Jackie Bradley Jr - Greenville Drive-5

Technically, this is old news.  And by old news, I mean Wednesday.  Still, it’s worth noting, since we’re in that weird stretch between the postseason and the Hot Stove League where very little happens.  Luckily, Baseball America and the publication’s very talented editor, Jim Callis, is nice enough to give us a sneak preview of what’s to come in this year’s edition of their essential prospect book.  Let’s start out  by taking a look at the top 10 list.*

  1. Xander Bogaerts, SS (2011 ranking – 2)
  2. Jackie Bradley, CF (10)
  3. Matt Barnes, RHP (8)
  4. Allen Webster, LHP (with Dodgers)
  5. Henry Owens, LHP (NR)
  6. Blake Swihart, C (3)
  7. Garin Cecchini, 3B (7)
  8. Bryce Brentz, RF (5)
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (NR)
  10. Devin Marrero, SS (2012 draft pick)
Graduated prospects – Will Middlebrooks (1), Ryan Lavarnway (9).  Fell off of list – Anthony Ranaudo (3). Brandon Jacobs (6)

A few things really stand out.  First off, it appears that Jackie Bradley has really made the leap–and for good reason.  Coming off of a season where he dominated high-A ball in Salem, and then more than held his own against more advanced competition with double-A Portland; a big jump in his ranking among Red Sox prospects was expected.  Combine that with athleticism and an advanced skill set, it’s understandable why the BA crowd was so willing to elevate his status from #10 last year to #2 this year.  Still, it’s a little surprising he’s leap-frogged highly touted SP Matt Barnes on their prospect list.  Sure, he hit a rough patch in the second half, but he proved to be an incredibly capable pitcher with a very high, projectable upside.   Having pitched very well overall in both Salem and Greenville, he comes in at a very strong #3.  My guess is that the rating panel was pretty evenly split between the two prospects as there doesn’t seem to be a good consensus on which player is better.

The next thing that jumps out at me is the ascension of Henry Owens in the Red Sox farm system.  A supplemental first round pick in the 2011 draft, Owens started out looking like a bit of a mess.  Despite striking out a ton of batters early on, he struggled mightily with his command.  He walked a ton of guys, and allowed too many hits; all of which accounted for a high ERA.  By May, he started to really figure it out, and that carried him throughout the remainder of the season.  His peripherals indicate a lot of reason for optimism, but it’s probably fair to say Owens wasn’t really challenged this season.  Blessed with a plus-fastball, he was able to mow down the less advanced hitters in intermediate-A ball.  He won’t have that luxury next season in high-A where hitters are a bit more advanced.  He’ll be forced to rely more on his secondary pitches to get batters out, which will be a good test to see how he adapts.  Still, considering his age, repertoire, and raw natural ability, he probably has the biggest upside out of any of the Red Sox’s pitching prospects.  Considering Callis’s love of projectable players with very high upsides, I’m not surprised Owens rates so highly.

The one other piece of BA’s list that kind of caught me off guard was Jose Iglesias’s inclusion.  If you look at the 2011 list,  you’ll notice that Iglesias wasn’t even on the list!  This was fairly controversial considering how highly touted he was for his defensive abilities alone.  Conversely, the growing apprehension surrounding his abilities to hit enough in the majors likely knocked him out of the top 10.  This season, he made marginal improvements statistically in AAA (.554 OPS to .624), and then bottomed out during his first extended stint in the majors (.391 OPS).   His plate discipline seemed to be a little better than it was in 2011, but not enough to think that he’d started to figure it out.  As such, it’s hard to understand what caused him to jump back into the rankings at #9 at first glance; especially with the farm system seems to be a lot stronger than it was a year ago.

My only explanation for this phenomenon is that there seems to be big gap between the system’s top eight prospects and #9 through #20.  Iglesias and Marrero are clearly the top of this second tier, but there are certainly a few interesting names who likely fall within this range.  LHP Drake Britton  is one.  He’s a power pitcher who has a ton of upside, but his career has thus far been inconsistent.  Fallen prospects like Jacobs and Ranaudo also probably fall in this range as well.  If either can rebound healthy next season, either or both could easily jump back into the top 10.  Still, their talent and potential don’t make up for their disappointing performances this season.  Then there are guys like Brandon Workman who are interesting and talented, but lack enough upside to really get excited about.  For this reason, Iglesias is prominently featured on BA’s top 10 list.

It’ll really be interesting to see how the remainder of the top 30 shakes out.  Sadly, we’ll have to wait until the prospect book is released in February 2013.  Until then, check out the “Best Tools” and “2015 Projected Lineups” section.  We’ll have more about our potential future stars as the winter goes on.

What are your thoughts about Baseball America’s list?  Did they get it right?  Did they leave any names out of their top 10 that you believe belong?  Let us know your thoughts in the comment section provided below.