The Red Sox were smart to hold onto to their top prospects at the trade deadline.
The July 31 trade deadline came and went. The Boston Red Sox barely made a splash.
Hardly earth-shattering stuff.
But that may be all for the best. Although the Red Sox did not acquire a big name on July 31, they were able to hold onto their important prospects.
Holding onto their top prospects may have just been the best move Red Sox GM Ben Cherington could have made.
Here I list the top five prospects, in order of importance, whom the Red Sox were smart not to have traded away on July 31.
Note: In order to show the prospect’s growth, BaseballAmerica.com rankings are from January 2012, Baseball Prospectus rankings are from February 2012, and SoxProspects.com and MLB.com rankings are current.
Baseball Prospectus: seventh
The reason I list Matt Barnes as the first person on this list is simple. He’s a pitcher. He’s not only a pitcher—he is a pitcher who has the chance to be a true big league ace.
If there is one thing the Red Sox really needed this year, it was an ace. Josh Beckett and Jon Lester just are not aces. And even the nice performances of Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales don’t propel them into the ace category.
Barnes could be that guy.
At the very least, he can enter the Red Sox rotation as a solid second or third pitcher.
In time split between Red Sox minor league affiliates Greenville and Salem, the 22-year-old righty has gone 7-4, with a 2.55 ERA in 99 innings pitched. He has 122 strikeouts and has only walked 20.
That's 11.1 strike outs per nine innings—a superior strikeout rate.
According to Mike Andrews of ESPNBoston:
Barnes features a plus fastball that sits at 93-95 mph and tops out at 98 mph. His command and control, which were identified as developmental areas coming into the season, have been quite solid in 2012..
Although the Red Sox did not make a splash for a big-name pitcher at the deadline, they did very well to hold onto to their possible future No. 1 pitcher in Barnes.
Estimated time of arrival per MLB.com: 2014.
Baseball Prospectus: 13th
Jackie Bradley, Jr. is second on my list because of the Jacoby Ellsbury contract situation.
Ellsbury will be a free agent after next season, and the fact that he is a Scott Boras client should scare Red Sox fans. In short, I do not think Ellsbury will be with Boston in the long run.
That brings us to Jackie Bradley, Jr. He is the heir apparent to Ellsbury in centerfield.
Bradley does not have Ellsbury’s speed, but he is still an excellent outfielder.
Baseball America selected Bradley as the best defensive outfielder in the Red Sox system after the 2011 season (h/t mlb.com).
In time split between Salem and Portland this season, Bradley has hit .336, with seven home runs and 53 RBI.
Although Bradley may never hit for much power, he projects to hit for a good average during his major league career. (h/t SoxProspects.com)
With that being said, he has the potential to be an impact player at the major league level—a player who could be an All-Star for years to come (h/t ESPN).
Red Sox fans can expect an excellent outfielder who can handle any right-handed pitcher thrown at him. Although he still needs work against left-handed pitchers, he is an exciting prospect the Red Sox were better off keeping rather than packaging in any trade.
Estimated time of arrival per MLB.com: 2013.
Baseball Prospectus: first
Although he's still listed as a shortstop, many project 19-year-old Xander Bogaerts as a future third baseman or outfielder. With Will Middlebrooks securely at third for the Red Sox, Bogaerts will most likely make his mark in the outfield for the Red Sox.
A case could be made he should be first on this list as he is a player SoxProspects.com writes, has "All-Star potential.”
In fact, Bogaerts got to a good start on that All-Star potential when he was selected to take part in the Futures Game last month.
With the Salem Red Sox this season, Bogaerts has hit .287, with 15 home runs and 59 RBI.
Although the 15 home runs do not jump off the page, it’s his raw power that should have Red Sox fans excited.
Per Baseball Prospectus:
Bogaerts has easy plus-plus raw power, but what makes him special is his ability to tap into it against live pitching at such a young age.
In Baseball Prospectus’ “Perfect World Projection” they note Bogaerts could be a “cleanup hitter who can compete for home run titles, just not at shortstop.”
And Mike Andrews of ESPN writes that Bogaerts has the "highest ceiling in the organization—franchise player potential."
If the perfect world comes true, the Red Sox may have a perennial All-Star on their hands. Obviously, Red Sox fans should be relieved that he did not get traded away at the deadline.
Estimated time of arrival per MLB.com: 2014
Baseball Prospectus: fourth
I personally thought Kelly Shoppach was going to be been traded at the deadline, paving the way for 24-year-old catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway to take a spot in the Red Sox lineup.
That didn’t happen, and it appeared Lavarnway was destined to spend the majority of the second half of the season in Pawtucket.
But a simple tweet on Wednesday from Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal told Red Sox fans otherwise:
Ryan Lavarnway is here.— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) August 1, 2012
And Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald followed with how Lavarnway would be used:
Lavarnway will be used as right-handed pinch-hitter, which #RedSox need because Shoppach (shin) and Mike Aviles (turf toe) are banged up— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) August 1, 2012
There was room on the roster to call up Lavarnway because Daniel Nava was placed on the 15-day DL with a wrist sprain (h/t ESPN).
Lavarnway is known for his power. It is his defense that remains questionable. It's that reason more than anything else that kept him down in Pawtucket.
It is unclear how long Lavarnway will stay with the big club, but according to Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com, "It’s quite possible Red Sox catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway will never see the minor leagues again."
Chris Mellen of SoxProspects.com notes, “There may come a point when his bat will be too hard to keep off the roster and his defense simply is what it is.”
And because of his bat, MLB.com ranks Lavarnway as the fifth best catching prospect in baseball.
Last season, in time split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Lavarnway hit .290, with 32 home runs and 93 RBI.
He even had a brief stint with Boston during the end of 2011. In 17 games with the Red Sox, Lavarnway hit .231, with two home runs and eight RBI.
This season at Pawtucket, Lavarnway has hit .295, with eight home runs and 43 RBI.
With Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Shoppach firmly holding onto the catching duties in Boston, it will be interesting to see just how the Red Sox use Lavarnway the rest of this season.
Next spring is when things should get very interesting for Boston’s catching corps. Saltalamacchia has had a nice year at the plate with 20 home runs and 46 RBI. But his defense and his .236 batting average leave a lot to be desired.
It is time for the Red Sox to give the 24-year-old Lavarnway an extended stay at the major league level.
Baseball Prospectus: sixth
Bryce Brentz, the 23-year-old 2010 first-round draft pick, is shaping up nicely to be an everyday outfielder at the major league level.
MLB.com ranks Brentz as the 51st best prospect in all of baseball.
This season with Double-A Portland, Brentz is hitting .272, with 13 home runs and 52 RBI.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com notes:
A former pitcher, he has the kind of plus arm that goes nicely with a power bat in right field. He should provide plenty of homers and RBIs in Fenway Park in the near future.
Brentz is a very aggressive hitter, sometimes to a fault. In 367 at bats this season, he has struck out 107 times.
His strikeout rate is the only reason I do not have him higher on my own list.
But Brentz is working on managing the strike zone in Portland.
Portland manager Kevin Boles said about Brentz (via SoxProspects.com):
You don’t want to take that aggressive approach away from him. It’s just management of the strike zone, and that comes with experience, getting the at-bats, and just understanding what he is as a piece of a lineup. He’s an impact guy.
If Brentz can cut down on his strikeouts, Red Sox fans should have reason to be hopeful he will be an impact player for Boston in the not too distant future—a player every Red Sox fan should be happy did not get traded away at the deadline.
Estimated time of arrival per MLB.com: 2013.