Stock Up, Stock Down for Boston Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects for Week 19
As the news of Boston's recent blockbuster trades begins to settle down, we can shift our focus to the next possible cast of characters that may comprise a Red Sox roster in coming years.
There is a lot to be hopeful for. The Red Sox are stacked in terms of prospects, and many figure to be integral parts of Boston's future.
In this slideshow, we take a detailed look at the Red Sox's 10 best prospects—a list provided by SoxProspects.com. We shall evaluate how each prospect's stock is rising, falling or staying put based on recent performances, accolades and other bits of relevant information.
Boston's 2014 season may have been conceded, yet the future remains bright for this organization. Let's dive a little deeper in assessing just how this franchise's horizon looks.
Red Sox Prospects: Hot/Not Sheet
While our list focuses on the top 10 prospects within the Red Sox's organization, let's take a peek at two guys who don't quite make it into the final list based on their SoxProspects.com rankings.
Hot: Matt Barnes, SP, Triple-A Pawtucket
Starting pitcher Matt Barnes might have had a rough season overall thus far—posting a 5-8 record with a 4.45 ERA and a 1.430 WHIP over the course of 2014—but the 24-year-old righty has come on strong as of late.
Barnes showed up on Baseball America's hot sheet for prospects for the week of August 8, having allowed zero hits, while striking out 10 batters and allowing just two walks over 7.0 innings.
Matt Barnes, Brian Johnson, Henry Owens and Manuel Margot show up on this week's Prospect Hot Sheet. http://t.co/iSZM9wvmJG— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) August 8, 2014
While the season hasn't exactly gone according to plan for Barnes, this week's outing showcased what type of talent there is if Barnes is able to maintain his control.
If he can keep this trend going, Barnes may put himself into the discussion for a rotation spot at the major league level next season.
Not: Michael Chavis, 3B and SS, Gulf Coast League
Boston's first-round pick from the 2014 MLB June Amateur draft comes with plenty of accolades and talents, which certainly justify the reasons behind the decision to draft him.
The 5-foot-11 infielder posts a lot of power in spite of his smallish frame, per Joon Lee of SB Nation, and he batted .580 with 13 home runs with 37 RBI for Mayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia.
Through 23 games at the Red Sox's rookie affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, Chavis is batting a mere .181 with 25 strikeouts.
Chavis' professional career has not gotten off to the start he had hoped for. Certainly this is a small sample size, and the horizon remains bright, but the early returns are not exactly inspiring.
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 pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez will look to build upon the impressive outing he enjoyed in his organizational debut on August 2—an outing that saw him strike out seven batters over 5.1 innings.
"He was impressive," Sea Dogs pitching coach Bob Kipper said (via Jake Seiner of MiLB.com). "We've seen the kid earlier this season. We know he has a very athletic body, athletic frame, a quick arm and a loose arm. The stuff is impressive.
Rodriguez is set to make his second start with Portland on August 8, and he hopes to build off the initial impression he presented to the Red Sox's franchise.
Rodriguez is still a ways out from being considered a viable part of the Red Sox's major league roster. The 21-year-old lefty has a number of talented arms in front of him, which leads us to believe he may be in the minors for a while.
Stock: Neutral—We'll know more after Rodriguez's second start, but it is hard to give him any rise in the rankings given his lone start at Portland.
No. 9: Brian Johnson, LHP, Double-A Portland
2014 Statistics (Single-A+ Salem and Double-A Portland): 12-3/125.2 IP/2.29 ERA /1.027 WHIP /3.31 SO-BB Ratio
Brian Johnson has certainly enjoyed the fruits of a successful season that has seen him post an impressive 2.29 ERA and 1.027 WHIP split between Boston's Single- and Double-A minor league affiliates.
Like many of the Red Sox's other pitching prospects, Johnson has a lot of competition when it comes to determining whether or not he will crack the big league rotation anytime soon.
But there are those who would argue that Johnson is perhaps the best left-handed pitcher in Boston's farm system behind Henry Owens.
Conor Duffy of Fansided.com makes this argument, writing:
Obviously, he ranks behind Owens, who is quite possibly the best left-handed pitching prospect in the entire minor leagues, but there’s an argument to be made that he’s the second-best pitching prospect in Boston’s system. ...
While Johnson may not have the star potential of any of those pitchers, he also has fewer question marks than any of them. Command has been his calling card ever since his time at the University of Florida, and walks have never been a problem for the 23-year-old.
Johnson's future looks much brighter with the promotion of various pitchers within the Red Sox organization following the deadline deals that sent away the crop of veteran arms.
This has unquestionably forced more focus on Johnson, and that's never a bad thing if he can continue to post solid numbers over the season.
As stated by Duffy, Johnson could be the best lefty in Boston's farm system behind Owens. This is a good accolade to have.
Johnson still has to overtake a number of higher-ranked prospects ahead of him, so it is possible that we won't see him don a major league uniform for another season or so.
Stock: Neutral—Johnson's stock has been on the rise for most of the season. It has peaked by now. The real test will be whether or not he responds adequately enough to his next promotion, which should be expected at the Triple-A level in 2015.
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): 64 PA / .255 BA / .655 OPS / 0 HR / 11 RBI
Boston's No. 8 prospect Christian Vazquez continues his much-anticipated debut at the major league level after the Red Sox elected to get younger behind the plate.
Vazquez is known for his defensive prowess, but the young 23-year-old backstop has developed into a decent hitter as well. His numbers at Triple-A Pawtucket indicate such.
Now at the next level, Vazquez will essentially need to show two things—the ability to hit big league pitching and prominence in handling a major league pitching staff.
The latter of the two has been apparent. Former major leaguer Gabe Kapler, currently a columnist for Fox Sports, illustrated just how fluid Vazquez is behind the plate.
His offensive prowess has been solid as well. Over the last seven days, Vazquez is hitting just .267, but he has driven in 11 runs over 18 games for the Red Sox.
Christian Vazquez strikes again. Two-out single up the middle gives him 11 RBI in 18 games #RedSox— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) August 8, 2014
Vazquez's offensive numbers may have taken a small skid over the past week, which is to be expected. Pitching staffs will try to exploit learned weaknesses, and it will be up to Vazquez to make his adjustments.
So far, though, things are looking awfully good.
This is Vazquez's job until fellow catching prospect Blake Swihart gets called up. With veteran David Ross to tutor him, Vazquez looks as if he'll be able to fit the bill behind the dish for the remainder of 2014 and well into 2015.
There may be some hiccups along the way, but signs are pointing to those being few and far between.
Stock: Up—Vazquez's stock is still rising in this trend. It would have been an easy assumption to see him struggle after an elongated period in the majors. Such thoughts are not transpiring, however.
No. 7: Deven Marrero, SS, Triple-A Pawtucket
2014 Statistics (Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket): 427 PA/.280 BA/.749 OPS/5 HR/55 RBI
Shortstop Deven Marrero may not fit the bill of an offensive prowess at the major league level, but he does offer a substantial upside on the defensive side of the ball.
He owns a career .977 fielding percentage in the minors, but according to his profile on SoxProspects.com, he has all the tools to be an above-average fielder at the major league level.
While not known as a bona fide hitter just yet, there is also potential for him to become a decent option in the lower half of a major league lineup. This is important considering some of the questions Boston has on the left side of its infield.
Marrero has struggled a bit since being promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. His batting average at this level sits at .252 compared to the .291 average he posted in Double-A. This is certainly an offensive adjustment at this point, and we shouldn't take too much away from the slightly deflated numbers just yet.
More importantly, Marrero is showing excellent signs of leadership, per Katie Morrison of WEEI.com. This is always a good attribute to have when moving up the ranks.
Leading by example: Present, former teammates look up to Deven Marrero http://t.co/wXuANkmH17— WEEI (@WEEI) August 8, 2014
Morrison cites the competitive environment that Marrero has thrived in up to this point. That experience will prove invaluable in coming years.
As stated above, it is hard to predict the future of Boston's major league infield. Will Xander Bogaerts return to shortstop, or will the Red Sox post him at third base and explore other options?
Marrero could be a September call-up, or we may see him at some point in 2015. It's anyone's guess at this point.
Stock: Neutral—Marrero has endured a small slide offensively since being promoted to Triple-A, which hurts his stock somewhat. Fortunately, the intangibles are there, and we shouldn't worry too much about any sort of downgrade in coming weeks.
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
Right-handed starter Anthony Ranaudo is making a name for himself in order to be considered for the Red Sox's major league rotation in 2015.
Ranaudo, 24, is one of the young pitchers the Red Sox want to find out about as they seek replacements for Jon Lester and John Lackey, who were traded to Oakland and St. Louis, respectively, on Thursday. In his first test, Ranaudo beat a solid Yankees lineup, showing good command of his fastball, which sat around 92-93 miles per hour with a high of 94.
The Red Sox subsequently sent Ranaudo back down to Triple-A after his start, but this shouldn't be counted as a mark against his abilities. He has certainly done a great job over the course of 2014—posting a 2.41 ERA over 119.1 innings pitched.
Ranaudo allowed four runs in his first start since the demotion on August 8, per MiLB.com, but his 6.1 innings of work still showcased his excellent command. Out of his 99 total pitches, 79 were strikes.
Anthony Ranaudo removed in the 7th after 6.1 IP and 99 pitches, 79 strikes...runners at 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. John Ely in the game— PawSox (@PawSox) August 8, 2014
It will be fun to watch as Ranaudo continues his campaign to earn consideration for the Red Sox's rotation in 2015. The competition has been good thus far.
As stated, Ranaudo is essentially campaigning for a starting job with the Red Sox in 2015. Depending on how Boston goes about formulating their rotation next season, Ranaudo could emerge as a favorite to secure one of the deeper spots available.
This probably won't be the last time we see him in 2014 at the major league level. He should be a September call-up barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Stock: Neutral—Ranaudo's demotion and subsequent four-run outing hurt his rankings just a bit, but we shouldn't read too far into that. The overall body of work has been impressive, and his stock remains high even if it's not rising at this point.
No. 5: Allen Webster, RHP, Boston Red Sox
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
The window for right-handed pitcher Allen Webster may be closing when considering the chances he has to earn a spot on Boston's 25-man roster this season and thereafter.
At 24 years old, the trade acquisition that made his way to Boston following the blockbuster 2012 deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers has yet to cement his role at the major league level. His numbers in 2014 have not been all that inspiring.
With the crowded pool of pitching talent, even in the wake of Boston's deadline deals, Webster's future still remains clouded at best.
Webster has been on the fringe of being major league-ready for some time now. His Triple-A numbers have been decent, if not inspiring, but the Red Sox are obviously hoping for more at the big league level.
Manager John Farrell has indicated that Webster is further along than his numbers may indicate and stating so (via Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal):
The one thing we have to be clear with Allen is that he’s not as far away as he might seem coming out of that outing [on August 2]. Sure, the line score doesn’t lie, but he’s a small adjustment away from being in the strike zone more consistently.
"The line score doesn't lie," John Farrell said, but he believes Allen Webster "isn't as far away as he might seem." http://t.co/vJeK3vggcp— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) August 3, 2014
It would have been an easy decision to send Webster back down to Triple-A following his disastrous outing against the New York Yankees on August 2. But with the Red Sox's season all but conceded, it makes sense to keep him up and see if he can develop some more consistency.
Still, we need better outings out of Webster if he hopes to remain a part of Boston's pitching staff. There are plenty of other young arms who are vying for his slot.
The Red Sox's patience with Webster could start to grow thin if outings like his last one are any indication of what to expect. He is slated to start again on August 8 against the Los Angeles Angels, so that should give us a little more information in the meantime.
His future remains in doubt, however.
Stock: Down—There is no getting around his disastrous start on August 8. A strong outing against division-contending Los Angeles could be a huge benefit, but it is hard to envision anything positive just yet.
No. 4: Rafael Devers, 3B, Rookie Gulf Coast League
2014 Statistics (FRk and Rk): 243 PA/.338 BA/.975 OPS/7 HR/52 RBI
Perhaps the most surprising jump on the list of Boston's top prospects is that of third-base prospect Rafael Devers.
Devers has jumped from the 18th overall prospect up to No. 4 on the list, per SoxProspects.com, and his numbers have shown that there are plenty of reasons to be excited about this talented 17-year-old left-handed hitter within the Rookie Gulf Coast League.
His offensive numbers have jumped up in the most recent week. His OPS currently stands at .975, which is up from .970 almost a week ago. He has also added 12 RBI during the same frame.
Alex Speier of WEEI.com sums up the reasons why Devers has gotten out to such a hot start in his professional career:
It’s been a long time since the Red Sox have had a young, inexperienced prospect performing at anything like this sort of level.
Indeed, the last time the team had a player who was 18 or younger in the GCL who had a slugging percentage of .500 or better (min. 25 games) was in 2002, when an up-and-coming shortstop named Hanley Ramirez hit .341 with a .402 OBP, .555 slugging mark and six homers in 45 games in the GCL. ...
[Devers] is 17, and won’t be in the big leagues for years. Of course, that means that there’s plenty of time for the drumbeat of his progression to grow louder.
Red Sox minor league roundup: Taking stock of an extraordinary pro debut for 17-year-old Rafael Devers http://t.co/IljYXfZ29i— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) August 8, 2014
Devers' prospects for a promising future are there without question. The numbers he has put up so far have been astounding, and all signs are pointing to him being a bona fide stud at some point down the line.
We've already touched upon the nature of the Red Sox's major league infield already, but we shouldn't look to Devers to be the end-all answer just yet. That possibility is still a few years away.
In the meantime, we can simply remain excited about what this kid has to offer.
As Speier stated, Devers is quite a ways away from making any sort of MLB debut. He'll continue his development in the minors for the next few seasons, each of which will offer various challenges and obstacles.
Considering his initial impression, however, the indication is that Devers could have some tremendous potential in a major league organization.
Stock: Up—Devers is doing everything in his power to make a name for himself. The hot start has shown no signs of slowing down, and hopefully he ends his first professional season on this highest of notes.
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
2014 Statistics (Triple-A Pawtucket): 1-0/6.2 IP/0.00 ERA/0.750 WHIP/3.00 SO-BB Ratio
Left-handed starter Henry Owens had nothing left to prove at the Double-A level. Following the trade, and subsequent promotions of other pitchers, it only made sense to move Owens to the next level.
His stock had unquestionably peaked at Double-A Portland. Owens' next challenge would obviously bear the fruits of Boston's hope for a potentially elite starter coming through the farm system.
Owens got his first start for Pawtucket on Monday, August 4 and lived up to all the hype surrounding him.
Adam Kurkjian of the Boston Herald described his outing:
[It] would be hard to find a much better performance than the one Owens turned in. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and allowed just two hits over his 62⁄3 frames to go along with nine strikeouts, three walks and a hit batsman in the 5-0 PawSox win.
He threw 100 pitches, 70 for strikes. In other words, Owens did nothing to stop the hype surrounding him as a potential top starter for the Red Sox down the line.
Henry Owens is dominating in his first Triple-A start. Follow the action at http://t.co/6J4etmjAgi.— Portland Sea Dogs (@PortlandSeaDogs) August 5, 2014
The hype surrounding perhaps one of the best minor league pitchers in baseball is understandable. Baseball America (h/t Ricky Doyle of NESN.com) listed him as having some of the best tools of Double-A pitching prospects—three different distinctions to be exact.
Of course the question would be whether or not Owens would succeed at the next level.
He has thus far.
According to his profile on SoxProspects.com, Owens has the potential to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter on an elite team. This author has a hunch that he has the potential to be even better based on his recent accolades.
Depending on how patient the Red Sox elect to be with him, Owens could receive a September call-up if management feels it would be beneficial to give him some major league experience.
At any rate, Boston's top pitching prospect is very near to being major league-ready. That is an exciting prospect.
Stock: Up—Owens has shown the initial signs of being capable at the Triple-A level. This is a good thing and a sign of what is to come.
No. 2: Blake Swihart, C, Triple-A Pawtucket
2014 Statistics (Double-A Portland): 380 PA/.300 BA/.840 OPS/12 HR/55 RBI
2014 Statistics (Triple-A Pawtucket): 6 PA/.167 BA/.333 OPS/0 HR/0 RBI
Boston's No. 2 prospect certainly has a bright future ahead of him, especially considering that he should eventually provide the catching tandem with fellow prospect Christian Vazquez in the coming future.
Blake Swihart is one such prospect to get excited about. The switch-hitting 22-year-old has earned the accolades of becoming the next Buster Posey, per Jim Callis of MLB.com (h/t Ricky Doyle of NESN.com), and the likable qualities are certainly there.
Jim Callis: Red Sox Prospect Blake Swihart Has Buster Posey-Like Tools http://t.co/tEX1kdlnha— NESN (@NESN) July 31, 2014
Swihart's season in Double-A reflects that. His .300 batting average and .840 OPS is a good indication that the young catching prospect has plenty to offer when he makes his MLB debut.
More importantly, Swihart has made huge strides in his ability to handle a pitching staff—an attribute pointed out in further detail by Joon Lee of WEEI.com:
Swihart’s ability to relate and talk to his pitching staff has become a huge area of growth in the last year. Catcher Matt Spring, who has been Swihart’s teammate for two years, said that Swihart’s ability to talk to and work with a pitching staff has become a huge factor in the catcher’s improvement on the defensive end.
Early numbers from Swihart's promotion to Triple-A are not necessarily inspiring, but the sample size is far too small to make any sort of detailed evaluation. Another week should be enough to make a more accurate judgment.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about a switch-hitting catcher with leadership qualities. The last Red Sox backstop who held these accolades certainly left his mark.
Swihart should as well.
Vazquez should be tabbed as the starting catcher for the Red Sox in 2015. Swihart is perhaps another year away from making his MLB debut.
Still, Swihart should be viewed as the potential All-Star out of the two, but this tandem is something that inspires plenty of confidence in the Red Sox's future plans.
Stock: Up—This is a no-brainer in every sense of the term. Swihart's future is bright, and there should be no indication of a setback anytime soon.
No. 1: Mookie Betts, 2B and OF, Triple-A Pawtucket
2014 Statistics (Double-A Portland): 253 PA/.355 BA/.994 OPS/6 HR/34 RBI
2014 Statistics (Triple-A Pawtucket): 162 PA/.319 BA/.897 OPS/5 HR/26 RBI
2014 Statistics (Majors): 44 PA/.244 BA/.645 OPS/1 HR/2 RBI
Perhaps Boston's No. 1 prospect Mookie Betts requires just a little more development before securing an unwavering spot on the team's 25-man roster.
This is understandable considering his quick rise to prominence and the fact that he is only 21 years old. Given the Red Sox's struggles in the outfield this season, Betts is simply not the end-all answer, at least not yet. He may be soon, perhaps.
Betts has been on the cusp of staying with Boston for a number of weeks now. He has been promoted up from Double-A to Triple-A, then to the majors, before being sent back down again.
He received another call-up once more, but Betts was then subsequently sent back to Triple-A on August 7, per Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.
Mookie Betts was sent down so he could play every day. #RedSox will use Cespedes, Bradley, Nava and Holt in the OF.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) August 7, 2014
The move was less about Betts' performance at the big league level and more about getting him consistent playing time—an understandable decision given the Red Sox's now-crowded outfield.
This is the statement made by Abraham, who cites manager John Farrell's words.
"It’s directly related, Farrell said. “He’s a developing player and in the two stints that he’s had here with us, you can see the improvements defensively. But we didn’t want to stall that development further.”
Betts has obviously done a great job at the minor league level, but he could use the consistent playing time to further his development. Being sent back down to the minors may seem like a setback, but the benefits should pay off in time.
Betts appears to have all the tools to become the potential leadoff hitter for the Red Sox in the very near future. Boston needs this sort of production in the wake of former leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury.
The Red Sox will obviously pay close attention to his ongoing development, and we should see Betts again as a September call-up in 2014.
Stock: Neutral—Betts' stock is already pretty high, and there haven't been too many indications that it can get much higher. That will have to come with an elongated stay at the big league level or by a torrid pace set at Triple-A.
Still, there is no reason to hold back any excitement about this promising young star, and it will be interesting to see how the Red Sox work him into their future plans in 2015.
All statistics are accurate as of August 7, 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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