Boston Red Sox: Sox prospects

SoxProspects: Betts kept heat on

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3
10:03
PM ET
In the multitude of trades in the week leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline, the Red Sox added prospects Eduardo Rodriguez, Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree, and traded away High-A left-hander Corey Littrell. Escobar and Hembree have been assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket, while Rodriguez was assigned to Double-A Portland.

Over the course of the week, we had an updated scouting report on Littrell, the book on Rodriguez and a report taking stock of the new arms, including Escobar and Hembree. The SoxProspects.com rankings were updated on Aug. 1, with Rodriguez debuting at No. 10, Escobar at No. 18 and Hembree at No. 27. Littrell was ranked at No. 36 when he was traded.

Here's a look at how the other top prospects in the system fared in July (SoxProspects ranking as of Aug. 1 in parentheses).

TOP POSITION PROSPECTS

Notes: Betts picked up where he left off after being optioned back to Pawtucket on July 19, hitting .349 in 10 games before earning a promotion back to Boston on Aug. 1 ... Swihart started at catcher in 17 of Portland's 23 games in July, and has thrown out 47 percent of would-be base stealers for the season ... Devers, 17, has torn up the rookie-level Gulf Coast League since his July 3 promotion despite being the third youngest player in the league ... Marrero was promoted to Pawtucket on July 2, finishing his time in Portland with a line of .291/.371/.433 ... Vazquez has more than held his own since his promotion to Boston on July 9 and should get an extended look for the remainder of the season, allowing the team to gauge how significant his role on the major league club might be in 2015 ... Cecchini struggled for a second consecutive month in July -- the longest cold snap of his professional career; his patience has been tested and he admits he's pressed himself into being overly aggressive ... Chavis made his professional debut on July 5, primarily playing shortstop and designated hitter, then played at third base for the first time on Aug. 1 ... 2014 second-round pick Travis was promoted to Low-A Greenville on Aug. 1 after excelling in 40 games with the Short-Season-A Lowell Spinners.

TOP PITCHING PROSPECTS

Notes: Owens was promoted to Pawtucket on Aug. 1 and is slated to make his PawSox debut on Aug. 4 ... Webster was inconsistent in his Boston debut last week, but should get an extended look in the major league rotation for the rest of the season ... Meanwhile, Ranaudo took home the win in his major league debut on Aug. 1, but was optioned back to Pawtucket after the game ... Johnson has allowed only one hit and went at least seven innings in each of his last two starts, including a 12-strikeout, scoreless performance on July 25 at New Britain ... 2014 first-round pick Kopech made his pro debut with the rookie-level GCL Red Sox on July 12 and will be on a tight pitch count for the season ... Ball's fastball has shown an uptick in velocity, his secondary stuff has looked tighter, and his command has improved from earlier in the season, but his overall control has remained far too inconsistent.

OTHER TOP PERFORMERS
PawSox first baseman Travis Shaw and outfielder Alex Hassan both looked good in July, further showing off the depth of Boston's minor league system. For the month, Shaw hit .319/.404/.553 with five home runs, and now has the most home runs in the system (20) by a wide margin. Hassan hit .330/.429/.545 with four home runs in July. Both players could get a look in September.

On the pitching front, one of the top performers was DSL Red Sox lefty Jhonathan Diaz, who went 3-1 with a 0.93 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 29 innings for the month. Diaz, 17, was signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela in July 2013 for a $600,000 bonus. He throws a high-80s fastball with decent control and is expected to add velocity as he matures physically.

Another left-hander, Cody Kukuk, impressed in July, going 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 35 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings for High-A Salem. Kukuk, 21, mixes a 90-93 mph fastball with a solid low-80s slider and a developing changeup. He has struggled through serious control issues over his professional career, seemingly due to being unable to sustain a repeatable delivery.

ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERS
As of Aug. 2 (cumulative stats, minor league only, min. 250 plate appearances or 60 innings pitched for non-counting stats)

AVERAGE
1. Mookie Betts, .342
2. Sean Coyle, .315
3. Jantzen Witte, .311

OPS
1. Mookie Betts, .959
2. Sean Coyle, .924
3. Carlos Asuaje, .916

HOME RUNS
1. Travis Shaw, 20
2. Corey Brown, 15
3. Sean Coyle, 13

STOLEN BASES
1. Matty Johnson, 34
2. Manuel Margot, 33
3. Mookie Betts, 30

ERA
1. Jonathan Aro, 2.12
2. Anthony Ranaudo, 2.41
3. Brian Johnson, 2.45

STRIKEOUTS/9 IP
1. Cody Kukuk, 10.26
2. Jonathan Aro, 10.00
3. Henry Owens, 9.37

WALKS/9 IP
1. Mike Augliera, 1.26
2. Pat Light, 2.86
3. Chris Hernandez, 4.32

SAVES
1. Noe Ramirez, 12
2(t). Tommy Layne, 11
2(t). Carlos Pinales, 11

PROMOTIONS
Eight players got the call to Boston from the minor leagues from July 1 to Aug. 1: Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Alex Wilson, Webster, Ranaudo, Layne, Vazquez and Betts.

Minor leaguers who received level promotions during the same time frame included Owens, Marrero, catcher Matt Spring and reliever Miguel Celestino from Portland to Pawtucket; pitchers Justin Haley and Dayan Diaz and utility player Ryan Dent from Salem to Portland; pitchers Jacob Dahlstrand and Jonathan Aro, infielder Carlos Asuaje and outfielder Kendrick Perkins from Greenville to Salem; Travis, pitcher German Taveras and outfielder Franklin Guzman from Lowell to Greenville; outfielder Joseph Monge from the Gulf Coast League to Lowell, and Devers and outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe from the Dominican Summer League to the Gulf Coast League.

Mike Andrews is the founder and editor-in-chief of SoxProspects.com and a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

Ranaudo making a case to be called up

July, 4, 2014
Jul 4
7:15
PM ET
PAWTUCKET, Rhode Island -- Among the pitchers in Pawtucket's loaded, all-prospect rotation earlier this season, Brandon Workman now appears to have solidified a spot in Boston's rotation, Rubby De La Rosa impressed in his time in the majors, and Allen Webster has pitched well enough to earn another shot at the big leagues. But it is another member of the PawSox rotation who is having perhaps the best season of them all to this point: Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo continues to quietly shut down opposing offenses, and he showed why with seven scoreless innings on Monday night in Pawtucket.

"The fastball was explosive out of his hand, and he was able to utilize a mix," Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles said after the outing. "He left some pitches up, but then he was able to execute. When he was behind in the count, he showed some good execution and was able to get back into the count. He threw some decent breaking balls. I thought the hand speed with the changeup was good. [He was] aggressive. He's really come a long way."

[+] EnlargeAnthony Ranaudo
Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty ImagesAnthony Ranaudo has been named an International League All-Star after amassing a 2.35 ERA in 17 starts for Pawtucket.
The 24-year-old Ranaudo was recently named to the International League All-Star Team and now owns a 2.35 ERA in 17 starts this season, good for sixth among qualifying Triple-A starters. He has also held batters to a .202 average and struck out 81 over 95 2/3 innings of work. The tall righty began the season at seventh on the SoxProspects.com rankings and now resides at fifth.

In Monday's outing, Ranaudo had success pounding fastballs early and didn't give up his first hit until there were two outs in the fourth. In all, he allowed three hits over seven innings with five strikeouts and two walks.

Ranaudo's fastball sat between 92 and 94 mph and topped out at 95 mph. He was effective when he kept the pitch down in the zone, minimized hard contact and showed finish on the pitch in that area. He recorded three strikeouts with it -- two swinging and one looking. When up in the zone, the pitch was straight and hittable, but he got away with it in this outing. He threw the pitch consistently for strikes and showed solid command, something that has eluded him in other outings.

It helped that the Pawtucket offense scored 10 runs in the first five innings. Ranaudo said the score dictated his ability to pound the zone.

"I had pretty good command of [my fastball], and I thought my command [of it] got better as the game went on," Ranaudo said. "It was easy for me to go and be aggressive with the fastball and just attack guys when we had the big lead. I was just trying to get out there and throw strikes and get back in the dugout because they were swinging the bats so well."

The curveball has been Ranaudo's best secondary offering throughout his minor league career, and he has shown plus potential with tight rotation, excellent depth through the zone and the ability to miss bats at the major league level when it is on. In this outing, the pitch was effective and accounted for two strikeouts, both looking. Ranaudo showed confidence to throw the curve in any count, but unlike previous looks, it did not generate any swings and misses.

Ranaudo didn't use the curve as often as in other outings, with the score dictating his fastball-heavy approach to some extent. The pitch did show its typical tight rotation and depth and was effective in keeping hitters off-balance and off his fastball.

The secondary offering Ranaudo featured most heavily in this outing was the changeup, and it's a pitch he says he has been getting more comfortable throwing.

"[The changeup] is something that I've gained a lot of confidence in," the 6-foot-7 LSU product said. "I shake to it a lot now. I throw it against righties and everything like that. It's definitely a true third pitch for me, and I feel really good about it."

Although the pitch has improved since Ranaudo joined the organization, he still needs to work on his consistency with the offering. He throws the pitch in the 81 to 84 mph range, and it shows late drop when it is down in the zone. At times, however, he seems to slow his arm on the pitch. Even with those improvements, the pitch still lags behind his curveball, but even if it grades as only an average pitch, it will be important to his ability to remain a starter because it will allow him to give hitters a different look the second and third time through a lineup.

Over his past few outings, Ranaudo has been incorporating a fourth pitch -- a slider -- into the mix for the first time. At this point, it's in the very early stages of development, but Ranaudo and coaches like the possibilities it presents for him.

"He's mixing [the slider] in every once in a while," Boles said. "It's good to see. He's going to have to make it move eventually. I think sometimes he gets around the ball a little bit, but there are other times we see some extension and finish."

Ranaudo said he threw it three or four times in Monday's outing. "It's coming, [but] it's not where I want it to be. It's just something that I need to get confidence with. It's a feel pitch for me. It seems like I've been throwing it really well on the four days between my starts, and then I get out on the mound and something changes, so I just have to find that release point and comfort with it, but I think that will come with time. I've seen improvements since I first started throwing it."

It was clear Ranaudo lacked feel for the slider, with the pitch showing short, vertical break sometimes and shorter, horizontal break other times. The pitch is a work in progress, but with continued repetition and refinement, even if it only turns into a fringe-average offering, it could provide another look to keep hitters off-balance and be a valuable part of his arsenal.

"For me, it's just the second breaking ball," the 2010 supplemental first-rounder said. "Sometimes when you climb up the ladder, the better hitters can see a curveball out of the hand, and it's a pitch that they can [lay off]. Especially with two strikes, they see it in a certain area, and if they see it in that area, they are going to take it. Hopefully, this just becomes another breaking ball I can have. If I don't have my best curveball, I can go to it as something I can throw early in counts to get some weak contact."

The slider and changeup still show room for improvement, but even while working on incorporating a new pitch, Ranaudo continues to post sparkling results. A few more starts like Monday, and he might elbow himself to the front of the line of Pawtucket starters looking to get the call-up.

Matt Huegel is managing editor for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegelSP. Ian Cundall is director of scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.

SoxProspects: Guys who might get call

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
1:24
PM ET
With Boston 7 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East as of July 2, questions will invariably arise whether the club should become sellers at the trade deadline and let the youngsters get playing time to close out the season.

Should the Red Sox decide to go that route over the next few weeks, there are a bevy of prospects who could join Mookie Betts on Boston’s 25-man major league roster (or the 40-man when the active roster limit expands on Sept. 1).

Either way, there are 11 minor leaguers already on the 40-man roster who should merit consideration for extended playing time later in the summer, including starting pitchers Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Steven Wright; relievers Alex Wilson and Drake Britton; catchers Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler; third baseman Garin Cecchini and outfielders Alex Hassan and Bryce Brentz. All seem like sure bets to be September call-ups with the possible exceptions of Butler, who has been inconsistent over the season, and Brentz, who has been on the disabled list since May 15 with a right hamstring strain.

Another consideration that comes into play when identifying late-summer call ups is whether a player needs to be added to the 40-man in the upcoming offseason. When that’s the case, it’s more likely that the club won’t balk at adding that player to the 40-man during the season. Players who fall into this category in 2014 include pitchers Matt Barnes, Noe Ramirez, Luis Diaz and Keith Couch; catcher Blake Swihart and infielders Travis Shaw and Sean Coyle. Swihart, Barnes, and Coyle seem like the only safe bets to be added in November, but there are good reasons not to rush any of the three to the majors in 2014. The same goes for Ramirez, Diaz, Couch and Shaw.

One other group to look at is players who are eligible for minor league free agency this winter. If a player might leave via free agency anyways, it doesn’t necessarily hurt to give that player a chance to compete at the major league level to measure whether that player is worthy of a spot on the 40-man roster. Three pitchers to watch here are Tommy Layne, Miguel Celestino and Michael Olmsted.

Last, four players who might be held back because they don’t need to be added to the 40-man roster yet are Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Deven Marrero and Dalier Hinojosa. That said, it wouldn’t be totally surprising if any of the four got a cup of coffee at the tail end of the season.

Top hitting prospects
Here’s how the top position prospects in the Red Sox system fared offensively in June (SoxProspects ranking as of July 2 in parentheses).


Continuing to allay concerns about his ability to withstand the rigors of being a regular catcher, Swihart started 20 games behind the plate in June, including six games in a row from June 22-28 ... Marrero and Vazquez, both typically known more for their defense, garnered some attention for their offensive skills in June, posting an .993 and .848 OPS for the month, respectively ... Devers has been promoted to the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League, but hasn’t actually made the transition stateside yet due to some paperwork issues ... Chavis, Boston’s 2014 first-round draft pick, signed for a $1,870,500 bonus on June 23 and was assigned to the GCL, but has yet to debut ... Coyle has been phenomenal when healthy in 2014, and on June 30 was named as a replacement to the U.S. team for the MLB Futures Game ... Rijo, 18, has slowed down after a great start, but it’s worth noting that he’s generally competing against players two-plus years older than he is in the South Atlantic League ... Shaw is still in an adjustment period after earning a promotion to Triple-A on May 26 ... Travis, Boston’s 2014 second round pick, signed for an $846,800 bonus on June 18.

Top pitching prospects
Here are the lines for the system’s top pitching prospects from June (SoxProspects ranking as of July 2 in parentheses).


Owens was also selected to represent Boston and the United States in the MLB Futures Game ... In many other organizations, Webster and Ranaudo would be part of the major league rotation right now, but in Boston, for now they’re behind four or five veterans, Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa ... Johnson, for a while considered to profile best as a reliever, has worked himself into consideration as a future back-end starter for a first-division club ... Barnes, who has been inconsistent in his first full year in Triple-A, began June with three solid starts, but ended the month with two mediocre appearances ... The Red Sox selected Kopech No. 33 overall in the 2014 draft, a compensation pick for losing Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees ... Ball continues to struggle in his first pro season, allowing opposing batters to post a .370 batting average and .423 OBP against him ... Diaz was promoted to Portland on June 17, and began his Double-A career with three straight quality starts.

Other top performers
Another top hitting performer in June was High-A Salem catcher Carson Blair, who hit .471/.565/.725 with 3 home runs over 51 at-bats, but ended the month on the disabled list. The 24-year-old backstop was a 35th-round round pick in 2008, and is a candidate to start with Portland in 2015 if he re-signs this offseason. Other top hitters of note this past month included Double-A infielder Derrik Gibson, who hit .367/.465/.600 for the Sea Dogs, and Low-A Greenville outfielder Kendrick Perkins, who posted a line of .368/.421/.647 for the Drive.

On the pitching front, the top performer of the month outside of the top prospects was DSL Red Sox right-hander Gerson Bautista, who posted a 0.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and struck out 15 in 26 innings at the rookie level. Bautista, 18, was given a $250,000 signing bonus in April 2013, but was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2013 season after testing positive for metabolites of stanozolol. Other top pitchers over the last month included Portland relievers Aaron Kurcz (0.00 ERA, 0.66 WHIP in 10.2 innings) and Noe Ramirez (0.75 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in 12 innings) and Pawtucket lefty Tommy Layne (0.84 WRA and 0.66 WHIP in 10.2 innings).

Organizational leaders
As of July 1 (cumulative stats, minor league only, min. 200 plate appearances or 50 innings pitched for non-counting stats).

Average
1. Sean Coyle, .361
2. Mookie Betts, .345
3. Reed Gragnani, .328

OPS
1. Sean Coyle, 1.052
2. Mookie Betts, .957
3. Jantzen Witte, .944

HRs
1. Travis Shaw, 15
2. Corey Brown,10
3(t). Sean Coyle, Blake Swihart, Jantzen Witte, Carlos Asuaje, 9

SBs
1. Mookie Betts, 29
2. Manuel Margot, 25
3. Matty Johnson, 24 Saves
1. Noe Ramirez, 8
2(t). Miguel Celestino, 6
2(t). Tommy Layne, 6

ERA
1. Henry Owens, 2.25
2. Joe Gunkel, 2.30
3. Brian Johnson, 2.33

Strikeouts/9 IP
1. Joe Gunkel, 9.91
2. Cody Kukuk, 9.50
3. Henry Owens, 9.29

Walks/9 IP
1. Mike Augliera, 1.50
2. Mike McCarthy, 1.63
3. Keith Couch, 1.82

Player movement
Four players got the call to Boston from the minor leagues in June: shortstop Stephen Drew (technically had been optioned to the minors after signing), third baseman Garin Cecchini, outfielder Daniel Nava, and Betts. Minor leaguers who received level promotions included Diaz, Jonathan Roof, and David Chester from Salem to Portland, and Gunkel, Witte, and Jordan Weems from Greenville to Salem.

Mike Andrews is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SoxProspects.com and a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

MLB draft Day 3 Sox recap: Rounds 11-40

June, 7, 2014
Jun 7
9:50
PM ET
Day 3 marked the end of the MLB draft, and a full 30 picks were made by the Boston Red Sox. Among those picks are several high-upside prospects, many of whom won't end up signing, along with other serviceable prospects who may not get much hype but can play an important role in the system.

One theme we saw early for the Red Sox was picking guys who have fallen due to injury, likely as a way to get players with upside who won't require large over-slot bonuses to sign. In fact, their first three picks on the day fall into this category: RHP Karsten Whitson, LHP Jalen Beeks and RHP Chandler Shepherd.

Other exciting picks on the day consist of high schoolers who fell due to bonus demands. While it will be impossible to sign all of these types of picks, Boston hopes to lure a couple away from their college commitments. Picks that fall into this category are: CF Trenton Kemp, CF Tyler Hill, C Devon Fisher, SS J.J. Matijevic and CF Jaren Kendall. These guys represent high ceilings that you can dream on, but as we've seen with above-slot signees in the past, the talent they show against fellow high schoolers doesn't always translate to the pros so it can be hit or miss.

Overall, out of the 30 picks made, we saw Boston take 13 pitchers, five catchers, five outfielders and seven infielders.

Here's a look at today's draftees pick-by-pick:

11th round: RHP Karsten Whitson, SR, Florida

Whitson was the first-round pick of the Padres in 2010, but reportedly turned down $2.1 million to go to college. He followed that up with an inconsistent run at Florida that included shoulder problems in his sophomore year after which he was less effective. He can reach 96 mph with the fastball, but his secondary pitches are inconsistent, according to MLB.com. If he can regain his first-round form, he could be a steal. He was Baseball America's (BA) 290th-rated prospect.

12th round: LHP Jalen Beeks, JR, Arkansas

Beeks is an undersized left-hander with a three-pitch mix. He may have fallen due to an elbow injury at the end of this season, but came back last week with a strong outing. He does not have much projection left, according to MLB.com, but has the stuff to succeed at the next level potentially in a bullpen role. He was ranked 125th by BA.

13th round: RHP Chandler Shepherd, JR, Kentucky

Shepherd may have also fallen due to missed time with a right forearm laceration this season. He has three pitches with at least average potential, according to Clint Longnecker of BA. Al Skorupa of Baseball Prospectus said he liked what he saw from Shepherd and his curveball last year in the Cape League, where Shepherd was an All-Star. He is BA's 372nd-ranked prospect.

14th round: C Jordan Procyshen, JR, Northern Kentucky University

Procyshen was named first team All-American for Division I junior colleges in 2013 before transferring prior to last season. He put up good power numbers for a catcher.

15th round: CF Trenton Kemp, Buchanan (Calif.) HS

MLB.com calls Kemp "a quintessential high-risk, high-reward high school athlete, with some loud tools." He is a top-notch raw athlete with speed and power, who projects to stay in center field, but also with questions around his bat. It will likely take some extra money to lure him away from a Fresno State commitment. BA ranked him at 337.

16th round: LHP Michael Gunn, JR, Arkansas

Gunn was the second Arkansas lefty taken after Beeks.

17th round: SS Jeremy Rivera, JC, El Paso CC

18th round: 3B Jordan Betts, SR, Duke U

19th round: CF Tyler Hill, Delaware Military Academy

Hill is a raw five-tool athlete who will likely need above-slot bonus to forego college commitment.

20th round: C Devon Fisher, Western Branch (Va.) HS

Tough sign committed to University of Virginia, Fisher is a strong all-around defensive catcher who has an impressive arm and ability to throw out runners, according to MLB.com. He has power potential at the plate, but overall questions about his hitting ability. BA had him at 194.

21st round: C Ian Rice, JC, Chipola College

Rice is BA's 303rd-ranked prospect. Second pick out of Chipola College after sixth- rounder Danny Mars.

22nd round: SS J.J. Matijevic, Norwin (Pa.) HS

Matijevic has a very advanced bat for a high schooler with a solid approach and power potential, according to MLB.com. Defensively, he was listed as a shortstop, but looks more likely to be a third baseman in the pros where he'll have a strong arm. Committed to University of Arizona, he will likely require above-slot money to sign. BA's 180th-ranked prospect.

23rd round: CF Derek Miller, JR, University of Texas, Arlington

24th round: 1B Cisco Tellez, JR, University of California, Riverside

25th round: RHP Gabe Klobosits, JC, Galveston College

Klobosits is a righty listed at 6-foot-7, and height is a commodity often coveted by the Red Sox.

26th round: RHP Ryan Harris, JR, Florida

Harris is a reliever for Florida who should stay in the bullpen as a pro and has potential to move quickly. His fastball sits around 93 mph, and he also throws a solid slider that flashes and a changeup, according to MLB.com. Clint Longnecker of BA called him a big arm with power stuff. BA has him ranked at 226.

27th round: RHP Taylor Nunez, JR, Southern Mississippi

28th round: LHP David Peterson, Regis Jesuit HS (Colo.)

Peterson is a 6-foot-6 lefty with a lot of projection. His fastball can get up to 93 mph currently, while his changeup and slider are developing, according to MLB.com. A broken leg his senior year of high school may have affected his stock, and he will require an above-slot bonus to sign away from an Oregon commitment. He is BA's 95th-rated prospect.

29th round: RHP Josh Pennington, Lower Cape May Reg HS (N.J.)

Pennington tore his UCL recently and is scheduled for Tommy John surgery. Fastball is in the low-90s. He commented that he wants to start his career now and will sign regardless of where he is selected in the draft, despite the fact that he could gone in the first 10 rounds had he not sustained the injury. He's rated at 401 by BA.

30th round: CF Jeren Kendall, Holmen HS (Wis.)

Kendall's best tool is his plus-plus speed, according to MLB.com. He has decent hitting skills and some power for a guy his size, but his hitting should be aided by his speed on the basepath. He is BA's 88th-prospect, and the fact that he slipped this far says he likely has high bonus demands.

31st round: C Alex McKeon, JR, Texas A&M International University

McKeon played for Northeastern University as a freshman before transferring.

32nd round: RHP Case Rolen, Sherman HS (Texas)

Rolen is a young high school senior who topped out at 89 mph and also features a developing sharp curveball. He's athletic with projection.

33rd round: RF Luis Alvarado, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Puerto Rico)

Alvarado is a two-way player with great size and athleticism, according to BA. A switch-hitter with a strong arm and big power potential, he was one of the youngest players in the draft. He's rated 493rd by BA.

34th round: RHP Kuehl McEachern, Flagler College

35th round: 3B Ross Puskarich, Liberty HS (Calif.)

36th round: RHP Bradley Wilpon, The Brunswick School (Conn.)

Wilpon is the grandson of New York Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon and son Mets COO Jeff Wilpon.

37th round: SS Hector Lorenzana, SR, Oklahoma

38th round: RHP Brandon Show, JR, University of San Diego

39th round: SS Mike Gretler, Bonney Lake HS (Wash.)

40th round: C Joseph Winterburn, SR, University of La Verne

Scouting reports: Red Sox's Day 2 picks

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
9:52
PM ET
Day 2 of the 2014 MLB draft saw the Red Sox pick up several interesting prospects, including raw flamethrower Jake Cosart. Cosart can hit the upper 90s, but he's still very raw. With his rawness comes great potential, though. Read more about Cosart and the seven other picks in the scouting reports below.

In terms of overall strategy, this being the third year under the current draft rules, Friday saw the Red Sox appear to move away somewhat from their draft strategy of the past two years. In 2012 and 2013, the club selected college seniors in the later rounds (7-10 or so), players who would sign for well under the slot values for those rounds, allowing the club to repurpose the saved cap space to sign players selected in earlier (and later) rounds to over-slot bonuses.

The Red Sox drafted just two college seniors on Day 2 this year, and one of them, seventh-rounder Reed Reilly, has college eligibility remaining, giving him more leverage than the typical senior. Last year, the money saved on drafting and signing three below-slot seniors went mostly toward signing catcher Jon Denney (third round) and first baseman/outfielder Nick Longhi (30th round). After the signing deadline, the Sox were left with extra money they could have spent, perhaps because many of the club's other potential above-slot signings, such as outfielder Ryan Boldt and pitcher Jordan Sheffield, were serious about going to college and the money offered was still insufficient to change their minds.

This could have played into a strategy change, as the club might have realized that, in the current system, it is difficult to offer life-changing money to picks not taken early. Add the fact that many other teams seem to be playing it more straight-up -- this year's draft went stunningly to form when compared to major draft rankings -- and the club might have decided to play it straight as well.

Although the Sox might have tried to "game the system" less, there are still candidates for under-slot bonuses. Some possibilities are fourth-rounder Kevin McAvoy, seventh-rounder Reed Reilly, eighth-rounder Ben Moore and 10th-rounder Cole Sturgeon. There will not likely be enough money saved from these, however, to go after another big fish Saturday, with the extra cash more likely to be spread around.

Overall on the day, the Sox drafted eight players. Two picks were high schoolers, four were drafted out of college, and the other two come out of the junior-college ranks.

Going pick-by-pick, here are today's draftees:

Round 3 (103rd overall): RHP Jake Cosart, JC, Seminole State (Florida)

Cosart looks like the best player drafted on the day, as one might expect. An athletic right-hander, Cosart is a flamethrower who can touch 98 mph, according to Baseball America (BA), and sat 92-95 with life on his fastball. Baseball Prospectus considers his curveball a second major league pitch, while his changeup lags behind. The 20-year-old started his college career at Duke University as an outfielder, but after redshirting a season, he transferred to Seminole State, where he took off as a pitcher. Control and command are issues, but since he hasn't been pitching very long, he is still raw with much upside. BA ranks Cosart as the 97th-best prospect in the draft, while Perfect Game USA has him ranked 102nd. He is the brother of Houston Astros pitcher Jarred Cosart.

Round 4 (134th overall): RHP Kevin McAvoy, JR, Bryant University (Rhode Island)

A local pick out of Rhode Island, McAvoy led Bryant University's pitching staff, going 9-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 15 starts. Across 99 2/3 innings, he struck out 94, walked 28 and did not allow a home run. McAvoy's fastball has topped out around 93, but sat more often in the 89-91 mph range, according to Al Skorupa of Baseball Prospectus. He needs to improve his secondary pitches but commands his fastball and uses both sides of the plate well. Some have speculated that his stuff and velocity will play up in a relief role. He looks likely to begin his career with the Lowell Spinners this summer.

Round 5 (164th overall): 1B Josh Ockimey, SS Neumann Goretti HS (Pennsylvania)

Listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Ockimey is a raw athlete with big power potential. Jim Callis of MLB.com used Ryan Howard as a potential perfect-world comparison. He did not crack Baseball America's Top 500 prospects, but the Red Sox had him in for a pre-draft workout and were reportedly extremely impressed. He has quick bat speed and strong wrists but will need to work out some mechanical issues in the pros. An upside pick, expect him to move slowly through the system. He is committed to Indiana University.

Round 6 (194th overall): CF Danny Mars, JC, Chipola College (Florida)

Mars is a switch-hitter with plus speed and should be a threat on the bases. He ranked 338th by Baseball America and 200th by Perfect Game USA and has had a strong season this year at a small college, hitting .380/.460/.584 with four home runs and 25 steals. He projects to be a line-drive hitter with below-average power but should get some extra bases in the gaps due to his speed. Though not considered an elite fielder, he is expected to stick in center. He is committed to play for Florida State next year.

Round 7 (224th overall): RHP Reed Reilly, SR, Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo (California)

Polished reliever in college who could move through the system quickly if he is kept in the bullpen (though the Red Sox do have a track record of moving college relievers back to the rotation early in their career). His sinking fastball is reportedly around 91-92 mph, topping out at 95, according to MLB.com, and is proficient at producing ground balls. Reilly tied a Cal Poly record for saves as a redshirt sophomore in 2013 and was drafted by the Orioles in the 18th round last year. His secondary stuff is a work in progress and inconsistent, with his changeup flashing above average at times but with great fastball command, he looks like he could be a future major league reliever. He was ranked 181st overall by Baseball America and 229th by Perfect Game. He will likely begin his Red Sox career with the Lowell Spinners this summer.

Round 8 (254th overall): C Ben Moore, JR, University of Alabama Tuscaloosa (Alabama)

Moore played mostly in the outfield throughout his career but caught more often earlier in his career, and the Red Sox asked him to be listed at that position. He has advanced bat-to-balls skills, according to Baseball America, with a low strikeout rate, as well as a strong walk rate. In his three-year college career, Moore hit .307/.375/.443 with 15 home runs. He was ranked at 315 by Baseball America.

Round 9 (284th overall): RHP Kevin Steen, Oak Ridge HS (Tennessee)

Athletic righty with a strong pitcher's frame and a loose arm. Focused on basketball early in his high school career, so is still raw as a pitcher. Fastball sits in the low 90s and his curveball is inconsistent, according to Jim Callis on MLB.com. He is a work in progress with upside. Committed to Tennessee.

Round 10 (314th overall): OF Cole Sturgeon, SR, Louisville (Kentucky)

Two-way player with great speed. Solid contact hitter with limited power potential. Has a strong arm, as evidenced by his work out of the bullpen at Louisville. Sturgeon was a captain and batted .325/.410/.468 this year for the Cardinals with 16 doubles. He was also a decent left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen.

Scouting reports: Chavis, Kopech, Travis

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
1:14
AM ET
As far as SoxProspects.com is concerned, the Red Sox cleaned up on Day 1 of the MLB draft, given the players available at the club's respective draft slots. The team drafted three well-regarded prospects on Thursday evening in prep infielder Michael Chavis, high school pitcher Michael Kopech and college first baseman Sam Travis.

With the 26th pick of the first round, Boston selected Chavis out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia. Chavis was one of the top players available when the Red Sox came on the clock and is generally considered among the top high school hitters in the 2014 draft class.

He has hit for average throughout his high school career, and most scouts believe he will continue to make good contact against advanced pitching, having excelled in national tournaments against other top prospects. Chavis also shows above-average power potential that is largely generated from his quick wrists and smooth mechanics rather than frame strength.

At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, the 18-year-old infielder profiles best at third base, but he's athletic and versatile enough to play second base or corner outfield. He has a solid arm, good footwork and fluid actions on defense. While he has played shortstop as a prep, he lacks the quickness to stick there over the long term but could play the position in a pinch as a professional.

Chavis also has good makeup, as he's generally known as a smart player who always gives maximum effort. He cited Dustin Pedroia as his favorite player on the Red Sox after being drafted, indicating that he emulates the second baseman's game for his drive and hustle.

For the 2014 season, the right-handed hitter batted .580/.663/1.197 with nine doubles and 13 home runs in 28 games. Chavis is committed to Clemson, but signability is not considered a significant concern. The assigned pick value for the No. 26 pick is estimated to be a shade less than $1.9 million. A slot signing would be beneficial for both the player and the club.

Overall, he's an advanced bat for a high school player but is still likely four seasons away from getting a look at the major leagues. This far out, he projects as a potential everyday regular with an All-Star ceiling. High school players almost always have bust potential by definition; while that concern is still there, it's less of a concern with Chavis than with most prep players.

If past is precedent, he'll most likely be assigned to the rookie level Gulf Coast League out of the gate, with a decent shot of seeing time with Class A Lowell starting in mid-August. The GCL Red Sox season begins on June 20.

Later in the first round, Boston picked right-handed pitcher Kopech at No. 33 overall -- the pick the Red Sox received for losing Jacoby Ellsbury to free agency. Kopech just turned 18 on April 30, so he's young for the draft class. Over his senior season, he went 3-0 with a 0.44 ERA and a .115 batting average against, striking out 129 batters and walking 18 in 64 innings.

Kopech has a live arm with a heavy fastball that already sits in the low- to mid-90s, topping out at 98 mph at a few points. His 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame is projectable, and he might be capable of adding even more velocity. His mechanics are maximum effort and his arm can fly open, so his delivery might need some cleaning up. If not, control and command are possible future issues. It wouldn't be surprising to see a dip in velocity early in his professional career as the front office has him focus on throwing strikes with a repeatable delivery.

He complements his fastball with two breaking pitches: an above-average slider and a workable but loopy curveball. Scouts are split on which of the two is better; he's likely to focus on just one of his breaking pitches as he starts his professional career. He also has a changeup that shows some deception and promise, but it's a work in progress at this stage.

Like Chavis, Kopech was generally considered a late-first round talent. He's committed to the University of Arizona but is also not expected to be a significant signability concern. The slot value for the No. 33 overall pick is about $1.65 million.

Overall, he has top-of-the-rotation potential if he can learn to repeat his delivery and harness his secondary stuff. He could spend all of 2014 in the Gulf Coast League. Given that he already threw 64 innings during his high school season, he might not get a lot of professional innings this year.

Among the top players who the Red Sox passed on in the first round were all high schoolers: outfielder Monte Harrison, right-handers Sean Reid-Foley and Spencer Adams and shortstop Jacob Gatewood. All four were selected later on Day 1.

In the second round, with the No. 67 overall pick, the Red Sox selected Travis out of Indiana University. He was generally considered an early to mid-second round talent, and Boston scooped him up toward the end of the round.

The 20-year-old college junior (he'll turn 21 in August) has an above-average hit tool, showing a solid ability to make contact and hit the ball to all fields in three years with the Hoosiers. He also has very good present power, hitting 31 home runs in 183 games over his college career. Travis has a disciplined approach for a power hitter, managing to limit swings and misses. At 6-foot, 210 pounds, he's slow on the basepaths but about what you'd expect from a first baseman.

On defense, Travis spent the early parts of his college career at third base but was moved off position to first base, at which he'll likely play as a professional. He has the potential to be an adequate defender -- he can scoop the ball well and has decent lateral movement -- but he's on the shorter side for the position. He might also have a chance to play left field, but his fringe arm strength might keep him out of the outfield and limit him to first base.

In 2014, Travis hit .347/.415/.576 with 16 doubles and 12 home runs in 59 games for Indiana. He's a semifinalist for the 2014 Golden Spikes Award, handed out to the nation's top baseball player. Indiana was just eliminated from the NCAA tournament after a loss to Stanford on June 2, so Travis is now free to sign a pro contract.

Overall, Travis projects as a second-division starter or an impactful bench bat at this stage, but he has the ceiling of an average first-division starter, which is a solid get in the late-second round.

Slot for the No. 67 overall pick is roughly $830,000, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Travis sign right away at, or slightly below, that number. Expect him to be with the Lowell Spinners when the club's season starts on June 13, and don't be surprised if he's with Class A Greenville before the end of the season.

Two of the best prospects whom the Red Sox passed on at No. 67 were California prep outfielder Marcus Wilson and San Diego State right-hander Michael Cederoth.

Expect Sox to take some chances in draft

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
10:51
AM ET
Since 2005, the Red Sox have had some noticeable draft strategy trends, some of which have been tweaked since the new bonus pool restrictions were put in place in 2012.

If these trends keep up in this year’s draft -- set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday -- look for Boston to select a diversified mix of high-ceiling, higher risk talent and high-floor college prospects with its first four or five picks. After that, history tells us they will pick some low-bonus, high-makeup college players in the sixth through 10th rounds. The front office might then pick some high-ceiling prep players, some of whom might have signability concerns, in rounds 11-15. The remainder of the draft will likely comprise of players needed to fill out the minor league affiliate rosters and a few lottery ticket prospects.

A few other trends to watch for are veterans of the USA Baseball National teams (college and high school), players who excelled in the Cape Cod League, multi-sport athletes, college relievers with “low mileage” arms, local products in the later rounds, and former draftees who didn’t sign the first time around.

Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft is set to get underway Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET. The draft will take place over the course of three days again this year, with Thursday night’s phase covering the first, supplemental, second, and competitive balance rounds. Day 2 will start at 1 p.m. on Friday, covering rounds 3-10, and Day 3 will kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, covering rounds 11-40.

For the Red Sox, this will be the fifth draft led by director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye. Sawdaye’s 2011 and 2010 daft classes look quite impressive at this point, featuring multiple potential impact players in Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Barnes, Garin Cecchini, Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens, Bryce Brentz, Blake Swihart, Brandon Workman, Sean Coyle and Mookie Betts.

On the other hand, the 2012 and 2013 draft classes -- the first draft classes capped by the signing bonus pool system under the new CBA -- have not produced as much prospect talent as prior drafts. Admittedly, it's way too early to draw any conclusions, but the early results for those drafts have been mixed at best.

This year, Boston’s signing bonus allotment will be capped at $6,373,300, which is a shade lower than last year's cap, given that last year's bonus pool was bolstered by the slot value for the No. 7 overall pick. Sawdaye will have options to add some more high-end talent this draft, as the Red Sox have four selections in the first 103 picks, including the 26th, 33rd, and 67th overall picks.

Check out SoxProspects.com's list possible draft targets HERE.

Farm notes: Betts continues to impress

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
10:36
PM ET
While he certainly cooled off in mid-May after an out-of-this-world April, Double-A Portland second baseman Mookie Betts remains one of the top stories in the Red Sox organization, posting a line of .362/.448/.562 with 6 home runs and 22 stolen bases at the end of May. That’s enough to put him among the top 10 players across all minor league levels in hits, batting average, runs, total bases and on-base percentage, as well as 11th in OPS and stolen bases. And that’s all while seeing his first professional game action in center field.

TOP PROSPECTS
Here’s how the other top position prospects in the system fared offensively in May. (SoxProspects ranking as of June 1 in parentheses)

Notes: Swihart started 22 games behind the plate in May -- he’s yet to allow a passed ball in 2014 and has thrown out 16 of 31 would-be base-stealers (52%) ... Vazquez, who has one of the best catching arms in the minors, has thrown out just 13 of 20 (39%) ... While it was mildly surprising to see Dominican phenom Devers open the season in the Dominican Summer League, he went 3-for-5 with a double, a home run and four RBIs in his professional debut on May 31 ... Coyle missed three weeks in May with a hamstring injury, but hit the ground running upon his return ... Ramos landed on the disabled list on June 1 with an undisclosed injury ... Shaw earned a promotion to Triple-A on May 26.

Here are the lines for the system’s top pitching prospects from May.

Notes: At the close of May, Owens was ninth in all of the minor leagues with 68 strikeouts ... Webster and Ranaudo were both firing on all cylinders in May, and according to Red Sox manager John Farrell, both were under consideration to be called upon to replace injured starter Clay Buchholz in the major league rotation ... Workman, now with Boston, recently met the rookie eligibility threshold and will graduate from prospect status this week ... Johnson has dominated after an early May promotion to Double-A, effectively and confidently utilizing a mix of his fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup ... After receiving the call from extended spring training on April 26, Ball has not fared well in six starts, failing to make it out of the first inning in two of his last three appearances ... Following a bout of control issues, Britton hit the PawSox disabled list on May 25 with left elbow inflammation.

OTHER TOP PERFORMERS
Another top hitting performer in May was Low-A Greenville first baseman Jantzen Witte, who hit .389/.477/.648 with 3 home runs for the Drive. At 24, he’s older than his competition in the South Atlantic League, and his BABIP has not been sustainable, but the 2013 24th-round pick should earn a promotion to High-A in the near future.

Other hitters of note in May were Greenville infielder Carlos Asuaje, who posted a .907 OPS; Salem utility player Jonathan Roof, who has thrived after being selected from Philadelphia in the Triple-A phase of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft, and Salem infielder Reed Gragnani, a 2013 draft pick out of the University of Virginia who is hitting .341 for the season.

On the pitching front, the top performer of the month was Greenville right-hander Jonathan Aro, who went 1-0 with 2 saves, a 0.42 ERA, 0.61 WHIP, 25 strikeouts and 5 walks in 21.1 innings. The 23-year-old was signed as an international free agent in June 2011. He had a fine season with Short-A Lowell in 2013, posting a 2.14 ERA in 54.2 innings, and is now working as a piggyback start in Greenville. While he has limited projection, Aro could develop into a workable middle reliever.

Other top pitchers over the last month included Portland starter Keith Couch, who went 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA; Sea Dogs reliever Robby Scott, who allowed zero runs in 10.1 innings; Salem righty Justin Haley, who posted a 2.32 ERA and three wins for the month, and Greenville reliever Joe Gunkel, who struck out 23 batters and walked only three in 17 innings.

ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERS
As of June 1 (cumulative stats, minor league only, min. 150 plate appearances or 35 innings pitched for non-counting stats)

Batting average
1. Jantzen Witte, .364
2. Mookie Betts, .355
3. Reed Gragnani, .341

OPS
1. Jantzen Witte, 1.042
2. Mookie Betts, .994
3. Carlos Asuaje, .977

HR
1. Travis Shaw, 12
2(t). Corey Brown, 8
2(t). Brandon Snyder, 8

SB
1. Mookie Betts, 22
2. Manuel Margot, 18
3. Matty Johnson, 15

ERA
1. Justin Haley, 2.20
2. Keith Couch, 2.26
3. Henry Owens, 2.52

Strikeouts/9 IP
1. Cody Kukuk, 9.72
2. Henry Owens, 9.51
3. Corey Littrell, 9.47

Walks/9 IP
1. Keith Couch, 1.55
2. Mike Augliera, 1.90
3. Mike McCarthy, 1.74

Saves
1. Noe Ramirez, 6
2. Alex Wilson, 5
3(t). Drake Britton, 4
3(t). Jose Valdez, 4
3(t). Jonathan Aro, 4
3(t). Kyle Martin, 4

PLAYER MOVEMENT
Nine players got the call to Boston from the minor leagues from May 1 to June 1: Britton, Workman, Cecchini, infielder Brock Holt, reliever Alex Wilson, outfielder Daniel Nava, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, outfielder Alex Hassan and right-hander Rubby De La Rosa. Minor leaguers who received level promotions included Shaw and outfielder Shannon Wilkerson from Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket; Johnson from High-A Salem to Portland; LHP Cody Kukuk from Greenville to Salem; and right-handers Ty Buttrey and Taylor Grover, left-hander Daniel McGrath, infielder Aneudis Peralta, and outfielder Forrestt Allday from extended spring training to Greenville.

Mike Andrews is the founder and editor-in-chief of SoxProspects.com and a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

SoxProspects: Betts getting work in CF

May, 26, 2014
May 26
9:24
PM ET
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Things are changing for Mookie Betts. Both on the field and off, Betts has had to adjust to an evolving set of circumstances brought on by his breathtaking success to start the season.

Betts, a member of the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, had a breakout 2013 campaign. He was named the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year after hitting .314 AVG/.417 OBP/.506 SLG across two levels of Class A with 15 home runs and 38 steals.

This year, he has taken that to another level. The 5-foot-8 Betts got on base in the first 35 games of the season, recording hits in all but one of those contests. His on-base streak, reaching back to last season, grew to 66 games, 71 including playoffs. He fell five games short of the minor league record of 71 regular-season games, set by two players Red Sox fans are familiar with: Kevin Youkilis and Kevin Millar.

[+] EnlargeMookie Betts
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsWith Dustin Pedroia blocking his path at second base, Mookie Betts seemingly is being groomed for a potential super-utility role.
From the beginning of the season until the last game of the streak on May 15, Betts hit .401/.467/.619 with six home runs and 18 stolen bases, scoring 44 runs atop the Portland lineup. Entering Monday's games, he ranked among the minor league leaders in average (.366), runs (50), hits (68), total bases (107), doubles (17) and steals (22), and has been a standout in the field at second base.

But since Dustin Pedroia signed his eight-year, $110 million extension last July, there was one nagging question that followed Betts’ gaudy numbers: How would he fit in Boston once he was ready to play in the majors?

This week, we started to see how that fit might work, as Betts made his debut in center field on May 18. In the 11 games (over nine days) since, he has been the center fielder seven times, the second baseman three times and the DH once. The athletic Betts, who also excelled in basketball and bowling in high school, always has projected as a potential Ben Zobrist-type utility player, a first-division starter who can fit in several places in a major league lineup. Introducing him to center field looks like it may be the first step in developing him into such a player.

Betts was not really tested in his three games in center during a recent series against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in Manchester, recording a few easy putouts on pop flies, but he was somewhat tentative on reads and reactions at the new position. Betts said the adjustment has been mostly mental thus far.

“You have to think about getting behind the ball, where you’re going to throw it, where are your lines, where are you going to be on the routine plays,” said Betts, who played some center field in high school. “It’s a new environment for me. I’m not standing on dirt anymore.”

Betts said he was told about two days before his first game in center field that he would begin playing the position in games -- perhaps not coincidentally, it was right after the end of his on-base streak -- but he had been working there on his own during batting practice for some time. Still, those who think Betts now has a rocket to Fenway strapped on his back should take note that it will take time for him to get comfortable in the outfield.

“It’s an adjustment because it’s been four years or so [since I played there],” he said. “[In professional baseball] there’s a lot more responsibility that goes on. In high school, you don’t really think about all that. Here, you have to. There’s always a place to be, even on the routine plays. That’s what I’m learning now.”

Meanwhile, Betts is in the process of adjusting to all the attention his play has garnered from media and fans. Even last year, during Betts’ breakout season, he was sheltered from the bright lights of Red Sox Nation in the Low A South Atlantic League and High A Carolina League. Now, closer to the majors both geographically and professionally, and with the major league club going through intense struggles, the spotlight is firmly centered on the 21-year-old.

“It’s been very different, but I feel like I’m adjusting to it pretty well,” he said. “But, yeah, it’s definitely been different coming to the field, signing more autographs, giving more interviews. It’s been fun, but … not annoying, but something to get used to.”

If Betts keeps it up, he may have to get used to even more changes, such as a new locale in Triple-A Pawtucket, and before all is said and done this season, maybe the majors.

Farm notes: Betts soars up the charts

May, 1, 2014
May 1
2:40
PM ET
As of May 1, Double-A Portland second baseman Mookie Betts leads all of minor league baseball with a .430 batting average. His full slash line is .430/.481/.688 with 10 doubles, 4 homes runs, and 10 stolen bases, which follows up a breakout 2013 season in which he hit .314/.417/.506 with 36 doubles, 15 home runs, and 38 stolen bases between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem. Including last season, Betts has reached base in 52 consecutive games as of the close of April.

In addition to his offensive prowess, the 21-year-old also plays plus defense at second base, and may be capable of moving to shortstop, left field, or center field in the future if need be. Betts has skyrocketed up the prospect charts, and at anything even close to this pace will be ranked among the top prospects in all of baseball by season’s end.

TOP PROSPECTS

Center fielder Jackie Bradley graduated from prospect status on April 25, and shortstop Xander Bogaerts is slated to graduate from prospect status on May 2.

Here’s how the other top position prospects in the system fared offensively in April.

Notes: Garin Cecchini continues to put the bat on the ball, and has maintained an excellent plate approach despite being assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket at the age of 22 (he’s since turned 23), but the lack of added power in his fourth year in the system has some scouts concerned it may not come ... On the other hand, Christian Vazquez continues to impress scouts enough with his offense, where the defensive wizard might now be considered a potential future starting option for a first-division club ... At 18, Wendell Rijo is the seventh-youngest player in all of Low-A ball ... Rafael Devers turned some heads with his present power and makeup in spring training, but at 17 will likely open his season in the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League.

Here are the lines for the system’s top pitching prospects from April.

Notes: Henry Owens opened the Portland season with a rain-shortened no-hitter on April 3 and followed that up with 6.2 scoreless innings on April 9, but has struggled with command and control over his last three starts ... Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo have both been inconsistent to start their 2014 campaigns, issues that have plagued them for the past few years ... Matt Barnes missed the first three weeks of the season with right shoulder tenderness ... Trey Ball, Boston first-round pick in 2014, was promoted from extended spring training to Low-A Greenville on April 26 ... Drake Britton hasn’t let up many runs to start the season, but his velocity has been down a tick and he’s struggled with control.

OTHER TOP PERFORMERS

Other top hitting performers have been Greenville infielder Carlos Asuaje, hitting .352/.477/.606, and Salem outfielder Kevin Heller, posting a line of .312/.450/.562. An 11th-round pick in 2013, Asuaje impressed with his bat, glove, and versatility in spring training, earning himself a spot as a regular on the Drive’s roster.

On the pitching front, the other top performers have included Pawtucket right-hander Rubby De La Rosa, Portland right-hander Keith Couch, Greenville left-hander Cody Kukuk, and Salem left-hander Corey Littrell.

De La Rosa has made five starts for the PawSox, going 1-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 25 strikeouts, and 7 walks in 27.2 innings. He’s been able to throw strikes with his fastball, changeup, and slider, and hasn’t given up a lot of hard contact.
Given the early returns, De La Rosa may be next in line if an opportunity presents itself in the major league rotation.

Couch has opened his second season in Portland in dominant fashion, going 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 25 strikeouts, and 5 walks in 29 innings over 5 starts. The 24-year-old relies on a solid low-90s sinker, an average curveball, and a decent low-80s changeup. An unheralded 13th-round pick in 2010, he has posted solid numbers throughout his time in the organization.

Kukuk, also repeating a level in 2014, is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 29 walks, and 12 strikeouts in 24.0 innings. If he continues to maintain improved control as he has early on this season, he should get a bump up to High-A Salem before the All-Star Break.

Littrell, 22, is in his first full professional season after being selected in the fifth round in 2013 and thereafter posting a 1.74 ERA in 12 games with Short-A Lowell. In 2014, he’s 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 29 strikeouts, and 10 walks in 27.2 innings with Salem. The polished lefty has a mix of four solid-average pitches. His fastball now sits in the 88-92 mph range, after topping out in the mid-90s in college. He could move quickly through the system, especially if his velocity returns to previous levels.

ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERS

As of May 1 (cumulative stats, minor league only, min. 75 plate appearances or 20 innings pitched for non-counting stats)

AVG
1. Mookie Betts, .430
2. Brock Holt, .358
3. Carlos Asuaje, .352

OPS
1. Mookie Betts, 1.169
2. Carlos Asuaje, 1.083
3. Kevin Heller, 1.012

HR
1(t). Mookie Betts, 4
1(t). Bryce Brentz, 4
1(t). Travis Shaw, 4
1(t). Kevin Mager, 4

SB
1. Mookie Betts, 10
2. Manuel Margot, 7
3(t). Ryan Dent, 5
3(t). Shannon Wilkerson, 5
3(t), Matty Johnson, 5

ERA
1. Cody Kukuk, 1.88
2. Rubby De La Rosa, 2.28
3. Keith Couch, 2.48

Strikeouts/9 IP
1. Brian Johnson, 11.57
2. Cody Kukuk, 10.88
3. Mickey Pena, 10.32

Walks/9 IP
1. Keith Couch, 1.55
2. Mike McCarthy, 1.74
3. Mike Augliera, 1.88

Saves
1(t). Drake Britton, 2
1(t). Alex Wilson, 2
1(t). Jose Valdez, 2
1(t). Joe Gunkel, 2
1(t). Jonatahn Aro, 2

PLAYER MOVEMENT

Two players got the call to Boston from the minor leagues in April: IF Brock Holt and RHP Alex Wilson. Meanwhile, Holt, Wilson, Workman, IF Ryan Roberts, and OF Daniel Nava were all sent down to Pawtucket from Boston over the course of the month.

Three major-leaguers had rehab assignments in April: Craig Breslow, Shane Victorino, and Will Middlebrooks.

Minor-leaguers who received promotions included RHP Pat Light from Greenville to Salem and Ball from extended spring training to Greenville.

Mike Andrews is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SoxProspects.com and a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

SoxProspects: Barnes solid in first start

April, 27, 2014
Apr 27
3:00
PM ET
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Friday night marked Matt Barnes’ first start of the season, but outside of a couple of hiccups and an abbreviated pitch count, you would hardly know it based on the five strong innings the right-hander put together.

“He had fastball command tonight, he had a feel for a breaking ball, and threw a couple good changeups,” Pawtucket Red Sox manager Kevin Boles said following the start. “He attacked the zone. I thought it was very impressive for his first time out.”

Barnes is currently the eighth-ranked prospect on SoxProspects.com, coming off a solid 2013 season spent mostly in Portland in which he struck out 142 batters in 113 1/3 innings with a 4.13 ERA. The 6-foot-4 UConn alum owed the delayed start to his season this year to a sore shoulder. Any mention of a shoulder injury for pitchers usually will raise red flags, but in this case, Barnes described it as minor.

“It was just a little tenderness,” Barnes said. “It was early in the season, just kind of wanted to be cautious with it. But I feel really good now.”

[+] EnlargeBarnes
AP Photo/Ken BabbittThe start of Matt Barnes' 2014 season was delayed by a minor shoulder issue, but he showed no ill effects.
“I think the good thing is, normally, when guys are coming back off of injuries or having setbacks, the command’s usually the last thing to come,” Boles said. “But we saw some really good signs tonight and he attacked the zone. I thought the tempo was good, the pace of his delivery was good.”

The results reflected Boles’ observations, as Barnes picked up the win, allowing one earned run on six hits over five innings to go along with a pair of walks and strikeouts. Perhaps the only real trouble he ran into was when he gave up back-to-back hits to lead off the fifth inning, putting men on second and third with no outs. After those two hits, he was at 74 pitches, and with a target pitch count of around 75 coming in, it looked like it could be an opportune time to take Barnes out of the game.

In the manager’s eyes though, it was instead an opportune time for Barnes to grow as a pitcher.

“We want guys to try to work out of jams,” Boles said. “Obviously, we’re going to go within reason with the pitch count, so we did that. He had a few pitches left to go and we gave him a chance to finish that fifth inning and he sure pulled it through.”

That he did, as he needed just seven more pitches to retire the next three batters in order, including a sacrifice fly that drove in the only earned run he allowed on the day.

In the outing he featured his best pitch, the fastball, especially in the first two innings. The heater sat around 91-94 mph on the McCoy Stadium radar gun -- a range confirmed by scouts behind home -- and touched 97 once in the fourth inning. Although the McCoy Stadium gun sometimes adds a mile per hour or so, it was encouraging for Barnes to hold his velocity and even max out late in the start.

“I make a living off my fastball and being able to locate the fastball,” the 23-year-old said. “Everything else kind of comes off of that, so especially first time out there, I definitely want to get ahead with that and establish it.”

Boles endorsed the fastball-heavy approach for Barnes as well.

“Absolutely, it’s his best pitch, the fastball,” he said. “I don’t know what the velocity was, but it looked like it was coming out of his hand pretty good. Establishing fastball command, working ahead in the count: That’s what we’re looking for. He’s not a guy that’s going to pitch backward. You know what you have -- guys know when they step up to the plate that he’s going to be aggressive with his fastball.”

While relying on the heater, as the outing progressed Barnes mixed in his two secondary pitches, a curveball and a changeup. Particularly in the third inning, he seemed to make an effort to feature them more, throwing three secondaries out of the four pitches to the first batter in the inning, striking him out swinging on a 77-mph curveball. The changeup sat around 83-85 mph and was the more consistent pitch for him in the outing. It’s a pitch that he feels has developed well for him recently.

“I thought the changeup was really good,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of been my staple secondary pitch for the last season and a half, or last season. I thought the curveball has been a little inconsistent, so it was nice to have that changeup that I could go to as a secondary I could count on.”

Though he flashed a few plus curveballs in the game, the offering can come and go for him at times. The mildly cold weather probably did not help with gripping the ball, but the Connecticut native said he actually prefers such conditions to pitching in the heat, having pitched in New England his whole life. True to that, the weather did not prevent Barnes from snapping off a few nice benders in the 75-77 mph range.

“The curveball was kind of hit or miss for me tonight,” he said. “Some of them were really good, some of them I kind of lagged behind on and left high arm-side. It’s a work in progress -- it always is. It’s the first one out back in a real competitive atmosphere in a while, so I was happy with it.”

Glad to be out of extended spring training in Fort Myers -- he admitted that getting motivated to pitch in a 10 a.m. game on the back fields was a challenge at times -- Barnes is happy to be in a competitive environment again. Though just one step away from the major leagues, he is well aware of the heavy competition he faces among his peers in Pawtucket’s all-prospect rotation, which also includes Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster and Brandon Workman. All Barnes can do is continue to pitch like he did Friday night and hope that will put him in position to be called upon should the major league club need a starter.

Matt Huegel is managing editor for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegelSP.

McMillon moves up to manage Sea Dogs

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
11:00
AM ET
PORTLAND, Maine -- With the sun setting and the temperatures dropping last Thursday evening, a bundled up Billy McMillon hopped out of the dugout and jogged to home plate as the public address announcer called his name and the half-filled crowd at Hadlock Field stomped their collective feet. It was Opening Day for Double-A Portland, and for the first time in 19 years, McMillon suited up as a Sea Dog.

[+] EnlargeBilly McMillon
Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesBilly McMillon managed the Class High-A Salem Red Sox in 2012 and 2013 before jumping up to the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs this season.
The first time McMillon donned the Portland jersey was way back in 1995 -- when Bill Clinton was in the middle of his first term, America Online was gearing up to offer World Wide Web access to the general public, and many of this year's high school draft picks to-be were born. McMillon was a 23-year-old outfielder making his way up the Florida Marlins farm system.

Two decades later, McMillon is now the first-year manager of the Sea Dogs. He spent the last two seasons with High A Salem, the two before that with Low A Greenville. After he guided Salem to the Carolina League championship to cap off 2013, the Red Sox bumped him up to Portland.

Just like his players, McMillon is trying to climb the ladder to the major leagues. It isn't quite the same the second time around.

"It's way different," said the 42-year-old McMillon, who played parts of six major league seasons with the Marlins, Phillies, Tigers, and Athletics and retired after the 2004 season. "There are 12 position players on the team. There's one manager. I think you have to be a little more lucky and fortunate on the side that I'm on now. I think it's a lot easier to get there as a player than as a coach or manager."

McMillon doesn't remember a ton from his first stay in Portland. It was one of his five minor league stops in five years, and although the difficulty of Eastern League travel is starting to come back to him -- an eight-hour bus trip from Trenton to Maine that got the Sea Dogs home at 7 a.m. last week helped with that -- McMillon can't readily recall too many specifics.

Part of that, McMillon acknowledged, is maturity. He was a kid by comparison at the time, and he didn't completely appreciate a life in baseball. That 1995 Sea Dogs squad had a number of future major leaguers on it, including catcher Mike Redmond and an 18-year-old Edgar Renteria, but it wasn't until the end of McMillon's playing days that he started to keep mementos -- some physical, some mental -- to remember the good ol' days.

"It didn't dawn on me that some of the friendships that I had, some of the games might've been special enough to put some special emphasis on," McMillon said.

That's different now. When Salem won the title last September, McMillon kept a bat signed by the team and a photo of the celebration. When top pitching prospect Henry Owens threw a six-inning no-hitter Opening Day -- McMillon's 300th managerial win, he was told -- he kept one of the balls Owens threw.

McMillon's mission is the same as it was two decades ago -- ascend to the majors -- but the measures by which one earns a promotion couldn't be more different. The standards are far more intangible for a managerial or coaching prospect.

Further complicating McMillon's goal is the increasingly less linear path to a major league bench. In his coaching career, Redmond, for example, jumped straight to the Marlins bench to manage from leading a High A team, while Robin Ventura (White Sox) and Mike Matheny (Cardinals) are two examples of former players getting major league managing gigs straight out of retirement.

[+] EnlargeBilly McMillon
Brad Mangin/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesBilly McMillon finished his big league playing career with the Oakland A's.
For McMillon and others who have followed a more deliberate path -- like Arnie Beyeler, Torey Lovullo, and Kevin Boles in the Sox organization -- it can be frustrating.

"I don't know what the formula is," McMillon said. "I just know that as I go about my job responsibilities here I just have to make sure I do the best I can. Hopefully somebody takes a liking to me, or notices me, or I prove to them that I can be an asset."

When an organization is considering moving a player prospect up a level, it looks for certain indications he is ready -- maybe a consistent plate approach, for example, or improved footwork defensively. When it comes to evaluating coaches, it's not as clear-cut.

"There's some nuance that goes into coaching and managing at different levels," said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. "Certainly in this case Billy proved his ability to handle the lower levels and did a good job in Salem last year with a nice mix of younger and older players."

Some of those players joined McMillon in making the jump from Salem to Portland. Owens, catcher Blake Swihart, and second baseman Mookie Betts were all, at times, part of Salem's success in 2013 and are now playing for McMillon again in Portland.

That mirrors the transition for Kevin Boles, who is with Triple-A Pawtucket this year after managing Portland in 2013. Third baseman Garin Cecchini, righty Anthony Ranaudo, and catcher Christian Vazquez are among those Boles is guiding for the second year in a row.

The organization sees some value in that from a player-development standpoint.

"It gives the ultimate consistency in terms of teaching from one year to the next, which is certainly a positive," Crockett said. "When that doesn't happen, you get a new, fresh perspective, build new relationships, things like that. But I think on the whole it's definitely a positive, and obviously Billy had a lot of success with a number of players on this roster."

Added Swihart: "We know what he wants, what he expects every day, so it's easier to go out and have fun and play."

Tim Healey is a feature writer for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.

Sox minor league rosters set

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
5:06
PM ET
The Red Sox full-season minor league affiliate rosters were announced on Tuesday. Here’s a look at the rosters for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, High-A Salem Red Sox, and Low-A Greenville Drive.

All four teams open their respective seasons on Thursday, April 3.

SoxProspects.com ranking in parentheses

PAWTUCKET
Pitchers: Allen Webster (6), Anthony Ranaudo (7), Drake Britton (11), Dalier Hinojosa (25), Alex Wilson (31), Rubby De La Rosa (N/E), Brayan Villarreal (N/E), Rich Hill (N/E), Chris Resop (N/E), Chris Hernandez, Tommy Layne, Jeremy Kehrt
Catchers: Christian Vazquez (13), Dan Butler (26), Ryan Lavarnway (N/E)
Infield: Garin Cecchini (4), Heiker Meneses (60), Brock Holt (N/E), Brandon Snyder (N/E), Mike McCoy (N/E)
Outfield: Bryce Brentz (17), Alex Hassan (24), Corey Brown, Justin Henry, Peter Hissey
Disabled List: Matt Barnes (8), John Ely (N/E)

PORTLAND
Pitchers: Henry Owens (3), Noe Ramirez (27), Mickey Pena (43), Miguel Celestino (44), Keith Couch (45), Mike Augliera, Wilfredo Boscan, Michael Olmsted, Nate Reed, Robby Scott, Mike McCarthy, Matty Ott, Jose Valdez (N/E)
Catchers: Blake Swihart (5), Matt Spring, Michael Brenly
Infield: Mookie Betts (10), Deven Marrero (16), Sean Coyle (23), Travis Shaw (42), Carlos Rivero, Stefan Welch, Derrik Gibson
Outfield: Henry Ramos (32), Shannon Wilkerson, Bo Greenwell
Disabled List: Keury De La Cruz (33), Aaron Kurcz, Pete Ruiz

SALEM
Pitchers: Brian Johnson (2), Simon Mercedes (22), Corey Littrell (28), Luis Diaz (34), Kyle Martin (46), Kyle Stroup (48), Justin Haley (51), William Cuevas, Madison Younginer, Austin Maddox, Kyle Kraus, Dayan Diaz
Catchers: Carson Blair, Jayson Hernandez, Leonel Escobar
Infield: David Chester (47), Reed Gragnani, Mario Martinez, Jose Vinicio, Ryan Dent, Dreily Guerrero, Matt Gedman
Outfield: Jonathan Roof, Matty Johnson, Aneury Tavarez, Kevin Heller
Disabled List: Matt Price (49), Heri Quevedo (50), Bryan Johns

GREENVILLE
Pitchers: Teddy Stankiewicz (15), Jamie Callahan (21), Cody Kukuk (29), Myles Smith (30), Pat Light (35), Joe Gunkel (37), Sergio Gomez (52), Jonathan Aro (53), Mike Adams, Mario Alcantara, Jake Dahlstrand, Raynel Velette
Catchers: Jordan Weems, Jake Romanski, Carlos Coste
Infield: Tim Roberson, Wendell Rijo (19), Tzu-Wei Lin (36), Carlos Asuaje, Jimmy Rider, Jantzen Witte, Kevin Mager , Mike Miller
Outfield: Manuel Margot (14), Jesus Loya, Aaron King, Zach Kapstein
Disabled List: Jason Garcia

N/E = Not eligible to be ranked as a prospect

SoxProspects: Ball getting his feet wet

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30
3:43
PM ET
Under director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye, the Red Sox have shown an aversion to taking high-school pitchers with their top picks. Instead, steadier, more proven college arms have been the team’s preference over the last several years.

That trend was broken in 2013 when the Red Sox, picking seventh for their highest selection since 1993, chose Indiana prep left-hander Trey Ball. In his first spring training, Ball showed the raw skills and athleticism to warrant such a pick, but also exhibited just how large the gulf is between a projectable high-school arm and an early-round college pitcher coming out of the draft.

“He’s working on his mechanics and delivery, and learning how to pitch,” said Lowell pitching coach Walter Miranda, who oversaw Ball’s start Saturday against the Twins’ Class A team. “He’s only 19 years old, he’s trying to learn how to pitch and that’s why he’s here. When he learns how to control his body and repeat his delivery, he’s going to have better control and better command.”

In that start, Ball’s third of the spring, fastball command proved to be his undoing. Ball gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings and was susceptible to hard contact when his fastball did catch the plate. At times in the start, Ball’s arm dragged, and he had trouble finding a steady release point. He also showed an unwillingness to pitch inside to right-handed batters, which allowed righties to stay back on his fastball and slap it down the right-field line on numerous occasions.

Ball’s fastball sat 90-92 mph and topped out at 93 in the first inning, then settled in around 88-90 mph as the start wore on. He also featured a two-seam fastball at 86-88 mph, a low-80s changeup and a low-to-mid 70s curveball. He said he felt his changeup was off in Saturday’s start; he had shown better feel for the pitch in earlier outings.

However, Ball said he knows the key to success is commanding his fastball, which will allow him to set up his other pitches.

“Like you saw today, the first couple innings it was fastball-heavy, getting ahead of hitters,” Ball said. “It’s your go-to pitch every time you’re out there. Your off-speed is to keep them off balance and to strike hitters out.”

Ball, who signed for $2.75 million as the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft, has been brought along slowly. He threw just seven innings in five starts last summer in the Gulf Coast League and also threw in the Fall Instructional League in Fort Myers.

In each of his three spring starts, including Saturday’s against the Twins, Ball has pitched deeper into games. Saturday, Ball pitched into the fourth inning before he was lifted for right-hander Mario Alcantara.

“I’m going out there and getting my arm ready for the season,” Ball said.

Such a cautious approach is nothing new for the Red Sox. When the signing date for draftees was in mid-August, even the most highly-touted college pitcher began the following year in Low A to get used to a five-day pitching schedule at a lower competition level than their skills would otherwise dictate.

For some, such as Matt Barnes (19th overall, 2011) and Anthony Ranaudo (39th overall, 2010), their stays in Greenville were short-lived. Others, such as Brian Johnson and Pat Light, had longer stays.

Few precedents exist, however, for high-round high school pitchers under the current Red Sox brass. Cody Kukuk, selected in the seventh round in 2011, remained in the Gulf Coast League in 2012 after he faced disciplinary issues that spring. Jamie Callahan, a 2012 second-round pick, and Ty Buttrey, a fourth-round pick that year, each spent the 2013 campaign in Lowell after developing for the first half of the year in extended spring training.

The only likely precedent, in terms of opening-day assignment, is fellow tall left-hander Henry Owens. Owens, selected 36th overall in 2011 out of Edison High School, began his first full season in 2012 with Greenville, and had a similar edict as Ball likely will.

At that stage, Owens had a projectable frame and the raw abilities to succeed, but needed to refine his delivery and take control of his long limbs in order to produce consistent success. The same can be said for Ball, though at first glance Ball appears to have more lean muscle and slightly more athleticism.

Still, the comparison can be unfair either way, given Ball was a two-way player in high school who likely would have been a first-round talent as an outfielder as well.

“Coming in as a two-way guy through high school, I was always concentrating on both hitting and pitching,” Ball said. “Now, I’m pitching full time and trying to concentrate on that.”

For an athletic, moldable talent such as Ball, that focus likely will be a benefit in his debut campaign this year.

Jon Meoli is a senior columnist for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMeoli.

SoxProspects: Bradley highlights OF depth

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
3:33
PM ET
Editor's note: This is the fifth of a five-part series on depth in the Red Sox farm system.

The depth of outfield prospects in the Red Sox system is highlighted by Jackie Bradley Jr., 19-year-old Dominican prospect Manuel Margot, and power-hitting right fielder Bryce Brentz -- all solid prospects. Beyond that, most of the outfielders in the system profile as role players or borderline major leaguers.

POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE STARTERS

[+] EnlargeBradley Jr
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJackie Bradley Jr. didn't make the Opening Day roster, but it's only a matter of time before he dives back into big league action.
CF Jackie Bradley, 23, is still an outstanding prospect, but some of the shimmer has worn off since this time last year, at which point he forced his way onto the major league roster with a monstrous spring. He ended up being overmatched during his short time at the major league level in 2013, but ultimately went on to hit a respectable .275/.374/.469 for Triple-A Pawtucket. He pairs a solid offensive approach with spectacular defensive skills, and should ultimately prove to be an adequate everyday center fielder for a first-division club. However, he’s also struggled at the plate this spring. Normally, that would mean next-to-nothing, but Bradley was vying for a roster spot and was among the only players on the bubble with options, which is one of the reasons he’s starting the season in back in Pawtucket. But his stay in the minors should not be long this time around.

CF Manuel Margot was signed for an $800,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic in July 2011. He spent 2012 in the rookie-level Dominican Summer League, where he hit .285/.382/.423 and stole 33 bases in 68 games, and then in 2013 he hit .270/.346/.351 with 18 stolen bases for Short-A Lowell. Margot is an impressive athlete with elite speed, strong instincts, an above-average bat, average power potential, plus defensive skills, and a slightly below-average arm. He also carries himself with the swagger of a top prospect. Margot should stick in center field over the long-term, and has the potential to develop into a leadoff hitter for a playoff team, but he has several years of development left to get there. He’ll need to work on improving his pitch recognition this season, where he’ll likely start at Low-A Greenville.

RF Bryce Brentz, 25, hit .264/.312/.475 with 17 home runs for Pawtucket in 2013. This followed having his invitation to 2013 major league camp rescinded after he accidentally shot himself in the leg. He's a below-average contact hitter with plus power and an overly aggressive approach. If given the opportunity to play in the majors for a full season, Brentz might hit 20-plus home runs, but he'd also likely strike out 150-plus times. On defense, he has a plus arm, a solid glove, and decent fundamentals. He's shown flashes of makeup issues over his minor league career. His overall his ceiling is that of an everyday right fielder and a No. 6 hitter for a second-division team. He should spend most of 2014 with Pawtucket, working on toning down his plate approach. That was the same exact spot he was in last year at this time, although he has had an impressive spring this year. Brentz would probably get a look if Shane Victorino ever missed extended time.

POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE ROLE PLAYERS

LF/RF Alex Hassan, 25, was selected in the 20th round in 2009. A local product out of Milton, Mass., he has a big frame, an average hit tool, an above-average approach, slightly below-average power, and fringe-average defense. However, he is versatile in that he can play left field, right field, and first base adequately, if not spectacularly. After recovering from an injury, Hassan played 55 games with Pawtucket in 2013, hitting .321/.431/.460. He’ll be back with Pawtucket in 2014, and given that he’s already on the 40-man roster, he’ll be an option for a major league promotion at some point. However, for the time being, he’s behind Bradley and Brentz on the depth chart.

CF/RF Henry Ramos, 21, was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 draft out of Puerto Rico. He spent the 2013 season in High-A Salem, posting a line of .252/.330/.416 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Ramos is a switch hitter with an athletic frame, a raw-but-developing approach, solid power potential, slightly above-average speed, a strong arm, and good makeup. He’s a breakout candidate for 2014, but will need to focus on being more selective against advanced pitching and getting better reads in the outfield. Ramos will likely start the season in Portland. Given that he should be capable of playing all three outfield positions over the long-term, his versatility may improve his chances of earning a bench slot in the majors.

Keury De La Cruz, 22, is a free swinger at the plate. After posting an impressive .307/.350/.533 line with Low-A Greenville and Salem in 2012, he came back to earth in 2013, hitting .258/.297/.398 with Salem. He’s likely due for a promotion to Portland this season, where his overly aggressive approach will be seriously tested and he'll need to continue to make significant adjustments. Beyond approach, he has the tools to develop into a fringe-average major league hitter. The former Red Sox Latin Program Player of the Year has the makings of an average defender, but it's worth noting that he was moved from center field to corner outfield in 2012, which diminishes his value. While the tools are there, without adjustments to his approach, De La Cruz is a borderline major leaguer at this point. He’s expected to begin the season with Ramos in the Portland outfield.

Others to watch: CF Corey Brown, 28, has limited major league experience in each of the last three seasons with the Nationals, and is capable of playing all three outfield positions; LF Bo Greenwell, the son of former Red Sox OF Mike Greenwell, should be in Salem’s outfield mix to start the season; Bryan Hudson, Jordon Austin, and Joseph Monge, all 2013 draft picks, will likely be Short-A Lowell’s starting outfield when the Spinners’ season begins on June 13.

SPONSORED HEADLINES