The Top-Five Red Sox Prospects by Projected WAR by Carson Cistulli October 15, 2014 Yesterday, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Boston Red Sox. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not Boston’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Red Sox’ system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value. Below are the top-five prospects in the Sox’ system by projected WAR. To assemble this collection of players, what I’ve done first is to utilize the Steamer 600 projections made available at the site. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time. Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par. Note also that no Steamer projection has been produced for Rusney Castillo, although work both by McDaniel and also Dave Cameron suggests that something in the 2-3 WAR range probably constitutes a reasonable expectation. (Credit to reader Alex for asking.) 5. Henry Owens, LHP (Profile) IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 FIP WAR 150 8.2 4.5 1.0 4.41 1.1 Owens and other left-hander Brian Johnson are projected to produce almost precisely the same WAR figures per 150 innings in 2015, the former expected to record more strikeouts; the latter, to better prevent walks. That both pitchers are projected more optimistically than the higher-ranked Eduardo Rodriguez (5.05 FIP, 0.0 WAR per 150 IP) isn’t particularly surprising: as noted by McDaniel, the current optimism regarding Rodriguez is based largely on his body of work after having been acquired by Boston this summer — not a large enough sample, that, to compensate for his more pedestrian numbers from previous years. 4. Bryce Brentz, OF (Profile) PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR 550 .254 .305 .427 102 1.3 Brentz is the best hitter in the Sox’ system according to the projections — and the only one forecast to produce a league- and park-adjusted batting line better than league average. His value as a hitter is derived not from his ability to control the strike zone, but rather power on contact — revealed in his projections both by BABIP (.308) and isolated power (.172), the former of those numbers rather strong for a player lacking almost any major-league experience. 3. Blake Swihart, C (Profile) PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR 415 .254 .299 .373 85 1.6 The top prospect in the organization according to McDaniel, Swihart appears likely to offer more in the way of defensive value than just that amount for which his positional adjustment accounts. “[H]e’s closer to Christian Vazquez defensively than people think,” writes McDaniel. By way of reference: Vazquez recorded a +3.9 UZR in about a third of a season while also saving 12 runs by way of framing, according to Stat Corner’s catcher report. Any sort of performance approximating that would render Swihart league average immediately. 2. Sean Coyle, 2B/3B (Profile) PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR 550 .241 .298 .399 93 1.7 Coyle has recorded 30-plus plate appearances at four different minor-league levels and has never recorded a strikeout rate lower than 23% — nor does his Steamer projection call for him to end that particular streak. What Coyle offers, however, is power at a position on the more difficult side of the defensive spectrum. Consider: only two major-league second baseman (Brian Dozier and Neil Walker) hit more home runs in 2014 than the 17 for which Coyle is projected over 550 plate appearances. 1. Garin Cecchini, 3B (Profile) PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR 550 .264 .334 .377 99 2.0 Cecchini is the sort of player generally regarded more favorably by projection systems than scouts, insofar as he possesses below-average power and speed and athleticism but also features an excellent approach at the plate while also offering reasonable defensive value. Steamer rates him more highly than Will Middlebrooks by about half a win.