Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 10 Red Sox Prospects After Week 5
The calendar has officially turned to May, and with it we see changes in how the Boston Red Sox's top 10 prospects stack up against one another. While there was a major reorganization last week thanks to the graduations of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., this week brings changes too, as Blake Swihart gets a bump amid his impressive beginning to the 2014 season.
We're also beginning to see some more meaningful patterns in the performance of players in the mid- to upper minors, and even if the sample sizes aren't big enough to have predictive value yet, we can still discern some meaning from trends and scouting profiles. It's still too early to undergo a major re-ranking, but it's not too early to suggest changes that may come in the weeks to follow.
Players who have exceeded 130 PA or 50 innings pitched in the majors are not eligible for these rankings.
Red Sox Prospect Hot/Not Sheet
Hot: Travis Shaw, 1B, Double-A Portland
Perhaps the top power prospect in the Red Sox organization, Shaw has a ton of swing-and-miss in his game but also possesses the ability to leave the yard with frequency. The left-handed hitter is batting .304/.402/.489 on the season and has been especially hot over the past two weeks. He doesn't have the upside of a first-division starter, but he could grow to be a nice lefty power bat off the bench.
Hot: Deven Marrero, SS, Double-A Portland
Marrero makes his second straight appearance on the hot/not sheet by continuing his pace in Double-A, hitting .286/.423/.571 over the past week and .286/.368/.429 over the entire season. Marrero is also a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts and continues to play outstanding defense at shortstop. Marrero still profiles as a second-division starter or tremendous utility infielder, but he won't have to hit a ton to prove a valuable major leaguer. He could supplant Jonathan Herrera and Brock Holt by August.
Not: Tzu-Wei Lin, SS, Single-A Lowell
It's been a rough start to the season for Lin, who's hitting just .232/.337/.305 with no homers and four steals in 98 PA. While Lin has demonstrated good patience so far this season, he's hitting for no semblance of power, which has been a concern with his profile for a while. Lin just turned 20 in February, so he's at an age-appropriate level, but it would be nice to see him get stronger.
10. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket
Last Week's Stats: 1 GS, 5 IP, 0 ER, 7 K, 2 BB, 2 H, 0 HR
Ranaudo enjoyed one of his best starts of the season last week, shutting out Lehigh Valley over five innings and notching seven strikeouts along the way. While it would be nice to see Ranaudo pitch deeper into games, we can at least be pleased that the tall right-hander has been good in two of his past three starts.
If Ranaudo is going to have a shot at seeing some MLB starts this year, he'll need to improve his command and consistency to the point that Boston believes he'll be able to last six-plus innings per start with frequency. If that doesn't happen by July or August, it wouldn't surprise me to see Ranaudo make a late-season move to the bullpen, much like Drake Britton did a year ago.
2014 Stats: 6 GS, 28.2 IP, 3.77 ERA, 10.05 K/9, 5.02 BB/9, 1.57 WHIP, 2 HR
9. Trey Ball, LHP, Low-A Greenville
Last Week's Stats: 1 GS, 5 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 0 BB, 6 H, 1 HR
For the second straight start, Ball lasted five innings and gave up three earned runs last week as he embarks on his first full professional season. While Ball did give up a homer in his second outing, he also struck out six batters, giving us a glimpse at the type of bat-missing upside he possesses as a potential No. 2 starter.
Expect Ball's progression through the minors and on this list to be slow and steady, as the 19-year-old has a long way to go before we gain a better idea of the type of pitcher he'll be in the majors. There will be bumps in the road as he looks to refine his arsenal, but that's to be expected.
2014 Stats: 2 GS, 10 IP, 5.40 ERA, 7.20 K/9, 0.90 BB/9, 1.60 WHIP, 1 HR
8. Brandon Workman, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket
Last Week's Stats: 1 GS, 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 8 K, 3 BB, 4 H, 0 HR
Like Ranaudo, Workman enjoyed his best start of the young season last week, striking out eight batters in 5.2 innings against a talented Indianapolis roster. This is more in line with what the Red Sox had in mind when they sent Workman to the minors to stretch him out as a starter in early April.
With Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz pitching fairly well in their latest outings, Workman's a bit further from rejoining the MLB rotation than he may have looked a week ago. Still, he'll need to continue to pitch well in order to prevent the likes of Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster from overtaking him as the probable sixth starter on the depth chart.
Triple-A: 4 GS, 4.95 ERA, 9.95 K/9, 2.70 BB/9, 1.30 WHIP, 2HR
MLB: 0 GS, 6.1 IP, 1.42 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 0.79 WHIP, 0 HR
7. Christian Vazquez, C, Triple-A Pawtucket
Last Week's Stats: 17 PA, .214/.353/.214, 4 K, 2 BB, 0 HR, 0 2B, 1 RBI
Vazquez didn't do much at the plate this week, recording just three hits and no extra-base hits as he lowered his season batting average to .269. While that may seem disappointing, the Red Sox would be thrilled if Vazquez could replicate the type of offense he's showing right now in the majors, as even modest offensive production would make him a good starter when coupled with his exceptional defense.
A.J. Pierzynski has heated up as of late, and David Ross is not in danger of losing his job, but considering the age of Boston's regular backstops, there's a good chance Vazquez sees the major leagues this season.
2014 Stats: 88 PA, .269/.333/.385, 17.0 K%, 9.1 BB%, 0 HR, 9 2B, 8 RBI
6. Allen Webster, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket
Last Week's Stats: 2 GS, 12.2 IP, 3 ER, 7 K, 4 BB, 12 H, 0 HR
Coming into the season, Webster needed to refine his command, pitch deeper into games and avoid the types of disastrous innings that can submarine an entire start. While his season ERA and WHIP portend some success in those areas, he also has a way to go before he can reasonably be considered for a long-term major league starting role.
That being said, Webster is coming off a successful week, keeping the ball in the park, limiting walks and averaging 6.1 innings per start. It would be nice to see Webster miss more bats, but as long as he keeps the ball on the ground, he'll be successful. With another good few starts, his stock will receive a boost.
2014 Stats: 7 GS, 39 IP, 2.77 ERA, 5.31 K/9, 3.92 BB/9, 1.308 WHIP, 2 HR
5. Matt Barnes, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket
Last Week's Stats: 1 GS, 5 IP, 1 ER, 6 K, 2 BB, 2 H, 0 HR
Barnes' 2014 season may have been delayed thanks to shoulder problems, but the early returns when he has taken the mound have been quite promising. This week, Barnes showed the promise that suggests he's a future No. 3 starter, striking out over a batter per inning and allowing just four baserunners in five shutout innings.
The general sense I get is that Barnes is somewhat of a forgotten prospect in a deep system filled with several up-and-coming players, but fans shouldn't overlook the type of steady, consistent contributor Barnes can become in short order. If he proves to be healthy, an MLB cameo near the end of 2014 is well within his reach.
2014 Stats: 2 GS, 10 IP, 7.20 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, 1.20 WHIP, 0 HR
4. Blake Swihart, C, Double-A Portland
Last Week's Stats: 15 PA, .143/.200/.286, 0 K, 1 BB, 0 2B, 0 HR, 0 RBI
I debated bumping Swihart above Webster and Barnes last week when I jumbled these rankings for May but ultimately decided against it, as I wanted to stick to my preseason rating. But after discussing Swihart with others in the industry and thinking more about what his ultimate profile may be, I've decided to move Swihart up to fourth here despite his poor week.
While Barnes and Webster are potential No. 3 or No. 4 starters, Swihart is a potential everyday catcher who can hit sixth or seventh in a good lineup. It's a much rarer profile, so while Swihart comes with more risk and is still at least a full season away, he deserves the bump here, especially given his early success in Double-A. He needs to walk more and hit for more power, but there's plenty of time for Swihart to make an impact.
2014 Stats: 84 PA, .305/.321/.488, 13.1 K%, 2.1 BB%, 2 HR, 5 2B, 12 RBI
3. Mookie Betts, 2B, Double-A Portland
Last Week's Stats: 27 PA, .409/.519/.591, 1 SO, 5 BB, 1 HR, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 5 SB
Another week, another nine hits from Betts, who's enjoying perhaps the most impressive start to the season of any prospect in baseball. He's beginning to earn a ton of national attention—including this terrific piece by Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required)—and that's a trend that figures to continue as long as Betts' torrid pace keeps up.
There are many who now believe Betts is the best prospect in the Red Sox system, and while there's a fair argument to be made that that's the case, I'm keeping him at No. 3 for now. If he's still hitting .400 in June, I'll have little choice but to move him up a few spots, but that's unlikely, even for someone of Betts' skill.
2014 Stats: 120 PA, .406/.458/.632, 7.5 K%, 10 BB%, 4 HR, 10 2B, 14 RBI, 12 SB
2. Henry Owens, LHP, Double-A Portland
Last Week's Stats: 1 GS, 6 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 1 BB, 6 H, 1 HR
It's been a roller-coaster season for Owens, who began the season on an unhittable streak and has looked considerably more mortal since then. But after a disastrous start to close out April, the lanky left-hander rebounded with a respectable effort to open May, throwing a quality start against Binghamton.
Owens needs to work on refining his secondary pitches, as he won't be able to rely on the deception in his delivery alone to generate consistent outs at the major league level. It's a positive sign that he's missing more than a bat per inning, but a step forward in the command department will let him advance through the mid-minors more quickly.
2014 Stats: 6 GS, 34.2 IP, 3.89 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.27 WHIP, 3 HR
1. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Triple-A Pawtucket
Last Week's Stats: 14 PA, .182/.357/.273, 2 K, 3 BB, 1 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB
Even when Cecchini doesn't hit well, he reaches base with incredible frequency. That ability was evident during the past week, when Cecchini recorded just two hits but still managed to reach base at a .357 clip and swipe a base for good measure. Cecchini is an OBP machine, and he's going to provide value no matter where he plays.
That being said, the questions surrounding Cecchini's ability to hit for power aren't going anywhere while he maintains a .384 slugging percentage. There's a lot to be said for getting on base, but without any secondary skill set, Cecchini's value is going to be diminished. He remains in the top spot for now with the hope that he shows more pop in the coming weeks.
2014 Stats: 101 PA, .302/.396/.384, 19.8 K%, 12.9 BB%, 4 2B, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 3 SB