While the major league club rebounded spectacularly in 2013, the Red Sox minor league system also had a banner year. Strong seasons from the top prospects, some breakout performances from off the radar players, and the highest Sox draft pick since 1993 were the highlights of a stellar 2013 minor league campaign.
Going into 2014, the Red Sox have developed stud prospects at the three most difficult positions to acquire talent: shortstop, center field and catcher. Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. should start this season in Boston, while Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez wait in the wings at catcher.
Bogaerts is the gem of the system, a prospect with a ceiling that few can match. Since he ended the season starting for the major league club in the World Series, it’s easy to forget that he began 2013 in Double A. He comes into 2014 a consensus top five prospect in the game, something no Sox prospect has achieved since Clay Buchholz was fourth on Baseball America’s list in 2008.
Bogaerts is also the prospect most likely to show up on my Instagram feed for man crush Monday. #mcm (or is it #tmi ?)
After solid seasons in 2012, Henry Owens and Garin Cecchini were even more impressive in 2013. Both ended the season in Double A, and as top 5 players in the system. Owens still needs to refine his command and control, and hopes to add some fastball velocity as he matures. Cecchini’s ultimate role will depend on whether he can add more power to go along with his excellent on base skills.
Anthony Ranaudo and Mookie Betts were the out of nowhere success stories in 2013. Ranaudo had the draft pedigree of being a high pick, but after a disastrous 2012 few thought he was likely to turn in a topflight season. He proved the doubters wrong in 2013, dominating at Double A Portland right out of the gate, and finishing the year in Triple A on the cusp of the majors.
Betts was truly a surprise, as he showed little offensive promise in his professional debut at Lowell in 2012. After a slow start in Greenville in April, he tore through the rest of season, earning promotion to High A Salem and helping them win the league championship. He finished the year with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, holding his own against some advanced competition. Betts could help Red Sox fans erase the bad memories associated with the name Mookie.
The majority of the top ten prospects are at the Double A level or above, but the system still has strong pitching depth in the lower minors. Pawtucket has a full rotation of pitching prospects waiting for a shot in the majors, but the teams in the lower minors are also stacked with arms. The last two Red Sox amateur drafts have been pitching-heavy, with first round pick Trey Ball only one of the promising young arms to enter the system.
That same depth doesn’t exist for position prospects, but there were several promising debuts for players on the short season teams in 2013. The one to watch in 2014 is Manuel Margot, a 5 tool talent who could start 2014 in Low A Greenville.
The Red Sox success in the majors was mirrored by the minor league system in 2013. This success should see the system ranked among the top five teams in baseball when organizational rankings come out. The system looks ready to contribute a ton of talent to the major league team in the near future.