Baseball America has named its top-10 Red Sox prospects going into 2013, with Xander Bogaerts leading the way in perhaps the healthiest farm system the organization has seen since the days of Pedroia, Buchholz, Lester, and Ellsbury.
There are no surprises in the top-3, with Bogaerts coming in just ahead of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Matt Barnes, the "Three Bs" taking their expected place as the cream of the crop. Number four, too, should provide no real surprise--Allen Webster has pretty consistently been placed just shy of this top-tier, or perhaps even simply at the tail end of it ever since he came over in the Adrian Gonzalez - Josh Beckett - Carl Crawford blockbuster.
Where things get interesting are in the next few picks. While most of the names you'd expect to see on a top-10 list are there, they're not necessarily in the typical order. Slotting in at number five is the incredibly interesting Henry Owens, whose 4.87 ERA in Greenville has not done much to deter fans or scouts from dreaming on his future thanks to both his impressive peripherals and a best-in-the-system changeup.
In a similar position is the offensively promising catcher Blake Swihart, whose .702 OPS in Greenville is essentially the hitting equivalent of Owens' season.
The thing is the inclusion of these two unpolished prospects at 5 and 6 is more a statement on their potential than the depth of the farm system, which is made clear by the simple matter of who didn't make the top-6. Garin Cecchini and Bryce Brentz follow shortly behind, Cecchini having reached base at a .394 clip all year and produced 51 stolen bases in 57 attempts (Tzu-Wei Lin, interestingly, tops him for fastest baserunner) and Brentz having provided solid production to Portland before making his name running rampant through the Triple-A postseason. Either one could easily push for inclusion on top-100 lists.
The rankings are rounded out by a pair of shortstops in Jose Iglesias and Deven Marrero, with the former holding on for yet another year despite a total lack of offense and the latter making his debut after being drafted in the first round despite the influx of talent from other sources. BA has been pretty consistently high on Marrero--hopefully they'll be proven right in his first full season of professional ball,
The really impressive thing here, however, might be the players who aren't on the list. Just to start there's Rubby De La Rosa, who has too much experience for their list. Beyond him though, is a whole cavalcade of impressive talent that provides the Sox with incredible depth in the system. On the mound there's Brandon Workman, Alex Wilson, and about a thousand recently-drafted righties to go with lottery tickets like Anthony Ranaudo and Drake Britton. In the field there's breakouts like Travis Shaw (.305/.411/.545 in over 400 trips to the plate in HIgh-A Salem) and Keury De La Cruz (19 homers, 19 steals for Greenville) to go with Brandon Jacobs, who could be one healthy hamate bone away from busting back into the top-10.
Meanwhile, the foreign development leagues continue to go about their business, producing some more intriguing youngsters in the form of Manuel Margot (a speedy outfielder who produced an impressive all-around season in the DSL) and Frank Montas (a 19-year-old who has been known to hit 100).
Oh, and then there's some guy named Will Middlebrooks who may be hanging around third base next year. You might have heard of him.
If the Red Sox suffered through an abysmal end to the season to beef up their chances for future success, the offseason is where we fans reap the first rewards. In part this is because of the Hot Stove action which should hopefully provide us with a much-improved roster heading into 2013, but also noteworthy is the coronation of the farm system as one of the best in all of baseball.
For all that the Sox may currently lack a truly top, top prospect the likes of Jurickson Profar or, going back to last year, the likes of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, they have a remarkable number of guys just short of that pace, with no lack of depth behind them. The days of the $100 million player development machine seem to be back. Hopefully the Sox' fortunes rise with it once again.