Boston Red Sox

Original Published Date: Nov. 13, 2012

I really like the Boston Red Sox minor league organization.  You have an elite talent in Xander Bogaerts who has a chance to be an all-star shortstop or third baseman topping the list and a gold glove shortstop in Jose Iglesias in the 10 slot.  The biggest concern is that most of the elite talent is just moving into the upper minors, so there is risk throughout the system.

Jackie Bradley Jr. ranks number two in the organization and has a chance to be the center fielder of the future with elite defensive and hitting skills.  Allen Webster and Matt Barnes are the two top pitching prospects in the organization and both have a chance to be mid-rotation starters with a ceiling of a number two.  Henry Owens or “Little big unit” has even more upside than Webster and Barnes and is one of the more intriguing prospects in the system.

This is the Boston Red Sox, so expect many of the players on this list to be used as trade barter for a deal down the road.  Remember, prospects are there to be promoted to help the big league team and to be used as trade chips to bring in major league talent.  Expect both to occur with these ten players.

For a defintion of our star rating system, click here.

1. Xander Bogaerts (SS/3B)

2013 Age: 20 BP: Aruba
Ht:6-3    Weight: 175 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013-14
2012 A-AA 476 71 20 81 5 .307 .365 77.7 9.2 .353

Red Sox Nation has been on Xander Bogaerts since he was signed for $410,000 out of Aruba in the year of Trout (2009).  He brings an electric bat with plus-plus future raw power while continuing to defy the odds and staying at shortstop.

While generously listed at 175 pounds, Bogaerts is a big boy with a strong aggressive swing.  It’s a compact swing with a lot of torque that he generates out of his lower half to hit the ball a long way.  While I try to act cool when I’m at games or taking in batting practice, I have uttered the words “WOW” three times this year when watching a game and one of those came watching Xander Bogaerts take batting practice.  The physical power and mechanics work well together and the ball just explodes off his bat.

While I like the swing mechanics, Bogaerts is ultra-aggressive at the plate.  His 9% walk rate does not tell the true story as he walked once in 92 at-bats after being promoted to Double-A.  From all reports, Bogaerts has great make-up and works hard, so I’m hopeful that over time he will learn to make the necessary adjustments and become better disciplined at the plate.

The position that Bogaerts will ultimately play has been aggressively debated for the past two years.  He’s actually an average defender at shortstop, but based on his size, it doesn’t seem possible that he will stay there permanently.  However, if the Red Sox wanted to move him, the ideal time would have been this fall during the Arizona Fall League.  Since that did not happen, you have to assume that the Red Sox continue to believe he’s a shortstop for the foreseeable future.

Fantasy Impact: A shortstop with 30 home run potential, hitting in the middle of the lineup with the Boston Red Sox, could return first round value.  While I don’t think he’ll hit for an elite average, I do believe a 270-plus batting average is possible, particularly if he can develop some plate discipline.  You should consider Bogaerts a top 30 prospect talent and draft aggressively.

2. Jackie Bradley (OF)

2013 Age: 23 BP: South Carolina
Ht: 5-10  Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2013
2012 A-AA 463 90 9 63 24 .315 .425 80.8 19.0 .371

There are a lot of people who believe that the Red Sox will let Jacoby Ellsbury walk after the 2013 season and turn the center field duties over to Jackie Bradley Jr.  While that’s clearly a risky proposition, it illustrates how good of a baseball prospect Bradley has become.

Drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2011 draft, Bradley won a NCAA Championship at South Carolina earning the Most Outstanding Player award.  He fell to the supplemental round after a down year in his junior year of college and concerns about a wrist injury he suffered late in the year.  However, in 2012 he showed why he is an elite prospect based on a plus hit-tool, excellent fielding, with some power and speed.

Bradley has gold-glove caliber defensive skills with great tracking ability and an arm that will be a major advantage in center field.  While he’s not a burner, the speed plays great in the field and should also contribute 25-30 stolen bases a year.  I clocked him at 4.15 down to first base, which is above average speed but the speed again plays up on the base path due to his ability to read pitcher’s moves and get great jumps.

Bradley’s hitting mechanics and approach is excellent and should equate to a plus hit-tool at the highest level.   His stance starts out wide with a lot of bat waggle but as the pitcher starts into his motion, his setup becomes quiet with a very natural load.  His swing is compact but he doesn’t use his lower body well and therefore I question how much power he will ultimately have.  He does have a nice ability to adjust to pitches and therefore engages in long at-bats.  This combined with his plate discipline gives Bradley a good chance to be a perennial .300 hitter at the highest level.

So who is Jackie Bradley?  I think he will be a prototypical leadoff batter with great on base skills, some power (10-15) and speed (25-30) who will play at a gold glove level in center field.

Fantasy Impact: Unfortunately, Bradley will be a better baseball player than a fantasy player.  His tools are not as loud as Ellsbury but hitting at the top of the lineup with Boston could provide elite counting stats along with a .300 average.

3. Allen Webster (RHP)

2013 Age: 20 BP: N. Carolina
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 AA 130.2 133 56 2 4.20 8.89 3.86 1.49

Allen Webster was part of the return in the blockbuster trade that saw the Red Sox move Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  While most of the post-trade discussion was about the three all-stars, the Sox got several nice pieces including Allen Webster, who I think is a below-the-radar talent.

Webster has a really good arsenal that starts with a plus sinking fastball that sits 91-94 MPH and moves all over the place.  It’s a wicked pitch that has a lot of tailing action that really confuses batters.  He also throws both a curve and slider that both flash plus at times and have batters completely flailing.  His change-up is also at least an average pitch that keeps left-handed batters honest.

The biggest problem with Webster is his control.  He walked 4.20 batters per nine and that’s just not good enough.  Usually we can find mechanically problems that are at fault, but the mechanics are clean.  Easy arm action, nice follow through, and good posture.  As a former shortstop, he’s also athletic – so what gives?  It’s the stuff and in particularly, his sinking fastball.  It has tremendous movement and stays down in the zone but he can’t consistently throw it for strikes.    This is solvable by both repetition and reducing the reliance on the pitch.

Fantasy Impact: While there’s risk with Webster, if he can control his stuff, you could be looking at an elite pitcher that can strikeout a batter an inning and keep the ball in the ballpark.  He’ll probably always have an inflated WHIP due to the number of ground balls that will be hit, but his low ERA and strikeouts will more than make up for that.

4. Matt Barnes (RHP)

2013 Age: 22 BP: Connecticut
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 205 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 A-A+ 119.2 97 38 6 2.18 10.00 2.86 1.05

Matt Barnes was the Red Sox first pick in the 2011 draft and put up an impressive year in 2012.  As with Dylan Bundy, the SALLY League was not much of a challenge as Barnes posted video game statistics by striking out 42 batters in 26.2 innings while only walking four.  The Carolina League provided a slightly better challenge but Barnes was dominating, particularly in May and June before tiring in July when he posted a 5.09 ERA.

When you see Barnes pitch, you’ll notice the easy delivery and then the score board light up with a 95.  He definitely has velocity, but it’s easy velocity and that comes from very good pitching mechanics.  His posture is great with nice balance when he finishes his pitches.  He pitches with a high three-quarter delivery and when combined with his great posture, he maintains his downward plane and keeps his pitches low in the zone (1.69 G/F).  With good pitching mechanics comes control and command and Barnes demonstrates both with a 2.18 BB/9.

From an arsenal standpoint, Barnes has a plus fastball but his curve/slider and change-up are just ok.  In fact, because he can locate his fastball so well, I’ve seen innings where 80%+ of his pitches were fastball.  That will not play as he moves into the upper minors and believe the Red Sox need to force Barnes to throw more off-speed pitches in game situations.  I’ve seen some curve balls that I would grade as above average but the change-up needs work.

Fantasy Impact: Being able to command your fastball is one of the most important aspects of pitching; and Matt Barnes can do that very well.  His secondary pitches need work but I’ve seen enough flashes of an above average curve that I’m buying in on Barnes.  In a Dynasty League draft, I’m drafting him in the 15-20 range of minor league pitchers.

5. Garin Cecchini (3B)

2013 Age: 22 BP: Louisiana
hHt:6-2    Weight: 200 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 LowA 455 84 4 62 51 .305 .394 80.8 13.4 .371

Wow, I didn’t realize that Garin Cecchini had 51 stolen bases.  You typically see these totals with guys who have at least 70 grade speed, but Cecchini is not in that class.  This type of anomaly generally points to base stealing skills, which is helpful but probably means it’s not sustainable as he moves through the minors.

What Cecchini does have is a great hit tool that should profile to at least above average power if not more down the road.  He has a great approach as well as leveraged compact swing where he uses his lower half very effectively.  I would suspect as he matures and completely recovers from his broken wrist in 2011, some of his 38 doubles will turn into home runs.

Defensively, he’s adequate at third and again, uses his baseball acumen to position himself well so that he can take advantage of his above average arm.

Fantasy Impact:  I like Cecchini a lot and believe he has a ceiling of a first division starter/solid regular.  You do have to dream on the power a little and also acknowledge that he is more a 10-15 stolen base players and will not be competing for stolen base titles.

6. Henry Owens (LHP)

2013 Age: 20 BP: California
Ht: 6-6 Weight: 190 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2015
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2012 LowA 101.2 100 55 10 4.16 11.51 4.87 1.45

Drafted in the supplemental round of the 2011 draft, left-hander Henry Owens is part immense talent and part project.

For a kid drafted out of high school, he has a deep arsenal with a fastball that sits 90-91 MPH with a nice curve with great shape and depth and then a nasty slider that gets swings and misses from both right and left-handed batter alike.  With such a deep arsenal, why did Owens have an ERA of 4.87 and a WHIP of 1.45 in the SALLY League?   If you see Owens pitch, you know why – he’s 6-foot-6, 190 pounds with a huge stride to the plate.  When your that tall and have a long stride, balance and a consistently release point are problematic.

That said, in looking at his mechanics, it’s actually not as bad as I would have thought.  The delivery is pretty easy but the angles that create great deception are causing him to lose his release point and walk 4.16 batters per nine.  Candidly, I think he’s going to be ok and the Red Sox just might have something special with Owens.  I have him as a three star, but he is right on the cusp of four stars.

Fantasy Impact:  Owens should be falling under the radar in most Dynasty Leagues despite playing for the Red Sox.  If he is available, I would definitely be investing.

7. Deven Marrero (SS)

2013 Age: 22 BP: Florida
Ht:6-1    Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015
2012 SS 246 45 2 24 24 .268 .358 80.5 13.8 .325

For the past several years, everyone has just assumed that Jose Iglesias would be Boston’s shortstop of the future.  After all, he’s an 80 defender and the Red Sox always seem to have enough hitting; but maybe not…

As the first pick in the 2012 draft, the Sox drafted college shortstop Deven Marrero.  While he is not Iglesias defensively, he’s also no slouch defensively either and has a chance to hit a lot more than the young Cuban.

Marrero has a chance to have an above average hit tool with a nice compact swing coupled with a good approach at the plate.  The swing is fairly “arm-ie” as he doesn’t use his lower half very well, so I don’t expect to see much power.  I was surprised at the 24 stolen bases he posted in only 246 at-bats as he’s not a burner.  However, he is a smart base runner, so I could see 20 stolen bases in 500 at-bats at the highest level.

So, what do the Red Sox do?  Three of your Top 10 prospects are shortstops?  If I were to look into my crystal ball five years into the future, I think you will see Bogaerts at 3B and Marrero as SS with Iglesias playing somewhere else.  This scenario moves Cecchini to the outfield or out of the organization.

Fantasy Impact: I see Marrero as a top 200 prospect and therefore draftable in a Dynasty League.  I see him as a solid regular with an upside of a middle infielder on your fantasy team with a .280 batting average, 20-25 stolen bases, and a handful of home runs.

8. Bryce Brentz (OF)

2013 Age: 24 BP: Tennessee
Ht:6-0    Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2013
2012 AA-AAA 473 62 17 76 7 .290 .346 71.2 8.7 .370

Bryce Brentz has a lot of natural power for a guy who is only 6-foot and 190 pounds.  From where does the power come?  Great bat speed, getting his arms extended, and swinging very hard.

In a nutshell, that’s Bryce Brentz.  He has plus raw power that could translate into 25+ home runs at the highest levels.  However, he is going to be very aggressive at the plate which will translate into a lot of strikeouts and few walks.  While his batting average was a respectable .290, it was fueled by a .370 BABIP.  While he has some speed, if we assume a .310 BABIP, his expected average was .243.

Fantasy Impact: Brentz profiles as a second division power hitting right fielder.  Power hitters always have fantasy value but I would view him as a fifth outfielder on my fantasy team.

9. Brandon Jacobs (OF)

Brandon Jacobs is another toolsy athlete who has a ton of upside but continues to struggle with his approach and contact ability.  I still like him a lot, particularly from a fantasy standpoint and believe his upside is more than Bryce Brentz, but with a lot more risk.  He should move to Double-A next year, but I would not be surprised if he stalls at that level as the Red Sox work on his approach and swing mechanics.

10. Jose Iglesias (SS)

If you are a card carrying member of Red Sox Nation, then you are familiar with shortstop wizard Jose Iglesias.  I’ve had a chance to see Iglesias take fielding practice several times and it truly is a remarkable site.  The actions are so fluid that it seems like he’s floating and at game speed, he has the ability to make the difficult play look easy.  The problem is he can’t hit.  The approach is ultra-aggressive and as he moved to the upper minors and even in his 68 Major League at-bats in 2012, pitchers just didn’t throw him anything to hit.  Yet, he swung and made weak contact.   Similar to Dee Gordon, there is also not a lot of physical strength and that is also contributing to his problems at the plate.  In the end, I think he profiles as a gold glove shortstop who will hit .230 with little power and a handful of stolen bases.  Wait a minute…that sounds a lot like Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, who if I recall, just won a ring.

25 comments on “Boston Red Sox

  1. Ok, Rich, you were higher on Webster than most this off season and it’s clear he has great stuff, but it’s no secret he’s being punished now in MILB (July) and isn’t ready. My question: what’s wrong and how will Boston address it? Is it command, control, confidence, or something else? What are you seeing in these games that leads you to believe he’s still a possible #2 SP? Thoughts?

    • I’m not looking real smart on that position, am I? It’s both command and control and if you read my pre-season write-up, that was what I was concerned about. I then saw him in a start in early April in Scranton and he was dominating…command was there. So, as is typical with young guys; particularly two-seam sinker ballers, it could take a while. I doubt the Sox throw in the towel and push him to the pen because the arsenal is really good, but his outings are just ugly at the moment. Call me crazy, but I’m still buying!

  2. After languishing in A ball for 4 1/2 years Michael Almanzar has broken through to AA, with an .864 OPS in 244 at-bats. Have you seen him play? And if you were re-ranking the Sox top 10 today, would he make the cut?

    • WOW…Michael Almanzer…most people have given up on him but yes, I’ve seen him play and there’s something there. While he’s been toiling around for a while, he’s still only 22-years-old. I think he can hit with some power and speed potential. I doubt he’ll be a star but he might get a chance for some playing time but I doubt it will be in Boston. I’m guessing he eventually gets Rule 5’d and that will be his opportunity to get exposure to the big leagues.

  3. Rich,
    What are your thoughts on Francellis Montas? Heard his fastball approaches triple digits.

  4. What do you make of the possibility of Bradley making the Red Sox team out of camp? Is it too soon, would he benefit more from time in Triple A?

    • His hit-tool and makeup are very mature and he’ll have a fairly easy transition to the majors. He’s an elite defender that is hard to truly appreciate unless you keep your eyes locked on him the entire game. His pre-game warmup are also really entertaining to watch. Is it too soon? If you take service-time out of the equation, then I believe he could make an impact in the majors today with his defense and ability to get on-base. These are incredibly valuable. However, the Red Sox might choose to hold him back at least until late April to get an additional year of control or until mid-June in order to keep him from slipping into Super-2 status. My vote: break camp! Likely scenario: up in June.

  5. Huge Sox fan and loved reading your column. Excited for their future again!
    Rich, thanks for the details and insight.

  6. Any thoughts on Daniel McGrath? Young Aussie pitcher that signed with the BoSox last year. ETA or when he’ll start playing in the minors here?

  7. Where would Ruby De La Rosa be on this list if he were still eligible? Seems like you could put him in the mix with Webster and Barnes.

  8. Excuse me. Xander not Xaver

  9. If Xaver is ready this year how about putting at third, moving Middlebrooks to first and Napoli to catcher?

    • Hmmm…you could see Bogaerts get a taste of the majors in 2013 but with only 92 at-bats in AA, he still needs some more grooming. The best case scenario for the Red Sox is that Bogaerts continues his quick move through the minors and is ready in 2014 and slots into SS. Granted, I don’t think long-term that is his home, he might be able to play there early in their career. The fact that the Sox only signed Drew to a one-year deal would play nicely in that plan. Again, it’s a best case scenario but the left side of their infield would have both cost certainty with huge upside.

    • At this point, Napoli at catcher for anything more than 40, 50 games is probably just not going to happen.

  10. Thoughts on Ty Buttrey and where he would fit in on their list?

    • Ethan,

      The Red Sox are so deep that I could have gone to 15 and included players that have a chance to hit the big leagues; including Buttrey. I like Buttrey’s arm a lot. I saw him early this spring and he was throwing 93 but heard from others that he hit 96. Throws a knuckle curve that is really hard to control but he does a good job with it. The Sox might want him to throw a more conventional breaking pitch down the road though. I saw a few change-ups that looked really good. So good arsenal. Delivery needs work. He’s big, gangly and therefore a little awkward on the mound. Needs to slow things down but nothing that can’t be fixed. I think I like Pat Light a little better but Buttrey is right there. Again, the Sox do a great job with the draft and Buttrey is a great example.

  11. love the series rich….thanks for doing it. What are your thoughts on Pat Light or Cody Kukuk…two decent arms with upside in the BOS system. They seem to have loaded up on projectable arms in the past few drafts, just interested how close those guys are to your list. Thanks again.

    • Thanks Scott.

      I really like Pat Light. Saw him in High School. Big kid with a big arm and he throws strikes. He also did well in the NYP League. Definite sleeper in the system. I considered him for the Top 10 but with the stacked system and feeling like I had to put Igelesis in the mix, he fell out.

      I’ve never seen Cody Kukuk pitch, but he’s a lefty which is a good thing. The reports I got led me to believe he’s a ways off and would fell to the 15-17 range. My notes said the following – low 90’s fastball; slider needed work; change-up is poor; mechanics are rough. I did look at some video and he doesn’t finish off his pitches at all. Nice posture but poor balance due to him opening up his shoulder and not following through. Conclusion: nice arm and potential but has a ways to go.

  12. any hope for Ranaudo or Pimental?

    • Dunno…doesn’t look good. Ranaudo pitched 37 innings in 2012 and walked 27 with 27 strikeouts and then complained of a dead arm in July. I love the size but the stuff just isn’t elite and his mechanics are a mess. GOt a long way to go.

      Pimental – I saw him a couple of years ago and loved the fastball but he had no breaking pitch. When I did the research, I heard that his curve, actually more of a slurve had improved but he was mechanics were very inconsistent. Candidly, I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at tape of him because he just didn’t make the Top 10 cut.

  13. Rich,
    As always, well done. I did not realize Boston’s minor league system was so deep. I had a chance to watch Bryce Brentz play a little last season at AA. Thanks for clarifying some questions I had on him.
    Brad Dengler

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