Tuesday, July 1, 2014

RSM Top 20 Red Sox Prospects- July Edition

With another month in the books of the 2014 baseball season, it is time to unveil another ranking of the rich Red Sox farm system.  

First some housekeeping notes.  With this year's amateur draft taking place in June, a new crop of potential Red Sox stars of the future are now eligible for our list, and there are some of the '14 class here.

Also two members of the recent rankings have graduated.  With the recent strong MLB performances and taking into account the total career innings pitched in the big leagues by both Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa we have moved them up from the list of prospects ( despite De La Rosa's return to AAA).  The rookie limit of innings is 50, and Workman has pitched over 80 innings between 2013 and 2014, while pitching in 29 games with nine starts.  Rubby, counting his games with the Dodgers in 2011, has appeared in 30 games starting half of them.  De La Rosa has pitched 105 big league innings.

As with other months the line used for batters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for pitchers it is W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP.

1. Mookie Betts, 2B-OF- Boston {1} For the second month in a row Betts is the #1 prospect and also for the second month is a row, Mookie has been promoted.  Mookie is now with the big club, making his major league debut on June 29th at Yankee Stadium. A year before his big league arrival Betts was playing at Greenville in Low A.  At this point only four of his Greenville teammates have even reached AA: Brian Johnson, David Chester, Jayson Hernandez, and Kyle Krauss.  Mookie played 23 games at AAA and reached base in all of them.  There is no guarantee Betts will stick in Boston for now, but he was not brought up to sit, and if he hits he will stay, maybe for good. His combined line for AA and AAA was 8-48-.345-.437-.957 with 21 doubles, 4 triples, and 29 stolen bases.

Betts was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.  In other words, if Mookie had gone to Univ. of Tennessee ( as he committed to do), he would have been in this year's draft. And, Mookie very, very nearly ended up in school.  The Red Sox had signed their top picks in 2011 including Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, and Jackie Bradley, Jr..  But Boston had saved some cash to sign one of the athletic, tough to sign high schoolers.  They had a target in mind: Senquez Golson, a Pascaguola, Mississippi two sport star committed to Ole Miss.  The Sox threw big cash his way, and Senquez.....declined and went on to Ole Miss.  At the very last hour (or less) before the signing deadline, Boston turned to another high schooler who had been leaning toward college and had not agreed on any Boston offer.  That was Mookie Betts, who agreed to $750,000 after Golson turned Boston down.

Golson went to Ole Miss to play his two sports.  One is football, and with Golson's elite speed he plays cornerback, and has started twenty games from his freshmen to junior years.  He played baseball his first year at Mississippi, hitting only .204 in 22 games.  He sat out his sophomore year to concentrate on spring football, but attempted a baseball comeback this spring.  But Senquez pulled a hamstring in the preseason and after missing 1 1/2 months, he did not make the team.  His stated intention is try baseball again next year.  He was not drafted at all in this year's baseball draft despite being eligible.

2. Henry Owens, LHP- Portland {2}.  Owens through June has a pitching line of 10-3/2.25/95/37-1.04 in 15 starts.  Owens has made strides in commanding his pitches and has cut down on his walks. For example on June 14th, Owens pitched 6.2 innings while allowing six hits and one run, he struck out seven with no walks.  That ended a four game stretch of starts where Henry gave up only two runs in 36.2 innings, for an ERA of 0.49.  Owens, who has been selected to play in the Futures All Star game, is knocking on the door to Pawtucket.  Moving a Red Sox starter ( Jake Peavy?) would make room for a Paw Sox starter in Boston, and open a spot for Owens in AAA.  Expect Owens to move up no later than right after the Futures game.

3. Blake Swihart, C- Portland {3}.  The top three remain the same as June, and any of the three would be the number one prospect for many, many other MLB teams.  After getting a chance to see Blake in person in June at Hadlock, I seriously considered him for the top spot.  As mentioned last month, Swihart's power game seems to be developing.  Earlier this year, Blake was hitting home runs from the right side, but lately the switch hitter is adding blasts from the left side. His line is 9-42-.296-.348-.830 with 14 doubles, 3 triples and 4 stolen bases.  His nine home runs match the entire output of his previous three seasons combined.  In addition, and maybe more importantly, Blake has thrown out over 50% of would be base stealers.

4. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP- Pawtucket {8}. Based on Anthony's season long dominance at Pawtucket, and red hot June, Ranaudo has moved to the front of the Paw Sox starters.  Anthony's line for the year is 9-4/2.35/81-42/1.16.  For June he was even better 4-1/1.47/28-10/0.82.  From May 15 through June 25 his ERA was 1.29 and he added another seven shutout innings on June 30.  Despite the wonderful outings by Rubby De La Rosa while pitching in Boston, do not be surprised if Ranaudo gets the next call from Pawtucket.

5. Allen Webster, RHP- Pawtucket. {7}. Ironically, even though Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa got the first recalls to pitch in the Red Sox rotation, Ranaudo and Webster have had the best years at AAA.  Webster is 4-4/2.92/81-35/1.23.  

6. Garin Cecchini, 3B-LF- Pawtucket {4}. Despite a pair of brief stops with Boston in June ( and garnering his first big league hit), June was a cruel month for Garin.  Known for hitting and especially on base skills, his numbers for June were 2-9-.197-.278-.767, lowering his BA for the year to .255.  Late in June the Red Sox had Cecchini play some games in left field in AAA, as they seemingly have with every infielder in the system.  

7. Brian Johnson, LHP- Portland {12} One of the big risers this month.  Johnson has been outstanding since arriving in Portland.  His AA line is 7-1/1.67/51.17/1.03.  His only loss was on May 25, and Johnson in that game pitched seven innings and allowed only one run.  Counting his time at Salem, Brian is 10-2 with a 2.33 ERA. He pounds the strike zone, usually around 70% strikes thrown.  Do not be shocked if Johnson ends up being in the Red Sox rotation long term, over some of the guys ahead of him now.

8. Matt Barnes, RHP- Pawtucket. {9}  While Barnes still lags behind the other Paw Sox starters in stats and experience, Barnes showed improvement in June: 2-2/3.42/18-4/1.33, all improved numbers over April and May.  Matt might be setting up for a repeat of 2013, when the second half of his year was much better than the first.

9. Christian Vazquez, C- Pawtucket. {10} While continuing to be called defensively major league ready now by baseball people everywhere, Vazquez's bat seemed to come to life in June.  After finishing May with no home runs and only ten RBI, Vaz's June line was 3-9-.29-.368-.848.  By no later than the July 31 trade deadline, it would seem AJ Pierzynski's Boston days are numbered.  And it is time if not beyond time to try Christian Vazquez behind the dish at Fenway.

10. Deven Marrero, SS- Portland { 11}.  The sweet fielding shortstop continues to dazzle with glove, but his bat has been noteworthy at Portland as well.  The June 16-23 Eastern League Player of Week sizzled in June at the pace of 3-11-.368-.441-.993.  This hot June brought his overall line to 5-39-.293-.374-.811 with 42 runs scored.  Any numbers within 20% of those, and meet your Red Sox shortstop of the future( sorry Xander), maybe even by 2015.

11. Rafael Devers, 3B- Red Sox DSL team {20}.  The only thing wrong at all with Devers is the fact RSM never should have had him as low as #20 in June.   The 17 year old finally got to play in the Dominican Summer League.  In 99 at bats in June, Rafael's line was 3-21-.343-.451-1.006, including six doubles and three triples.  Reportedly the Sox are in the process of moving Devers up to the GCL, with perhaps a delay in obtaining the proper work visa holding up the deserved promotion.

12. Manuel Margot, OF- Greenville  {13} One of the five teenagers on this list, Margot is having the most success at the highest level.  Margot who has been the everyday center fielder all year at Low A has a line of 6-28-.271-.338-.755 and he has 25 steals.  It will be interesting to see if Margot keeps up his stats as he completes his first full season minor league campaign.

13. Sean Coyle, 2B-3B- Portland {18}.  Coyle has always hit and hit for power when healthy, but for the last six or seven weeks, Sean has been on fire.  His seasonal line is 9-38-.361-.440-1.052. Six of the home runs came in June and he raised his OPB with June's .450.  Coyle has replaced Mookie Betts' bat in the Portland lineup and now Coyle has been rewarded by being chosen to play in the Futures Game, replacing Betts.

14. Michael Chavis, IF- GCL {NR} The 2014 Red Sox first round draft pick (#26 overall) has signed but not yet made his first pro appearance.  Last year when the Sox picked #7, their sights were reportedly on Georgia HS outfielder, Clint Frazier, but Cleveland grabbed Frazier at #5.  Chavis, also from Georgia, compares very favorably to Frazier at the bat according to area scouts.

15. Michael Kopech, RHP- GCL {NR}.  The other top Sox draftee (#33 overall) has also signed and is awaiting his GCL debut.  Both Michaels- Chavis and Kopech- are a long ways from Boston, but will be two to keep our eyes on.

16. Travis Shaw, 1B- Pawtucket  {16}.  Shaw seems to be settling in to AAA, hitting four home runs with 14 RBI in 47 games.  One number that shows room still needed for improvement is his AAA OBP, which is only.290.  Shaw is normally up around .400 in OBP.  Shaw played a game at third base this week for Pawtucket (where he began his minor league career) in the never ending attempt by the Sox to create positional versatility. 

17. Wendell Rijo, 2B- Greenville {15}. The youngest player on the list not drafted this June.  Rijo will not turn 19 until Sept. 4 (about the last day of the minor league season).  Despite his age, his line for the year is 3-19-.262-.350-.740 with 34 runs scored.

18. Luis Diaz, RHP- Portland {28}.  The 22 year old from Venezuela arrived in Portland to replace Mickey Pena who was suspended by MLB for 100 games for a drug violation.  Diaz, who was having a strong season at Salem, has been even better in his three Sea Dog starts.  2-1/1.80/11-4/1.12.    In his AA debut, Diaz allowed one hit in six IP.  From the start of 2013 through June 2014 Diaz has an ERA of 2.41 in 180 innings.

19. Trey Ball, LHP- Greenville {19}. Ball's struggles, number-wise, continue in the South Atlantic League.  During June Trey's line was 0-3/6.17/16-7/1.84, which was actually an improvement over his earlier numbers.  One year removed from high school in Indiana,  Ball will be a long term project.

20. Sam Travis, 1B-Lowell  {NR}. The third 2014 draftee (second round, #67 overall) in the top 20.  But unlike Chavis and Kopech, Travis could move rather quickly up the ladder.  A college slugger from Indiana Univ., Travis was considered one of the top power skill sets in the draft.  Projected to be limited to first base lowered his draft status.  But as always, the Sox are talking about trying Travis at third and left in addition to first.  In His first 11 games at Lowell, Travis' line is 2-6-.273-.273-.705.

Now for five just out of the Top 20

21. Bryce Brentz, OF- Pawtucket {14}  Bryce has been on the DL since May 15 with a pulled hamstring, which he re-aggravted during a Fort Myers rehab.  This MIA has caused Brentz to slide down our rankings.  But much more importantly for Brentz ( any maybe the Red Sox)  while Bryce was on the DL, the Sox needed a right handed bat for the outfield and that would have been the perfect chance for Brentz to show he belongs in the show.  This could turn out to be a missed opportunity that may never come around again.

22. Henry Ramos, OF-Portland {17} Ramos, who made his debut on this rankings last month based on a line of 2-23-.326-.368-.799, has also moved back due to being on the DL.  A left tibia stress fracture has kept Henry idle since June 6.

23. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP- Greenville {23} The 2013 second rounder pitched the best game of his pro career on June 11th.  Teddy pitched seven shutout innings allowing on two hits with 6 K's and no walks.

24. Joe Gunkel, RHP- Salem {30} In 2013 the Red Sox took Gunkel in the 18th round out of West Chester (PA) Univ. Last year pitching at Lowell, Joe was 3-0 with five saves and an ERA of 1.35.  Gunkel began '14 at Greenville and put up a line of 3-0/2.28/62-11/0.72.  He was promoted to Salem and so far in two starts Joe is 2-0/2.38/7-4/0.97.  Despite his relatively low draft slot, if Gunkel continues to put those stats he will get someone's attention.  He has ours.

25. Derrik Gibson, OF-IF- Portland {NR}.  The zombie prospect has arisen.  Gibson was taken as a Delaware high school shortstop in the second round of the 2008 draft, 77 overall, by the Red Sox.  In 2009, Derrik had a solid .290 season, after splitting 2008 between the GCL and Lowell.  At the end of 2009 he was the tenth rated Red Sox prospect. And then the speedster's bat just went away.  In 2010 at Greenville he hit .230 and .240 in '11 at Salem.  As Gibson joined Portland for the 2012 campaign at age 22, he was at least moving up the system.  But he has been at Portland ever since. In 2012 he hit .225, which he raised to .250 in 2013, but he only got into 88 games( mostly at second and shortstop) in '13.  Gibson, who has no power at all, was being bypassed by brighter prospects. But then 2014 happened, and again Gibson is at Hadlock field for the third year.  But still only 24, the Sox (stop me if you have heard this before) moved the speedy Gibson to center field. Gibson, who is currently residing as the Dogs lead off hitter, exploded in June for a line of 1(the sixth HR of his career)-11-.404-.505-1.066.  The .404 was the highest BA in all of AA for June, and you read the OBP correctly, Gibson was on base more often than not in all of June. Gibson atop the potent Portland attack has scored 38 runs this year, 14 in June. Is Gibson still a real prospect??  Well at 24 he is still young enough, if he could get to Pawtucket this year and continue to rake it would help his cause.  Being able to play all over the diamond and with his speed, Gibson could at least have a future as a utility player.

Four more names to re-visit.

Drake Britton and Alex Wilson- Both pitchers have been converted full time to the pen, and both really struggled in June ( Britton has been poor all year.)Britton's ERA is 5.06 and Wilson's is 6.08.  If the Red Sox need a bullpen arm from AAA, would they really recall one of these guys or just bring up a AAA starter and stick him in the Boston bullpen.

Alex Hassan- The Paw Sox outfielder was recalled to Boston for a brief stint early when the Sox needed a right handed bat.  Unfortunately for Alex he was actually slumping at the time and seemed overmatched.  In late June Hassan has been red hot at AAA with a June line of 1-13-.367-.414-.818, maybe he will get another shot later this year.

Steven Wright- The knuckleballer will be 30 on August 30, so maybe not a real prospect, but knuckleball pitchers have a different baseball age than other players.  Wright was on the DL until June but since his return is 3-1/2.43/37-8/1.00.  Not out of the realm that Wright could pitch for Boston this year.

And finally the David Chester update.

The big news on the big man's front is David Chester is now a Portland Sea Dog.  He was recalled after leaving the Salem DL, and made his AA debut on June 10. Chester went 3 for 4 with a double and two singles and one RBI.  For June Chester went: 2(including a game winning Grand Slam)-13-.304-.360-.747.  The question will be can Chester keep his BA and OBP anywhere near these levels. At Salem his BA was .220 with a OBP of .323.  The big man has power, as I can testify after seeing Chester crush a rope to dead center at Hadlock for a three run double.  Best of luck to our man, Chester.

And that is it until August, when we will see if any of the names on this list are traded by Boston in a deadline deal.  Or will the Red Sox bring in even more prospects in exchange for some or the current Bosox players. 

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