Boston Red Sox Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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 2013 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other 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.
THIS LIST WAS UPDATED JANUARY 14, 2013
1) Xander Bogaerts, SS, Grade A: Given his age, overall track record, and the small sample size, I am not worried about the lack of walks in Double-A. He's going to be an excellent hitter and there is at least a moderate chance he can stick at shortstop, at least for awhile. One of the top elite prospects in the game.
2) Jackie Bradley, OF, Grade B+: Terrific defense, on-base ability, moderate power, excellent makeup. Sounds like a winner to me and worthy successor to Jacoby Ellsbury.
3) Matt Barnes, RHP, Grade B+: I'm a little worried about his wilt in the second half, otherwise I might have ranked him ahead of Bradley, but overall he performed up to expectations, looking like a future number two or three starter to me, assuming any durability issues clear up.
4) Garin Cecchini, 3B, Grade B: Borderline B+. I assume this grade may surprise people, but I'm thinking he will start to show more power to go with his OBP skills, speed, and greatly improved defense. I don't always play it safe with the grades.Initially I had him at a B+, but have kicked that down slightly. It isn't that my opinion about Cecchini changed, but rather that there were a couple of guys I had at strong Bs that I felt were slightly better.
5) Allen Webster, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. Love the grounders, but needs to sharpen his command further and refine breaking ball. Another guy who can be a mid-rotation arm, eat tons of innings.
6) Henry Owens, LHP, Grade B: He's got some issues, needs to get the walks down for example, but the 4.87 ERA overstates his troubles. I like his physicality, size, delivery, and I think the command will improve.
7) Bryce Brentz, OF, Grade B-: Borderline B: I think he can develop into something like Ryan Ludwick but he may need a couple of years to do it. Will he get that kind of slack?
8) Blake Swihart, C, Grade B-: So far, he scouts better than he performs. Defense seems to be coming along, but hitting was disappointing in the Sally League given all the pre-draft hype his bat received, and at age 20 he was old for a 2011 high school draft. He's a solid prospect certainly but I am going to wait and see beyond that. Catchers have weird development curves, though, and New Mexico background also factors in.
9) Brandon Workman, RHP, Grade B-: Not spectacular, but seems like he'll become a workhorse arm. If he switches to relief he would be more dominant, but even the Red Sox need inning eaters.
10) Deven Marrero, SS, Grade B-: Very good defense and patient at the plate, could develop some doubles power. I don't see him as a star but he has a chance to be a solid regular or a really good utility
11) Pat Light, RHP, Grade B-: One of my favorite pitchers from the 2012 draft, I suspect I like him better than many people do but I think he can improve his changeup enough to start. If not, another guy who could dominate in relief.
12) Jose Iglesias, SS, Grade C+: His glove is excellent but his bat is so bad that it may be tough to keep him in the lineup anyway. If they are lucky he can be the Cuban Adam Everett and hold a job with positive WAR even with poor hitting. If they aren't lucky, keep in mind that Rey Ordonez had a great glove but couldn't hold the job anyway.
13) Brandon Jacobs, OF, Grade C+: At this point, the C+ guys could be listed in just about any order depending on taste. I'll go with Jacobs here, the tools hound who had a disappointing season in High-A but is young enough at age 22 to rebound effectively. Everybody seems to have forgotten about him.
14) Drake Britton, LHP, Grade C+: Very erratic, command issues remain, but has one of the better left-handed arms in the minors. Should be a useful power bullpen arm if his control doesn't come around enough for him to start.
15) Brian Johnson, LHP, Grade C+: Very polished University of Florida lefty is classic "low upside, high floor" pitcher who should move through system quickly as an inning-soaking strike-thrower.
16) Keury De La Cruz, OF, Grade C+: Great slash line in Low-A (.308/.352/.536) at age 20 is nice, but poor strike zone discipline and hesitant scouting reports from non-Red Sox sources give one pause. Obviously a prospect but I want to see more before buying in completely.
17) Ty Buttrey, RHP, Grade C+: Big horse from 2012 draft was fourth round pick but took first round money to sign. Has a first round arm to go with it, but it remains to be seen how his command and changeup will work out. Fastball/knucklecurve combo would make him a good reliever if necessary.
18) Jose Vinicio, SS, Grade C+: Another tools guy, gets strong reviews on defense. Fast, has a chance to hit for average, but don't expect power.
19) Brock Holt, 2B, Grade C+: Acquired in Joel Hanrahan trade with Pirates. Opposite of Vinicio: lacks tools, but knows how to play and persistently exceeds expectations of scouts. Solid glove at second, good-enough at shortstop for utility work, should hit for average.
20) Cody Kukuk, LHP, Grade C+: My pick for a surprise breakthrough in 2013. Big lefty with above average fastball and slider, lost most of the season on restricted list due to DUI charges that were eventually dismissed. Looked outstanding in August, mechanics and command were more consistent than they were in high school. If he keeps that up, he will vault up this list next year. Assuming no more off-field glitches, he *could* turn into Jon Lester.
OTHER GRADE C+: Sean Coyle, 2B; Austin Maddox, RHP; Travis Shaw, 1B.
OTHERS: Mike Augliera, RHP; Jamie Callahan, RHP; Chris Carpenter, RHP; Sergio Gomez, RHP; Alex Hassan, OF; Chris Hernandez, LHP; Aaron Kurcz, RHP; Juan Carlos Linares, OF; Tzu-Wei Lin, SS; Manuel Margot, OF; Simon Mercedes, RHP; Francellis Montas, RHP; Miguel Pena, LHP; Noe Ramirez, RHP; Anthony Ranaudo, RHP; Christian Vazquez, C; Alex Wilson, RHP; Steven Wright, RHP.
2012 may have been a disaster at the major league level, but the Red Sox farm system is in solid shape. It will take a year or two before the best guys are ready to contribute, but there is much to look forward to.
On the positional side, the class of the group is obviously Xander Bogaerts, who has the ability to be the next great Red Sox star. He destroyed High-A and dominated Double-A in August at the age of 19. Yes, he has a few issues to work through, but given the skill growth that he's already shown, I am confident in his ability to adapt as necessary. Jackie Bradley will be ready to hold down a center field job in 2014. Bryce Brentz may have some hiccups due to contact issues, but if they stick with him he should be a productive slugger. Bradley and Brentz alongside each other in the outfield in 2014? I think Holt can be a nice complementary role player.
If Jose Iglesias' bat proves too weak to hold his job, Deven Marrero and Jose Vinicio provide other defense-oriented options. Tools guys at the lower levels like De La Cruz and the expensive international signees provide another wave behind the top group, though we'll have to see how they pan out of course. I'm taking a risk by saying that Cecchini can develop more home run power and grading him accordingly, but that's what sleep deprivation does to my brain I guess.
The pitching side doesn't have a sure-fire ace, but Barnes, Webster, and Owens all have mid-rotation starter potential, perhaps more. Workman, too. Light and Johnson provide college arms from the 2012 draft who should follow the pipeline up. There are numerous bullpen candidates, and high-upside lottery tickets like Kukuk, Montas and Mercedes should be fun to watch in Low-A and the New York-Penn League.
Knuckleballer Steven Wright is an interesting case. Impossible to predict how that will go, but definitely worth watching.
Rebuiding isn't always fun and Red Sox fans want more tastes of post-season success as soon as possible. Stay patient as best you can; help is on the way.