SoxProspects: Bonus babies pan out

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
7:53
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[+] EnlargeJose Iglesias
Kim Klement/US PresswireThe Red Sox know what they have in Jose Iglesias' glove, but they're anxious to see whether his bat more closely resembles that of Omar Vizquel or Rey Ordonez.
It’s no secret the John Henry ownership group has had its share of hits and misses when it comes to long-term major league contracts, whether free-agent acquisitions or re-signing of homegrown Red Sox players to extended deals. The same has been true with high-profile signings in the amateur and international markets -- there have been some great acquisitions that have paid dividends for years, and others that didn’t live up to the hype. The current ownership group has given signings bonuses of $1 million or more to 25 different amateur or international players since December 2001, all of which are listed below by bonus amount. Decide for yourself, but it seems to me that the front office has had a better rate of success with “bonus babies” than it has with major league deals.

1. SS Jose Iglesias, $6,250,000 in September 2009. Currently playing for Triple-A Pawtucket, Iglesias has been tabbed as Boston’s shortstop of the future, and could take over the role as early as midseason. While his defense is remarkable, questions still remain as to whether he can be better than a .235 hitter at the major league level.

2. RHP Casey Kelly, $3,000,000 in July 2008. Kelly impressed in two seasons as a pitcher in the Red Sox system and was sent to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. Through two starts with Triple-A Tucson this year, Kelly has posted a 2.25 ERA and a 14/0 K/BB ratio in 12 innings, but he’s currently on the disabled list. He projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Padres.

3. RHP Anthony Ranaudo, $2,550,000 in August 2010. Ranaudo went 9-6 with a 3.97 ERA for High-A Salem and Low-A Greenville in 2011. His 2012 debut has been delayed due to a groin strain, and he’s currently in extended spring training with the hopes of joining Double-A Portland in mid-May. Ranaudo projects as a starter for a first-division team.

4. C Blake Swihart, $2,500,000 in August 2011. One of Boston’s first round picks from the 2011 draft, Swihart has lots of raw potential. He’s presently catching for Greenville, hitting .214/.297/.339.

5. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, $2,000,000 in December 2006. The signing bonus was just a pittance of the money the front office shelled out to sign Matsuzaka, which also included a $52 million major league deal and a $51.1 million posting fee. The 31-year-old right-hander started a rehab assignment with Salem on April 23, and is slated to re-join the big club within a month.

[+] EnlargeDaisuke Matsuzaka
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireDaisuke Matsuzaka was by far the most expensive "rookie" ever signed by the Red Sox.
6. OF Ryan Westmoreland, $2,000,000 in August 2008. Westmoreland was considered one of the top prospects in the system when a cavernous malformation was discovered on his brain stem in March 2010. He’s been rehabbing from the surgery for the last two years, and is currently in extended spring training. He may be able to get back into game action by season’s end.

7. SS Jose Vinicio, $1,950,000 in July 2009. Signed on his 16th birthday, Vinicio is still just 18 and shows lots of promise, particularly if he can add some size and strength. He’s currently hitting .256/.360/.419 for Greenville.

8. RHP Junichi Tazawa, $1,800,000 in December 2008. Tazawa has impressed in 2 appearances with Boston and 4 appearances with Pawtucket so far this year. He profiles as a reliable middle-inning reliever, and could possibly develop into a late-inning setup man.

9. LHP Mike Rozier, $1,575,000 in August 2004. Boston gave Rozier one of the club’s largest bonuses ever at the time to sign him away from his football scholarship to North Carolina. He struggled with weight issues early in his career and his fastball inexplicably dropped from low 90s to low 80s over his tenure in the Red Sox system. He posted a career 5.23 ERA and was released in March 2009.

10. RHP Daniel Bard, $1,550,000 in August 2006. Though he struggled in his first year in the minors, Bard developed into an elite setup man. He still has the potential to develop into a very good starter or elite closer. Put this one solidly in the win column for the front office.

11. RHP Henry Owens, $1,550,000 in August 2011. A supplemental first round pick in 2011, Owens is now in Greenville’s starting rotation at the age of 19. The 6-foot-7 lefty has been able to miss a lot of bats in the very early stages of his career, but he needs to work on improving his stamina.

12. OF David Murphy, $1,525,000 in June 2003. A former first-round pick, Murphy was shipped to Texas as part of the infamous Eric Gagne deal. He’s been a solid and reliable 3rd/4th outfielder for the Rangers since 2007.

[+] EnlargeDavid Murphy
Jim Cowsert/US PresswireFormer Sox first-rounder David Murphy has been a solid pro for the Rangers.
13. RHP Matt Barnes, $1,500,000 in August 2011. The 2011 first-round pick is off to a blistering start to his professional career in Greenville this season, posting a 0.00 ERA and striking out 34 in his first 21 innings. He projects as a 3rd starter at this point; his ceiling may be even higher, but he’s still a couple years away from the majors.

14. 3B Michael Almanzar, $1,500,000 in July 2007. A Dominican third baseman with outstanding tools, Almanzar has been a disappointment, primarily due to motivation, discipline and maturity issues. He’s now in his fifth season in A-ball. That being said, he’s off to a respectable start with Salem this year, hitting .318/.348/.477.

15. 3B David Renfroe, $1,500,000 in August 2009. Renfroe was a highly regarded football and baseball player out of high school, so a big bonus was required to sign him away from his commitment to the University of Mississippi. He was unimpressive in his first two seasons with short-season Lowell and Greenville. He’s repeating Low-A in 2012, hitting .240/.321/520 early on.

16. OF Jacoby Ellsbury, $1,400,000 in July 2005. Ellsbury is an impact regular who finished second in the American League MVP balloting in 2011. Another great acquisition by the Red Sox.

17. RHP Craig Hansen, $1,330,000 in July 2005. Regarded as big-league-ready out of college, Hansen was rushed to the majors, had little success, and was eventually included as a secondary chip in the Manny Ramirez trade. He was forced to retire in 2011 due to a rare nerve condition.

18. 3B Garin Cecchini, $1,310,000 in August 2010. Boston’s 4th-round pick in 2010, Cecchini is now playing with Greenville, hitting .246/.333/.311. He has the potential to develop into an impact major leaguer, but still requires 3-4 years of development time.

19. 2B Sean Coyle, $1,300,000 in August 2010. Coyle was Boston’s 3rd-round pick in 2010, a round before Cecchini. He’s hitting .246/.310/.400 for Salem, and has similar potential to develop into an impact big leaguer.

20. OF Jason Place, $1,300,000 in June 2006. The Red Sox selected Place with the 27th overall pick of the 2006 draft, one selection before Daniel Bard. A toolsy center fielder, Place went on to post a .230 career batting average and never made it past Double-A. Boston released Place in March 2011 and he subsequently signed with the Yankees. He played 27 games in the Yankees’ system, hitting .178, before he was released in June 2011.

21. OF Reymond Fuentes, $1,134,000 in July 2009. Boston picked Fuentes, a speedy and athletic center fielder out of Puerto Rico, in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. He was solid but unspectacular in two seasons in the Boston system, and was then sent to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. Fuentes is presently hitting .246/.317/.404 with Double-A San Antonio.

22. OF Jackie Bradley, Jr., $1,100,000 in August 2011. An elite defensive center fielder, Bradley is currently playing with Salem, hitting .315/.438/.407. He could be in Boston’s outfield mix at some point in 2014, perhaps as an impact regular.

23. OF Matt Murton, $1,010,000 in July 2003. Murton was sent to the Cubs as part of the Nomar Garciaparra deal in 2004. He spent five seasons in the majors, primarily as a taxi-squad-type player. He’s played the last three seasons in Japan, where he has actually performed quite well.

24. OF Peter Hissey, $1,000,000 in August 2008. Hissey has hit just .249 since joining the organization in 2008, playing mostly above his age level. He looked as if he made some impressive developmental strides this spring, but he broke his hand early in the season and will be out of action until mid-June. He has the potential to develop into a 4th/5th outfielder at the major league level.

25. LHP Jon Lester, $1,000,000 in August 2002. His early season struggles notwithstanding, Lester has developed into a borderline-elite to elite pitcher. Another obvious check in the plus column for Boston.

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