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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
SoxProspects: System's top tools

By Mike Andrews, SoxProspects.com

Industry scouts grade a prospect's tools on the 20-80 scale, where 20 is poor, 30 is well-below major league average, 40 is "fringe-average," 50 is major league average, 55 is referred to as "solid-average," 60 is above-average (or "plus"), 70 is well above-average (or "plus-plus"), and 80 is elite (80 grades are rarely handed out). For prospects, a 50 is actually a very good grade, as it's an impressive accomplishment to profile as major league average in any given tool.

Here's a look at the players with the best tools in the Red Sox minor league system, as graded by the SoxProspects.com scouting staff. Note that this list omits minor leaguers who have graduated from prospect status such as Rubby De La Rosa, Daniel Bard and Ryan Lavarnway.

POSITION PLAYERS

Best contact hitter
1. 3B Garin Cecchini -- 60
2. SS Xander Bogaerts -- 55-60
3. OF Jackie Bradley Jr. -- 55

Notes: Cecchini profiles as around a .300 hitter with a 60 grade. A 55 grade projects a player to hit in the .280 range. Another hitter to keep an eye on is Low-A Greenville catcher Blake Swihart, who could be a 50-55 hitter in his peak years.

Best Present Power
1. SS Xander Bogaerts -- 50
2. OF Bryce Brentz -- 50
3. 1B David Chester -- 50

Notes: Bogaerts and Brentz are the best power hitters in the system as of today. Chester, a 24-year-old first baseman playing at Greenville, has tremendous power and fringe-average plate discipline, but his other offensive tools are below-average. The other top present power hitters in the system are 3B/1B Michael Almanzar and OF Keury De La Cruz.

Best Projected Power
1. SS Xander Bogaerts -- 65
2. OF Bryce Brentz -- 55
3. 3B/1B Michael Almanzar -- 55

Notes: Bogaerts is a potential 30 home run bat; there were only twenty-seven 30 home run hitters in the majors in 2012. While a 55 grade profiles a player in the 20-25 home run range, Almanzar still needs to make significant strides with plate approach, pitch recognition, and maturity to get to that stage. High-A Salem OF Brandon Jacobs also grades out with a 55 for projected power, and has similar strides to make.

Best Plate Discipline
1. OF Jackie Bradley Jr. -- 65
2. 1B/3B Travis Shaw -- 55
3. 3B Garin Cecchini -- 55

Notes: Other Red Sox prospects who profile to have major league average plate discipline are Triple-A Pawtucket OF Alex Hassan and Greenville 2B Mookie Betts.

Speed
1. OF Felix Sanchez -- 70
2. OF Manuel Margot -- 70
3. OF Matty Johnson -- 70

Notes: Pawtucket OF Jeremy Hazelbaker and SS Tzu-Wei Lin also both grade out with 60 speed. Lin, a 19-year-old Taiwanese import, is expected to play with short-season Lowell this season.

Catcher Defense
1. C Christian Vazquez -- 65
2. C Dan Butler -- 60
3. C Alberto Rosario -- 50

Notes: Vazquez showed off his cannon arm this spring, and followed that up with pop times of 1.86 with Portland in April. In addition to the above catchers, Swihart demonstrates fluid athleticism and a plus arm behind the dish, but he's on the smaller side for a catcher, and could end up at second base if his frame isn't able to handle the rigors of the position over the long term.

Infield Defense
1. SS Jose Iglesias -- 80
2. SS Jose Vinicio -- 65
3. SS Deven Marrero -- 60

Notes: Iglesias is the best defender in the minor leagues, and if in the majors he'd be among the top two or three players at the position right now. And he's still just 23. Lin is also another shortstop to watch.

Outfield Defense
1. CF Jackie Bradley Jr. -- 70 with 65 arm
2. CF Manuel Margot -- 55 with a 50 arm
3. RF Bryce Brentz -- 50 with 60 arm

Notes: Margot is years away from getting a sniff of the majors, but he has the potential to be a plus-to-better center fielder. The next best on the list is Portland CF Shannon Wilkerson.

Makeup
1. CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
2. SS Xander Bogaerts
3. 3B Garin Cecchini

Notes: Makeup refers to a player's character, which is measured on several traits, including work ethic, aggressiveness, clubhouse presence, intelligence, and composure. It's not generally graded on the 20-80 scale, but all three of the above players would be above-average in the category.

PITCHERS

Fastball Velocity
1. RHP Frank Montas -- 75
2. RHP Allen Webster -- 70
3. RHP Matt Barnes -- 70

Notes: Velocity isn't the only part of a grade for fastball, which also takes movement and command into consideration. Montas hits 100 mph on the radar gun, but doesn't do so with great command. Barnes and Webster both sit in the mid-90s while hitting the high 90s. If eligible, De La Rosa would grade as a 75. Other pitchers who throw in the mid-90s include Pat Light, Drake Britton, and Heri Quevedo. Brian Johnson also has a solid-average fastball due to command and movement, despite his velocity, which sits in the low 90s and tops out at 95 mph.

Curveball
1. RHP Anthony Ranaudo -- 65
2. LHP Henry Owens -- 60-65
3. RHP Pete Ruiz -- 60

Notes: Owen's curveball grades out as a 65 on potential, while Ranaudo's curveball is presently harder with better shape and bite. Other pitchers with decent curveballs include Britton, Barnes, Brandon Workman, Mike Augliera, Mickey Pena and Kyle Stroup.

Slider
1. RHP Allen Webster -- 60
2. RHP Alex Wilson -- 55
3. LHP Cody Kukuk -- 50

Notes: Wilson's and Webster's sliders are both major league ready, but Webster commands and feels the pitch better. Kukuk's grade is based on potential.

Changeup
1. RHP Allen Webster -- 60-65
2. RHP Noe Ramirez -- 55
3. LHP Brian Johnson -- 50

Notes: De La Rosa would grade out in the same range as Webster if eligible.

Command
1. RHP Matt Barnes -- 60
2. LHP Brian Johnson -- 60
3. RHP Mike Augliera -- 60

Notes: Command differs from control in that command is the ability to locate within the strike zone, while control is the ability to throw strikes and limit walks. Among the above three pitchers, Augliera has shown the best control. Other pitchers in the system with major league average command are Workman and William Cuevas.

Pitcher's Makeup
1. LHP Chris Hernandez
2. LHP Brian Johnson
3. RHP Allen Webster

Notes: Pitcher's makeup includes pitchability, which is knowing to use the right pitches in the right situations. Another pitcher with excellent makeup is Pawtucket RHP Terry Doyle, who has had an outstanding start to the 2013 season.

Chris Mellen and Ian Cundall of SoxProspects.com contributed to this column.