Baseball Prospectus released their list of the top 101 prospects in baseball, and while the sheer volume of Red Sox prospects might not overwhelm you, the rankings of the six who did make the cut are exciting. While Jason Parks, the head of the prospect team at BP, was obviously part of making these rankings, he goes out of his way to explain that it isn't his list -- it's the end result of the entire team's input.
2. Xander Bogaerts, SS
Bogaerts isn't going to come in at #1 on any list, not with Byron Buxton existing, so seeing him in the second spot is the biggest treat we're going to get in that regard. The 21-year-old shortstop will very likely be Boston's starter at the position on Opening Day (and hopefully for years to come), and while it's difficult to know just what he's going to do, no one should be surprised if he continues to successfully hit, just like he's done at every level along the way. The last time the Red Sox had a prospect of this caliber, they traded him to the Marlins for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. While that worked out, it'll also be worthwhile to keep this one around.
23. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Sure, Bradley doesn't rank as high as Bogaerts does, but coming in at #23 before (likely) becoming the starting center fielder and replacement for another homegrown player, Jacoby Ellsbury, is still lofty praise. From BP's most recent scouting report for Bradley: "This is an instinctual player of the highest order, and once he finds his rhythm at the plate, you can chisel his name on the lineup card for the next decade."
Now, Bradley might have some competition in center field, since the Red Sox signed Grady Sizemore to a major-league deal last week, but that will be good for him. Bradley isn't a finished product yet, and the Red Sox had little in the way of outfield depth, at least in terms of players capable of playing in center field. Sizemore could just end up as a bench player in the long run, but at least if Bradley ends up needing more time in the minors, Boston could have a backup plan already in place.
51. Garin Cecchini, 3B
There are those who like Cecchini much more than this, but it strikes me as an accurate, if safe, ranking. His ceiling is admittedly huge, but the gap between the good and bad versions of what he could be is nearly as large. Cecchini could very well end up hitting for some power while posting lofty on-base percentages and making consistent contact, but he might also "only" be an on-base machine with below-average defense at the hot corner. If he shows some pop in his return to Double-A Portland (or after a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket), then it will be much easier to push him well into the top-50 instead of right on the periphery. For now, this is an understandably cautious ranking, given he hasn't shown just yet what he is going to be.
64. Matt Barnes, RHP
BP thinks Barnes is a number three starter, and the top pitching prospect on the Red Sox. Both of those ideas could very well be accurate ones, as Barnes isn't the star his Low-A numbers made him look like, but his fastball and curveball are just too good for Barnes to be what he looked like in the first half of 2013 at Double-A. Consistency with his secondary stuff is the 2014 goal, and if it is achieved, he might be ready for the majors this time next year.
69. Henry Owens, LHP
I like Owens' more than the BP crew, and have actually talked about that with a few of them extensively.* At the same time, I understand wanting to see a little more out of him at the upper levels before officially bumping his ceiling up from mid-rotation arm to something greater than that, as he has just over 30 innings of work at Double-A and hasn't had the league's lineups see him a few times. I wouldn't be shocked to see him in the top-40 next year (and as Boston's top pitching prospect), if he can keep it up this summer.
*Obligatory "I am not a scout, though" mention.
73. Blake Swihart, C
The last of the six, Swihart has a significant year in front of him, as BP explains:
Double-A will present a challenge for the 21-year-old, especially at the plate, where better arms can exploit his tastes for shoulder-level heat and force him to chase spin down and away. If he adjusts and the bat takes a step forward, his stock could really explode, as legit two-way catchers are the rarest breed found in baseball.
Like with Owens and Barnes, consistency and a leap forward in 2014 could launch them into the sexier parts of next year's list.