Tuesday, June 3, 2014

RSM Red Sox Top 20 Prospects- June Edition (AKA Mookie Goes to #1 and to Pawtucket)

It is time again to rank the top prospects in the Red Sox system.  The same ten players are in our top ten, but as the sub-title hints at there are some changes in order.

As always the number behind the player is their last month's ranking, and the slash line for hitters are HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for pitchers it is W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP.  Let's dive right in.

1. Mookie Betts, 2B-CF, Pawtucket {2}.  Three changes in Mookie's intro line from May.  First, he has moved into the top spot in our list.  Who else could it be?  His line in Portland through May was an incredible 6/34/.362/.448/1.009.  His much heralded on base streak ended in May at 71 games (counting the 5 games in the 2013 Carolina League playoffs).  Mookie's performance in the game that ended the streak actually illustrates his value almost as much as the streak.  He had two RBI on a pair of groundouts. Then in the top of the ninth with the Dogs clinging to a one run lead with the bases loaded, Mookie snagged a line drive with a dive and doubled a runner off second to end the game and effectively end his own streak. The second change in Betts' intro is an additional position.  The day after the streak ended, Betts was moved to center field.  He has played all but three games there since. Obviously, second base in Boston is spoken for by Dustin Pedroia, so this move could be a way to get Mookie to Boston sooner rather than later.  The final change in the intro came today (June 3) when Betts was promoted to AAA.  Betts will make his AAA debut tonight for Pawtucket at Durham.  He is moving back to second base at least for his first games at AAA, likely in an effort to put him in a comfort zone.  By this time next month, we may have a very big clue as to Mookie's ability to play for Boston in 2014.

2. Henry Owens, LHP, Portland {1}  Owens ceded the top spot to Betts but not without a fight to the end.  After a pair of mediocre mid-May starts in which Owens only last four innings in each (although in one Owens allowed no hits) due to wildness which resulted in 11 walks in those two starts.  But Owens turned it around in his final two starts in May. In the next to last start, Owens pitched seven shutout innings allowing four hits and more importantly only one base on balls.  The next time out, Henry basically repeated the performance.  The last May start yielded seven more shutout innings, with only three hits and two walks.  After that game Owens ( 6-3/2.52/68-30/1.10) told the press he was concentrating on pitching more to contact and to keep his pitch count down.  This will be something to watch in Owens and likely his key to a passport to Pawtucket.

3. Blake Swihart, C, Portland {3} Swihart continues to blossom at AA, one key number for Blake is that he has hit five home runs through May.  In his previous three pro seasons, Swihart had nine total, only two in Salem last season.  Many observers feel Swihart is the Red Sox catcher of the future, even with Christian Vazquez ahead of him at AAA.

4. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Pawtucket {4} In late May, Cecchini had slumped some, dropping his BA to .278 with a still strong .354 OBP.  The highlight for Garin since our last ranking came on June 1st.  He was recalled to Boston (in what turned out to be for a single day, before returning to Pawtucket to make  room for Stephen Drew) and garnered his first big league hit, a double off the Green Monster.  Fellow rookie, Alex Hassan, also got his first big league hit in his debut in the same game.  Cecchini and Hassan were to first pair of Sox rookies to debut in the same game since outfielders Jeff McNeely and Greg Blosser in September 1993.  The last pair of Red Sox rookies to both get their first hit in the same game were infielder Steve Dillard and catcher Andy Merchant on September 28, 1975.  I wonder and as of yet have been unable to find out if any pair of Sox rookies have ever got their first hits in the same game excluding games in September( call up month) or April ( new season with possible debuts).  We may have seen a first.

5. Brandon Workman, RHP, Boston {5} As expected Workman was the first Paw Sox starter to be recalled when a Sox starter got hurt ( Doubront).  In no time Workman found himself in the middle of the Rays-Red Sox wars ( yes, David Price I am calling it a war.....didn't they teach you about figures of speech at Vanderbilt?).  Over 2013 and this year, Workman has gone 5+ innings while allowing three or less runs in each of his five starts.  It has been since 1978 when a Sox rookie has done that, Jim Wright in 1978.

6. Rubby De La Rosa, RHP, Boston {9} Rubby jumps up three spots on the list, not only because of his first start for Boston versus those Rays, but that game surely helped. De La Rosa was absolutely dominant, toying with the anemic Ray offense, shutting them out over seven innings, while striking out eight.  I mentioned last month that many scouts felt De La rosa's future was in the pen.  But in a recent ESPN chat, when asked about Rubby, Keith Law responded that he had the stuff to be a number one or two starter, if he could command the strike zone.  With no walks versus Tampa Bay, he certainly showed the needed command.  Can he take the spot in the  Red Sox rotation and run with it??

7. Allen Webster, RHP, Pawtucket {7}  Webster has certainly put up solid numbers at Pawtucket, through May 3-2/2.93/50-26/1.26.  The question now is, can Webster continue at this pace after being bypassed twice for promotion? A hint of how much the Red Sox think of Webster is AFTER De La Rosa's gem, John Farrell told the media it had been a very, very close decision to bring up Rubby instead of Allen Webster.

8. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Pawtucket {8} His line is 5-3/2.90/53-32/1.37 ( the lowest ERA and the most strikeouts of any of the five Paw Sox starters).  But there is no doubt Anthony is number four on the Red Sox pecking order of AAA starters.  In his last 19.1 May innings, Ranaudo allowed only one run.  All he can do is keep putting up those numbers, and force his way to the big leagues.  If not in Boston, he could become a very big trade chip.

9. Matt Barnes, RHP, Pawtucket {6}  Despite Barnes' ability and pedigree when two of your fellow starters are currently in Boston and other two have put up sub 3.00 ERAs you have to rate behind them....for now.

10. Christian Vazquez, C, Pawtucket {10} Vazquez ( if you could somehow play his entire last name on a Scrabble board, you would score a ton!!), continues to show off his cannon-like arm, but the power at the plate, that Christian flashed in big league camp this March, has not materialized.  Vaz has no home runs and only ten RBI.

11. Deven Marrero, SS, Portland {13}  Marrero moves up two spots with his almost nightly highlight reel defensive gem.  His line at the plate of 2/28/.256/.340/.721 would be acceptable if it would translate to the show.  He could be the next Sea Dog to trek to McCoy Stadium.

12. Brian Johnson, LHP, Portland {15} Another upward mobile prospect.  Johnson had a strong start to his year at Salem, but has pitched even better after his promotion to AA.  Johnson, who allowed his only home run of this season in his most recent start, has a Portland line of 3-1/2.04/29/11/1.02 in six starts.  His 62 strikeouts for the year (combining Salem/Portland) are second to Henry Owens' 68 for the entire system.  And of his eleven walks at Portland, five of them came in one start.

13. Manuel Margot, OF, Greenville  {14}  The nineteen year old continues to put up a solid game at Low A.  His line is 4/19/.262/.330/.717.  Margot also has nine doubles, and has stolen 17 bases in 21 tries.

14. Bryce Brentz, OF, Pawtucket {11}  The slugging right fielder has dropped three spots due to a combination of the injury bug ( more DL time in May), a BA of only .230 (despite 6 homers and 28 RBI), and he has simply been outperformed by the players in the 11-13 spots.

15. Wendell Rijo, 2B, Greenville {20}  Rijo, is even younger than his teammate, Manuel Margot.  At age eighteen, Rijo is more than holding his own in a league where the average age is 21. His May numbers are down from April, but his overall line is 3/14/.258/.364/.754.  If Mookie moves to the outfield full time, Rijo may become the next second baseman to watch come up through the system.

16. Travis Shaw, 1B, Pawtucket {21} When Ryan Lavarnway was recently recalled to Boston (for a very short stay before breaking his hamate bone), Shaw received his very, very much deserved, well- earned trip to AAA.  After hitting .114 for the first ten games for Portland this year, Travis exploded. At the time of his AAA recall Shaw had this line for the Sea Dogs: 11/37/.305/.406/.954.  Shaw hit his first AAA home run on May 31st, and through the end of May Shaw had reached base in each of his  games for Pawtucket.

17. Henry Ramos, OF, Portland {NR} Another Portland player has rocketed onto our list.  Ramos was a fifth round draft pick in 2010 by Boston from Puerto Rico.  Ramos, who played more soccer than baseball as a youth started slowly in the Sox system.  Before this season, Ramos, in his four years, had hit only .258.  Baseball has seemingly clicked this year for the very athletic outfielder.  In 2014 his BA is .328 along with 2 homers and 23 RBI with a OBP of .370.  Could Ramos be the right fielder of the future for Boston??

18. Sean Coyle, 3B-2B, Portland {23]  As mentioned last month, Coyle was again on the DL, and his reputation for being oft-injured was on display again.  But when healthy....well Coyle came flying off the DL, 14 for 29 with a eleven game hitting streak.  His line in 26 games this year through May was 3/16/.374/.430/1.001( actually a higher BA than Mookie, in only half as many games though).  The natural second baseman had been mostly playing third ( and DH) with Betts manning second for most of the year.  But with Mookie off to AAA, it will be interesting to see how many games Coyle gets to play at second.

19. Trey Ball, LHP, Greenville  {12} A big seven spot drop for the 2013 #7 overall pick.  But this is not joining the chorus of a few claiming Ball is a bust.  He is still a kid and has about ten pro games under his belt.  He has had at least two bad starts at Greenville, not getting out of the first inning either time.  But this drop really adds up to lack of pro resume and several guys in higher levels putting numbers more worthy than Ball....so far.

20. Rafael Devers, 3B, Dominican Summer League  {18}  Two pieces of news on the crown jewel of last year's international signees for Boston.  First he was assigned to the roster of the DSL, which began play on June 1.  This surprised some observers who expected Devers even at age 17, to begin stateside for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox team.  However, the GCL campaign doesn't start until after some of this year's draftees are signed, and Devers could be re-assigned there when they begin.  If his start is the DSL is any indication, he may well get promoted.  In his debut, Devers was 3-5 with a home run, double, two runs scored and four batted in.

And now for five more just outside the Top 20.

21. and 22  Drake Britton and Alex Wilson, RP, Pawtucket.  Britton( who was at 16 last month) and Wilson ( at 22 again) both have been solely bullpen guys at Pawtucket.  Wilson, the righty, has had an outstanding year with an ERA of 1.42 with five saves, and a couple of games with Boston as well.  Britton, the lefty, has not had a good campaign so far. Despite four saves his ERA is 4.12 and walked more than he has struck out (19 to 13). Britton has also spent time on the DL in May.

23 and 24 Teddy Stankiewicz and Cody Kukuk, SP Another righty (Teddy) and lefty (Cody) pair of pitchers.  Both started the year in the rotation at Greenville.  Stankiewicz ( #17 last month) has a solid line there of 4-3/3.71/33/17/1.39 in ten starts.  Kukuk ( #19 in May) after a hot start at Greenville was promoted to Salem, where he has struggled some with the adjustment. His ERA at Salem is 4.15 compared to 3.06 at Low A.  Kukuk is still piling up the K's with 54 for the whole year.

25. Keith Couch, RHP, Portland  {25} Couch the "non-prospect" hangs on to 25 because he just keeps putting up the numbers7-0/2.26/46/11/1.16.

Obligatory  David Chester Update

The Salem first baseman is not tearing up the Carolina League 3/15/.220/.323/.738 ( but with two triples for the big man).  Now that Travis Shaw has vacated Portland for AAA, Chester must make his move and try to force a promotion, or a very faint glimmer of prospect status may be extinguished.

That is it for this month..... aw, hell, before we go here the names of five more pitchers from either Salem or Greenville that at least ought to have their names mentioned:

Simon Mercedes
Pat Light
Luis Diaz
Jamie Callahan
Joe Gunkel

Over the next two months there are very likely to be changes to this list.. This week is the annual amateur draft, and a name or two from those picks will join consideration for the list ( think Casey Gillaspie?!), and then comes July and the trade deadline...will the Sox ship off one or several names here to acquire a bat or even another pitcher for the hoped for stretch drive?  Finally, will one or both of Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa grab ahold of and keep their big league rotation spot, causing them to "graduate" from this list.  Stay tuned.

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