Boston Red Sox Top 20 prospects for 2016
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 2016 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.
1) Yoan Moncada, 2B, Grade A: Age 20, Cuban, hit .278/.380/.438 with 49 steals in 52 attempts in Low-A, eight homers, 42 walks, 83 strikeouts in 306 at-bats. Slow start working off rust but hit .310/.415/.500 in last 56 games. Needs to reduce errors, may not stay at second base, but I totally believe in the bat. Power, speed, strike zone judgment, switch-hitter, complete package.
2) Rafael Devers, 3B, Grade A-: Age 19, hit .288/.329/.443 in Low-A, led Sally League with 38 doubles. Hit 11 homers, 24 walks, 84 strikeouts in 469 at-bats. Hasn’t fully tapped his power yet but that should come; he did greatly improve his defense and I think he can stick at third. You can make a Grade A case but I want to hold back on that until I see where he needs to slot on the Top 100 list.
3) Andrew Benintendi, OF, Grade A-: Age 21, 2015 first round pick from University of Arkansas, destroyed NCAA this past spring and clobbered pro pitching too, hitting .313/.416/.556 in debut, 11 homers, 10 steals, 35 walks, just 24 strikeouts in 198 at-bats. Power, speed, plate discipline, contact, defense, all stand out. He’s just 5-10 but fewer and fewer people care about that given athleticism, strength, bat speed, eye.
4) Anderson Espinosa, RHP, Grade B+: Age 17, Venezuelan, posted 1.23 ERA with 65/14 K/BB in 58 innings between Dominican Summer League, Gulf Coast League, and one start in Low-A, 41 hits allowed, zero homers. Terrific arm, can hit upper-90s with easy, smooth delivery, already shows impressive curveball and change-up, throws strikes, mature mound presence. He has the potential to be a number one starter once he proves what kind of workload he can manage. Could very well be top pitching prospect in baseball 10 months from now.
5) Michael Kopech, RHP, Grade B: Age 19, 2014 first round pick, 2.63 ERA with 70/27 K/BB in 65 innings in Low-A, 53 hits. Season ended early due to PED suspension. Showed mid-90s fastball with power curve before that, overpowering at his best, command and change-up need more polish but that’s typical for his age, top-of-rotation potential if he can manage workload. Zack Wheeler type?
6) Sam Travis, 1B, Grade B/B- Age 22, hit .307/.381/.452 between High-A and Double-A, 19 steals, nine homers, 59 walks, 77 strikeouts in 489 at-bats. 2014 second round pick from Indiana is consistent producer with good feel for hitting, may or may not hit more home runs in time, limited defense and has to hit but has a decent chance to beat the difficult right/right first base profile.
7) Brian Johnson, LHP, Grade B-/B: Age 24, typical finesse lefty with good pitchability, posted 2.53 ERA with 90/32 K/BB in 96 innings in Triple-A, made one major league start then went down with elbow injury. Features curve, change, cutter, good track record when healthy.
8) Wendell Rijo, 2B, Grade B-/C+: Age 20, hit .260/.324/.381 with six homers, 15 steals, 34 walks, 94 strikeout in 404 at-bats in High-A, was just 19 for most of the season and playing considerably older competition. Power may increase further, defense took a large step forward in terms of reliability but tools likely limit him to second base.
9) Luis Alexander Basabe, OF, Grade B-/C+: Age 19, switch-hitter, batted .243/.340/.401 with seven homers, 15 steals, 32 walks, 67 strikeouts in 222 at-bats in New York-Penn League. Breakthrough candidate with power, useable speed, solid tools in all respects and flashes skills to make those tools work. May not hit for high batting averages but impressive secondary average potential.
10) Michael Chavis, 3B, Grade B-/C+: Age 20, 2014 first rounder, this is a generous grade that includes a lot of projection, hit .223/.277/.405 with 16 homers, 29 walks, 144 strikeouts in 435 at-bats in Low-A. Offensive infielder with big power potential, arm for third, has to make more consistent contact to get most out of his talent. High ceiling, high risk.
11) Deven Marrero, SS, Grade C+: Age 25, hit .256/.316/.344 with six homers, 33 walks, 87 strikeouts in 375 at-bats in Triple-A, .226/.268/.283 in 53 major league at-bats. Stands out for defense and will hold a roster spot for that, but whether as a regular or a bench guy will depend on the bat. My guess is that he will have one or two good offensive seasons in his late 20s but for the most part will be a sink on the offense. More valuable for a real team than a fantasy one.
12) Mauricio Dubon, INF, Grade C+: Age 21, gets a lot less attention than Marrero but may end up being a lot better, hit .288/.349/.376 with 30 steals between Low-A and High-A, has the tools to play either up-the-middle infield spot. Sleeper prospect who deserves more notice, bat may blossom.
13) Marco Hernandez, SS, Grade C+: Age 23, another potential utility infield type, doesn’t scout as well as Marrero but showed a power surge this year and is still young, hit .305/.330/.454 between Double-A and Triple-A,
14) Williams Jerez, LHP, Grade C+: Age 23, converted outfielder posted 3.65 ERA with 31/17 K/BB in 37 innings in Double-A, throws hard, 92-94 sometimes higher, good slider, athletic, command improvement could get him to big league bullpen quickly.
15) Christopher Acosta, RHP, Grade C+: Age 17, high ceiling but we need to see him higher than the Dominican Summer League; was considered on par with Anderson Espinosa 12 months ago but did not have the same kind of breakthrough season (few do), projectable, posted 22/5 K/BB in 34 innings in DSL, 4.28 ERA.
Slots from this point on are fungible; I selected players who I have received the most queries about.
16) Pat Light, RHP, Grade C/C+: Age 24, hard-thrower converted to bullpen after struggling as starter, junked breaking ball and changeup in favor of splitter, can hit 99, posted 2.43 ERA with 32/11 K/BB in 30 innings in Double-A but 5.18, 35/26 K/BB in 33 innings in Triple-A. Can be dominant, IF he throws strikes.
17) Nick Longhi, OF, Grade C/C+: Age 20, hit .281/.338/.403 with seven homers, 34 walks, 88 strikeouts in 442 at-bats in Low-A, wants to develop into Sam Travis.
18) Trey Ball, LHP, Grade C/C+: Age 21, posted 4.73 ERA with 77/60 K/BB in 130 innings in High-A, second consecutive mediocre season, low strikeout rate matches reports of shaky secondary pitches, has not developed along hoped-for lines, still young enough to change that but needs to make progress soon.
19) Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP, Grade C/C+: Age 22, 4.01 ERA with 77/32 K/BB in 141 innings in High-A, has been durable despite concerns a few years ago that he would not be; less than dominant of late, still has a chance as a fourth starter.
20) Ty Buttrey, RHP, Grade C/C+: Age 22, 4.20 ERA with 81/45 K/BB in 116 innings in High-A, 117 hits, like Ball and Stankiewicz he could be a back-of-the-rotation arm if he develops more consistency with low-90s fastball, curve, change-up.
OTHER GRADE C PROSPECTS (Most of these guys could slot in spots 16-20 depending on your criteria). Jonathan Aro, RHP; Yoan Aybar, OF; Gerson Bautista, RHP; Ty Buttrey, RHP; Garin Cecchini, OF-3B (just designated for assignment), Sean Coyle, 2B; Edwin Escobar, LHP; Austin Glorius, RHP; Kyle Martin, RHP; Kevin McAvoy, RHP; Yankory Pimentel, RHP; Noe Ramirez, RHP; Roniel Raudes, RHP; Austin Rei, C; Chandler Shepherd, RHP; Ben Taylor, RHP; Luis Ysla, LHP
Top-heavy with elite prospects but lacking in mid-range depth after trades, though many of the C-grade guys have higher potential. I will be in the comments section Monday morning answering questions.