In 2006, the Red Sox farm system hit their high water mark for player development under Theo Epstein. The system featured two position players who would go on to be stalwarts for the major league club, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. It also contained two pitchers who now lead the Sox rotation, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. While that was an epic season for Red Sox prospects, we may be looking at an equally impressive system right now.
The Red Sox system is stacked, with talent rivaling 2006. In preseason top 100 lists, four Sox prospects were consensus choices (Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Webster and Matt Barnes). With several strong performances this year, there could be as many as eight Sox prospects on these same lists next year. Keith Law recently gave a preview of this, as he had Garin Cecchini ranked as his #23 prospect in his most recent ranking, moving up from just off of the list at the beginning of the year.
The system’s greatest strength right now is in pitching depth. Last year’s trade with the Dodgers brought in two prospects, Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, who are close to major league ready. This gives the Sox time to let their impressive Double A rotation develop. The biggest surprise there has been Anthony Ranaudo, who has gone from an injury plagued 2012 to arguably the most dominant pitcher in Double A this season. He’s currently 6-1 with a 1.48 ERA and 58 strikeouts to 15 walks in 55 innings pitched. Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman have also pitched well at Double A, and Henry Owens is continuing to develop at High A Salem.
On the position player side, Bogaerts has had a solid start in Portland, and remains the Sox prospect with the highest ceiling. The Sox also have position players who are on the cusp of being major league ready, like Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Having this prospect depth ends up leading to tough choices for the major league executives. The urge is to deal some of it away to help the Red Sox win now, especially if the team remains in contention throughout the season. The front office also faces the difficulty of trying to develop players while at the same time contending in one of the toughest divisions in baseball.
For the other prospects, I could see a deal happening if the Sox could get an impact player in return. Cliff Lee is one interesting possibility, as Alex Speier summed up nicely in this piece. The Sox would take on a large salary in this deal, but would likely have to include prospects as well. I’m wondering if the Phillies front office could spin a deal for Felix Doubront and Anthony Ranaudo to their fans as reloading rather than rebuilding.
The other intriguing scenario would be for the Sox to target Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins would certainly ask for Xander Bogaerts, but I’m thinking with the depth they have the Sox might pull it off without including him. With Garin Cecchini’s emergence, he might be the type of high upside prospect who could headline a deal.
The most likely scenario is that the Sox will hoard their depth, and only make minor moves to improve the team at the deadline. Then we could see moves in the offseason where veteran players on multi-year deals like Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino are moved to make room for the youngsters.