|Original Published Date: Nov. 22, 2013|
How many had the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series? After a disastrous 2012, the Red Sox retooled by bring in complementary players, fixing their two top of the rotation pitching studs, and bringing up talent from their minor league system. It all worked.
Now, the Red Sox have a chance to be good for a while. Not only do they have significant major league proven talent, they have a talented group of young players in their farm system, with many banging at the door to the big leagues.
At the top of the list is uber-prospect Xander Bogaerts. With all the success he had in the 2013 playoffs, it’s easy to forget that he’s still only 21-years-old with only 44 at-bats of regular season action. After Bogaerts, there’s 23-year-old Jackie Bradley. Despite a difficult showing in his first 107 major league at-bats, Bradley still has the ceiling of a first division starter playing a gold glove centerfield.
From a pitching standpoint, the Red Sox have three very talented pitchers in Henry Owens, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo. While Webster and Ranaudo are closer to the big leagues, Owens has the ceiling of a Two and could be a very special pitcher.
A little further away is infielders Garin Cecchini and Mookie Betts. While both are living on the helium that their 2013 performance provided, both are legitimate impact talents and could see Boston as soon as 2015.
With the debacle known as 2012 squarely in their rear-view mirror, the Red Sox are poised to both win now and in the future.
|2014 Age: 21||Ceiling: Role 7
|Ht:6-3 Weight: 185||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2013|
I am writing this profile about an hour before the start of the first game of the World Series and 21-year-old rookie, Xander Bogaerts is batting seventh and playing third base for the Boston Red Sox. At 21 years and 22 days he becomes the youngest Red Sox since Babe Ruth to start a World Series game. You might be thinking…so what…dumb narrative, but I think it goes to just how special this kid is and can become.
Bogaerts has an advanced feel for hitting with an aggressive approach but also the ability to look for his pitch. His walk rate of 14.2% across Double and Triple-A really demonstrates the point. He also has premium bat speed and this helps play into his advanced hit-tool and also gives a projection of future power. The bat speed and raw power were on display at the Futures Game in July when he hit some absolute bombs during batting practice. It’s easy to see his swing mechanics and bat speed translating into 20-25 home runs once he fully matures.
Defensively, Bogaerts is athletic enough to play shortstop and now that Jose Iglesias has been shipped off to Detroit, it would not be shocking to see him starting at shortstop on Opening Day in 2014. Long-term is he a shortstop? Probably not, but that decision is at least four to five years away.
Bogaerts is an average runner and his mid-single-digit stolen base total that he posted in 2013 seem to be a good baseline going forward.
Fantasy Impact: Bogaerts is a top three minor league prospect and is a must own in all fantasy formats going into 2014. He has the upside of Troy Tulowitzki and that could start as early as next year or in 2015. He’s going to be a monster.
|2014 Age: 24||Ceiling: Role 5-6
|Ht:5-10 Weight: 195||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2013|
Carl Crawford just might be Jackie Bradley’s best friend. Here’s the calculus as I see it – the Red Sox were burned once when they signed Carl Crawford, who’s primary carry tool is speed, to a seven year, $142 million dollar contract. The question will be: do they want to do that again? I’m guessing not and that should open the door for Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley is not Jacoby Ellsbury and in fact, they are very different players. Bradley is an elite defender with the potential for a plus hit-tool with a high on-base percentage. He’s not a classic top-of-order bat who will provide disruption once he gets on base. While he has very good base running skills, he only has average speed that should translate into 15-20 stolen bases at the highest level.
If you saw many of Bradley’s 107 Major League plate appearances, it’s easy to question his potential plus hit-tool. The approach that worked in college and in the minor leagues did not work once he was promoted. He was much too passive, taking strike one and many times strike two, much too often and putting himself in unfavorable counts. The result was a .189 batting average and a .246 BABIP. Yes, you can argue that the BABIP will normalize, but not when you are passive at the plate and constantly hitting behind in the count.
Part of his hitting problems could have been mental as well. When he was demoted back to Triple-A, he was more aggressive and his hit tool played up. Was he overwhelmed or overly confident in his ability to distinguish between balls and strikes? I’m not sure, but I believe he will hit and that could come as early as next year.
Fantasy Impact: Bradley will be a better major league player than fantasy contributor as much of his value will be on defense. The comp I like to use for Bradley is Denard Span with a little more power (10 home runs) and slightly fewer steals (15). That’s a solid $20 player but far off from a fantasy stud.
|2014 Age: 21||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-6 Weight: 205||Bats: Left Throws:Left
The raw ability was there for Henry Owens to take a big step-up in 2013 and he did not disappoint. Through two-levels, Owens struck out an impressive 169 batters in only 135 innings while posting a 2.67 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP.
It’s wasn’t all perfect for Owens as he struggled to find the plate at times, walking 68 batters or nearly 4.5 per nine. The mechanics are not the problem but instead, he is just learning how to control his 6-foot-6 frame. That’s not something that will be solved overnight and the Red Sox need to have extreme patience as he goes through the development process. That said, it might not matter too much as the stuff has a chance to be extremely nasty.
The fastball sits 90-92 MPH but it plays up because of the excellent momentum he gets on his delivery. The extra life causes his fastball to jump up on batters. He also throws a change-up at 79-80 MPH with fade that will only improve as he gains more experience. His curveball is a slow looping pitch and while inconsistent, is flashing like it could be an above average pitch. That’s three above-average future pitches with his fastball and change-up having a chance to be plus offerings.
One final thing to remember with Owens is that his body is still filling out and maturing. With more weight and strength could come more velocity. If that happens, the entire arsenal will tick-up.
While Owens appears to be on a fast track, the Red Sox would be wise to have him pitch most of 2014 in Double-A. He needs to continue to work on controlling his body to improve his control. It could be alluring for the Red Sox to promote him to be used as a force out of the bullpen, but I believe that will not help his development. Let him continue to hone his craft and promote him at some point in 2015 at the ripe old-age of 22.
Fantasy Impact: You are still dreaming a bit on Owens as he’s far from a finished product. However, the tools are there to be an impact fantasy starter with an upside of a number two. While his high walk rate could challenge his ERA, he should manage to strikeout a batter an inning and have a low hit ratio. His stuff will indeed be difficult to hit, particularly as he continues to mature and fill-out.
|2014 Age: 23||Ceiling: Role 5-6
|Ht:6-2 Weight: 200||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
I really stuffed Garin Cecchini in our Top 50 mid-season prospect list at 19 and in hind-sight that was too rich. I had a chance to scout him during a stretch where he was pounding the ball and was encouraged that plus power would develop. Having seen him again in the Arizona Fall League for three games, I’m no longer as convinced and believe that the power potential is more 15-20 home runs at the highest level.
Cecchini was taken in the fourth round of the 2010 draft for an over slot signing bonus of $1.3 million dollars. He was an older prep athletic, graduating high-school at age 19 and not getting his first taste of professional ball until he was 20. He has hit everywhere he’s played; making excellent contact and showing an excellent understanding of the strike zone. In 1,023 minor league at-bats, he has made contact 81% of the time while walking nearly 17% of the time.
The swing is short and compact with good bat speed. There isn’t a whole lot of leverage or loft in the swing and that has people concerned about his power potential. His swing reminds me a little bit of Wil Myers. Early in his career, Myers swing was more compact and level and was putting up pedestrian home run totals. As he matured, he changed his swing to add more loft and his power took off. He did sacrifice his contact rate, but Tampa will gladly take 30 home runs and a .270 batting average over .310 and 15 home runs. While Cecchini is not as powerful as Myers, modifying his swing would help him to tap into his power better. However, in seeing him in the Arizona Fall League, the swing remained the same as what I saw earlier in the year.
Cecchini’s 51 stolen bases in 2012 will likely be an outlier. He has average speed but does get excellent jumps and therefore can steal bases. Long-term, he’s a 10-15 stolen base threat and not a 30 plus threat.
He’s also a very good third baseman, but the Red Sox also have Xander Bogaerts and Wil Middlebrooks; who both might be better defensively than Cecchini. There was speculation that the Red Sox might move him to the outfield but he was still playing third base during the AFL.
Fantasy Impact: Cecchini’s power development will dictate how good of a fantasy player he will become. If he only develops 10-12 home run power, then he’s a slightly better version of Alberto Callaspo; who is only rosterable in deeper leagues. I’m splitting the difference and believe he’ll develop 20 home run power, but you might not see that for another three to five years. Throw in a .300 hitter with the potential for a .400 on-base percentage and you are looking at a Top 100 fantasy contributor.
|2014 Age: 24||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190||Bats: Right Throws:Right
I’ve seen Allen Webster pitch a lot and while his Major League debut was less than ideal, he has a chance to be a very good starting pitcher. How bad was his 30.1 innings? He had a 23K/18BB strikeout-to-walk ratio with an 8.60 ERA while giving up seven home runs. Yeah, it wasn’t good.
The biggest problem with Webster’s performance in the Majors was his ability to throw strikes. Candidly, that’s been his biggest problem throughout his minor league career as he’s posted a 3.74 walk-per-nine ratio in his 599 innings pitched. The culprit has primarily been his sinking fastball, that is a true plus pitch, but he struggles to throw it consistently for strikes. It’s important that he continues to improve the command of this pitch as his four-seamer is a fairly straight offering, even though it averages 95 MPH.
His primary secondary pitch is a hard change-up that he throws at 84-86 MPH with a lot of fade. It’s a real swing and miss pitch. Webster also throws both a slider and curve with the slider being the better of the two pitches. While I’ve seen the pitch elicit some ugly swings and misses, he still needs to work on making it consistent.
There’s just a lot to like with Webster as his stuff has top-of-the-rotation potential and with his athleticism (former shortstop), I’m confident that his control will improve. Plus, he still only turns 24-years-old in February, so there is still time left on the development curve. That said, when will his chance come in Boston? The Red Sox have an expensive and experienced starting five and Brandon Workman might have passed Webster on the depth chart; although I think Webster’s stuff is a notch above.
Fantasy Impact: Webster’s stock is down and he’s a buy-low candidate for me. It’s not a no-brainer move though as I’m not sure when he’ll get his chance. It’s not out of the question that Webster gets moved to the bullpen to allow his 95 MPH fastball to play-up. It wouldn’t be the first time a move was made like that, so acquiring him is a risky proposition. For deep AL-Only redraft leagues, I’m definitely adding him as a 2014 speculative buy.
|2014 Age: 21||Ceiling: Role 5
|Ht:5-9 Weight: 155||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Mookie Betts came out of nowhere to post one of the more impressive offensive seasons in the minor leagues. Across Low-A and High-A, Betts hit 15 home runs, stole 38 of 42 bases, and had an impressive 57K/81BB strikeout-to-walk-ratio. In looking back at 2012, the ability to make contact and walk were clearly evident. He walked 32 times while striking out 30 times in 251 at-bats. However, in those same 251 at-bats, he didn’t hit a single home run.
Betts was taken in the fifth round of the 2011 draft but signed late and only got a chance to appear in a handful of games. He’s not a big guy at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds but plays with a sense of urgency. When I had a chance to see him during the Arizona Fall League, he was aggressive in the field and on the bases. He gets the most out of his swing with excellent mechanics that lead to fluid kinetic energy. While the bat speed is not elite, the ball does jump off his bat. Will he be capable of above-average or even plus power at the highest level? It’s an open question with as many positive responses as negative ones. I’m skeptical and believe the power will settle in around 10-12.
In the games I scouted, I didn’t get him on a true dig to first, but the stopwatch put him as only an above-average runner. I found this surprising given his 38 stolen bases but clearly he is an effective base stealer. It will be interesting to see if this continues as he moves to the upper minors.
2014 should provide more data as to whether Betts is a Role 5 player or closer to a Role 6 player. Given his performance this year, he looks like the second coming of Dustin Pedroia. For sake of argument, let’s say that the power is real and he has the potential to hit .300 with 20 home runs and 20 plus stolen bases. That is Dustin Pedroia-esque; but where does he play?
Fantasy Impact: Betts is a must own in all Dynasty League formats. The bigger decision is whether he’s a sell high candidate or not. As we get closer to Spring Training and the Mookie Betts banter starts in fantasy circles, he could very well be overhyped to the point of a sell-high candidate. If you can get a Top 75 prospect for him, I would make the deal.
|2014 Age: 24||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-7 Weight: 230||Bats: Right Throws:Right
I’ve had a chance to see Ranaudo a couple of times and have concluded that I’m not as high on the right-hander as most. Yes, he took a significant step-up in 2013 posting a 2.96 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP across Double and Triple-A, but the arsenal is more back-of-the-rotation as opposed to top-of-the-rotation.
Ranaudo’s fastball sits 91-93 MPH but is flat and lacks that late life you like to see. It’s rather surprising given his 6-foot-7 frame. The problem is he lacks great momentum to the plate and lands fairly rigid on his follow-through. The result is despite downward plane, the ball stays up and that is proven by his good but not great ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio of 1.47.
Like his fastball, Ranaudo’s secondary pitches are average. In the Futures Game, Ranaudo’s threw a couple of plus curve balls but when I saw him later in the season, he couldn’t throw the pitch for strikes. When on, it sits 78-79 MPH and can miss bats. His hard change-up is fringy and still needs a lot of work.
Ranaudo should begin the 2014 season back in Triple-A and could see a spot start in Boston later in the year. He has the ceiling of a number three but will likely be a four.
Fantasy Impact: Ranaudo should provide league average ratios and a strikeout rate of 6.5 per nine. He’s a sell high candidate for me in a Dynasty League and therefore, I would be looking to move him to an owner who is looking for more certainty. I’d be looking for more upside.
|2014 Age: 19||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-6 Weight: 185||Bats: Left Throws: Left
Remember when the Red Sox were bad? Oh yeah, that was just last year. Well, losing 93 games yielded the Red Sox the seventh overall pick in the draft where they selected Indiana high-schooler Trey Ball.
Ball is tall, thin and projectable at 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds. He has a raw arsenal that starts with his fastball that sits 90-92 MPH and reportedly hit the mid-90’s during his pre-draft workouts. He also throws a 12-to-6 curve that shows a lot of potential.
While the upside is huge for Ball, he is sushi raw and has a long way to go. Blessed with great athleticism, many sources believed he could have also been drafted as an outfielder. Since 6-foot-6 outfielders not named Winfield struggle to get their long-limps to work well together, choosing pitching was probably the best course. However, where there is athleticism, there is also a higher opportunity for superior mechanics.
While players drafted early in the first round usually start in full-season ball, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Sox hold him back and let him pitch in short-season ball for 2014. He will not turn 20 until July, so there is no reason to rush his development.
Fantasy Impact: I’m sure the Red Sox are hoping for a repeat of Henry Owens. While there are physical similarities, Owens was more polished at the time he was drafted. If it all comes together for Ball, his ceiling is a number two. However, he’s a long way off and should only be drafted by an owner who is willing to have patience.
9. Blake Swihart (C)
Blake Swihart had a very solid year in 2013, posting a .298/.366/.428 slash line playing in High-A. He has an excellent approach at the plate and is able to make solid contact. He swing is short to the ball resulting in hard contact to all fields. While he only had two home runs over his 376 at-bats, he did hit 29 doubles and as he matures, some of those doubles should clear the fence. As with Cecchini, his swing lacks loft, so you are still dreaming on the power. While he’s still relatively new to catching, in the game in which I saw him catch, he looked fine. His pop times to second base were 2.05 and 2.02.
10. Matt Barnes (RHP)
Matt Barnes is yet another premium pitching prospect for the Red Sox. However, he’s a step below the trifecta of Owens, Webster, and Ranaudo. While his fastball is a plus pitch that sits in the low-90’s and can touch higher, his secondary offerings are currently fringy. His curve ball shows promise but his change-up needs significant work before it can play on the big stage. His arsenal would play up if he had better command of it, but he struggles to locate his pitches and even at times, throw strikes. While his control and command could improve, his mechanics are not ideal, so I’m putting his ceiling at a back-of-the-rotation starter.
2014 Emerging Prospect:
Manuel Margot (OF)
The Red Sox gave Manuel Margot an $800,000 signing bonus in 2011 with the hope that the outfielder’s physical tools would turn into baseball skills. Blessed with plus bat speed and plus running ability, Margot has also demonstrated an advanced approach at the plate. In 185 at-bats in the New York Penn League, he walked 22 times with a 79% contact rate. He also stole 18 bases and that should only improve as he learns the finer points of the running game. Margot should start 2014 in Low-A as a 19-year-old and could be a fast riser.