The Red Sox farm system ranked just 17 of 30 in Keith Law's recent grades. However, after seeing his top-100 prospect rankings, we can cross the top-end of Boston's prospects off the list of possible reasons for Law's skepticism, as four of future Red Sox made the cut.
Law's top 100 is a bit different than ones we've seen, not just for the number of prospects -- MLB.com's list had six, for instance -- but also for the order. Law likes one Red Sox pitching prospect in particular a lot less than many others do, and that -- coupled with the absence of the likes of Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, or Garin Cecchini from the list of his 100-best -- is at least part of the reason why the Sox sit where they do in his organizational rankings.
5 - Xander Bogaerts, SS: A huge surprise here -- especially given Boston's overall rank -- as Bogaerts made it into the top five at the back end, behind only one other shortstop: the number one overall prospect, Jurickson Profar. Seeing Bogaerts' name alongside those of Profar, Oscar Taveras, Dylan Bundy, and Wil Myers is impressive in its own right, and gives the indication that Law does believe Bogaerts can stick at shortstop. His bat is special regardless of position, but it's top-five special when he's at a position with the scarcity of shortstop, and Law goes on to point out the chances of Bogaerts sticking at short are now "up over even money," and that he only needs to be "fringe-average" defensively to justify keeping his bat there.
40 - Jackie Bradley, CF: The next Sox prospect doesn't appear until 40, when Boston's likely 2014 center fielder enters the mix. You know the drill with Bradley by now: his bat is impressive, his discipline and approach more so, but it's his glove that's his most-thrilling feature. Plus defense in center, from a rookie, would be huge for the Red Sox as they attempt to replace Jacoby Ellsbury and build a new core for the next great Boston team.
63 - Allen Webster, RHP: Here is where Law diverges from what, at this point, has seemed like the natural order of things. He ranks Webster in about the same place as many others, but puts him ahead of Matt Barnes, the arm that has been considered Boston's either second- or third-best prospect by most. It's even easier to see why Law thinks of Boston's overall system the way he does when you consider this. He also mentions something we should get used to: Webster has three plus pitches, giving him the stuff to look like an ace, but his command has yet to back that dream up as a possible reality.
79 - Matt Barnes, RHP: Even with the included scouting report, it's tough to see just what Law's issues with Barnes are. You can probably guess, though: he tired in the second half, and while his fastball is plus, his secondary stuff hasn't caught up entirely. One wonders if Law believes the floors of Webster and Barnes should be reversed, with Webster the one who will be, at minimum, a back-end starter, and Barnes the one with the potential future in relief should he fail to improve the rest of his repertoire.
There were nearly five Red Sox in Law's rankings, but instead, we get to see Henry Owens rated as the top of the "just missed" bunch. Law says he wants to see Owens take on more advanced hitters before he is willing to give Owens' projections and ceilings more credit than he has. That's a fair assessment for just about any pitcher in the low minors.
Law has full reports on each player in the top 100, but you need to have an ESPN Insider subscription to view this. It's worth it, though, if you're looking for insight on not just the Red Sox' farm, but that of the entire league. After all, context is important when you want to compare Boston's future to that of everyone else.