2013 Boston Red Sox Top Prospects

 

System Overview: Led by one of the game’s top prospects — shortstop Xander Bogaerts — the front office has revitalized a lackluster farm system over the past couple of seasons.

After taking a risk on Jackie Bradley (wrist injury) in the 2011 supplemental first round, the young center fielder showed incredible promise last season and could be ready by Opening Day 2014, maybe even late this season. Third baseman Garin Cecchini showed incredible speed and base stealing prowess in A-ball and should develop at least 15- to 20-homerun power. Travis Shaw, a ninth round pick out of Kent State University, has the potential to become a slightly above-average big league regular. And with Sean Coyle, Blake Swihart, Alixon Suarez and Deven Marrero milling around in the lower minors, the organization has plenty of young offensive talent.

On the arms side of the system, the team has a intriguing collection of potential #2 through #4 starting pitchers making their way through the minors, led by Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, Brian Johnson and Pat Light. And left-hander Henry Owens, who dominated the A-ball competition at 19-years-old, could be a special arm with elite potential.

There’s really only one elite prospect in the system, Bogaerts, with the potential for another in Owens, but there’s plenty of quality depth on both sides of the ball.  And there are a handful of others that just missed — Jose Iglesias, Jamie Callahan, Bryce Brentz, and Aaron Kurcz — that could rank among the top 16 for other organizations.

 

 

#1. Xander Bogaerts, Age: 20, Position: SS

After showing some impressive power as an 18-year-old with Greenville two years ago, Bogaerts continued his assault against minor league hurlers last season, first against High-A competition (.302/.378/.505) and then in a 23-game cameo with Portland (.326/.351/.598). In total, the young shortstop hit .307/.373/.523 with 37 doubles, three triples, and 20 homeruns. His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 48% better than the average, the highest mark among all minor league shortstops with 400+ plate appearances.

Defensively, it appears that he made enough strides — using raw, archaic data — so that he can remain at the position.

Projection: Bogaerts is a star in the making, the heir apparent to Boston’s long sought after shortstop problems. His in-game power already grades out as above-average, with the potential to become a regular 30+ homerun threat at the big league level. And unlike many of the game’s other top offensive prospects, Bogaerts combines that power with a strong eye at the plate — he walked 8.3% of the time against much older competition — and a modest strikeout rate (19.9%).  His bat will play anywhere on the field, but it has the potential to be elite at shortstop. He has the capability down the line to become a .300/.370/.520-type hitter.

Ceiling: 6.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

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#2. Jackie Bradley, Age: 23, Position: CF

After an injury-shortened junior season at South Carolina, the Red Sox gambled on Bradley, who hit just .247/.346/.432, during the supplemental first round in the 2011 draft. And the risk is already paying off dividends for the organization.

In what really amounts to his professional debut — he only made 40 trips to the plate in 2011 — Bradley began the year with Salem, showing above-average speed, solid pop, and an elite eye at the plate en route to hitting .357/.479/.523. The club then pushed him to Double-A where he hit .275/.376/.441, but his production was still 29% better than the league average.

Projection: Depending how the defensive metrics take to Bradley’s game, he could develop into a solid five-tool player capable of hitting .300/.400/.440 with 30 stolen bases and 15 homeruns. He’s still a year or so away from being a legitimate contributor for the Sox, but he’s also likely to make a few All-Star games during his tenure.

Ceiling: 5.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average

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#3. Henry Owens, Age: 20, Position: LHP

Owens paced the South Atlantic League with a staggering 11.51 punch outs per nine innings, despite being just 19-years-old at the time. In total, he tossed just over 100 innings, with 130 strike outs and 47 walks (4.2 BB/9). His Skill Independent ERA, or SIERA, was 2.97, nearly two full runs better than his actually ERA (4.87).

Projection: Grabbed with the 36th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Owens stands an impressive 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds. He’s big, projectable, and dominated older competition during his debut. And the below-average control last season should be more or less expected considering his youth and size (i.e. expected difficulties with repeating his mechanics). If there is one concern, however, it’s his lack of groundballs last season (35.7% GB-rate), which may suggest that he’s not getting enough downward plane with his fastball. With only 100 innings under his belt — and far removed from the injury nexus that young pitchers must surpass — Owens looks to be special, potentially a legitimate ace depending on how his control and command improve.

Ceiling: 4.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#4. Garin Cecchini, Age: 22, Position: 3B

Older brother to the Mets’ most recent first round pick, Boston nabbed Garin in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. The lefty-swinging third baseman put together an impressive year in with Greenville (A-ball) last season, hitting .305/.394/.433 with 38 doubles, four triples, four homeruns and 51 stolen bases in just 57 attempts. His total offensive production was 30% better than the league average.

Projection: Cecchini’s offensive toolkit profiles more as a center fielder, not the typical run-producing third baseman. And despite smacking just four dingers last year, the amount of doubles he hit suggests that it’s very likely that his power develops into at least solid-average, maybe even higher. He also shows a tremendous eye at the plate (11.6% BB-rate), strong contact skills, and blazing speed. I am a little concerned about his inability to handle left-handers up to this point (.241/.321/.342), so that bears watching.

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

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#5. Matt Barnes, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Picked with the 19th overall selection in the 2011 June draft, Barnes began last season by absolutely dominating the A-ball competition. In five starts (26.2 innings), the right-hander from the University of Connecticut struck out 42, walked only four, and allowed just one earned run. Needing no further proof, the organization bumped him up to High-A where he made his final 20 starts.

In 93 innings with the Salem Red Sox, he continued to show promise, averaging 8.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 with a solid groundball rate (44.8%).

Projection: Up till now, Barnes has pretty much performed as expected for polished collegiate pitcher nabbed in the opening picks of the draft. Next year in Double-A should provide the first true challenge for the young right-hander. And while he doesn’t figure to develop into a true #1, Barnes should settle in as a very good #2/#3.

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

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#6. Allen Webster, Age: 23, Position: RHP

One of the two high-upside arms acquired from the Dodgers during the massive salary dump, Webster rebounded nicely during his repeat in Double-A, throwing 130.2 innings with 129 punch outs (8.9 K/9), 61 walks (4.2 BB/9), and a ton of groundballs (52.5% GB-rate).

Projection: Webster’s definitely a high-upside arm — he’s averaged 8.5 K/9 in just under 500 career innings — but his control has really failed to improve since entering A-ball in 2010. The problem seems to be his approach against left-handers. Since 2011, Webster has walked 70 of the 557 southpaws he’s faced (5.04 BB/9), but just 48 of the 670 right-handers during the same time (2.87 BB/9). If he can show a modest improvement, he could develop into a solid #3. If not, he’s headed for a backend option in Boston’s bullpen.

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

Update: During his debut, Webster showed a mid 90s fastball, a hard slider (mid 80s), curveball (high 70s), and changeup (mid 80s).

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#7. Travis Shaw, Age: 23, Position: 1B

A ninth round pick out of Kent State University in 2011, Shaw began the year on fire, slugging .305/.411/.545 with 31 doubles and 16 homeruns in 99 games with Salem. His total offensive production was 63% better than the South Atlantic League average.

And while his triple-slash line nose-dived in Double-A (.227/.353/.427), Shaw’s underlying skill set remained strong enough. He showed an elite eye at the plate, walking in 15.8% of his PAs, and above-average power (.200 ISO); though his K-rate spiked noticeably, to 25.6%.

Projection: Shaw’s offensive weaponry — mainly his power and ability to get on base — have translated exceptionally well from the MAC conference to using lumber in the profession ranks. He doesn’t profile as a middle of the lineup thumper, typical of the position, but he could be an above-average bat at the big league level, maybe developing into .260/.340/.450-type hitter with 25+ homerun potential.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

#8. Brian Johnson, Age: 22, Position: LHP

Johnson, a two-way star for the Gators, was grabbed with the 31st pick in last June’s draft. As Florida’s designated hitter, the left-handed showed some offensive promise last season, hitting .307/.350/.460 with 13 doubles and six homeruns.

It was in the rotation, however, that Johnson made a name for himself. As one of the team’s better starting pitchers, the 6-foot-3, 225 pound left-hander struck out 73 and walked just 18 in 90 innings.

Projection: There’s a bit of concern that Johnson didn’t miss too many bats at the collegiate level last season, averaging just 7.3 punch outs per nine innings. But his ability to limit the walk — 1.8 BB/9 — should translate well enough into the professional ranks. He doesn’t look to be anything more than a good #4 right now, but per the usual, I’ll reserve any long term projections on recent draft picks until after the 2013 season.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#9. Brandon Workman, Age: 24, Position: RHP

A 2010 second round pick out of the University of Texas, Workman began the year in High-A, the level he probably should have been at in 2011. A touch old for the Carolina League, the right-hander showed strong control (1.6 BB/9), a decent ability to miss bats (8.5 K.9), and average-ish groundball totals (42%). The organization promoted him to Double-A for five starts to cap off the year, where his numbers remained eerily similar.

Projection: At 6-foot-4 and nearly 200 pounds, Workman has the frame to be a consistent innings eater, and his basic skill set has transitioned to the professional game quite well up till this point. But, again, he probably should have been in Double-A far earlier than late last season. And I’m going to remain a bit cautious until I see him perform in the Eastern League for an extended amount of time. Right now, he looks like a #3/#4.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

Update: Low 90s fastball, upper 80s cutter, mid 80s changeup, and mid 70s curveball. 

 

#10. Sean Coyle, Age: 21, Position: 2B

Coyle’s line from last season — .249/.316/.391 — looks uninspiring to say the least. But with the proper context, his future looks far more hopeful.

After an impressive showing in A-ball in 2011, Coyle, a third round pick in the 2010 draft, was bumped up to the Carolina League last season, where he was one of just 10 qualified players under the age of 21. And in 116 games, the young second baseman showed solid-average power (31 doubles, two triples, nine homeruns and a .142 ISO), a decent eye at the plate, and good speed; he was 17-for-17 in stolen bases. Oh, Salem’s ballpark tends to suppress offensive numbers too.

Projection: Coyle isn’t likely to develop into a star, but he could very well end up as an above-average regular starting opposite of his current double-play partner, Xander Bogaerts. His walk rate more than halved last season, down from 12.9% in 2011, so it’s very likely to rebound in 2013, at least close to league average. He does have two red flags that need to be monitored for now: his K-rate and the amount of fly balls hit. His strikeout rate, 24%, isn’t a major alarm yet, but it’s certainly bordering it. And for a smaller player, Coyle puts the ball in the air an awful lot (41.4% last year).

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#11. Blake Swihart, Age: 21, Position: C

The organization’s first round pick — 26th overall — in the 2011 draft, Swihart jumped straight to A-ball for his professional debut last season, hitting .262/.307/.395 with 17 doubles, four triples, and seven homeruns. His total production was 9% below the league average. Defensively, he nabbed 31% of would-be base stealers.

Projection: Despite getting just six plate appearances after being selected in the draft, Swihart handled himself well enough last year. After a slow start, the switch-hitting catcher posted OPSs of .737, .779, and .744 from May to July before slowing down in August and September. Overall, he showed a solid-average eye at the plate, the potential to develop into a 15- to 17-homerun threat, and good contact rates. He doesn’t look to be a star, but he could develop into an average big league regular, maybe a touch higher.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

 

#12. Pat Light, Age: 22, Position: RHP

A supplemental first rounder out of Monmouth last season, Light showed far better peripherals at the collegiate level than his first round counterpart, Brian Johnson. With the Hawks last season, the 6-foot-5 right-hander struck out 102 and walked just 16 in 101.1 innings.  He threw an additional 30 innings in A-ball, averaging 8.9 K/9 and 1.48 BB/9.

Projection: Again, it’s too early to get an accurate read on Light. And small sample size aside, he pretty much performed up to par with Lowell last season. He’s headed to A-ball next year, where I’ll get a better read on his future.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#13. Anthony Ranaudo, Age: 23, Position: RHP

Plagued by some injury concerns and the question marks that follow, Ranaudo’s stock tumbled before falling to the Red Sox with the 39th pick in the 2010. The 6-foot-7 right-hander, who was one of the top collegiate pitchers prior to his final season at LSU, offered glimpses of his potential in 2011, throwing 127 innings with 117 punch outs and 46 walks between Greenville and Salem. But he was unable to build off that successful campaign as shoulder fatigue limited him to just 37.2 Double-A innings last year (6.5 K/9 and 6.5 BB/9).

Projection: High upside alone, Ranaudo seems to be the type of pitcher that’s continually plagued by injuries, be it in the arm and shoulder area or elsewhere. He was sent home from Puerto Rico in early December due to a groin injury. And even when he was healthy in High-A in 2011, his K-rate tumbled to just 7.4 K/9 in 81 innings. He’s a crapshoot right now and may end up falling anywhere between a mid-rotation guy to a backend option in the bullpen, the latter being far more likely.

Ceiling: 2.0 to 2.5-win (starter); 0.5- to 1.0-win (reliever)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low (starter); Moderate (reliever)

 

#14. Deven Marrero, Age: 22, Position: SS

Marrero, who was coming off a down year at Arizona State, was a bit of surprise pick — and perhaps a reach at #24 — for the Red Sox last season. After finishing with a triple-slash of .284/.340/.436 with solid-average power and plate discipline for the Sun Devils during his final season, Marrero hit .268/.358/.374 in the New York-Penn League. He showed strong patience at the plate (12 BB-rate) and above-average speed, but his power nearly evaporated in his first exposure to wooden bats in the professional ranks.

Projection: Marrero’s a bit of ‘tweener in the long term. Offensively speaking, he really has only two above-average skills: his ability to get on base and foot speed. And his walk rates almost guaranteed to decline as he moves up the ladder and pitchers start challenging him more often. He just looks like a utility guy right now, a combination of Christian Colon, Grant Green, and maybe Reid Brignac.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#15. Alixon Suarez, Age: 18, Position: C

After showing a slightly better than average bat as a 16-year-old in the Dominican Summer League in 2011, Suarez established himself as one of the league’s better offensive prospects last season. In 63 games, the young catcher hit .270/.399/.425 with solid power, strong on-base skills, and nabbed 39% of would-be base stealers. His total offensive production was 40% better than the DSL average.

Projection: Still incredibly early, but Suarez’s bat looks like it could develop into something worthwhile. Add in the fact that he posted nearly identical walk and strikeout totals (39 to 41), and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him skip the Gulf Coast League and head straight to Low-A.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

#16. Miguel Pena, Age: 22, Position: LHP

A sixth round pick in the 2011 draft, Pena excelled during his time in the South Atlantic League, averaging 8.1 K/9 and just 1.9 BB/9 in 100.2 innings of work.

Projection: Certainly not a tremendous amount of data to go on, but Pena showed some fairly strong peripherals in an age-appropriate level. He’s likely to turn into a fringe backend starter or serviceable middle inning reliever. But there’s definitely big league value here.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win (starter); 0.5-win (reliever)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low (starter): Low to Moderate (reliever)

 

Photo of Xander Bogaerts Courtesy of (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.