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It's that time of year, where prospects get their new grades heading into the new season
Baseball Prospectus has released their top 10 prospects for the Red Sox as they usually do, but things are a bit different this time around. For one, Jason Parks has taken over for the departed Kevin Goldstein -- you know Parks if you've followed our prospect coverage here -- and second, it's no longer just a straight list with a sleeper. Parks ranks the top 10, discusses a few prospects on the rise, lists prospects who might contribute in 2013, and then, as Goldstein used to do, ranks the top 10 talents 25 years old and under. It's a comprehensive look at some of the best the Boston farm system has to offer, and you can see it in full at their site.
Much of Baseball Prospectus' work is behind a paywall, so it's not very polite to simply quote all of the hard work Parks and his team put into the list. But, since this particular piece is not behind the wall, we can share the actual top 10 with you, along with a few observations.Make sure to read this and the work on the other 29 teams' farm systems, though: there are scouting grades, reports, explanations of risk, and more to be found in the full articles.
- Xander Bogaerts, SS: Parks makes a point of saying Bogaerts is unlikely to stick at shortstop in the long-term, but third base was hammered in as the position that he'll likely end up at. That's intriguing, given the presence of Will Middlebrooks, and this abundance of talent might mean Bogaerts is forced to the outfield overall. He does think he'll eventually have 30-homer power in the majors, which would mean it doesn't matter where he plays, because his bat can handle it.
- Jackie Bradley, CF: Bradley's bat seems to be the question mark here, but that's not as negative as it sounds. It's just that his glove is so, so good, that it guarantees him a career in the majors so long as his bat can continue to develop. If he's even average at the plate, he's going to be, as Parks puts it, a "first-division" starter.
- Matt Barnes, RHP: You know the deal with Barnes. That fastball is fantastic, but he needs to continue to develop his secondary stuff if he's going to reach his full potential as a major-league starter.
- Allen Webster, RHP: Webster is one of the newer prospects in the system, part of the return from the Nick Punto trade with the Dodgers. It doesn't sound as if Parks fully believes he's a guarantee to start given some of his command issues, but he does believe Webster has the potential to be at his best in that role.
- Blake Swihart, C: The takeaway from Swihart is that patience is needed for a catcher who made the jump to full-season ball like Swihart did. There's a ton of talent here, as evidenced by his ranking, and the fact he comes in ahead of...
- Garin Cecchini, 3B: The skinny on Cecchini is that there's a ton of potential here to be much more than he has shown to this point, but it's going to take some serious skill refinement for him to get there. With a step up in production, Parks sees him finishing 2013 at Double-A.
- Henry Owens, LHP: Like many others, Parks is impressed with Owens' natural skills, but sees the need for refinement before we get too excited about the package here.
- Bryce Brentz, RF: There are no new concerns present here with Brentz. He still doesn't hit secondary stuff very well, but he hasn't failed yet, and his power is tremendous. At Triple-A, we'll have a better sense of who he is, but he's far from a finished product.
- Jose Iglesias, SS: Nothing controversial here, as Parks thinks Iglesias still has the potential to hit enough to play in the majors full-time. The problem is that his glove is so advanced that it has dragged his bat along with it, and he looks the worse for it. The most intriguing note here is that Parks lists Iglesias as a second-division starter -- maybe not good enough for the Red Sox, even if he should play somewhere else. Granted, he's a shortstop, though, and in many ways, the position is almost universally second-division talent.
- Brian Johnson, LHP: Johnson was the #31 pick in the 2012 draft, selected with the first of two bonus picks the Red Sox received from losing Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies. That's significant, in the sense that he comes in ahead of Boston's first pick, Deven Marrero, a player who Parks also likes.
Looking for some sense of where the already graduated prospects rank in terms of talent? Middlebrooks is the second-best player under 25 in the organization, while the other major piece of the Dodgers' trade, Rubby De La Rosa, slots in fifth, ahead of Webster. You might be surprised by this, but Felix Doubront ranks eighth despite his occasionally rough rookie campaign. There's a lot to like about him still, especially if he can build on his late-season success.