SoxProspects: Top 10 strongest since '07


It’s hard to believe that we’re already at the halfway point of the 2013 minor league season. Now that Jose Iglesias has graduated from prospect status and Boston has officially signed 11 of its 2013 draft picks, it’s about time to take a fresh look at the top 10 prospects in the Red Sox system. The top levels of the system look stronger than they have since early 2007, when the farm included the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Jed Lowrie, David Murphy, George Kottaras and Brandon Moss. However, the lower levels of the system are a bit more thin than in recent years, likely due to the new draft and international signing bonus caps.

Here's a look at the top 10 prospects in the system at mid-season as ranked by SoxProspects.com:

1. Xander Bogaerts (20)

SS, Triple-A Pawtucket

How acquired: Signed as an international free agent out of Aruba in August 2009. $410,000 bonus.

2013 Stats: .302/.396/.488 with 7 home runs and 6 stolen bases for Pawtucket and Double-A Portland

Scouting Report: Bogaerts is now considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Despite the fact that he’s generally been playing against competition three to four years his senior in Double-A and Triple-A, the Aruban shortstop has shown an improved plate approach while maintaining decent 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 20-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. Bogaerts has also made strides in the areas of pitch recognition and strike-zone judgment, and is generally about average in those areas at this point. On defense, he has a slightly above-average arm with short action, solid range, and fringe-average footwork. He’s been able to slow down his game at shortstop, and it looks like he may have the ability to stick there for the short term. However, it still seems more likely than not that he may need to move to third base or left field over the long term. It’s been reported that he’ll be worked out at new positions in the second half.

Projection: All-Star third baseman

Ceiling: Franchise player

Floor: Average major league regular

2. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (23)

OF, Pawtucket

How acquired: Drafted in the supplemental first round, 2011. $1,100,000 bonus.

2013 Stats: .310/.412/.500 with 3 home runs and 3 stolen bases for Pawtucket.

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 an 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 slightly below-average at this point, but it’s possible he fills out and adds more strength. His speed is 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. Despite some struggles in short stints with the big club so far this season, Bradley looks like a strong candidate to replace Jacoby Ellsbury if he leaves via free agency after this season.

Projection: Above-average major league regular.

Ceiling: All-Star center fielder

Floor: 4th outfielder

3. Allen Webster (23)

RHP, Pawtucket

How acquired: Acquired from the L.A. Dodgers with James Loney, Ivan De Jesus, Rubby De La Rosa, and Jerry Sands for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, and cash considerations (Aug. 2012).

2013 Stats: 5-1, 2.98 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 56 strikeouts, 22 walks in 51.1 innings for Pawtucket.

Scouting Report: Webster is a ground-ball pitcher with a lean, projectable frame, excellent athleticism, and solid makeup. His delivery is smooth, but he can short-arm the ball on occasion, losing his release point. The 23-year-old’s fastball sits in the 92-95-mph range and tops out at 98 mph, showing strong sinking movement and late life. Webster throws the pitch with fringe-average command and control. He really needs to improve his ability to limit walks and keep the ball down in the zone to solidify himself as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. His 82-84-mph changeup has good movement and deception, grading out as a plus pitch. He also features am above-average 83-87-mph slider with tight rotation and late bite. He’s able to generate a lot of swings and misses with his secondary pitches. From a makeup standpoint, Webster is aggressive on the mound with the understanding of how to put things behind him.

Projection: No. 3 Starter

Ceiling: No. 2 Starter

Floor: No. 5 Starter

4. Garin Cecchini (22)

3B, Portland (Note: promoted June 20 from High-A Salem)

How acquired: Drafted in the fourth round, 2010. $1,310,000 bonus.

2013 Stats: .350/.469/.547 with 5 home runs and 15 stolen bases with Salem.

Scouting Report: A tall, athletic third baseman with strong all-around tools, Cecchini has a sweet swing with outstanding bat speed. He’s a plus contact with steadily improving plate discipline and the ability to hit the ball to all fields with gap power. He also has above-average power potential with good speed and excellent instincts. Cecchini has already stolen 78 bases over his short minor league career, but doesn’t project to be a major stolen base threat at the major league level. 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. At best, he’ll be an average major league defender at third base.

Projection: Above-average major league regular

Ceiling: All-Star third baseman

Floor: Bench player

5. Anthony Ranaudo (23)

RHP, Portland

How acquired: Drafted in the supplemental first round, 2010. $2,550,000 bonus.

2013 Stats: 7-1, 2.34 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 82 strikeouts, 23 walks in 73 innings for Portland

Scouting Report: Ranaudo was considered the top pitcher in the 2010 draft class after leading LSU to a national championship in 2009. However, he fell out of the first round after a subpar 2010 season marred by injuries, mechanical problems, and confidence issues. Those issues have resulted in inconsistency since being drafted, where he has shown flashes of absolute dominance but also extended periods of mediocrity. At 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, Ranaudo has a perfect pitcher’s frame. His fastball sits in the 93-95-mph range and tops out at 97 mph, but his velocity has dipped well below that during periods of mechanical inconsistency. He also features a plus 78-82-mph hammer curveball and a fringe-average low-80s changeup. His developmental needs include keeping a consistent delivery point, working on getting past bad outings, and honing his changeup. With polish in those areas, he has the potential to be a very good major league starter.

Projection: No. 4 Starter

Ceiling: No. 3 Starter

Floor: Long reliever

6. Matt Barnes (23)

RHP, Portland

How acquired: Drafted in the first round, 2011. $1,500,000 bonus.

2013 Stats: 3-3, 5.87 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 64 strikeouts, 16 walks in 53.2 innings

Scouting Report: Boston picked up Barnes out of the University of Connecticut with the 19th overall pick in the 2011 draft. He was considered a potential top-10 pick after an excellent summer in 2010 with Team USA, but 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 out of college, showed improvement in 2012 but have been inconsistent so far in 2013. His 74-77-mph curveball is his best secondary pitch, grading out as solid-average with plus potential. He also mixes in a fringe-average to average mid-80s changeup. His secondary pitches still need a lot of refinement, and the development of a slider or cutter could help him on his possible path to a reliable middle-of-the-rotation starter. He’s shown inconsistent results throughout the first half of the 2013 season, with a few outstanding outings and a handful of subpar starts. That follows a 2012 season in which he was dominant in the first half, only to hit a rookie wall at the All-Star break.

Projection: No. 4 Starter

Ceiling: No. 3 Starter

Floor: Long Reliever

7. Rubby De La Rosa (24)

RHP, Pawtucket

How acquired: Acquired from the L.A. Dodgers with James Loney, Ivan De Jesus, Allen Webster and Jerry Sands for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto and cash considerations (Aug. 2012).

2013 Stats: 1-1, 2.89 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 43 strikeouts, 25 walks in 43.2 innings for Pawtucket

Scouting Report: De La Rosa is a well-filled-out right-hander with a sold lower half. His fastball sits in the 94-97-mph range with sharp downward movement and explosiveness. It can top out at 98-100-mph when he reaches back. His command is fringe-average, as he tends to get overly long with his delivery and has trouble keeping his arm in slot. The right-hander also throws a plus 84-87-mph changeup and an average mid-to-high 80s slider, both with potential for improvement. If he can make slight improvements to his command and secondary stuff, he has the makings of a closer or a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Even if he doesn't make significant improvements in those areas, he still has the makings of a value setup man.

Projection: Closer or No. 5 starter

Ceiling: No. 3 Starter

Floor: Middle reliever

8. Trey Ball (19)

LHP, rookie-level GCL Red Sox

How acquired: Drafted in the first round (No. 7 overall) in 2013. Reportedly signed to a $2,750,000 bonus on June 19.

2013 Stats: 6-0, 0.76 ERA, 93 strikeouts, 13 walks in 46 innings for New Castle High School (Ind.). Yet to debut professionally.

Scouting Report: At 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds, Ball still has tons of projection in his frame. The 19-year-old southpaw's fastball already gets up to 92-94 mph, and he has the potential to add a good deal of sitting velocity as he physically matures in the coming years. He also throws a developing mid-70s deep-breaking curveball with plus potential -- a pitch that his father did not let him throw until he was a junior in high school in order to limit injury risk. His third pitch is a solid 78-82-mph changeup, which is still a work-in-progress but has above-average major league potential. He throws all of his pitches with an easy, repeatable delivery and a clean arm action. An outstanding athlete, Ball was committed to the University of Texas as both a pitcher and center fielder before signing with Boston. While he sits at No. 8 in the rankings right now, he's the type of high-ceiling prospect that could be in the top three within a year.

Projection: Middle-of-the-rotation starter

Ceiling: No. 1 Starter

Floor: Minor leaguer

9. Henry Owens (20)

LHP, Salem

How acquired: Drafted in the supplemental first round, 2011. $1,550,000 bonus.

2012 Stats: 12-5, 4.87 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 130 strikeouts, 47 walks in 101.7 innings with Greenville

Scouting Report: Owens is a tall, lanky lefty who has a lot of room to fill out and add strength. He has a smooth and easy delivery and a mature demeanor on the hill. His fastball presently sits in the 89-93-mph range with decent movement, and tops out in the mid-90s. He should be able to add sitting velocity if he fills out. He currently throws his fastball with below-average command. Owens’ best secondary pitch is an excellent mid-70s deep breaking curveball, which he can also loop in the mid-60s to keep hitters off balance. The left-hander also mixes in a below-average low-80s changeup with subpar command. Overall, Owens has a very high ceiling, but he’ll need to put in the work to reach it, including adding strength, stamina, improving command, and refining his changeup. That said, all the tools are there, and he's been a hard worker during his two years in the system so far.

Projection: No. 4 or No. 5 starter

Ceiling: No. 3 starter

Floor: Minor leaguer

10. Blake Swihart (21)

C, Salem

How acquired: Drafted in the first round, 2011. $2,500,000 bonus.

2012 Stats: .262/.307/.395 with 7 home runs with Greenville

Scouting Report: Swihart is an athletic, switch-hitting catcher with a fluid swing from both sides of the plate. While he hasn't posted dominant stats during his time in the system, scouts are still very impressed with his skill set and potential. 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, Swihart 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. But he should have the athleticism and the bat to move to second base if necessary.

Projection: Average major league regular

Ceiling: All-Star catcher

Floor: Minor leaguer