Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects After Week 17

Ben CarsleyContributor IJuly 28, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects After Week 17

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The 2014 trade deadline figures to be a turbulent time for the Boston Red Sox. And with such turbulence will likely come changes to this Top 10 list, too.

    We saw the first push toward rebuilding come earlier this week, when the Red Sox traded Jake Peavy to the San Francisco Giants for left-handed starting pitching prospect Edwin Escobar and right-handed reliever prospect Heath Hembree.

    Neither Escobar nor Hembree is going to crack this list—I'd rank Escobar 11th, right ahead of Brian Johnson, and Hembree somewhere in the high teens/low 20s. But if the Sox move more major pieces, say a Koji Uehara, an Andrew Miller or a Jon Lester, we could see prospects coming back to Boston who will find themselves ranking high on this list.

    For now, consider this the calm before the storm. But know that next week, these rankings could look very different indeed.

     

    Players who have exceeded 130 plate appearances or 50 innings pitched in the majors are not eligible for these rankings. All stats as of July 26, 2014.

Red Sox Prospects Hot/Not Sheet

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Hot: Trey Ball, LHP, Single-A Greenville

    Perhaps "hot" is a bit of a stretch here, as Ball was rocked for six earned runs in four innings just over two weeks ago when he took on the GreenJackets on July 11. But even including that clunker, Ball owns a 3.24 ERA with 19 strikeouts and just seven walks in 24 innings in the month of July. And in his last two starts, Ball's allowed just two earned runs over 11 innings pitched.

    It's still been a horrible year for the left-hander, but hopefully this is the turnaround we've long been waiting to behold.

     

    Not: Michael Chavis, SS, Gulf Coast League

    There's absolutely nothing to worry about here, as Chavis has notched just 48 professional plate appearances to this point. But if my goal is to point out meaningful hot and cold performances in this space, we should note that Chavis is off to a pretty rough start. The Red Sox's first-round pick from this June is hitting just .093/.188/.163 in 48 plate appearances, and he's struck out in one-third of his at-bats.

    Again, this means nothing in the long-run, but it's disappointing to see Chavis' initial struggles.

10. Deven Marrero, SS, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    23 PA, .333/.391/.429, 4 K, 2 BB, 7 H, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 1 SB

     

    It was another successful week for Deven Marrero, who's taken to Triple-A quite nicely in his first 81 plate appearances. The slick-fielding shortstop is more than holding his own with the bat in his early days in Pawtucket, and while a .400 BABIP, per FanGraphs, is certainly helping Marrero right now, his six doubles and stable strikeout rate are positive signs.

    If the Red Sox do indeed trade Stephen Drew in the coming days, I'd expect them to move Xander Bogaerts back to shortstop and let Will Middlebrooks and Brock Holt battle it out at third base. There's a chance the Sox could decide to keep Bogaerts at third base permanently, though, and if they do, I'd expect Marrero to be up in the majors and to see real playing time in September.

     

    2014 Stats

    Double-A: 307 PA, .291/.371/.433, 18.6 K%, 11.1 BB%, 5 HR, 19 2B, 39 RBI, 12 SB
    Triple-A: 81 PA, .320/.363/.400., 18.5 K%, 6.2 BB%, 0 HR, 6 2B, 14 RBI, 2 SB

     

    Stock: Up

9. Manuel Margot, OF, Single-A Greenville

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    Kelly O'Connor, www.sittingstill.net

    Last Week's Stats

    14 PA, .167/.286/.250, 5 K, 1 BB, 2 H, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 SB

     

    It's been a rough month for Manuel Margot. The talented 19-year-old is hitting just .220/.292/.390 in July, coming off an outstanding June in which he hit .291/.356/.481. Given Margot's age and his strong overall stat line, there's absolutely nothing to worry about here, but his lackluster performance as of late is worth noting nonetheless.

    Margot has started to receive more attention from the prospect world at large this season, and that attention is well-deserved. This slump can serve as a reminder that Margot is still years and years away from seeing the majors, though, and Sox fans will need to be patient with his development.

    Still, the excitement is building. Here's what Baseball Prospectus' Chris Mellen had to say about Margot earlier this week:

    He's been overshadowed by others in the system, but keep #RedSox OF Manuel Margot on the radar. Profile of a top-of-the-order CF'er.

    — Chris Mellen (@ChrisMellen) July 21, 2014

     

    2014 Stats

    341 PA, .261/.329/.412, 12.3 K%, 8.8 BB%, 8 HR, 16 2B, 35 RBI, 31 SB

     

    Stock: Neutral

8. Matt Barnes, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 6.1 IP, 2 ER, 2 K, 3 BB, 3 H, 0 HR

     

    Matt Barnes had one of his best starts of the season last week, holding Syracuse to two earned runs in 6.1 innings and earning just his fifth win of the year. Barnes threw 101 pitches—62 of them for strikes—and allowed just three hits, though he also walked three batters.

    In some ways it was a step forward for Barnes, but a deeper dive into the numbers doesn't portend much future success. Barnes struck out just two batters and generated just four swinging strikes, suggesting his stuff was far from dominant. For a pitcher who struck out 28.2 percent of all batters he faced in Portland last year, his 16.4 percent strikeout rate in Pawtucket this year is startling.

     

    2014 Stats

    16 G, 15 GS, 81.0 IP, 4.89 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 1.54 WHIP, 6 HR

     

    Stock: Down

7. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    2 GS, 12.2 IP, 1 ER, 8 K, 5 BB, 6 H, 1 HR

     

    After another two starts in which Anthony Ranaudo allowed just six hits and one earned run combined, the right-hander's ERA for the season now sits at just 2.41. It's truly been a remarkable year for Ranaudo, who's transformed himself from a probable seventh-inning arm to a legit MLB starting option in the eyes of many.

    That being said, I think Ranaudo's performance overstates his true skill set right now, and if the Sox attempt to move a prospect or two for a long-term offensive piece at the deadline, Ranaudo makes an ideal sell-high candidate.

    Ranaudo doesn't induce a ton of ground balls and isn't a strikeout machine, so he's somewhat ill suited for Fenway Park as a fly-ball pitcher. That being said, I think he could find success as a No. 4 or 5 starter for a team with a big ballpark in the National League. He'll still be valuable if he stays in Boston, but he's no more than a No. 5 starter if he stays with the Sox.

     

    2014 Stats

    21 GS, 119.1 IP, 2.41 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.15 WHIP, 6 HR

     

    Stock: Up

6. Christian Vazquez, C, Boston Red Sox

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    8 PA, .333/.375/.500, 0 K, 1 BB, 2 H, 1 2B, 2 RBI

     

    You don't have to watch Christian Vazquez catch many games before you understand why his defense is so hyped. He's far from a finished product, but he already has one of the strongest arms in the majors behind the plate, he shows good instincts when it comes to pitch framing and he's surprisingly quick on his feet.

    Here's what Grantland's Jonah Keri had to say about Vazquez after watching him catch this week:

    Christian Vazquez's defense looks great. Receives/frames really well, strong/accurate arm. Fun to watch.

    — Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) July 27, 2014

    Vazquez has been solid but unspectacular at the plate so far, but that's really all the Sox need from him to justify giving him a good chunk of playing time in 2015. He should eventually serve as an oft-played backup to Blake Swihart, which could give the Sox one of the best young catching duos in the league by this time next year.

     

    2014 Stats

    Triple-A: 270 PA, .279/.336/.385, 19.3 K%, 7.8 BB%, 3 HR, 17 2B, 20 RBI
    MLB: 31 PA, .286/.323/.393, 6.5 K%, 6.5 BB%, 0 HR, 3 2B, 7 RBI

     

    Stock: Neutral

5. Allen Webster, RHP, Boston Red Sox

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    1 G, 7 IP, 3 ER, 3 K, 1 BB, 6 H, 0 HR

     

    With Peavy gone to San Francisco and a more permanent spot opening up in the Red Sox rotation, many figured it would be Brandon Workman or Anthony Ranaudo who'd get the first crack at the job. But as we learned shortly after the Peavy trade, it was actually Allen Webster who got to see the majors again first, as the right-hander took the mound Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

    While Webster's numbers from Sunday don't count against him here, we know that he looked more like the Webster of 2013 than the Webster of 2014 against the Rays. He flashed dominating stuff at times, spinning a few amazing changeups, but was also timid and exhibited poor command. He threw 44 balls and 42 strikes, which won't often get the job done at the next level.

    In short, Webster had a chance to guarantee himself more playing time going forward, and while he wasn't bad on Sunday, he wasn't good enough to distance himself from Workman or Ranaudo, either.

     

    2014 Stats

    21 G, 20 GS, 122.0 IP, 3.10 ERA, 7.4 K/8, 3.2 BB/9, 1.24 WHIP, 9 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

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

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    19 PA, .125/.263/.125, 3 K, 2 BB, 2 H, 1 RBI

     

    I still believe in Garin Cecchini's ability to rebound from his slump and become an above-average major league hitter. I don't think 250 poor plate appearances in Triple-A serves as a death sentence for his future value, and I believe that his hit tool will play at the next level.

    But there's no denying that the last three months have been tough to watch, and it's surprising to see an advanced hitter such as Cecchini fail to make adjustments for this long. Every player struggles, but not every player struggles for 10 consecutive weeks, and it's disconcerting that Cecchini has yet to right the ship.

    Cecchini is probably going to fall off most top-100 prospect lists this offseason, as shinier, newer prospects leapfrog him in rankings. I'm still high on him, but I can't justify ranking him ahead of Henry Owens any longer.

     

    2014 Stats

    Triple-A: 333 PA, .246/.324/.330, 21.6 K%, 9.3 BB%, 11 2B, 3 HR, 33 RBI, 10 SB
    MLB: 2 PA, .500/.500/1.000, 1K, 1 2B, 1 RBI

     

    Stock: Down

3. Henry Owens, LHP, Double-A Portland

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    1 GS, 4.0 IP, 5 ER, 6 K, 4 BB, 5 H, 1 HR

     

    Henry Owens suffered his second-worst start of the season last week, allowing five earned runs in just four innings in a battle against the Rock Cats. He threw just 53 of his 87 pitches for strikes, generated just three swinging strikes and allows his sixth homer of the year.

    Starts like this really just serve to remind us how dominant Owens has been all year, though, as this beating raised Owens' ERA all the way to 2.56 and his WHIP all the way to 1.10. It is of course concerning that Owens has been hit hard for two starts in a row now, but he's still having an incredible year.

    When the dust settles from the trade deadline, I'd expect the Sox to finagle a spot in Triple-A for Owens. He doesn't have much left to prove in Portland.

     

    2014 Stats

    19 GS, 116 IP, 2.56 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.10 WHIP, 6 HR

     

    Stock: Neutral

2. Blake Swihart, C, Double-A Portland

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week's Stats

    26 PA, .417/.462/.500, 5 K, 2 BB, 10 H, 2 2B, 2 SB

     

    Is there anything Blake Swihart can't do? The switch-hitting catcher may have failed to hit a home run this week, but he made up for it by swiping two bases, which makes him 6-of-7 in steal attempts on the season. Speed doesn't profile as a major part of Swihart's game, of course, but his numbers do underscore that he's more athletic than many catchers.

    Mookie Betts and Henry Owens have had incredible years, but you can make a pretty compelling argument at this point that Swihart is Boston's best overall prospect. I'd expect him to get a taste of Triple-A before the season is over and to position himself for MLB time next year.

     

    2014 Stats

    354 PA, .303/.356/.489, 16.4 K%, 7.6 BB%, 21 2B, 11 HR, 53 RBI, 6 SB

     

    Stock: Up

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

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Last Week's Stats

    34 PA, .375/.412/.594, 7 K, 2 BB, 12 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI

     

    Betts may have had a so-so time adjusting to major league life amid sporadic playing time in Boston, but he's had no problem readjusting to life in Triple-A. The 21-year-old has been on fire since his demotion to Pawtucket, continuing to punish International League pitching just as he had before his call-up to Boston.

    As we all know, Betts' trip back to Triple-A was more about playing time than his performance in the majors. And if the Red Sox do make a deal at the deadline that opens up some more at-bats in Boston, I'd expect Betts to be recalled in short order. Either way, he should see much more MLB time in 2015.

     

    2014 Stats

    Double-A: 253 PA, .335/.443/.551, 7.9 K%, 13.8 BB%, 18 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 22 SB
    Triple-A: 106 PA, .336/.421/.484, 12.9 K%, 14.6 BB%, 5 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 7 SB
    MLB: 37 PA, .235/.278/.382, 13.5 K%, 2.7 BB%, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB

     

    Stock: Neutral