While the Red Sox graduated Will Middlebrooks from the top of last year’s list and some high draft picks haven’t developed as expected, this list still offers plenty of intrigue and future potential. Highlighted by one of the next uber-prospects in baseball, Xander Bogaerts could be a superstar in waiting, and the parade of high-ceiling talent doesn’t stop there.
1. Xander Bogaerts – SS (Last Year’s Rank: 4)
Bogaerts has developed to the point where he should be considered one of the best prospects in the game. His biggest perceived wart, a likely inability to stick at shortstop long term, is mitigated by the potency of his bat. He can hit enough to support just about any position. Bogaerts is still young and probably shouldn’t be counted on in Boston until 2014, but when he arrives, he can develop into a middle-of-the-order monster.
2. Matt Barnes – RHP (3)
Barnes exceeded most expectations placed on him entering the 2012 season by breezing through both Low-A and High-A. The 6-foot-4 right-hander has a great pitchers frame, an easy plus fastball, shows feel for both of his secondary pitches, and has the makeup and intelligence to pull it all together. Barnes will start 2013 in Double-A and he could get a cup of coffee in the Major Leagues before the end of the year, setting him on a path toward his ceiling as a high-end number three starter, maybe even a tick more.
3. Jackie Bradley – OF (14)
Bradley’s profile is headlined by exceptional center field defense. He has tremendous instincts and good speed, and that combination allows him to display excellent range in the outfield. He is a quality hitter with gap power and a chance to pile up doubles, steal some bases and get on base a high a high clip. When Bradley arrives in the big leagues, he has a chance to be a top of the order threat that plays premium defense up the middle.
4. Allen Webster – RHP (NR)
The top “true” prospect to come over in the blockbuster deadline deal with the Dodgers, Webster is a very good pitching prospect with mid-rotation potential that could manifest quickly. With a hard sinking fastball that reaches 95 mph, Webster can miss bats and induce weak contact. His change-up is a true weapon that earns 70 grades from scouts. Both his slider and curveball lag behind, but the slider has potential as an average pitch. Webster needs to gain consistency with his ability to locate in the zone, but if he does, he could log plenty of big league innings.
5. Garin Cecchini – 3B (2)
Cecchini is one of my favorite prospects in this system. His bat is very real in my eyes, with the potential to hit for average, get on base via the walk and hit for solid power. He is a top-notch offensive talent that just needs more game action to further his development. Defensively, Cecchini needs to settle in at third base and some scouts project him on an outfield corner.
6. Blake Swihart – C (7)
Swihart is a highly intriguing catching prospect. His lack of experience behind the plate doesn’t regularly show up in games as he displays good defensive skills with some projection remaining thanks to his excellent athleticism. Offensively, Swihart could show average hitting ability and power if it all comes together, and that combined with his defense would make him a premium prospect behind the plate.
7. Jose Iglesias – SS (5)
You can’t argue with Iglesias’ defensive prowess. He is the best defensive infielder in the minor leagues, and frankly, it’s not very close. Iglesias is a jaw-dropping defender and he is worth of a big-league roster spot thanks to those skills alone. Offensively, he will always be a bottom of the order hitter; more of a “punch and judy” type that hits for a low average with few extra-base hits. Teams aren’t going to pay Iglesias for his bat. They are going to pay him for being the type of defensive player that invokes drooling from onlookers.
8. Brian Johnson – LHP (NR)
Unlike many of the players above him on this list, Johnson doesn’t have much in the way of tools, projection or ceiling. He’s a solid all-around pitcher with an average fastball that will flash a little higher in short spurts, and a curveball and change-up that range from fringy to above-average at times. He is an intelligent pitcher that knows how to work a lineup and he profiles as a back-of-the rotation piece that doesn’t require much development to attain that ceiling.
9. Bryce Brentz – OF (12)
Brentz’s game is all about power. He has power in his bat and in his right arm from the outfield. Brentz can blast balls out of the park with the best of them, particularly when he looks to unleash a ferocious cut at a fastball. He lacks pitch recognition and will swing through plenty of secondary offerings. Brentz has the tools to hit fifth or sixth in a big league lineup with big time power and solid corner outfield defense.
10. Henry Owens – LHP (10)
Owens is a boom or bust type of prospect, offering outstanding raw stuff and tons of risk. He can run his fastball up to 93-94 mph but sits a grade lower than that and struggles to consistently throw strikes. His curveball has potential and his change-up needs work. Owens won’t move quickly but his raw ingredients require attention and give him a considerable ceiling.
11. Ty Buttrey – RHP (NR)
An over-slot fourth round pick last June, Buttrey offers a really intriguing profile with plenty of potential. With a huge frame and long limbs, he gets excellent leverage to the plate and his fastball sits in the 91-92 mph range and has touched higher. His curveball shows plus potential and he has some feel for a change-up. Buttrey needs to develop strength and stamina at the professional level, but he could evolve into a quality workhorse starter.
12. Manuel Margot – OF (NR)
Over the next 12 months, Margot could explode onto the prospect scene and be the next big thing in Red Sox Nation. He is an outstanding athlete that has the plus-plus speed and plus arm to profile exceptionally well in center field. He has quality natural hitting instincts and some scouts see some power down the line. He’s a long way off, but Margot has a world of potential.
13. Deven Marrero – SS (NR)
Marrero was a hot name early in the 2012 draft season but he faded as scouts began to wonder just how much he’d hit at the professional level. There’s little question about Marrero’s defensive ability. He will stick at shortstop long term. Offensively, Marrero has good bat speed but doesn’t control his barrel very well, limiting the utility of his hit tool. He is a confident player but frequently looked disinterested in his pro debut. The potential exists for him to develop into a solid everyday shortstop, but despite his college experience, there is considerable work to be done.
14. Pat Light – RHP (NR)
Another high-round choice in 2012, Light debuted with a 2.37 ERA in 12 starts for short-season Lowell. He showed solid-average velocity, resting in the low-90s with good life. Both his slider and change-up flashed as useable pitches, but neither stood out as potential go-to offerings. While it is hard to take too much from short-season ball after a long college season, Light didn’t come as advertised after the draft. Based on this summer’s look, Light has the appearance of a guy headed to a late-inning relief role where he could show mid-90s heat in short bursts.
15. Frank Montas – RHP (NR)
Montas is a name to store away in the back of your mind as he could blow up over the next couple of years. Despite still being a teenager, Montas owns an absolutely electric fastball that sits in the 96-98 mph range. His slider and change-up are works in progress but he has flashed some feel for both. It may take a while for him to put things together, but Montas’ velocity alone will make a prospect to watch long term.