With the regular season behind us, and the Red Sox' major off-season moves likely behind them, we can focus on the important things that will warm our baseball hearts all winter: the farm system, and the abundance of Red Sox prospects. Baseball America is already in the spirit of the season, as they unveiledtheir top-10 for the Sox on Monday.
You will be shocked -- shocked, I tell you! -- to learn who tops the list. Hint: It begins with "X" and ends with "ander Bogaerts." Did you figure it out yet? I'll wait.
The rest of the list is not quite so obvious, which is intriguing in its own right. The Sox have a ridiculous level of quality prospects in the organization right now, but after Xander Bogaerts, there is essentially no consensus. There are other names you could argue belong in this top-10, but there are discussions to be had about the order of who is included as well.
- Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B
- Henry Owens, LHP
- Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
- Allen Webster, RHP
- Blake Swihart, C
- Garin Cecchini, 3B
- Mookie Betts, 2B
- Brandon Workman, RHP
- Matt Barnes, RHP
- Trey Ball, LHP
Baseball America doesn't publish their scouting reports for these players within the list, as that information is in their forthcoming prospect preview book. We can infer a few things from just this list of 10 names, however.
Owens as the second-best prospect in the system is something we've considered here ourselves: when Bogaerts initially earned the call to Boston, we wondered if Owens was the top prospect left on the farm. Baseball America agrees with that thought, even at the same time they say that Bradley could be ready to assume everyday major-league duties as Jacoby Ellsbury's replacement in center field on Opening Day. Webster fourth is hard to fathom when you look at his major-league time, but how he performed when he wasn't finished developing in the minors isn't a fair judge of who he will become. In Webster's second-half of 2013, his coaches considered him more aggressive on the mound, with a better idea of how to pitch rather than just throw: that development is significant for his future as a big-league starter, rather than as a reliever with a huge arm.
Looking at the free-agent infielders
The Red Sox roster is almost full, though they need one infielder who can play on the left side. There are options in free agency, though some are more attractive than others.
Betts making the top-10 -- and at #7 -- is a surprise. It's a welcome one, given he dominated both the Sally and Carolina leagues in 2013, and is primed to begin next season at Double-A Portland. Questions remain about how good he actually is, how well his game will work against more advanced pitching, and where he'll actually play if he sticks with Boston -- Dustin Pedroia is something of an institution, and under contract for eight more years -- but we should start to see some answers for those questions in 2014.
Seeing Brandon Workman ahead of not just Matt Barnes, but also Anthony Ranaudo (who is not in the top-10), is something to think about. Workman still has development left, as pitch sequencing and consistently keeping pitches low in the zone to avoid cheap hits and homers are both on his to-do list. He's had some success in the majors already, though, and he has the body to be a mid-rotation horse, should the above right itself. Baseball America already rates him as having both the best control and best curveball in the system, the latter an exceptional honor considering Ranaudo's bender.
Don't read too much into Ball's ranking as the 10th-best prospect here. When he's had more time in the pros, he'll shoot up the list, assuming things go the way the Red Sox believe they will.
Curious where Boston's top non-prospect young players rank in relation to this top-10? Context is key to understanding just what a list like this means, after all. Baseball America also ranked a top-15 under 25, which includes a couple of players who have exhausted their rookie status. Will Middlebrooks slots in at #6, behind Swihart and ahead of Cecchini, while Rubby De La Rosa comes in ahead of Brandon Workman. Anthony Ranaudo, Christian Vazquez, and Manuel Margot round out the top-15.
Anything out of place for you here, or did Baseball America nail the order?