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February 14, 2012

Future Shock

Boston Red Sox Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: Trades, graduations, and a lot of players going backwards leaves the system deep but not as star-studded as in past years.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Xander Bogaerts, SS
Four-Star Prospects
2. Brandon Jacobs, OF
3. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
4. Ryan Lavarnway, C/DH
Three-Star Prospects
5. Blake Swihart, C
6. Bryce Brentz, OF
7. Matt Barnes, RHP
8. Garin Cecchini, 3B
9. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
10. Jose Iglesias, SS
11. Sean Coyle, 2B
Nine More:
12. Jose Vinicio, SS: Dominican shortstop has plus glove and line-drive bat but little power and patience.
13. Jackie Bradley, OF: Coming off an ugly junior season; solid tools across the board but nothing star level.
14. Henry Owens, LHP: Supplemental first-round pick is loaded with projection but not a ton of right-now stuff.
15. Alex Wilson, RHP: Short, wide righty has back-end starter potential and could help this year.
16. Brandon Workman, RHP: Posted a solid full-season debut, but it was in Low-A and he's already 23.
17. Drake Britton, LHP: Anticipated breakout never happened; power arsenal from the left side might fit better in the ‘pen.
18. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP: The righty has stagnated at the upper-levels, turning 2012 into a potential make-or-break year.
19. Williams Jerez, OF: 2011 second-round pick is among the best athletes in the system but is very raw.
20. Cody Kukuk, LHP: 2011 seventh-rounder is long-levered with potential for plus fastball/slider combination.

1. Xander Bogaerts, SS
DOB
: 10/1/92
Height/Weight: 6’3/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Aruba, 2009
2011 Stats: .260/.324/.509 at A (72 G)
Tools Profile: Hardly one dimensional, but it's the power that stands out.

Year in Review: Last year's Dominican Summer League star forced his way to full-season ball at 18 and put on a show with his power.
The Good: Bogaerts has easy plus-plus raw power, but what makes him special is his ability to tap into it against live pitching at such a young age. He gets his entire body into his torque-loaded swing and does not need to fully square-up a ball to get it to leave the park. He's a good athlete for a slugger with borderline average speed and a very strong arm.
The Bad: Bogaerts lacks the instincts, skills, and speed to be a shortstop and is quickly growing out of the position. He has the tools to fit at third, but there are some concerns that he could grow his way into a corner outfield spot. His swing crosses the border from lofted to uppercut at times, and a high strikeout rate will likely always be a part of his game.
Ephemera: Gene Kingsale, who hit three home runs in 211 big league games spanning 1996-2003, is the only player born in Aruba to go deep in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Cleanup hitter who can compete for home run titles, just not at shortstop.
Fantasy Impact: Will hit plenty of home runs but might not hit for a high average and won't steal bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: Bogaerts was one of the youngest players in the Sally League last year, and he'll be among the youngest again as a 19-year-old in the Carolina League.
ETA: 2015.

2. Brandon Jacobs, OF
DOB
: 12/8/90
Height/Weight: 6’1/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Tenth round, 2009, Parkview HS (GA)
2011 Stats: .303/.376/.505 at A (115 G)
Tools Profile: Average or better across the board.

Year in Review: The over slot signee from 2009 had the biggest breakout in the system.
The Good: Jacobs combines impressive tools with very good performance. His quick bat and plus power potential could lead to 40 doubles and 20-25 home runs annually. He's a 50-55 runner with good instincts on the basepaths.
The Bad: There is considerable pressure on Jacobs's bat since he lacks the speed for center field and the arm for right. He still can be guilty of chasing bad pitches at times and needs to improve his approach. He's very thickly built, and some wonder if he'll maintain his speed long term.
Ephemera: Of the 72 home runs hit by 318th overall picks in the draft, 71 of them have been hit by Cubs catcher Geovany Soto.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level left fielder.
Fantasy Impact: A little bit of everything in all categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Jacobs will move up to Salem in 2012 and could become a more well-regarded name with a repeat performance of his 2011 season.
ETA: 2014.

3. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
DOB
: 9/9/88
Height/Weight: 6’4/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2007, Liberty-Eylau HS (TX)
2011 Stats: .333/.400/1.167 at Low A (4 G), .302/.345/.520 at AA (96 G), .161/.200/.268 at AAA (16 G)
Tools Profile: Plus glove with rapidly improving bat.

Year in Review: Built on 2010's breakout by improving at Double-A before struggling over the last three weeks at Triple-A.
The Good: Middlebrooks has the potential to have value at the hot corner both offensively and with the glove. He's one of the better defensive third baseman in the minors with quick reactions, soft hands, and a well above average arm. He has above-average raw power and has improved his batting average by focusing more on contact and letting his strength work for him.
The Bad: Middlebrooks has an impatient approach and is not an especially instinctual hitter, so there are concerns about his overall on-base package. He's slow out of the box and is a below-average runner.
Ephemera: In 20 day games for Double-A Portland, Middlebrooks hit .375/.383/.775 with seven home runs in 80 at-bats but drew just one walk.
Perfect World Projection: Above-average everyday third baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Not an elite-level contributor, but an above-average player in terms of both batting average and home runs.
Path to the Big Leagues: Middlebrooks was the subject of trade talks in the off-season and has no immediate path to a starting job in Boston. He'll begin the year at Triple-A Pawtucket with the hope of forcing a tough decision come the following year.
ETA: Late 2012.

4. Ryan Lavarnway, C/DH
DOB
: 8/7/87
Height/Weight: 6’4/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Sixth round, 2008, Yale
2011 Stats: .284/.360/.510 at AA (55 G), .295/.390/.612 at AAA (61 G), .231/.302/.436 at MLB (17 G)
Tools Profile: Masher.

Year in Review: Posted some of the best numbers in the minors, including a 1000-plus OPS in 61 Triple-A games.
The Good: Lavarnway has plenty of offensive ability. He works the count well, waits for pitches to drive, and has well above-average power, especially to his pull side. He's an intelligent player with great baseball instincts, and he's worked hard to improve his work behind the plate, where his strong arm is his best tool.
The Bad: Lavarnway can get single-minded at the plate, and scouts would be more optimistic about his ability to hit for average in the big leagues if he adjusted when behind in the count. He remains a below-average receiver who has likely maxed out his ability behind the plate.
Ephemera: With his two major league home runs, Lavarnway is now tied with Ron Darling for the most of any player drafter out of Yale.
Perfect World Projection: An offense-oriented catcher or a good designated hitter/first baseman.
Fantasy Impact: A 20-25 home run per year ceiling, but he's a bit one-dimensional.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Red Sox have no opening for Lavarnway, so while beating up Triple-A isn't an ideal situation, there are no other immediate options. For now, he's an excellent trade chip or insurance policy.
ETA: Late 2012.

5. Blake Swihart, C
DOB
: 4/3/92
Height/Weight: 6’1/175
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Cleveland HS (NM)
2011 Stats:.000/.000/.000 at Rookie (2 G)
Tools Profile: Bat-first catcher.

Year in Review: Among the best hitters in the draft, Swihart was seen as a touch sign and inked a $2.5 million deal as the 26th pick in the draft.
The Good: Swihart has an impressive offensive package. He's a switch-hitter with a pretty swing and average-to-plus power from both sides. He has the athleticism to be a good catcher and moves well behind the plate while showcasing a very strong arm.
The Bad: Swihart did not grow up as a catcher and is still learning the intricacies of the game. He lacks the solid build of most backstops and needs to prove that he can handle the physical pounding of the position over a full season.
Ephemera: The only two New Mexico high school players drafted higher than Swihart are former All-Star reliever Duane Ward, the ninth pick by the Braves in 1982, and third baseman Shane Andrews, the eleventh overall pick by the Expos in 1990.
Perfect World Projection: All-Star catcher, but he's far from it at present.
Fantasy Impact: If he stays behind the plate, it's potentially enormous.
Path to the Big Leagues: Swihart will make his full-season debut at Low-A Greenville in 2012, and his defense will determine his timetable as much as his bat.
ETA: 2015

6. Bryce Brentz, OF
DOB
: 12/30/88
Height/Weight: 6’1/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Middle Tennessee
2011 Stats:.359/.414/.647 at A (40 G), .274/.336/.531 at High A (75 G)
Tools Profile: Bat-first outfielder.

Year in Review: Supplemental first-round pick from 2010 rebounded from disastrous debut.
The Good: Brentz doesn't have the size of most slugging outfielders, but his bat speed and wrists give him plus power to all fields combined with enough contact ability to hit for a solid batting average. He's an average right fielder with an above-average arm.
The Bad: Brentz is aggressive early in the count and looks for fastballs, so he'll likely need to make some adjustments at the upper levels. He does not run well.
Ephemera: When batting with runners in scoring position and two outs for Low-A Greenville, Brentz went 10-for-22 with five home runs and a 1.273 slugging percentage.
Perfect World Projection: Everyday corner outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: He'll primarily help in the power categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Brentz will get his first taste of the upper levels in 2012 and could be the club's long-term solution in right field in short order.
ETA: Late 2013.

7. Matt Barnes, RHP
DOB
: 6/17/90
Height/Weight: 6’4/203
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Connecticut
2011 Stats: N/A
Tools Profile: Big fastball, but he needs to refine the rest of his game.

Year in Review: Expected to have a big year following a great showing in the Cape Cod League, Barnes was as good as advertised, at least on a statistical level.
The Good: Barnes is a pure power pitcher. With a simple delivery that is free of effort, he makes his mid-90s velocity look easy, and he touched 98 last spring. Beyond the velocity, his fastball plays up due to its movement and his ability to locate the pitch.
The Bad: Barnes left some scouts frustrated at his over-reliance on the heater. He'll flash a plus curveball at times, but more often he overthrows the pitch and elevates it while losing break. His changeup is also below average.
Ephemera: Barnes was an All-State player at Bethal High in Connecticut, whose most famous alum is Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore.
Perfect World Projection: Number-three starter with a shot at more if he can improve his secondary stuff.
Fantasy Impact: Good across the board, especially in the strikeout department.
Path to the Big Leagues: Barnes could begin his pro career as high as the Carolina League and has a shot at reaching Double-A in his first full season.
ETA: 2014.

8. Garin Cecchini, 3B
DOB
: 4/20/91
Height/Weight: 6’2/200
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2010, Barbe HS (LA)
2011 Stats: .298/.398/.500 at Low A (32 G)
Tools Profile: Outstanding hitter.

Year in Review: This highly-regarded 2010 pick was off to great start before getting hit by a pitch and breaking a bone in his wrist.
The Good: Scouts love to watch Cecchini hit. He has a quick bat, smooth swing, outstanding hand-eye coordination, and enough strength for 20-plus home runs as his game matures. He has a plus arm at third base.
The Bad: Beyond the bat, there are questions about what Cecchini brings to the table. He has the tools to play third, but he's a sloppy defender and his throws are often inaccurate. He's a below-average runner.
Ephemera: Todd Benzinger (1981) is the only Boston fourth-round pick to hit a home run for the Red Sox. The team also drafted Jeff Bagwell, who hit 449, and Sean Berry, who hit 81, in that slot.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level third baseman known more for his bat than his glove.
Fantasy Impact: Plenty of batting average and 18-20 home runs annually.
Path to the Big Leagues: A healthy version of Cecchini has breakout potential. He'll make his full-season debut at Low-A Greenville in 2012.
ETA: 2015.

9. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
DOB
: 9/9/89
Height/Weight: 6’7/231
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, Louisiana State
2011 Stats:3.33 ERA (46.0-35-16-50) at A (10 G), 4.33 ERA (81.0-80-30-67) at High A (16 G)
Tools Profile: Size, stuff, and inconsistency.

Year in Review: Stayed healthy, but scouts were left questioning his upside.
The Good: On a good day, Ranaudo looks like a future middle-of-the-rotation starter. He gets good movement on his low-90s fastball, and his height makes the pitch hard to pick up. His curve has the potential to be an above-average offering, and he has some feel for a changeup.
The Bad: Ranaudo's stuff and command vary wildly from start to start. He tips his pitches in his glove to the point that Carolina League scouts were calling them before delivery late in the season. His command has never been special, and with his size, he struggles to maintain his release point at times. His injury history is a concern, and he still needs to prove he can handle a full workload.
Ephemera: Drafted in 1993, Mike Sirotka is the last pitcher drafted out of LSU to win 10 or more games in a major league season. There have been 53 pitchers selected from that school from 1994-2011.
Perfect World Projection: Number-four starter, though some scouts see him as just a bullpen arm at this point.
Fantasy Impact: Nothing to write home about.
Path to the Big Leagues: Ranaudo will move up to Double-A, and based on his inconsistent performances, he has an equal shot at moving up or down this list considerably.
ETA: Late 2013.

10. Jose Iglesias, SS
DOB
: 1/5/90
Height/Weight: 5’11/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Cuba, 2009
2011 Stats: .235/.285/.269 at AAA (101 G); .333/.333/.333 at MLB (10 G)
Tools Profile: Drool-worthy defense.

Year in Review: Future Gold Glove candidate ended the year with major concerns about his bat.
The Good: The rarest 80 grade in scouting is that of shortstop defense, but some scouts have put just that on Iglesias's glove. He makes every play look easy with outstanding instincts, perfect fundamentals, and a plus arm, while also being capable of highlight reel plays every night. He makes consistent contact at the plate and hits left-handers well.
The Bad: One scout dubbed Iglesias “Rey Ordonez 2.0” due to his remarkable defense and consistently weak contact at the plate. He has almost no power and will never be a big base-stealer, so a more patient approach would help his cause.
Ephemera: In 624 professional at-bats, Iglesias's lone home run occurred on August 26 of last year when he hit one to left field against Scranton right-hander Adam Warren.
Perfect World Projection: Everyday shortstop with just enough bat to hit ninth.
Fantasy Impact: For masochists only.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Red Sox don't have a shortstop of the future for now, but they hope another year at Triple-A will kick start Iglesisas’s bat, if only a little.
ETA: Late 2012.

11. Sean Coyle, 2B
DOB
: 1/17/92
Height/Weight: 5’8/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010, Germantown Academy (PA)
2011 Stats: .247/.362/.464 at A (106 G)
Tools Profile: Impressive bat and power in a very small package.

Year in Review: Third-round pick got better as the season wore on.
The Good: Coyle is the kind of player who grows on scouts. Short and stocky, he has the mindset and swing of a slugger six inches taller and fifty pounds heavier. He has advanced pitch recognition and an explosive swing the incorporates every inch of his frame, generating shocking power than resulted in more than half of his hits going for extra bases. He's a slightly above-average runner and had a seamless transition to second base, where he profiles as an above-average defender.
The Bad: Coyle is the type of player who will need to prove it at every level. He swing doesn't look like it should work, and although he'll likely never hit for a high average, you can't argue with the results,.
Ephemera: Of Coyle's 30 hits in May and June of 2011, 21 went for extra bases, as he had nine singles, 13 doubles, five triple, and three home runs.
Perfect World Projection: Offense-oriented second baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Makes up for a somewhat low batting average by filling up other categories in rare ways for an up-the-middle player.
Path to the Big Leagues: Coyle will move up to High-A Salem in 2012.
ETA: 2015.

The Sleeper: A 25-year-old signed out of the independent leagues, six-foot-seven right-hander Chris Martin throws downhill in the 90s with heavy sink and projects, for many scouts, as a future middle reliever.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Xander Bogaerts, SS
2. Ryan Kalish, OF
3. Brandon Jacobs, OF
4. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
5. Ryan Lavarnway, C/DH
6. Blake Swihart, C
7. Bryce Brentz, OF
8. Matt Barnes, RHP
9. Garin Cecchini, 3B
10. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP

The Red Sox are an older team, but that's well known. After years of comparing Kalish to Josh Reddick while the two rose through the system together, the Sox are now left with just one of them after dealing Reddick to Oakland in the Andrew Bailey deal. Don't be shocked if all of the Ryan Sweeney/Cody Ross talk is for naught and Kalish gets the majority of the at-bats at the position once he’s recovered from shoulder surgery and rejoins the team in the second half.

Summary: Graduations, trades, and some disappoints have the Boston system down a bit, but it remains a deep one that is loaded with potential.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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