Thursday, April 16, 2015

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- April 2015 Edition

It is the start of a new baseball season and it is time for a new ranking of the prospects in the loaded Red Sox system by the Maineiacs.

Last October we did a post season ranking of the top 40, and as we begin anew, six of the top 34 are no longer in the Red Sox system:

# 9 Anthony Ranuado (traded to Texas for Robbie Ross, Jr.)
#28 Drake Britton (designated for assignment- picked up by the Cubs)
#29 Alex Wilson (traded with Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit for Rick Porcello)
#33 Alex Hassan (DFA'd, has gone from Boston to Oakland to Baltimore to Oakland to Texas)
#34 Derrik Gibson (signed with Orioles as minor league free agent)

None of these players made the major league roster coming out of camp, although Ranaudo was recalled today (April 15) for a start for Texas.  And got shelled.

The sixth player no longer in the organization is #30 Cody Kukuk.  He will be joining Wild Thing Ricky Vaughn in the California Penal League, or maybe the Kansas affiliate.  In all seriousness, Kukuk, whose career had been revived in 2014 after some off field issues including DUI, ended his career this winter.  Kukuk and four others were arrested and charged with Aggravated Robbery for an armed home invasion in Kansas, near his home in November.  Three of the suspects were arrested in Kansas, but Kukuk and one other fled and were arrested in Long Beach, California. Such a waste.

The following list of players will include their current ranking, position, the assigned team to start the season, and their ranking from last October.

Here the best of an organization rated near the top in development by nearly all the ranking systems:

1. Blake Swihart, C- Pawtucket {1}.  The entire outlook and expectation of the reigning number one Boston prospect may have changed with the season ending elbow injury to fellow young catcher, Christian Vazquez. Throughout Swihart's minor league career the Sox have patiently moved him up the system .  He spent entire seasons in Greenville (2102) and Salem (2013).  In 2014 it looked like he would spent the whole season in Portland, but after shining at AA, on August 4 he was promoted to Pawtucket and spent about a month at AAA including the Governor's Cup playoff run.  Before Vazquez's injury, it was expected Swihart would spend nearly the whole year in Rhode Island.  And even though the Red Sox (correctly so in my mind) have stated their intention not to rush Swihart, the timetable certainly has changed.  Depending on how his additional AAA experience goes, expect to see Blake in Boston anywhere from Memorial Day to August 1.

2. Rusney Castillo, CF-RF- Pawtucket {2}  Rusney barely hangs on to the two spot over his Cuban countryman, who will be at #3.  Castillo at age 27 with much Cuban baseball experience is not the typical "prospect", but when he returns to Boston he is rookie of the year eligible. The assumption is Castillo is one injury to the incumbent Boston right fielder, Shane Victorino, from claiming that spot as his own.  But the question is becoming is Castillo himself injury prone.  He is currently on the DL after hurting his shoulder diving to make a catch, and was also injured in spring training and last fall in the Arizona Fall League.  The deciding factor to leave Castillo at #2, was one factor in our rankings is the ability to help the big league team this season.  It is very much expected Rusney will have an impact on the 2015 Red Sox.

3. Yoan Moncada, 2B- XST {N/A} Here is the shiny new toy of the Red Sox system, and a very good case could be made to put him at the top of these rankings right now.  The 19 year old infielder sparked a bidding war after getting the necessary approvals after leaving Cuba.  His talent and his age made him a very attractive target.  The Red Sox spent $63 million dollars to win the bidding ($31.5M to Moncada and a matching penalty to MLB for being over their international pool).  Moncada is considered a  true five tool player, with plus abilities in power, speed, throwing, etc.  The Red Sox left Moncada in extended spring training to help him further adjust to playing in this country.  Moncada, who tripled in his first XST at bat, is expected to be assigned to the Greenville Drive soon.  The Red Sox have said they will leave him at second base to begin his career, but at his size ( around 6/2" 215) down the road Moncada could be a corner infielder or corner outfielder.  Yoan has stated his goal is to be in the big leagues in a year.  Best case scenario would have Moncada reaching Portland later this season, and onto AAA in early 2016.

4. Brian Johnson, LHP - Pawtucket {7} For the moment Johnson has pushed ahead of his fellow left handed starting prospects.  From John Farrell's effusive praise all throughout spring training, to Johnson still starting games for Boston in the last week of camp, to his assignment as Opening Day starter for the PawSox, all signs point to Johnson as one of the first candidates to get a shot at the Boston rotation as the year progresses.

5. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP- Pawtucket {4} Rodriguez also was outstanding for Boston in the spring games with a 1.17 ERA in 7 2/3 innings.  This included a nine up nine down outing against his old team the Orioles. E Rod is still the pitcher in this system with the most likelihood of being a number one or two starter. And in 2015, he could also be a fireballing arm out of the Boston pen, as they come down the stretch.  Baltimore is likely to regret trading Rodriguez, within the division no less, for a long, long time.

6. Henry Owens, LHP- Pawtucket {3} Consideration was giving to listing Johnson, Rodriguez, and Owens as 4A, 4B, and 4C because they are that close.  Owens slipped back behind the others due to a so so spring and more to his 4.03 ERA at AAA last year in six games after a 14-4, 2.60 ERA at AA.  There is still a lot to like here, as Owens continues to fine tune his delivery and stuff against more developed hitters.

7. Manuel Margot, CF- Salem {6} Along with newcomer Moncada, here come the next wave of prospects.  Margot is an outstanding defensive center fielder and with his speed stole 42 bases in 2014.
In 50 at bats late last season after being promoted to Salem he hit .340.  If Margot puts up some numbers like that in his first 100 or so at bats at Salem this year, he will be playing for the Sea Dogs by June or sooner.

8. Rafael Devers, 3B- Greenville {5}  After Moncada, this is the best power prospect in the system.  At age 17 he shredded the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League.  After turning 18 last October, Devers will start this year at Greenville.  If Devers continues to pile up the offensive numbers in the South Atlantic League, he could make the jump to High A this year at his tender age.  This is a player who could make the big leagues at a similar age as Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts.

9. Matt Barnes, RHP- Pawtucket {8}  Barnes is beginning the season in the rotation in Pawtucket, but all of the buzz around Barnes this spring is the possibility of his being a member of the Boston bullpen sooner rather than later.  Barnes, who can get the fastball up around 97, would give the Red Sox pen a high octane arm they currently lack.  The potential  need in Boston may make the decision, but Barnes also has the stuff to be a major league starter.  Matt is very well in for a very interesting 2015.

10. Michael Chavis, 3B- Greenville {13}  Last year's number one draft pick is another of the recent power prospect additions to the system.  Part of a loaded infield at Greenville, Chavis will share time between third and DH with Devers, and soon should be joined by Yoan Moncada.  Michael began his Greenville career with a home run and game winning double in the opener.

11. Deven Marrero, SS- Pawtucket  {11}  Marrero began 2014 in Portland where he had finished 2013 and put up much better offensive numbers the second time around.  Deven will try to pull the same trick again at Pawtucket.  His '14 AAA numbers suffered in comparison to Portland's.  So Marrero is back at AAA again, and if he can make the same year to year improvement that he did in AA, he will be a definite big league shortstop.  That is because his defense is all ready top notch.  With Xander Bogaerts manning shortstop in Boston, Marrero could make himself into a strong trade chip come July.

12. Garin Cecchini, 3B-1B-LF- Pawtucket {10}. The big story for Cecchini as he begins his second campaign at Pawtucket is the Red Sox intention to play him at other positions besides third.  Cecchini has always had a sweet swing, if can produce some more power at the plate and become more versatile in the field, the big leagues may not be far away.  But maybe not in the crowded Boston lineup.

13. Trey Ball, LHP - Salem {12}  The number seven overall draft pick in 2013 stumbled badly in the first half of his Greenville season going 1-7, 7.27 ERA in eleven starts.  But in his next eleven games he went 4-3 , 2.70 ERA.  This second half earned Ball a promotion to High A Salem, after many observers felt he would return to Greenville.  Ball, who will turn 21 in June, is only one rung below the Sea Dogs, where he could appear next year.

14. Michael Kopech, RHP-Greenville {14} The second first round pick from the '14 draft will also start his first full minor league season at Greenville.  The extremely hard throwing righty, who was drafted from a Texas high school, will begin the process of adapting the fulll season grind of pro ball.

15. Javier Guerra, SS- Greenville {31}  This shortstop was signed as an international free agent in July 2012 from Panama.  He had a strong showing in '14 in the Gulf Coast League.  His defense is ahead of his bat at this point, but there is promise offensively, due to his plus rated bat speed.

16. Travis Shaw, 1B- Pawtucket {18} Shaw is another player who excelled for Boston this spring. In 23 at bats Shaw hit .304 with a home run ( which came off former Sox relief ace, Andrew Miller).  With no obvious open spot in Boston, Shaw will have to pile the stats at AAA and see where that takes him.

17. Sam Travis, 1B- Salem {17} Despite the strong Red Sox system of recent years, the one thing they have not produced (with the possible exception of Xander Bogaerts) is power hitters. Several have been added recently and Sam Travis is one of these power hitting prospects.  2014's second round draft pick from Indiana University could move up through the system quickly, and Portland should be on his radar before this summer is out.

18. Sean Coyle, 2B-3B- Pawtucket {16}  Coyle gets his first taste of AAA as 2015 begins joining fellow prospects Marrero, Cecchini, and Shaw to form an all prospect infield at Pawtucket.  Despite his small stature Coyle has been a home run hitter, and AAA will be a test to see if he can continue with double digit long balls.

19. Wendell Rijo, 2B- Salem {19} At age 18 Rijo was first or second in a handful of offensive categories for the Drive.  Still in his teens, Rijo has been promoted to High A Salem.

20. Bryce Brentz, OF- Pawtucket {20}  Brentz hangs onto the top 20 due mostly to his major league readiness.  With the crowded Boston outfield and sitting behind his Paw Sox teammate Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley, Jr. on the depth chart , Bryce must hope another big league club will trade for him.

21. Edwin Escobar, LHP- Pawtucket {15}  Currently on the DL, Escobar is likely to be converted to a reliever full time this year.  He is a power arm that could help the Boston pen this year.

22. Henry Ramos, OF- Portland {25} To see how the Sea Dogs fortunes are likely to fall in 2015, this is the first Portland player on our list.  Ramos, while not a top shelf prospect is athletic enough to have a big league career.  Since his 2014 was cut short by injury, his return season in Portland will be a key to his chance for that big league dream.

23. Nick Longhi, 1B-OF - Greenville {24}  Another member of the loaded Greenville infield, Longhi had put up a .330 average at Lowell last year, when his season was also stopped by injury.  Still only 19 with a strong season at Greenville, Longhi could rapidly rise on this list.

24. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP- Salem {23} The second round pick in '13 joins fellow '13 draftee Trey Ball to form the nucleus of the Salem rotation.

25. Stephen Wright, RHP- Boston {21}  The knuckleballer began 2015 in Boston but returned to AAA after Joe Kelly was activated from DL.  At age 30 and throwing the knuckler, it is very hard to judge where to put Wright on a "prospects" list.  At the moment, he is Boston "sixth starter" while he spends time in Pawtucket awaiting any emergency call for a spot start.

26. Carlos Asauje, 2B- Portland {37}  Asauje put up a strong 2014 offensively at Greenville and Salem. He is sometimes overlooked as a prospect, because he is all ready seemingly being groomed as an utility type player.  Another .300+ average season in AA could enhance his standing.

27. Luis Diaz, RHP- Portland {22} Diaz was promoted last year on June 16 to Portland, and he wound up making thirteen starts each for Salem and the Seas Dogs.  With a full rotation at Pawtucket, Luis returns to AA.

28. Anderson Espinoza, RHP- unassigned {40} Espinoza was signed to a big money international free agent contract last year and will make his Red Sox system in 2015, likely in the Dominican Summer League.

29 & 30 Simon Mercedes and Pat Light. RHPs- Portland {26} and unranked.  These two hard throwing pitchers both entered the Sox system in 2012, both with some fanfare, Mercedes as a highly regarded international free agent, Light as a  first sandwich round draftee.  Both have been used as starting pitchers, at Salem in '14 Mercedes made 14 starts, Light made 22.  Mercedes has made several relief appearances, Light only one in pro ball.  But they both were assigned to Portland and both are being converted to relief pitchers full time.  Light has hit triple digits with his fastball and Mercedes  can also be a power arm in short relief stints.  An absolute best case scenario would have one of these pitchers join the Red Sox bullpen as a much needed power arm before 2015 is out.

Before we wrap up here are two more interesting players.

Yoan Aybar, OF  Mr. Moncada was not the first Yoan signed by Boston.  Aybar was signed as an international free agent in July 2013  and made his debut in the DSL last summer, hitting. 271 with twelve doubles and nine triples.   The young Dominican outfielder is a player to watch way down on the radar.

Finally the RSM favorite

David Chester, 1B-DH- Portland  The hulking first baseman joined Portland mid way through the 2014 campaign.  Chester hit seven Sea Dog home runs, giving him 48 for his Red Sox minor league career.


Our list shows the strength of the organization is nearly big league ready with twelve of our top 21 on the Paw Sox roster.  The next wave is also coming with five each for Salem and Greenville, with a sixth, Yoan Moncada likely heading for Greenville soon.

In May we will once again look at the players after the first month of the minor league season.

4 comments:

  1. This is my favorite regular segment and one of my favorite pastimes is reading about Red Sox minor leaguers. Thanks for the good read Deacon. It may not be a good summer to go to a Sea Dogs game, but next year should be a different story.

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  2. Random thought: every story on the Red Sox' signing of Yoan Moncada casually mentions that the Sox paid MLB a $31.5 million penalty for being over their international pool. What does the MLB do with this money, exactly? $31.5 million!! That's more than the GDP of the Ivory Coast! Seriously, is this money put to any good use, or just distributed to the commish and owners?

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  3. I was a little disappointed to not see Ty Buttrey on this list. Fantastic name.

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    1. Ty is actually off to a pretty good 2015, Buttrey may make an appearance on the list before too long.

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