Note: Had a lot of people ask me why Boegarts power is only a 55 potential. And that’s because..it shouldn’t be, it’s fixed. Sorry.
And here it is, our very first non-draft prospect list. I decided to go in reverse order of the MLB standings because 1. Boston and St. Louis are systems are fun to write about and 2. repeat step 1.
If you’re curious about if I have any rules about what qualifies someone as a prospect or not: I don’t. I think qualifying someone as a prospect based on arbitrary numbers is a bit silly, and so you’ll see some guys who have exhausted their rookie rights that will make these lists. Probably.
I’ve been a big fan of what Boston has done in the draft last few years, and those drafts and quality scouting (as usual) by their international team has created a system that may not have a superstar in it, but they have as much depth in their system as any in baseball. There’s a lot of pitching depth, and while they’re light on power bats they have a ton of guys who can get on base and run. The quality of the Red Sox front-office has been talked about to death, but there’s no denying their previous success and they look to have more quality impact players on the way.
|1||Xander Bogaerts||SS||R/R||6-3 / 195|
|There isn’t much more to be said about Bogaerts that you haven’t heard already, but it’s worth repeating, as one of — if not the — best infield prospects in baseball.At the plate, Bogaerts has a quiet approach, with little wasted movement and his hands get through the zone very quickly with good bat speed. His swing is geared more towards contact without a ton of natural loft, but as his frame fills out he should be able to put up above-average power numbers. He has outstanding pitch recognition and has shown a willingness to work counts into his favor at every level.
Some believe that Bogaerts long-term position is third, but I give him every chance to play shortstop to increase his value. He’s not going to be an élite defender, but he has plenty of arm strength and can make plays to his left and right. Even if he does have to make a move over to third in the next two years, Bogaerts should hit enough to play everyday; but if he can stay at short the Red Sox have a special player on their hands.
HIT 50-60 (on base tool would be 70)
|2||Matt Barnes||RHP||R/R||6-4 / 205|
|Some might be surprised to see Barnes ahead of some of the other quality arms in the Red Sox’ system, but take it as a credit to him and not an insult to those he is ahead of. Barnes fastball consistency has improved considerably since he was at Connecticut, consistently hitting 94 on the gun and touching 96 with movement.He’s also seen an uptick with his curveball command, a 12-6 offering with lots of spin and depth that he can throw for strikes or out of the strike zone to get hitters and swing and miss. The change is his weakest offering but continues to get better, and with time should be a competent third offering with fade and improved arm speed.
Barnes isn’t perfect mechanically — he will occasionally land off-balance and doesn’t always find a consistent release point (particularly on his off-speed pitches) — but he doesn’t have any red flags in his delivery, and generally hits his spots. His command and stuff did wane a bit as the year went on, but I still see a future No. 2 — maybe even No. 1 — ceiling with a solid back-end starter floor.
ETA: Late 2014-early 2015
|3||Henry Owens||LHP||L/L||6-6 / 205|
|When Owens first came out of Edison High School in California. he was far more projection than finished projection.While there’s still projection left in his left-arm, he’s become a much more complete pitcher in his short time and there’s more coming. Owen’s fastball sits 88-90, inconsistently touching 92 with the occasional 94 and with enough arm strength to project more as his frame begins to fill. The big progression though as been in his secondary stuff. His curveball and slider both will flash average, the curve being the better of the two offerings with big, slow break and lots of spin, but the slider has improved and will show some tilt and late bite at times as well. His best off-speed pitch is his change though, with excellent arm speed and tailing action His command still isn’t where it needs to be, but improves each year and at time should be at least average.
Owens probably isn’t an ace, but a No. 2 isn’t out of the question, as he has as much upside as any pitcher in the system from the left side and if he makes another leap in 2014 like he did last year there’s no telling what his ceiling is.
|4||Allen Webster||RHP||R/R||6-2 / 190|
| Webster struggled in his call-up to Boston last year, and many believe that he’s going to have to pitch out of the bullpen. I think it’s way too early to give up on him as a starter with his stuff. His fastball sits 92-94, and will touch 97-98 with sinking action when he stays on top of the pitch. He doesn’t have great command of the pitch, but even a slight up-tick and its a plus-plus offering. His change is also a plus offering, with excellent arm speed with diving action and good arm speed, though it’s generally out of the strike zone. His slider is inconsistent, but will occasionally flash plus at 83-86 with some late tilt that buries into the feet of left-handed hitters, and a curve that’s better than a show me pitch but easily the weakest of his four offerings.
The biggest issue with Webster upon his call-up was his command, as he struggled to get ahead of hitters and put too many guys on base via walks.He repeats his delivery well, but doesn’t always find a consistent release point and at times can rush his arm through the zone. If the command doesn’t improve he’ll likely have to become a reliever — albeit a good one — but he’s too young and his stuff is too good to give up on starting yet.
|5||Jackie Bradley, Jr.||OF||L/R||5-10 / 195|
|Like Webster, Bradley Jr. struggled during his time at the big league level, but his ineffectiveness shouldn’t sour Boston fans on his future. While Bradley has some glide in his swing – and his footwork at the plate is a bit noisy — he generally gets his hands through the zone quick enough to compensate and he is capable of hitting the ball hard to all parts of the field, and has average power to the pull-side. There’s some swing and miss to his game — usually from over-swinging and trying to hit the ball 800 feet — but he has shown an ability to work counts in his favor and generally doesn’t swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, though.
Bradley is an excellent outfielder, capable of playing all three positions despite only average speed because of his ability to read the ball off of the bat and takes excellent routes. His arm is only average, but it’s accurate and he gets the ball out of his club quickly.He may not make fans forget about Jacoby Ellsbury, but Bradley, Jr. is a quality prospect who can produce at least average offense in center and is capable of playing upper-echelon defense if the bat is good enough to play everyday.
|6||Gerin Cecchini||3B||L/R||6-3 / 210|
|All Cecchini has done in his three years in the Red Sox’ system is hit, and there’s reason to think he’ll be able to continue as he advances his way to Boston.
At the plate, Cecchini has one of the best swings from the left-side in the minor leagues, staying through the zone with plus bat speed and using his lower half very well, and hits the ball hard to all parts of the field. He has excellent pitch recognition and consistently has shown an ability to get on base, and as he gets stronger he should hit for at least average power at third base. While his actual speed is only average, he is an incredibly smart base runner who reads pitches as well as any hitter in the system.
Whether or not he can stay at third base remains to be seen, however. His hands are average and he has a strong enough arm to stay at the hot corner, but he’s only an average athlete and doesn’t have great instincts in the field. If he was forced to move across the diamond the bat might still play, but the power will have to come to justify that.
ETA: Late 2015
|7||Blake Swihart||C||S/R||6-1 / 175|
|I’ve long been a fan of Swihart — I was stunned that he feel to the Red Sox in the 2011 draft — and while there’s a long way to go, he’s started to show why I considered him a potential all-star backstop coming out of high school. Swihart has plus bat speed from both sides of the plate with plenty of fluidity, and when he keeps his hands up he is capable of hitting the ball with authority to left and right field. He struggles at times to pick up the ball, however, and when his hands drop — a problem that happens more from the right side — he has pretty significant timing issues. He’s worked hard to improve, though, and with time he could absolutely be an above-average offensive catcher, though big power numbers aren’t likely.
Behind the plate, Swihart continues to improve every year. He has plenty of athleticism and reflexes, and while his arm strength isn’t élite he puts himself into position to make throws quickly. If he needed to change positions he could handle a corner outfield position or perhaps even second or third base, but the bat profiles much better at catcher and with his improvement and natural talent he could be an everyday player in a few years.
|8||Trey Ball||LHP||L/L||6-6 / 190|
|Ball is still very much a work in progress and almost entirely projection, but there’s a reason that the Red Sox scooped him up with the No. 7 pick in last June’s draft. Ball’s fastball sits 89-91, but will touch 94 and there’s plenty of room for more thanks to his arm strength and a body that screams “there’s more here.” Right now his secondary pitches are very inconsistent; his best off-speed pitch is his change (which is also the pitch he has the most feel for), which has inconsistent arm speed but plus-plus movement and has a chance to be an out-pitch in time. He also throws a curve in the low 70′s that will occasionally have big break but inconsistent depth and is too easy to pick up on the bat at this time. He repeats his low-effort delivery well, and there are no red flags in his arm action right now.
I liked Ball more as a hitter coming out of the draft, but the Red Sox know what they’re doing (appeal to authority argument? Perhaps.) and that’s a potential fallback. On the mound though, Ball is a potential No. 3, maybe higher if the breaking-ball improves significantly.
|9||Anthony Ranaudo||RHP||R/R||6-7 / 230|
And three more:
Brian Johnson / LHP — Four average pitches and solid command have Johnson looking like a potential fast-track No. 4 starter.
Jon Denney / C — Denney has big time power from the right side, though it remains to be seen whether or not he can stick behind the plate.
Wendell Rijo / 2B — Rijo has impressive bat speed and contact skills, and has a chance to be a plus defender at second base.