This week I’m highlighting five prospects I expect big things from in 2014. Last January I nailed it by predicting success for Garin Cecchini, but some of the other picks (cough Jose Vinicio’s cough) weren’t so great. I’m hoping I can look back with pride on this list during next year’s offseason.

I'm predicting big things for Blake Swihart in 2014. Photo by Kelly O'Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

I’m predicting big things for Blake Swihart in 2014. Photo by Kelly O’Connor of sittingstill.smugmug.com

1. Blake Swihart

This isn’t a prediction for a breakout year, as Swihart really did that in 2013. He’s on every major top 100 prospect list this offseason. What I’m predicting is further offensive development in 2014, which would establish him as a top 25 prospect in baseball. Facing tougher competition after promotion to High A Salem in 2013, he improved in just about every measure of offensive performance (AVG, OBP, SLG, handsomeness, etc).

Scouts feel that Swihart can still add game power to his offensive performance, and if that happens he profiles as a true two way catcher with impact on both sides of the ball. I’m predicting he will hit for more power in 2014 and end the season as the top catching prospect in the minors.

2. Manuel Margot

I ranked Margot as the #12 prospect in the Red Sox system, but he has the talent to make that ranking look silly in only one season. He already impacted games with his speed last year, stealing 18 bases in his first 50 games in the US. His speed also shows up in centerfield, allowing him to run down balls that other players can’t reach.

He got on base at a reasonable clip for the Lowell Spinners, but didn’t show much pop in his bat. With further experience in Fall Instructionals and Spring Training, he may be ready to start 2014 with the Greenville Drive. I think his bat improves this year, and that he’s the next big thing on the prospect horizon for the Red Sox.

3. Brian Johnson

Johnson has been in the Red Sox system for over a year, but injuries have hampered his progress. A line drive back through the box fractured a bone in his face in 2012, ending his season abruptly. He had several nagging injuries in 2013 that limited him to 85 innings.

When he’s made it on the mound, the results have been good. He had an ERA of 2.54 with 84 strikeouts in those 85 innings in 2013. He’s a big lefty with a fastball in the low 90’s and solid secondary pitches. If he can stay healthy this year, he could move quickly up the ranks.

4. Jamie Callahan, Ty Buttrey

I’m cheating a bit here, but I feel like one of these guys will step forward in 2014, I’m just not sure which one. Both showed stretches of dominance last season, but there stuff didn’t show up from start to start. This isn’t unusual for pitchers in their first seasons of pro ball.

Both are tall right-handed pitchers with fastballs in the low 90’s, and both need to work on developing their secondary pitches. I’m predicting that at least one of the two will take a big step forward with consistent results in 2014.

5. Cody Kukuk

One stat from Kukuk’s 2013 season grabs your attention right away: he struck out over a batter per inning in over 100 innings of work. Unfortunately, he walked 81 batters in those 107 innings. Kukuk has the stuff to overpower hitters, but at times in 2013 was his own worst enemy.

He did improve after a short stint in the bullpen around midseason, limiting his walks and turning in some of his best outings the rest of the year. The Red Sox will likely give him more time to develop as a starter, but if his control doesn’t improve he could move quickly as a bullpen arm with a similar arsenal to Drake Britton.

Categories: Blake Swihart Boston Red Sox Brian Johnson Cody Kukuk Drake Britton Jamie Callahan Manuel Margot Ty Buttrey

I've been a Red Sox fan since before birth, as my mom was watching the '75 World Series while pregnant with me. 1986 was a major life trauma, but I have always been a fan who believed that "next year" was the year. That faith was finally rewarded in 2004, and again in 2007, coincidentally the last 2 years that I have seen games in Fenway Park. I now follow the Sox from Texas, and love that I will see them in person in Houston this season. Follow Josh on Twitter here

3 Responses to “5 Breakout Prospects for 2014” Subscribe

  1. Gerry March 1, 2014 at 12:20 PM #

    As XB, JBJ, Workman, Webster, Vasquez work their way off the prospect lists, your selections are some of the likely ones to keep the Sox farm system among the best, maintaining the depth that will keep the Sox in contention for years.

    Some pop from talents like Swihart, Margot, Cecchini, Marrero, Hassan will do that. Would you be surprised if all of Owens, Johnson, Buttery, Callahan and Kukuk took got their games under control? Or that Ball and Devers are incresingly talked about in reverant tones?

    • Josh Cookson March 2, 2014 at 10:47 AM #

      A big year from Owens wouldn’t surprise me at all. Johnson could also have a big year if he stays healthy… after all his college experience he should be a ways ahead of the high school kids (Buttrey, Callahan, Kukuk).
      We’ll know how well Ball is doing by where he gets placed to start the year; if he throws well he should start in Greenville, if he struggles they’ll keep him in Fort Myers for extended spring training.
      Devers is the biggest unknown since he hasn’t played any games in the States yet. Most likely scenario is that he doesn’t play until Lowell gets going later in the year.

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  1. Daily Red Sox Links: Blake Swihart, Pedro Martinez, Jackie Bradley - My Website / Blog - February 27, 2014

    […] Blake Swihart is just one of a few Red Sox prospects who are poised for a big breakout in 2014. (Josh Cookson; Fire Brand of the AL) […]