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Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects After Week 11

Ben CarsleyContributor IJune 16, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects After Week 11

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    The Boston Red Sox are just 31-38 and sit nine games out of first place in the AL East.

    This is relevant for their top prospects, because it means that the Red Sox quite possibly could become sellers at the deadline. And if they do become sellers, we're going to see a lot of major league time open up for Boston's top prospects. Guys like Garin Cecchini, Mookie Betts, Anthony Ranaudo and Christian Vazquez could all wind up with significant playing time in Boston this season, which would open up new spots on this list for new talented prospects.

    For now, though, the top-10 list remains the same as it was last, though the struggles of a few players on this list could lead to change in the coming weeks.

     

    Players who have exceeded 130 PA or 50 innings pitched in the majors are not eligible for these rankings. All stats are accurate as of June 14, 2014.

Red Sox Prospects Hot/Not Sheet

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Hot

    Brian Johnson, LHP, Double-A Portland

    Johnson continues to throw the ball very well for the Sea Dogs, and he now owns a 1.71 ERA through eight Double-A starts. The 23-year-old left-hander has a modest ceiling, but his combination of good stuff and excellent command is clearly baffling hitters in the Eastern League.

    In an organization with less pitching depth he'd be due for a promotion in short order, but with the Red Sox, he's likely to finish the year in Portland. Nonetheless, he's taken some huge strides this year.

     

    Not

    Bryce Brentz, OF, Triple-A Pawtucket

    It's been a tough year for Brentz, who's hitting just .230/.335/.430 on the season and hit just .182/.280/.318 last week. Viewed as a potential replacement for Jonny Gomes, Brentz has hit .304/.373/.696 against left-handed pitching this year. However, he's been so bad against right-handed pitching, and his defensive limitations are such that he might not profile as a platoon player on a first-division team any longer.

    Brentz is already 25, so it's discouraging that his second go-around in Triple-A is going even more poorly than his first.

     

    Cody Kukuk, LHP, High-A Salem

    Kukuk allowed 11 earned runs in 3.1 innings across two starts this week, raising his Salem ERA to 7.06 for the season. The left-hander has exhibited exceptionally poor control, walking 28 batters in 29.1 innings and giving up 32 hits in High-A, too. We're nearing the point where a demotion back to Single-A Greenville may be in order.

10. Manuel Margot, OF, Single-A Greenville

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    Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.net

    Last Week's Stats

    24 PA, .333/.417/.476, 1 K, 3 BB, 7 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 3 SB

     

    Overview 

    One week after notching just two hits, Margot rebounded in a big way, reaching base 10 times and notching two XBH in just 24 PA this week. The 19-year-old is putting together an impressive campaign in Single-A this season. While his .261 average might not look inspiring, Margot is young for the league and suffering form a .281 BABIP, so there's more reason for optimism than you might think on the surface.

    With an additional three steals this week, Margot is now 22-for-26 in stolen-base attempts on the season, showcasing his plus speed. While he doesn't project as a true burner at the major league level, he could be a player who grabs 25-plus bags on a regular basis. In short, if the hit tool takes a step forward, he's a prototypical leadoff hitter.

     

    2014 Stats

    227 PA, .261/.330/.379, 12.6 K%, 9.4 BB%, 4 HR, 10 2B, 20 RBI, 22 SB

     

    Stock: Neutral

9. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 4 K, 1 BB, 4 H, 0 HR

     

    Overview

    I'm on record as saying that I don't think Ranaudo's stuff will play up as a starter at the next level, and I think he's destined for a career in the bullpen or as a back-end starter on a second-division team. That being said, there's no question that Ranaudo has been impressive over his last six starts, allowing just four earned runs in 37 innings with a 4-2 record during that span.

    Ranaudo still struggles with control from time to time, but the big right-hander told Mark Emery of MiLB.com that he's recently made mechanical adjustments that have let him command his fastball better. If Ranaudo can truly limit his walks moving forward, it's possible that his projection could tick up to that of a No. 4 or 5 starter on a good team.

     

    2014 Stats

    14 GS, 76.2 IP, 2.58 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 1.27 WHIP, 3 HR

     

    Stock: Up

8. Trey Ball, LHP, Single-A Greenville

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 5.1 IP, 5 ER, 3 K, 3 BB, 7 H, 2 HR

     

    Overview

    The Red Sox knew Ball was a very raw prospect when they drafted him seventh overall in 2013, as the two-way player had relatively little experience on the mound. But Ball is having a really rough season, nonetheless, and his deficiencies were once again on display this week, as Ball surrendered two homers and seven hits in just 5.1 innings against Charleston. His season ERA now sits above 7.00 once again.

    Earlier this week, I participated in Baseball Prospectus' 2013 Redraft (subscription required) in which various staff members tried to project where 2013 draftees would be selected with the knowledge we have now. Ball fell all the way to No. 16, and quite frankly I was surprised to see him go that high. There's no question his stock is down across the industry.

    This is hardly a make-or-break season for Ball, though. So, if anything, this is an exercise in having patience with prospects. But when I re-rank these prospects around midseason, there's a solid chance Ball will fall out of the top 10.

     

    2014 Stats

    8 GS, 30.1 IP, 7.12 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 1.98 WHIP, 4 HR

     

    Stock: Down

7. Christian Vazquez, C, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    18 PA, .385/.471/.615, 4 K, 3 BB, 5 H, 3 2B, 2 RBI

     

    Overview

    Vazquez struggled at the plate in May, hitting just .237/.284/.263 in 81 PA. It looked as though Triple-A pitching had finally caught up to the 23-year-old, and that scouts' questions about his offensive future wouldn't be answered positively.

    Fast forward to June, and Vazquez has clearly made an adjustment. He's hitting .333/.383/.548 this month, finally showcasing a little power and increasing his walk rate, too. Vazquez's defense is already MLB-ready, so if he keeps hitting like this, he'll have little else to learn in Triple-A.

    If the Red Sox continue to struggle over their next 10-15 games and do decide to become sellers, it would make sense for them to move A.J. Pierzynski or David Ross and to give Vazquez some MLB time this year. Either way, he's positioning himself for significant MLB playing time in 2015, and there's a good chance he makes his Boston debut at some point in 2014.

     

    2014 Stats

    209 PA, .279/.329/.384, 18.0 K%, 6.3 BB%, 2 HR, 14 2B, 17 RBI

     

    Stock: Up

6. Allen Webster, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 8 K, 3 BB, 4 H, 1 HR

     

    Overview

    Webster had somewhat of an atypical start against Louisville this week. The right-hander notched eight strikeouts—his second-highest total of the season—and allowed just four hits. However, Webster induced just two ground balls—his lowest total of the season—and surrendered his fifth home run as well.

    While the right-hander did generate 14 swinging strikes and limited his free passes to three, Webster is at his best when he keeps the ball on the ground. All of those strikeouts look great, but Webster ultimately raised his ERA by giving up three earned runs.

    Thanks to organizational depth, Webster is stuck continuing what's been a strong stint in Triple-A with an eye toward contributing in the majors at some point this year.

     

    2014 Stats

    14 GS, 79.2 IP, 2.94 ERA, 7.0 K/8, 3.6 BB/9, 1.80 WHIP, 5 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

5. Matt Barnes, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats

    N/A

     

    Overview

    Barnes did not pitch between Saturday, June 7, and Saturday, June 14, as Pawtucket's rotation played host to both Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront. Barnes ended up piggybacking Doubront on Sunday, and we'll cover his results in next week's breakdown.

    I've seen fans worried on Twitter that Barnes' relief appearance means the Red Sox have moved him to the bullpen for good, but that's not the case. I asked Baseball Prospectus' Al Skorupa if Barnes' move was just to accommodate Doubront, and he responded in the affirmative:

    @BenCarsley Yes. On the game notes it was listed as what looked like a piggyback - fact he was listed at all unusual for regular RP

    — Al Skorupa (@alskor) June 15, 2014

    Expect to see Barnes back in the rotation next week, when he'll continue his up-and-down 2014 campaign.

     

    2014 Stats

    9 GS, 48.0 IP, 4.69 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.40 WHIP, 4 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

4. Blake Swihart, C, Double-A Portland

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    18 PA, .250/.278/.500, 4 K, 1 BB, 4 H, 1 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI

     

    Overview 

    Swihart enjoyed another strong week at the plate, reaching base at a modest rate but showcasing power in what's been an increasingly positive trend. Swihart's season slugging percentage now sits at .481, which is far and away the highest mark of his career. That he's taking this step forward while moving up the MiLB ladder is a terrific sign.

    In fact, Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks has been very impressed with the young catcher:

    I'm going to fight for Blake Swihart to be in the top 25 prospects in MiLB; 80-grade makeup; premium position; dual-threat bat. #RedSox

    — Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) June 11, 2014

    As you can see, Swihart is beginning to earn more notoriety on a national level, and it wouldn't surprise me if many publications have him as the best catching prospect in the minors heading into 2015. He doesn't have the Rangers' Jorge Alfaro's offensive upside or the Padres' Austin Hedges' insane defensive profile, but he has the best mix of offense, defense and probability.

     

    2014 Stats

    217 PA, .291/.323/.481, 14.1 K%, 4.2 BB%, 12 2B, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 3 SB

     

    Stock: Up

3. Henry Owens, LHP, Double-A Portland

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 1 BB, 6 H, 0 HR

     

    Overview

    It's pretty clear that Owens is only in Double-A because the Pawtucket rotation is crowded, as he has nothing left to prove in Portland. The lanky left-hander produced yet another dominating outing this week, striking out seven and lasting into the seventh inning against Akron on Saturday. Not only did Owens allow one earned run, but he walked just one batter, too.

    Refining his command remains Owens' biggest developmental hurdle, so it's great to see that Owens has walked only six batters in his last four starts and 28.2 innings pitched. Boston's best pitching prospect has also been pitching deeper into games, and he is rounding into form as a potential No. 3 MLB starter with the upside to profile as a No. 2 starter in his peak years.

     

    2014 Stats

    13 GS, 79.0 IP, 2.16 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.04 WHIP, 3 HR

     

    Stock: Up

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

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    17 PA, .250/.294/.438, 3 K, 1 BB, 4 H, 3 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI

     

    Overview 

    On one hand, it's depressing to see Cecchini's OBP continue to drop after another week during which he only reached base five times, and it's a bit concerning that his strikeout rate remains above 20 percent. On the other hand, Cecchini is finally starting to showcase some power, notching four extra-base hits over the past week, including just his second home run of the year.

    As we've discussed before, Cecchini's lack of power and need for defensive improvement are the two biggest factors leading to his continued stay in Triple-A. However, Cecchini has had a poor last month at the plate, and he's hitting just .237/.308/.322 against lefties this year. There's still plenty for Cecchini to work on if he wants to see regular MLB time next year, and the Red Sox's decision to not simply hand him the reigns once Will Middlebrooks went down appears to be a prudent one.

     

    2014 Stats

    Triple-A: 235 PA, .260/.340/.327, 21.4 K%, 10.5 BB%, 8 2B, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 8 SB
    MLB: 2 PA, .500/.500/1,000, 1K, 1 2B, 1 RBI

     

    Stock: Neutral

1. Mookie Betts, OF/2B, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    25 PA, .286/.400/.429, 2 K, 4 BB, 6 H, 0 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB

     

    Overview

    Another week, another 10 times on base for Betts, who's continuing to distinguish himself as one of the better prospects in the minors. Betts is walking nearly twice as often as he's striking out in Pawtucketjust as he did in Portlandand is showcasing a nice power-speed combo, as he has already swiped two bases and hit two homers in just 12 games in Triple-A.

    Betts has made nine of his 12 Triple-A appearances in center field, and it's clear that his transition to full-time outfielder has begun. How quickly he's able to master the nuances of the outfield is likely to determine his MLB timetable, as it's pretty clear that his bat is close to ready. I think Betts will get a cup of coffee in Boston this season, with more significant playing time to follow in 2015.

     

    2014 Stats

    Double-A: 253 PA, .335/.443/.551, 7.9 K%, 13.8 BB%, 18 2B, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 22 SB
    Triple-A: 53 PA, .267/.377/.400, 7.1 K%, 14.3 BB%, 0 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 SB

     

    Stock: Up

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