We here at RSM rated the top 12 Red Sox prospects to begin the season, and have updated the rankings every month. With the minor league seasons now over ( except for the Paw Sox who begin the quest for the Governor's Cup tomorrow night as the International League finals begin in Rhode Island) we now bring our year end ratings of the Sox kids.
A couple of housekeeping notes, as we did with Will Middlebrooks earlier this year, we have graduated two players off the list: Junichi Tazawa and Ryan Kalish. Kalish was a close call, he could ( and maybe should) be still considered a prospect. But for now, he is not rated.
Another special note about an intriguing potential Sox newcomer, who actually is not yet property of Boston. This is of course, Rubby de la Rosa, the pitcher expected to be one of the two players to be named later coming from the Dodgers. Because he is not yet on the Boston roster and more importantly he is no longer rookie eligible in MLB due to his 13 games pitched for LA ( with 10 starts) in 2011, he is not ranked on this list. But a separate feature will appear later this fall when Rubby brings his love to town.
Here are the Boston Red Sox Top 12 prospects:
1. Xander Bogaerts- The numbers only tell a part of the story, although damned fine numbers they are. Bogaerts between Salem and Portland had 60 extra base hits, 20 of which were home runs. His combined BA was .305 with a OBP of .371. He moved to AA the last month or so of the season and did not skip a beat. Of course, the key part of the story is he put up those stats and easily transitioned to AA all at the age of 19. With his 2012 season, and with Boston's, Xander has likely shaved about a 1 1/2 years off his ETA to Boston. It is highly probable Bogaerts arrives in the bigs during next season. If he begins 2013 ( either at AA or AAA) with anything resembling 2012, and if Boston is partially or totally in a bridge year, he will be one of the first recalls ( although not the only candidate, as we see as we traverse the list). Bogaerts is the most outstanding prospect the Sox have had in a long time, and if he can make it by next year, he could still be playing shortstop although most scouts expect an eventual move to an infield or outfield corner.
2. Jackie Bradley, Jr.- This is the player who had the biggest breakout season, being ranked at 15 on our pre-season list. A 2011 draftee from Univ. of South Carolina, he began with what appeared to be an aggressive placement at high A Salem. Bradley absolutely dominated the Carolina League defensively and offensively. His most outstanding stat was a OBP that hovered around .500 during his entire stay. He was promoted to Portland in June, and started just as hot, before finally having a slump in late July, and finished the season with nagging leg injury. Because of his on base ability and A++ center field defense, Bradley also is a candidate to arrive in Boston next year. If Jacoby Ellsbury is traded this winter ( a very possible scenario) Bradley could be his successor with maybe another month or two at AAA first.
3. Matt Barnes- This is a very close nod over our #4 entrant. Barnes as expected in his maiden pro season, faltered somewhat the last month or so. But before that he wiped the South Atlantic League batters on the bottom of his cleats, and after a quick promotion to Salem, he did the same to the batsmen of the Carolina League until fatigue set in. Barnes struck out 133 batter in only 119 innings, and he walked only 29, about a 4.5 to 1 ratio. His WHIP combined for both seasonal stops was 1.05. Barnes will begin 2013 in Portland as the Red Sox prospect mostly likely to be a top of the rotation big league starter.
4. Allen Webster- One of the two prized jewels pried away from Magic Johnson and his merry men in LA ( the other being the aforementioned Rubby de la Rosa). Webster was ranked as LA's #2 prospect, but drops a couple of spots here due to our deeper system. Webster throws a ball that sinks, and due to that is often compared to Derek Lowe. But some scouts disagree, pointing out that Webster throws harder with a fastball that rides from 92-94 with an occasional 97. He is also considered to have a plus change, with average slider and curve. He is projected to be a mid to back end rotation starter. Webster will be 23 in February, and despite pitching in AA for all of 2012 ( including 2 Sea Dogs starts) could be nearly big league ready in part because he also started 17 games in AA in 2011.
Likely Webster starts next year in Pawtucket, but could have a shot at the Red Sox rotation right out of spring training.
5. Bryce Brentz- Brentz put up a very solid if not spectacular 2012 at Portland. He hit 17 home runs with 76 RBI and a BA of .273. He still was adjusting to hitting non-fastballs and from time to time struggled but always came back with another hot streak. With a week to go in the season, Brentz was promoted to AAA. He started slowly in the first 4 or 5 games, but came to life in a big way when the IL playoffs began. Bryce had an extra base hit in each of the four games of a Pawtucket 3-1 series win in the semis ( 2 doubles and 2 home runs). Because Brentz has big league power potential, is a right handed batter( a shortage in Boston in recent years), and has the arm and defensive ability to play right field, Brentz along with Bogaerts and Bradley could hit Beantown in 2013. As a matter of fact, I would bet Brentz gets there first of the three.
6. Ryan Lavarnway- After a solid, but less sparkling offensive season than in 2011, Lavarnway has not greatly advanced his case since being recalled to Boston last month. His play behind the dish has been acceptable but the expected power has not shown. Nevertheless at this point it looks like Lavarnway is part of the Boston catching answer for next year. Because there are so many other holes to fill, Boston could likely go into next year with Lavarnway and Salty as the catchers again.
7. Henry Owens- A 2011 draftee as a high school pitcher, Owens is another big riser on our list, #16 in the preseason. Owens at age 20 pitched an entire season at low A Greenville. His numbers included a 12-5 W/L with 130 K's. His ERA was his only poor number at 4.88, but many, many of the runs came in the last inning of starts as the youngster tired. Next season with an expected start at Salem, this will be one improvement to look for. Even at age 21 Owens could hit Hadlock Field before 2013 ends.
8. Blake Swihart- Another player whose ranking is elevated due to performing at level in which he is younger than most players in his league. Swihart, one year removed from high school ball at age 20, put up good numbers and caught regularly. Blake hit 7 HR's with 53 RBI while hitting .262. Swihart, who is often compared to Buster Posey, is probably 3 years away from Boston, but he is the long term catching solution. Unless, he hits so well the Sox move him from behind the dish, to get his bat to the bigs more quickly ( a la Will Myers of the Royals system).
9. Garin Cecchini- If anyone coming up through the system could eventually unseat Will Middlebrooks, this could be the guy ( unless Bogaerts does it ahead of him). The 2010 draftee, put together an outstanding first full pro season ( after 2011 at short season Lowell). He hit .305 with an OBP of .394 , including 46 extra base hits. Garin also showed off some of the best speed in the system with 52 stolen bases, being caught only 7 times. Some scouts believe he could play second base as well as his current third. If the Sox make a number of trades this winter as speculated, Cecchini could be a main chip.
10. Jose Iglesias- Another player who is not hitting while being tested in Boston this September. And everyone knows, if he hits he plays shortstop in the bigs for a decade of more. If not???. Despite some nagging injuries he did hit .266 at Pawtucket this year, that would be acceptable. Even though Jose is younger than it seems at 22, due to own lack of hitting and the fast charging Xander Bogaerts behind him, his grip on the Sox shortstop of the future is slipping, as did his ranking here ( from #5 pre-season).
11. Brandon Workman- The tall righty drafted in 2010 from UTexas is another fast riser on our rankings. Not ranked in the top 20 pre-season, Workman had a strong start to his season at Salem and pitched just as well after a promotion to Portland. His numbers are very similar to the highly regarded Matt Barnes.
Games IP W-L ERA K/BB WHIP
Barnes 25 119 7-5 2.86 133/29 1.05
Workman 25 138 10-8 3.50 130/25 1.10
Workman turned 24 last month and is likely to begin 2013 at AAA, and could pitch himself into the Red Sox picture by Memorial Day. A bit of a dark horse but with a strong college pedigree and strong minor league numbers, Workman could surpass some of his fellow prospects.
12. Deven Marrero- Marrero gets the last spot in our year end top 12, based on the fact he was this year's #1 draft pick and the numbers he put up at Lowell. His stats include hitting .269 with a couple of home runs. He also had an OBP of .361 and had an outstanding 24 bags stolen in 62 games. The Sox were surprised to be able to grab Devin because he was considered at top ten pick, but he slid into the 20's to Boston. Of course, in 2013 the Red Sox can grab a top ten pick all on their own.
Over the next few weeks here at RSM we will do write ups on another 2 or 3 dozen Sox prospects, the next report being the players who missed out on the Top 12. As a preview the next list includes Brandon Jacobs, Travis Shaw and a whole lot of pitchers.