The Boston Red Sox are coming into 2014 with one of the deepest minor league systems at least towards the top. Putting this list together was particularly tricky because I’ve only seen a few of these guys in person but there’s a lot of info out there on the Baby Sox. I went back and forth over the top eight players on the list in terms of in what order they should appear. There’s clearly a consensus #1 and #2 prospect in the Red Sox system but after that, I think that any of five or six players could show up in just about any order and it wouldn’t be too outrageous.
Big thanks go out to my colleague at Jays Journal, Justin Jay, who is a New Englander that has seen several of the Boston Red Sox prospects and helped out with some of our blurbs.
The Red Sox minor league affiliates:
Triple-A: Pawtucket Red Sox (International League)
Double-A: Portland Sea Dogs (Eastern League)
High-A: Salem Red Sox (Carolina League)
Class-A: Greenville Drive (South Atlantic League)
Short-Season A: Lowell Spinners (New York-Penn League)
Complex-Rookie: GCL Red Sox (Gulf Coast League)
Teddy Stankiewicz – RHP
Date of Birth: November 25, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’4”/200 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of 2013 draft
Analysis: Stankiewicz got a taste of pro ball after being drafted in the second round this past season. Despite it being a small sample size, the 19 year old showed poise and control in Lowell, with an ERA just over 2 and WHIP below 1. He has shown early that he has good command for his low to mid-90s fastball, which should be more consistently in the mid-90s as he fills out his 6’4″ frame. The team would like to see more development of his secondary pitches. His change-up seems to be his second best offering, but the Red Sox mostly emphasized fastball location to the young pitcher. Expect his K/9 to go up this season, but at the cost of a higher WHIP as he continues to develop his slider and curveball in Greenville.
2014 Prognosis: Since the sample size was small, Stankiewicz will most likely continue another year at A ball, most likely in Greenville. With some success, he may end up Salem before the end of 2014. He’ll have some time to develop with guys like Barnes, Owens, and Ranaudo in front of him.
Deven Marrero – SS
Date of Birth: August 25, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’1”/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (24th overall) of the 2012 draft
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Analysis: Despite being drafted quite high in 2012, Marrero is profiling more as a utility player than an everyday big-leaguer. His offensive numbers in Salem were underwhelming but he definitely shows that he can get on base. If Marrero can improve his batting average numbers along with his OBP and hit for a little more gap power, his glove will be able to take him a lot further.
2014 Prognosis: The Double-A Portland Sea Dogs are calling Marrero for 2014.
Christian Vazquez – C
Date of Birth: August 21, 1990
Height/Weight: 5’9”/195 lbs
Acquired: 9th round of 2008 draft
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Analysis: There are several things that go against Christian Vazquez when evaluators look at him. He’s short. He’s slow. He doesn’t project to have much power. But then you see him play and he displays the skills that have allowed him to reach Triple-A. Vazquez is probably the best defensive catcher the Red Sox have in their system and it’s easy to see. I saw Vazquez play a couple of games in the Eastern League last year and he made scouts’ jaws drop when he threw to second base. I mean seasoned, veteran scouts. His pop time is easily the fastest I’ve ever seen and I saw him do it more than once so it was no fluke. Vazquez is also extremely patient at the plate and show outstanding contact ability, walking more than he struck out last season and getting on base at a .376 rate.
2014 Prognosis: Vazquez is close. He’s on the Sox’s 40-man roster and could be a callup this season if injuries take their toll. He’s likely to start the season in Triple-A Pawtucket to refine his skills and bide his time.
Brian Johnson – LHP
Date of Birth: December 7, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’3”/225 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (31st overall) of the 2012 draft
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Analysis: Johnson was a two-way star at the University of Florida but has really started to settle into a full-time pitcher’s role. With one strikeout per inning in the Sally League, Johnson is taking strides with a four-pitch mix with decent velocity and solid control. Scouts project him to be a back-of-the-rotation starter who will rely on movement, deception and control more than pure stuff but the upside is that Johnson is showing that he knows what to do with his pitches.
2014 Prognosis: It’s tough to say exactly where Johnson will start in 2014. He’s almost 23 (Happy Birthday on December 7!) and with his physically mature body and approach, could be thrown directly into Double-A. If the Sox don’t want to rush him, he’ll return to Salem to start 2014.
Bryce Brentz – OF
Date of Birth: December 30, 1988
Height/Weight: 6’/190 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (36th overall) of the 2010 draft
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Analysis: There’s no doubt Brentz carries a big stick. Despite missing the last half of the season with a torn meniscus, he managed to hit 17 HRs, showing an ISO of .212, which is impressive. The problem that plagues Brentz is not so much a hole in his swing as 86 Ks in 349 ABs might suggest, as much as the long swing that he has. The quick wrists make up for it a bit, but he could be exposed by better pitching in the majors. Defensively, while he does have a big arm, his 8 errors in 123 chances is concerning.
2014 Prognosis: There’s little doubt that Brentz starts out the year in AAA Pawtucket. Jackie Bradley will get first dibs on trying to make Boston’s OF after the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury. Red Sox coach Jon Farrell has stated he would like to play Bradley in CF and Shane Victorino in RF. RF is undoubtedly projected to be the position for Brentz to play due to his arm, but with Victorino in the way, the errors and his lack of range, that may be unlikely. Brentz may get a call up due to injury, but several things would need to improve.Jul 14, 2013; Flushing , NY, USA; USA pitcher Anthony Ranaudo throws a pitch during the 2013 All Star Futures Game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Blake Swihart – C
Date of Birth: April 3, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’1”/175 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (26th overall) of the 2011 draft
Analysis: Swihart is considered to have more upside than his prospective counterpart, Christian Vazquez, but that is tough to say. While the bat is suppose to be his calling card, he did gun down 42% of would-be runners this past season at Salem as well as only allowed 6 PB while handling young pitching. During his draft analysis, scouts did not grade Swihart’s running well at all but he has proven to be somewhat light on his feet as his seven stolen bases and seven triples suggest. Despite only two home runs, he still managed a .428 SLG, showing at 21, his power is there and should improve.
2014 Prognosis: It is to be expected that the Red Sox give the young backstop another go in A+ Salem. With David Ross, A.J. Pierzynski, and Vazquez all ahead of him, the Sox should let Swihart develop at relatively mild pace. The one concerning number that jumped out at me was Swihart’s .350 BABIP, which is quite high. It could mean the .298 BA was an aberration and the Sox would do him an injustice by rushing him.
Mookie Betts – 2B
Date of Birth: October 7, 1992
Height/Weight: 5’9”/156 lbs
Acquired: 5th round of the 2011 draft
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Analysis: Betts was named Red Sox Offensive Minor League Player of the Year and it isn’t hard to see why. Between two levels, he hit .314 while reaching base 42% of the time. Though it’s early in his development, Betts is showing the makings of a great leadoff hitter. His eye for the strike zone is beyond his 21 years, as he walked more than struck out (81:57 BB/K). Originally drafted as a shortstop, his arm was considered weak for the position but is considered plus when he was moved to second base in 2012. His FLD% is a bit low (.971) but that’s to be expected as he continues to adjust to the position.
2014 Prognosis: Pedroia is entrenched at 2B for Boston, signed through 2021. The Red Sox may choose to take it slow with Betts and have him get more time in Salem. He was quite successful in his first stint and could be up in AA Portland if the success continues. Speculating, it also would not surprise me to see him traded if Boston has a need during the 2014 season.
Trey Ball – LHP
Date of Birth: June 27, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’6”/185 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (7th overall) of the 2013 draft
Analysis: The Red Sox have chicken and beer to thank for getting Trey Ball at #7 in the 2013 draft. The tall lefty is very raw but has some tremendous tools. He can touch about 94 mph now and has the type of body that scouts call “projectable,” meaning that as he puts on weight, he’s expected to be able to throw harder. He’s already showing signs of a good curve to go along with the fastball but with only seven innings of professional baseball under his belt, the Red Sox will be very careful with his development.
2014 Prognosis: Ball will probably get another short season assignment. I could see him repeating the year in the Gulf Coast League but without as many restrictions or, conversely, he could show more polish and maturity in Fall Instructs and Extended Spring Training and head north to Lowell at the end of June.
Anthony Ranaudo – RHP
Date of Birth: September 9, 1989
Height/Weight: 6’7”/230 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (39th overall) of the 2010 draft
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Analysis: While injuries have held former first rounder Ranaudo back in the past, he righted the ship in 2013 and put together a very solid season at the highest levels of the minor leagues. With a solid three-pitch arsenal, Ranaudo isn’t overpowering despite his 6’7″ height. He throws in the low-90s and has, historically, had some issues with fastball command. His K/9 rate wasn’t overwhelming in Double-A and it dropped even further in his exposure to Triple-A in Pawtucket despite a corresponding drop in his BB/9 ratio. He doesn’t give up a lot of home runs and that will be important going forward.
2014 Prognosis: Back to Triple-A for Anthony. He could be on the call up list if he continues to show a lot of polish but there are a couple of pitchers with higher ceilings ahead of him.
Allen Webster – RHP
Date of Birth: February 10, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’2”/190 lbs
Acquired: 18th round of the 2008 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers; acquired on August 25, 2012 in a multi-player trade that included Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez
Analysis: Webster made it to the big time this season, but the results were not there for him. His stuff created lots of non-contact by hitters (23.8 whiff% against Detroit was the highest single game of any Red Sox player in 2013) but he could not consistently locate it, as evidenced by his high BB/9 (5.34), H/9 (11.0), and HR/9 (2.1). In AAA Pawtucket, he fared much better in those areas (3.69/6.1/0.77) while going 8-4 with a 3.60 ERA. A few bad outings may have hurt his confidence a little, scouts believe however, that his mid-90s hard sinking fastball that often draws comparisons to a young Tim Hudson, will lead him to a spot in an MLB rotation.
2014 Prognosis: With the big league rotation still intact for Boston, expect Webster to start in Pawtucket again. He will, however, be on the short list of call-ups should an injury occur.Oct 28, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Xander Bogaerts (72) reacts as he runs home on a catcher David Ross (3) ground rule double against the St. Louis Cardinals during the seventh inning of game five of the MLB baseball World Series at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Henry Owens – LHP
Date of Birth: July 21, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’6”/205 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (36th overall) of the 2011 draft
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Analysis: Owens has a solid fastball sitting in the low-90s that might pick up a tick of velocity or improve some movement. At 6’6”, he’s got the long, lean frame that scouts love and he has a very nice mix of pitches from the left side. Scouts like his curve and slider as well as a changeup that they think will be a better-than-average pitch.
2014 Prognosis: If the Sox are aggressive, Owens will start in Triple-A Pawtucket but if they feel he needs a little more time in Double-A to hone his command, he’ll start the season in Portland and wait for a promotion.
Matt Barnes – RHP
Date of Birth: June 17, 1990
Height/Weight: 6’4”/205 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (19th overall) of the 2011 draft
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Analysis: Barnes is getting close to the majors after an excellent 2013 campaign that included a trip to New York for the Futures Game. Barnes throws in the mid-90s with a plus curveball and a potentially average changeup. Barnes shows good command, posting almost three strikeouts to every walk and overpowering Double-A hitters. His 4.33 ERA is a bit deceptive as his BABIP was fairly high at .357 while his FIP is a much more expected 3.41.
2014 Prognosis: At least a partial season in Triple-A Pawtucket will help this 23 year old along in his development. He could make his ML debut in 2014, however, especially if the Red Sox don’t find another starting pitcher in the offseason.
Garin Cecchini – 3B
Date of Birth: April 20, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’2”/200 lbs
Acquired: 4th round of the 2010 draft
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Analysis: I saw Cecchini play last season in Portland and, to be honest, it seemed like he was always on base (he went five for 12 with two doubles and four walks), even if it was just shortly after his callup to Double-A Portland. Cecchini can just flat out hit. He’s a solid fielder at third base but it’s really his bat that’s the calling card. He has some gap power that hasn’t developed into home run power just yet but his eye and his ability to control the strike zone is almost Kevin Youkilis-esque. Cecchini has yet to have an OBP under .390 as a professional and even if he hits .260, he’ll be one of the most valuable hitters on the team.
2014 Prognosis: Cecchini will likely be one step away from the bigs in Triple-A Pawtucket. With Will Middlebrooks currently at third, Cecchini might be able to push him across the diamond in due time.
Jackie Bradley – OF
Date of Birth: April 19, 1990
Height/Weight: 5’10”/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (40th overall) of the 2011 draft
Analysis: Bradley got a chance to start the season with the Red Sox last year but got sent back down after hitting only .180. Not all the news was bad, as he hit eight extra-base hits and had an OBP over 90 points higher than his batting average. With his ability to get on base, Bradley is going to be a very solid leadoff or number two hitter for the Sox, combining some power to go with his good (but not great speed) and outstanding defense in center field.
2014 Prognosis: Bradley will likely get another chance to earn an everyday spot playing in Fenway.
Xander Bogaerts – SS
Date of Birth: October 1, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’3”/185 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of Aruba in 2009; $410,000 signing bonus
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Analysis: With excellent tools all around, Xander Bogaerts will challenge Byron Buxton for one of the top prospect spots in all of baseball. He has power to all fields and, still only 21 years old, is thought to be able to improve his already good plate discipline. His minor league numbers tell most of the story; an on-base machine, Bogaerts can also hit balls into the gaps and over the fences with 44 extra-base hits (including 15 home runs) combined between Double-A and Triple-A.
2014 Prognosis: If Bogaerts has to move over to third base in 2014, he certainly has the athleticism and the arm to handle the position but the Red Sox are certain he’s the shortstop of the future and that future should come in 2014.