2014 Top 10 Prospects: Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox system is loaded with talent. A lot of the players in the 11-15 range would be on most other clubs’ Top 10 lists. If there is one area of weakness in the organization, it’s pitching — due to a lack of high-ceiling talent. Many of the arms project as mid-rotation arms or are in the lowest levels of the system.


#1 Xander Bogaerts | 70/MLB (3B/SS)

20 50 10.0 % 26.0 % .250 .320 .364 .304 86 -0.4 0.2 0.2

The Year in Review: Bogaerts combined for an .865 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013. That performance led to a big league call-up at the age of 20. The young hitter held his own in 18 big league games and then produced a .412 on-base percentage in 12 playoff games.

The Scouting Report: The 21-year-old Aruba native has an advanced approach to hitting for his age. He generates good pop thanks to his quick bat but he still has more power to grow into as he matures as a hitter. He has a solid approach at the plate and a developing eye that should allow him to hit for a high average; he should also produce a strong on-base percentage. Bogaerts has shown the ability to handle both positions on the left side of the infield and has a solid arm for either shortstop or third base.

The Year Ahead: Although the Stephen Drew saga has yet to come to a conclusion, Bogaerts is the favorite to start at shortstop in 2014. It would be a wise move because the rookie has a strong shot at out-performing the veteran — despite his inexperience.

The Career Outlook: Bogaerts gave flashes of his potential during his 2013 call-up and could be a perennial all-star at either shortstop or third base for years to come in Boston.


#2 Jackie Bradley | 60/MLB (OF)

23 107 9.3 % 29.0 % .189 .280 .337 .279 69 -3.0 -2.3 -0.2

The Year in Review: Bradley was a surprise addition to Boston’s opening day roster in 2013 but failed to stick. He rode the shuttle between The Show and Triple-A numerous times throughout the season and appeared in a total of 37 games with the Sox. In 80 Triple-A games, he produced an .842 OPS.

The Scouting Report: Bradley’s greatest asset is his above-average defense in center field, which comes from excellent reads, good range and a solid arm. At the plate, he shows a patient approach and isn’t afraid to work the count. He doesn’t have plus power but it could be average or a tick above. He should hit at the top of a big league lineup, although he lacks impact speed.

The Year Ahead: With Jacoby Ellsbury heading to the rival New York Yankees, Bradley has a clear shot at a permanent starting gig with Boston and he’s much more prepared for the job coming into 2014 than he was in ’13.

The Career Outlook: Bradley doesn’t have a “wow” factor but he should be an above-average defensive outfielder who produces a strong on-base percentage and some pop at the plate.


#3 Garin Cecchini | 60/AA (3B)

22 640 164 37 7 111 100 26 .316 .442 .455 .416

The Year in Review: Cecchini just keeps on hitting. The third base prospect opened 2013 in High-A ball and hit .350 with a 1.016 OPS in 63 games to earn a promotion to Double-A. There, he just missed hitting .300 but produced an .825 OPS thanks to 51 walks in 66 games.

The Scouting Report: Cecchini will probably never be your prototypical slugging third baseman but he has a chance to be a special hitter with the bat, nonetheless. He utilizes the entire field and has excellent bat control as well as a strong eye; that allowed him to walk more than he struck out in 2013. He has a chance to be a solid but unspectacular fielder with modest range and a solid arm.

The Year Ahead: If the young player performs well in spring training he could earn an opening day assignment to Triple-A after performing well in 66 Double-A games in 2013. However, with the presence of a young Will Middlebrooks in Boston, there isn’t a need to aggressively push Cecchini.

The Career Outlook: Cecchini produces an outstanding on-base percentage thanks to his ability to coax walks while also producing a strong batting average. That should allow him to be a solid third base option despite the lack of prototypical power output.


#4 Mookie Betts | 60/A+ (2B)

20 619 161 39 16 90 67 46 .309 .411 .491 .414

The Year in Review: Betts performed extremely well in 2013 at two A-ball levels. Combined, he produced a .417 on-base percentage and a .923 OPS while producing unexpected gap power. He didn’t turn 21 until early October but he held his own in the Arizona Fall League as one of the youngest participants.

The Scouting Report: Betts’ value jumped more than perhaps any other prospect in the system between the end of 2012 and the end of 2013. The infielder is ultra-athletic and could probably play a variety of positions, although his modest arm makes him an attractive option as a second baseman; he could be a plus defender at the keystone. At the plate, Betts generates plus bat speed that helps him generate surprising pop for his size. He also makes good contact and has a patient approach. His above-average speed could allow him to steal 20+ bases in a full season.

The Year Ahead: After hitting .341 in 51 High-A games, Betts may be ready for a promotion to Double-A and could even see Triple-A before the year is out.

The Career Outlook: Obviously, Betts is blocked at second base in Boston but he’s athletic enough to move to another position, including shortstop or centre field.


#5 Blake Swihart | 60/A- (C)

21 422 112 29 2 41 63 7 .298 .366 .428 .364

The Year in Review: Swihart has avoided the dreaded prep catcher stagnation issue that plagues a lot of highly-drafted young catchers. He continues to get better and better with every passing season. He hit .298 with a much-improved approach at the plate in 2013; his walk rate jumped from 6.9 to 9.7% over the past two seasons.

The Scouting Report: The athletic Swihart projects to develop into an average or better defender behind the plate with strong leadership abilities. At the plate, he shows a solid approach and should hit for average with a solid on-base percentage. He doesn’t currently produce much power but projects to have at least average pop.

The Year Ahead: Swihart will move up to Double-A in 2014 and could spend the full year there with Christian Vazquez ahead of him on the depth chart and in Triple-A.

The Career Outlook: Switch-hitting catchers that can actually hit with average or better defense are not easy to find so Swihart carries a lot of value.


#6 Henry Owens | 60/AA (P)

20 26 26 135.0 84 9 11.27 4.53 2.67 3.27

The Year in Review: Owens opened 2013 in High-A ball and made 20 starts at that level. He was difficult to hit with just 66 base-knocks allowed and 123 strikeouts issued in 104.2 innings. He made things easier for hitters at times, though, by struggling to find the plate; he issued 53 free passes. Owens, 21, received a six-start trial in Double-A towards the end of the season and struck out 46 batters in 30.1 innings.

The Scouting Report: The highly-projectable Owens is all arms and legs, which gives him deception, but also leads to command/control issues. Like with a lot of tall, young pitchers it may take time for the pitcher to train himself to repeat his delivery on a consistent basis. The southpaw has a low-90s fastball that touches 94-95 mph and his changeup has plus potential. His curveball has a chance to be an average or better offering. He needs to learn to use his height to his advantage and spend more time in the lower half of the strike zone in an effort to induce more ground-ball outs.

The Year Ahead: Owens will no doubt return to Double-A to open the 2014 season. He could also see Triple-A action in 2014 but he may not be quite ready for the Majors unless he takes a huge step forward with his command.

The Career Outlook: The tall lefty has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter if he realizes his full potential and finds a consistent feel for his breaking ball. Even if he ends up as more of a No. 4, though, he could have value as a workhorse.


#7 Matt Barnes | 60/AAA (P)

23 25 25 113.1 115 11 11.28 3.81 4.13 3.33

The Year in Review: The right-hander made 24 starts in Double-A. His lack of polish caught up to him and Barnes allowed quite a few base runners with 112 hits and 46 walks in 108.0 innings. On the plus side, he missed his fair share of bats and struck out 135 batters. He made one start at the Triple-A level without allowing a run in 5.1 innings.

The Scouting Report: Barnes, 23, succeeds based on the strength of his mid-to-upper-90s fastball, which shows good movement. He also has a changeup and curveball but both offerings need polish to become consistently above average; the former shows the most potential. There is a chance that he may end up as a high-leverage reliever based on the strength of his fastball-changeup combo.

The Year Ahead: The University of Connecticut alum should spend much of the year in Triple-A but could see his first big league action in 2014 if/when an injury strikes the big league staff.

The Career Outlook: Barnes has a strong frame that suggests he could develop into an innings-eating No. 3 or 4 starter depending on the development of his secondary stuff.


#8 Trey Ball | 60/R (P)

19 5 5 7.0 10 1 6.43 7.71 6.43 6.20

The Year in Review: Ball made just five appearances after turning pro in 2013. In seven innings at the Rookie ball level, he struggled with both his command and control. He allowed 10 hits and six walks.

The Scouting Report: Selected seventh overall in 2013, Ball didn’t focus on pitching full-time until turning pro. Much like former Red Sox prospect Casey Kelly, the Indiana native native was a two-way player in high school so he could see his skills take a big jump forward as he devotes himself to pitching. A very athletic player, Ball has a solid delivery and could develop both above-average control and command. He throws his fastball up into the low 90s and both his secondary offerings — a curveball and changeup — show the potential to develop into above-average offerings.

The Year Ahead: Because he’s a little bit behind due to his double-duty in high school, Ball may open 2014 in extended spring training. If he comes out strong, though, Boston could push him to Low-A ball.

The Career Outlook: He still has a lot to learn but Ball has the necessary athleticism to take quick steps forward in his development on the mound.


#9 Allen Webster | 60/ MLB (P)

23 30.1 6.82 5.34 43.1 % 8.60 6.51 5.18 -0.9 -0.3

The Year in Review: Webster made his long-awaited MLB debut in his six pro season but was bounced around due to a lack of command and control. He allowed 18 walks and 37 hits in 30.1 innings. In 21 Triple-A starts, Webster produced a solid ground ball rate and struck out 116 batters in 105.0 innings.

The Scouting Report: A starter for most of his career, Webster’s command and control issues may prevent him from realizing his full potential as a starter. However, he’s flashed significant promise during brief stints in the bullpen. With mid-to-high 90s velocity, the right-hander can be down right dominant when he commands it — and especially when he’s also throwing his changeup and breaking ball for strikes. His ground-ball tendencies add significant value.

The Year Ahead: Webster has a shot at beating out Felix Doubront for the fifth starter’s role but, more than likely, he’ll head back to Triple-A and may be the first starting pitcher recalled in the event of an injury or demotion.

The Career Outlook: Webster’s future may lie in the bullpen if he cannot add the necessary polish to his game, but he could develop into a dominant, late-game reliever.


#10 Christian Vazquez | 55/R (C)

22 403 99 19 5 48 44 7 .287 .375 .391 .355

The Year in Review: The young catcher saw his value increase significantly as his bat took a step forward. He trimmed his strikeout rate and walked more than he K’d (47-44) while playing at Double-A. He also saw one game of action at the Triple-A level.

The Scouting Report: Vazquez’s strength is behind the plate and he has a chance to be one of the better defensive catchers in the American League. He makes youthful mistakes at times but he calls a good game and is an excellent receiver with a strong arm. At the plate, he showed a patient approach in 2013 that helped him walk more than he struck out. He has some gap pop but he’ll probably never hit for much home run power.

The Year Ahead: With the catching tandem of A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross reaching the twilight of their respective careers, injuries could become more commonplace so Vazquez might be a busy man riding the Pawtucket/Boston shuttle.

The Career Outlook: Vazquez will certainly be challenged by the catching depth in the system with the likes of Blake Swihart and Jon Denney coming up behind him but the Puerto Rico native offers the best defense out of the group.

The Next Five:

11. Jonathan Denney, C: Denney was a potential first round draft pick in 2013 but slid to the Sox in the third round due to signability concerns. The young catcher shows potential behind the plate, although he’s far from a finished product. At the plate, he’s overly aggressive at times but has plus power potential from the right side of the dish.

12. Manuel Margot, OF: Margot is a toolsy outfield prospect that’s oozing with raw potential. He made some adjustments throughout the 2013 season and came on strong in the last month of the year — leading to the expectation that the 19 year old will be ready for full season ball in 2014. He has good speed, a strong arm and should hit for more authority as he matures as a hitter.

13. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP: In a lot of organizations, Ranaudo would be a no-brainer as a Top 10 prospect. In the deep Red Sox system, though, he just doesn’t make the cut. Injuries have been a problem for Ranaudo in the past — as well as inconsistent results — but he pitched well in both Double-A and Triple-A in 2013. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter.

14. Deven Marrero, SS: The 24th overall selection from the 2012 amateur draft, Marrero’s offense was a disappointment in his first full season. He posted an OPS of just .655 while splitting the season between High-A and Double-A. On the plus side, he stole 27 bases in 29 tries and also showed a patient approach at the plate. He’ll certainly stick at shortstop at the big league level, and he could eventually force Xander Bogaerts off the position — assuming the Arizona State alum hits well enough to by an everyday guy.

15. Brandon Workman, RHP: After working as a starter in the minors, Workman found his niche at the big league level as a reliever. His four-pitch repertoire gives him a shot at returning to the rotation but the depth on the Red Sox may keep him in the ‘pen barring a trade or injury. Workman posted a 10.15 K/9 strikeout rate in the Majors but still needs to polish his command.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Vlad the Impaler
10 years ago

This is not a criticism of Marc, but rather an observation. Henry Owens and Kyle Crick have very similar arsenals and results. Owens does not have an injury history, either.

Yet Crick is touted as the greater prospect and even got a #1 label tossed on him, while Owens gets a #2/#3. Having watched Owens in person, I would greatly prefer him over Crick at this point.

I just don’t think Crick will get his control to a level that will make him anything more than a #3. Owens, in my opinion, profiles more as a high-end #2.

10 years ago

Crick has a better fastball. That counts for a lot. Everybody gets all hopped up about his control, but he’s young and relatively new to pitching. A better comp, straight lefty, is Edwin Escobar. I’d take Escobar over Owens because of the height difference. Mechanics are simply hard to repeat and command when you’re that tall. It can be done though, Madison Bumgarner is pretty sweet.

10 years ago

Crick has a MUCH better fastball both in terms of velocity and movement. His breaking ball is better too. There is still some legitimate concern over how Owens is getting his success; a good changeup with good deception is much more devastating in the lower minors than the majors.