This morning we look at the Boston Red Sox farm system. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are pre-season rankings and grades. This is a general review of 2014, not a detailed preview of 2015.
1) Xander Bogaerts, SS-3B, Grade A: Age 21, hit .237/.297/.362 with 27 doubles, 12 homers, 39 walks, 132 strikeouts in 520 major league at-bats. Obviously disappointing, but not everyone can pull a Mike Trout and thrive immediately. Based on the entirety of his track record and his age, I think he’ll ultimately reach his potential.
2) Jackie Bradley, OF, Grade B+: Age 24, hit .200/.268/.268 with one homer, 31 walks, 119 strikeouts in 380 at-bats for the Red Sox, and .212/.236/.273 in 66 at-bats after going down to Triple-A Pawtucket. While I retain strong faith in Bogaerts, Bradley is a different matter. His defense will keep him employed as a reserve but the dismal hitting, particularly the lack of any power, and no signs of improvement are discouraging.
3) Garin Cecchini, 3B, Grade B+: Age 23, hit .263/.341/.371 with seven homers, 44 walks, 99 strikeouts in 407 at-bats for Pawtucket, 3-for-9 in the majors so far. I have been strongly pro-Cecchini but this season gives a large magazine of ammunition to the skeptics who worried that his lack of long-distance power would handicap him at the highest levels.
4) Henry Owens, LHP, Grade B+: Age 22, posted 2.94 ERA with 170/59 K/BB in 159 innings between Pawtucket and Double-A Portland, 121 hits. Very fine season with improving command, ready for a trial next year.
5) Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. Age 25, posted 2.61 ERA with 111/54 K/BB in 138 innings for Pawtucket, 112 hits. In the majors, 5.29 ERA with 13/15 K/BB in 32 innings, 33 hits. Nothing left to prove in the minors, just needs to pitch.
6) Mookie Betts, 2B, Grade B: Borderline B+. Age 21, hit .346/.431/.529 with 11 homers, 33 steals in 399 at-bats for Portland and Pawtucket, then .285/.362/.436 with five homers, 18 walks, 27 strikeouts in 165 at-bats for the Red Sox. Not a fluke.
7) Blake Swihart, C, Grade B: Age 22, hit .293/.341/.469 with 13 homers, 31 walks, 80 strikeouts in 416 at-bats for Portland and Pawtucket. Good glove, offense steadily developing with boost in power, one of the elite catching prospects in baseball.
8) Allen Webster, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Age 24, posted 3.10 ERA with 100/44 K/BB in 122 innings for Pawtucket, 5.54 ERA with 31/27 K/BB in 52 innings for Boston. Good stuff, still working out command kinks. Perhaps a reliever?
9) Brandon Workman, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Age 26, 5.17 ERA with 70/36 K/BB in 87 innings, 88 hits in the majors. Ugly 1-10 record might have doomed him in the pre-sabermetric age. I think he’s capable of better
10) Matt Barnes, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Age 24, 3.95 ERA with 103/46 K/BB in 128 innings, 119 hits for Pawtucket. Used in bullpen this September. Little left to prove in the minors, like the rest of these RHPs.
11) Trey Ball, LHP, Grade B-: Age 20, posted 4.68 ERA with 68/39 K/BB in 100 innings for Low-A Greenville, 111 hits. Erratic but finished strong, expect slow progress rather than a breakthrough.
12) Drake Britton, LHP, Grade C+: Age 25, posted 5.86 ERA with 37/38 K/BB in 58 innings for Pawtucket, 77 hits. Very disappointing season with significant command issues.
13) Simon Mercedes, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, posted 4.76 ERA with 74/38 K/BB in 85 innings for High-A Salem, 85 hits. Rather disappointing given pre-season reports gushing about his sinker but he’s young enough to improve.
14) Christian Vazquez, C, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .279/.336/.385 in 244 at-bats for Pawtucket, .213/.273/..262 in 164 at-bats for the Red Sox. Defense will keep him in the majors but he will need to improve his hitting to get beyond a reserve role, granted that is not impossible.
15) Deven Marrero, SS, Grade C+: Age 24, hit well in Double-A (.291/.371/.433 in 268 at-bats) but not in Triple-A (.210/.260/.285 in 186). Another guy with a strong defensive profile but a questionable bat that will make or break his chance to play regularly.
16) Bryce Brentz, OF, Grade C+: Hit .243/.341/.465 with 12 homers, 32 walks, 58 strikeouts in 230 at-bats for Pawtucket, which is not the season he need to have at age 25.
17) Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, posted 3.72 ERA with 102/29 Kl/BB in 140 innings for Greenville, 141 hits. Efficient strike thrower, quite young, and finished strong. I like him.
18) Jamie Callahan, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, posted 6.96 ERA with 89/66 K/BB in 109 innings for Greenville, 137 hits. Awful season no matter how you spin it, only positive was that he stayed healthy.
19) Brian Johnson, LHP, Grade C+: Age 23, fine campaign with 1.75 ERA, 99/32 K/BB in 118 innings for Portland, 78 hits. Throws four pitches for strikes, ready for a trial sometime in 2015.
20) Ty Buttrey, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, difficult season at Greenville, 6.85 ERA with 40/24 K/BB in 46 innings, 59 hits. Pitched better late.
A very disappointing year in Boston of course, with the big league club 20 games under .500. Heralded rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley were disappointments, and mound youngsters like Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo all had growing pains. On the other hand, Brock Holt provided an unanticipated bright spot among the younger players, and Mookie Betts proved that his 2013 breakout season was no fluke, thriving in the majors and taking some of the sting out of the abject failure of Bradley. Nobody is giving up on Bogaerts and there are many positives down on the farm.
The system still has a good balance of talent. Position players like catcher Blake Swihart, 19-year-old outfielder Manuel Margot (.293/.356/.462 in A-ball), and third baseman Rafael Devers (age 17, .322/.404/.506 in the GCL) all offer massive upside and are developing well. The 2014 draft added another high upside bat in third baseman Michael Chavis. Sean Coyle has been around forever on lists but is still just 22 and hit .295/.371/.512 in Double-A. Cuban defector Rusney Castillo just turned 27 and the Red Sox are fully committed with a long-term contract.
Rusney Castillo, photo by Justin K. Aller, Getty Images
Pitching is a strength. The large group of young right-handers with good arms at the top of the system provides many options but there are three lefties of great note, too: Owens, Johnson, and Eduardo Rodriguez, who looked outstanding after being acquired in a trade with the Orioles. All three should be ready for trials next year; so should lefty Edwin Escobar and right-hander Heath Hembree, acquired from the Giants. Trey Ball provides long-term upside and there are many live arms at the lower levels beyond the obvious group. 2014 international signees Anderson Espinosa and Christopher Acosta stand out in particular, as does third rounder Jake Cosart.
The Red Sox ranked second pre-season on my organization ranking list. They've slipped a few notches, but still rate as one of the stronger systems and should recharge quickly.