We’re back again with another team in our trek from club to club searching out the top 10 prospects for each team. If you’ve been following along with the articles, you’ve seen us work with other sites who have a more focused view on their specific team. There will be some more of those to come in the upcoming week, but for now we are going to stay in-house again and let Baseball Instinct’s Brandon Kung guide us through the Boston Red Sox top 10. The Red Sox are an organization that has really cultivated it’s farm system. There’s a fair amount of players entering that “Major League ready” phase, and a group of players who are still a ways from reaching the majors with a high ceiling. Having said that, lets jump into our rankings with Brandon.
1. Xander Bogaerts SS Oct 1, 1992 6ft3 175lbs - Signed by the Red Sox in the 2009 as an international free agent, Bogaerts drew some attention in 2010 when he hit .314/.396/.423 in the DSL. The Red Sox were big believers, and gave the then 18 yr old Bogaerts the aggressive assignment to low-A, where the average age is 21.4yrs old. Bogaerts started off well, hitting .276/.354/.483 in June, but when he launched 13hrs over July and August his name started to be frequently mentioned in prospect circles. He finished with a .260/.324/.509 line which does not seem especially impressive until you note that the league average line was 260/.332/.392.. Now lets take a look at Bogaerts tools.
Bogaerts’ calling card is his power, and he has quite a bit of that. Over the past 16 years, only two 18-yr olds have hit for higher ISO than Boagerts .249 in the Sally League. Their names- Mike Stanton and Adrian Beltre. Bogaerts has the potential to develop more than plus power. Though he only drew 25bb to 71k over 265ab, coaches love his ability to analyze mistakes from one at bat and correct it before the next at bat. He also draws high praise for his ability to figure out how pitchers are going to go after him. At times he shows an advanced approach at the plate, so with more experience he should be able to improve his plate discipline. Check out our Prospect Instinct|Xander Bogaerts article.
Our Instinct: Bogaerts’ power potential gives him a chance to become a player with a high offensive ceiling. Going into 2012 what I would want to see is how his hit tool will develop. Judging by this year alone his hit tool doesn’t look to be more than average. But he has an impressive ability to drive balls to all fields, and if he can cut down on his strikeouts he might be able to have an average to above-average hit tool, which would make him a special player. Though he’s athletic, and this season made huge improvements defensively, most of us believe his future isn’t at SS. He’ll most likely end up at one of the corner positions.
2. Garin Cecchini 3B Apr 20, 1991 6ft2 200lbs- Cecchini was a first round talent that fell to the Red Sox in the 4th round of the 2010 amateur draft because he tore his ACL that spring. Scouts have always liked his hit tools, so the question mark surrounding him this year was if he was fully recovered. Though he only logged 114 abs, his triple slash line of .298/.398/.500 along with 12 sb alleviated those worries. It would have been nice to have a larger sample size to draw from, but his season ended early with a broken wrist.
Cecchini’s excellent bat speed and good hand-eye co-ordination makes him a potential plus hitter. His power is still developing, but he should have at least average power. He has a good approach at the plate (17bb:19k in 114ab), but still needs to work on his pitch selection. He has a tendency to swing too quickly against fastballs, and like many youngsters needs more experience hitting off-speed pitches. His speed is solid average. Defensively, he has made a good transition to 3b, where his soft hands and plus arm gives him a good chance to stick at 3b. You can view Cecchini in-depth in our Prospect Instinct|Garin Cecchini article.
Our Instinct: There’s quite a bit to like with Cecchini. His bat gives him a chance to be above average offensively, and defensively he should be able to handle 3b. The Red Sox took it cautiously with him in 2011, so he wasn’t challenged with his short season assignment. We’ve been talking up Garin Cecchini since our coverage prior to the 2010 draft. While we think ranking him at #2 will raise some eyebrows, our love for him is well documented and we here at Baseball Instinct endorse this position across the board.
3. Will Middlebrooks 3b Sep 9, 1988 6ft4 200lbs – Drafted in the 5th round of the 2007 draft, and as with many of the Red Sox’s top prospects, Middlebrooks signed for over slot bonus of $925,000. He was a bit raw when it came to hitting, but because of his athletic ability, size, potential to be a plus defender and power potential he drew comparisons to Cal Ripken Jr., and Scott Rolen. High praise indeed!
Middlebrooks’ best tools are his power and arm, both of which rate a plus. His hitting ability isn’t too bad either judging by his triple slash line he put up in AA/AAA this year of .285/.328/.506. However of concern is his strikeouts (114k in 439ab, 465pa) and low bb:k ratio (26:114). But to give him credit he has improved his strikeout rate over the past four years from around 30% to 25%. Our own George Utter notes that Middlebrooks is vulnerable to pitches inside because he gets his hands too far out on his swing.
Our Instinct: Middlebrooks seems to be the darling of most scouts and analysts. He’s made improvements every year (ops of .663, .751, .769 and .834) and he certainly has the tools for an all-star ceiling. However I think his lack of plate discipline will catch up with him and prevent him from being more than an average to above average third basemen.
4. Matt Barnes SP RHP June 17, 1990 6ft4 205lbs – The Red Sox’ top draft pick in the 2011 Amateur Draft, went undrafted coming out of high school. It was only in his sophomore season in College when his velocity jumped several ticks that he vaulted into the prospect scene.
Barnes’ throws two types of fastballs. His four-seam fastball sits between 92-94mph, that he can dial-up to 98mph when needed. His two-seam fastball is usually thrown between 89-91mph that features a noticeable arm-side run and has heavy downward movement. He can throw both fastballs to both sides of the plate for strikes. His best secondary offering is his curveball, which at its best is a plus pitch with an impressive late downward break through the strike zone. His curveball is a true “out” pitch. He compliments these two plus pitches with a changeup that could eventually become a third above average, potential plus pitch if he can command it more consistently. Barnes’ has a loose arm and minimal effort in his delivery, but his mechanics need work.
Our Instinct: In the words of our own Thomas Belmont, Barnes “is a very Red Sox type of pick.” He’s a college starter with a high floor with and enough upside to be a frontline starter. It will exciting to see his debut next year as the Red Sox’s farm has not seen such a talented pitcher since graduating Clay Buchholz.
5. Ryan Lavarnway C Aug 7, 1987 6ft4 225lbs – Drafted in the sixth round of 2008, Lavarnway built on his strong 2010 campaign by hitting .294/.373/.561 over AA/AAA in 2011. Lavarnway value lies with his bat. Though he has an average arm and has made improvements in his receiving his skills, it’s unlikely he will be even average defensively. That said, his bat is good enough to make him a starting catcher. He hits for above average power to all fields, makes contact, takes a walk and doesn’t strikeout too much.
Our Instinct: Lavarnway has a shot at being the Red Sox starting catcher sometime in 2012. It’s unlikely he will replicate his minor league triple slash line of .285/.375/.520, but it’s well within reason to expect him to hit close to average with 15-20home runs annually.
6. Anthony Ranaudo SP RHP Sep 9, 1989 6ft7 231lbs – The Red Sox managed to sign him in the first supplementary round for $2.55 million of the 2010 draft. Following the trade that sent SP prospect Casey Kelly to the Padres as part of the Adrian Gonzalez deal, Ranaudo was immediately viewed as the best pitching prospect in the system. He certainly had some hype- he entered the 2010 amateur draft as the top pitching prospect, but an elbow injury caused him to drop to the Red Sox in the first supplementary round, and he had the stuff. Though Ranaudo didn’t have a bad year, many viewed him as a potential frontline starter and were disappointed when he more often than not didn’t pitch like one. You can view a more in-depth write-up of him in our Prospect Instinct|Anthony Ranaudo article.
Our Instinct: Though he started the season well- posting a 3.33era, 9.78k/9ip and 3.13bb/9ip in low-A, his performance in high-A was seen as a disappointment, posting 4.33era, 7.44k/9ip and 3.33/bb9ip. There are still times that Ranaudo still flashes frontline stuff, but most scouts tend to view him now as more of a back-end starter with a ceiling as a no.3. I’m inclined to agree.
7. Blake Swihart C Apr 3, 1992 6ft1 175lbs – Swihart, who was the top catcher in the 2011 amateur draft, is an athletic switch hitter who has plus bat speed, and a fluid swing from both sides of the plate. He has the potential to be an above average hitter with average power. He should be at least average defensively, but his present smallish frame have some wondering if he might eventually change positions. That said he’s still expected to fill out a bit.
Our Instinct: While it can be hard to project catchers, especially prep catchers who have a high failure rate, Swihart does have the tools to be a top-notch catcher if he continues to develop.
8. Henry Owens SP LHP Jul 21, 1992 6ft6 190lbs – The top high school pitching prospect in SoCal, Owens was drafted 36th overall in the 2011 amateur draft by the Red Sox. Owens’ throws a fastball that can touch 94mph, but usually sits in the 89-91mph range. He has a curveball is usually in the low 70mph range with good shape. His changeup shows promise, but it lacks consistency, as he didn’t need to use it much in high school. His deceptive delivery combined with an advanced control (for his age) allows his stuff to play up.
Our Instinct: As with the Red Sox’s other 2011 over slot signees on this list, Owens signed too late to make his debut this year. Owens’ decent stuff and projectable frame makes him an intriguing prospect to watch. But first I want to see more of his secondary pitches, especially the slider.
9. Jose Iglesias SS Jan 5, 1990 5ft11 175lbs – Holder of the highest signing bonus in Red Sox history ($6.25 mm), Iglesias is one of the rare top prospects in the Red Sox farm whose defensive ability far outstrips his offensive capability.
When you talk about Iglesias you start with his defense- well above average range, strong and accurate arm, someone who can handle the position for the Red Sox now, and has the talent to be a perennial gold glove shortstop in the future. His offensive skill set is a different matter. He’s aggressive at the plate, and though he keeps his strikeout rate acceptable (58k in 356ab, 385pa), he doesn’t take many free passes (21bb). He might hit for average, but he has minimal power projection. His speed grades as above average, so he should sprinkle in some steals. Make sure to check out our Prospect Instinct|Jose Iglesias write-up for more a more in-depth look at Iglesias.
Our Instinct: If Iglesias continues to make progress on controlling the strike zone, and he develops a bit more power he might be able to be a number 2 hitter. If not, he’ll hit at the back of the lineup while being a defensive gem.
10. Jackie Bradley OF Apr 19, 1990 5ft10 180lbs – Bradley doesn’t have any tantalizing tools. His bat is considered above average, but his power is below average. His most attractive tools are his arm and defense both of which could be plus tools but play up even more because of his tremendous instincts and his ability to get good routes. He’s patient and has a good approach at the plate.
Our Instinct: The questions surrounding Bradley are on his bat. Though he hit decently in his first two years in college, he didn’t adapt well to the new BBCOR bats. I want to see how he does in a full season with wooden bats before I pass judgment.
Baseball Instinct’s top 21 “freeview”
Since we had some internal debate over our #10, 11, and 12 prospects for the Red Sox, we thought what the heck and we will go ahead and list them since we consider them fairly close together. Here’s two more for your troubles:
11. Bryce Brentz OF Dec 30, 1988 6ft1 180lbs – Drafted in the first round of 2010, Brentz had a successful college career hitting 59 homeruns over three years. Brentz is blessed with a quick bat, and has above average power potential. He has an aggressive approach at the plate, and doesn’t project to have high walk totals. He has good bat control, and if he can be a bit more selective at the plate he could hit for average. He has average speed and with his plus arm strength could be above average defensively.
Our Instinct: There’s no questioning Brentz’s power potential, but there are still questions as to whether his aggressive approach at the plate will hold up at higher levels. His performance next year will shed more light on these questions.
12. Brandon Jacobs OF Dec 8, 1990 6ft1 225lbs – When drafted by the Red Sox in 2009, Jacobs was viewed as being raw, having previously focused on football, but with a lot of upside- an ideal power hitting frame and being athletic. Jacobs’ had a strong 2010 campaign showing off his plus power with a 17hrs, and the results of the hard work he has put into developing his hitting approach is evident when you see his triple slash line .303/.376/.505. Though he has made significant progress to develop his tools, he still has much to improve on. His pitch recognition is average, and he has trouble turning on balls. Even though his speed is average, he’s still below average defensively because he struggles to read balls off the bat. But given more experience he should improve.
Our Instinct: Jacobs is another high ceiling bat in the Red Sox system. He could potentially have plus plus power along with an above average hit tool. I’d like to see him cut down on his strikeouts and take a few more walks. He still has a long way to go, but he’s making strides in the right direction.
Check back soon as we profile more Top 10 Lists for each MLB team and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at a recent article in this series: Colorado Rockies Top 10 List and be a step ahead of the game. Also, check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at firstname.lastname@example.org.