OMAHA, NE: Jackie Bradley, Jr. #19 of the South Carolina Gamecocks is congratulated by teammate Whit Merrifield #5 after scoring a first inning run against the UCLA Bruins during Game 1 of the men's NCAA College Baseball World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Major improvement to the high-end portions of prospect lists have been something of a theme for the Boston Red Sox this summer. Before the season began, many outlets recognized one or no Red Sox as worthy of top 50 consideration, but now that we're more than three months into the 2012 campaign, and some of Boston's 2011 picks have had a chance to show off the goods professionally, things have taken quite the turn.
Fangraphs' Marc Hulet is the latest to come around on multiple Red Sox prospects, in their mid-season top 50 prospects list. Back in the spring, Xander Bogaerts was in the top 50, at #29, and was the lone Sox farmhand to make it. Will Middlebrooks, who no longer has prospect eligibility, came in next at #55, just missing the cutoff as he did for many other prospect folk. You can probably guess who is now within the top 50, but here they are, just the same:
17, Xander Bogaerts, SS: Bogaerts is near-universally Boston's top prospect, a fact that's not a surprise given he's all of 19 years old, and has looked pretty good in his first year at High-A Salem even without the context of age. Throw that crucial bit of info in the mix, though, and you get yourself a potential star in the making.
34, Matt Barnes, SP: The right-hander didn't crack the top 100 after Boston selected him #19 in the 2011 draft, so while Bogaerts' rise from #29 to #17 is impressive, Barnes' own jump just shows you how ridiculous his 2012 has been. His ERA is three runs higher at Salem than it was at Greenville, but part of that is because his ERA was just 0.34 at Low-A -- he still is whiffing over a batter per inning, and owns a K/BB over four at the level.
44, Jackie Bradley, CF: Bradley, like Barnes, wasn't even in the top 100 the last time around, but here he is towards the back of the top 50. He's slowed down a bit after a promotion, just like Barnes, but, again like Barnes, that doesn't mean he isn't doing well. The 22-year-old is at Double-A in his first full year of pro ball, just a year out of college, and owns an 861 OPS with impressive plate discipline numbers at the level despite the rapid promotions.