Boston Red Sox Top 20 Prospects for 2014
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. In theory, most Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or unanticipated problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Xander Bogaerts, SS-3B, Grade A: A Grade A prospect who should do everything well except steal bases. Power should steadily increase. Not hype, he is for real.
2) Jackie Bradley, OF, Grade B+: Although I wouldn’t expect him to be a .300 type hitter, his broad secondary skills and impressive defense should make him a long-term regular.
3) Garin Cecchini, 3B, Grade B+: I won’t be talked out of the B+ grade like I was last year. Absolutely love this bat and superior on-base skills. Have to see where he fits defensively. I’ve gone back-and-forth with Bradley at 2 and this could flip depending on how I want to slot them in the Top 50, but I will worry about that next month.
4) Henry Owens, LHP, Grade B+: Walk rate in Double-A was the only negative here, but the overall package looks like a sound number three starter to me, perhaps more.
5) Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. I’d have him as a B+ if not for the history of health problems. When he’s right I think he has the best combination of stuff and command among the Bosox RHP prospect corps.
6) Mookie Betts, 2B, Grade B: Borderline B+. I think you can make a B+ case for him although I guess I hold back for wanting a longer track record. Sudden burst of power is intriguing, also love combination of on-base ability and useful speed. Not sure where he will fit defensively.
7) Blake Swihart, C, Grade B: Only thing he hasn’t done yet is hit for power, but scouts seem to think that will come. Impressive glove, makes contact, controls zone well. Even without big power he can still be a regular.
8) Allen Webster, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. I may go with a straight B here but am undecided. Have to love the arm strength but command is still a significant concern. Perhaps he winds up in the bullpen.
9) Brandon Workman, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Better pitchability than Webster but not as much pure stuff.
10) Matt Barnes, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Another guy right on the edge area between two grades. Webster, Workman, and Barnes could be ranked in any order you like with completely sound logic behind the decision. All could be mid-rotation starters if they fully pan out, or very useful relievers.
11) Trey Ball, LHP, Grade B-: Combination of athleticism and arm strength is notable and I am generally a fan of cold-weather high school pitchers, especially guys with two-way backgrounds. Conservative rating however until we get more than a handful of objective innings to study. Could certainly shoot to the top of the list next year.
12) Drake Britton, LHP, Grade C+: Seems like he’ll make a fine bullpen lefty and ready now.
13) Simon Mercedes, RHP, Grade C+: From this point on, you can rank the C+ guys however you like with solid reasoning behind it. Mercedes seems like a guy who can really take off next year, if reports from NY-P are any indication. Role is uncertain but arm strength is not.
14) Christian Vazquez, C, Grade C+: Good glove profiles him as a backup at least, and he has significantly improved contact hitting skills. Might he show more power someday?
15) Deven Marrero, SS, Grade C+: Defense-first guy, although he also uses his speed very well. Fits the contact-hitting-infielder- who-might-surprise-with-the-bat-someday profile.
16) Bryce Brentz, OF, Grade C+: Power is obviously genuine but problems with contact remain evident. Still has a shot at turning into a Ryan Ludwick type at some point.
17) Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP, Grade C+: Second round pick from 2013 who can develop into a mid-rotation starter if all goes well; could be where Workman and Barnes are within two years.
18) Jamie Callahan, RHP, Grade C+: Like Stankiewicz, he has the physical attributes of a solid starting pitcher but needs to prove himself in full-season ball.
19) Brian Johnson, LHP, Grade C+: More polished than Stankiewicz and Callahan but not the same physical talent. Could rank as high as 13 or 14 if you want someone closer to the majors. Potential fourth/fifth starter.
20) Ty Buttrey, RHP, Grade C+: Here’s another guy who could become a mid-rotation arm; needs work with his secondary pitches.
OTHER GRADE C+: Jon Denney, C; Manuel Margot, OF; Dan McGrath, LHP.
OTHERS: Dan Butler, C; Sean Coyle, 2B; Rafael Devers, 3B; Luis Diaz, RHP; Sergio Gomez, RHP; Joe Gunkel, RHP; Alex Hassan, OF; Dalier Hinojosa, RHP; Cody Kukuk, LHP; Corey Littrell, LHP; Henry Ramos, OF; Wendell Rijo, 2B; Myles Smith, RHP
Obviously this is a very deep system, with at least four B+ or better prospects. You have a future All-Star in Bogaerts, and at least four guys who can be major league regulars. There are high-ceiling tools players, and high floor skill players. There’s depth at all levels, with several prospects near the majors but plenty following at the lower levels. There are guys who can hit and guys who can field. There’s everything basically.
If you are looking for a flaw, there are no certain top-of-the-rotation starting pitchers, nobody who looks like a Grade A pitching prospect for certain. But you can say that about a lot of teams. Most organizations don’t have a future number one starter. That said, the Red Sox have more pitching depth than most systems, with at least four plausible mid-rotation arms and a bevy of bullpen possibilities. As with the hitters, there’s a good mixture of pitchers ready or almost ready for the majors, but plenty of depth behind them.
I keep using the word depth, but it fits.
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