Boston Red Sox Top 20 2012 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 14: Infielder Will Middlebrooks #64 of the Boston Red Sox homers in the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays July 14, 2012 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Boston Red Sox Top 20 2012 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

Moving forward with our mid-season reviews of our pre-season Top 20 prospect lists, we switch back to the American League with an examination of the Boston Red Sox. Remember, this is the pre-season list. It is not a new list.

This list was originally published January 19, 2012.

The next three teams on the list for review are the Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals.

1) Xander Bogaerts, SS, Grade B+: Borderline A-. Hitting .284/.361/.467 with 34 walks, 75 strikeouts in 317 at-bats for High-A Salem in the Carolina League. This is very strong performance from a 19-year-old in High-A. I think he ends up at third base, but I believe in the bat.

2) Matt Barnes, RHP, Grade B+. I thought he was a potential steal in the draft, and he's doing quite well, 0.34 ERA with 42/4 K/BB in 27 innings in Low-A, then 3.18 ERA with 68/16 K/BB in 62 innings in High-A.

3) Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Grade B: I thought he would need a full year in Triple-A to work through his strike zone issues. Promoted to the majors sooner than I expected, he's hitting .291/.324/.520 with 11 homers in 196 at-bats, albeit with a weak 9/51 BB/K ratio. Overall, obviously a successful debut.

4) Ryan Lavarnway, C-DH, Grade B. Hitting .294/.383/.447 with 40 walks, 53 strikeouts in 282 at-bats for Triple-A Pawtucket, 32% of runners caught. I still like him.

5) Garin Cecchini, 3B, Grade B: .306/.386/.437 in 327 at-bats for Low-A Greenville, 38 walks, 66 strikeouts, 32 steals in 35 attempts. Has played better defensively. Doing everything except hitting home runs.

6) Brandon Jacobs, OF, Grade B: Hitting .276/.332/.420 with 20 walks, 82 strikeouts in 293 at-bats for High-A Salem, 12 steals in 18 attempts. Still has excellent tools, but hasn't made real progress this year. Still only 21.

7) Blake Swihart, C, Grade B-: .265/.310/.382 with four homers, 19 walks, 48 strikeouts in 249 at-bats in Low-A, 29% of runners caught. Still generating impressive scouting reports, but his statistics are mediocre thus far, granted he was making the jump to full-season ball with only six rookie ball at-bats under his belt.

8) Sean Coyle, 2B, Grade B-: .232/.293/.363 with 22 walks, 92 strikeouts in 328 at-bats in High-A. 11-for-11 in steals, but overall a disappointment. Young enough at 20 to grow his skills of course.

9) Bryce Brentz, OF, Grade B-: Hitting .278/.345/.452 with 12 homers, 33 walks, 101 strikeouts in 334 at-bats in Double-A. Strikeout rate is still the main red flag here.

10) Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Grade B-: 6.69 ERA with 27/27 K/BB in 38 innings in Double-A, 41 hits. Currently on the disabled list with "dead arm," disturbingly similar to the dead arm that ruined his 2010 season with LSU. I see no reason to be optimistic until he proves he can stay healthy and maintain his stuff.

11) Henry Owens, LHP, Grade B-: 4.71 ERA in 73 innings for Greenville, however his peripherals as much better: 103/29 K/BB with 70 hits allowed. His FIP is much better at 2.98, which is a more accurate read on the quality of his pitching. I really like him.

12) Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Grade B-: Hitting .346/.458/.507 with 20 steals, 67 walks, 64 strikeouts in 341 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Showing his talent now with the wrist injury further behind him. Strong glove, too. Grade shall certainly rise.

13) Alex Wilson, RHP, Grade B-: 3.54 ERA with 61/20 K/BB in 56 innings for Pawtucket, 56 hits. Looks like he will fit nicely into a bullpen.

14) Brandon Workman, RHP, Grade B-: 3.25 ERA with 85/19 K/BB in 89 innings for Salem, 76 hits. I think he's ready for Double-A.

15) Jose Iglesias, SS, Grade C+: .260/.301/.298 with 14 walks, 28 strikeouts in 235 at-bats in Triple-A. Glove will get him to the majors but I can't see a future as a regular without more hitting.

16) Felix Doubront, LHP, Grade C+: 4.24 ERA with 99/38 K/BB in 102 major league innings, 101 hits. I was wrong about this guy, he has turned out better than I anticipated and I didn't give him his due.

17) Stolmy Pimentel, RHP, Grade C+: 5.37 ERA with 47/24 K/BB in 69 innings in Double-A, 77 hits. There isn't so much hype about him now, and for good reason. He's had some good games (July 14th for example) but is still trying to refine his secondary pitches.

18) Christian Vazquez, C, Grade C+: Hitting .269/.354/.392 with 34 walks, 60 strikeouts in 260 at-bats. Has thrown out 44% of runners. Earns very strong reviews for his glovework, hitting is inconsistent but at age 21 he still has time.

19) Kolbrin Vitek, 3B, Grade C+: Hit .252/.302/.338 in 37 Double-A games but has been injured much of the year, out with an intercostal strain.

20) Cody Kukuk, LHP, Grade C+: On restricted list following DUI arrest in May.

21) Jose Vinicio, SS, Grade C+: Hitting .281/.324/.384 with 11 walks, 43 strikeouts in 203 at-bats in Low-A, not bad for someone who didn't turn 19 until last week. Error-prone but draws good reviews for shortstop defensive tools. Basically needs experience more than anything.

22) Junichi Tazawa, RHP, Grade C+: 2.55 ERA with 56/17 K/BB in 42 innings for Pawtucket, allowed one run in 10.2 major league innings with a 8/0 K/BB. Older guy at age 26 but seems like a useful part.

Middlebrooks and Doubront have both done more than I thought they would this year, while Bogaerts and Barnes have lived up to my faith in them so far. Otherwise it seems like a typical mix of success stories, injuries, and disappointments that can hit any organization.

Watch out for smallish (6-0, 170) reliever Aaron Kurcz and his amazing K/IP ratio (70 Ks in 48 Double-A innings). High-A first baseman Travis Shaw is hitting pro pitching just like he hit college pitching, although some scouts are skeptical about how his swing will hold up in Double-A. 20-year-old Dominican outfielder Keury De La Cruz is ripping up the Sally League (.318/.365/.544) despite issues with the strike zone. Lefty Miguel Pena was pitching well in Low-A until going on the DL, while right-hander and former Cal State Fullerton ace Noe Ramirez has pitched well there since being activated.

The draft brings in a fine defensive shortstop in Deven Marrero, though there is understandable skepticism about his bat. Lefty Brian Johnson isn't exactly an upside guy, but I really like his Florida (and now Red Sox) teammate Austin Maddox. Right-handers Pat Light, Jamie Callahan, and Ty Buttrey (who required a huge overslot bonus of $1,300,000 in the fourth round) all offer considerable upside.

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