Stock Up, Stock Down for Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects After Week 7

Ben CarsleyContributor IMay 19, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects After Week 7

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Boston Red Sox are three games under .500 and in fourth place in the AL East. It could be time for the front office to shake up the roster, and any such shakeup could involve several of Boston's talented prospects in the upper minors.

    We’ve spoken for weeks about how players like Garin Cecchini, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman and Christian Vazquez could be in line for MLB playing time in 2014. The longer the Red Sox struggle at the plate and on the mound, the better the chances of one or more of those prospects seeing time soon.

    Which prospects have put themselves in a better position moving forward, and who has hurt his chances at getting a shot in the majors this year? Let's take a look in our Week 7 prospect stock report.

    Players who have exceeded 130 PA or 50 innings pitched in the majors are not eligible for these rankings.

Red Sox Prospects' Hot/Not Sheet

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Hot: Brian Johnson, LHP, Double-A Portland

    Freak injuries have kept Johnson off the field for a good portion of his young professional career. The left-hander has stayed on the mound in 2014, though, and is on his way up through the system, recently earning a promotion to Portland. Johnson is 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA through his first two starts in the Eastern League, and he's yet to give up a homer in 42 total innings pitched this year. The upside here is quite modest, but Johnson could factor in for MLB playing time in 2015.

     

    Hot: Noe Ramirez, RHP, Double-A Portland

    Reliever prospects don’t garner much attention on their way up through a system. The lack of upside and volatility associated with bullpen arms limits their value, and it's too easy for pitchers with one truly dominant pitch or excellent command to dominate hitters in the low minors despite an unrefined arsenal. But Ramirez is now pitching quite well in Double-A, striking out his fair share of batters, limiting his walks and inducing ground balls. He doesn't profile as a future closer, but he could be a relevant bullpen piece next season.

     

    Not: Manuel Margot, CF, Single-A Greenville

    Margot is quickly becoming a well-known name among Red Sox prospects watchers, and he could find himself on this list in short order. He's currently suffering through a rough patch in Single-A, though, and is now hitting just .250/.314/.398 on the year. The good news is that Margot has already shown an intriguing power/speed combo, hitting four homers and swiping 12 bases, and he's not striking out much either. Success could be around the corner.

10. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 7 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 1 BB, 5 H, 0 HR

     

    When I graded Red Sox prospects based on their first-quarter performances last week, many in the comments section lamented that Ranaudo no longer belongs on this list. I've said before that his grasp on the No. 10 spot here is tenuous at best, and I, like many other evaluators, feel as though he won't be a starter for a first-division team.

    That being said, we need to give credit where credit is due, and Ranaudo had one of his more promising starts of the season this past week. The right-hander's outing shows why some still believe he can carve out a career as a MLB starter, as Ranaudo can be effective when he limits walks. Ranaudo still very well may be replaced by another prospect in the near future, but he's earned at least another few starts thanks to his recent run of success.

     

    2014 Stats

    9 GS, 46.2 IP, 3.47 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 1.39 WHIP, 2 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

9. Trey Ball, LHP, Single-A Greenville

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    N/A

     

    With the recent rash of pitching injuries sweeping through the major and minor leagues, you can be forgiven if you panicked for a moment when news broke that Ball would hit the DL this week. Thankfully, all of our fears were quickly assuaged as we learned that Ball's trip to the seven-day DL is for a simple case of strep throat, per Alex Speier of WEEI.com:

    According to a source, Ball has been sidelined by a case of strep throat that had rendered him unable to take part in activities in recent days, including a missed side session.

    Ball, 19, opened the year in extended spring training and had made just three starts in Greenville, posting a 6.59 ERA. However, with the benefit of hindsight, his numbers may have been distorted by pitching at a time when he was coming down with his ailment. 

    It's been a rough start to the season for the lanky left-hander, as Ball has allowed 10 earned runs in just 13.2 innings so far this year. There's no cause for concern yet, though, as this is all part of the normal developmental process for a pitcher who's at least three-plus seasons away from the majors. Look for Ball to work on repeating his delivery and refining his secondary pitches when he does return to the mound.

     

    2014 Stats

    3 GS, 13.2 IP, 6.59 ERA, 5.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 2.05 WHIP, 1 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

8. Brandon Workman, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    2 GS, 11.2 IP, 7 ER, 8 K, 3 BB, 16 H, 2 HR

     

    I've been pretty lenient with Workman in these rankings to this point in the season. I figured that the adjustment he'd need to make from the MLB bullpen back to the Triple-A rotation would take some time, and I still retain some optimism that Workman can become a No. 4 MLB starter.

    That being said, it's time for Workman to start producing in Pawtucket, and instead he appears to be regressing. Workman has allowed six homers in his last three starts, and his ERA still sits above 5.00 with seven starts under his belt. Workman's walk and strikeout rates are acceptable, so these numbers indicate that he's simply getting knocked around when he's around the plate, which is not the most encouraging sign. It's no longer clear he'd still be Boston's first option if they need another starter.

     

    2014 Stats

    Triple-A: 7 GS, 38.2 IP, 5.12 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 1.29 WHIP, 8 HR
    MLB: 0 GS, 6.1 IP, 1.42 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 0.79 WHIP, 0 HR

     

    Stock: Down

7. Christian Vazquez, C, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    20 PA, .263/.300/.316, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 2B, 0 HR, 0 RBI

     

    When David Ross was seen limping off of the field after fouling a ball off of his foot in warm-ups this week, the Free Christian Vazquez movement took only seconds to materialize on Twitter. Word of Vazquez's defensive prowess has reached even casual Red Sox fans by now, and the Boston faithful want to see their first good defensive starting catcher since Jason Varitek in his prime.

    Dee Gordon is 24-for-27 stealing bases for the Dodgers this season. Was 0-for-2 against Red Sox C prospect Christian Vazquez in winter ball.

    — Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) May 13, 2014

    Vazquez will likely give them that chance at some point this season, as he's producing uninspiring but acceptable offense from a catcher in Triple-A. Vazquez's lack of power is evident by his stat line, but it should also be clear that he's not a complete joke with a bat in his hand, and he will take the occasional walk and can make some contact, too. It's probably more of a second-division starter/excellent backup profile, but he'll be able to shut down some of the game's best base-stealers nonetheless.

     

    2014 Stats

    124 PA, .268/.325/.357, 16.1 K%, 8.1 BB%, 10 2B, 0 HR, 10 RBI

     

    Stock: Neutral

6. Allen Webster, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 5.2 IP, 2 ER, 9 K, 2 BB, 6 H, 0 HR

     

    In part because of the wealth of pitching talent the Red Sox have in the upper minors and in part because of his disastrous MLB stint last season, Webster seems to be somewhat of a forgotten man among Red Sox prospect enthusiasts. He lacks high draft pedigree and the "shiny new toy" quality of younger, emerging players.

    But as the season progresses, it appears that Webster is staving off the talk of a need to move to the bullpen, as the right-hander has had the best start to 2014 of any of Boston's top pitching prospects. Webster is keeping the ball in the park and throwing strikes (62 percent strikes on the year), and while his command could take another step forward, it's never going to be a huge strength for him. Webster's ceiling may be modest as an inconsistent No. 4 starter, but he could serve as such for the Red Sox right now.

     

    2014 Stats

    9 GS, 49.2 IP, 2.54 ERA, 6.3 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 1.29 WHIP, 2 HR

     

    Stock: Up

5. Matt Barnes, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 5 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 1 BB, 7 H, 1 HR

     

    On the one hand, Barnes showed his trademark ability to miss bats during his lone start this week, striking out six batters in just five innings. On the other hand, Barnes allowed his first homer of the year and only lasted five innings, which highlights his inability at this point in his career to pitch deep into games. Here's what WEEI.com's Alex Speier had to say about Barnes after the right-hander's start on May 11:

    As a pitcher who relies primarily on his fastball, even with his ability to incorporate a solid changeup, the absence of a reliable third pitch (the curveball) has resulted in opponents sitting on his heater and, even when he punches out opponents, driving up his pitch count to the point of shortening his outings. In 2013, while spending almost all of the year in Double-A Portland, he averaged fewer than five innings a start.

    That sums up the challenges that Barnes faces perfectly, and it's a shortcoming he needs to address in his future starts. Barnes is already 23 years old, so he needs to start producing at a higher level at some point this year if he wants to maintain his mid-rotation starter projection.

     

    2014 Stats

    5 GS, 28.0 IP, 2.89 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.18 WHIP, 1 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

4. Blake Swihart, C, Double-A Portland

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    15 PA, .250/.400/.500, 1 K, 3 BB, 0 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB

     

    It was a good week for Boston's presumptive backstop of the future, as the switch-hitting Swihart was able to hit his third homer of the year and bolster a surprisingly low walk rate with three free passes. Swihart still needs to show more patience and reach base with a bit more frequency, but his triple-slash line is quite respectable for a 22-year-old catcher going through his first stint in the high minors.

    Despite Boston's less-than-inspiring MLB catching situation right now, odds are Swihart still won't see the majors at any point this year. It's a great sign that he's flourishing in Double-A at his age, though, and he's positioning himself well for a 2015 call-up to Fenway. He's one of the best three or four catching prospects in the game.

     

    2014 Stats

    124 PA, .286/.315/.462, 12.1 K%, 4.0 BB%, 8 2B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 3 SB

     

    Stock: Up

3. Mookie Betts, 2B/CF, Double-A Portland

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    24 PA, .300/.417/.550, 2 K, 4 BB, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB

     

    It's been an eventful week for Boston's hottest prospect. Betts saw his incredible 66-game on-base streak come to an end on Saturday. Then on Sunday, he made his much-anticipated move to the outfield, starting the game in center field. With Dustin Pedroia firmly entrenched at the keystone base in Boston, Betts' transition has been a long time coming.

    Mookie Betts says he didn't know he was playing centerfield until he arrived at the ballpark, has been working out there. @RedSox #mesports

    — Evans Boston (@EvansBoston) May 18, 2014

    Betts has the speed and natural athleticism to excel in center field, though with Jackie Bradley Jr. providing all-world defense in Boston, Betts' eventual home may lie in left field. Still, it will be interesting to see if Betts' focus on his new position takes away at all from his explosive offensive start, and Red Sox fans should closely monitor his progress in the outfield.

     

    2014 Stats

    177 PA, .383/.452/.591, 7.3 K%, 11.9 BB%, 12 2B, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 18 SB

     

    Stock: Up

2. Henry Owens, LHP, Double-A Portland

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 4 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, 5 BB, 0 H, 0 HR

     

    What's that old adage about numbers never lying? Well, Owens didn't allow a single hit in his outing this week. He also struck out eight batters and induced 12 swinging strikes in just 87 pitches. Unfortunately, Owens also walked five batters and failed to generate a single ground ball. He was effectively wild, but also horribly inefficient.

    In a way, this start serves as a perfect microcosm of what Owens is at this point. He's got the pure stuff and deceptive delivery to strike out a ton of batters and dominate, but he doesn't know exactly where the ball is going when it leaves his hand. He needs to put serious work into repeating his delivery and refining his command and control before the Sox consider moving him up a level, and I'd expect him to spend most of 2014 in Portland.

     

    2014 Stats

    8 GS, 46.1 IP, 3.30 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 1.19 WHIP, 3 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

1. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    20 PA, .294/.400/.294, 6 K, 3 BB, 0 2B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB

     

    Will Middlebrooks is back on the DL once more, this time for a fractured finger he suffered while attempting to field a ground ball. Middlebrooks' injuries have largely been freakish, but this marks the third time he's been injured in the past two years. Add in his inconsistent play, and the Red Sox may very well decide it's time to see if Cecchini can do more than "WMB" with regular MLB playing time.

    Does Garin Cecchini hear about his defense as a weakness? "Definitely." Does it motivate him? "100%" http://t.co/N3GqRytzxe

    — Tim Britton (@TimBritton) May 18, 2014

    Yet the Red Sox have decided that Cecchini is not quite ready yet, instead promoting Brock Holt to replace Middlebrooks, in essence selecting defense over offense at third base. That's all well and good, but given the way Boston's lineup is performing, it would not be altogether surprising to see the Red Sox change their tune in fairly short order. If Middlebrooks is still struggling or injured by this time next month, I'd expect Cecchini to get a shot. And once he does, he might not give the job back.

     

    2014 Stats

    149 PA, .305/.396/.375, 20.1 K%, 12.8 BB%, 6 2B, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 5 SB

     

    Stock: Up