While the Red Sox have no shortage of pitching prospects, they are lacking in potential top-of-the-rotation arms. Look no further than the lack of inclusion of any of Boston's right-handed pitching prospects from MLB.com's list of the top-10 righties for evidence of that. They aren't entirely without that kind of upside, though: it's just on the other side of the mound, with their lefties, two of which rank in MLB's top 10 for the position.
Remember, too, that MLB.com's prospect coverage is different this year, as former Baseball America head Jim Callis has moved on to become part of MLB's team. Early returns on their work seem strong, with more detailed scouting reports and information on prospects than in year's past.
2. Henry Owens, LHP
You knew Owens would rank first among Boston's lefties, but seeing him in the second spot overall is both surprising and encouraging. Owens comes in behind only the Marlins' Andrew Heaney, but ahead of the Padres' Max Fried, the Phillies' Jesse Biddle, the Dodgers' Julio Urias, and also every other left-handed pitching prospect in the game. This doesn't mean he's expected to be a dominating force, though: given the description of Owens, it sounds as if lefties are a weak class relative to righties at the moment:
Owens throws his fastball in the low-90s and it plays up thanks to his deceptive delivery and long arms. His changeup gives him a second plus pitch and his slow curveball flashes the potential to be a third above-average offering, though it remains inconsistent.
Owens' command isn't great and he proved to be vulnerable against left-handed hitters. But he has a good feel for pitching, giving scouts confidence he will make the adjustments necessary to reach his potential as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Owens' ceiling is higher than that, especially if his command can improve at all, but mid-rotation starter seems like the likeliest place for him, at least at this juncture. If he treats the upper minors like he did the lower version, that could change in a hurry.
9. Trey Ball, LHP
Ball was just drafted by the Red Sox this past summer, with the seventh-overall pick. What did they get for the earliest draft pick they have possessed since the early 90s?
Ball throws his fastball in the low 90s and there is projection left in his lanky frame. He began throwing a curveball only a couple years ago, but it already shows the potential to be an above-average pitch. In the absence of a breaking ball, his changeup blossomed and it easily earns plus grades.
MLB states that, while Ball's youth and rawness make him sit far, far from the majors at this stage of his career, he has more potential and upside than any other arm in the system. They don't say specifically what that is, but if you consider that Owens, Webster, and Barnes are vying for top pitcher in the system, and the most charitable analysts believe there is a number two starter somewhere in that bunch, then Ball's ceiling is likely that or better. He's by no means an ace out of the gate, but so very few pitchers are. We'll just have to wait and see where his development takes him, whether it's mid-rotation, number two starter, or somehow neither of those two.