Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects After Week 18
Speculation has surrounded Boston regarding what the team will do after sending away a sizable portion of its roster—much of which was carried over from the Red Sox's championship team a season ago.
With these departures and some new additions, the Red Sox have indeed changed the direction in which the team is heading. There have been some major league-ready upgrades, but we should look to the younger players when determining how Boston will look next season and beyond.
Prospects are the name of the game for the Red Sox. Many of these players figure to be critical components for Boston in coming years.
Fortunately, the Red Sox have a deep and talented pool from which to choose. Had Boston's minor league system been relatively thin, the future of this franchise could easily be viewed as grim when considering the inevitable outcome of the 2014 season.
But this is not the case. Boston can boast of a strong farm system that will unquestionably influence the decisions that general manager Ben Cherington and Co. have to make moving forward.
In this slideshow, we take a detailed look at the Red Sox's top 10 prospects. To do this, we shall use the ranking list provided by SoxProspects.com and provide added insight and evaluation of each of these players listed.
Some have risen. Others have dropped.
Let's figure out why.
Red Sox Prospects: Hot/Not Sheet
Let's take a look at a couple of prospects who don't quite crack the top 10.
Hot: Sean Coyle, 2B and 3B, Double-A Portland
Infield prospect Sean Coyle is quickly making a name for himself in Boston's farm system. To date, Coyle is owning a .311 batting average with a .911 OPS for Portland this season.
Coyle was a third-round draft pick of the Red Sox during the 2010 MLB June Amateur draft and has had a promising jump after a relatively lackluster season a year ago.
His feats earned him Eastern League Player of the Month accolades per Zack Cox of NESN.com, and he is currently on pace to set career highs in almost every offensive category.
Red Sox Prospect Sean Coyle Named Eastern League Player Of The Month http://t.co/9iRi39EisN— NESN (@NESN) July 8, 2014
Coyle will be fun to watch in the remaining weeks and deserves some attention next season.
Not: Garin Cecchini, 3B, Triple-A Pawtucket
There was a time not so long ago when third base prospect Garin Cecchini appeared destined to break into the majors in the very near future.
Technically, he has already done so in two brief stints, but 2014 has been a relative disappointment otherwise. His 2014 batting average at Triple-A Pawtucked has dropped to .238, which stands in contrast to his career .294 average in the minors.
The results have plummeted Cecchini from Boston's No. 4-ranked prospect to No. 14, per SoxProspects.com.
Garin Cecchini turns on a ball inside and rips his second Triple-A home run. He'd been in a nasty slump.— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) June 10, 2014
This has been a nasty slump for Cecchini, but one that he should be able to bounce back from. His career numbers suggest so.
Still, his offensive woes do not look that promising, especially considering what hopes Boston had for him earlier this season.
No. 10: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Double-A Portland
2014 Statistics: 4-7 / 88.0 IP / 4.60 ERA / 1.386 WHIP / 2.53 SO-BB Ratio
Left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez joins the fray of Boston's farm system after being acquired in the deadline deal that sent reliever Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles.
After joining the Red Sox, Rodriguez posted a victory in his lone start thus far, allowing just one run and two hits over 5.1 innings for Double-A Portland.
What a performance by Eduardo Rodriguez in his Organizational Debut…ties a season-high with 7 K’s over 5.1 IP on 2 H, R. 2-1 Portland.— Portland Sea Dogs (@PortlandSeaDogs) August 3, 2014
Rodriguez's 2014 statistics overall still could use improvement. According to his profile on SoxProspects.com, the biggest concern facing Rodriguez is his relative lack of command.
But Rodriguez projects to be a mid-rotation starter at best, which is something the Red Sox are looking for in the wake of the recent trades that sent away almost all of their starting rotation.
Rodriguez has a number of hurdles to climb before any major league debut. There are a number of Red Sox pitchers who are ahead of him on the rankings.
He could possibly be a September call-up if the month of August proves favorable to him. But it is hard to see him being anything more than an added arm. Depending on what Boston does next season with its rotation, Rodriguez does have an outside chance to crack the roster.
But the safe bet is that he will simply earn a promotion to Triple-A in 2015.
Stock: Neutral—His debut within the Red Sox organization is promising, but we need a larger sample size to determine whether or not his 4.60 season ERA can be whittled down.
No. 9: Brian Johnson, LHP, Double-A Portland
2014 Statistics: 12-3 / 92.0 IP / 2.05 ERA / 1.043 WHIP / 2.79 SO-BB Ratio
As noted, the Red Sox have shaken up their pitching staff this season, which leaves a lot of speculation and opportunity for some of the pitching prospects Boston can boast in its farm system.
Lefty Brian Johnson is one name who has jumped up the ranks in recent weeks. Previously listed as Boston's No. 20 prospect per SoxProspects.com, Johnson now sits as the No. 9 prospect overall.
His promotion from Boston's A-plus affiliate to Double-A Portland has indeed proven beneficial.
The recent string of success suggests this, and WEEI.com's Katie Morrison goes into further detail:
To put into context just how good Johnson has been since his promotion to Double-A: the left-hander leads the Eastern League in ERA with a 2.05 mark now that he has enough innings under his belt to qualify. Johnson has allowed just two hits over his last 14 1/3 innings of work, and has permitted just two earned runs in his last four starts (27 1/3 innings). Aside from an eight-hit, seven-run clunker in early July, Johnson has allowed two earned runs or less in 15 of his 16 starts for Portland. Out of those 16 starts, he’s lasted six or more innings in 11 of them. Johnson has emerged as a high-probability future big league starter.
The nature of starting pitchers can be tough to predict. The Red Sox certainly have a plethora of minor league pitching prospects from which to call in coming years, but the story is easily told: not all of them always work out.
Sometimes, having too much of something can be a good thing, and Boston is banking on this with their pitching talent. Johnson is making a name for himself through this process.
Like Rodriguez before him, Johnson has a number of highly touted prospects ahead of him in the Red Sox's pecking order.
He too could be a September call-up if Boston's brass sees fit, but the likeliest of scenarios is him breaking into the majors at some point in 2015 after starting the season in Triple-A.
Stock: Up—Johnson's recent stretch has been awfully inspiring. If this trend can continue, Johnson has the chance to earn a roster spot within a couple of years. For now, he needs to keep doing what he has been.
No. 8: Christian Vazquez, C, Boston Red Sox
2014 Statistics (Triple-A Pawtucket): 270 PA / .279 BA / .721 OPS / 3 HR / 20 RBI
2014 Statistics (Majors): 52 PA / .283 BA / .716 OPS / 0 HR / 9 RBI
It was only a matter of time when prospect catcher Christian Vazquez made his major league debut.
We know the story—the Red Sox have two highly touted backstops in their farm system in Vazquez and Blake Swihart. Vazquez is the furthest along out of this tandem but had to wait until Boston parted ways with offseason free-agent signee A.J. Pierzynski to be designated for assignment.
Once that happened, Vazquez made his mark.
Known for his defense, Vazquez is proving that he worth the attention at the major league level. His .283 batting average over 46 at-bats with Boston suggests this.
Vazquez is doing a great job impressing those around him as well. Fellow catcher David Ross had this to say about the rookie, per Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com:
Game-calling stuff up here is going to be trial-and-error and you’re going to have your ups and downs with that. But I think he’s willing to learn. He pays attention. He listens. He asks questions. He’s better than advertised for me.
Gabe Kapler of FOX Sports goes into further detail, especially within the context of the Red Sox's season so far:
Throughout the game, however, Vazquez handled every type of pitch beautifully—and in various locations. He set up quietly, displaying his target with ideal timing, was visibly invested in the batter’s setup, and in charge of the pitcher at every turn. Additionally, he manipulated and condensed his body to present an ideal target.
Both Kapler and Ross tell us what we need to know—Vazquez isn't going anywhere. He belongs.
As stated, Vazquez is here to stay. While he may not be as highly touted as fellow prospective catcher Swihart, there is no doubting that Vazquez is a force unto his own.
Depending on how long the Red Sox take to develop Swihart, we could see Vazquez as the primary backstop on Boston's roster for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps that lasts for a very, very long time.
Stock: Up—It is hard for a prospect to rise any further than breaking into the majors and making an immediate impact. This is an easy call to make.
No. 7: Deven Marrero, SS, Triple-A Pawtucket
2014 Statistics (Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket): 414 PA / .284 BA / .761 OPS / 5 HR / 54 RBI
Infielder Deven Marrero has now spent just over a month at Triple-A Pawtucket after being promoted from Double-A back on July 2.
This promotion and subsequent numbers at the plate have given him a nice rise in the rankings—evidenced by his climb from Boston's No. 16 prospect to No. 7, per SoxProspects.com.
This is a promising thing for a Red Sox franchise that has to ask itself a number of questions regarding the left side of its infield in the very near future.
Xander Bogaerts still needs some defensive work. Will Middlebrooks' future is undetermined at best, and who knows what Boston will do with working Brock Holt into the equation.
While not necessarily a huge force at the plate, Marrero does have something that the Red Sox would like to have—incredible defense at shortstop.
"A polished college defender," Farrell said of Marrero via Kyle Brasseur of ESPN Boston. "The development needs were still on the offensive side and clearly that's taken place through the first half of the season in Portland."
Red Sox blog: Sox promote Deven Marrero to Pawtucket http://t.co/PWiVixNXFF— ESPNBoston (@ESPNBoston) July 2, 2014
Anyone who has watched the Red Sox in 2014 could tell you of the defense's troubles on this side of the infield. This element needs help and Marrero could be the guy to provide that.
Any plus numbers with his bat is an added bonus.
It isn't too far removed from possibility that Marrero earns a call-up in September as the Red Sox look for some long-term options on the left side of the infield.
He may see a good chunk of playing time in September, but it is hard to grasp whether or not the Red Sox view him as an everyday player in 2015. That chance might have to wait for a while.
Stock: Up—It looks as if Marrero could be on the brink of making it on a major league roster, even if for only a month. What does matter is that he has the defense Boston is looking for on its infield. That's a good sign.
No. 6: Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket
2014 Statistics: 12-4 / 119.1 IP / 2.41 ERA / 1.148 WHIP / 2.02 SO-BB Ratio
What wasn't the case for Boston's prospect pitchers at the start of 2014 has become so after the July 31 trade deadline.
Before, the Red Sox's rotation was full. Now, there are plenty of opportunities for the Red Sox's young arms to take hold of.
Right-handed pitcher Anthony Ranaudo is one such arm. The former first-round draft pick of the Red Sox back in 2010 has worked his way up Boston's farm system and now owns a minor league-career 3.44 ERA.
His success in 2014 in Triple-A—combined with the trading of the vast majority of Boston's MLB starters—has given Ranaudo a chance to finally start at the big league level.
Ranaudo got his first MLB start against the New York Yankees on Friday, August 1, and allowed just two runs over six innings in Boston's 4-3 win.
The openings in Boston's major league rotation needed to be filled, and it is promising to see the team turn to its younger arms.
In hindsight, it probably was an easy decision to promote Ranaudo. He has been excellent in recent work, per Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal, posting a 1.94 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 17 walks in 60.1 innings pitched during a 10-start span.
Ranaudo was sent back down after the start, but this should not be considered a mark against him.
Now, we just have to wait and see if Ranaudo continues to showcase his stuff—elements upon which are pinned the hopes of Boston's pitching staff.
As stated, the only real question is whether or not Ranaudo has earned the right to return to the big league level. One promising start is great, but he'll need to replicate his numbers for the duration of the season.
If Ranaudo maintains his effectiveness at Triple-A, it is likely that he will be considered for Boston's rotation next year. It is probable that he earns another call-up in coming weeks, certainly in September.
Stock: Up—Like Christian Vazquez before him, it is hard to rank his stock any higher after breaking into the majors and offering an immediate impact. While being sent back down can be viewed as a slight setback, Ranaudo's future remains bright.
No. 5: Allen Webster, RHP,
2014 Statistics (Triple-A Pawtucket): 4-4 / 122.0 IP / 3.10 ERA / 1.238 WHIP / 2.27 SO-BB Ratio
2014 Statistics (Majors): 1-1 / 8.0 IP / 6.75 ERA / 2.000 WHIP / 0.45 SO-BB Ratio
At this point, you have probably noticed a trend among Boston's prospects: the pitching has received much of the attention from the Red Sox's coaching staff, and with good reason.
Righty Allen Webster has gone from a fringe arm into a No. 5 starter after Boston's deadline deals, forced into the fray out of necessity rather than upon talent alone.
Now this doesn't mean Webster lacks talent. The 24-year-old starter does have a lot of movement, and his sinker is something that deserves attention, per his profile on SoxProspects.com.
But the long-standing mark against him has been his command—a problem illustrated by Ian Cundall of SoxProspects.com, who writes:
Webster possesses the athleticism and arsenal to profile as a starting pitcher, but he can struggle with his delivery at times and most importantly his command is only fringe-average. This season, Webster has shown improved command at times, but it can really depend on if you catch him on a good day or bad day.
On his first start against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 27, Webster looked like the promising prospect Sox fans had hoped for—pitching 5.1 innings and allowing just two earned runs on three hits.
But Webster flopped against the New York Yankees his subsequent start on August 2, when he gave up four earned runs in just 2.2 innings.
This latest start prompted some, like Fansided.com's Conor Duffy, to suggest that Webster is best suited to a bullpen role and not within the rotation.
It’s time for Allen Webster to move to the bullpen: Allen Webster has only made two starts for the Boston Red ... http://t.co/y2ynDEDafE— Michele (@Spellingqueen25) August 3, 2014
True, two starts is a small sample size at the major league level, but Webster's hold on the back end of the rotation is tenuous at best.
We may not know exactly where Webster fits into Boston's long-term plans until he gets a few more starts. But we can realize that the Red Sox have quite a number of pitchers who are the verge of being MLB ready.
Perhaps Webster retains his starting status for the duration of 2014 but sees a demotion to the bullpen next season.
Stock: Down—Webster's last start against New York was pretty ugly, and the Red Sox won't wait too long for a 24-year-old pitcher to continue his development. He'll need to find that consistency, and soon, if he wants to remain a part of the rotation.
No. 4: Rafael Devers, 3B, Rookie Gulf Coast League
2014 Statistics (FRk and Rk): 227 PA / .346 BA / .970 OPS / 5 HR / 43 RBI
Nobody on Boston's 2014 list of top prospects has jumped higher in the rankings than third base prospect Rafael Devers.
Devers has jumped up on SoxProspects.com's list from No. 18 to No. 4 after a stellar season in Boston's rookie league developmental programs. Judging by his stat lines, it's easy to understand why he has become so highly touted.
According to his SoxProspects.com profile, Devers has a body that reminds us of Adrian Beltre, and the 17-year-old Dominican has a very fluid swing and good power.
All of these are good signs for a player so young.
According to Tom Layman of The Boston Herald, Devers is one prospect who bears watching:
Rafael Devers might be a long way from Fenway, but the commitment shown by the Red Sox when they signed him as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic last season suggests the third baseman will be worth waiting for.
Why Rafael Devers may have the highest ceiling out of all the Red Sox prospects: Arguably one of the top prosp... http://t.co/mEE4nk5qDh— Michele (@Spellingqueen25) June 1, 2014
Yes, Devers is probably quite a few years away from making any sort of major league debut. But he does at least provide some additional options when the Red Sox start thinking about their future at third base.
We know the current situation with major leaguers Brock Holt and Will Middlebrooks. We should also assume the Red Sox would like to see Xander Bogaerts stick it out at shortstop.
Also part of the equation is the development of Garin Cecchini, who has taken a step back in recent weeks.
Devers will factor into Boston's plans down the road, but in the meantime we should at least pay attention to his development in coming seasons. He has that type of potential.
We shouldn't expect Devers to make an MLB debut until 2017 at the earliest, based solely on his age alone. His full development is still a long way off, but the promise is there.
Who knows what Boston's infield will look like by that time. But if Devers continues to impress, the Red Sox's coaching staff will be forced to make a decision on how they plan to work him into the equation.
Stock: Up—Devers is showing a lot of promise thus far. It is possible that he struggles at the next level, but given what he has done up to this point, we have plenty of reasons to believe he can become a bona fide major leaguer.
No. 3: Henry Owens, LHP, Triple-A Pawtucket
2014 Statistics (Double-A Portland): 14-4 / 121.0 IP / 2.60 ERA / 1.124 WHIP / 2.68 SO-BB Ratio
Boston's No. 1 pitching prospect finally received the promotion from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket on August 1.
The move makes sense given the wide-open scenario in Boston's MLB rotation. With a number of the Red Sox's fringe starters now being promoted to the majors, the time came for Owens to receive a promotion as well.
In short, he had nothing left to prove at the Double-A level.
Portland was amazing.. Now it's time to move up to the level with one more A added to the end of it— Henry Owens (@______H______O) August 1, 2014
Before the promotion, Owens was blowing away the competition with a 2.60 ERA and 1.124 WHIP over 20 starts. While his last two starts have not been all that impressive, Owens' overall body of work this season is a good indication that he is more than promising.
Depending on how Owens fares at the Triple-A level, the Red Sox may want to consider him for a role in the MLB rotation in 2015.
This is the argument made by Fansided.com's Frank O'Laughlin, who reminds us of just how loaded Boston's farm system is when it comes to pitching.
Owens could be a September call-up if the Red Sox's current crop of pitchers needs a shake-up or some rest. But Boston may not want to rush its top pitching prospect too far unless it totally deems it necessary.
The hunch would be that Owens would continue his development at the Triple-A level with a chance to come out of the Red Sox's bullpen in September. Depending on how he responds and how good his spring training is next season, we could feasibly see him in the rotation in 2015.
Stock: Up... Slightly—Had he stayed in Portland, Owens' stock would have remained neutral. There simply wasn't anything more for him to prove.
Let's wait a few starts to determine his response and value at the Triple-A level. The promotion is nice, but numbers are better.
No. 2: Blake Swihart, C, Triple-A Pawtucket
2014 Statistics (Double-A Portlant): 380 PA / .300 BA / .840 OPS / 12 HR / 55 RBI
We've touched on the potential future catching tandem the Red Sox will likely employ soon. Christian Vazquez is already at the major league level and Boston's No. 2 prospect Blake Swihart is not far behind.
Swihart has put up some impressive numbers at Double-A Portland, justifying the recent promotion to Triple-A on August 4.
Blake Swihart promoted to Pawtucket, per @BWMcGair03. I'll be there tonight to see him and Owens, if Swihart is in the lineup yet.— Matt Huegel (@MattHuegelSP) August 4, 2014
Traditional thought would dictate that Vazquez was the more promising prospect when it came to defense, while Swihart was known for his bat, switch-hitting abilities and leadership.
But as pointed out on NESN.com, Swihart has improved dramatically on the defensive side of things, which adds to his worthiness at the next level.
While Vazquez has earned his accolades, Swihart may very well be the next star behind the dish.
This is what MLB.com's Jim Callis feels, as relayed through Ricky Doyle of NESN.com:
I’m the guy who keeps writing the line, and I always qualify this by saying I’m not saying Blake Swihart will be this. But Blake Swihart has the closest thing to Buster Posey’s tools since Buster Posey ... Blake Swihart is arguably the best catching prospect in baseball.
Those are some lofty words coming from Callis, and it is easy to see why fans are so excited about the 22-year-old prospect.
Now we just have to see where Swihart fits in with Boston's future plans in 2015 and beyond.
Call it a hunch, but this author doesn't see the Red Sox calling up Swihart in September. The feeling is that they want to see Vazquez get the majority of at-bats at the major league level for as long as possible.
Vazquez will likely be their starter in 2015, but perhaps Swihart earns a promotion that year as well.
It may take Swihart a few months next year to take over a full-time role, but it is easy to see him being on the major league roster next season.
Stock: Up—There are plenty of reasons to be excited about Swihart's potential. To repeat them over and over here would be redundant.
No. 1: Mookie Betts, 2B and OF, Boston Red Sox
2014 Statistics (Double-A Portland): 253 PA / .355 BA / .994 OPS / 6 HR / 34 RBI
2014 Statistics (Triple-A Pawtucket): 157 PA / .321 BA / .904 OPS / 5 HR / 24 RBI
2014 Statistics (Majors): 40 PA / .243 BA / .660 OPS / 1 HR / 2 RBI
Despite the Red Sox's No. 1 prospect not having the ideal transformation to life at the big league level, there is no doubting that Mookie Betts has a bright future ahead of him.
2014 has seen a number of quick promotions for the 21-year-old infielder turned outfielder. In short, he was tearing it up at the minor league level—first at Double-A Portland and then at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Granted, his tenure with Boston has not been as impressive. But in all fairness, the bulk of his playing time in the majors was when the Red Sox were enduring a number of difficult times and were preparing themselves for conceding the 2014 season.
Betts was not the end-all, be-all answer the Red Sox needed to turn their season around. That is far too much pressure to be put on almost any young phenom.
His first stint at the major league level was not long—lasting from June 28 through July 19.
But with a new cast of characters on the Red Sox's roster, Betts once again has a chance to showcase his talent, having been recalled from Triple-A on August 1 per Anna Fogel of NESN.com.
Betts has gone 1-for-3 since the call-up, which is a small sample size obviously, but a stat worth watching when considering his direct competition for playing time.
With deadline acquisitions Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig likely to get a lot of work in the outfield, Betts' best chance to earn a starting job will likely come from unseating rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. This may be the competition to watch in Boston's outfield for the duration of the season.
Have to think that Mookie Betts will start getting playing time with the way Jackie Bradley has been hitting as of late (0-for-last-23).— Joon Lee (@iamjoonlee) August 4, 2014
Depending on how this goes, we may see more of what Betts can do at the major league level as the 2014 season draws to a close.
There is no doubting that Betts belongs at the major league level. The only question is when he will stay there.
This will be revealed to us in greater detail in the coming weeks. We know Betts can handle life in Triple-A—he's proven that. The real challenge will be the rigors of a full year at the major league level.
At worst, Betts starts off 2015 at Triple-A, but it would not be a surprise to see him on the 25-man roster on Opening Day next season.
Stock: Neutral—Betts has proven himself well at the minor league level. The sample size following his recent call-up is too little to determine whether or not his stock is rising or falling.
Give us another week to make such a determination.
All statistics as of August 3, 2014. Statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox. Be sure to check out his entire archive on Red Sox news, insight and analysis.
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