The Red Sox farm system might not be overloaded with star power, but it certainly has its share of future major-league players, as well as plenty of potential future big leaguers. Sorting through who is what after a certain point can become a difficult task, one where you need the experts to weigh in. Mark Anderson, founder of Baseball Prospect Nation as well as a Minor League Contributor for Baseball Prospectus, is one such expert, and we've asked him an assortment of questions about Boston's future.
You can follow Mark Anderson on Twitter at @ProspectMark, or check out his archives at both Baseball Prospect Nation and Baseball Prospectus in the links above.
Over the Monster: Of Boston's trio of Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster, who do you see as having the most impact in the majors? What roles do you see for each of them in their futures?
Mark Anderson: I'm partial to what Barnes brings to the table. He has the combination of premium stuff and high-end pitchability that I believe projects out to a top-notch number three starter and possibly even as high as a number two if he demonstrates consistency at the highest level. If Webster shows he can maintain the gains he made in his command profile late last year, then he looks the part of a workhorse number three starter. De La Rosa is a bit of a difficult pitcher for me to project. I've seen him look like a future number three but I have seen him look like a late inning reliever. He has to improve his control/command profile as well as the consistency of his breaking ball to make an impact as a starter.
OTM: Outfielder Bryce Brentz has talent, but he's far from a sure thing. What kind of floor and ceiling do you see him for, and where do you think he'll end up?
MA: Though potentially disappointing for fans that have bought into Brentz, his floor exists as an up-and-down outfielder. On the positive side of things, he has the potential to max out as an above-average corner outfielder. His power is certainly legit but he has to get to it in games more frequently, something that has been problematic at times because of the considerable swing-and-miss in his game. His approach comes and goes and as a result, he ends up an extremely streaky player. I think he settles in as a solid big leaguer but not the monster middle-of-the-order slugger his raw power suggests he could be.
OTM: What do you think of Boston's 2012 first-round draft class of Deven Marrero, Brian Johnson, and Pat Light?
MA: Last year's top picks make up an interesting group. They all have at least some big league tools, but they also have glaring holes in their game. Marrero is a big-league defender at the toughest position, but I'm not sure the bat plays outside the bottom of the order, leaving him with a fringe projection in a regular role and possibly more of a utility role. Johnson might be the most well-rounded of the trio, offering solid stuff, good feel for his craft and a back-end starter projection. Light has the most raw upside, but after watching him extensively in the New York-Penn League, I wasn't convinced he was more than a back-end reliever in the end. It's an interesting group in that each of them could move quickly to their realistic projections, but the pure ceiling just isn't there for me to love this group.
OTM: Anthony Ranaudo had a tough 2012 spoiled by injuries, but showed promise during parts of the previous season. Is Ranaudo still slated to be a major-league pitcher, or is that a more realistic proposition for other members of his draft class, like Brandon Workman and Chris Hernandez?
MA: I've been extremely down on Ranaudo since seeing him in High-A in 2011. The stuff just isn't the same as it was when he was at LSU and it doesn't even match up to what he flashed on the Cape before signing with Boston. He has the physicality and flashes the fastball velocity to make you sit up and take notice, but the crispness and consistency of the arsenal is sorely lacking. He struggles to control his emotions on the mound, demonstrating visible frustration when things aren't going his way, and it appears to impact him in the subsequent batters. If he reaches the big leagues, I see him as more of a swing man or fifth starter. Workman has a better chance to start in the big leagues in my opinion, though his ceiling tops out as a number five. Hernandez could pitch a very long time in the big leagues as an extremely competitive situational reliever.
OTM: Ryan Kalish is no longer a prospect, but is looking for his first healthy campaign since 2010. Does he still have a chance to be a starting outfielder in the majors, or with Boston, and just how good should he be if so? Assuming health, of course.
MA: The lost developmental time due to injuries has really hurt Kalish. he's lost some of the explosiveness in his game, which hurts his stock quite a bit in my eyes. I think he can still find a role in the big leagues, and possibly in Boston with the impending departure of Jacoby Ellsbury, but I'm not sure that role comes in the middle of the diamond; making maximizing his offensive profile paramount to his long term success.
OTM: Looking deep into the future, does a Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez catching tandem sound at all realistic when Boston's current crop of catchers have moved on?
MA: Both players have a long way to go to have significant big-league roles, but it's certainly not out of the question. Vasquez doesn't have the offensive potential to profile as an everyday guy but he could fit as a 30-40 game a year backstop with quality defense. Swihart is a huge wild card at this point and his ceiling is considerable. He has to develop quite a bit on both sides of the ball, but if he even approaches his ceiling, Sox fans aren't going to care who the backup catcher is.
OTM: The Red Sox protected outfielder Alex Hassan from the Rule 5 draft in the hopes he would develop power to go with his on-base numbers. What kind of chances do you give for that to actually pay off for Boston?
MA: I honestly don't get this move for the Red Sox. Hassan's ability to work counts and command the strike zone is impressive, but the rest of the profile just doesn't work for me at the big league level. He's not a center fielder, putting additional pressure on his bat. I don't see the pop coming. He has enough strength to drive the ball to the gaps but I don't see the swing producing much over-the-fence power. I'm willing to admit that the Red Sox know far more about Hassan than me and I'm sure they have their believers in the Hassan's power potential, but I don't see it.
OTM: Do you have a favorite sleeper in the Red Sox system?
MA: I'm not sure Jose Vinicio really qualifies as a "sleeper" given his progress and hype in 2012, but I remain convinced he can be a significant contributor. Vinicio has true defensive tools at shortstop with easy actions, plus range and hands and a strong arm. He fits the profile of an impact defender. Though he needs more strength, he's not devoid of talent at the plate either. He shows an innate ability for contact and a good approach, allowing him to get into counts where he can do some damage. His strength won't allow him to pick up more than 10-15 doubles but his plus speed should allow him to snag 5-10 triples as well, giving him just enough punch to keep pitchers honest. If his bat progresses and he hits at a consistent level, he's a borderline star.