Boston Red Sox

Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects After Week 8

Ben CarsleyContributor IMay 27, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects After Week 8

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    We're nearly two full months into the 2014 season and we've seen enough from many of the Boston Red Sox's top prospects to judge their developmental progress so far this year.

    Many of their starting pitching prospects have made 10-plus starts. Many of their hitters are nearing 200 plate appearances. We're even seeing some players promoted on the backs of fast starts and organizational need. The sample sizes may be too small to hold predictive value, but they're no longer too small to tell us part of a story in many cases.

    Thanks to injury and ineffectiveness at the major league level, many of Boston's prospects in the upper minors are poised to make an impact in 2014. And with Brandon Workman losing his prospect eligibility this week, there's a new spot on this list for a high-upside player in the low minors, too. That means there's plenty to discuss here after Week 8 of the season.

     

    Players who have exceeded 130 PA or 50 innings pitched in the majors are not eligible for these rankings. All stats as of May 25, 2014.

Red Sox Prospects Hot/Not Sheet

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Hot: Travis Shaw, 1B, Triple-A Pawtucket

    A true power hitter in a system largely bereft of them, Shaw was promoted to Pawtucket this week after a terrific start to the season in Double-A. Shaw hit .305/.406/.548 in 208 PA in Portland this season, and while he doesn't project as a starting first baseman at the MLB level, he could be a valuable platoon or bench bat nonetheless.

    Shaw struggled mightily in Double-A last year, so he has a ways to go to prove that his adjustments are for real. Still, he's positioned himself for a potential late-season call-up to the majors, especially if the Sox continue to suffer from the injury bug.

     

    Not: Wendell Rijo, 2B, Single-A Greenville

    Frequently cited as a breakout candidate in the Red Sox system before the season began, Rijo's overall triple-slash line from this season still looks terrific. Unfortunately, the second baseman has hit just .210/.310/.355 in 71 PA this month, as the 18-year-old adjusts to life in Single-A.

    Rijo's athleticism and surprising strength for his size make him one of Boston's more interesting lesser-known prospects. This is nothing but a bump on the developmental road.

     

    Not: Cody Kukuk, LHP, High-A Salem

    Kukuk had his worst outing of his season this week, giving up six earned runs on nine hits and two walks in just 4.2 innings pitched. Kukuk was hit hard and often on Sunday night, and his ERA in Salem jumped from 2.55 to 4.43 thanks to the ugly start.

    As Katie Morrison of WEEI.com notes, the poor outing was really just atypical for Kukuk, who allowed more earned runs this week than he had in his other four High-A starts combined. The 21-year-old will look to rebound this week with an eye toward a Double-A promotion near season's end.

10. Manuel Margot, OF, Single-A Greenville

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    Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.net

    Last Week's Stats

    19 PA, .333/.474/.400, 1 K, 4 BB, 5 H, 1 2B, 0 RBI, 2 SB

     

    With Workman ascending to the majors and losing his prospect eligibility, we have room for a new name on this list. It won't surprise regular readers that Margot earns the honors here, as I've debated placing him over Anthony Ranaudo many times over the past few weeks. In fact, if Margot had performed better to this point in the season, he likely would've found himself on this list weeks ago.

    Billed in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2014 as "the preeminent five-tool talent prospect in the system" before the season began, Margot's speed and pop have been on display this season. Considering he's still only 19 and demonstrating an advanced approach in Single-A, the Red Sox have to be encouraged with his progress, even if his triple-slash line doesn't jump off the page. He profiles as a potential leadoff hitter and center fielder, though he likely won't see the majors until 2016 at the earliest.

     

    2014 Stats

    164 PA, .253/.327/.390, 13.4 K%, 9.8 BB%, 4 HR, 8 2B, 18 RBI, 14 SB

     

    Stock: Up

9. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 4 BB, 4 H, 1 HR

     

    Ranaudo's start this week serves as a microcosm of his season thus far—he's getting better final results than he deserves based on the walks and hits he's allowing, and he's having trouble pitching deep into games. It's easy to look at the right-hander's 3.27 ERA on the season and assume he's MLB-ready. But if he walks batters at the same clip in the majors, he'd be lucky to survive with an ERA below 5.00. 

    Ranaudo pitched out of jams today, but walked four and gave up hard contact throughout. And he still might outperform Clay right now.

    — Brendan (@unexpectedbass) May 27, 2014

    Workman has already replaced Felix Doubront in the Red Sox rotation, but with Clay Buchholz performing miserably, Boston will likely turn to its farm system for another starter soon. I'd look for Allen Webster or Rubby De La Rosa to get the call before Ranaudo, though, and that's probably for the best.

    Unless Ranaudo improves his command and demonstrates an ability to throw his changeup more consistently, he's ticketed for a move to the bullpen before long.

     

    2014 Stats

    10 GS, 52.1 IP, 3.27 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, 1.39 WHIP, 3 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

8. Trey Ball, LHP, Single-A Greenville

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    2 GS, 5.2 IP, 8 ER, 4 K, 4 BB, 10 H, 1 HR

     

    Ball had two very different starts this week. On May 19th, he lasted just two-thirds of an inning, giving up five earned runs, five hits and two walks. It was the worst outing of his brief professional career. But on Saturday, Ball gave up three runs in five innings, striking out four and walking just two. It was his second-best start of 2014.

    Expect to see such turbulence for much of the rest of Ball's first full professional season. Ball was raw as a pitcher when the Red Sox drafted him last season, and such bumps in the road are to be expected. Just root for Ball's walk totals to decline, his strikeout rate to increase and his health to remain, and 2014 will have been a success.

     

    2014 Stats

    5 GS, 19.1 IP, 8.38 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 2.17 WHIP, 2 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

7. Christian Vazquez, C, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    13 PA, .077/.077/.077, 4 K, 0 BB, 1 H, 0 RBI

     

    It’s been a miserable month for Vazquez at the plate, and his struggles continued this past week. The defensively skilled backstop has hit just .198/.246/.208 since the calendar turned to May, and he's beginning to look truly overmatched by Triple-A pitching. Offensive production is the chief concern that has plagued Vazquez throughout his career, and his 2014 performance hasn't done much to assuage those concerns to this point.

    Vazquez is still going to be a major league catcher for a long time on the strength of his defense. That being said, he'll need to hit more like he did in 2013 if he wants to profile as a starter even for a second-division team. He should have the rest of the season in Triple-A to try to right the ship, but it's looking less likely that he'll see significant MLB time this year.

     

    2014 Stats

    137 PA, .248/.301/.328, 17.5 K%, 7.3 BB%, 0 HR, 10 2B, 10 RBI

     

    Stock: Down

6. Allen Webster, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    2 GS, 10 IP, 6 ER, 8 K, 5 BB, 11 H, 1 HR

     

    Like Ball, Webster had one good start and one poor start this week. He pitched quite well against Scranton Wilkes-Barre on the 19th, then gave up five earned runs in five innings against Syracuse on Sunday. However, Webster has significantly more at stake than Ball, as he's likely on the precipice of a major league call-up in Buchholz's stead. 

    Farrell says the team has multiple options in Pawtucket if Doubront has to miss some time. Mentioned Brandon Workman & Allen Webster by name

    — WEEI (@WEEI) May 21, 2014

    Despite his recent rocky outing, Webster has had the best statistical season of any of the Red Sox's major pitching prospects this year. While casual fans might remember him best for his MLB meltdowns a season ago, he still profiles as a mid-rotation MLB starter, and he'd be hard-pressed to put the Sox in more of a bind than Buchholz has as of late.

    Webster's performance may never live up to the quality of his stuff, but he can be a valuable member of this team going forward nonetheless.

     

    2014 Stats

    11 GS, 59.2 IP, 3.02 ERA, 6.5 K/8, 3.8 BB/9, 1.34 WHIP, 3 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

5. Matt Barnes, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 3 IP, 6 ER, 4 K, 3 BB, 8 H, 2 HR

     

    It was an ugly week for many of the Red Sox's starting pitching prospects, and Barnes is no exception. The right-hander had his worst start of the season on Thursday, allowing six earned runs in just three innings against Syracuse. Barnes likely wasn't in the running for a call-up to Boston anyway given his limited time on the mound this season, but his last two starts haven't done him any favors regardless.

    There's no reason to panic after one poor start from Barnes, but he will need to work on lowering his walk rate and missing a few more bats if he wants to factor into the Red Sox's major league plans this year. He retains the highest upside of any pitcher in the organization other than Henry Owens, but it's time to see some better results.

     

    2014 Stats

    6 GS, 31.0 IP, 4.35 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.42 WHIP, 3 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

4. Blake Swihart, C, Double-A Portland

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    25 PA, .261/.320/.391, 6 K, 2 BB, 6 H, 0 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI

     

    It's pretty hard not to fall in love with what Swihart is doing in Double-A as a 22-year-old this season. The switch-hitter is hitting for more power than at any point in his career despite facing his toughest level yet. He's not striking out much, and while his walk rate is still relatively poor, it's been on the rise over the past several weeks. Overall, this is very encouraging.

    #RedSox C Blake Swihart staying back well in both ABs thus far today. Keeping shoulder square and driving ball right back up the middle.

    — Chris Mellen (@ChrisMellen) May 26, 2014

    Catching prospects are quite difficult to develop and the Red Sox are generally conservative with their prospects, so there's a chance Swihart spends the entire season in Portland even if he continues this level of production.

    There's still plenty of time for some struggles or regression to occur, but Swihart is pacing himself to debut in the majors in late 2015, with an eye toward starting full-time in 2016. I'd expect him to rank as a universal top-50 prospect when the major midseason rankings come out in July.

     

    2014 Stats

    152 PA, .285/.322/.451, 13.8 K%, 5.3 BB%, 8 2B, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 3 SB

     

    Stock: Up

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    37 PA, .308/.467/.577, 3 K, 9 BB, 8 H, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 3 SB

     

    I'm running out of superlatives for Betts. He's still walking twice as often as he's striking out. He's slugging .575 as a 21-year-old in Double-A. He's 22-for-25 in stolen bases on the year. And we're hearing from enough scouting sources that the skill set is real enough for us to stop looking upon the stat line with such skepticism. Betts is transforming into one of the best prospects in baseball right before our eyes.

    The ineptitude of the current major league outfield in Boston has caused many to call for a Betts' call-up. However, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reported Monday, Ben Cherington has ruled out a Betts promotion for now as he learns to play the outfield.

    Betts began the year as No. 8 on this list, and while I've already pushed him up to No. 3, this might not be high enough. If his production lasts another two or three weeks, I'll have no choice but to place him atop these rankings.

     

    2014 Stats

    221 PA, .366/.452/.575, 7.2 K%, 14.0 BB%, 17 2B, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 22 SB

     

    Stock: Up

2. Henry Owens, LHP, Double-A Portland

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    2 GS, 11 IP, 1 ER, 14 K, 5 BB, 6 H, 0 HR

     

    Finally, some good results from a Red Sox pitcher. It would be nice to see Owens pitch deeper into games, but other than that, it's hard to find much fault with how the left-hander threw the ball this week. Owens missed bats, he limited his free passes and he proved very difficult to hit. That's what you look for in a mid-rotation starter.

    Owens already has the inherent deception in his delivery and the type of stuff to dominate in Double-A, so with another string of good starts he'll have little left to prove at the level. I'd expect him to finish the year in Pawtucket with an eye toward contributing in 2015, though he still has plenty of refinement left in his developmental journey. His command is what limits his ceiling at present.

     

    2014 Stats

    10 GS, 57.1 IP, 2.83 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 1.15 WHIP, 3 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Rankings

    24 PA, .217/.250/.217, 5 K, 1 BB, 5 H, 1 RBI, 1 SB

     

    It's been a rough few weeks for Cecchini, who's seen his average fall to a still respectable .290 but has still yet to hit for any semblance of power in Triple-A. Cecchini has also continued his trend of striking out more than we're accustomed to seeing, and his defense still receives mixed reviews, too. When you add it all together it's no wonder the Red Sox decided to turn to Brock Holt rather than Cecchini at third base in the short-term.

    As I've discussed several times in this space, Cecchini doesn't need to hit for huge power to be an effective major leaguer. But a sub-.400 slugging percentage is very poor for a corner infielder or outfielder, and Cecchini is going to end up at one of those spots. Boston will likely want to see Cecchini hit for at least doubles power and cut down on the Ks before they promote him to the big leagues.

     

    2014 Stats

    177 PA, .290/.373/.348, 20.3 K%, 11.3 BB%, 6 2B, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 6 SB

     

    Stock: Neutral

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