Red Sox Prospect Report 2014
The Boston Red Sox will enter the 2014 season as reigning World Series Champions in a large and lucrative market with one of the top payrolls and a farm system that is absolutely brimming with high-quality, future major league talent that should ensure them success for years to come.
Everything clicked perfectly for the 2013 champs, but the AL East is still a battleground and the 2014 team could be counting on several players who might be too young to grow a beard. Here’s a look at the Red Sox’s top 10 prospects of 2014.
Xander Bogaerts (SS/3B): No hype here, this kid is the real deal. We saw a preview of his talent last season—after the 20-year-old was called up, he held his own in 18 big league games and then produced a .412 on-base percentage in 12 playoff games. Bogaerts has a solid approach at the plate with an eye seen only in veterans. Generating a good pop thanks to his quick bat, Bogaerts’ power will increase as he continues to mature as a hitter. The youngster has shown the ability to handle both positions on the left side of the infield and has a solid arm for either shortstop or third base. Although the Stephen Drew saga has yet to come to an official end, Bogaerts is the favorite to start at shortstop in 2014. X-man could be the name to follow for years to come in Boston.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF): After proving to be the breakout prospect of spring training 2013, Bradley was added to Boston’s opening day roster but failed to stick. He shuffled between the big leagues and Triple-A Pawtucket numerous times throughout the season and appeared in a total of 37 games with the Sox. While his “wow” factor isn’t nearly at the level as Bogaerts, Bradley’s greatest asset is his above-average defense in center field, which comes from excellent reads, good range and a solid arm. However, this year JBJ will be facing the increasingly real possibility of being beaten out for the center field job by Grady Sizemore; may the best man win.
Henry Owens (LHP): Top pitching prospect Owens thrived in High-A Salem. Making 20 starts before moving up to Double-A Portland, Owens proved difficult to hit with just 66 base hits allowed and 123 strikeouts issued in 104.2 innings. The lanky pitcher has a low-90s fastball, an average curveball, and a changeup with potential, but his height often leads to control/command issues. Owens will likely be in Double-A Portland to start the 2014 season, but he could see some Triple-A action with a little more control work.
Garin Cecchini (3B): Cecchini spent most of 2013 in Salem and hit .350 with a 1.016 OPS in 63 games to earn a promotion to Portland. There, he hit just under .300 but produced an .825 OPS thanks to 51 walks in 66 games. On offense, he utilizes the entire field and has excellent bat control as well as a strong eye and the ability to coax walks. On the defensive side, he has a modest range and a solid arm. Depending on the rest of his spring training performance, the third base prospect could earn an opening day roster spot on Pawtucket’s roster. However, there is no need to push Cecchini, as Middlebrooks is still hanging out in the big leagues.
Mookie Betts (2B): Betts performed extremely well in 2013 at two A-ball levels (High-A Salem and Single-A Greenville), producing a .417 on-base percentage and a .923 OPS. At the plate, the 21-year-old has a patient approach and generates a surprising pop. The infielder is very athletic and could probably play any side of the diamond, but his modest arm is best suited for second base. Obviously Betts won’t be pushing Pedroia out of the starting role anytime soon, but he’s athletic enough to move around.
Blake Swihart (C): The 21-year-old switch-hitting catcher continues to get better with every passing season. Last season he hit. 298 with a much-improved approach at the plate, and his walk rate jumped from 6.9 to 9.7% over the past two seasons. Swihart could develop into an above-average defender behind the plate with a solid switch-hitting plate approach. Swihart will most likely move up to Portland this season and could spend the full year there, since Christian Vazquez is ahead of him in Pawtucket. However, strong defensive, switch-hitting catchers are not easy to come by, so Swihart carries great value.
Matt Barnes (RHP): The right-hander is steadily working his way up the Boston farm system. Barnes made 24 starts in Portland, issuing 112 hits and 46 walks in 108.0 innings, and one start in Pawtucket without allowing a run in 5.1 innings. The 23-year-old succeeds based on his consistency and the strength of his high-90s fastball, a reliable curveball, and a decent changeup. It is likely that Barnes will spend much of 2014 with Pawtucket, but given his consistency, he may be poised to break in as a potential No. 3 or 4 starter in Boston’s rotation within the next few seasons.
Anthony Ranaudo (RHP): The 24-year-old spent the 2013 season between Portland and Pawtucket. When he is on, Ranaudo has some of the best stuff on the mound—a fastball that can peak in the high-90s along with a solid curveball. But, he lacks consistency, which has certainly tainted his chances of an earlier major league debut. Considering Boston’s aging starting rotation, the door for Ranaudo could open within the next few seasons, if not 2014.
Trey Ball (LHP): Ball made just five appearances after turning pro in 2013, so there is a small sample size to evaluate. With a fastball that can peak in the mid-90s, along with an effective changeup and curveball, Ball appears to have all the tools that make him a worthy candidate to eventually crack the big league roster. His great athleticism makes him look like a big leaguer at only 19-years-old, so it’s safe to assume is potential will only develop with age. Due to his lack of experience, Ball could open 2014 with extended spring training and may very well end up in Low-A ball.
Christian Vasquez (C): Defense is this 23-year-old catcher’s best virtue. Vasquez’s strength is behind the plate, where he makes rookie mistakes at times but calls a good game and has a strong arm. His offensive abilities at the plate are where he falls short, however. Given the tandem of catchers in Boston and the depth of other prospects, Vasquez has quite the challenge in front of him if he wants to land a spot in the big leagues.
Other Notable Names
Brandon Workman and Allen Webster: like Bogaerts and Bradley, Red Sox Nation caught a glimpse of these two in 2013. Workman began as a starter in the minors, but quickly found his niche as a solid reliever in the big leagues. With a four-pitch arsenal, Workman has a shot at returning to the rotation but, given the stability of the starters, it is likely he will land in the bullpen. Webster’s consistency and command issues may prevent him from breaking into a starter role, but his strong arm could guarantee him a spot as a dominant, late-game reliever. With the importance of depth and flexibility, it is impossible to discount what Workman and Webster could mean to the Sox in the years to come.