Boston Red Sox: Top 10 MLB Prospects
Since publishing Prospect Pipeline's Top 50, I've received both positive feedback and criticism for my selective omission of several teams. As one commenter noted, I wasn't concerned with representing every team—which is absolutely true. My goal is to always assemble a sincere and justifiable Top 50; a ranking based solely on the players and not the organization as a whole.
Now that everyone has had the opportunity to read about baseball’s finest prospects, I have put together scouting reports on every team's Top 10 prospects.
Today, the series continues with the Boston Red Sox's Top 10 prospects.
10. Jose Iglesias
Height/Weight: 5’11"/175 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Cuba
Triple-A: .235/.285/.269, 12 SB, .034 ISO, 54 w RC+ (387 PA)
Overview: Iglesias is as slick as they come at shortstop, as his glove is more than big-league ready. Everything he does in the field seems effortless due to his tremendous instincts, creativity and strong arm.
Has bat has repeatedly lagged behind and continues to impede his chances of an everyday job at the big league level. He has some bat speed, but he lacks the pop to go with it. Therefore, Iglesias generates a lot of week contact as he feels for the ball instead of trying to drive it.
He was locked in a battle with Mike Aviles to be the Red Sox Opening Day shortstop, but the overwhelming concerns about his bat relegated him to Triple-A to open the season. He’ll probably be up for most of the 2012 season, but don’t except any revelations at the plate.
9. Anthony Ranaudo
Height/Weight: 6’7”/231 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Louisiana State)
Single-A: 46 IP, 3.33 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 9.78 K/9, 3.13 BB/9, 0.78 HR/9
High-A: 81 IP, 4.33 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 7.44 K/9, 3.33 BB/9, 0.67 HR/9
Overview: Making it to High-A in his first professional season, Ranaudo was effectively wild all season. He’s a power pitcher with a fastball that can reach 96 mph, as he utilizes his height through high three-quarters arm slot.
When he’s throwing it well, Ranaudo’s curveball is an absolute hammer, and he also possesses an average changeup. Both pitches need serious refinement, though, before he reaches the Major Leagues.
His 2011 season was full of ups and downs, so he’ll look to establish more consistency in his second minor league season. Given his size and stuff, Ranaudo has mid-rotation upside and should being the 2012 season at Double-A
8. Ryan Lavarnway
Height/Weight: 6’4”/225 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2008, sixth round (Yale)
Double-A: .284/.360/.510, .226 ISO, 137 wRC+ (239 PA
Triple-A: .295/.390/.612, .317 ISO, 171 wRC+ (264 PA)
MLB: .231/.302/.436, .205 ISO, 97 wRC+ (43 PA)
Overview: Since entering the Red Sox system in 2008, all Lavarnway has done is hit. He employs a mature, patient approach and plate discipline that caters to his power stroke. He owns a .284 career batting average despite the fact he rarely deviates from power-hitting mindset.
Lavarnway has been lauded for his hard work and improvements on defense, but it’s doubtful he’s serviceable in any long-term sense. His arm is above-average and accurate, and he has a surprisingly quick release. However, his receiving skills leave a lot to be desired and are worrisome in the context of a full season.
It looked as though Lavarnway might break camp as the Red Sox backup catcher until he was assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket this past weekend. The organization likes his bat, so expect him to get some looks at first base and DH over the course of the season.
7. Bryce Brentz
Height/Weight: 6’1”/180 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round supplemental (Middle Tennessee St.)
Single-A: .359/.414/.647, .288 ISO, 184 wRC+ (186 PA)
High-A: .274/.336/.531, .257 ISO, 140 wRC+ (321 PA)
Overview: As a sophomore at Middle Tennessee State, Brentz’s .465 batting average, 28 home runs, .930 slugging percentage led all NCAA Division I hitters. Don’t be concerned about his size; his power to all fields is legitimate thanks to robust bat speed. As he continues to progress through the Minor Leagues, he should cut down on the strike outs—though they’ll also be part of his offensive package—and hit for a respectable average.
Although his defense lapses at times due to poor jumps and only average range, Brentz possesses an above-average arm that profiles in right field. Despite having average speed, he’s probably never going to steal more than 10 bases in a season.
After belting 30 home runs over two Class-A levels, Double-A should be a healthy challenge for Brentz considering he spent both 2010 and 2011 in the system’s lower levels.
6. Blake Swihart
Height/Weight: 6’1”/175 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS—Rio Rancho, NM)
Overview: Swihart is an athletic, switch-hitting backstop that took up the position just a little over two years ago. As you can imagine, he’s still very raw behind the plate. However, he’s handled the transition well and made significant strides in his receiving and blocking. He has plus raw arm strength but still has considerable work to do to his release.
As is the case with most switch hitters, Swihart’s bat is more advanced from the right side than the left, although the latter already flashes the potential for plus power. He understands the strike zone well for a young hitter, which furthers his chances of hitting for a solid average.
Depending on the development of his bat, Swihart possesses the athleticism and arm strength to move to a corner outfield spot. But the Red Sox will try to keep him behind the plate as long as possible, where they hope his bat will ultimately provide greater value.
Swihart will likely begin the season at Low-A.
5. Garin Cecchini
Height/Weight: 6’2”/200 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (HS—Lake Charles, LA)
Low-A: .298/.398/.500, 12 SB, .202 ISO, 168 wRC+ (133 PA)
Overview: As a 19-year-old, Cecchini was impressive in his first professional season in the New York-Penn League. However, a hit by a pitch broke his wrist and subsequently ended his promising season after only 32 games.
A left-handed hitter, Cecchini has excellent bat control and an advanced feel for the strike zone. He already has plenty of gap power, which leads scouts to envision a 20-30 home run season. His hand-eye coordination and fluid swing—along with an inside-out approach—will allow for Cecchini to hit for average,
A shortstop in high school, 2011 was Cecchini’s first season playing third base, so expect growing pains. He has the arm and instincts to handle the position, but will have to clean up his actions and improve his footwork.
His bat is advanced enough to begin the season at Low-A despite missing most the previous season. The Red Sox could have a good problem on their hands, as Cecchini, Bogaerts and Middlebrooks continue to hit their way up the organizational ladder.
4. Brandon Jacobs
Height/Weight: 6’1”/225 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2009, 10th round (HS—Parkview, GA)
Single-A: .303/.376/.505, 30 SB, .201 ISO, 143 wRC+ (502 PA)
Overview: The Red Sox signed Jacobs to a huge over-slot bonus to lure him away from a future as the Auburn running back. The right-handed hitter’s value lies in his plus power and above-average hit tool. He has excellent bat speed that already generates considerable power, and he should tally even more extra-base hits as he matures.
Jacobs is an average runner whose speed plays better on the base paths than in the outfield. His weakest tool is his arm and he doesn’t possess the speed of a prototypical center fielder, so Jackson’s bat will have to solidify a spot in left field.
After a strong season at Low-A in 2011, Jacobs will take his pure hitting ability to High-A to start the 2012 season.
3. Matt Barnes
Height/Weight: 6’4”/200 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (University of Connecticut)
2011 Stats: DNP
Overview: Barnes has an explosive fastball that sits in the mid-90s and occasionally flashes a ‘6 or ‘7. He possesses a power frame that’s extremely durable, and he has the pure arm strength to still blow it by hitters late into the game.
His curveball is above average with plus potential, and should quickly improve as he moves away from the use of a mediocre slider. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches, and will be crucial in his development as a starter.
His easy delivery produces big-time heat, although he occasionally struggles to work on a downward plane and leaves pitches up in the zone. He’ll begin the season at Low-A, and if his secondary offerings improve, Barnes has the potential to move quickly through the organization. Worst case scenario, the big right-hander could serve as a high-leverage reliever.
2. Will Middlebrooks
Height/Weight: 6’4”/200 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2007, fifth round (HS—Liberty-Eylau, TX)
Double-A: .302/.345/.520, .218 ISO, 139 wRC+ (397 PA)
Triple-A: .161/.200/.268 (60 PA)
Overview: Middlebrooks generates plus power to all fields due to a top-down stroke and plus bat speed. However, a long swing at times and an impatient approach have led to high strikeout rates.
For his size, Middlebrooks has outstanding agility and overall defensive actions at the hot corner. His arm—which grades as a 70—is an absolute hose and plenty for the left side of the infield or even right field if the Red Sox decide that such a move fits the club.
Despite not being a top-end prospect, his combination of tools, including a solid glove and plus arm at third, should make him a valuable asset for years to come.
Middlebrooks will begin the season in Triple-A and likely make a late-2012 debut. Though, if there’s an injury to Youkilis or the need for a right-handed hitting DH, Middlebrooks’ bat will be ready.
1. Xander Bogaerts
Height/Weight: 6'3"/175 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2009 - Aruba
Single-A: .260/.324/.509, .249 ISO, 120 wRC+ (296 PA)
Overview: Bogaerts put his name on the map with a .314/.396/.423 professional debut in 2010, and followed it by blasting 16 home runs in 72 games in 2011. Only 19-years-old, his smooth swing and plus power allows him to drive the ball to all fields with backspin carry. As he faces more advanced pitching, however, he’ll be forced to become more selective, especially with quality offspeed pitches.
While he has soft hands and a plus arm at shortstop, Bogaerts lacks the quickness needed to remain there. Considering his other tools, he could either end up in right field or at third base—likely the latter.
He may hit a few speed bumps this season at High-A, but that’s often the case with elite power-hitting prospects.