Close your eyes and imagine the perfect baseball prospect, a player with very few holes in his game. Some of you might have pictured Mike Trout, or Byron Buxton. I’m a Red Sox homer so I immediately thought of Xander Bogaerts.
Most prospects, though, have flaws or areas of their game that need work. These could be related to their physical limitations, or skills that are still developing. Many prospects are still trying to work on these areas when they reach the major leagues.
I’m going to pull out The Magic Prospect Wand* (trademarked, patent pending) and fix one problem area for each of these Red Sox top prospects. These are issues that each might improve on over time, but I want to get an idea of what the finished product might look like if they were magically improved.
Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes: These right handed pitchers have similar profiles. Both have above average fastballs with solid control, and both throw decent breaking balls. The lack of a quality third pitch, though, really limits their ceilings to mid rotation to back of the rotation starters.
So, with The Magic Prospect Wand*, I’m going to give both of them a Clay Buchholz-level changeup. With this new plus pitch, the projection for Ranaudo and Barnes changes to possible frontline starters. Batters everywhere will weep as they sit on a mid 90’s fastball, only to swing through a tumbling high 70’s changeup.
Allen Webster, Henry Owens: Clearly, stuff isn’t the issue with these two guys. Henry Owens struck out a ridiculous 11.27 batters per nine innings, while Allen Webster struck out nearly ten. Unfortunately, both have a touch of the Nuke LaLoush in them: the wheels can come off in a hurry and they can wind up hitting the bull.
Command will be the tool that I improve for them both. With command they can locate their excellent stuff, and take their place alongside Ranaudo and Barnes at the top of the Red Sox rotation.
Garin Cecchini: Garin Cecchini already possesses an advanced hit tool, which led to him tearing up the High A level this season. He’s a batting average and on base monster, hitting .324 with a .445 OBP between Salem and Portland. His seven home runs, though, don’t fit the typical slugging third base profile.
I’ll improve Garin’s power tool, giving him the power of mid 2000’s Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis was also a third base prospect with great on base skills but limited power. He managed to develop his power stroke as he got older, a path that Cecchini hopes to follow. With the magic improvement, Cecchini becomes one of the best hitting prospects in the game.
Mookie Betts: SoxProspect’s Offensive Player and Breakout Player of the year, you can’t understate how far off the radar Mookie Betts was to start the season. That will happen when you hit .267/.352/.307 in your first professional season. This year Betts obliterated two levels, hitting .317/.417/.506 with 15 HRs and 38 stolen bases.
I was going to wave the wand and grant Mookie more power, but 15 home runs is nothing to sneeze at for a guy with a slight frame. Mookie Betts may already be the perfect prospect! I kid, I kid, but it was still a remarkable year for Mookie.
Bryce Brentz, Ryan Lavarnway: Bryce Brentz might have the best power tool in the Red Sox system, but has always been limited by the amount of contact he makes. Ryan Lavarnway gets on base at a good rate, but his slugging ability lags behind his Pawtucket teammate.
There are no rules to this thing, so I’m going to combine them into a hybrid prospect. Bryan Brentzway possesses both excellent raw power and on base skills. He’s a decent defender in right field, and a prospect who could hit in the middle of a major league lineup.
Prospects obviously don’t improve instantly; it takes hard work and many adjustments to succeed in the major leagues. This was more of a way to see what would happen if everything hits just right for some of the Red Sox better prospects, who all have the potential to continue to improve as they near the major leagues.