The 2015 Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

 

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

*Updated: As it was pointed out in the comment section, Eduardo Rodriguez was accidentally left off.

 

1. Henry Owens, LHP

Born: 07/21/92 Age: 22 Height: 6-6   Weight: 205   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: Eduardo Sanchez, Randall Delgado, Luke Jackson, Trevor Bauer, Homer Bailey
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A+ 104.7 2.92 3.46 10.6 28.5% 4.6 12.3% 0.52 74.0%
2013 20 AA 30.3 1.78 3.26 13.7 36.8% 4.5 12.0% 0.89 87.7%
2014 21 AA 121.0 2.60 3.16 9.4 25.6% 3.5 9.5% 0.45 78.9%
2014 21 AAA 38.0 4.03 3.59 10.4 28.2% 2.8 7.7% 0.95 72.5%

Background: One of the best – if not the best – southpaw pitching prospect in all of baseball, Owens, a supplemental first round pick in 2011, proved that his short-stinted success in the Eastern League two years ago was no fluke. The 6-foot-6 lefty fanned 126, walked 47, and posted a 3.16 FIP in 121 innings for Portland last year. The organization pushed Owens up to Pawtucket for a six-game appearance and the results were just as impressive: 44 K and 12 BB in 38.0 innings. For his career, Owens has fanned 28.3% and walked 1.5% of the batters he’s faced.

Projection:  Owens’ control/command will likely prove to be the lone obstacle between true ace-dom and peaking as “just” very good. And, really, it’s his control against fellow left-handers – he’s walked 60 of the 434 plate appearances against them in his career (13.8%). Either way he’s going to miss a ton of bats, limit homeruns well enough, and should slide into the big league club’s rotation as soon as mid-2015.

Ceiling:  5.0 to 5.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Mid 2015

 

 

2. Rusney Castillo, CF

Born: 09/07/87 Age: 27 Height: 5-8   Weight: 186   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: N/A

Background: Per the usual caveat, Cuban statistics are pretty hard to come by, but Baseball Reference says Rusney hit .303/.333/.404 as a backup infielder at the age of 22. And his production the next year spiked as his club’s starting right fielder: .324/.373/.555 with 22 doubles, 18 homeruns, and 29 stolen bases (in 35 attempts), which led the league. The organization inked the short center fielder to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal, surpassing Jose Abreu’s contract with the White Sox as the highest amount given to an amateur player, in late August and within a month he was patrolling the outfield grass in Boston.

Projection:  Castillo would go on to pace the Cuban National League with 28 doubles in 2012-2013. And he’s also garnered at least one All Star appearance and a Gold Glove too. Projection wise, though, I’m not sure how much homerun wallop his 5-foot-8 frame is going pack. The speed will play, but he probably isn’t going to be the defender that no-bat Jackie Bradley Jr. is either. After all, who is?

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2014

 

 

3. Blake Swihart, C

Born: 04/03/92 Age: 23 Height: 6-1   Weight: 175   B/T: B/R                                                          
Top CALs: J.T. Realmuto, Austin Romine, A.J. Jimenez, Josmil Pinto, J.R. Murphy
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 20 A 378 .262 .307 .395 .702 .134 6.9% 18.0% 91
2013 21 A+ 422 .298 .366 .428 .794 .130 9.7% 14.9% 121
2014 22 AA 380 .300 .353 .487 .840 .187 7.6% 17.1% 131
2014 22 AAA 71 .261 .282 .377 .659 .116 2.8% 21.1% 77

Background: In the conversation for top catching prospect. Swihart’s bat has really developed over the past two years as he batted .298/.366/.428 with Salem in 2013 and then followed that up with .300/.353/.487 triple-slash line in the Eastern League last season. The most impressive part, though, is that his power took a tremendous leap forward; not only was his .176 ISO a career high, but his 13 homeruns were tied for the seventh most among backstops under the age of 23.

Projection: Where to start… Swihart looks to be the complete package behind the plate, offering an above-average hit tool, 15 homerun potential, decent-ish walk rates, and an absolute monster in the running game. The former first round pick caught 28 of the 59 would-be base path thieves last season. Swihart looks to be in the same mold as former captain Jason Varitek

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Mid 2015

 

 

4. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

Born: 04/07/93 Age: 22 Height: 6-2   Weight: 200   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: Randall Delgado, Sean Gallagher, Brett Oberholtzer, Jair Jurrjens, Jon Niese
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 19 A 107.0 3.70 3.68 6.1 16.1% 2.5 6.6% 0.34 61.9%
2013 20 A+ 85.3 2.85 3.36 7.0 18.8% 2.6 7.1% 0.42 69.4%
2013 20 AA 59.7 4.22 3.74 8.9 23.4% 3.6 9.5% 0.75 70.8%
2014 21 AA 120.0 3.60 3.18 8.1 21.2% 2.8 7.3% 0.45 69.7%

Background: Acquired for what amounted for 20 dominant innings of veteran southpaw Andrew Miller, Rodriguez turned in another steady showing as he split time between both organziations. In 120.0 innings, the 6-foot-2 southpaw fanned 108, walked 37, and posted a 3.60 ERA. For his career, Rodriguez has averaged 7.8 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings.

Projection: A nice acquisition for the re-tooling Red Sox. Rodriguez strikeout rate has been trending in the right direction over the past two seasons, going from 6.1 K/9 in Low Class A in 2012 to 7.9 K/9 between Frederick and Bowie the following year to a solid 8.1 punch outs per nine innings last season. Strong control, decent ability to miss bats adds up to solid backend starter, something CAL is hinting at by linking him to Randall Delgado, Brett Oberholtzer, Jair Jurrjens, and Jon Niese.

Ceiling:  2.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

5. Edwin Escobar, LHP

Born: 04/22/92 Age: 23 Height: 6-1   Weight: 185   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: Zach Putnam, A.J. Cole, Vin Mazzaro, Rafael Montero, Patrick Corbin
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A+ 74.7 2.89 2.55 11.1 29.3% 2.1 5.4% 0.36 64.8%
2013 21 AA 54.0 2.67 2.64 9.0 24.8% 2.2 6.0% 0.33 73.0%
2014 22 AAA 111.0 5.11 5.01 7.8 19.2% 3.0 7.4% 1.30 68.6%
2014 22 AAA 27.3 4.28 4.20 6.6 16.7% 2.6 6.7% 0.99 70.7%

Background: Giants GM – and future member of the Hall of Fame? – Brian Sabean has never shied away from dealing top prospects for veteran help down the stretch, a la Zack Wheeler-for-Carlos Beltran a couple years ago. And while Escobar isn’t on the same level as his former org-mate, he does represent a nice return – along with Heath Hembree – for the aging Jake Peavy. It was an OK-type of year for the southpaw: he saw a downturn in his production during his first go-round in Class AAA, but equipped himself well enough by missing some bats and showing solid command of the strike zone as a 22-year-old. Boston called him up for a game in late August and another in the closing days of the season, and he flashed a low- to mid-90s fastball, curve, and a hard mid-80s change.

Projection:  Escobar’s stock has come a long ways since being acquired by San Francisco in the Rule 5 draft. His strikeout rate last season, 7.5 K/9, is a career worst, but he really seemed to fade during the final few months of year. After striking out 88 in his first 95.1 innings, he fanned just 28 over his last 44. A nice #4-arm.  CAL’s definitely not a fan.

Ceiling:  2.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

6. Manuel Margot, CF

Born: 09/28/94 Age: 20 Height: 5-11   Weight: 170   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Harold Ramirez, Jason Smith, Domonic Brown,Abraham Almonte, Desmond Jennings
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 17 R 309 .285 .382 .423 .805 .138 11.7% 8.1% 134
2013 18 A- 216 .270 .346 .351 .697 .081 10.2% 18.5% 113
2014 19 A 413 .286 .355 .449 .803 .162 9.0% 11.9% 125
2014 19 A+ 56 .340 .364 .560 .924 .220 3.6% 8.9% 152

Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $800,000, Margot had a solid showing as a 19-year-old in the Sally last season, hitting .286/.355/.449 with 20 doubles, five triples, 10 homeruns and 39 stolen bases in 99 games. His total production topped the league average mark by 25%. The organization bumped him up to Salem, where he became the second youngest player in the league, and he continued to perform well (.340/.364/.560).

Projection:  CAL’s seems to rather optimistic of the 5-foot-11 Dominican-born center fielder, linking him to two solid MLB regulars (Domonic Brown and Desmond Jennings). Margot features plus-speed and average power with room for growth.

Ceiling:  2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

7. Matt Barnes, RHP

Born: 06/17/90 Age: 25 Height: 6-4   Weight: 205   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: David Rollins, Garrett Olson, Jeff Locke, Paul Clemens, Frankie De La Cruz
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 22 A 26.7 0.34 0.99 14.2 43.3% 1.4 4.1% 0.00 94.1%
2012 22 A+ 93.0 3.58 3.33 8.8 23.8% 2.4 6.5% 0.58 69.3%
2013 23 AA 108.0 4.33 3.54 11.3 28.2% 3.8 9.6% 0.92 68.2%
2014 24 AAA 127.7 3.95 3.71 7.3 19.1% 3.2 8.6% 0.56 68.9%

Background: The University of Connecticut, not known for baseball, has coughed up some nice prospects over the years, including All Star right-hander Charles Nagy, George Springer, Mike Olt, and Nick Ahmed. When the organization selected Barnes with the 19th overall pick in 2011, eight picks after Springer, the promising right-hander became the third highest player chosen from the Huskies. And while his former teammate reached the bigs quicker, Barnes was no developmental slouch either. He made stops at each level before debuting with the Sox last season, showing a mid-90s fastball, hard change, and a low-80s curveball.

Projection:  Ignoring the otherworldly strikeout percentage Barnes showed in Class AA two years ago – he fanned 28.2% of the total batters he faced with Portland, the 11th best mark among pitchers with 100 innings in all the minors in 2013 – Barnes has had a history of missing a touch less than a strikeout-per-inning, a streak that extends back to his days in the Big East. Since entering AA two years ago his control has merely been average. A nice fringy #3/solid #4 arm, though he appears to be buried in the organization’s plans.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

8. Rafael Devers, 3B

Born: 10/24/96 Age: 18 Height: 6-0   Weight: 195   B/T: L/R                                                          
Top CALs: Jermaine Palacios, Telmito Agustin, Randel Alcantara, Luigi Rodriguez, Kevin Padlo
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 17 R 127 .337 .441 .529 .970 .192 15.0% 15.7% 175
2014 17 R 174 .312 .374 .484 .858 .172 8.0% 17.2% 146

Background: Signed for a cool $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic two years ago, Devers mashed through the DSL (.337/.445/.538) and slowed only slightly once the club moved him stateside midseason  (he he .312/.374/.484). In total Devers finished the year with an aggregate .322/.404/.506 triple-slash line, adding 17 doubles, five triples, seven homeruns, and five stolen bases.

Projection: Devers’ deal was equivalent to late first round money. And club’s lofty investment started showing immediate dividends: a potential above-average hit tool, 20-homerun power, a surprisingly strong eye given his youth, and some base running instincts. He’s probably done enough to earn a trip to Low Class A.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA:  N/A

 

 

9. Brian Johnson, LHP

Born: 12/07/90 Age: 24 Height: 6-3   Weight: 225   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: Erik Goeddel, Hector Santiago, Scott Diamond, Esmerling Vasquez, David Rollins
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 22 A 69.0 2.87 3.63 9.0 24.0% 3.7 9.7% 0.52 69.4%
2013 22 A+ 11.0 1.64 3.26 6.6 17.8% 4.1 11.1% 0.00 85.7%
2014 23 A+ 25.7 3.86 1.76 11.6 30.3% 2.5 6.4% 0.00 56.7%
2014 23 AA 118.0 1.75 3.15 7.6 21.9% 2.4 7.1% 0.46 79.7%

Background: It’s very likely that Johnson, a first round pick out of the University of Florida in 2012, would be viewed as one of – if not the – top pitching prospect in all of baseball 25 years ago thanks to the 1.75 ERA he tallied in the Eastern League last season. The big lefty’s development curve was stunted a bit, courtesy of a line drive to the face off the bat of Joey Rickard in August 2012, though he’s clearly showing no ill effects now. He finished the year with a 132-to-39 strikeout-to-walk ratio between Salem and Portland.

Projection:  It’s no mistake that CAL links the former two-way Gator star with a pair – or trio, depending on your view of David Rollins – of #5 caliber southpaws with 90-ish mph heaters. Johnson’s never missed a whole lot of bats, even extending back to days in college, but he compensates that with above-average control. Nothing special, but every rotation needs a #5, right?

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Mid 2015

 

 

10. Deven Marrero, SS

Born: 10/25/90 Age: 24 Height: 6-1   Weight: 195   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Colt Sedbrook, Derrik Gibson, Ozzie Chavez, Elliot Soto, Ramiro Pena
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 21 A- 284 .268 .358 .374 .732 .106 12.0% 16.9% 122
2013 22 A+ 376 .256 .341 .334 .676 .078 11.2% 16.0% 94
2014 23 AA 307 .291 .371 .433 .804 .142 11.1% 18.6% 126
2014 23 AAA 202 .210 .260 .285 .545 .075 5.9% 18.3% 48

Background: One of the elite defensive shortstops in the minors, Marrero fared much better in his return to the Eastern League last season, hitting a solid .291/.371/.433. He did, however, looked completely and utterly overmatched in Class AAA (.210/.260/.285). He finished the year with an aggregate .258/.327/.372 mark with 30 doubles, a pair of triples, six homeruns, and 16 stolen bases.

Projection:  Marrero’s basically been a ho-hum offensive performer since exploding on the scene as a freshman at Arizona State. He does a lot of the small things well – walk, run, make consistent contact – without having a true standout offensive weapon. He could be, however, one of the few prospects to generate enough value on defense to merit every day action. Using the raw data, Marrero’s fielding percentage over his career is .976. If his offense could develop into the neighborhood of 90 wRC+ Marrero could be an above-average guy.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

***All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs***

 



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.