Boston Red Sox Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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 2015 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. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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 REVISED MARCH 23, 2015
1) Rusney Castillo, OF, Grade A-: Cuban defector age 27, hit .333/.400/.528 with three steals in 36 major league at-bats despite rust from not playing in over a year. Looks legit to me with speed/power combination; good track record of most high-profile Cuban hitters is another positive.
2) Yoan Moncada, 2B, Grade A-: You can call the Castillo and Moncada spots 1-A and 1-B if you like. Including the 100% tax penalty, the Red Sox committed 63 million dollars to bringing in this 19-year-old Cuban switch-hitter, meaning they are damn confident in him. Moncada is expected to hit for both power and average and should steal some bases, too. The scouting reports are glowing, but it is wise to see how he adapts to the United States and professional baseball before buying into the hype 100%. Moncada's ultimate upside is higher than Castillo's, but Castillo has already shown what he can do against big league pitching (yes the sample is small but it looked genuine to me) while Moncada will need more time. In a short-term fantasy context, Castillo is the better option for 2015 contributions. If your time horizon is longer and you want pure upside, go with Moncada.
3) Blake Swihart, C, Grade A-: Borderline B+: Age 22, hit .293/.341/.469 with 13 homers between Double-A and Triple-A. Bat is steadily improving. Glove is amazing: threw out 47 percent of runners while giving up zero passed balls in 96 games behind the plate. Mobile, athletic, extremely reliable.
4) Henry Owens, LHP, Grade B+: Age 22, went 17-5, 2.94 in 159 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 170/59 K/BB and 121 hits. Steadily progressing with three pitch mix, durability, command, good bet to be a number three starter.
5) Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Grade B+/Borderline B: Age 21, 3.60 ERA with 108/37 K/BB in 120 innings in Double-A. Strange season: did not pitch particularly well for Bowie in the Orioles system, velocity was down. Traded to Red Sox for Andrew Miller and stuff took a sudden step forward in final six starts, fastball up to 97 with better secondary pitches. Given unusual season grading is tough, which is the real Rodriguez? Could wind up ahead of Owens if the August Rodriguez is more real than the June one.
6) Rafael Devers, 3B, Grade B+/Borderline B: Age 18, hit .337/.445/.538 in Dominican Summer League then .312/.374/.484 in Gulf Coast League. This is an extremely aggressive grade for a rookie ball player but I don’t always play it safe. Questions about his defense exist but scouting reports on the bat are excellent and the early numbers support the scouting reports. In my view, equivalent to a first-round pick out of high school with premium tools and a fast start and graded accordingly.
7) Manuel Margot, OF, Grade B: Age 20, hit .293/.356/.462 with 12 homers, 42 steals between Low-A and High-A. Seems to do everything well, speed is ahead of his power and will likely stay that way. Could go up to B+.
8) Garin Cecchini, 3B-OF, Grade B-: Age 23, hit disappointing .263/.341/.371 in Triple-A although he was much more effective late in the year. Complaints about lack of power seemed to get into his head and he changed his approach early in the year with poor results. In August he went back to his previous philosophy and hit .333/.413/.500, ironically showing more power after he stopped trying to pull everything. Still, the rest of the season counts too and the grade reflects that.
9) Matt Barnes, RHP, Grade B-: Age 24, posted 3.95 ERA with 103/46 K/BB in 128 innings in Triple-A. Shoulder trouble early but got over it, in Boston he may be more of a reliever than a starter. Good fastball and change-up, breaking stuff remains erratic.
10) Deven Marrero, SS, Grade B-: Age 24, hit .291/.371/.433 in 268 at-bats in Double-A, .210/.260/.285 in 186 at-bats in Triple-A. Very good with the glove, sometimes he hits well and many times he doesn’t. My guess is that he will have a few good seasons offensively but not right away. Defense will be good enough for him to play.
11) Brian Johnson, LHP, Grade B-: Age 24, posted 1.75 ERA with 99/32 K/BB in 118 innings in Double-A. Classic four-pitch college-trained lefty, nothing spectacular with the stuff but knows how to pitch, not as much upside as Barnes or Ranaudo but perhaps more likely to reach what upside he has.
12) Wendell Rijo, 2B, Grade B-: Age 19, hit .254/.348/.416 in Low-A, very young for the level, stole 16 bases. Power developing, needs a lot of work on defensive reliability but the tools are there. Breakthrough candidate.
13) Sean Coyle, 2B-3B, Grade B-: Age 23, hit .295/.371/.512 in Double-A over 96 games, has hit 32 homers in his last 160 minor league contests. Undersized at 5-8 and there are skeptics, but the I think the strength is real, not sure about the batting average and OBP. Reliable glove at second base but had trouble when used at third.
14) Michael Chavis, SS-3B, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 19, first round pick in 2014 draft from Georgia high school, hit .269/.347/.425 in rookie ball. Raw, particularly on defense, but has tools to be above-average on both sides of the ball. Will need time.
15) Edwin Escobar, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, acquired from Giants, 4.94 ERA with 116/45 K/BB in 138 innings between Triple-A Fresno and Pawtucket. Stock down some after breaking ball went backwards, could still be a fourth starter or a relief option, the latter looking more likely at this point.
16) Heath Hembree, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, another part of trade with Giants, 3.72 ERA with 20 saves, 55/18 K/BB in 46 innings in Triple-A. Nothing left to prove in the minors, fastball has declined a bit but slider has improved, should be effective middle reliever.
17) Michael Kopech, RHP, Grade C+: Age 18, hard-throwing Texan drafted in first round, 4.61 ERA with 16/9 K/BB in 14 innings in rookie ball. Long way off, will need time but could be a rotation anchor or at least a workhorse. Can hit mid-90s, secondaries under development.
18) Trey Ball, LHP, Grade C+: Age 20, first round pick in 2013, posted 4.68 ERA with 68/39 K/BB in 100 innings in Low-A. Very projectable, athletic, 6-6, 185 body, could become a number three starter if he can refine curveball and change-up. Low strikeout rate is a negative.
19) Teddy Stankeiwicz, RHP, Grade C+: Second round pick in 2013, posted 3.72 ERA with 102/29 K/BB in 140 innings in Low-A. Not as much physical upside as Ball but more polished fastball/curve/change arsenal, number four starter potential.
20) Carlos Asuaje, INF-OF, Grade C+: Age 23, sleeper prospect, 11th round pick in 2013 from Nova Southeastern University, hit .310/.393/.533 with 15 homers, 59 walks, 90 strikeouts in 480 at-bats in Low-A and High-A. He has always hit like this; he was an excellent hitter in college too but scouts were skeptical about his tools. That opinion is starting to change; his swing draws good reviews, the numbers are excellent. Being groomed as a super-utility type.
OTHER GRADE C+: Christopher Acosta, RHP; Anderson Espinosa, RHP; Sam Travis, 1B,
OTHERS: Jake Cosart, RHP; Keury De La Cruz, OF; Luis Diaz, RHP; Javier Guerra, SS; Joe Gunkel, RHP; Justin Haley, RHP; Dalier Hinojosa, RHP; Nick Longhi, OF; Danny Mars, OF; Kevin McAvoy, RHP; Simon Mercedes, RHP; Sheev Palpatine, Senator from Naboo; Noe Ramirez, RHP; Henry Ramos, OF; Travis Shaw, 1B; Zeke Spruill, RHP; Steven Wright, RHP.
2014 was a rough year for the major league team. Xander Bogaerts didn’t live up to his full potential and Jackie Bradley Jr. was terrible, but there are still many reasons for Red Sox fans to be optimistic about the farm system. JBJ may not figure it out but Bogaerts likely will, and Mookie Betts was a revelation who seems completely legitimate.
The farm system has some depth to it. Blake Swihart has turned into an outstanding defensive catcher with a bat that will be good-enough to play regularly. Cuban defector Rusney Castillo made a good first impression. There is a diverse set of players at all levels, with a mixture of polished players who play above their tools (Cecchini, Asuaje, Sam Travis, Travis Shaw) and toolsy players who look like they will figure things out (Devers, Margot, Rijo). There are potential role players, potential stars, and lots of fodder for trades.
You want lefties? Owens and Rodriguez (stolen from the Orioles) are two of the top lefty prospects in baseball and should be ready for trials soon. Brian Johnson and Edwin Escobar don’t have as much upside but could still be good. The pitching staff at Pawtucket will be very interesting. Right-handed pitching doesn’t have quite as much upside as but there is a lot of C+/B- depth. Physical right-handers abound even if Barnes and Ranaudo are somewhat enigmatic. Kopech and the pair of high-profile Latin American signees (Christopher Acosta, Anderson Espinosa) have the highest upside but are also the furthest away.
Overall, this is a very good farm system that should continue to produce a steady stream of talent.