Boston Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterDecember 31, 2014

Boston Red Sox's Top 10 Prospects for 2015

0 of 12

    Elsa/Getty Images

    Despite graduating a host of players to the big leagues last season, the Boston Red Sox enter 2015 with one of the finest collections of talent in the sport thanks to an aggressive draft strategy and outstanding player development.

    The Red Sox’s core of pitching prospects continued their steady climb of the organizational ladder, as right-handers Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes reached the major leagues after strong showings in Triple-A, while 22-year-old left-hander Henry Owens, the team’s top pitching prospect, furthered his impressive professional career with a strong, consistent performance across Double- and Triple-A.

    Switch-hitting catcher Blake Swihart also thrived in his first taste of the high minors, as the 22-year-old hit for both average and power while playing phenomenal defense. Meanwhile, third baseman Garin Cecchini made his mark in the major leagues despite an overall disappointing campaign at Triple-A. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see where he fits into the organization’s long-term plans after the offseason signing of Pablo Sandoval.

    All that being said, 2014 will be remembered as the year Boston’s next wave of international prospects put themselves on the prospect radar. Eighteen-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers showcased arguably the highest ceiling in the system with his excellent performance between the Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast Leagues, while 19-year-old outfielder Manuel Margot put himself on the map with his power/speed combo across both Class-A levels.

    The Red Sox’s draft this year once again featured a good mix of high-ceiling, high–floor talent. Shortstop Michael Chavis, the team's first-round pick at No. 26 overall, is a player who does a lot of things well—including a short swing and advanced approach—without dazzling in one area.

    Right-hander Michael Kopech is a projectable right-hander who has touched the high 90s with his fastball. Second-round pick Sam Travis, a right-handed-hitting first baseman, got lost behind Kyle Schwarber at Indiana, but his bat is very good with above-average pop, and he has a good idea of what to do in the box.

    Boston also added some fresh faces at last year’s trade deadline, acquiring left-handers Edwin Escobar and Eduardo Rodriguez in separate deals, and they still have both the talent and depth to pull off a potential blockbuster deal.

    Here are the Boston Red Sox’s top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

    Want to talk prospects? Hit me up on Twitter: @GoldenSombrero.

How They're Ranked

1 of 12

    3B Garin Cecchini
    3B Garin CecchiniDarren McCollester/Getty Images

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: how well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

2 of 12

    SS Deven Marrero
    SS Deven MarreroChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Notable Omissions (Not Ordered):

    OF Rusney Castillo - As mentioned in the "How They're Ranked" slide, international prospects expected to the jump directly to major leagues are not included in the rankings.

    SS Deven Marrero

    RHP Anthony Ranaudo

    LHP Trey Ball

    1B Sam Travis

    2B Sean Coyle

10. Michael Kopech, RHP

3 of 12

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 04/30/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Mount Pleasant HS, Texas)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats (Rk): 8 GS, 13.2 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 9 BB, 16 K

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    70605045

    Scouting Report

    At 6’4”and 195 pounds, Kopech is an excellent athlete who oozes with projection on the mound. However, his complicated delivery—one that features all sorts of bends, turns and momentum-gathering idiosyncrasies—will need to be simplified in the coming years.

    Kopech’s velocity has picked up over the last year, as he currently works in the 92-96 mph range with the potential to add a few more ticks. He throws a two-seamer with good arm-side run in the low 90s, and he also appears to cut the ball at times—though it’s hard to say whether it’s intentional.

    The right-hander’s breaking ball flashes plus potential at 75-78 mph with tight spin and impressive depth, but he doesn’t consistently get on top of pitch, causing it to flatten out and break early while lingering up in the zone. Meanwhile, Kopech’s changeup is below average and will likely be a work in progress for some time. However, I’m curious whether a few tweaks to his delivery might improve his feel for the pitch.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 2 or 3 starter)

9. Matt Barnes, RHP

4 of 12

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 06/17/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 205 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Connecticut)

    Last Year’s Rank: 9

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats (AAA): 23 G/22 GS, 127.2 IP, 3.95 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .306 BAA, 0.6 HR/9, 3.2 BB/9, 7.3 K/9

    2014 MLB Stats: 5 G, 9.0 IP, 11 H, 4 ER (HR), 2 BB, 8 K

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    60555050

    Scouting Report

    Barnes, a 6’4”, 205-pound right-hander, has a tall, durable frame built for innings as well as repeatable mechanics. He works from a high three-quarter arm slot to create a good downhill plane to his fastball, which usually sits around 94-96 mph.

    Barnes’ curveball flashes above-average potential with a nice shape, two-plane break and late bite, but his command of the pitch can be inconsistent and requires further refinement. The right-hander’s changeup also can be inconsistent, as he pushes it toward the plate with too much velocity in the mid- to upper-80s. However, it presents as at least an average offering when he’s got it working.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter/late-inning reliever)

8. Michael Chavis, INF

5 of 12

    Position: INF

    DOB: 08/11/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 5’10”, 190 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Sprayberry HS, GA.)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats (Rk): 39 G, 150 PA, .269/.347/.425, 44.4 XBH%, HR, 5 SB, 10.0 BB%, 25.3 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6055505550

    Scouting Report

    Regarded as one of the top high school hitters in the 2014 draft class, Chavis has a compact but powerful right-handed stroke that suggests the potential for a plus hit tool and at least solid-average power. While his swing is mostly geared toward consistently hard, line-drive contact, his barrel control makes it a versatile swing and should help him hit for more power at the next level.

    Though he played shortstop for his high school team, Chavis' solid athleticism and strong arm profile better at the hot corner as a professional, and he could even receive consideration in the outfield or possibly behind the plate.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (Solid-average regular)

7. Garin Cecchini, 3B/OF

6 of 12

    Position: 3B/OF

    DOB: 04/20/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: Fourth round, 2010 (Alfred M. Barbe HS, LA.)

    Last Year’s Rank: 5

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats (AAA): 114 G, 458 PA, .263/.341/.371, 27.1 XBH%, 7 HR, 11 SB, 9.6 BB%, 21.6 K%

    2014 MLB Stats: 11 G, 36 PA, .258/.361/.452, 3 2B, HR, 3 BB, 11 K

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6050505550

    Scouting Report

    Cecchini possesses above-average bat speed and superb bat-to-ball ability that drive his potential for an above-average hit tool at maturity. He’s also an incredibly patient hitter who consistently works deep counts. The left-handed hitter features a compact swing that yields consistent, hard contact to all fields and he shows present gap power that could evolve into more usable in-game power in the big leagues. However, there are questions whether he has enough power to hold down the hot corner at the highest level.

    Cecchini shifted to third base upon turning pro and has continued to make adjustments at the new position. Though he has giving hands and solid defensive actions, Cecchini’s lack of a quick first step limits his range. He makes up for some of the shortcomings with solid body control and a strong, accurate arm.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (Solid-average regular)

    Cecchini’s lack of power isn’t a clean fit at the hot corner, but he has the tools and offensive skills to be a solid big leaguer. Boston’s decision to sign Pablo Sandoval means Cecchini will be blocked at his natural position for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if the 23-year-old received more looks in left field moving forward.

6. Brian Johnson, LHP

7 of 12

    Position: LHP

    DOB: 12/07/1990 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 225 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Florida)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats (A+/AA): 25 GS, 143.2 IP, 2.13 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .197 BAA, 0.4 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 7.6 K/9

    Pitch Grades:

    FastballCutterCurveballChangeupControl
    5545555050

    Scouting Report

    Johnson requires minimal projection, as he’s a four-pitch lefty with a plus command profile and knack for executing a game plan. The 24-year-old makes a living locating his 89-91 mph fastball down in the zone as well as to the corners, and he’s comfortable throwing his curveball, which usually works in the mid-70s with late break, in any count.

    Johnson’s changeup isn’t as consistent as his breaking ball, though it still should serve as a weapon given his feel for sequencing off his fastball (and cutter). That being said, he’ll probably get knocked around at times given his stuff and reliance on command. However, Johnson’s pitchability and overall feel for the game could help him hold down a back-end starter role for many years.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (No. 4 starter)

    Johnson may lack overpowering stuff like some of the other young arms on this list, but his plus command of four pitches and overall feel for sequencing should have him in the major leagues before the end of the 2015 season.

5. Rafael Devers, 3B

8 of 12

    Position: 3B

    DOB: 10/24/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Signed: 2013 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2019

    2014 Stats (DSL/Rk): 70 G, 302 PA, .322/.404/.506, 34.5 XBH%, 7 HR, 13.4 BB%, 16.6 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5565405550

    Scouting Report

    Devers didn’t disappoint in his highly anticipated professional debut this past summer, as the then-17-year-old posted gaudy numbers in the Dominican Summer League and followed it with an equally strong showing in the complex-level Gulf Coast League.

    Though he’s only 18, Devers is already a physically strong left-handed hitter. His explosive bat speed and huge extension through contact produces plus-plus raw power to all fields—the kind of power that could potentially translate to 25-plus home runs (grade 65 on 20-80 scouting scale) in the major leagues.

    Defensively, there’s already doubt about whether Devers will be able to stick at third base. At 6’0” and 195 pounds, his range and overall agility will likely suffer due to added strength (which is inevitable), which could ultimately force him across the infield to first base. Granted, he’s still very young and years away from being relegated to such a limited role, but Devers will have to work hard on his defense.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (Potential All-Star)

    He’s still young and has a long road ahead of him toward the major leagues, but a strong case can be made that Devers already possesses the highest ceiling in Boston’s system.

4. Manuel Margot, CF

9 of 12

    Position: CF

    DOB: 09/28/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 170 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Rank: NR

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats (A/A+): 115 G, 469 PA, .293/.356/.462, 34.2 XBH%, 12 HR, 42 SB, 8.3 BB%, 9.5 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5550705560

    Scouting Report

    Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, Margot showcased a promising blend of power, speed and defense this year in his full-season debut.

    Margot, 20, is an outstanding athlete with natural strength to his wiry frame. The right-handed hitter features a quick but explosive swing, as his bat-to-ball skills and aggressive approach produce consistently hard contact across the whole field, but especially from gap to gap. Margot’s swing does have some holes that prevent him from driving the ball with authority the other way, but the pull-side power is legit and should continue to play within games against better pitching.

    Margot’s top tool is speed, as he’s a grade-70 runner who wreaks havoc on the bases and runs down everything in center field. He shouldn’t have any problems remaining at the position either, as his secondary skills in center (instincts, jumps, routes, positioning) are advanced for his age and experience.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (First-division CF/Potential All-Star)

    Margot is one of the more intriguing position prospects below the Double-A level, but there’s still a large gap between his present ability and overall potential. The 20-year-old has the makings of an everyday center fielder in the major leagues based on the merits of his defense and speed, and considering his impressive 2014 full-season debut, it looks as though Margot is going to do some hitting, too. He’s at least a few years away, but the final product could be a special player.

3. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

10 of 12

    Position: LHP

    DOB: 04/07/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 200 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Signed: 2010 by Baltimore (Venezuela)

    Last Year’s Rank: N/A

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats (AA): 22 GS, 120 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .259 BAA, 0.4 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, 8.1 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60555550

    Scouting Report

    Eduardo Rodriguez turned his season around in a big way after coming over from the Orioles at the trade deadline, posting a 0.96 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 39-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 37.1 innings (six starts) at Double-A Portland.

    The 21-year-old left-hander normally works in the low 90s with his fastball, but he sat in the 92-96 mph range more frequently last season. His slider has improved considerably since the beginning of the 2013 season, as it’s now more of a power offering in the mid-80s with tight spin and swing-and-miss bite.

    Rodriguez’s changeup has the potential to be solid average, registering in the low 80s with good sinking action, but his feel for the pitch varies from start to start. He has a strong feel for keeping hitters off-balance with sequencing, and his strike-throwing ability and smooth delivery suggest his secondaries should continue to improve with experience.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 starter)

    Rodriguez’s stuff has taken off in the past year, but the 21-year-old hasn’t fully adopted a power pitcher’s mentality. His command may never be great, but Rodriguez’s ability to miss bats with three pitches inside and outside of the zone could make him a high-end No. 3 starter at maturity. Rodriguez will likely open the year in Triple-A, but a continuation of his 2014 post-trade dominance could have the young left-hander in the major leagues ahead of schedule.

2. Henry Owens, LHP

11 of 12

    Position: LHP

    DOB: 07/21/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 205 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Edison HS, Calif.)

    Last Year’s Rank: 2

    ETA: Late 2015

    2014 Stats (AA/AAA): 26 GS, 159 IP, 2.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .208 BAA, 0.6 HR/9, 3.3 BB/9, 9.6 K/9

    Scouting Grades

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    55556550

    Scouting Report

    Owens doesn’t have an overpowering arsenal, but his combination of an aggressive approach, a deceptive delivery and feel for changing hitters’ eye levels with three pitches has made him one of the more proficient strikeout artists in the minor leagues.

    The 6’6” left-hander’s fastball sits in the 88-92 mph range with sink, and his changeup is a future plus offering thrown in the upper-70s with late sink and fade to the arm side. His curveball flashes solid-average potential when he’s around the plate, and he’s comfortable adding and subtracting with the pitch, but it’s still his least consistent offering.

    Owens has proved to be difficult to barrel for the same reasons he consistently misses bats; he knows how to disrupt hitters’ timing and he throws everything with conviction. He’ll inevitably get hit around more in the major leagues, though that should force him to consistently keep the ball down in the zone.

    Lastly, Owens has been more durable than the average high school draft pick, working at least 100 innings in each of his first three pro seasons. More recently, the established a career high in 2014 with 159 innings pitched.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)

    Owens still projects as more of a mid-rotation starter than staff ace due to his lack of a dominant pitch and slightly below-average command, but there’s still something to be said for his ability to miss bats in what’s been an accelerated rise though the minor leagues. The 22-year-old will return to Triple-A Pawtucket to open the season, where he’ll continue to refine his breaking ball and control. And if all goes as planned, Owens will be ready to make his Red Sox debut at some point during the second half.

1. Blake Swihart, C

12 of 12

    Position: C

    DOB: 04/03/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 175 lbs

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: First Round, 2011 (V Sue Cleveland HS, N.M.)

    Last Year’s Rank: 4

    ETA: Late 2015

    2014 Stats (AA/AAA): 110 G, 451 PA, .293/.341/.469, 35.3 XBH%, 13 HR, 8 SB, 6.9 BB%, 17.7 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades)

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6050506560

    Scouting Report

    The switch-hitting Swihart’s approach is advanced from both sides of the plate, allowing him to track the ball deep in the zone and utilize the entire field. He’s particularly adept at driving the ball from line to line from the left side, which is critical considering he faces mostly right-handed pitching. He features more swing-and-miss from his natural right side, though a whole-field approach is still present.

    Swihart’s power emerged in 2014 at the Double- and Triple-A levels, as he reached double-digit home runs for the first time in his career while tallying his usual 20-plus doubles. Though he’s an extra-base machine from both sides of the plate, Swihart has shown more over-the-fence power as a righty, with a fly ball rate that trails his groundball rate only slightly.

    Swihart projects as an above-average baserunner relative to others at the position thanks to his athleticism and surprising speed. He won’t steal bases at the highest level, but Swihart’s knack for piling up both doubles and triples throughout his career speaks to his solid wheels.

    One of better defensive catchers in the minor leagues, Swihart threw out more than 46 percent of attempted basestealers between Double- and Triple-A last season, per Baseball Reference. Passed balls are few and far between with the young backstop, highlighting his strength as a receiver. Meanwhile, his athleticism and agility behind the plate makes him adept blocker, and he should only improve in that field as his secondary skills mature.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (First-division catcher/Potential All-Star)

    Swihart’s impact tools on both sides of the ball should give him the opportunity to become an above-average defensive catcher who hits for both average and power. There’s always an inherent high risk with catching prospects, but the 22-year-old has proven to be durable in his young career, which in turn has helped his bat develop quicker than other backstops of similar age.

    Unfortunately, the presence of defensive beast Christian Vazquez means Swihart likely will spend most of the season in Triple-A. However, he’ll still probably see some time in the major leagues during the second half of the season, perhaps even earlier in the event of an injury.