The Boston Red Sox organization boasts both high-ceiling talent and depth within the system although a number of prospects are coming off of tough seasons. The 2013 season could be a key turning point for the club as those young players look to add a little more shine back to their prospect status.
#1 Xander Bogaerts (SS)
Opening Day Age: 20
2012 Level: A+/AA
Acquired: 2009 international FA
Projected 2013 Level: AA/MLB
Bogaerts is an exciting prospect who is just beginning to get the attention he deserves from the non-Boston crowd. One of the best hitting prospects in the minors, the native of Aruba played the 2012 season at the age of 19 and reached double-A. He has an advanced hitting approach and generates outstanding power despite having a slender frame with tons of projection remaining. His pop comes from above-average bat speed.
Bogaerts had immediate success at double-A – albeit in a small sample of 23 games – but his approach deteriorated with his walk rate dropping from 9.9% in high-A to 1.0%. He’ll need to be more patient against the advanced pitching in an effort to get the best pitches to drive. A contact I spoke with said Bogaerts has a number of things working in his favor as a hitter, including pitch recognition, consistency, and the potential for plate discipline. He said the young player “gets pull happy and expands the zone a bit” and needs to focus on taking the ball back up the middle; he doesn’t need to pull the ball to hit it with authority.
When I saw him play in A-ball, Bogaerts looked extremely confident despite his inexperience and age. He was watching balls into the catcher’s mitt and taking lots of pitches. I was also impressed by his quiet batting stance and easy-to-repeat hitting mechanics.
The big question with Bogaerts is his future defensive home. Currently a shortstop, there are concerns that the 6’3” infielder could eventually get too big for the position. The contact I spoke with, though, thinks he’ll remain at his current position stating that the prospect has made “impressive fundamental improvements.” He added that Bogaerts possesses a strong arm good range and athleticism.
Now 20, the top prospect in the system could spent the entire season playingin the upper tiers ofthe minor leaguers but could also receivea brief cup of coffee in the majors at the end of the year. Bogaerts has excellent make-up and baseball intellect and should continue to excel despite the mounting attention and pressures of being a future corner stone of the franchise. The contact stated, “He has a good time playing the game and hasn’t been fazed by anything.”
Early in 2011, Chris Mellen of Sox Prospects mentioned Xander Bogaerts in passing as a player to look out for once he arrived in Greenville. Little did I know Bogaerts would present as one of the best prospects I’ve scouted in person. At best, the Red Sox have an elite offensive force at the shortstop position. A more likely scenario is for Bogaerts to slide to a corner where his ceiling is that of a perennial All-Star. (Mike Newman)
#2 Matt Barnes (P)
Opening Day Age: 22
2012 Level: A/A+
Acquired: 2011 draft (19th overall)
Projected 2013 Level: AA/AAA
Selected 19th overall in 2011 in a draft that also added fellow Top 15 prospects Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, Jackie Bradley and Mookie Betts into the system, Barnes dominated A-ball last season and showed continued improvements as a professional. The right-hander’s repertoire includes an above-average fastball that works in the 92-95 mph range and can touch the upper 90s. A contact I spoke with said Barnes needs to improve his fastball command, but it shows an impressive combination of velocity and life.
The prospect also has a curveball that currently flashes above-average and has the potential to be a plus pitch. The key for Barnes, I’m told, is to focus on improving his changeup in an effort to round out his repertoire. The baseball contact I spoke with said the pitcher learned a valuable lesson in 2012 when it came to the importance of the off-speed pitch. “Later in the year when he wasn’t able to rely on the fastball [due too inconsistent command], the changeup became an important weapon for him.”
When I watched Barnes pitch, I was impressed with how quickly he worked. He had an easy delivery and threw a lot of strikes, going right after the hitters. Despite his size, it appears as though he has more room to fill out and add strength to his frame. Barnes should open 2013 in double-A and could reach the majors in the second half of the season. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter and should reach it with continued polish and confidence in his abilities.
#3 Jackie Bradley (OF)
Opening Day Age: 22
2012 Level: A+/AA
Acquired: 2011 draft (40th overall)
Projected 2013 Level: AA/AAA/MLB
Bradley entered his junior year of college as a potential first round pick but he struggled offensively and ended up having surgery on an injured wrist. Boston wisely nabbed him with the 40th overall selection in the supplemental first round and he’s produced outstanding offensive numbers since turning pro.
The left-handed hitting outfielder reached double-A in his first full season after dominting high-A ball where he posted a 180 wRC+ in 67 games. His batting average dipped below .300 in double-A but he still produced a solid line, showing line-drive pop, a solid feel for the strike zone and held his own against southpaws. He’s not a base stealer but Bradley has some guile on the base paths. Defensively, he has the potential to be a plus defender thanks to his range, arm and instincts. As a talent evaluator stated, “Jackie is an impact defender with uncanny ability to get to the baseball.”
Bradley could open 2013 back in double-A but he should also see significant time in triple-A. He could be ready to assume a full-time position in a big league outfield by 2014. Depending on what happens with Jacoby Ellsbury, Bradley could be Boston’s center- or left-fielder of the future. His skill set could make him a solid No. 2 hitter in the line-up.
#4 Allen Webster (P)
Opening Day Age: 23
2012 Level: AA
Acquired: 2012 trade (from Dodgers)
Projected 2013 Level: AAA/MLB
After making just two starts after coming over from the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer during the blockbuster trade involving Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, Boston still doesn’t know exactly what they have with Webster, but they’re intrigued. A talent evaluator was impressed with what he saw in a small sample size after the trade, “The pure stuff is impressive… the fastball was consistently in the mid-90s… He has significant upside.”
That same contact stated that Webster flashed a plus breaking ball. He said the young pitcher needs to be more aggressive and attack hitters with his fastball, if he hopes to dominated as much as his stuff indicates he should. When he’s on, the right-hander produces a lot of ground-ball outs thanks to natural sinking action. Although Webster did not showcase his changeup much after switching organizations, the contact I spoke with felt the hurler could still stick in the starting rotation with the three pitches he currently utilizes but that improved command and control are both needed.
Webster spent the 2012 season – split between two organizations – at the double-A level and should be ready for an assignment to triple-A. He’s probably three to six months of seasoning away from contributing at the big league level. The North Carolina native has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter; if his command and control do not improve enough, though, he could perhaps develop into a dominating high-leverage reliever.
On two separate occasions, Webster was as good as any pitching prospect I’ve seen for four innings. Then, the wheels fell off as the tired and quickly lost velocity. At his best, Webster’s fastball was 94-96 MPH, touching 98. He also throws a slider, curveball and changeup which vary in effectiveness depending on the outing. If the Red Sox can help Webster fill out his frame, they have a mid-rotation starter. If not, then the potential is there for him to become a shut down reliever. (Mike Newman)
#5 Garin Cecchini (3B)
Opening Day Age: 21
2012 Level: A
Acquired: 2010 draft (4th round)
Projected 2013 Level: A+/AA
On the surface, Cecchini is a very interesting prospect. He’s a solid hitter with a good idea of the strike zone and decent pitch recognition. He also possesses good bat speed and will take a walk. Unfortunately, he doesn’t possess the power teams look for from a third baseman (.127 isolate slugging rate in 2012) and the Red Sox organization has a plethora of hot corner options, including big league incumbent Will Middlebrooks and current shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts.
Cecchini stole more than 50 bases in 2012 but he has modest speed and excels due to strong base running instincts. A contact I spoke with said Cecchini is one of the best base runners in the system and is also one of the most advanced hitters. He said the prospect could eventually develop average or better power. “His [current] approach is up the middle and the other way… As he moves up… we’ll see those [power numbers] improve.”
When asked about his defense, the talent evaluator I spoke with said Cecchini needs to improve at third base but he has the arm strength for the position. The contact said he needs to work on his agility and his range going side to side “but he’s definitely shown the ability to stay there.”
When I watched Cecchini play...