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Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox Top-10 Prospects After Week 9

Ben CarsleyContributor IOctober 8, 2016

Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox Top-10 Prospects After Week 9

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    The Boston Red Sox won their seventh game in a row on Sunday afternoon, and their burgeoning youth movement was a big part of the reason why.

    Lauded for their minor league depth before the season began, the Red Sox have finally turned to many younger players in their quest to save their season—and so far, so good for a majority of Boston's prospects in the major leagues.

    Xander Bogaerts is a Rookie of the Year candidate and looks as good as advertised at the plate. Jackie Bradley Jr. has cemented himself as the everyday center fielder, and he has shown signs of progression with the bat as of late. Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa suddenly find themselves as members of the MLB rotation, and Alex Hassan has found himself at Fenway, too.

    And let's not forget the incredible, out-of-nowhere contributions of Brock Holt, who has provided the Sox with a spark at a time when one was badly needed.

    Luckily, the Red Sox have another talented wave of contributors sitting in the high minors, and they should further add to their system's talent when they select two of the first 33 players that are set to be taken in the MLB draft this Thursday.

    All of this movement makes it an interesting time to rank the current top-10 Red Sox prospects, as it’s clear that many of these names will get a shot at MLB playing time this season.

     

    Players who have exceeded 130 plate appearances or 50 innings pitched in the majors are not eligible for these rankings. All stats accurate as of May 31, 2014.

Red Sox Prospects Hot/Not Sheet

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    Kelly O'Connor, www.sittingstill.net

    Hot: Keith Couch, RHP, Double-A Portland

    Lost amid a sea of high-upside arms last year and dwarfed by the shadows of Henry Owens and Brian Johnson in 2014, Couch is having a very nice year for the Sea Dogs, nonetheless.

    Owner of a 2.26 ERA through 11 starts and 63.2 innings, Couch has been especially dominant of late, surrendering just eight earned runs in the month of May. Couch is a bit old for the level and doesn't profile as a big-time prospect, but he'd be in Triple-A in most other organizations, and, if nothing else, provides nice minor league depth.

    He could be a trade chip if a second-division team wants to try him as a back-end starter.

     

    Hot: Sean Coyle, 2B/3B, Double-A Portland

    Coyle has been on fire since returning from hamstring and finger injuries in late May, hitting .471/.514/.735 in his last nine games.

    Coyle draws natural Dustin Pedroia comparisons thanks to his compact size and dirt-dog approach. Comparing anyone to a perennial All-Star is unfair, of course, but Coyle is making a name for himself by hitting for average, showcasing a little pop and swiping some bases, too. He's not yet on the edge of the top-10 list, but he's an intriguing name, nonetheless.

     

    Not: Jamie Callahan, RHP, Single-A Greenville

    Callahan is just one of a host of talented youngsters at Greenville who's struggled mightily this year. By giving up 15 earned runs in his last three starts, Callahan has raised his ERA to a whopping 6.55, and he's walking nearly five batters per nine innings as well.

    Callahan has a live arm and is striking out nearly a batter per inning, but he'll need to show substantial improvement at some point this season if he wants to keep up in a system loaded with pitching talent in the low minors.

10. Manuel Margot, OF, Single-A Greenville

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    Kelly O'Connor, www.sittingstill.net

    Last Week's Stats

    23 PA, .318/.348/.364, 3 K, 1 BB, 7 H, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 SB

     

    Analysis 

    Margot enjoyed a nice week for Greenville, reaching base eight times and swiping three bags as he builds upon a respectable age-19 season. His success on the bases (17-for-21) is quite encouraging, as is the fact that his slugging percentage is nearing .400 for the season.

    But the best sign of all is that Margot is posting a good walk rate and a very acceptable strikeout rate, showcasing an advanced approach at the plate.

    We're still years away from seeing Margot make an impact in Fenway. But the fact that someone with his upside ranks all the way at No. 10 here speaks to the depth of the Red Sox system. He may be bumped off the list by whomever the Sox draft next week, but he's having a nice year, nonetheless.

     

    2014 Stats

    187 PA, .262/.330/.387, 13.4 K%, 9.1 BB%, 4 HR, 9 2B, 19 RBI, 17 SB

     

    Stock: Neutral

9. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 4 K, 4 BB, 8 H, 0 HR

     

    Analysis

    Ranaudo continued his run of incredible good luck this week, allowing 12 base runners in just 6.2 innings, yet refusing to allow a single run to score.

    It's pretty incredible that Ranaudo has a 1.37 WHIP but just a 2.90 ERA on the season, especially considering his non-elite strikeout rate. That being said, it's a positive that Ranaudo has lasted at least six innings in three of his last four starts after struggling to pitch deep into games early in the season.

    Red Sox fans continue to be enamored with Ranaudo, but it should tell you something that Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa received the call to the majors before he did. Despite his appealing ERA, Ranaudo isn't dominating in Triple-A, and there's still a good chance that he winds up in the bullpen soon.

    The Sox could also look to use Ranaudo as a trade chip, as he could perhaps serve as a back-end starter for a second-division team.

     

    2014 Stats

    11 GS, 59 IP, 2.90 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, 1.37 WHIP, 3 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

8. Trey Ball, LHP, Single-A Greenville

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    Gail Oskin/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 0.2 IP, 1 ER, 1 K, 1 BB, 2 H, 0 HR

     

    Analysis 

    Ball had one of the strangest stat lines you'll see from a minor leaguer this season, as he was pulled in the first inning of his start against Hickory despite giving up just one earned run, one walk and two hits. According to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, Ball was pulled from his outing because he had already thrown 41 pitches, only 26 of which were strikes. It's good news that Ball isn't injured, as many initially feared, but it's another bump in the road in what's been a tough season for the young left-hander.

    Week after week, I've preached that we just need to be patient with Ball. He was relatively new to pitching when the Red Sox drafted him last year, and he still possesses some of the biggest upside in Boston's system. He's had a very rough 2014 campaign to this point, though, and he's another four or five bad starts from dropping on this list.

     

    2014 Stats

    6 GS, 20 IP, 8.55 ERA, 5.8 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 2.25 WHIP, 2 HR

     

    Stock: Down

7. Christian Vazquez, C, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    24 PA, .348/.375/.391, 6 K, 1 BB, 8 H, 1 2B, 0 RBI

     

    Analysis

    Vazquez enjoyed his best offensive performance in many weeks over the past seven days, notching eight hits and working one walk en route to making his season triple-slash line a bit easier on the eyes.

    Concerns about his offensive have plagued Vazquez throughout his career, and he's done little to assuage them so far in Triple-A. That being said, Vazquez continues to earn rave reviews for his defense, and catchers often take longer to develop than other position players.

    Full Count >> ‘He has a chance’ : Why Christian Vazquez may be ready for big leagues right now http://t.co/izyBVkowlX via @WEEI

    — Peter Gammons (@pgammo) May 28, 2014

    David Ross is hitting just .177/.239/.323 so far this season, and while you can argue that he provides the Red Sox with veteran leadership, there's little doubt that Vazquez is the superior defender. Should Ross continue to fail to produce at the plate or suffer an injury, it's quite possible that Vazquez could see MLB time and make an immediate impact with his glove.

     

    2014 Stats

    161 PA, .263/.313/.338, 18.6 K%, 6.8 BB%, 0 HR, 11 2B, 10 RBI

     

    Stock: Neutral

6. Allen Webster, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 8 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 1 BB, 3 H, 1 HR

     

    Analysis 

    If Webster is disappointed in being passed over in favor of Workman and De La Rosa, it would be hard to blame him. He's having the best statistical season of the three, and despite one rough start a week ago, has been quite good in Pawtucket as of late.

    "RDLR" and Workman have both been quite good in the majors thus far, but Webster gave the Red Sox something to think about in his lone start this week, as the 24-year-old had his best outing of the year.

    Webster's dominating start illustrates how good he can be when he doesn't issue walks, as he missed a ton of bats (18 swinging strikes), kept the ball on the ground and was efficient to boot, needing just 101 pitches to complete eight innings. Webster may not be as consistent as the Red Sox would like, but he can still start in the middle of an MLB rotation, and he should be given that chance fairly soon.

     

    2014 Stats

    12 GS, 67.2 IP, 2.93 ERA, 6.7 K/8, 3.5 BB/9, 1.26 WHIP, 4 HR

     

    Stock: Up

5. Matt Barnes, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 4.1 IP, 6 ER, 6 K, 2 BB, 6 H, 1 HR

     

    Analysis

    While Webster turned in his best performance of the season this week, Barnes turned in his second consecutive clunker. Much like he did last week, Barnes allowed six earned runs and a ton of hits, and the right-hander has now surrendered four homers in his last three outings.

    The 2.35 ERA Barnes posted through his first four starts seems like a distant memory, and the 23-year-old has generated just 19 swinging strikes over his past three starts.

    Barnes' upside as a No. 3 starter hasn't changed with his recent streak of poor performances, but his odds of contributing in the majors in 2014 have indeed taken a big hit. With Webster, Workman, De La Rosa and even Ranaudo all out-producing Barnes by a significant margin, it will likely take a rash of injuries or some serious regression from others to get Barnes to Fenway this year.

     

    2014 Stats

    7 GS, 35.1 IP, 5.35 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.47 WHIP, 4 HR

     

    Stock: Down

4. Blake Swihart, C, Double-A Portland

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    21 PA, .350/.381/.600, 3 K, 1 BB, 7 H, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI

     

    Analysis 

    Catchers take longer to develop than do most other prospects, and the jump between High-A and Double-A is generally considered the toughest for any minor leaguer to master. That's why Swihart's 2014 campaign has been so encouraging, as the switch-hitter is hitting for more power than at any point in his career despite the massive jump in the quality of his opposition.

    Chris Mellen of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) sums up Swihart's potential nicely:

    While the power numbers will never be gaudy, Swihart has been growing into some and he’s going to continue to. A projection of 15 or so home runs annually is reachable. Most importantly, this is a player who demonstrates strong makeup. There’s drive to get better at his craft, and an ability to make adjustments against rising competition. 

    Swihart continued his torrid pace with another great week, hitting his fifth homer of the year, popping two more doubles and striking out just three times. It would be good to see him take more walks, but that's nit picking.

    The Rangers' Jorge Alfaro may have the higher upside and San Diego's Austin Hedges is a better defender, but Swihart is one of the most complete catching prospects in the minors today.

     

    2014 Stats

    173 PA, .293/.329/.470, 13.9 K%, 5.2 BB%, 10 2B, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB

     

    Stock: Up

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    27 PA, .333/.407/.458, 3 K, 3 BB, 8 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 0 SB

     

    Analysis

    Betts failed to hit a home run or steal a base this week, and he reached base at just a .407 clip. Clearly, he's regressing.

    All joking aside, Betts is continuing to abuse Double-A pitching in his first look at the level as a 21-year-old, and there's little that suggests he's going to slow down any time soon. In his recent update to his top-25 prospects list, ESPN.com's Keith Law (subscription required) ranked Betts at No. 22, citing his performance thus far as "way beyond any reasonable expectations."

    Betts played center field in five of six games over the past week, as the Red Sox continue to try and teach him to be a more versatile asset. While we don't have much of a sample size to go off of yet, early reports indicate that he's acclimating nicely to the outfield, which greatly increases his odds of making it to the majors this year.

    A 2014 Fenway debut is still somewhat unlikely for Betts, but we could see a promotion to Triple-A in short order.

     

    2014 Stats

    253 PA, .355/.443/.551, 7.9 K%, 13.8 BB%, 18 2B, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 22 SB

     

    Stock: Up

2. Henry Owens, LHP, Double-A Portland

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 7 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 BB, 3 H, 0 HR

     

    Analysis

    I've received some flack in recent weeks for having Betts as my No. 3 prospect and not the name atop this list, but many agree that it's between Betts and Garin Cecchini for the right to be considered the top dog.

    However, on Law's aforementioned update this week, ESPN's prospect guru actually had Owens as the best prospect in Boston's system, ranking him at No. 20 overall and stating:

    The stuff is still there, with a changeup scouts have told me might be as good as any in the majors right now and a fastball that plays up because hitters don't see the ball out of his hand. He does need to tighten up his breaking ball, and obviously throwing more strikes is rather important.

    Owens made Law look smart this week by throwing his second consecutive gem, lowering his ERA to just 2.52 on the season. Owens needs to refine his command and execute his curveball more consistently, but we're getting to the point where there's not a lot left for the left-hander to prove in Portland.

    With several sports in the Triple-A rotation opening up as of late, Owens could get a bump to Pawtucket soon.

     

    2014 Stats

    11 GS, 64.1 IP, 2.52 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 1.10 WHIP, 3 HR

     

    Stock: Up

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

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats

    21 PA, .190/.190/.238, 4 K, 0 BB, 4 H, 3 RBI

     

    Analysis 

    On the one hand, it was a rough week for Cecchini, as the left-handed hitter registered just four hits and no walks in 21 trips to the plate in Pawtucket. On the other hand, this week was probably one of the best of Cecchini's life, as he made his MLB debut on Sunday against the Rays.

    Cecchini's time in Boston was short-lived—he was sent back down to Triple-A immediately after the game—but he was in Boston long enough to register his first MLB hit and show off an advanced approach at the plate.

    The Stephen Drew signing and the emergence of Brock Holt mean that Cecchini isn't likely to see a ton of MLB playing time this year. However, he can factor more prominently into Boston's 2015 plans if he starts hitting for more power, improves his defense and works on lowering his strikeout rate in Triple-A.

    He's already a fairly safe bet to be a productive major leaguer, but Cecchini has some work to do in order to prove that he can be above average at the MLB level.

     

    2014 Stats

    198 PA, .278/.354/.335, 20.2 K%, 10.1 BB%, 7 2B, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 6 SB

     

    Stock: Neutral

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