Headed into the 2012 season, there was legitimate concern about the depth and quality of Boston's farm system due to their lack of impact prospects—beyond Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts, that is.
Therefore, it was an unexpected and pleasant surprise that a majority of their top prospects surpassed expectations throughout the season. As a result, their individual and collective performances have propelled the system towards a top-15 overall system ranking entering 2013.
Having said that, it's important to remember that most of their position prospects are still at least a year away from reaching the major leagues, though some may crack the lineup by the end of the 2013 season. With the exception of Allen Webster, most of their high-ceiling pitching prospects are several years away and shouldn’t be expected to contribute until the 2014 season at the earliest.
DOB: 12/8/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 225
Drafted/Signed: 10th round, 2009 (Parkview HS, Ga.)
Season in Review: Jacobs regressed across the board after a breakout 2011 campaign, as he batted .252/.322/.410 with 43 extra-base hits (13 HR), 17 stolen bases and 128 K/39 BB in 114 games for High-A Salem.
Scouting Notes: Premium athlete at 6’1”, 225 pounds with high-risk/high-reward upside; tools are obvious, but baseball skills continue to disappoint; has yet to graduate from A-ball after four minor-league seasons; doesn’t have explosive speed but moves well once he hits full stride; arm strength is fringy and lends to his projection as a big-league left fielder; instincts and jumps have improved since turning pro, but there’s still room to improve.
Regressed at the plate after an encouraging 2011 campaign; plus bat speed use of strong lower half yields above-average raw power; excessive strikeout totals will always impede the development of his hit tool; swing can get too long when he tries to force contact; ball naturally jumps off his bat; capable of stealing an easy 15-20 bases per season but needs to become a smarter base stealer.
Spring Training Forecast: As with most of the organization’s outfielders in big league camp, Jacobs stands to receive more at-bats with Ryan Kalish on the disabled list. At the same time, he’ll likely be the first of them to be re-assigned to minor league spring training.
2013 Outlook: After struggling in Carolina League last season, the Red Sox may choose to assign him back to High-A Salem to begin the year. There’s no urgency in bumping him to Double-A, as the 22-year-old outfielder will likely be added to the 40-man roster next fall.
DOB: 8/25/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 194
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Arizona State)
Season in Review: The first-rounder showcased on-base skills, speed and a dependable glove in his professional debut for Short-Season Lowell, as he batted .268/.358/.374 with 24 stolen bases and 48/34 K/BB in 64 games.
Scouting Notes: Marrero isn't flashy and lacks a true plus tool, but his overall game is well-rounded and impressive; has a chance to be an above-average defensive shortstop with smooth, natural actions, excellent instincts and a slightly above-average arm; plays the position with creativity and gets a good first step.
6’1” right-handed hitter’s experience is obvious, especially in his ability to manipulate counts in his favor; has an upper-body swing with solid hand-eye coordination that yields average pop to the gaps, though he’ll probably always have below-average power; hit tool could be above-average with some fine-tuning to his swing; intuitive baserunner who’s able to read pitchers and pick his spots, though his speed is only slightly above-average; has the upside of an everyday middle infielder due to all-around package.
Spring Training Forecast: The team’s first-overall pick last season, Marrero will participate in major league camp where he will continue to work on his approach and swing plane.
2013 Outlook: After spending his entire professional debut in the New York-Penn League last season, Marrero is a candidate to make the jump to High-A considering his college background, defense and on-base skills.
DOB: 12/30/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 6’0", 190
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010 (Middle Tennessee State)
Season in Review: Brentz made a better-than-expected jump to Double-A last season, as he batted .296/.355/.478 with 48 extra-base hits (17 HR) and 130/40 K/BB in 122 games, and finished the year with a five-game stint at Triple-A.
Scouting Notes: At 6’0”, 190, Brentz involves minimal physical projection; possesses fringy speed but isn’t a base-clogger; prototypical right fielder with solid-average range and an accurate, plus arm; not afraid to show it off, which has also resulted in too many throwing errors.
Physically strong right-handed hitter with plus bat speed; leveraged swing can be too much of an upper-cut at times, and he’ll need to continue to shorten his bat path; lift generated after contact gives him easy plus power, especially to pull side; has a tendency to exaggerate load which causes his bat to drag through the zone; hit tool is suspect due to swing-and-miss propensity; strikeouts will always be part of his game; biggest challenge moving forward will be pitch recognition and ability to lay off breaking balls out of the zone.
Spring Training Forecast: Brentz will spend the spring sitting on his couch at home after accidentally shooting himself in the leg this offseason. No sympathy; it’s a bonehead move.
2013 Outlook: The 24-year-old will get a late start this season once he recovers from the self-inflicted injury. He’ll likely do a rehab stint before joining the Triple-A club, and if he can sustain a decent batting average and on-base skills at the level, could reach the major leagues as a September call-up.
DOB: 4/3/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 175
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (V Sue Cleveland HS, N.M.)
Season in Review: In what was a much-needed learning year for Swihart—as well as his first at a full-season level—the switch-hitter batted .262/.307/.395 with 28 extra-base hits and 68/26 K/BB in 92 games for Low-A Greenville.
Scouting Notes: Athletic and agile behind the plate with quietly strong 6’1”, 175-pound frame; has room to add considerable strength as he develops without getting bulky; is raw defensively due to lack of experience, but noticeably improved over the course of his first full season; average blocker at the moment but should improve quickly; will need to do better job streamlining throws, though catch-and-throw skills may ultimately grade as above-average.
Impressive switch-hitter considering his age and lack of professional experience; demonstrates potential for above-average hit tool from both sides of the plate due to level, line-drive swing; lacks present power, but like most young hitters, that should emerge as he gets stronger; cheats himself at the plate due to hyper-aggressive approach from both sides; needs to improve pitch recognition and look for pitches to drive early in the count.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in minor league camp, Swihart is still a raw prospect in need of both instruction and refinement.
2013 Outlook: The Red Sox will be deliberate with Swihart’s development in 2013, as he could conceivably see more time at Low-A before a graduation to High-A Salem later in the year.
DOB: 4/20/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2010 (Alfred M. Barbe HS, La.)
Season in Review: Healthy for the first time in his career, Cecchini made an impressive full-season debut by batting .305/.394/.433 with 84 runs scored, 46 extra-base hits (38 2B), 51 stolen bases and 90/61 K/BB in 118 G for Low-A Greenville.
Scouting Notes: Background of a middle infielder in high school; shifted to third base upon turning pro and has adjusted quickly to new position; has giving hands and solid defensive actions; can be a bit choppy and boxy at times, but good instincts give him slightly above-average range; plus arm is best defensive tool and will allow him to stick at the position; still learning intricacies at the hot corner and will need to continue to make adjustments.
6’3” left-handed hitter has projectable frame and should continue to add strength as he fills out; love his swing; plus bat speed and bat-to-ball ability gives him the potential for an above-average hit tool; compact swing yields consistent, hard contact; gets extension after contact which allows him to drive the ball from line-to-line; present gap power could evolve into solid-average power in big leagues; plate discipline is advanced given his lack of experience, but he’ll need to improve his pitch recognition, especially with breaking balls; possesses slightly above-average speed but is an instinctual and adept base stealer.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in Boston’s minor league camp, Cecchini will continue to refine his skills as he prepares for his first trip to High-A.
2013 Outlook: On the heels of a healthy breakout campaign at Low-A in 2012, Cecchini will take his advanced bat and secondary skills to High-A Salem with a chance to finish the season in Double-A.
DOB: 7/21/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 190
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Edison HS, Calif.)
Season in Review: Although he missed over the plate too often, Owens demonstrated the ability to miss bats with ease as he registered a 4.87 ERA with 130/47 K/BB in 101.2 innings for Low-A Greenville.
Scouting Notes: 6’6” left-hander projects through the roof, but it may take him a while to get anywhere close to his high ceiling; despite long, lanky frame, Owens repeats his mechanics better than any stats suggests; has huge stride towards the plate that aids his overall deception and, in turn, makes his entire arsenal play up; really like his arm angle and ability to deliver on a downward plane.
Strikeout artist with an impressive three-pitch mix; fastball typically sits at 88-92 mph and can be difficult for hitters to pick up out of his hand; will occasionally flirt with 94-95 mph; breaking ball flashes above-average potential and he’s adept to adding and subtracting when necessary; would like to see him use it to back-foot right-handed hitters with more consistency; changeup is best secondary pitch and projects as a legitimate plus offering; command of overall arsenal is shaky at the moment, but his athleticism and mechanics suggest it will improve as he develops.
Spring Training Forecast: Owens will participate in minor league spring training where he will work on repeating his mechanics and release point.
2013 Outlook: After showcasing excellent stuff last year in Low-A, the tall left-hander will make the jump to High-A and probably log roughly 100 to 120 innings.
DOB: 2/10/1990 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185
Drafted/Signed: 18th round, 2008 by Dodgers (McMichael HS, N.C.)
Season in Review: Acquired from the Dodgers in the Adrian Gonzalez-Josh Beckett-Carl Crawford late-season blockbuster deal, Webster registered a 3.86 ERA with 129/61 K/BB in 130.2 innings between both teams' Double-A affiliates.
Scouting Notes: 6’3” right-hander employs easy and repeatable delivery; was a shortstop in high school, but moved to the mound upon turning pro; untaxed and fresh arm relative to most pitchers his age; headlined prospect package acquired from Dodgers in late-season trade/salary dump; ceiling of a No. 2 to 3 starter and could conceivably reach big leagues by end of 2013 season.
Fastball is most effective in 91-95 mph range with sink and some arm-side life, and he’ll occasionally scrape 96-97 mph; pitch generates considerable amount of ground-ball outs; features both a curveball and slider which have excellent depth and shape when thrown from a consistent release point out in front; changeup was improved this past season as he threw the pitch with more deceptive arm speed; pitch registers in low-80s with late fading action.
Spring Training Forecast: In his first spring training with the Red Sox, Webster should receive plenty of looks on the mound as the organization gauges his proximity to the major leagues.
2013 Outlook: With a strong spring training, Webster could open the 2013 year at Triple-A, though an assignment to Double-A Portland seems more likely given his control/command issues.
DOB: 6/17/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 205
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Connecticut)
Season in Review: Beginning his career at Low-A Greenville last season, Barnes was absolutely dominant with a 0.34 ERA with 42/4 K/BB over his first five starts. Although he was noticeably worn down over the final two months of the season, the right-hander still registered a 3.58 ERA with 91/25 K/BB in 93 innings following a promotion to High-A Salem.
Scouting Report: 6’4”, 200-pound right-hander has a tall, durable frame; built for innings; clean, repeatable mechanics that result in effortless velocity; high three-quarter arm slot creates good downward plane on all his pitches; pounds lower half of strike zone to generate ground-ball outs; consistently finishes his pitches, which enables above-average command of entire arsenal.
Best pitch is his plus fastball, which sits around 94-95 mph; holds velocity deep into starts; command of the pitch is above-average and was key to success in 2012; relies on the pitch too much; appears to throw it exclusively at times; curveball has excellent shape and late, downward bite; command of the pitch needs refinement; flashes above-average potential when thrown with consistency; development of changeup will be crucial towards overall development.
Spring Training Forecast: Not invited to major league spring training, Barnes will head to minor league camp where he will continue to develop his secondary pitches.
2013 Outlook: Depending on the improvement of his curveball and changeup, Barnes could be challenged for the first time in his young career next season at Double-A.
DOB: 4/19/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 5’10”, 180
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (South Carolina)
Season in Review: After a wrist injury prevented him from making his professional debut in 2011, Bradley batted .315/.430/.482 with 146 hits, 55 extra-base hits, 24 stolen bases and 89/87 K/BB in 128 games between High-A and Double-A.
Scouting Report: Left-handed hitter flashes potential for an above-average-to-plus hit tool; compact bat path; uses whole field; tremendous feel for the strike zone; top-of-the-order bat and secondary skills; advanced pitch recognition; above-average speed should result in 20-plus stolen bases annually.
Profiles as a legitimate center fielder; gets excellent reads; has a quick first step; above-average range in all directions, especially laterally; arm strength is slightly above average; ideal for center field, but would suffice at a corner spot if necessary; bat is better suited for center field.
Spring Training Forecast: With Jacoby Ellsbury’s future uncertain beyond the 2013 season, Bradley will receive considerable playing time this spring as he represents the organization’s closest-to-the-majors position prospect.
2013 Outlook: A long-shot to break camp with the Red Sox, Bradley has the tools and mature secondary skills to reach the major leagues in a hurry, and could, in theory, make Ellsbury expendable by the second half of the year.
DOB: 10/1/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 175
Drafted/Signed: August 2009 (Aruba)
Season in Review: Bogaerts exceeded all expectations as a 19-year-old last season, batting .307/.373/.523 with 60 extra-base hits (20 home runs) and 106/44 K/BB in 127 games between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland.
Scouting Report: At 6’3”, 175 pounds, Bogaerts is a right-handed hitter with one hell of a bat; employs an upright stance; big leg lift load; gets all of his weight to backside and then through the ball; vicious swing results in loud contact to all fields; possesses plus bat speed with exceptional raw power to all fields; backspin carry; lift to stroke and flight of ball; extension after contact; can turn around good velocity; hit tool has developed better than expected despite aggressive, free-swinging approach; plus potential with improved pitch recognition; has posted oddly low line-drive rates throughout minor league career; will have to cut down on strikeouts; chases too many breaking balls out of the zone; lunges and dips during takes.
Will continue to be developed as a shortstop until he’s forced to move from position; clean fit as a third baseman or corner outfielder; solid hands; plus arm strength; lacks quick feet and explosiveness for up-the-middle future; still demonstrates excellent overall athleticism; slightly above-average speed with similar range; could lose a step as he matures.
Spring Training Forecast: Bogaerts heads into his first big league camp with a chance to receive significant reps at shortstop. However, he’ll likely to be reassigned to the minor league camp after a specified amount of time.
2013 Outlook: Bogaerts will open the season back at Double-A, but if his production this season is anything like 2012, then expect the 20-year-old to reach the major leagues by September.