Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 10 Red Sox Prospects After Week 2
With the season's first two weeks in the books, it's time to once again evaluate the early performances of the top-10 prospects in the Boston Red Sox farm system.
While the sample sizes are still far too small for us to draw any real conclusions, it's always helpful to keep up with the trials and tribulations that each player faces on his road to the majors while also identifying the factors that lead to failure or success.
The Red Sox are fortunate enough to have a deep system with impact and depth talent at every level, so let's take a look at who's enjoyed early season success and who may need to make adjustments as they get back into the swing of playing baseball every day.
This week, we'll also add a "hot/not" sheet to the mix so you can keep tabs on some names outside of the top 10 who are struggling or succeeding.
Red Sox Prospect "Hot/Not" Sheet
Rubby De La Rosa, RHP, Pawtucket Red Sox (Triple-A)
Though no longer technically a prospect, "RDLR" could still be an important part of the 2014 big league club. He's allowed just one earned run though 10.2 innings and two starts so far this season, striking out nine and walking just two. De La Rosa's ultimate future may be in the bullpen, but his performance has been nice to see, nonetheless.
Brian Johnson, LHP, Salem Red Sox (High-A)
Johnson has had a very rough start to the 2014 season, giving up 11 earned runs in 13.2 innings. A college product from Florida, Johnson is hardly young for his league and should be producing better results given the competition. If there's one bright spot, it's that he already has 20 strikeouts.
Manuel Margot, OF, Greenville Drive (Single-A)
The man many picked as Boston's biggest breakout prospect candidate this season, Margot has acclimated nicely to Single-A, posting a .290/.333/.613 line in 33 at-bats so far. A plus-plus defensive prospect, Margot could enter the national prospect discussion with a step forward offensively.
Deven Marrero, SS, Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A)
Boston's first-round pick in the 2012 draft, Marrero has begun the year hitting quite well in Double-A, putting up a .355/.394/.516 line in seven games and 31 at-bats. Marrero's defense might be MLB-ready now, and his offense will determine whether he serves as a down-the-order starter or a good utility infielder in the majors.
Wendell Rijo, 2B, Greenville Drive (Single-A)
Another sleeper prospect in the Red Sox system, Rijo is hitting .321/.441/.500 through 28 at-bats. The athletic middle infielder has already hit two doubles and a homer, and he could be in line for a midseason promotion with a strong performance this year.
10. Brandon Workman, RHP
I'm listing Workman's stock as "down" because he's been sent back to the minors in favor of Craig Breslow this week, but there's a good case to be made that his stock should be listed as "up."
That's because, after his solid performance in last week's loss to the Texas Rangers, Workman revealed to Maureen Mullen of the Boston Globe that the plan is for him to be stretched out as a starter in Pawtucket, potentially giving him more value than he'd provide if he remained a reliever.
There's no doubt that Workman can pitch in the majors right now. He allowed no earned runs and stuck out seven batters in 6.1 major league innings this season, and he was quite good for Boston in 2013 as well. But Boston's depth in the bullpen gives them the luxury of letting Workman build up his arm in the minors, and he's likely next in line for the team's rotation should the need arise.
Still, he was demoted this week, so his immediate value and usefulness takes a small hit.
9. Christian Vazquez, C
There's no real news on the Vazquez front. The catcher is now hitting .236/.270/.353 in 34 at-bats in Triple-A, meaning we can't conclude much from his performance thus far. It would certainly be nice to see Vazquez walk soon, but four doubles in nine games is a nice start in the power department.
Vazquez's calling card is still his potential plus-plus defense. So while positive offensive signs are encouraging, they're not quite as important as the work Vazquez does behind the plate and as a signal-caller. Unless one of A.J. Pierzynski or David Ross must miss time, he's unlikely to see much MLB time until late in the year.
8. Mookie Betts, 2B
At this point, anyone who regularly reads baseball analysis online should be well aware of the need to take early season stats with a grain of salt, as the small sample sizes we see have no predicative value. Looking at stats this early can be quite fun, though, such as a glancing at Betts' .457/.512/.743 line through 35 at-bats so far this season.
While Betts' early success isn't altogether that shocking, the power he's shown so far is a pleasant surprise, as Betts has notched seven extra-base hits through nine games. Add in that he's gone 3-for-4 in terms of steals, and Betts is putting many of his tools on display.
With Dustin Pedroia banged up, the masses are already calling for Betts to get an early glimpse of Fenway, but that's quite unlikely to be the case. As good as Betts has looked, players who can succeed with such limited upper-minors experience are quite rare. Still, this is quite the exciting Double-A start for Betts.
7. Blake Swihart, C
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll point out that small sample size is all that prevents Swihart's stock from trending "up" here. That's because, from a pure performance point of view, there's little else Swihart can do to earn an "up" distinction, as he's crushed his first taste of Double-A pitching.
Through 27 at-bats in seven games, Swihart is hitting .355/.394/.516 with three extra-base hits and just two strikeouts. While his over-the-fence power has yet to materialize, Swihart's ability to potentially hit for a very good average in the majors has been fully on display.
Like Vazquez, he's likely to be a slow mover this season. However, if Double-A doesn't slow him down at all, he could be viewed as the best catching prospect in baseball at year's end.
6. Allen Webster, RHP
Webster's second start of the season was much better than his first, as the right-hander threw six innings of shutout ball, striking out three and walking just two against Potomac. Given Webster's disastrous 2014 debut a week earlier, it's nice to see him rebound in a major way as he fights with Workman and Anthony Ranaudo to be next in line for starts at the MLB level.
One start doesn't change anything in terms of Webster's value, but given how close he may be to a move to the bullpen, each good start is a tad bit more important for him than it is for the organization's other top arms. If he can string together another few good starts in a row, he could see the majors as a starter again this year.
5. Matt Barnes, RHP
Barnes threw 3.2 innings in extended spring training this week as he recovers from a sore shoulder. According to WEEI's Alex Speier, he's likely to get one more start in extended spring training before rejoining the Pawtucket rotation in Triple-A.
It's a good sign that he's close to seeing real action again soon, but until he does we have little to judge.
4. Henry Owens, LHP
It's getting harder and harder to slow down the Henry Owens hype train. After throwing a no-hitter in his season debut, Owens followed up that performance with 6.2 innings of shutout ball against Trenton. The big left-hander now has 18 strikeouts against just two walks through 12.2 innings pitched this season, and he has yet to give up a single run.
As impressive as Owens has been to this point, his ultimate projection as a mid-rotation starter is not changing. However, his ETA might be sooner than we thought, as it will be hard for the Red Sox to keep him in Double-A past midseason if he continues to dominate the competition. He's the consensus best arm in the Red Sox's minor league system at this point.
3. Garin Cecchini, 3B
When Will Middlebrooks hit the DL last week, many Red Sox fans clamored for Cecchini to be summoned to the majors as his replacement. The Red Sox instead took a more practical route, signing free agent Ryan Roberts to man the hot corner while Cecchini gets more seasoning in Triple-A.
It's a decision that makes plenty of sense, but Cecchini has apparently made it his mission to make sure he's not overlooked once again, as the third baseman has torn the cover off the ball so far this year. In his first taste of Triple-A action, Cecchini has hit .316/.366/.342 in 38 at-bats. We've still yet to see him hit for any power, which was a major concern coming into the season, and Cecchini has struck out in about 20 percent of his plate appearances.
Still, it's hard to be anything but optimistic about his start, and the longer Cecchini continues to serve as an on-base machine, the harder it will be to justify keeping him in the minors.
2. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Last week, I had Bradley's stock listed as "neutral" thanks to a good defensive performance and the fact that he simply looked more comfortable at the plate than he did at any point last year. Over the past seven days, Bradley has really started to produce offensively, too, reaching base often and collecting two steals, as he has been showcasing all of the ways he's capable of helping a major league team.
Bradley's line now sits at .273/.368/.333 through 38 major league at-bats this season, and while it would be nice to see him hit for a bit more power, that type of offensive performance is more than acceptable for someone with his type of defensive prowess. Bradley has greatly impressed with his reads in the outfield and his strong arm, and it's clearer than ever why he's viewed as the Red Sox's long-term center fielder of the future.
He's performed so well that it will be difficult for the Red Sox to send him back down to the minors once Shane Victorino comes off the DL, as JBJ has played himself into an everyday role.
1. Xander Bogaerts, SS
Bogaerts is hitting .283/.377/.326 as a 21-year-old rookie while adequately manning the shortstop position. His approach at the plate has impressed to the point where he batted in the No. 2 hole against the Yankees on Sunday night, and he's been one of Boston's better offensive players so far this year.
That being said, Bogaerts has yet to hit for any power or drive in any runs. And while another solid on-base threat is always a welcome addition to any lineup, Boston was hoping for Bogaerts to be more of a run-producer this season. While Bogaerts can't completely control his RBI output, he can control the power, and he'll need to star turning on some pitches if he wants to consistently find himself batting near the middle of the order.
Still, when that's your biggest complaint about a rookie with enormous expectations, you know things are going fairly well.