Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/14/14
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) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 19 531 146 37 20 44 106 5 .307 .374 .524 .398 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.” Additional Notes 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) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 22 25 25 119.2 97 6 10.00 2.18 2.86 2.58 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) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 22 576 147 42 9 87 89 23 .317 .431 .483 .411 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) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 22 29 24 130.2 133 2 8.89 4.20 3.86 3.26 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. Additional Notes 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) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 526 139 38 4 61 90 51 .305 .394 .433 .380 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 I was quite taken with his abilities at third base. He made a couple of nice running plays – one coming in and one going to his right -on tough ground balls. At the plate, I noticed that he had a wide, well-balanced base with slightly bent knees. He wasn’t afraid to go the other way and took the pitch where it was thrown, not trying to do too much. His swing mechanics were a little inconsistent with a longer swing during his first at-bat before becoming much quicker to the ball as the game progressed. He didn’t always swing atthe best pitches. Cecchini will open 2013 in high-A ball and should be ready for the majors around late 2014 or 2015. Left-handed hitters with the ability to hit for a high average are often in demand, whether as a big league regular or part-time contributor. The development of his power tool will be key in determining his future role. Additional Notes Cecchini is a bit of a tweener whose statistical line was more impressive than his tools on the field. His 50+ steals are simply not sustainable at the higher levels and I question whether he has more than 10-12 home runs in his bat. However, .285/.350/.425 with average defense is still a three win player at the Major League level. (Mike Newman)   #6 Henry Owens (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 19 23 22 101.2 100 10 11.51 4.16 4.87 3.49 Opening Day Age: 20 2012 Level: A Acquired: 2011 draft (36th overall) Projected 2013 Level: A+ The 36th overall selection during the 2011 amateur draft, Owens did not officially pick up a baseball until 2012 when the organization gave the 19-year-old hurler an aggressive assignment to full-season A-ball. The southpaw responded with a solid season that included 130 strikeouts in 101.2 innings of work. Owens, now 20, showed signs of tiring late in the year and elevated the ball a lot in August, resulting in very high fly-ball rates — although the 6’6” lefty was always more of a fly-ball pitcher. He needs to learn to leverage his height and get a better downward angle on his pitches to induce more ground-ball outs. I watched Owens pitch in late August and he had a tendency to fall forward early in his delivery, dragging his arm behind him. He has a cross-fire motion with a low 3/4 arm slot, both of which help add deception to his delivery. I was a little surprised with the lack of life on his fastball. Owens threw heaters almost exclusively until the second inning when the opponents jumped all over him. He got much better when he started mixing in all three of his pitches. He showed a good, but inconsistent, curveball, and a potentially-plus changeup that he used to strike out some hitters. The fastball command, which was also inconsistent – especially on the arm side – is key for helping him set up the change of pace. A contact I spoke with said Owens has a chance to be a top-to-mid-rotation starter with further development. “He has a three-pitch mix with a deceptive fastball – up to 94 mph this year – a plus changeup, and a future above-average curveball… He needs to get stronger and that will help him maintain his delivery, command and quality. He is left handed with a very advanced feel for pitching, changing speeds and attacking hitters.” Additional Notes Having seen Owens’ final start of the 2012 season, it’s safe to say he was not at his best. The left-hander I did see was 91-93 MPH, touching 94 with an upper-60s curveball and changeup. While I was impressed with his fastball movement and late breaking curveball, it’s impossible to not wonder if such a slow off-speed pitch is a legitimate offering or trickery. (Mike Newman)   #7 Blake Swihart (C/DH) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 20 378 90 17 7 26 68 5 .262 .307 .395 .318 Opening Day Age: 21 2012 Level: A Acquired: 2011 draft (26th overall) Projected 2013 Level: A+ Switch-hitting catchers with above-average offensive abilities are rare, which helped make Swihart desirable as the 26th overall selection of the 2011 draft out of a New Mexico high school. A $2.5 million contract prevented the athletic backstop from following through on his commitment to the University of Texas. Swihart’s calling card probably will always be his offense. A contact said, “He is athletic with fast hands and good hand-eye. He’s better when he tries to work through the middle of the field with line drives… He has more line-drive than loft in his swing but some of those line drives will carry the wall.” A future projection of 10-12 home runs and 30-plus doubles was given. Like all young hitting prospects, Swihart still has work to do at the plate. “He needs to work on his pitch selectivity and let the ball travel more,” the talent evaluator said. “His swing consistency from both sides is a work-in-progress. He believes he can hit anything so he will predetermine swings on occasion which gets him in trouble.” When I personallywatched him play, I felt Swihart could be shorter to the ball and his swing got loopy at times. Despite his abilities at the plate, there are still some who believe Swihart has a lot of work to do before he proves capable of playing behind the plate at the big league level. The Red Sox organization, though, believes he has a good shot at sticking as a catcher. The contact told me, “He has improved on the basic fundamentals – receiving, blocking, footwork… He takes to instruction well though and is a quick learner. Pitchers like throwing to him.” The same contact also said Swihart as a “plus arm” but tries to be too quick at times when throwing. He said the prospect’s pop times (throwing to second base) are typically in the 1.80 to 1.95 second range. Despite producing slightly below average offensive numbers in A-ball in 2012 Swihart should move up to high-A ball and, with some adjustments, could taste double-A by the end of the year. Additional Notes Swihart presented as a solid, all-around catching prospect. And while he presented with no real weakness, nothing about his tools screamed former first round pick either. As an older 2011 draft pick, Swihart was age appropriate for the South Atlantic League leaving his offensive numbers a bit concerning. For a prospect considered to be an offense first catcher, he’ll certainly need to hit more to maintain his lofty prospect status. (Mike Newman)   #8 Jose Iglesias (SS) Age PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld WAR 22 77 1 1 .118 .200 .191 .186 4 7.2 0.3 Opening Day Age: 23 2012 Level: AAA/MLB Acquired: 2009 international FA Projected 2013 Level: AAA/MLB Iglesias has been touted as the Red Sox’s shortstop of the future since signing out of Cuba in 2009. Despite being young and undeveloped with the bat, his glove work pushed him through the system quickly and he reached triple-A – with a cup of coffee in the majors – in just his second pro season. Iglesias will probably never be an impact hitter (my favorite comp for him is Cesar Izturis) but a talent evaluator I spoke with said he really improved his offensive approach in 2012 despite being challenged at such a high level of pro ball. The contact said the young shortstop is currently learning to handle a variety of pitches, rather than focusing solely on fastballs. The club would like to see Iglesias stick to a game plan at the plate and get on base at a higher clip. He has good speed and could swipe double digit bag totals at the big league level. Although there are concerns about his offense, there are few – if any – questions about his ability to field his position. The middle infielder has outstanding hands, foot work, range and a strong arm. Iglesias’ defensive wizardry will likely make him a big league regular even if his offense stagnates at its current level. As the talent evaluator put it, “His defense is at an elite level… It’s something every club would want.” The Cuban should open 2013 as the club’s starter at shortstop.   #9 Deven Marrero (SS/DH) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 284 66 14 2 34 48 24 .268 .358 .374 .351 Opening Day Age: 22 2012 Level: A- Acquired: 2012 draft (24th overall) Projected 2013 Level: A+ Marrero entered his junior year of college the same way he entered his senior year of high school – as a potential first round pick. However, for the second time in his amateur career, various unanswered questions caused him to slide a little bit in the draft – but not to the extent that his signability murkiness caused him to slip in 2009 (to the 17th round). The Red Sox were able to get the sure-handed shortstop with the 24th overall selection. Some teams were concerned with Marrero’s offensive struggles in 2011-12, while others questioned his drive. Boston was just thrilled to get a player that the organization had coveted since his prep days, according to a contact I spoke with. “I don’t really think he struggled with the bat as much as I do that he struggled to live up to the expectations of being the first college position player taken,” the contact said. “Look at the difference in performance – in 2012, he struck out less and hit for more power. He put some unneeded pressure on himself and it caused him to have an erratic junior year.” Those who love Marrero as a top prospect point to strong athleticism and steady defense. He possesses a strong arm and good range. At the plate, Marrero is streaky and inconsistent but he shows gap power and the ability to produce a solid batting average. He appeared more motivated in pro ball and flashed some potential on the base paths with 24 steals (six caught stealing) in 64 games; he’s not a burner but he has above-average speed. Marrero also did a nice job of working the count and taking some free passes while limiting his strikeouts. He could end up being a solid No. 2 hitter in the lineup. The talent evaluator I spoke with agreed that Marrero still had polishing to do on his game: “He needs to continue to work on all aspects of the game – he has unbelievable instincts but will try and do too much on both sides of the ball.” The young sh...
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