Reaping What You Sow: Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects

Top10

redsoxThe Boston Red Sox splurged in the 2010-2011 off-season in hopes of dominating the AL East and winning a World Series. They sent top prospects Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez, gave Gonzalez an extension, and then signed Carl Crawford to a big contract. That didn’t work out, however, as they collapsed down the stretch allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to take the Wild Card. Josh Reddick, now traded to the Oakland A’s, had the most impact from the system in the majors, but as I said, he’s gone now in exchange for Andrew Bailey.

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The most impressive part about the Boston farm system remains their ability to restock through the draft. Getting Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and a ton of other above-slot picks added more depth to a system that has seen a downturn in recent seasons. Barnes, Swihart, and Bradley will all be on the list, but while Owens isn’t on the list, that doesn’t mean he’s a bad prospect.

From the holdovers, Bogaerts had the most impressive season, and if he could remain at short, he’d be an elite prospect. Ryan Lavarnway had the next-best season, but even though he had an impressive offensive season, the improvements he made defensively were what really upped his prospect status. Being able to catch is a huge plus for Lavarnway. Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini also had nice seasons, giving the Red Sox some depth at the hot corner.

All of this together gives the Red Sox a deep system, but it’s not exactly a “great” system. It’s hard to explain. They have tons of depth, and choosing who went 6-13 was a real chore. But none of the prospects in that same group are like whoa, either. There’s certainly talent there, but as of right now, I don’t see enough talent in the system to really swing a major, major trade, unless they trade Bogaerts (something I don’t think they’d do) or Barnes (something they can’t do yet). By the trade deadline, however, they could be major players, make a deal or two, and still have a decent farm system. Then again, it’s so risky it could really suck by then, too. As I said, it’s just weird.

 

Outstanding

Xander Bogaerts       SS

Bats/Throws:      R/R

Height/Weight:      6’3/175

Age/Level:      19/High-A

Projection:      3-5 WAR

Bogaerts is a tremendous talent as he held his own in a half of a season in Low-A at age 18. He has plus power, and he could be a special bat. If he can stay at short, he’d be an elite talent, but there are concerns that the athleticism he has won’t keep him there as he grows. If he has to move to third, he has the arm and athleticism to be an above-average third baseman defensively. The major concerns now are how far away he is from the majors and that he still needs some polishing on his game. Bogaerts is 19 for all of 2012, though, so he is already well ahead of the curve.

 

 

Matt Barnes       SP

Bats/Throws:      R/R

Height/Weight:       6’4/205

Age/Level:      21/High-A

Projection:      2/3

Barnes has a nearly-perfect frame for a pitcher, and his arm action and delivery are exceptionally fluid. The only problem with that is he can’t repeat his mechanics very well, which can cause serious control problems. The nice thing is that Barnes is pretty young for a college draftee, and he’ll have a little time to work out the kinks. If he does, the stuff is fantastic with a mid-90s fastball that can hit 98 deep into games as well as an above-average to plus curveball and an average change-up. If he gets his control to be above-average like his delivery can look, he could be an ace, but for now, we’ll say he’s a mid-to-top rotation guy.

 

Good

Ryan Lavarnway       C

Bats/Throws:       R/R

Height/Weight:      6’4/225

Age/Level:       24/MLB or AAA

Projection:       2-4 WAR

The big question was whether or not Lavarnway could catch at the major-league level, and after making some significant improvements, he is now passable but still below-average defensively. Passable, however, works when you hit like Lavarnway does, and he sure can hit. A .284/.376/.521 career minor-league line is impressive for anyone, and if he can approach that in the majors, he’s essentially Mike Napoli. If the Red Sox put him behind the plate for 120 games a season, he’ll rack up more than the 3 wins a season Napoli racked up playing part-time.

 

Will Middlebrooks       3B

Bats/Throws:       R/R

Height/Weight:      6’4/200

Age/Level:       23/AAA

Projection:      2-4 WAR

Middlebrooks has steadily added power to his game, and he now seems capable of hitting 20+ home runs in the majors. He’s a decent hitter, but he’s still overly aggressive at the plate, leading to a poor K/BB ratio. At the corner, he’s an above-average third baseman with a strong arm, good hands, and solid reactions. While the plate discipline is still troubling, the power and the defense seem to be enough to make him a decent regular, and if he can improve to be average in the OBP department, he could be an All-Star.

 

Garin Cecchini       3B

Bats/Throws:       L/R

Height/Weight:       6’2/200

Age/Level:        21/High-A

Projection:        2-4 WAR

Cecchini was everything Boston wanted him to be this past season. Advanced for his age, Cecchini showed excellent plate discipline and coverage, and he even showed a good amount of pop. Defensively, he’s above-average as he moved from shortstop to third base, and he won’t have problems sticking at that position. While he’s certainly an impressive prospect, he also only played 32 games in Low-A. That obviously means there’s still a good amount of risk involved, but you have to like that he won’t require the same amount of development as other guys his age.

 

Blake Swihart        C

Bats/Throws:       S/R

Height/Weight:      6’1/180

Age/Level:      20/Low-A

Projection:      2-4 WAR

Swihart is pretty new to catching, but he already shows the potential to be a plus defender there. With a strong arm and athleticism, Swihart should be able to stick back there, but because of his ability with the stick, the Red Sox may be tempted to move him. And Swihart’s stick looks like it could be good enough to work at third base should they move him. He’s a switch-hitter with above-average power and a solid stroke from both sides. I can see why the Red Sox would be tempted to move Swihart in a Wil Myers-like fashion, but because of the glut of prospects the Red Sox have at third, I think it would be a waste.

 

Bryce Brentz       RF

Bats/Throws:       R/R

Height/Weight:      6’1/180

Age/Level:       23/AA

Projection:       2-4 WAR

Unlike most corner outfielders, Brentz will be able to give the Red Sox on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he has decent speed but a plus arm, and he should be an asset in right. Offensively, his main talent is his plus power, but he’s got a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, which causes some concern. It helps a prospect to have value offensively and defensively because, if something doesn’t work out as expected, they have something else to fall back on.

 

Anthony Ranaudo      SP

Bats/Throws:       R/R

Height/Weight:      6’7/231

Age/Level:      22/AA

Projection:      3/4

Thought to be a potential number one overall pick in 2010, Ranaudo fell because of a stress fracture in his arm, but he rebounded enough at the end to impress the Red Sox. He spent the beginning of the season rewarding the Red Sox for the risk, but inconsistencies in the second half after a promotion led to more skepticism. My take is that Ranaudo didn’t throw many innings last season and had some issues maintaining his durability and mechanics in his first full pro season. It’s concerning, but it’s not a reason to jump ship.

 

Jose Iglesias      SS

Bats/Throws:       R/R

Height/Weight:      5’11/175

Age/Level:       22/AAA

Projection:      2-4 WAR

When you’re the best defensive shortstop in the minors, you have value. Iglesias is a plus-plus defender with exceptional range and hands and a plus arm, and that alone will get him to The Show. The bat, however, is a different story. Playing in AAA as a 21-year old, Iglesias fell flat on his face while at the plate. He was never supposed to be great at the plate, but most believed he could hit enough to not be a black hole. Now, no one’s so sure. The only thing I think I know is that he was rushed, probably because of his defense, and he needs at least another year in AAA to work on the offense.

 

Jackie Bradley, Jr.      CF

Bats/Throws:       L/R

Height/Weight:        5’10/180

Age/Level:       22/High-A or AA

Projection:       2-4 WAR

Before needing wrist surgery, Bradley was looking to be a mid-first round pick, but the surgery and his slump before the surgery was enough to worry some teams. Bradley’s an above-average to plus center fielder, though he isn’t particularly fast, because of his routes and his plus arm. At the plate, he has above-average power and solid approach and hit tool. The question now is what that slump in college was all about. Was it the result of the bat change, or did the wrist bother him before needing surgery?

 

Big Question – Brandon Jacobs

I could see putting Jacobs as high as 6th on this list, but because of the depth built up, especially in the lower levels, he fell to 11th. Jacobs has undeniably monstrous power potential along with a solid hit tool and approach, but his bat will likely have to carry him. He’s pretty rough in left field, and he’ll have to stay there. The one thing that gets me is the 30 SBs. Jacobs isn’t particularly fast, but he does have some baseball acumen. Did he steal those bases because his speed increased (thus meaning that he could maintain high steal totals), or did he do it off pitchers and catchers not particularly adept at stopping the run? If he can maintain the speed, he has more value than my placement of him, but I’m just not convinced that he could do this at upper levels or in the majors.

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