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January 6, 2014

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects

by Jason Parks

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Prospect rankings primer
Last year's Red Sox list

The Top Ten

  1. SS Xander Bogaerts
  2. CF Jackie Bradley, Jr.
  3. 3B Garin Cecchini
  4. RHP Matt Barnes
  5. LHP Henry Owens
  6. C Blake Swihart
  7. RHP Allen Webster
  8. 2B Mookie Betts
  9. C Christian Vazquez
  10. LHP Trey Ball

1. Xander Bogaerts
Position: SS
DOB: 10/01/1992
Height/Weight: 6’3” 185 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2009, Aruba
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org), #12 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .250/.320/.364 at major-league level (18 games), .284/.369/.453 at Triple-A Pawtucket (60 games), .311/.407/.502 at Double-A Portland (56 games)
The Tools: 6+ potential hit; 6+ potential power; 6 arm; 5 glove

What Happened in 2013: Bogaerts crushed in two upper-level stops before arriving at the major-league level, where the (now) 21-year-old made his presence felt in the regular season before blossoming under the bright lights of the postseason.

Strengths: Great hands and coordination; easy, fluid swing; shows bat speed and bat control; projects to hit for both a high average and game power; advanced approach; instincts enhance profile at short; arm is plus.

Weaknesses: Defensive profile at short is average; actions can get stiff; range isn’t ideal because of fringe run, but plays up because of instincts and good first step; over-the-fence pop still immature.

Overall Future Potential: 7; all-star level player

Realistic Role: 6; first-division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; achieved major-league level

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Bogaerts is ready, willing and able to be one of the next great middle infielders in the fantasy realm. Even without the ability to add much value on the bases (he’s 17-for-33 on the basepaths in his minor-league career), he can provide Troy Tulowitzki-type value everywhere else. A potential .300 hitter with 25-plus homers and potentially huge RBI totals is a special player, and makes Bogaerts the top fantasy prospect in baseball.

The Year Ahead: Bogaerts has the type of profile to develop into a star, a middle of-the-diamond defender with a high-upside bat capable of producing a high average and game power. The makeup is insane, and any setback or failure on the field won’t derail or dissuade his progression toward his ultimate goal. Adjustments will be necessary after the book on Bogaerts is passed around, but his feel for the game and speed of adaptation will allow him to thrive at the highest level despite his inexperience and age.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2013

2. Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Position: CF
DOB: 04/19/1990
Height/Weight: 5’10” 195 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, University of South Carolina, (Columbia, SC)
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org), #27 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .189/.280/.337 at major-league level (37 games), .275/.374/.469 (80 games)
The Tools: 6+ glove; 6 arm; 5+ potential hit

What Happened in 2013: After a strong spring, Bradley unexpectedly made the Red Sox out of camp, but struggled with the stick against major-league arms and failed to establish himself as a permanent fixture on the 25-man roster.

Strengths: Plus-plus instincts in the field; plus arm, with carry and accuracy; glove is a 7; range plays up because of good reads/routes; quick path to the ball; easy swing that produces hard contact; advanced approach; tracks well; big makeup.

Weaknesses: Lacks an impact bat; hit tool more solid-avg than plus; struggles against good arm-side stuff; power will play well below average; speed is average at best.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; achieved major-league level

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Bradley is a cookie-cutter example of someone who is far more interesting in real life than fantasy. At his best, he could be a top-of-the-order hitter who gets on base at a very good clip and scores a bunch of runs without providing much value in the other three categories. From a fantasy viewpoint, that sounds an awful lot like Denard Span. He gets a bump up in on-base percentage leagues.

The Year Ahead: Bradley isn’t a flashy player, and he’s not going to show pole-to-pole range, flash game-changing speed on base, or force pitchers to work around him at the plate. But he’s going to get the job done at a premium position, and with an advanced approach and a good swing, he’s going to prove to be a tough out, even if he’s a down-the-lineup bat. This is an instinctual player of the highest order, and once he finds his rhythm at the plate, you can chisel his name on the lineup card for the next decade.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2013

3. Garin Cecchini
Position: 3B
DOB: 04/20/1992
Height/Weight: 6’2” 200 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 4th round, 2010 draft, Alfred M. Barbe HS (Lake Charles, LA)
Previous Ranking: #6 (Org)
2013 Stats: .296/.420/.404 at Double-A Portland (66 games), .350/.469/.574 at High-A Salem (63 games)
The Tools: 6+ hit; 5 potential power; 6 arm; 5 potential glove

What Happened in 2013: After a strong full-season debut in 2012, Cecchini took a big step forward in 2013, crushing the Carolina League before earning a promotion to Double-A, where the bat continued to impress.

Strengths: Excellent hand/eye coordination; natural bat-to-ball skills; hit tool could end up well above average; line-drive stroke; advanced approach; arm is plus; glove could play to average; good makeup/instincts.

Weaknesses: Game power yet to arrive; struggles to create backspin on the ball; can struggle against quality secondary stuff; fringe run; lacks above-average defensive profile at third.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; 66 games at Double-A level; mature offensive skill-set.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Thankfully, Cecchini’s 2013 was more representative of his potential for fantasy than his career up to that point. His 63 stolen bases in only 150 games during his first two seasons were a hint of something that was never to come, but the average/on-base skill driven value his most recent stat line hinted at is a more realistic outcome. Cecchini is not an impact fantasy player, and that will be only further cemented if he has to move to the outfield.

The Year Ahead: Polarizing prospect in scouting circles, as some see an impact bat at third base--a future .300 hitter with 20-plus home run pop—while others see a solid-average type—good average and on-base skills, but limited game power and a better fit for an outfield corner. A disappointing season from the incumbent Middlebrooks opens the door for Cecchini to force the issue with a strong spring and early run through Triple-A. But there are still questions about the 21-year-old’s profile, and until the game power starts to show its face, the questions about the offensive upside will persist.

Major league ETA: Late 2014

4. Matt Barnes
Position: RHP
DOB: 06/17/1990
Height/Weight: 6’4” 205 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
Previous Ranking: #3 (Org), #38 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: 0.00 ERA (5.1 IP, 3 H, 7 K, 2 BB) at Triple-A Pawtucket, 4.33 ERA (108 IP, 112 H, 135 K, 46 BB)
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 5+ potential CB; 5 CH

What Happened in 2013: In his Double-A debut, Barnes was solid but not special, showing off the big boy fastball and missing barrels, but failed to take the secondary stuff to the next developmental level.

Strengths: Excellent size; power arm strength; fastball is meaty offering; routinely works 93-96; touches higher when needed; arm-side life; curveball flashes knockout potential; mid-upper 70s with two-plane break and occasional late snap; shows some feel for fading changeup; projects as average offering.

Weaknesses: Below-average command; delivery can get out of whack; struggles to stay over and finish his pitches; fastball can flatten out; curveball can break too early and get big and visible; changeup lacks plus projection and isn’t a weapon.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; 24 starts at Double-A level

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The shine has certainly come off of Barnes’ star, but he still remains a very solid investment—especially in deeper leagues. The strikeouts (and wins, in turn) should be there, but pitching in the AL East could make his ratios less than stellar.

The Year Ahead: Barnes has more potential than he often shows; the young righty can get by with his superior fastball against inferior bats, but the secondary stuff only teases and rarely tantalizes. If he can bring it together—which several sources think will happen in 2014—Barnes has middle-of-the-rotation potential, with a plus-plus fastball that he can use to set up hitters for the plus curveball. The command needs work, and the curveball needs to find more consistency, but the ingredients are there for major-league success.

Major league ETA: 2014

5. Henry Owens
Position: LHP
DOB: 07/21/1992
Height/Weight: 6’6” 205 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, Edison HS (Huntington Beach, CA)
Previous Ranking: #7 (Org)
2013 Stats: 1.78 ERA (30.1 IP, 18 H, 46 K, 15 BB), 2.92 ERA (104.2 IP, 66 H, 123 K, 53 BB)
The Tools: 6 potential FB; 5+ potential CB; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2013: In his 20 starts in High-A, Owens started to live up to his first-round talent and the prospect world took note, but it wasn’t until his impressive six-start run in Double-A that the status really exploded.

Strengths: Long, lanky body; projectable; easy delivery; fastball is solid-average and can show more; works 89-92; touches 94+; good late life (arm-side); changeup is best secondary offering; good arm speed deception and action; curveball with plus shape; can flash above-average potential; good feel for pitching.

Weaknesses: Fastball can play down; pedestrian at times; needs to add strength to frame; command is below average; curveball can get too big and lack bite; changeup can get soft.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; limited experience in upper-minors.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: For my money, Owens is the arm you want in dynasty formats over the similarly ranked Barnes and Webster—though it’s admittedly close all around. His 11.4 career K/9 rate certainly shows his ability to miss bats, but he gives some of that potential value back in WHIP by walking too many batters—not too dissimilar from C.J. Wilson (if it all works).

The Year Ahead: Owens is going to pitch in the major leagues for a long time, but I don’t see a high-impact starter; rather, I see a back-end type capable of logging innings and keeping hitters off balance with a solid three-pitch mix. But the curveball that misses bats in the minors will struggle to do the same against major-league hitters, especially if the fastball command continues to play below average and doesn’t get the bats moving. But with added strength, more consistent fastball velocity, and more refined command, Owens could find his way to the middle of a major-league rotation.

Major league ETA: Late 2014

6. Blake Swihart
Position: C
DOB: 04/03/1992
Height/Weight: 6’1” 175 lbs
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, V Sue Cleveland HS (Rio Rancho, NM)
Previous Ranking: #5 (Org)
2013 Stats: .298/.366/.428 at High-A Salem (103 games)
The Tools: 6 arm; 5+ potential glove; 5+ potential hit; 5 potential power

What Happened in 2013: In his Carolina League debut, the switch-hitting catcher showed off his stick and his arm, slugging 112 hits in 103 games and throwing out 42 percent of would-be basestealers.

Strengths: Elite makeup; plus athlete; shows consistent swing mechanics from both sides of the plate; bat speed and barrel control; hit tool has above-average potential; mature approach; good gap pop; very good footwork behind the plate; plus arm; quick release for good pops; projects as plus defender.

Weaknesses: Will chase fastballs up; game power likely to play below plus; low-rider behind the plate (backside close to the ground) can shrink target size; still refining as a receiver.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; dual-threat development; yet to play at Double-A level

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Another catching prospect worth waiting for, Swihart has the potential to hit .280 with 15-plus homers. He also has the athleticism to steal 5-10 bases, which is just gravy from a catcher. He’ll never be the number one fantasy option at the position, but has the ability to be a starter in even the shallowest of formats.

The Year Ahead: Swihart has the type of makeup, work ethic, and physical skills to develop to his potential, regardless of the complexities of his dual-threat profile. The bat is solid, with a good approach, good hand/eye coordination and strength, and the defensive skill-set should be plus, with a strong arm, quick feet, and a high baseball IQ. Double-A will present a challenge for the 21-year-old, especially at the plate, where better arms can exploit his tastes for shoulder-level heat and force him to chase spin down and away. If he adjusts and the bat takes a step forward, his stock could really explode, as legit two-way catchers are the rarest breed found in baseball.

Major league ETA: Late 2015

7. Allen Webster
Position: RHP
DOB: 02/10/1990
Height/Weight: 6’2” 190 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 18th round, 2008 draft, McMichael HS (Mayodan, NC)
Previous Ranking: #4 (Org), #69 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: 8.60 ERA (30.1 IP, 37 H, 23 K, 18 BB) at major-league level,
The Tools: 7 FB; 6 CH; 5+ SL

What Happened in 2013: While he proved to be quite hard to hit in his Triple-A debut, Webster found plenty of hard contact in his seven major-league starts, as the 23-year-old allowed seven home runs in only 30 innings of work.

Strengths: Good body; good arm strength; fastball is plus-plus offering; routinely works 94-96; touches higher; good vertical life; changeup is plus; mid-80s with arm speed deception and sink; slider flashes wipeout potential at times; sharp in the 84-86 range; shows an upper-70s curveball; competitive/aggressive approach.

Weaknesses: Below-average command; struggles to repeat delivery/release points; tendency to work up and flatten out; slider can get slurvy and lose bite; arsenal can get too firm; curveball more for show and sneak.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever (setup)

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; achieved major-league level

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Webster would be a more attractive proposition if he had a better chance of avoiding a career in the bullpen. He has the stuff to get above-average strikeouts in a starting role, but as his major-league numbers showed, Webster has a lot of work to do in order to not drown you with his ratios. He has the highest fantasy upside of the big three arms in this system, but also carries the most risk.

The Year Ahead: Webster has all the components of a very good starting pitcher, but when he fails to locate his fastball, he struggles to get back into counts and loses the effectiveness of his bat-missing secondary stuff, which is often best deployed out of the zone. Sources are mixed on his future role, but the louder chorus is coming from the reliever camp, where the arsenal depth and intensity could make him a very good late-innings arm, even if the command remains fringy.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2013

8. Mookie Betts
Position: 2B
DOB: 10/07/1992
Height/Weight: 5’9” 156 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2011 draft, John Overton HS (Brentwood, TN)
Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: .341/.414/.551 at High-A Salem (51 games), .296/.418/.477 at Low-A Greenville (76 games)
The Tools: 6 run; 5+ arm; 6 potential glove; 6 potential hit

What Happened in 2013: In his full-season debut, Betts destroyed A-ball pitching across two levels and finished the year in the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League, where he continued to show off his hit tool and mature approach.

Strengths: Plus athlete; plus instincts; excellent hand/eye coordination; well above-average pitch recognition skills; shows bat control and ability to use all fields; plus potential hit; easy plus runner; plus-plus range at 2B; glove projects to plus; arm is strong enough to make all the throws.

Weaknesses: Limited size; power likely to play well below average; questions about timing/balance in swing against better stuff (getting front foot down); good actions and hands on defense, but still finding familiarity with position.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; above-average regular

Realistic Role: Low 5; fringe-average major-league regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; yet to play at Double-A level

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The stat line is sexy, and his fantasy potential is only a slightly lesser version of said sexiness. The average/speed combination is attractive at such a shallow position and when you add potential 10-homer pop, there’s Jean Segura-lite potential here.

The Year Ahead: Sources are mixed on Betts, despite his impressive run through the A-ball levels and a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League; some see an impact player on all sides of the ball, with a plus hit, plus approach, plus run, and plus defensive chops at second base, while others see more of a utility profile, a catalytic player that doesn’t have enough offensive punch to profile as a regular. Double-A will be a huge test for the catalytic player, a level that often exposes players for what they really are (or what they are likely to become).

Major league ETA: 2015

9. Christian Vazquez
Position: C
DOB: 08/21/1990
Height/Weight: 5’9” 195 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 9th round, 2008 draft, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, PR)
Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: .000/.250/.000 at Triple-A Pawtucket (1 game), .289/.376/.395 at Double-A Portland (96 games)
The Tools: 7 arm; 6+ potential glove; 5 potential hit

What Happened in 2013: In his second pass in Double-A, Vazquez’s bat started to show signs of life, a promising progression to go along with his already highly impressive defensive profile.

Strengths: Plus-plus arm strength; quick release and accurate; good footwork and movements behind the plate; good receiver; well above-average defensive potential; has some pop in the stick; tracks well with good approach.

Weaknesses: Can get too aggressive with the arm; hit tool could play below average; struggles against velocity and quality secondary stuff; some pop but doesn’t much project for much over the fence power.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; high-end defensive skill set; Double-A experience.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: I saw Vazquez throw out both of the batters who tried to steal against him when I saw him in Trenton this past April. That’s about as positive of a comment as I can make in regards to his fantasy value in this space. He doesn’t have the bat to warrant a roster spot in dynasty leagues.

The Year Ahead: The defensive profile is better than people realize, with a plus-plus arm, a quick release, good receiving skills, and improving footwork and blocking ability. That’s Vazquez’s meal ticket, and regardless of the bat, will eventually give him a career at the major-league level. But if the bat shows some life and he can prove to be a tougher out than his projections suggest--even in a down-the-lineup capacity--the overall profile could make him a first-division player because of the impact potential of his defense.

Major league ETA: 2015

10. Trey Ball
Position: LHP
DOB: 06/27/1994
Height/Weight: 6’6” 185 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, New Castle Chrysler HS (New Castle, IN)
Previous Ranking: NA
2013 Stats: 6.43 ERA (7 IP, 10 H, 5 K, 6 BB) at complex level GCL
The Tools: 6+ potential FB; 6+ potential CH; 5+ potential CB

What Happened in 2013: Ball was selected seventh overall in the 2013 draft, a two-way talent that brings more upside on the mound thanks to his high-end projection.

Strengths: Highly projectable body; very long and lean; plus athlete; delivery is smooth and easy; arm action is very impressive; fastball has late jump in the upper-80s/low 90s; projects to easy plus; changeup receives high marks for deception and action; could be difference maker pitch; curveball already shows average and projects to be an above-average offering.

Weaknesses: Long developmental road ahead; needs to add strength/muscle to frame; adjust to pitching full time; improve fastball and fastball command; curveball is still underdeveloped.

Overall Future Potential: High 6; no. 2 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; limited professional experience.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Unlikely to crack the top 15 in my 2013 dynasty league rankings despite being a top-10 pick, Ball is a high-upside starter with a long, long ways to go. It’s too early to know what he’ll become from a fantasy standpoint, but if he does become a lefty with a plus fastball and plus change, the strikeouts will come.

The Year Ahead: Ball has the type of physical projection to dream on, with a plus potential arsenal from an ultra-athletic and easy delivery and release. In his first full season, you will see a heavy dose of fastball action to build up arm strength and establish command, so the results might not match the hype, at least initially. But once the full arsenal comes together, which already includes a very good changeup, Ball will start to miss more bats and start to blossom as a pitching prospect.

Major league ETA: 2017

Prospects on the Rise:
1.
CF Manuel Margot: You can make a case that the 19-year-old Dominican already belongs in the top 10 in this system, with an above-average defensive profile in center field and impact speed. The bat still has question marks and Margot lacks high-end offensive upside, but the overall profile could be a first-division player, and with a stoing full-season debut in 2014, he could find himself in the top 10 without much debate.
2. IF Rafael Devers: One of the sweetest swings I’ve ever seen from a 16-year-old, Devers was highly impressive when I saw him in a Dominican showcase last January, with the type of bat speed that you just can’t teach. It’s not hyperbole to compare the swing to that of Robinson Cano, although the overall athleticism and defensive projection leaves a lot to be desired. But this kid can absolutely hit the baseball, and if he shows that offensive prowess at the complex level in 2014, he should climb prospect lists and start to emerge as a national name.
3. 2B Wendell Rijo: Rijo suffered a substantial knee injury before signing in the J2 window in 2012, which impacted his debut season, although, the then-17-year-old still showed off his natural bat-to-ball ability at the complex level. The swing and setup are a bit unorthodox, but the toolsy Dominican makes it work, and if he continues to hit in the New York-Penn League, the now healthy second baseman could really step forward as a prospect. I really like this kid.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2014)
1. RHP Anthony Ranaudo: An injury-plagued 2012 depressed Ranaudo’s once lofty standing in the prospect world, but the former first-round pick got back on the right track in 2013, pitching his to Triple-A and logging a career high 140 innings. The ceiling isn’t as high as his hype, as the fastball can get flat and pedestrian and the secondary arsenal inconsistent, but the large 24-year-old righty still holds a back-end rotation projection and should contribute in some form to the major-league team in 2104.
2. RHP Brandon Workman: Former second-round pick in 2010, Workman’s progress has been slow and steady, and the former Longhorns starter finally reached the major-league level in 2013 and pitched in the World Series. The future role is still a subject of debate, with some seeing a capable starter while others prefer the 25-year-old as a seventh-inning reliever, a bridge arm with the potential to give you more than just a short-burst appearance.
3. OF Alex Hassan: Lacks impact potential or roster sex appeal, but Hassan could offer some value to a 25-man, thanks to his mature approach at the plate and strong arm in the outfield. You can suggest he makes pitchers work, which is a nice way of saying he doesn’t project to hit much against major-league pitching. But if the bat can play to average—to go along with the on-base skills—the 25-year-old could get a major-league look if injuries open the door for opportunity.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Younger (born 4/1/1988 or later)

  1. Xander Bogaerts
  2. Jackie Bradley, Jr.
  3. Will Middlebrooks
  4. Garin Cecchini
  5. Matt Barnes
  6. Henry Owens
  7. Blake Swihart
  8. Allen Webster
  9. Rubby De La Rosa
  10. Mookie Betts

With the direction of the franchise clearly back on track, Boston looks to another wave of talent to begin impacting and supplementing the roster as the existing core either moves on or enters the stages of decline. The choice for headlining this list was rather simple. Xander Bogaerts gave a glimpse of what he’s going to be able to accomplish in the bigs during this year’s playoff run that culminated in a World Series title for the Red Sox. Most impressive was the amount of poise the 21-year-old infielder showed in key situations on the biggest stage. Bogaerts enters 2014 with an inside track at manning one of the spots on the left side of the infield and beginning his journey as a regular. Expect the youngster to ramp into his major-league career, but things are going to be big over the long haul, with all-star games, 30-homer seasons, and .300 averages well within his sights.

As firm as Bogaerts is in the top slot, outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. has equal footing at no. 2. While the 23-year-old’s first foray against big boy pitching resulted in struggles, the bat should round into form with some adjustments and the defense has the chance to grade as the best at the position. The feel here is that Bradley proves as a more than adequate replacement for the departed Jacoby Ellsbury, though, the expectation should be it’ll take some time to reach the above-average level.

The actual decisions began with the third slot. Third baseman Garin Cecchini rose to Double-A and showed the profile of a potential major-league regular, but I see the ceiling as a bit limited and the projection as an average regular. While Will Middlebrooks scuffled in 2013, the combination of right-handed power and plus defense at the hot corner carried him at no. 3. Middlebrooks has the chance to be the more volatile of the players due inconsistencies with his approach that drives streakiness, but Cecchini faces questions on ultimate position and whether the bat will play up enough at a corner outfield slot. My feel says the 25-year-old Texan ends up the better overall player.

Pitchers Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, and Allen Webster follow in slots five through seven. Each arm gives the organization a nearer-term option for either the rotation or bullpen. Though Barnes experienced resistance in Double-A this past year he checks in as the top arm in the system and on this list. 2014 will be a chance for the right-handed starter to show more consistency with his secondary stuff, while operating more frequently in the lower tier of the strike zone with his fastball. Those adjustments can carry Barnes to the parent club when a need arises during the summer. Webster made some starts for the big club in 2013 with lackluster results, but has the stuff to get good hitters out if he can show growth with pitchability. The ultimate path may lead to the later innings. The 21-year-old left-handed starter Henry Owens is sandwiched between. Owens showed growth at two levels last season and will be tasked with proving his arsenal has what it takes to get hitters in the upper minors out consistently, which would bring a projection of a mid-rotational starter more into focus.

The list finishes with prospects Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts bookending 24-year-old pitcher Rubby De La Rosa. Swihart’s been on the slow and steady progression the last two seasons, and will make the jump to Double-A this coming year. There was considerable improvement made by the catcher on both sides of the ball last year, and with some more progress can jump substantially on this list. Betts took a step forward last season, showing more comfort in his overall game and less indecision than during the previous year in short-season. De La Rosa represents a potential impact late inning arm for the Red Sox, with the coming season a chance to show the electricity behind his stuff can shock rather than jumpstart opposing hitters. –Chris Mellen

A Parting Thought: This is a very strong system, with an elite player up top, a hearty collection of depth with realistic major-league realities, and a lower tier of high-ceiling talent waiting in the wings for their chance to step up.

***

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Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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Related Content:  Boston Red Sox,  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor Leagues,  Top 10

41 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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AJ

Obligatory inquiry about Bogaerts' ability to stay at SS. I guess the question is: how long do the instincts and first step keep him up the middle before the speed/range dictates a move to the hot corner?

Jan 06, 2014 04:34 AM
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BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I still have doubts that he is a long-term shortstop; long-term being the next ten years. But he has proven to be better than I expected, and if he can maintain his athleticism, he should be able to stick around for a while. I get spoiled watching the likes of Lindor and Mondesi, so I often expect too much flash from a shortstop when solid will suffice.

Jan 06, 2014 05:54 AM
 
KerryFam4

More career value: Bogaerts or Puig?

Jan 06, 2014 05:03 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Bogaerts

Jan 06, 2014 05:51 AM
 
kimmel

That photo is of the Blue Jays' shortstop prospect Christian Vazquez rather than the Red Sox prospect, I'm pretty sure that's a Vancouver Canadiens' hat that he's wearing

Jan 06, 2014 05:27 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Fixed.

Jan 06, 2014 05:43 AM
 
oakiegu007

Cecchini has no impact in fantasy leagues? He sure as heck does if you play in an OBP league! :)

Jan 06, 2014 05:35 AM
rating: -1
 
Behemoth

Indeed. As the article says, "the average/on-base skill driven value his most recent stat line hinted at is a more realistic outcome"

Jan 06, 2014 06:03 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bret Sayre
BP staff

That comment was not referring to his fantasy usefulness--Cecchini certainly can be plenty useful--it was refering to his lack of impact. I like him to be a solid all-around contributor, but don't see him as a fantasy star.

Jan 06, 2014 10:12 AM
 
crile2
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#rig

Jan 06, 2014 05:43 AM
rating: -6
 
jj0501

I was interested to see Middlebrooks ahead of Cecchini Which do you think stays long term in Boston, if either ?

Jan 06, 2014 05:58 AM
rating: 0
 
tonynelson19

Would Devers crack the top 10 of a lesser system (Angels? Brewers?) despite his lack of professional experience? Is it too soon to put an Overall Future Potential grade on him?

Jan 06, 2014 06:02 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

I'd want to see him in more game action against professional competition before putting an OFP on him. I only watched a few days of workouts and games before he signed, and I really liked it. The swing is pretty; great hands and fluid, easy mechanics. But I would want to see a larger sample before assigning grades that I felt comfortable standing behind.

Jan 06, 2014 06:08 AM
 
tonynelson19

What position is he? Hot corner?

Jan 06, 2014 08:14 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

It wasn't pretty at second; third should work, but again, my sample with the player is small. He's already grown [physically] since he signed, and with professional instruction, he should find some level of fielding refinement. It's too early to say, but I highly doubt second base is a realistic future home.

Jan 06, 2014 08:27 AM
 
tjco1006

Just how impressive is the bat speed in regards to Devers? Are we talking Frazier or Baez level?

Jan 07, 2014 22:25 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Nick Faleris
BP staff

For those that haven't seen it, we posted a video at the BPProspectTeam YouTube page of a 16-pitch Devers at bat from a showcase I attended last January:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_PVV7fgAq8

Jan 06, 2014 06:14 AM
 
bhart408

Was Jon Denney considered for the prospects on the rise section? Seemed like a steal for the Sox in the 3rd round. Interested to know if you think his bat could force a move off catcher down the line.

Jan 06, 2014 07:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Was absolutely in the running. I'm high on him.

Jan 06, 2014 07:57 AM
 
jedjethro

Group! Issue two: Travis Shaw. Player? Not a player? Discuss.

Jan 06, 2014 08:31 AM
rating: 1
 
organizedfamine

Thanks for the list, this is great. I have a couple questions if you don't mind.

Is Garin Cecchini perhaps being a tad underrated because one of his best skills (plate discipline) isn't a traditional scouting tool? There appears to be a large focus on his lack of power for a third baseman. And is Middlebrooks perhaps a tad overrated for the same reason?

Has anyone seen Luis Diaz at all (perhaps when scouting Betts?). He put up some very impressive numbers last year, mostly pitching in the Sally League, but there is very little information on him and the information available is often conflicting. Was wondering if he's interesting at all.

And last but not least, any thoughts on Dalier Hinojosa? Or is there just not enough information out there?

Thanks again, enjoy the new year!

Jan 06, 2014 08:32 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Plate discipline is observed/acknowledged when scouting a player, despite the fact its not one of the five tools. Approach is multi-faceted, with components such as tracking and recognizing pitches and knowing the strikezone and controlling it. A good approach can elevate the utility of the hit/power tools, and plays a role when evaluating those elements both in the present and future.

Personally, I think Cecchini gets overrated at times because of his minor league numbers, namely his on-base percentage. While I think its a positive skill to possess and one that can not only help put him in friendly offensive situations at the plate but offer another dimension to his overall offensive game, I think it can disguise some of the present limitations in his game, like playable power, which does affect his value as a prospect and his projection as a major league player. Some people see his OBP and get weak in the knees over his value, but his lack of power and average at best defensive profile at third base stand out for me and drop his stock as a result.

Jan 06, 2014 09:10 AM
 
organizedfamine

Understandable. Thank you for the response.

Jan 06, 2014 09:48 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Chris Mellen
BP staff

Agree with Jason's overall assessment above.

One thing to note, and put aside the underrated or overrated discussion, is that Garin Cecchini's placement as the no.3 prospect in this system is a very strong vote of confidence. He's behind two prospects, in Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, that are Top 25 prospects in the game, and ahead another group of players in Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, and Allen Webster that have strong big league potential in some capacity or another.

Jan 06, 2014 10:05 AM
 
organizedfamine

Thank you for your response as well Chris. I appreciate you guys taking the time to address the question.

Jan 06, 2014 10:32 AM
rating: 0
 
jedjethro

So ... this makes him the third-best prospect of a "very loaded system?" Ouch.

Jan 07, 2014 06:53 AM
rating: -2
 
jrcookson

I'm also curious about Luis Diaz. He had the best numbers in the system over the second half of the season. Is he considered a prospect to watch or are the numbers better than the projection?

Jan 06, 2014 10:43 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

He's a prospect in the sense that he has a major league projection; although most likely as a middle-reliever or perhaps a back-end starter if he maxes out. Lacks crazy impact stuff, but has good pitchability. Probably not going to be a big bat-misser against more advanced competition; relies on low-90s fastball that can touch higher; shows slider average and fringe change as well.

Jan 06, 2014 10:58 AM
 
newsense

Care to put a grade on Bradley's speed or baserunning?

Jan 06, 2014 10:56 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Average speed; can play up in the outfield (range) because of his quick reactions and quality reads. Bradley is a heady player, so I think his base running will improve with more experience; should be at least average in that regard, if not better.

Jan 06, 2014 11:03 AM
 
cpaddock

Any of the other young, upside arms stand out more than others, or just sort intrigued you or Mellen? Thinking of guys like Stankiewicz, Buttrey, Callahan, Mercedes, Romero, McGrath, Kukuk, Amonte . . .

Jan 06, 2014 16:47 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Chris Mellen
BP staff

Ty Buttrey and Jamie Callahan stand out a little bit more to me out of those names you listed. Both are raw and have a ways to go in terms of development, but if you let it marinade you can see it down the road.

Callahan's fastball is just ok - nothing special though. The fact that it straightens out in the low-90s when above the middle of the thighs is a little tough for me. He's young and has physical growth in front of him, but it comes down to how much better the fastball can get. He's one of those arms that can look a lot different at 22-23 years-old.

Buttrey was hit or miss in terms of scouting all year. Really depended on when you saw him. He has the frame/body and feel, but the stamina needs a lot of work and there isn't much consistency with his finish. Put it in perspective: He's less than a year younger than Henry Owens and three levels below him. Owens was crude his first year as a pro and has made good progress in a relatively short amount of time, but the stuff had a certain look out of his hand. Buttrey is also crude and has the potential for stronger gains with the consistent throwing in a structured program, but the stuff was bland coming out of his hand when I saw him.

Jan 06, 2014 19:09 PM
 
cpaddock

Great stuff. Thanks for the reply, Chris.

Jan 06, 2014 19:39 PM
rating: 0
 
Nater1177

Not sure if JP and CM are still monitoring, but was wondering if Owens motion was that of a 'long strider' so to speak. It seems is velocity plays up more than the gun indicates. And I was thinking if it were possible that on top of his substantial height he was striding closer to the plate than 'normal' and as such a 91FB might play closer to 93 in terms of the reaction time a hitter had?

Jan 07, 2014 08:15 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

In my viewing of Owens last summer, I wasn't overly impressed with his stride, especially given his length. Luke Jackson (pitching for Myrtle Beach) had a longer stride on the night (based on mound divots), despite being at least four inches shorter. Owens' FB was pedestrian that night, working 89-92 most of the night, and the ball didn't appear to have much late jump to it. Because of his length and extension potential, the FB has a chance to play up, but blowing a 90 mph FB (that looks 92-93 MPH) by a High-A hitter is an easier task than blowing the same pitch by a major league hitter.

Jan 07, 2014 08:24 AM
 
BP staff member Chris Mellen
BP staff

Owens' fastball velocity tends to yo-yo. Like Jason, I have had him in the 89-92 range for an outing and then seen him again when it is a lot of 92s and 93s, with a 94 top. I think it comes down to the consistent execution of his delivery to live in the latter range.

Owens also tends to hide the ball well where it isn't an overly long look at his pitches like say Anthony Ranaudo as an example. Whether that holds in the bigs remains to be seen as they figure things out quickly, but right now it works in his favor.

In terms of stages of development, he reminds me of Felix Doubront at this point. Both had fastballs that tended to yo-yo for velocity, solid feel for a changeup, and curves that tended to get loopy. Doubront's body composition was different though and I don't think Owens will quite physically mature like him. Doubront's curve grew a lot from Double-A to now, and I think Owens' can do the same. Don't take the comparison for ceilings, career paths, etc, but for similar characteristics at the same stage.

Jan 07, 2014 10:08 AM
 
SlappyMcBluelips

Is McGrath worth a follow or is he an NP?

Jan 07, 2014 09:17 AM
rating: 0
 
crile2

Is it me or does it seem pretty incredible that the only high risk player in a system this stacked was a 2013 pick and has barely played? Unless I'm overrating the 'moderate risk' label.

Jan 07, 2014 17:43 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Good observation. Most top tens feature numerous high risk (and possible high reward) types. The Red Sox top ten doesn't have nearly the risk of most farms without losing any of the impact reward. Pretty impressive and something to factor in when ranking the farm system.

Jan 08, 2014 05:29 AM
 
Digitalbob

In your opinion, who's a better stash in a 30 team Dynasty league? Manuel Margot or Francisco Mejia (Indians)...?

Jan 15, 2014 19:27 PM
rating: 0
 
SenatorsGuy

I think the Red Sox will be a very happy organization if Anthony Ranaudo keeps contributing at the age of 115. At the very least it gives all of us hope.

Mar 04, 2014 23:49 PM
rating: 0
 
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