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RSM Red Sox Top Twenty Prospects August 2014 Edition

The July 31 trade deadline has come and gone, and the blizzard of Red Sox activity has added some new names to our list.  However with the exception of left hander Corey Littrell( who made a brief appearance at the lower end of these rankings a couple of months ago) no Red Sox prospects were traded.  Since the Sox were sellers, only veteran talent from the big club  left town.  Surprisingly for sellers mostly major league talent also came back in return.  

As always the line used here for hitters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for the hurlers W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP.  The number after the player in { } is the July ranking.  The team listed is that player's team as of the end of July 31.

1. Mookie Betts, OF- Pawtucket. {1}  Mookie made his big league debut, being called up to Boston in an attempt to boost the anemic Sox offense.  He was sent back to AAA on July 19, when Shane Victorino was activated off the DL.  In ten big league games, Mookie had a line of 1/2/.235/.278/.660. Not the glittering numbers of his minor league season, but it allowed him to dip his toe into the major league waters(including getting that first big league home run).  In eleven AAA games in July, Betts' line was 3/10/.319/.373/.968.  On July 31st Mookie hit a walk off home run for Pawtucket.  On August 1st Mookie was recalled again to Boston and played center field at Fenway versus the Yankees.

2. Henry Owens, LHP- Portland* {2} Owens had another outstanding month at Portland.  He started the Futures All Star Game for the USA team.  And for the Sea Dogs his line was 4-1/3.72/31-10/1.38 in five starts.  The ERA and WHIP were inflated in his last start, the only recent subpar effort .  Owens' W-L record for the year is 14-4.  The fourteen wins is an all time Sea Dogs record.  The asterisk after Portland refers to Owens' much awaited promotion to Pawtucket, which happened amid the avalanche of Sox moves on July31/August 1.  Whether we see Owens pitching in Boston this year will depend on his AAA performance and perhaps a bookkeeping issue.  Owens does not need to be protected on the 40 man roster until after the 2015 season.  If he lights up AAA will the Sox burn a 40 man spot on Owens?

3. Blake Swihart, C- Portland  {3} Like his former battery mate, Owens, questions about when Swihart gets pushed up the ladder to Pawtucket have been abounding. Swihart's game has gone to a whole new level.  While continuing to throw out around 50% of would be base stealers, his offense continues to impress.  And Blake continues to hit more home runs than ever before.  His line for the year is 12/54/.304/.358/.850.  His July line is even better: 3/12/.326/.385/.909 with eight doubles.  With PawSox catcher Christian Vazquez promoted to Boston, many observers felt Swihart to AAA would be a logical next move.  But as we have stated before in Blake's career so far, the Sox have left him at each level for a whole year.  It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.

4. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP- Pawtucket {4}  Anthony continues to turn in the best season of all of the AAA starting pitching prospects (including the ones who have moved up to Boston).  His July line was a sizzling 3-0/2.66/18-7/1.10 in four starts, the most recent of which was on June 25 where Ranaudo pitching six scoreless three hit innings.  His line for the year is 12-4/2.41/99-49/1.15 in 21 games.  On August 1st, was called to Boston to pitch at Fenway against the Yankees.  The New Jersey native notched his first big league win going six innings allowed two runs on four hits.  He was returned to Pawtucket after the game due to the current roster flux in Boston.  Ranaudo will be back soon.

5. Brian Johnson, LHP- Portland {7} Is it possible that Henry Owens is not the best pitching prospect in Portland this year?  Since his recall from Salem earlier this year, Johnson's line at Portland is 9-2/2.05/78-28/1.04 in 16 starts.  His last two July starts were other worldly.  Johnson went seven innings in the first ( with 12 K's) and 7 1/3 in the next, each time out allowing only one hit.  Johnson, as a first round pick in 2012, is not some fluke.  Does he see Pawtucket this month, or does he front the Sea Dogs rotation in the EL playoffs?

6. Rafael Devers, 3B- Gulf Coast Red Sox {11} After crushing the Dominican Summer League to the tune of 3/21/.337/.445/.984, with six doubles and three triples in 28 games, the Red Sox promoted the 17 year old to the stateside GCL. For Devers' first GCL game he went 4 for 4 with a double, triple, and a walk.  In 22 games in Florida, Devers has continued to rake at a pace of 2/21/.372/.438/1.002 with seven doubles and  triple. A very good case could be made that this kid belongs at the top of this list.

7. Christian Vazquez, C- Boston {9} On July 9, after the Red Sox cut AJ Pierzynski, Vazquez made his major league debut.  In the three weeks that followed, Vazquez, as expected has wowed major league observers with his rifle arm and strong pitch framing skills.  The veteran Sox pitchers all have raved about Vazquez's skills behind the dish.  Offensively in twelve games, Vaz has four doubles and eight RBI while hitting .250.

8. Allen Webster, RHP- Boston {5} Webster continued to have a strong AAA season with a line of 4-4/3.10/100-44/1.24 in 21 starts.  Webster was recalled to pitch versus Tampa Bay and despite walking five batters, he got the win against the Rays.  However, on August 2nd, in his second MLB 2014 start, he melted down versus the Yankees and issued six more walks and lasted only 2 2/3 innings.  His next start is scheduled versus  the Angels.  Webster must harness his plus stuff, or he will be left behind by the other kid pitchers.

9. Deven Marrero, SS- Pawtucket {10} Since moving up to AAA, Deven has continued to hit nearly as well as AA, his AAA line is 0/14/.284/.330/.682 with six doubles.  Marrero's future as a shortstop for Boston may depend on Xander Bogaerts.  Now that the Sox have traded Stephen Drew and moved Xander back to shortstop, Bogaerts has two months to prove or not that he is the Sox shortstop for years to come.  If not, Marrero is likely next in line.

10. Manuel Margot, OF- Greenville {12}.  Along with Rafael Devers, Margot is the next wave of offensive prospects in the Sox system.  Margot has shown flashes of power to go with his plus speed. Manuel has eight home runs and 35 RBI to go with 32 stolen bases.

11. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP- Portland {N/A}Eduardo was the return from Baltimore for the trade of Andrew Miller.  Rodriguez was the current third ranked Orioles prospect, and may very well deserve a higher rating here.  In the pre-season some of the prospect rating services had Eduardo as a Top 60 prospect in the game.  The 21 year old 6'2" 200 pound Venezuelan had been pitching for Bowie in the Eastern League and will make his Sea Dogs debut on August 3.

12. Edwin Escobar, LHP- Pawtucket {N/A} Escobar was obtained from San Francisco for Jake Peavy. Another Venezuelan, this 22 year old, also a Top 60 or so pre-season prospect, was all ready pitching in AAA at Fresno.  Escobar had struggled some, but the PCL is a well known hitters league. It will be interesting to see how Edwin pitches for Pawtucket.  Both of these new lefties could move up this rankings quickly.

13. Matt Barnes, RHP- Pawtucket {8} A fairly steep drop down the rankings by Barnes, who has been ranked as a very top notch prospect since he was a first round draftee from UConn in 2011.  Barnes has not put up a season to match any of the other Paw Sox starters.  But in 2013 at Portland , his second half was much better than the first, and Barnes may be doing that again.  Since the AAA All Star break, Barnes has an ERA of 1.96 in three games.  On August 2nd, Matt flashed a sign of what his ceiling could be.  Barnes pitched seven no-hit no-rin innings with ten strikeouts and only two walks.  The only ball that was hit out of the infield was a fly out to center to the last batter he faced.

14. Garin Cecchini, 3B-OF- Pawtucket {6} An even bigger crash down the list by Garin.  There have always been some questions about his defensive skills, but he could hit and especially get on base.  But Cecchini has not done that enough either this year.  In July his line was 2/5/.188/.268/.580, this brought his yearly totals to 5/35/.241/.319/.650.  These offensive numbers will not get in done for Garin.

15. Sean Coyle, 2B-3B- Portland {13} The highlights of Coyle's July were appearances in the Futures Game and the EL All Star Game.  He slumped at the plate for the Dogs with July line of 3/13/.221/.276/.636.  However if Coyle can continue to stay healthy and show the long ball prowess, he will continue to push towards AAA in 2015.

16. Travis Shaw, 1B- Pawtucket {16} On July 28, Shaw hit his 20th home run of the season (AA and AAA), at that time no other Sox farmhand had 15.  Only about two dozen other minor players across the games also had 20.  With five HRs in July and a OBP of .404, Shaw is continuing to make a push to see Boston in September.

17. Wendell Rijo, 2B- Greenville {17}  The 18 year old second sacker continues to hold his own in the South Atlantic League.  In July his line was 4/14/.259/.351/.894.

18. Michael Chavis, SS{14} and 19. Michael Kopech, RHP {15}- GCL Red Sox  Both of the top two 2014 draftees by Boston are playing in Florida, and as usual the Sox break in the young guys slowly.  Chavis has appeared in 17 games, and Kopech has appeared in four, with only six innings pitched.

20. Trey Ball, LHP- Greenville {19} Last year's first round pick is starting to show signs of life.    After a real early struggle, Ball pitched his best game on July 1st.  Trey pitched five shutout innings giving up only one hit and no walks.  In July Ball's ERA is 3.30 with 21-11 K to BB, and a WHIP of 1.03.

Now for some of the other players who just missed the Top 20.

21. Sam Travis, 1B- Lowell {20}  The third Sox pick in the 2014 draft caught fire at Lowell. His line is 4/30/.333/.364/.813 with five doubles.  Travis was expected to move up this list, instead of down a spot, but the newcomers crowded Sam out of the the top 20. But speaking of moving up, on August 1st Travis was promoted to Greenville, a good test for the Indiana U. product.

22. Luis Diaz, RHP- Portland {18} Another player with a fine July, 3-2/3.44/44-12/1.11, the move down the list is only due to the new LHP's and other player's better months.

23. Heath Hembree, RHP- Pawtucket {N/A} The second pitcher received from the Giants for Jake Peavy.  Hembree, who made his MLB debut with San Fran in 2013, has been a closer in the minors.  Heath had 18 saves so far this year for Fresno and had 31 saves at AAA in 2013.  He may not be in line to be the closer in Boston, but he definitely could be a late game arm for the Sox sooner or later.

24. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP - Greenville {23} Another solid month for Teddy, and the highlight was on July 20.  He pitched 6 2/3 innings allowing only a single run on six hits, while striking out nine.

25. Henry Ramos, OF - Portland {22}  Nothing new on Ramos who still on the DL for all of July.

26. Bryce Brentz and Alex Hassan, OF- Pawtucket.  Each of the right handed hitting outfielders  saw their paths to Boston further blocked by the arrivals of Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig.  Brentz has rehabbed at GCL and Lowell recently and is expected back in Pawtucket at the beginning of August.  Hassan got his big league chance earlier in 2014, while was hitting terribly, but the Sox needed a right handed OF bat.  Ironically, since going back to AAA, Alex has been red hot.  In July his line was 4/12/.330/.388/.829 with ten doubles.

27. Derrick Gibson, OF- Portland/Pawtucket {25} This revitalized prospect continues to have a strong season and has bounced between AA and AAA recently.  Gibson starred in the EL All Star Game, hitting a home run and triple driving in both runs for the East in a 5-2 loss.

28. Joe Gunkel, RHP- Salem {24} July was a rough month for the pitcher who had never lost a pro decision.  Joe went 1-4 in July, but he did have 24 K's to only six walks.

29. Cody Kukuk, LHP- Salem {NR} This young lefty blew through the SAL in April but when promoted to Salem he crashed....until July.  A line of 3-0/2.05/35-5/1.29 looks like the youngster, who rated #19 in May on our list, has found his footing.

30. Steven Wright, RHP- Pawtucket {29} Same story, a strong seasonal line of 6-2/2.85/60-16, but exactly what do we have in the 29 year old knuckler (who turns 30 on August 30)?

31. Nick Longhi, 1B-Lowell {NR}  a youngster drafted in 2013, who would have landed about a dozen spots higher, if not for a season ending hand injury in July.  His line before the injury was 0/10/.30/.388/.829 with ten doubles.  He had reached base all four times up in the game he was injured.

32. Justin Haley, RHP- Portland {NR} The 2012 sixth round draftee was recently promoted to Portland after going 7-5/2.74/78-25/1.09 for Salem.  In his AA debut he went six innings giving up a run on six hits.

And now for our David Chester update.  His July numbers are down a little from his beginning at Portland.  In July 3/11/.253/.306/.724 with six doubles.  His overall numbers at AA are 5/24/.270/.324/.770.

Believe it or not, August is the last month of the regular minor league season.  The next ratings sometime in September will be a post season ranking.  Then during the winter we will rank the system from 1 to 50 (or so).