While Baseball Prospectus is "only" ranking six Red Sox prospects in their top 101, that doesn't mean they have problems with Boston's system. If you need evidence of that, they released their Red Sox top-10 on Monday, and it is a thing of beauty -- so long as you're a Red Sox fan, anyway.
Xander Bogaerts ranks first, as you knew without anyone needing to tell you. The rest of the list has some surprises on it worth noting, though, so that's where we'll focus.
4. Matt Barnes, RHP
Barnes ranks as the top pitcher in the Red Sox system. Given the rise of Henry Owens, the presence of Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster, and Barnes' tough 2013, it's an unexpected rank. It makes sense, though, given Barnes' adjustments in the second half of the year and Jason Parks' belief that Barnes' stuff will hold up better in the majors than Owens'. We love to move on to what's new and shiny, but Barnes was highly regarded a year ago, and is still improving even if his ERA hides it.
8. Mookie Betts, 2B
Betts is going to be a player that generates a lot of disagreement, as Parks notes. There are those who think he can be an "impact player" in the majors thanks to plus tools on both sides of the ball. There are others who see him as a utility player instead, rather than an everyday kind of guy. Baseball Prospectus seems to have split the difference, ranking Betts eighth in a loaded system while giving him a ceiling of above-average regular and a floor of fringe-average. If you follow our prospect coverage closely, you know I'm a little higher on Betts than this, but this is a very fair evaluation of him at this point: let's see how he does in Double-A before we anoint him a future outfielder or third baseman in Boston.
9. Christian Vazquez, C
This is the loftiest ranking you'll see for Vazquez anywhere, and Parks said that he could have gone even higher with him. Vazquez will have a big-league career regardless of his bat, because the defense is just that good, but if he can be a better major-league hitter than he's been in the minors, he could be a serious source of production behind the plate. There is reason to believe he could put up quality big-league numbers, too, as Vazquez's glove has pushed him through the system faster than his bat was ready for. When things even out at the highest levels, we'll have a better sense of who he is.
There are two other sections of the top-10 worth looking over. First, you have the Prospects on the Rise and Factors on the Farm, the latter being players who could contribute in the majors in 2014. There aren't any surprises there -- Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman (who already has MLB experience), and Alex Hassan. They're already on the 40-man roster, Ranaudo finished 2013 at Triple-A, and he might be the closest to ready as far as starting in the bigs goes after Workman.
As for the Prospects on the Rise, Rafael Devers drew a fascinating bat speed comp:
It's not hyperbole to compare the swing to that of Robinson Cano, although the overall athleticism and defensive projection leaves a lot to be desired.
Remember, that's not saying he is Robinson Cano, or will be him -- there is a whole lot more that goes into an offensive profile than just bat speed -- but it still catches the eye.
Last, we have one of my favorite BP bits from the prospect lists: the top-10 under 25. It's an excellent way to gain perspective on graduated prospects and those still on the farm. For example, Will Middlebrooks ranks third behind Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., but ahead of fellow third baseman Garin Cecchini. Rubby De La Rosa comes in behind Barnes, Owens, and Webster, but ahead of Ranaudo, who is not in this top 10. As much as I like Cecchini's future, I have to agree with BP's Chris Mellen here:
While Will Middlebrooks scuffled in 2013, the combination of right-handed power and plus defense at the hot corner carried him at no. 3. Middlebrooks has the chance to be the more volatile of the players due inconsistencies with his approach that drives streakiness, but Cecchini faces questions on ultimate position and whether the bat will play up enough at a corner outfield slot. My feel says the 25-year-old Texan ends up the better overall player.
I do think Cecchini could be the better of the two, but a lot more of that rides on Cecchini's development than it does Middlebrooks', which is saying something. They both might end up as average regulars, which would not be the worst thing to happen as the Red Sox transition to their new, younger core.