Welcome to the minors
I was charged with writing a column about the top Boston Red Sox prospects that will amount to less than expected.
This is a very difficult assignment for several reasons.
The first being that most of these guys have never stepped foot on a Major League diamond—who's to know how their skills will translate in the Bigs? The second—and more troubling reason—is because I am essentially pretending to know more about these kids than the generously paid Red Sox scouts who make a living signing them.
So, I’m going to present to ten Red Sox prospects that I think have some serious skill. I’ll tell you why some of them will help Boston by flaming out as a Sox player and being traded to another team where they will probably have a good Major League career. I'll also tell you why some prospects will truly flame out and not reach the Majors with any club—an unfortunate reality for most minor league players.
It's Ryan Kalish
Soxprospects.com lists Boston’s top ten prospects in the following order:
1. Ryan Kalish – A beast in the OF with serious skill. I don’t see this guy as a flame out.
2. Jose Iglesias – Great defensive skill in a very talent-thin position. Needs to develop a stronger bat, and once that happens, he’ll be hanging out in Fenway. The next coming of Nomar Garciaparra is certainly not a flame out.
3. Anthony Ranaudo
4. Felix Doubront – With a strong arm and solid stuff, Doubront will remain on the rubber for Beantown at least for a while.
5. Drake Britton – By all counts a solid, hard-throwing lefty that will ascend nicely through the ranks this year before helping Boston shore up its pitching staff for the next couple seasons.
6. Stolmy Pimentel – A great example of why this is a difficult column to write. Pimentel has some good pitches and good potential, but like most 21-year-olds he struggles with consistency. He hangs his curve ball too often and his two-seam fastball sits in the 80’s—he's too green for me to form a hypothesis about.
7. Lars Anderson
8. Kolbrin Vitek
9. Yamaico Navarro
10. Oscar Tejeda
As you may have guessed, the guys without comments are prospects I believe will flame out with the Red Sox. In the following slides you’ll find out why. I may know what I am talking about or I may be absolutely off-base, but it's simply my educated predictions about players with very little professional experience. I haven’t seen most of these players in person nor have I seen them on television, so I have very little first-hand knowledge of their baseball prowess. Enjoy my following opinions.
Drafted in 2010 by the Red Sox, the 21-year-old, right-handed hurler Anthony Ranaudo was good enough to attract $2.5 million and the aid of super agent, Scott Boras (is there anyone this guy does not represent?)
Ranaudo has an elbow issue and a huge curveball; unfortunately nobody will see it or his above-average velocity unless he’s healthy. There are several pitchers who have had elbow issues and recovered to have fine MLB careers.
Red Sox fans will love life if Ranaudo pans out, however, at this point I see him as an extreme gamble. Boston obviously saw something in this LSU grad to draft him, but his flame-out potential is high.
Lars Anderson has toyed with my emotions for a few years now.
He has been riding shotgun on my keeper-league farm team for the past two seasons while I was waiting for him to break out and hit like he’s supposedly capable of hitting. That hasn’t happened yet, and I don’t foresee it happening in the future. I dropped him from my fantasy team and I think the Red Sox should as well.
Anderson’s biggest accomplishment while in the Majors was walking almost as much as striking-out—not exactly a huge success story. His bat seems to work wonders in the lower levels of the Minors, but it loses its pop when swinging at Triple-A stuff, let alone Major League heat.
Anderson has shown patience at the plate (hence the increase in walks) but will Boston show any more patience with him now that Adrian Gonzalez brings his gold glove skills and big boy bat to the Fens?
The way I see it, Lars Anderson flames out with the Red Sox and takes his projected skills to another team sometime this season or next.
Kolbrin Vitek is a 22-year-old third base prospect. The Sox took him with their first pick in the 2010 draft and project him as a potential outfielder.
Vitek is fast and strong, with a good arm but his bat skills aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. This is understandable seeing as how Vitek was just drafted and has spent most of his time in single-A.
I can’t even begin to pretend that I know more about Vitek than the organization that drafted him, but if he pans out as Boston’s brass believes he will, he’ll be a good asset to any team he plays for.
That team might be the Red Sox, but with the signing of Carl Crawford and the fact that he will be patrolling the outfield along side Jacoby Ellsbury, and eventually Ryan Kalish, it doesn’t look like Vitek will see playing-time in Boston.
Vitek will flame out in Beantown—not due to bad skills, due to bad timing. The Red Sox have a young, highly-paid and highly skilled outfield. Thus, I’m afraid Vitek will be good, just not in Boston.
Yamaico Navarro is a 23-year-old shortstop playing in the minors right now. In some circles he is considered Boston’s most underrated prospect.
The dude draws a ton of walks, and when he does swing, he goes yard quite often. Navarro has an impressive on-base percentage, but the problem is that he takes a while to hit his stride, and when called up to the majors he, well, wasn't so great.
With Lowrie coming on strong at the highest level and Iglesias being the next coming at SS, I see Navarro flaming-out with the Red Sox and producing runs for some other team—much like Vitek. Boston fans hope that team will be in the National League.
Oscar Tejeda: “top notch athlete,” “lot’s of tools,” “oozes confidence,” “ahead of the fold in terms of age-advancement.” All of these quotes are from soxprospects.com. They seem to think very highly of Tejeda. However, they also say that he still needs a little refinement and his swing is too long. Not entirely surprising for a 21-year-old undrafted kid.
Tejeda has power but sometimes has trouble hitting pitches other than the fastball. It is said that his level of confidence is not commensurate with his actual ability. Being overly confident is a good thing in a professional athlete—to a certain point.
As long as Tejeda can keep that under control, he seems to have the tools to become a tremendous infielder. The question becomes, for whom?
A glance at Boston's infield suggests it could be difficult for Tejeda to fit in. Predicting the forecast for prospects is difficult, but the professionals say Tejeda is ahead of his time; who am I to argue? If he is, than Boston’s brass has a difficult decision to make.
Do they group him in with other Boston flame-outs and send him packing via trade, or do they string him along in the Minors until he’s needed in the Fens? Folks, given what the Red Sox are playing with currently, how long will it take before Fenway fans see Tejeda on the diamond?
Tim Federowicz is a 23-year-old catcher playing in the bottom of Boston's Minor League system. He's stuck in Salem and with mediocre numbers and can’t seem to get to Pawtucket, let alone Boston. Federowicz lacks power and tends to whiff more often than not.
To me, Federowicz sounds like a defensive guy in the mold of Jason Varitek—when Tek still called great games but lacked in the batters box. That is not a great description to have when you're just starting out. At 23 and still in A-ball, I’d say Federowicz is a prime candidate to flame-out.
Sitting on the opposite side of the fence from Federowicz is 23-year-old catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway. Lavarnway is lighting up the scoreboard in Double A-ball. He's the type of player who will give the score-keeper behind the Green Monster quite a workout.
Some reports say Lavarnway’s bat has the potential to rival Minnesota’s catcher Joe Mauer. That’s a lot of praise to bestow upon this Minor Leaguer. Lavarnway is a home-run machine with great plate discipline but Lavarnway has a few problems.
Unlike Federowicz, Lavarnway isn’t the best defensively, and he struggles at calling a good game. His lack of defense overshadows his bat, however, and that leads to the bigger problem.
When looking at Lavarnway, the Red Sox see a big bat with no place to put him. If he can’t call a game, he can’t set up behind the plate—where do they stick the guy?
First base is locked up for a very long time thanks to Gonzo (who will likely sign a multi-year contract). There may be an opportunity for Lavarnway to try his hand at DH in a year or two. However, this is a scenario where timing is everything; I don’t think he will be ready by the time the Sox need a DH.
Lavarnway will flame out.
Josh Reddick is a name all Red Sox fans recognize.
He has been called up to Boston many times to replace ailing outfielders over the past couple of seasons. A strong player with good abilities, Reddick has a good arm, a strong bat and a good head on his shoulders.
Reddick is a constant Pawtucket presence who flashes a great glove. I see him developing as the next great outfielder for Boston, if not for Ryan Kalish.
Kalish is everything Reddick is but just a little bit better. Reddick’s consistency is like a game of Peek-A-Boo, sometimes he shows up and sometimes he doesn’t—that hurts him in Boston’s organization.
Unfortunately for Reddick, he has flamed out in Beantown. If not due to his own inconsistencies, then due to Kalish’s awesomeness.
Michael Bowden is a 24-year-old starting pitching prospect currently hanging out in Triple-A.
Bowden has given it a shot as both a starter and a reliever, but his numbers in either role don't indicate he's close to being Major League ready. He seems to pitch better out of the bullpen, which is a shame since Theo Epstein just sent the organization's top starting pitching prospect in Casey Kelly to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal.
Bowden's tendency to give up lots of fly balls doesn't bode well with Fenway's dimensions. I believe he will flame out soon.
He has been called the diamond in the rough in the Red Sox farm system. His name is Derrik Gibson, and he plays shortstop in Single-A. The 21-year-old is in his third Minor League season and has yet to show any signs of shining. But he has been progressing nicely (though slowly); this year may be his year.
Unfortunately, in addition to his slow ascent in the minors, he has a long road ahead of him through no fault of his own. Gibson is slotted behind Marco Scutaro, Jed Lowrie, Jose Iglesias and a few others. This certainly does not bode well for his chances in Boston. I don’t wish to see anyone’s dreams crushed, but I do see Derrik Gibson as a flame-out in the Red Sox organization.
This was a very difficult column to put together, and frankly, it is full of some educated guess work. I am open to many comments that support, counter or add to what I wrote. I’m sure I left many Boston prospects out of this article that you may know more about than I—please let me know about these guys as well.
I appreciate your reading and commenting and I look forward to hearing about other Red Sox prospects from you.
Now it’s time for some trivia.
In 2004, two Red Sox Hall of Famers raised the World Series championship banner up the Fenway Park center field flagpole. As players, these guys never won a World Series. Who are they?