With the Red Sox minor league camp opening soon, I thought I would give my list of the top ten Red Sox prospects. The top four are probably the consensus picks of most prospect writers, while the rest get more subjective as you move further away from the upper minors.
#1. Xander Bogaerts SS
This ranking brought to you by Captain Obvious and the letter “Duh”. Bogaerts is the best hitting prospect the Sox have had in years. He has the offensive skills to hit .300 at the major league level and hit for power as well. What’s even more promising is that he improved his defense in 2012 to the point where scouts think he can make it as a shortstop in the majors. I love how quickly he has adjusted to each new level he has reached. He still needs to work on his pitch recognition and patience, but this is the kind of high-upside talent the Sox system has been lacking in recent years.
#2. Matt Barnes P
The 19th pick in the pitching rich 2011 draft, Barnes cut through the lower minors like a buzz saw in his first professional season. He only allowed one earned run in 27 innings in Low A Greenville, and his dominance continued after an early promotion to High A Salem. He features a plus fastball, solid breaking ball, and good fastball command. What stood out for me with Barnes was how dominant he was in the first half of the season before the long year caught up to him. He has only had one season and a little over 90 innings in professional baseball, so it is unlikely he will make the majors this season. Another campaign like 2012, though, and he will be close to the 2-3 starter projection he currently shows.
#3. Jackie Bradley Jr. OF
Bradley Jr. starred in college for the South Carolina Gamecocks, helping the team win two College World Series titles. His draft stock was hurt by a wrist injury in his junior year, but he was fully healthy in 2012 and ripped through two levels in the minors. He dominated High A Salem, posting a .359/.480/.526 line leading to a midseason promotion to Double A. He continued his strong performance in Portland before tailing off at the end of the season. His two strengths are above average defense in center field, where he gets great jumps and shows off a strong arm, and his advanced plate discipline. Those skills could see him make the major league roster some time this season.
#4. Allen Webster P
The Red Sox didn’t just dump salary in the August trade with the Dodgers last year, they also received two top pitching prospects in return. Webster is one of them, a tall righty with a hard sinking fastball and a nasty changeup. Webster needs to improve his command, but his pure stuff may have him in the majors sooner rather than later. He will be an option for the Sox in the rotation if injuries or ineffectiveness strike the major league corp, especially after impressing the Sox brass already in his Spring Training debut.
#5. Henry Owens P
Owens impressed in his first year, striking out 11.5 batters per nine innings in a full season at Low A Greenville. He will be challenged this season by more professional hitters, but he has the fastball and secondary pitches to succeed if he can sharpen his command and develop his curveball and changeup. Owens showed a lot of maturity in making a full season team out of Spring Training in 2012, something the Sox rarely do with high school pitchers. He will only be twenty years old this year which gives him plenty of time to develop, but I feel he is primed for a big year.
#6. Garin Cecchini 3b
Cecchini managed to stay healthy for an entire season in 2012, and showed off solid offensive skills. He batted over .300 for the Greenville Drive, with a healthy OBP as well. He also stole 51 bases, an impressive total achieved more through good baseball instincts and smarts than blazing speed. He will need to work on his defense and improve his power to become a top third base prospect, but he has the tools to build on his strong 2012 season.
#7. Bryce Brentz OF
Brentz has some of the best power in the Red Sox system, hitting 30 home runs in 2011 and 17 in Double A Portland last season. The question is whether he will make enough contact to reach his power potential. If he can improve his approach and contact skills, he could be the Sox right fielder of the future. Also needs to improve: gun-safety skills.
#8. Blake Swihart C
Swihart is a switch-hitting catcher who the Sox drafted out of high school in 2011. He had a solid debut season in 2012, hitting .262/.307/.395 for the Greenville Drive. The stats don’t jump off the page, but Swihart has the tools to be an above average player on both offense and defense. After getting his feet wet in his first professional season, we can hope to see improvement on both sides of the ball this year.
#9. Deven Marrero
The Sox first pick in the 2012 draft, Marrero hopes to have a career as successful as the last shortstop drafted by the Sox out of Arizona State, Dustin Pedroia. Scouts feel that Marrero has the defensive skills to stay at shortstop in the pros, but the question is whether he will hit enough to make it that far. He had a strong freshman year at Arizona State offensively and hit well in the Cape Cod League, but slipped at the plate his last two seasons at college. The Sox may challenge Marrero with an aggressive placement this year, which should give a good gauge of whether his bat is up to the challenge.
#10. Brandon Workman
The Red Sox named Workman their Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012 after an outstanding season spent mostly with the Salem Sox in High A. He features a solid fastball and an excellent cutter, and will look to refine his arsenal at Double A Portland this year. He’s another option in the Sox long list of rotation depth, or could move to the bullpen where his stuff should play up in shorter outings.