What a difference one season makes. This time last year, we discussed how the the Boston Red Sox unloaded some major contracts that weren’t working out for them and endured a last place finish in 2012. Flash forward to 2013 where health, free agent signings, and all-around excellent play led them to their 3rd world series title in a decade.
Meanwhile, down on the farm, the core group of prospects continued to improve, marching towards the major league level. Some players, such as Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, and Allen Webster got their chance to show what they can do at the next level.
The Red Sox organization is very deep. The talent at the top should produce a couple of stars at the major league level, especially from the position players. As far as pitchers go, there isn’t a sure-fire ace in the group, however I do like the upside of several arms. Boston just knows how to do it right.
Let’s dive into our Top 21 Red Sox prospects:
1. Xander Bogaerts, SS 10/1/1992 H: 6’3″ W: 178 – Bogaerts has been on the prospect radar since signing in 2009. He’s a fastball hitter that generates excellent power. After slashing .297/.388/.477 with 15 HR & 7 SB over 444 AB between AA and AAA in 2013, the Red promoted him to the Majors in mid-August and was on the postseason roster, splitting time between SS and 3B. What stood out to me in 2013 was his plate discipline. He dropped his K% as well as improved his BB% in each of the 3 seasons of pro ball. I love the fact that he increased his 8.3% BB rate at High-A in 2012 to a 12.2% BB rate at AA and AAA in 2013. Awesome.
Our Instinct: Last season I said that he was going to need to work on reading off-speed offerings and getting into better hitters counts, but he has great instincts and squares up even on bad pitches. He did just that and in such a way that I have little doubt that he’s going to be an impact player for the Red Sox for years to come. He’s a gamer and his baseball instincts are excellent. ETA NOW.
2. Garin Cecchini, 3B 4/20/1991 H: 6’2″ W: 200 – If you’ve followed our top prospect lists over the past few years, you already know about our perpetual love for the Red Sox 3B. When we say 3B, we mean it. He plays 3B very well and may not get the credit he deserves. Cecchini slashed .322/.443/.471 with 7 HR & 23 SB over 454 AB between High-A and AA. The guy is an on-base machine who is developing some power. Some people will look at his drop in SBs (from 52 SB in 2012 to 23 in 2013) and think there’s a problem. As we said last year, he’s going to steal some bases, but he’s not going to steal a ton at the next level.
Our Instinct: We said that Cecchini’s HR power was still developing going into 2013. The same holds true and it’s starting to materialize. I said last season “His IsoP dropped in 2012 and we expected a bounce back to near .180 as he leaves the yard more often.” He went on to post a .196 ISoP at High-A, and finished with a .150 ISoP for the season between High-A and AA.
Cecchini has a great feel and approach at the plate, with a high BB % and low K %. He finished the 2013 season with an outstanding 86/94 K/BB rate. With his solid defense, developing power, and excellent plate awareness, the Red Sox have another star in the making. Where he fits in with the Red Sox plans isn’t really known, but I’ve yet to see a team who couldn’t find a place for an exceptional hitter – Cecchini is just that. He should get a look at the major league level next summer. ETA 2014.
3. Henry Owens, LHP 7/21/1992 H: 6’6″ W: 205 – Going into 2013, Owens offered 3 potential plus pitches, however all 3 (FB,CB,CU) were inconsistent this past season. When he spotted the curveball/slider it was a plus offering and could be plus-plus in time. He improved a lot in 2013. He still doesn’t take advantage of the down hill angle that a 6’6″ pitcher should. He pitches from a low 3/4 and as a result produces a good amount of fly balls.
Owens went 11-6 with a 2.67 ERA and had a 169/68 K/BB ratio over 135 IP at High-A and Double-A in 2013. Owens displayed excellent stuff, running 92-93 mph and topping out at 94 mph during the season.
Our Instinct: Owens needs his velocity to go deeper into games and I think he will find that at the higher levels. He really didn’t seem challenged in the 8-team High-A Carolina League, often holding back on the heat and shelving the CB as the hitters couldn’t do much with his CU. He still looks like a middle of the rotation arm to me, but there’s a chance he could be a little bit more. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a look later on in 2014. ETA 2015.
4. Mookie Betts, 2B 10/7/1992 H: 5’9″ W: 156 – Another fine draft prospect from the Red Sox 2011 class. Betts exploded in 2013 after a pretty tame 2012 short season debut. In 2012, we noticed some power potential. He makes hard contact with the ball and showed extra base power. In 2013, he would reach the seats 15 times to go with 4 triples and 36 doubles. He posted an excellent .192 ISoP at 2 levels, which included a .210 ISoP after being promoted from Low-A to High-A. Pretty impressive for a 156 pound kid. Betts slashed .314/.417/.506 over 462 AB with an outstanding 57/81 K/BB ratio. Betts also stole 38 bases on the season. Defensively, Betts has made the transition from SS to 2B very effectively and should have no problem sticking there.
Our Instinct: Betts should make his way to AA next season, however they may be inclined to let him start out where he left off at High-A. He’s got top of the order type talent with excellent plate discipline and on-base discipline. It’s not hard to imagine Betts as a possible trade chip as Dustin Pedroia is under contract into the next decade. There’s plenty of time to develop and the Red Sox won’t be rushing him to the show anytime soon. ETA 2016.
5. Allen Webster,RHP 2/10/1990 H: 6’3″ W: 185 – Webster was part of the mega-deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers when the Red Sox cleaned house. He has a mid 90’s fastball, an average slider that has the potential to be a plus pitch, and a below average change up. Webster went 8-4 with a 3.60 ERA and a 116/43 K/BB ratio over 105 IP at AAA. He also went 1-2 with an 8.60 ERA and a 23/18 K/BB ratio over 30.1 IP in the majors. He has excellent arm strength, but the same shaky command that plagued him in 2012. He really didn’t look any better in 2013.
Our Instinct: The soon to be 24-year old is going to be given the chance to start, but it should be at AAA in 2014. If he can spot his pitches more consistently he would make a pretty decent #4 on most major league teams. If he can’t, he should still have a fine career in the bullpen. I’m still leaning towards the latter and it could be for good at some point this season. ETA 2014.
6. Matt Barnes, RHP 6/17/1990 H: 6’4″ W: 205 – Matt Barnes has a mid 90’s fastball to go with a big plus curve that may develop into a plus-plus offering by the time he is ready for the majors. He also has an average change-up that we would like to see him use more often. Barnes went 6-10 with a 4.13 ERA and had a 142/48 K/BB ratio over 113.1 IP at AA, with another 1 start at AAA. He had a very unlucky .359 BABIP, so his ERA was a bit inflated. His 3.33 FIP is more in line with the pitcher he actually was in 2013.
Our Instinct: We said last year that his fastball is major league ready and that still holds true, while the big curve has also become more impressive. His command is excellent. We would like to see the 9.5% BB rate drop down to under 8%, but when you post a 28.5% K rate, you can hardly complain. He should get a healthy helping of AAA in 2014 before finding some starts at the major league level later this summer. ETA 2014.
7. Jackie Bradley, OF 4/19/1990 H: 5’10″ W: 180 – Bradley isn’t going to be a prolific HR hitter, nor a base-stealing king. However, he should be able to reach double digits in both categories. He has excellent plate discipline, but he looked like he was a little lost during his major league debut last season. Bradley started 2013 with the Red Sox, but didn’t hit enough to stay up. He would be sent down to AAA 3 times over the course of the season. He slashed .275/.374/.469 with 10 HR & 7 SB @ AAA.
Defensively, Bradley has an excellent glove and a strong arm. He has average speed, but makes excellent reads and shows quick reactions that allows him to tracks the ball very well. He posseses good arm strength and any of the outfield positions won’t cause him any trouble.
Our Instinct: Jacoby Ellsbury is in pinstripes now, so that leaves Jackie Bradley as the everyday centerfielder in Boston. I would expect him to have continued growing pains this season. Apparently the Red Sox feel the same way, as they brought in Grady Sizemore to compete with Bradley in 2014. ETA NOW.
8. Blake Swihart, C 4/3/1992 H: 6’1″ W: 175 – After a successful debut in full-season ball in 2012, Swihart slashed .298/.366/.428 at High-A in 2013. Despite being the youngest player at Salem, Swihart looked like a leader. He lowered his K rate and improved his BB rate from his 2012 mark. He should be able to hit for average at the next level and the power is still developing. He displayed more doubles power than over the fence power last season. Although he still has some issues with lefties, his overall plate discipline improved. His K rate dropped to 14.9% from 18% and his BB rate rose to 9.7% from 14.9% in 2012.
I said last year that he was an offensive-minded catcher, which still holds true. However, his defense is where things came together. He was named the Red Sox minor league defensive player of the year, improving his caught stealing rate to 41% in 2013.
Our Instinct: Christian Vazquez will likely get the call to the majors before Swihart. This is actually good news as it allows Swihart more development time. With A.J. Pierzynski signed on for 2014, there really isn’t any reason to rush him. Expect Swihart to spend most of the season at AA. ETA 2015.
9. Trey Ball, LHP 6/27/1994 H:6’6″ W:180 - Ball was a two-way player and he could have been drafted as an outfielder, but the Red Sox drafted him for his elite upside as a starting pitcher. His frame has major projection and his low-90s fastball could be in line for an uptick as he fills out. He pairs the fastball with a solid changeup that he has advanced feel for as a two way player.
He has development needs with his breaking pitches, a slow curveball and a hard slider, but the two pitches can blend together at times, which renders them much less effective. Ball used his changeup much more than the average high school hurler and he already has an advanced feel for one of the toughest pitches for anyone to master.
Our Instinct: We were high on Ball on draft day and that really hasn’t changed. He’s with a good organization that’s not going to rush him. He appeared in just 5 games in 2013, all in the GCL. It will be either the GCL or the NYP for Ball in 2014. ETA 2017.
10. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP 9/9/1989 H: 6’7″ W: 230 - Ranaudo went 11-5 with a 2.96 ERA and had a 127/47 K/BB ratio over 140 IP between AA and AAA in 2013. After a groin injury and some dead arm issues ruined his 2012 season, he came out into 2013 with something to prove and made a fairly impressive statement. He displayed excellent command of his 93-95 mph fastball and his hammer curve was a plus offering. The change up could be an average pitch.
Our Instinct: Our concern is the drop in K rate from 24% to 16.7% after his promotion from AA to AAA in 2013. On the flip side, he dropped his BB rate down from 9% to 5.6%. As long as he stays healthy and keeps the ball on the ground, he has a chance to see time in the Red Sox rotation, which could come as early as summer 2014. For now, he will be heading back to AAA to open the season. ETA 2014.
11. Brandon Workman, RHP 8/13/1988 H: 6’4″ W: 195 - Workman went 8-2 with a 3.21 ERA and had a 108/30 K/BB ratio over 101 IP between AA and AAA as a starter in 2013. He also went 6-3 with a 4.97 ERA and a 47/15 K/BB ratio over 41.2 IP at the major league level, primarily out the Red Sox bullpen. Workman attacks the strike zone with a low 90’s fastball with a good downward plane from a high arm slot, however he hasn’t shown great command with it. He also uses an assortment of breaking pitches: a hard slider, a slow curve, and a cutter that looks like it could be his best secondary offering. His change-up is below average.
Our Instinct: While Workman doesn’t have much feel for the off-speed stuff, he’s really not going to need it as he should be relegated to the bullpen from here on forward. This will allow him to focus on dialing up his fastball, which has hit 94 at times. He should also be able to narrow down his breaking ball options, likely using the cutter as a potential plus pitch. ETA NOW.
12. Manuel Margot, OF 9/28/1994 H: 5’11” W: 170- The comparisons to Xander Bogaerts are unfair, but inevitable when you play with older competition and hold your own. Margot slashed .270/.346/.351 with 18 SB over 185 AB in the Short Season-A New York-Penn League in 2013. He spent about 3 weeks on the DL with a hamstring injury, returning on August 16th. He has good baseball instincts, displays excellent speed, and is very athletic.
Our Instinct: There are plenty of things for him to work on, but he more than held his own as an 18-year-old facing mostly college-aged pitchers. The kid has great love for the game and plays with a lot of energy. Right now he’s mostly a fastball hitter who tries just to react to breaking pitches. He’s going to have to show better discipline, especially as off-speed pitches become more routine. There’s a lot here to love and the Red Sox certainly have themselves another high ceiling prospect. ETA 2017.
13. Rafael Devers, 3B, 10/24/1996 H: 6’1″ W: 215 - Devers was widely considered one of the top five available international free agents, but in this closely packed class, our Aaron Bentley, who follows international players closely, thinks he stands slightly above the rest. The main aspect that separates Devers from his peers is his advanced pitch recognition. The 6’1″, 215 pound Dominican is every bit the hitter Eloy Jimenez is, if not quite the athlete, but while Jimenez struggles with offspeed pitches, Devers punishes them. He has great bat speed and has been able to show his raw power in games.
Our Instinct: He is an all fields type hitter with true gap power. Devers doesn’t have much in way of speed on the bases or in the field, but he definitely has the arm for 3B. He may outgrow the position though. The bat will still play in an OF corner or at 1B. ETA 2018.
14. Ty Buttrey, RHP 3/31/1993 H: 6’6″ W: 230 – Buttrey sat at 93 with his fastball, down from a high of 96 prior to the 2012 season. He also has a knuckle curve and an excellent changeup. Over use in the past has led to sporadic bouts of velocity decreases. 2013 was no different and he couldn’t hold his velocity very deep into games. Buttrey went 4-3 with a 2.21 ERA (3.33 FIP) and a 35/21 K/BB ratio over 61 IP at Short Season-A in 2013. Buttrey has a great pitcher’s frame and uses a smooth leg kick in his delivery. When he’s right, his fastball is a plus offering and his changeup has flashes of being an excellent pitch.
Our Instinct – He was on a pitch count most of the season as the Red Sox brought him along slowly. He will be 21 years old when the season opens so he’s a little behind. I expect them to give him over 100 innings in 2014 and he should spend most of the season at Low-A, with an outside chance of seeing High-A. ETA 2017.
15. Jamie Callahan, RHP 8/24/1994 H: 6’2″ W: 205 – The 2012 2nd-round draft pick appeared in just 5 games in 2012 after signing. In 2013, he went 5-1 with a 3.92 ERA and had a 54/17 K/BB ratio over 59.2 IP in the NY-Penn league. Callahan is a very projectable pitcher with all the attributes scouts like to see in a starter. He is armed with a low to mid 90’s fastball, a true 12/6 curveball with some bite, and a change up that’s a work in progress and flashes some potential of being a better than average pitch.
Our Instinct: Really anxious to see what he can do in full-season ball. He could be a middle of the rotation guy with some more upside or he could be nothing. He’s one to watch as he takes on Low-A in 2014. ETA 2017.
16. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP 11/25/1993 H: 6’4″ W: 200 – Stankiewicz was originally drafted by the Mets in 2012, but couldn’t come to agreement. He spent 2013 at Seminole State College and entered the draft again, this time signing with the Red Sox after being drafted in the 2nd round, 45th overall. He played well at Seminole State, showing the same low to mid-90s fastball and plus slider in the mid-80. He also uses a curveball, but it should be scrapped once he turns pro, at least for some time. His changeup will need plenty of work if he’s going to remain a SP, but he has time on his side. He went 0-0 with a 2.29 ERA and a 15/2 K/BB ratio over 19.2 innings in his pro-debut in the NY-Penn League.
Our Instinct – Stankiewicz displays excellent command over his fastball, curve , and changeup. He’s going to need to improve his secondaries, which right now, grades out as possible average pitches. We will take a lot more away from seeing him in full season ball in 2014. ETA 2017.
17. Keury De La Cruz, OF 11/28/1991 H: 5’11” W: 170 – De La Cruz had an excellent season in 2012 at Low-A before hurdling back to earth in the High-A Carolina league in 2013. He slashed .258/.297/.398 with 9 HR & 16 SB over 535 AB. His swing at the fences style along with chasing off-speed and breaking pitches out of the zone isn’t going to work at the higher levels. Carolina League pitchers ate him alive. He’s got great tools, but he needs to settle down.
Our Instinct: De La Cruz needs to go back to what worked in 2012, when he used the entire field and was quieter at the plate. I would imagine he will head back to High-A to try to figure things out. This could be a make or break season for him. ETA 2016.
18. Simon Mercedes, RHP 2/17/1992 H: 6’4″ W: 200 – Mercedes had his contract voided with the Giants in 2011 as he posed as Jeffrey Tapia, who was listed 2 years younger. He had to wait until 2012 and then signed with the Red Sox. He saw brief action in the Dominican Summer League in 2012, making 2013 as close to his pro debut as you can get. He went 2-2 with a 3.13 ERA and had a 57/17 K/BB ratio over 63.1 IP in the NY-Penn League.
Our Instinct: Mercedes while still pretty raw has some potential. He sits in the 92-94 mph range, but can dial it up to 96. He also uses a mid-80’s curveball that has average to above average potential. His change up lags behind the other two pitches and needs a lot of work to be an average offering. Great arm strength. If he doesn’t develop as a starter, he could be used as a power arm out of the pen. ETA 2017.
19. Myles Smith, RHP 3/23/1992 H: 6’1″ W: 175 – Smith was a 2013 4th-round draft pick for the Red Sox. He has a mid-90’s fastball that he can reach back and bring it up to 97 mph, albeit not with great command. He also throws a developing slider with potential and a change-up that could be a plus offering. He went 0-0 with a 1.69 ERA and a 12/0 K/BB ratio over 10.2 IP between the GCL and the NY-Penn.
Our Instinct: It’s really hard to read too much into a small sampling from Smith in his pro debut. He did show better command in the GCL before facing older competition in the NY-Penn, where his command wasn’t as sharp. Hopefully he can find that uptick in velocity and still be able to locate his pitches. His slider needs to improve too, otherwise, he may end up becoming a power bullpen arm. ETA 2017.
20. Deven Marrero, SS 8/25/1990 H: 6’1″ W: 195 – Marrero slashed .252/.338/.317 with 2 HR & 27 SB over 404 AB between High-A and AA in 2013. He spent some time on the DL in late April with a hamstring injury. His glove is pretty much major league ready and he should be an above average defender.
Our Instinct: His bat is by no means awe-inspiring. He has excellent bat speed but contact is an issue. He has shown some on-base speed and could be an asset if he figures out how to hit. Otherwise, he’s going to be no more than a utility infielder. A return to AA for 2014 is in order. ETA 2015.
21. Jon Denney, C 9/28/1994 H: 6’2″ W: 205 - Denney was the Red Sox 3rd-round pick in 2013. He slashed .203/.379/.243 over 74 AB in the GCL in his pro debut. Denney was one of the premier High School bats at catcher. He brings contact ability and plus power to the plate and has the plus arm to stick behind the plate. As it often happens for catchers coming out of high school, they are either pure catchers, or a plus bat with a need for refinement. Denney is the plus bat variety.
Our Instinct: That’s not to say that Denney is totally raw behind the plate as he has a plus arm. Still, the Red Sox are going to give him plenty of time to develop as the have no reason to rush him. They are set at the major league level this year and have a couple other catchers in Vazquez and Swihart much further along on the depth chart. ETA: 2017.
Others to watch:
Christian Vasquez, C
Daniel McGrath, LHP
Brian Johnson, LHP
Wendell Rijo, SS
Henry Ramos, OF
Luis Diaz, RHP
Drake Britton, LHP
Sergio Gomez, RHP
Bryce Brentz, OF
Stick with Baseball Instinct and we’ll keep you a step ahead of the game. Check back soon as we release our top 21 prospects for each organization. While you’re here, check out our Baseball Instinct 360° – it’s our in-season top 360 prospects, and we will be updating it throughout the season. 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. And while you’re at it, head over to Facebook and join the Instinct page. You can also follow us on twitter: @BaseballInstinc.