As Red Sox Maineiacs did during the 2012 season, each month we will rate the Top 12 prospects in the Red Sox system. This list is the ranking as of the start of the season. Players are bound to go up and down the list as the year goes on. For example a year ago to begin the year, Anthony Ranaudo was #3 and Jackie Bradley, Jr. was out of the Top 12 at around 15. Here is the 2013 list for the beginning of the year.
1. Xander Bogaerts, SS- Portland. The unquestioned top prospect in the Sox system. And depending on which national rating service you read, Xander is around the fifth to twelfth best prospect in all of baseball. In 2012, Bogaerts split the season between Salem and Portland. His combined stats were 20-81-.307 (HR-RBI-BA) with an OBP at Salem of .378. After his recall to AA, he hit 5 of his homers and had an OBP of .351. Also, his defensive game improved greatly over 2011, to the point that many scouts now feel he can stay at shortstop in the bigs. Get to Hadlock Field as soon as you can to see Xander before he heads for AAA and beyond.
2. Jackie Bradley, Jr., OF- Boston, By now every member of Red Sox Nation knows all there is to know about JBJr. He did start the season with Boston, and has played acceptably well in the first 5 games. After an entire spring of will he or won't he break camp with the varsity, the next question is will he stay after Ortiz returns from injury and beyond. High OBP and outstanding defense are hallmarks of Jackie's game. If JBJr sticks in Boston he may graduate from the list sooner rather than later, as did last year's #2 RSM season opening prospect, Will Middlebrooks.
3. Allen Webster, SP- Pawtucket. The next three names on this list are all starting pitchers who are neck to neck to neck for the honor of top pitcher in the system. With an outstanding showing in Red Sox big league camp, Allen Webster nosed his way into third. One of two outstanding young pitchers acquired from the Dodgers in the Nick Punto trade last August, Webster will start 2013 with his first AAA experience. Webster pitched the last 1 1/2 years at AA with a dozen wins and 190 K's in 212 innings. Webster throws a fastball that reaches the upper 90's, and also has a lot of sink on his pitches. Webster needs a half season at AAA, at least, and "by June" according to a Sox official, Webster could be helping the Sox rotation.
4. Matt Barnes, SP- Portland. Before the Dodger deal, Barnes was the top pitching prospect in the system (and he may still be), based on his complete domination of the South Atlantic League at the start of 2012. At Greenville, Barnes had 5 starts and went 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA along with 42/4 K/BB ratio. Then promoted to high A Salem Barnes still pitched excellently but faded as he completed his first full pro season. The UConn product will start this year at Portland, and if he masters AA, he could reach Pawtucket or even Boston before the year is out.
5. Rubby de la Rosa, SP-Pawtucket. Here is the other jewel plucked from the Dodger's crown. De la Rosa is another hard thrower, who has hit 100 on the gun. He made his MLB debut in 2011, pitching 13 games, including 10 starts. He was 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA. But Rubby then underwent Tommy John surgery. The Sox are being cautious with his innings pitched while he completes his TJ recovery. His ceiling is a #1 starter, while others see him as a lights out closer in the bigs. He is another arm who could help this year's Sox squad.
6. Bryce Brentz, OF- Pawtucket. Due an unfortunate late off season accident, in which Brentz shot himself in the leg while cleaning his gun, he missed almost all of Red Sox training camp. He did get into a few games, and Bryce went 3 for 9 with a home run. Home runs are big part of the Brentz package. He is, with the possible exception of Bogaerts, the top power prospect in the system.. Brentz also has a strong throwing arm and profiles as a right fielder. In 2012, Brentz had a strong AA season at Portland with a line of 17-76-.296-.355. He was recalled to Pawtucket to play the last 5 games of the regular season uneventfully. But when the Pawsox drove to the Governor's Cup Championship, Brentz helped pace the way with a 8 for 24 with 6 XBH( 2 HRs) performance. With a fast start, Brentz could continue to follow the similar path through AA/AAA/MLB of Will Middlebrooks.
7. Henry Owens, SP- Salem. Here is a candidate to push up towards the top of this list by year's end. The tall lefty pitched his first pro season at Greenville last year, one year removed from high school. Owens was 12-5 with 130 strikeouts in only 101 innings, with only 47 walks. While his ERA was 4.87, many of the runs were given up in the last inning of his 22 starts. This fatigue factor can be expected to lessen in his second pro season and as he fills out his 6'6" 190 pound frame. This spring Owens had the whole Sox camp and media buzzing over a five inning Florida start. He fanned 13 of the 15 hitters he faced. According to one observer he "looked like a big leaguer pitching to high schoolers". Although Owens will not turn 21 until late July, with a strong performance at Salem, he could reach Portland by that July 21st birthday.
8. Blake Swihart, C- Salem Like Owens, Swihart only one year from high school, played his first full pro season at Grenville. Blake after a somewhat slow start. finished the year with a line of 7-53-.262-.307. Considered an outstanding offensive prospect when drafted in 2011, Swihart's catching game also improved as 2012 went along. Still many scouts feel a la Craig Biggio, that Swihart could end up as a second or third baseman in the majors. The Sox will certainly give him every opportunity to stay a catcher, and you can expect Swihart to spend the entire year at Salem.
9. Garin Cecchini, 3B- Salem. Cecchini is a player who has flown under the radar since the Red Sox drafted him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. After his high school junior season in Louisiana, he was considered a high first round pick the next year. But he missed his entire senior season with injury, causing him to drop to where the Sox grabbed him. His first pro season in Lowell also was cut short by injury. But in 2012 at Greenville, Garin broke out with a line of 4-62-.305-.394. Cecchini also stole 51 bases, although he is not a fast runner. He stole the bases with his very keen baseball instincts more than speed. When the Sox future third base jam with Middlebrooks and Bogaerts is debated, Cecchini is not in the conversation. With a strong 2013 Cecchini can begin to push into that discussion.
10. Deven Marrero, SS- Salem Last year's first round draft pick has jumped from his pro debut in Lowell to high A ball with Salem. He was expected to go in the top ten picks of the 2012 draft, but he fell to 24 where Boston happily grabbed him. The Arizona State product batted 2-24-.268-.358 and also had 24 stolen bases. Marrero is a very strong defensive shortstop, who all the scouts feel will stay at SS in the bigs. With his major college experience, Deven could rise quickly in the Sox system, and insert himself into the all ready crowded shortstop equation ( Iglesias, Bogaerts, et al).
11. Jose Iglesias, SS -Boston ( Pawtucket?) The enigma of the Red Sox system. Will he or won't he? Of course that question refers to can Jose hit big league pitching? Everyone knows by now that Iglesias is in the Ozzie Smith/Omar Vizquel class of defensive shortstop. In other words, Iglesias could
be in the discussion for the greatest defensive shortstop of all time. But he failed completely in a late season audition in Boston, hitting .118. This spring however, after working out with Dustin Pedroia last winter, his hitting took a major step forward. That is only spring training, and after beginning 2013 in Boston he hit over .500 in the first four games. Small Sample Size Warning. It seems Jose has been on the radar forever, but he is only 23( about 4 months older than JBJr, for example.) Stephen Drew is the shortstop for now in Boston, but for no longer than this year. If Iglesias goes to AAA and hits the way he has so far this spring, he will be the Boston shortstop sooner rather than later. If not ?????
12. Ryan Lavarnway, C- Pawtucket After graduating Lavarnway off this list in late 2012, he returns due to his return to AAA. 2013 is likely a make or break year for Lavarnway. He began in the Sox system in 2008 with a reputation of all hit no field. And hit he did as he rose to AAA. However last year, he was actually selected as the best defensive catcher in the International League. But now he has stopped hitting. After hitting 34 home runs at Portland/Pawtucket/Boston in 2011, Ryan had only 8 in AAA with 2 more for Bostonin 2012. Also with 153 AB's in Boston Lavarnway only hit .157. In 2013 he is back at Pawtucket and he must regain at least a portion of that power stroke or his days as a top Sox prospect will be over.
The following players are knocking on the door of the Top 12.
13. Brandon Workman, SP- Portland
14. Alex Wilson, RP- Pawtucket
15. Anthony Ranaudo, SP- Portland
16. Christian Vazquez, C- Portland
17. Brian Johnson, SP- Greenville
18. Brandon Jacobs, OF- Salem ( surprisingly did not start 2013 at Portland)
19. Drake Britton, SP- Portland
20. Brock Holt, INF- Pawtucket
We here at RSM celebrate the start of another Red Sox and minor league season. Check in here to track the progress of some of these kids and future Sox. And try to get out to a minor league game near you.