectively ending his season.
Strengths: Strong face; lively low-90s fastball that can touch higher; good arm-side movement and feel for command; curveball shows above-average potential with tight rotation and some depth; changeup should play as a 5; good pitchability
Weaknesses: Lacks elite stuff; changeup can get too firm in the mid-80s; lacks big action; uses slider in addition to CB; slurvy offering that several sources called a show pitch; body looks a little doughy which could affect mechanics/adjustments; limited upside.
Overall Future Potential: 5; no. 4 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; Johnson will pitch the 2013 season at age 22; arsenal needs to refine, but shows playable now stuff; good overall feel for pitching.
Fantasy Future: Profiles best a back-end starter with a chance for more if secondary pitches grade up. Has size and strength, so should be able to take the ball every fifth day and log innings; won’t miss a great deal of bats at highest level.
The Year Ahead: Johnson’s arsenal has some room to grow, but the ultimate ceiling is limited. The fastball is the only above-average offering at present, but the curve could get there soon, giving him the foundation for a strong arsenal. Johnson knows his craft, and lefties with at least three pitches and strike-throwing ability have a way of sticking around the game and offering value. Johnson should be set to move quickly, but the development and refinement of his secondary arsenal will set the pace.
Major league ETA: 2014
Prospects on the Rise
1. CF Manuel Margot: 18-year-old Dominican center fielder that projects to stay at the position for the foreseeable future and has a short, quick swing with some power potential. After a very impressive professional debut in the Dominican Summer League, Margot will look to continue the trend stateside in 2013, which could help push his prospect status into the top 10.
2. SS Jose Vinicio: Latin American bonus baby from the 2009 class, Vinicio spent two years at the complex level before making the jump to full-season ball in 2012. The 19-year-old has legit shortstop skills and projects to stay up-the-middle as he develops. The bat is immature at present, but as Vinicio adds strength and refines his approach, he has the type of bat speed to make hard contact and become a solid all-around talent.
3. Deven Marrero: The 24th overall selection in the 2012 draft, Marrero was viewed by many as the best college shortstop available in the class, and a player that had the all-around polish to move quickly through a system. While his bat might lack a sexy ceiling, he should hit enough to stay in a lineup, and his above-average profile on defense should make a major-league regular for a long time.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013
1. RHP Chris Carpenter: Former hard-throwing Cubs starter turned hard-throwing Cubs reliever turned hard-throwing Red Sox reliever is ready to make an impact at the major-league level in 2013. With elite fastball velocity and below-average command, Carpenter should be able to induce nervous feet in the box, and if the command comes around and the slider finds some consistency, he should be able to offer more than just an unpredictable arm that can throw 100 mph.
2. LHP Chris Hernandez: The Former Miami starter might lack average fastball velocity, but he makes up for that with quality movement, command, and the ability to mix his offerings to keep the hitters off-balance. His margin for error is small, and his ultimate role is yet to be determined, but with a cutting fastball and plus pitchability, he might be able to offer a contribution to the major-league team in 2013.
3. RHP Brandon Workman: Down the queue for a major league look, former Longhorns starter Brandon Workman has the type of mature frame and arsenal to force the issue at some point in ’13. Like Hernandez, his ultimate role has yet to be determined, but with a low-90s fastball that can touch higher and a plus cutter that can get in the kitchen of left-handed hitters, Workman could be a good candidate for the bullpen.
Top 10 Talents 25 and Younger (born 4/1/1987 or later)
After two straight disappointing seasons that have ended in turmoil and the late August blockbuster trade that saw Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford shipped to Los Angeles, the organization has entered a retooling phase focused on a combination of more disciplined acquisitions and an infusion of younger talent. The crown jewel of the system, Xander Bogaerts’ star shines bright, highlighted by his impact bat potential that will play at any spot on the diamond. Bogaerts’ easy bat speed and lightning-quick wrists enable him to consistently barrel offerings up with authority to all fields. The whispers of “future All-Star at the hot corner” continue to get louder. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks continued to build off of the development strides he made in 2011 to push towards fulfilling his potential as an above-average regular during his peak and enters this upcoming season as the everyday starter after showing he was ready for the challenge before his rookie season ended via a broken hand. Will both Middlebrooks and Bogaerts be able to coexist in the same lineup down the road? It’s a good potential “problem” for an organization to have.
Jackie Bradley and Matt Barnes, both 2011 draft picks, quickly established themselves within the ranks. Bradley projects as a top-of-the-order hitting center fielder and very likely replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury should Ellsbury move on, while Barnes shows the makings of a potential solid third starter with continued refinement to the crispness of his stuff, capable of competing for a rotation spot in 2014. The key pieces of the trade with the Dodgers, Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster, instantly upgraded the organization’s young pitching depth. Both could find themselves cutting their teeth against the AL East as mid-rotation starters or high-leverage relievers in the coming seasons. Blake Swihart, Garin Cecchini, and Henry Owens presently are possible glimpses into the future a handful of seasons from now. All three possess the talent to round into major leaguers, but each have key development needs to continue to track during their progression up the ranks. Lefty Felix Doubront profiles as a back-end starter or later-inning reliever should other talent or performance push him into that role. It’s taken a bit for the pipeline to rebound from trades made in prior offseasons, but there are some first-division major leaguers on the way in the near future and a developing secondary wave with the potential to reinforce or be used in deals for areas of need. —Chris Mellen
Special thanks to Nick Faleris, Mark Anderson, and Chris Mellen for their input and influence on this list.