This is part two of thirty in the Organizational Outlook series. For those of you interested in minor league baseball, and I know you are out there, keeping up with all the top players can be a tall task. This series will take you through each team in baseball and get you up to date on their top prospects.
Up this week are the Boston Red Sox (keep in mind we are doing this alphabetically — American League first and then National League). Anyone who followed the Red Sox during the Theo Epstein years understood the type of attention the organization paid to its farm system. Esptein and his crew sought to find a perfect balance between big market spender and player development powerhouse. Of course this worked pretty well, as the Sox bagged two World Series titles in the 2000′s. Following Epstein’s departure to the Chicago Cubs, it seemed that Ben Cherington had been hand picked to take over as the club’s next General Manager, a hire that many believe will uphold the same organizational philosophy that broke the “curse” of the Bambino.
Going into to 2012 there was some disagreement within the scouting field on just how good Boston’s farm system was. While Baseball America (BA) had them at number nine in their Organizational Rankings, Keith Law had them much further down in his rankings ($) at number eighteen. The variation seemed to come from differing valuations of the talent within the organization. Law took points for how “thin” the system appeared to be at the higher levels while BA raved about the lower level talent. What is undeniable is the fact that this talent is there, no matter how you value it, so let us get familiar with what they have.
(Rankings are taken from Baseball America. I will be skipping Will Middlebrooks here because, well, you know how good he is.)
As a result of how young their top talent is, they only had two BA Top 100 guys if you do not count Middlebrooks, who is not really a prospect anymore. However, their number two and three prospects are extremely talented up the middle guys, something that surely has Red Sox fans excited.
Xander Bogaerts was signed as an International Free Agent by the Sox in 2009 for $410,000. What strikes you first about Bogaerts is his size: at 6’3″/175, he is big kid who may still be growing. His physical presence showed up big time last year when he smashed 16 home runs for low-A Greenville. This size and strength has scouts thinking that he will almost surely outgrow shortstop and find a home at either third base or right field. If you like dreaming big on prospects, Bogaerts may be your guy, as BA says he could be a future .280 hitter with 30 home run power and that may be “setting the bar low”. This year, as the second youngest player in the high-A Carolina League, he ranks 16th in the league in OPS with his .790 mark. His excellent .284/.342/.448 slash line is highlighted by 5 home runs and 14 doubles, which is further affirmation of his developing power.
A hot name in last year’s amateur draft, Blake Swihart was picked at number 26 overall by the Red Sox, who gave him a franchise record $2.5 million signing bonus. Swihart is a switch-hitting catcher with big time offensive potential. Lauded by BA as having a Buster Posey-like skill set, scouts believe he has the athleticism to play a corner infield or outfield spot if the Red Sox want to move him from behind the plate. However, a lack of defensive prowess will likely not be the reason for a position change, as he is a promising defensive catcher by all accounts. Rated the number 72 prospect by BA before the season, Swihart has struggled so far this season and his season line sits at .252/.303/.384 for low-A Greenville. However this update at Over The Monster indicates that he may be figuring things out: when the article was posted on June 5th, Swihart had produced a .400/.422/.600 line over his last 40 at-bats.
The Rest of the Top 10
Anthony Ranaudo – RHP – 6’7″/231
A sandwich round pick in 2010, Ranaudo showed signs of dominance in his last five starts of the year, pitching to a 2.35 ERA. Though he had a history of elbow problems at LSU, health has not been a major issue thus far, aside from a few missed starts in the early part of this season. The hard throwing righty still has top flight potential and if he puts it all together he could be in the show soon.
2012: 1-1, 6.86 ERA, 19.2 IP, 16 H, 14 K, 14 BB
Bryce Brentz – OF – B-T:R-R – 6’1″/180
Once drafted as a pitcher by the Cleveland Indians, Brentz has become a big time power hitter in the Red Sox system. After hitting 30 home runs across A- and A+ ball last season, he already 7 bombs this season at AA Portland (a big time pitcher’s league). Brentz is a right fielder with a big arm (hence the pitching) and could be ready by 2013.
2012: .300/.352/.480, 216 PA, 7 HR, 1 SB, 14 BB, 62 K
Brandon Jacobs – OF – B-T:R-R – 6’1″/225
Before signing with the Red Sox in 2009, Jacobs also had a commitment to play running back for Auburn. Despite that tidbit, he is described as having “fringy” speed by BA. After struggling in his first two seasons, Jacobs broke out in 2011 to the tune of a .303/.376/.505 line. Like Brentz, Jacobs is a corner outfield type who should hit for plenty of power. He is at high-A Salem this season.
2012: .294/.337/.423, 175 PA, 2 HR, 9 SB, 9 BB, 45 K
Garin Cecchini – 3B – B-T:L-R – 6’2″/200
Cecchini probably would have been a first-rounder in 2010 if not for a torn ACL in his right knee that let him fall to Boston in the 4th round. BA declares him the “best pure hitter in the system” and he has lived up to the billing when he has been on the field. A bad luck broken wrist derailed his stellar debut in the Penn League last summer, but he has been spectacular thus far at low-A Greenville this season.
2012: .307/.391/.447, 230 PA, 3 HR, 19 SB, 25 BB, 43 K
Matt Barnes – RHP – 6’4″/205
A UConn product, the Red Sox gladly took Barnes at 19 in last year’s draft. With a fastball that can touch 97, he is a beast on the mound and has been nothing short of dominant so far as a pro. Though his offspeed pitches need work, Barnes has the potential to fly through the system. He has already earned a promotion to high-A Salem this season, so keep an eye on him.
2012 (A-/A+): 5-1, 1.04 ERA, 60.2 IP, 38 H, 81 K, 8 BB
Ryan Lavarnway – C – B-T:R-R – 6’4″/225
Red Sox fans will be familiar will Lavarnway, who played in 17 games last year for the big club. Back at AAA for 2012, he forced Boston’s hand by hitting 32 HR across AA and AAA last season. He certainly looks like he will be a productive big leaguer some day, but you wonder if Saltalamacchia’s maturation will make Lavarnway trade bait come July.
2012: .301/.389/.436, 190 PA, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 22 BB, 32 K
Jackie Bradley – CF – B-T:L-R – 5’10″/180
A wrist problem and a sub-par season at South Carolina kept Bradley out of the first round, but the Sox grabbed him in the sandwich round at number 40. Bradley is absolutely dominating at high-A Salem and is due for a promotion soon. His defense in centerfield is also outstanding and he figures to stay there as he moves up the latter.
2012: .384/.496/.584, 246 PA, 3 HR, 13 SB, 42 BB, 32 K
The Red Sox had 4 of the first 100 picks in this year’s draft, but with the new draft rules there was some uncertainty as to how they would use the picks. They made Deven Marrero, a shortstop from Arizona State, their first pick. In a draft light on pure shortstops, Marrero is a guy who can handle the position in the future. BA did highlight some questions about his makeup in their scouting report, citing a lack of energy this spring, but you would think the Red Sox excellent player development staff will take care of any issues.
College players were a theme for the Red Sox throughout their first 10 picks, as they seemed to be saving pool money for rounds 11-40. Under the new slotting system, you are allotted a certain amount of money to spend on your entire draft. The catch is that if you fail to sign a pick in the first 10 rounds, you do not get to reallocate the “slot” money on other picks. However there is no such penalty for rounds 11-40. The Red Sox toughest sign in the first 10 picks figures to be high school pitcher Ty Buttrey, who was thought of as a top 50 player coming into the draft. He is committed to Arkansas, so they will have to make him a good offer.
In the late rounds, Boston took a chance on a few guys that were ranked much higher than their draft position, a result of the draft strategy I talked about in the previous paragraph. Alex Bregmen, a hard hitting second basemen from New Mexico, was ranked number 121 on BA’s pre-draft top 500 list, but they got him with pick 931. Bregmen has a strong commitment to LSU, so he will be a tough sign. Along the same lines, high school third basemen Xavier Turner was ranked number 282 by BA, but fell to the Sox at pick 1051. He is also believed to be a tough sign away from Vanderbilt.
You can find the rest of their selections here.
Bonus Cool Stuff
Binghamton senior Mike Augliera was one of the college players that Boston took to save money in the first 10 rounds, but he still shows great feel on the mound. A good friend of mine worked for the America East (Binghamton’s conference) this past year and was lucky enough to see Augliera on a few occasions. He offered up some comments and some video that he shot. Among the interesting things he had to say about Augliera is that he is an extremely fast worker. We are talking Mark Buehrle fast apparently, as Augliera reportedly had to be slowed by the umpire on more than one occasion in the conference tournament. His arsenal includes a fastball that was consistently 91-92 in his last start and a 2-seamer that has hard bite.