Now that we’re three months into the season, Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Kalish have graduated from prospect status, and Boston has signed its top 12 draft picks of 2012, it’s about time to take a fresh look at the top 10 prospects in the Red Sox system. While the system may not be as strong in terms of depth as it once was, there are several high-caliber prospects in the top 10 -- a few of whom are on the cusp of reaching blue-chip status.
1. Matt Barnes (22)
RHP, High-A Salem
How acquired: Drafted in the 1st round, 2011. $1,500,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: 7-1, 1.86 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 98 strikeouts, 15 walks in 77.1 innings with Salem and Low-A Greenville
Scouting Report: With the 19th overall pick in the 2011 draft -- the club’s highest pick since 2003 -- the Red Sox selected Matt Barnes out of the University of Connecticut. Considered a potential top 10 pick after an excellent summer in 2010 with Team USA, his stock fell due to the impressive pitching depth in the 2011 draft class. A large right-hander with a very projectable body, Barnes features a plus fastball that sits at 93-95 mph and tops out at 98 mph. His command and control, which were identified as developmental areas coming into the season, have been quite solid in 2012. His mid-70s curveball is his best secondary pitch, grading out as solid-average with plus potential. He also mixes in an average mid-80s changeup. His secondary pitches still need refinement, and he may need to re-incorporate a fourth pitch, such as a slider or a cutter, if he wants to develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. That being said, he’s having a phenomenal season and profiling as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter at this point.
Projection: No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
Ceiling: No. 1 or No. 2 starter.
2012 coverage: Barnes on the move
2. Xander Bogaerts (19)
How acquired: Signed as an international free agent out of Aruba in August 2009. $410,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .292/.369/.494 with 12 home runs
Scouting Report: Bogaerts could easily be ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the system right now, and very well may be by season’s end. Despite the fact he’s generally playing against competition three years his senior in the Carolina League, the Aruban shortstop has shown an improved plate approach while maintaining impressive power production. Bogaerts has an athletic frame with a lean body type, and couples those attributes with a high baseball IQ and maturity beyond his years. On offense, his smooth, fluid swing generates a lot of lift on the ball, and he’s able to hit to all fields. The 19-year-old has strong and explosive hands with good separation during his hitting stride. The ball really just explodes off his bat, leading to projections that he’ll be an above-average-to-better power hitter with high home-run and run-producing potential. In terms of areas of improvement, Bogaerts still has fringe-average present pitch recognition and strike-zone judgment, and he may struggle with off-speed pitches as he climbs the organizational ladder, but that should continue to improve as he tones down the aggressiveness of his approach. On defense, he has a slightly above-average arm with short action, solid range, and rough footwork. With more experience, he should be able to slow his game down defensively and resist the need to rush plays. As he continues to grow, he projects to move off position and is likely to end up at either third base or left field.
Projection: Still a couple years away, making it difficult to project. He could become an elite third baseman or left fielder, but he’s a boom-or-bust type that could also never make it to the majors. At this point, the projection is much closer to the former.
Ceiling: Highest ceiling in the organization -- franchise player potential.
2012 coverage: Bogaerts opening eyes
3. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (22)
OF, Double-A Portland
How acquired: Drafted in the supplemental 1st round, 2011. $1,100,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .358/.475/.525 with 3 home runs and 18 stolen bases for Portland and Salem
Scouting Report: At one point considered a mid-to-high first-round pick, Bradley fell to the supplemental round in 2011 due to a poor statistical start followed by a tendon injury in his left wrist that ended his season. Hitting from an open stance, he closes down well on pitch approach to keep himself balanced. Overall, Bradley is a well-above-average contact hitter with quick hands, fluid mechanics, an upward swing plane, solid bat control, and a disciplined approach. However, he can overextend on occasion and struggle with balls on the inner third of the plate. Bradley’s power projection is average at this point, but it’s possible he fills out and adds more strength. His speed is also about a tick above-average, but he’s a smart runner on the base paths and should steal some bases. On defense, he’s already a very polished outfielder who projects to stay in center field over the long haul. He has shown strong instincts, solid range, a plus arm, and a reliable glove. Overall, Bradley is looking like a candidate to replace Jacoby Ellsbury if he leaves via free agency after the 2013 season.
Projection: Major league regular for a first-division squad.
Ceiling: All-Star center fielder.
2012 Coverage: The Book on Jackie Bradley, Jr.
4. Jose Iglesias (22)
SS, Triple-A Pawtucket
How acquired: Signed as an international free agent out of Cuba in September 2009. $6,000,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .260/.306/.305 with 1 home run, 8 stolen bases
Scouting Report: Iglesias has elite defensive skills highlighted by extremely fluid hands and a soft glove. He also shows excellent instincts and anticipation, resulting in well-above-average range. At 22, he already gets to ground balls in the hole that most major-league shortstops would not have the range to field. With his plus, accurate arm, Iglesias is adept at throwing on the move and has outstanding body control, resulting in a lot of spectacular plays. He’s a future perennial Gold Glove shortstop that grades as an "80" defensively. On offense, he projects as a No. 9 hitter in a first-division team's lineup, with the ceiling of a No. 2 hitter as he approaches his late-20s. While he has plus bat speed, a smooth swing, extremely quick wrists, and has made positive advancements in 2012, he’s still an impatient hitter who tends to be overly aggressive at the plate. He also has minimal power projection, but could evolve into a doubles hitter at Fenway as he matures. He shows above-average speed on the base paths. Due to his advanced defensive skills, Iglesias will most likely need to learn to hit at the major-league level and slowly ramp into becoming more proficient (and patient) at the plate over the course of his big-league career.
Projection: Long-term starter at shortstop, passable No. 9 hitter.
Ceiling: Perennial All-Star due to his Gold Glove defense, average contact hitter.
2012 Coverage: Iglesias coming on strong
5. Ryan Lavarnway (24)
How acquired: Drafted in the 6th round, 2008. $325,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .320/.405/.489 with 7 home runs
Scouting Report: Lavarnway has a high baseball IQ with a solid catcher's frame. He projects as an above-average hitter at the major-league level, making slightly above-average contact and possessing excellent plate discipline. Hitting from a slightly closed, crouched stance, he attacks mistake pitches, especially ones out and over the plate. He can drive the ball to all fields, incorporating his lower body into his swing well. However, he likes to get his arms extended, which leads to some struggles on the inside third. Lavarnway has demonstrated plus power during his time in the Red Sox system, and has the potential to hit 25-plus home runs a year at the major-league level. In terms of speed, he’s slow on the base paths, even for a catcher. Defensively, his skills are rough but he’s shown ample improvements since he joined the organization. He has limited range behind the dish, his reaction time can be slow, and his actions are generally stiff and rigid. However, he’s rounded out into an average ball blocker with decent catch-and-release mechanics. He has the potential to grow into an adequate defensive backstop, especially as he’s an extremely hard worker dedicated to his craft. While increasing his versatility would improve his chances to earn regular time at the major-league level, he may not have the athleticism to play first base or left field in the majors.
Projection: Major league average DH, platoon catcher.
Ceiling: Long-term, middle-of-the-order DH.
2012 Coverage: Lavarnway working hard to perfect defense
6. Bryce Brentz (23)
How acquired: Drafted in the supplemental 1st round, 2010. $889,200 bonus.
2012 Stats: .294/.361/.487 with 10 home runs
Scouting Report: A solid athlete with a developed body, Brentz struggled initially after entering the pro ranks in 2010, but he has since worked out some kinks in his swing and adjusted to life as a professional. He’s an aggressive power hitter with middle-of-the-order power potential. While he can get caught chasing breaking balls and elevated fastballs here and there, he’s still managed to post impressive power numbers over the past five seasons in the college and professional ranks. Brentz may not round out into a regular .300 hitter or a high-OBP guy, but he has 25-plus home run potential. On defense, he has a plus arm and the skills to profile as a slightly above-average right fielder at the major league level.
Projection: No. 3 or No. 4 outfielder.
Ceiling: Everyday right fielder, No. 5 hitter.
2012 Coverage: The Book on Bryce Brentz
7. Deven Marrero (21)
SS, short-season Lowell
How acquired: Drafted in the 1st round, 2012. $2,050,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .429/.455/.571 with 1 home run in 21 at-bats
Scouting Report: Marrero was projected as a top-five overall pick entering his junior season at Arizona State, but he had a subpar year from a statistical standpoint and some scouts labeled him with the ”lackadaisical” tag. Boston was happy to scoop him up at No. 24 overall. (Notice a pattern with Boston’s first-round picks?) He profiles as an everyday shortstop with plus all-around defense, but the scope of where his offense could go is quite broad -- anywhere from a fringe offensive player to a .300+ hitter with solid plate discipline and marginal home run power. Regardless of how his offense develops, his defense alone should carry him to the major leagues in some capacity.
Projection: Regular shortstop for a second-tier team.
Ceiling: All-Star shortstop.
2012 Coverage: Deven Marrero, SS of the future?
8. Blake Swihart (20)
How acquired: Drafted in the 1st round, 2011. $2,500,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .261/.307/.374 with 3 home runs
Scouting Report: Swihart is an athletic, switch-hitting catcher with a fluid swing from both sides of the plate. He profiles as an above-average contact hitter with plus bat speed and explosive hands. He’s still young, and needs work on his plate approach and pitch recognition. While he’s a bit undersized for a catcher and shows below-average present power, he has solid-to-average home-run power potential. On defense, he’s fluid and agile, and has excellent reflexes, a plus arm, and a smooth release. However, it’s unclear whether Swihart has the frame to endure the rigors of catching every day. That being said, he should have the athleticism and the bat to move to third base if necessary.
Projection: Very wide range -- for now, let’s say a contributor for a second-division team.
Ceiling: All-Star catcher.
2012 Coverage: 2012 Prospect Preview -- Blake Swihart
9. Garin Cecchini (21)
How acquired: Drafted in the 4th round, 2010. $1,310,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .299/.379/.425 with 3 home runs and 27 stolen bases.
Scouting Report: A tall, athletic third baseman with strong all-around tools, Cecchini has a sweet swing with outstanding bat speed. He shows a strong ability to hit the ball to all fields with gap power and improving plate discipline. He has above-average power potential with good speed and excellent instincts. On defense, he’s still a bit rough around the edges in terms of reactions and footwork, but he has a nice glove with a plus arm. He’s also a smart player with the ability to learn quickly and make proper adjustments.
Projection: Similarly wide range – second division contributor.
Ceiling: All-Star third baseman.
2012 Coverage: Cecchini showcases skills
10. Brandon Jacobs (21)
How acquired: Drafted in the supplemental 10th round, 2009. $750,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .272/.323/.426 with 6 home runs and 11 stolen bases.
Scouting Report: Prior to signing with the Red Sox, Jacobs was committed to playing football at Auburn, and thus focused his future more on football than baseball. Initially raw upon entering the organization, he has shown strong baseball acumen and a solid ability to incorporate adjustments. Jacobs has an impressive hitter’s frame, as his body has quickly evolved from that of a running back to that of an athletic outfielder. He has a fluid swing with plus bat speed that generates from his strong hands and lower-body torque. However, his swing is on the long side and he can hit out on his front foot too much. He’s put a lot of time into developing a disciplined plate approach, and he’s learning to be selective at the plate. Overall, Jacobs shows a real knack for getting the barrel of the bat on the ball, and has a high power ceiling. He also has solid-average speed, meaning he has the ceiling to become a 20/20 player during his peak years. Defensively, Jacobs is slightly below-average in the outfield, and projects to stay in left. He has an average arm with above-average range, but he struggles with making reads.
Projection: 4th outfielder, occasional starter.
Ceiling: Long-term starter in left field.
2012 Coverage: 2012 Prospect Preview -- Brandon Jacobs