Saturday, April 12, 2014

RSM Red Sox Top 20 Prospects- April Report

Another baseball season has commenced, major and minor leagues, and we here at RSM renew our rankings of the top kids in a very loaded Red Sox system. There are prospects who rate down in the 30s that would be in most of the other MLB team's top 12. Because of that depth we will rank a top 20 to begin the new season.

First a couple of housekeeping items.  We have decided to remove Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, Jr. from these rankings.  Different sources of prospect rankings define prospects differently and many still include these two.  To me Xander is a fixture in Boston and will never see AAA  again, and unless a roster crunch causes it, JBJr should be entrenched in the Boston outfield.  On the other side of the coin, after much deliberation, our rankings will include Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa, since they are both in the Pawtucket rotation and trying to earn their way back to Boston.  Again since De La Rosa is no longer rookie eligible and because of Workman's 2013 Boston performance some rankings do not include one or both of the pitchers.  We will for now.

In the initial 2014 rankings we will not overload you with stats.  If you would like to review their 2013 numbers, refer back to November 2013 and January 2014 for our off season top 50 rankings.  This list will mention some numbers from the very small sample size of 2014 and let you know where the players are assigned to begin the new year.  The number in brackets after the player and their team is the off season ranking.  One thing to remember about the winter rankings, Bogaerts and Bradley, Jr. were included as 1 and 2.  So any player who is at the identical ranking has actually been surpassed by two players, and moving up 2 spots is basically staying in place.  Let's get to it.

Top 20

1. Henry Owens, SP- Portland {4}- For some reason last winter I had not only the B Boys ahead of Henry but also Garin Cecchini.  Must have been the cold winter we just endured.  Owens finished last year at Portland impressively after dominating Class A Salem.  All he has done in his first two 2014 starts after returning to Portland, is twirl a no-hitter on Opening Night ( albeit a rain abbreviated 6 inning game) and in his second start Owens threw 6.2 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and no walks for his second win of the young season.  I urge all you Maineiacs to get yourself down to Hadlock Field when Owens is scheduled to pitch.  But you may want to plan the trip soon.  The only thing that could keep Henry at Hadlock beyond Memorial Day or so, is the fact Pawtucket has a prospect laden rotation already ( see below).  I suspect the Pawsox will find room for him.

2. Garin Cecchini, 3B- Pawtucket {3} The first interesting note about Garin is that he is beginning at Pawtucket.  He spent 66 games, about half a season at Portland in 2013, and there was an assumption made he would at least make another cameo at Portland to begin this season.  A strong showing in the big league camp took care of that assumption, and he is the starting third sacker in Pawtucket.  Due to his impressive Florida showing and red hot start at AAA ( hitting around .500), some fans expected to see Cecchini come up to Boston when Will Middlebrooks hit the DL last weekend.  John Farrell explained through the media, the team feels Garin needs more work on his defense and likely at least the same 66 games or so at AAA that he had at Portland last year.   The Red Sox Rubik's Cube of shortstop/third base will be fascinating to see unfold over the next year or so, hell maybe even this year.

3. Mookie Betts, 2B- Portland {10}It may hard to justify moving a player from 10 to 3 after just two weeks or so of a new season.  But upon further reflection of the 2013 Mookie had, and his red hot start in his first handful of AA games, he seems like someone to place your bets on (sorry).  In Mookie's first 17 ABs at Portland he is hitting .529 with a home run and three doubles.  With a glut of middle infielders (three of which are on this list), Betts will also get time at shortstop and DH.  One clue as to how high the Sox hold Betts may be if he also gets time in the outfield for the first time in his career.  Second base is quite spoken for in Boston, and therefore the fastest route to the big leagues may as a super utility guy who can hit and hit for power.

4. Blake Swihart, C- Portland {9} Another guy moving up substantially from the winter.  Swihart came out of 2011 draft as #26 overall with the reputation as a top rated hitting prospect.  But the young switch hitter has become so adept at catching that he was the Red Sox minor league defensive player of the year in 2013.  Boston has let Swihart play full seasons in each of the last two years, '12 at Greenville and last year at Salem with no mid year promotion.  So you can reasonably expect Blake to spend all of '14 at Hadlock Field. As your astute readers may have noticed three of our top four prospects are playing for the Sea Dogs.  As mentioned above, get yourself to Portland to see these guys, you will not be sorry.


5. Brandon Workman, SP( RP??)- Pawtucket  {5} Workman is the first of five names coming up on this list that are all in ( or will be when healthy) the Pawtucket rotation.  To be truthful, you could put the five names in a hat and rank them in the order drawn and not go wrong.  We rank Workman on the top of this pile because of what he has all ready proved at the big league level, including in the World Series no less. Workman would make a damned fine big league starter, but do not be surprised if his big league career is spent in Boston, he ends up in the bullpen.

6. Allen Webster, SP- Pawtucket {8}   Based on Webster's up and down performances with the big club in 2013, he is a lighting rod with Sox fans.  Some feel they have seen enough of him all ready, others think he will be only a reliever, and others feel his stuff is too electric not to come together soon.  For what it is worth, when asked in late spring training who was the most impressive young hurler in camp, John Farrell did not hesitate to say Allen Webster.

7. Matt Barnes, SP- Pawtucket* {6} Barnes is currently in extended  spring training after a little stiffness in spring training.  It is considered minor and Matt should be joining the Pawsox rotation sometime in April or at the latest, early May.  Barnes did not put up the raw numbers of the other pitching prospects in '13, but finished his maiden AA season strongly and pitched for Pawtucket in the Governor's Cup playoffs.  Barnes by missing the early weeks could need a whole year at AAA, but he also has the stuff to catch fire and get to Boston this year.

8. Anthony Ranaudo, SP-Pawtucket {7} Anthony resurrected his prospect stature with a stellar 2013 at Portland and Pawtucket erasing an injury marred, wasted 2012.  He did not standout at his first big league camp, and has been tagged in his first two starts at AAA in 2014.  This season could be make or break for the 24 year old righty, as far as a future with Boston.  He could end up as a trade chip if he puts up anything short of a sensational AAA campaign.

9. Christian Vazquez, C-Pawtucket {11} This receiver with the cannon of an arm could easily be ranked up around fifth ahead of all of the right handed pitchers.  Vazquez, who trains in off seasons with catching Molina brothers, has been declared by John Farrell as big league ready now defensively. His bat has always been the question, and last year at Portland, Vazquez began to answer those questions with a very solid offensive performance.  He hit a couple of home runs this spring for Boston in the Grapefruit League, and is off to a hot start at the plate for Pawtucket.  Vazquez has always been ranked as a secondary prospect at best.  But if he can hit at all, he may burst through his projected ceiling and approach Yadier Molina status.  If he cannot swing the lumber sufficiently, he is still a great defensive backstop, at least a solid backup.   It will be a tossup between Vazquez and the aforementioned Blake Swihart to see who is the Red Sox catcher for the next decade. Bet on one of them doing just that.

10. Rubby De La Rosa, SP- Pawtucket {13} The final member of the Pawtucket rotation to appear on the list. And the Pawsox starter off to the best start in two games pitched.  Rubby has gone six innings or more in both starts and has put up dominant numbers to begin his year.  The kid gloves are off De La Rosa now that he is another year removed from his Tommy John surgery.  This year will likely decide if Rubby is a big time starting prospect, a closer in the making, of just another guy.

11. Bryce Brentz, OF-Pawtucket {16}  RSM is still high on this power hitting corner outfielder, higher than most other rankings. He revived his status with a great Red Sox camp showing his power and strong outfield arm.  In the early going at Pawtucket, Brentz has made a handful of acrobatic catches in the outfield.   If the Sox outfield has any more injury issues going forward through 2014, Brentz may be the next call up.  We tried hard to get Bryce a top ten ranking, but there is just too damned much pitching ahead of him ( good problem to have).

12. Trey Ball, SP- Extended Spring Training {12}. The tall left hander Ball, with the exception of seven innings thrown in GCL last summer, has not really began his Red Sox minor league career.  But he gets this spot based on being the #7 overall pick in the 2013 draft, the first time the Sox had picked that high in 20 years (since picking Trot Nixon).   It was somewhat of a surprise Ball did not make the Greenville Low A staff out of spring training, but he expected to be assigned there in the weeks to come.

13. Deven Marrero, SS- Portland {14} The 2012 first rounder from Arizona State opened eyes all over the big league camp this spring with outstanding defense at shortstop.  Deven is just a notch or so below former Soxer Jose Iglesias with the glove. But also as with Iglesias, Marrero's bat is a question mark. In a late season call up to Portland last year Marrero only hit .236 in 72 at bats, after hitting .256 at Salem earlier in the  year.  But to start 2014 at Portland, Deven is off to a hot start hitting around .380 in the first few games.  Marrero so impressed this spring there was some talk of his beginning '14 at AAA. If he can anywhere near. 280 with a little pop for the Sea Dogs, he will be at Pawtucket by mid season.  Marrero is the final piece of the Rubik's Cube mentioned above under Cecchini's write up.  Marrero may be the one guy in the system, who could move Xander off shortstop.  Whether third would be available to Bogaerts depends on the future showings of Will Middlebrooks and/or Garin Cecchini.

14. Manuel Margot, OF- Greenville {15} This 19 year old centerfield speedster is playing for his first full season minor league affiliate this year.  Signed from the Dominican Republic in July 2011, Manuel played in 2012 for the Red Sox Dominican Summer League team and in 2013 at age 18 he played regularly for Lowell.  He has stolen 51 bases in those two seasons, but despite the projection of power had not shown it.  But Margot has all ready hit a couple of home runs for Greenville.  Margot is the one player on this list, who could be in the Top 5 ( hell, maybe Top 3) by the end of this year.

15. Drake Britton, RP- Pawtucket {17} Britton, a fireballing lefty, was being stretched out as a starter during spring training.  But at this point his future seems to be a hard throwing left hander from the pen.  And based on his 17 strikeouts in 21 innings with Boston last year, his continued future in the Boston pen will be this year at some point.

16. Teddy Stankiewicz, SP-Greenville {20} The second round draft pick from last year is beginning his first full season at Low A Greenville.  With a year of junior college under his belt, Stankiewicz may be able to quickly progress to High A Salem with any type of showing for the Drive.

17. Rafael Devers, 3B- Extednded Spring Training {25} This 17 year old, similarly to Trey Ball, is being rated on his potential.  Devers signed on the international market last year, has yet to play for the Sox system.  He is considered to have off the chart power potential.  It will be extremely interesting to see Rafael's assignment for 2014.  Will he play in the Dominican or come stateside to the Gulf Coast League, or when Lowell starts play in June, will Devers be there?

18. Brian Johnson, SP- Salem {18} Johnson was the Sox second first round pick in 2012 from Florida, and the college All American lefty was considered a potential fast riser to the big leagues.  His development was slowed when he was hit in the head by a live drive during the 2012 Futures at Fenway game while pitching for Lowell.  But Johnson got in an entire 2013 at Greenville and Salem, and if not for the glut of starting pitching at AAA and AA, he likely would have began '14 at Portland. As a testament of how many of the Red Sox prospects are closing in on big league ready, Johnson is the first player from Salem on this list, and he should be promoted to Portland by June if not sooner.

19. Sean Coyle, 3B-2B- Portland {29} The fifth Sea Dog on this list, the diminutive but power hitting Coyle has a chance to resurrect his one time near top ten prospect status in a few ways.  First, stay healthy.  Coyle has spent all of 2011, 2012, and 2013 at either Greenville or Salem, partially due to injuries.  His first time promotion to Portland is the second chance Coyle has to regain some luster.  If continues to show he can hit for power as an infielder, he will be back on the radar.  And maybe most importantly to Coyle's future with the emergence of Mookie Betts at second base, this spring he was moved to third base for the first time.  Coyle will get some games at second base as well for Portland, but third base is his likely main spot in the lineup.

20. Travis Shaw, 1B- Portland  {22} And Sea Dog #6 out of 20.  Shaw had hopes of being assigned to Pawtucket after having a very strong Arizona Fall League showing.  This helped erase a mediocre 2013 at Portland.  Shaw, son of former big league reliever, Jeff Shaw, first arrived at Hadlock Field in mid 2012.  If Shaw really hopes to break through and be considered in the mix to play for Boston in the next year or so, he needs to produce with the stick and get to Pawtucket as soon as he can.  The longer he stays in AA, the more likely he slides down this list in the months to come.


Others.

Wendell Rijo, 2B- Greenville
Simon Mercedes, SP- Salem
Alex Wilson, RP-Pawtucket
Jamie Callahan, SP-Greenville
Cody Kukuk, LHP- Greenville ( some scouts compare a young Jon Lester, watch this one)


David Chester update

Our favorite 6'5" 270 pound first baseman is back at Salem to begin 2014. The Pitt product hit what new Salem manager (and former big league infielder) Carlos Febles called the longest home run he had seen in twenty years in the opening days of the new season.  Chester, who turned 25 on March 31, could benefit from Travis Shaw earning a promotion to AAA as alluded to above, which would free a spot for Chester at Hadlock Field. We cannot wait.

One last note

Last winter's #19 rated prospect, 2013 draftee catcher Jon Denney has dropped off our list entirely and likely not to return until at least 2015.  The Red Sox have suspended him indefinitely and entered him in a treatment program after an arrest this spring for drunk driving.  When stopped Denney told the officer he was a Red Sox player and had more money than the officer could ever hope to see.  Even with that signing bonus of $850,000 or so not a way to win over the policeman.  Somewhat less reported but out there is Denney's answer of what he was doing he replied "looking for a little (kitty)", or something like kitty. Good luck with the program, Jon.

4 comments:

  1. Fantastic write-up, as always, Deacon. A couple of thoughts:
    1. I need to get myself down to Portland to see a game or two, and right quick.
    2. The Sox can trade for anybody in the game and still have a glut of prospects in their ranks. The trading deadline has been lacking luster the past couple of seasons, but if any big names come out, the Sox will be in the running.
    3. There are a lot of guys in Boston that had better shit or get off the pot. Middlebrooks at the top of the list.

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    1. I'm one step ahead of you (as per usual;) I'm taking the whole family, and it will be the first live baseball game for both the kids. I got tickets for a home game on April 26th. Here's to hoping it's a 70 degree day and sunny!!

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    2. Also, I'm hoping that a rain out will push Henry Owens back one day. Because according to my calculations, he's scheduled to pitch the day before we're there, as of right now.

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    3. I just checked the schedule and I see that the Sea Dogs have been rained out tonight. So here's to hoping that they don't have anymore rain outs because Owens is now scheduled to pitch on the 26th. Keep your fingers crossed.

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