Chris Durbin, Jon Lester, and Kenny Perez at the 2005 Eastern League All-Star game I attended.
Brian's Top 10 List
1. Jon Lester
It was so tough to pick one pitcher out of the top three. I almost decided to just flip a coin. In the end I have to go with Lester as the top prospect in the system. He's 3 years younger than Papelbon and his season for Portland has been every bit as good, if not better, than the man who made his Fenway debut the other night.
2. Jon Papelbon
You've all already seen for yourself what this guy can do. He needs to work on his secondary pitches to truly dominate at the major league level, but his fastball is there. There's a good chance that he'll be helping out Boston by the start of next year.
3. Anibal Sanchez
The only reason, in my mind, that Sanchez doesn't rank ahead of the top two on this list is because he's a little bit further away. But so far in 5 starts in Portland his numbers are much better than Papelbon or Lester. A 0.98 ERA to go along wit a 32/6 K/BB ratio in 27.2 IP? That's just sick. A small sample size, sure, but definitely something worth getting excited over.
4. Dustin Pedroia
Over the course of the year Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez did a little flip flop. Pedroia did everything right at the AA level earning a shot at AAA, leaving Ramirez to scuffle in Portland. It's still too soon to tell how he's doing there thanks to a wrist injury that left him sidelined for over 2 weeks, but this guy is close to ready. He may not have much more upside and what we see now is likely what we'll get in the future, but what we're seeing now is a player who does everything from well even if he doesn't do anything great. Ranking him fourth in the system isn't a knock against him. It's more because of the fact that the Sox have 3 really good pitching prospects.
5. Hanley Ramirez
Many had the guy inked in playing short, center, or any other position at Fenway in 2006, but so far this year all Ramirez has shown us is that he is not ready for the big leagues. His .269/.334/.398 line leaves a lot to be desired and his power isn't developing as many hoped it would. He still has a world of potential and has the tools to be better than anyone else in the sytem, but he needs to put up some numbers before I'm willing to give him back his number 1 spot in the organization. The drop the #5 on the list doesn't mean I don't think he's going to pan out eventually. It just means that the four guys ahead of him have really made some impressive strides this year.
6. Kelly Shoppach
I wasn't sold on Shoppach before the season, but after the way he's hit the ball, I am now. The AVG still isn't there and it never will be, but he draws enough walks to have a decent OBP and hits the ball hard enough to have a very good SLG. He's great behind the plate, and for a catcher anything more than that is just gravy. Shoppach is a whole lot of gravy....if that even makes sense.
7. Manny Delcarmen
In a year where everything seems to be going right for the top prospects in the system, Delcarmen's season is no exception. He posted some decent numbers in AA before putting up some even better numbers in AAA. Now his 95 mile an hour fast ball and knee buckling curveball are being used (very sparingly) in the major leagues. He hasn't had much work so far with the big league club, but he should be someone who the Sox can build their bullpen around for the next few years.
8. Abe Alvarez
He doesn't have the stuff to be dominant and if he's not hitting his locations, he's going to have trouble, but most of the time he does hit his location. While his 4.17 ERA and 91 K's in 118.2 IP don't suggest he is dominating the level, you do have to remember that he's only 22 and he's had some brilliant starts in AAA. He still has plenty of time to learn the game and become an even better pitcher.
9. Brandon Moss
Despite some having him ranked as the #2 prospect in the system before the year began, I've never really been sold on the guy. He put up some very impressive numbers last year and even this year he had a month long stretch where he was tearing the cover off the ball, but he strikes out far too much and hasn't shown that last season wasn't a fluke. Some argue that the reason he's struggling is that he was promoted too aggressively and that he does have the talent to be a better player than he's showing right now, but I'm not sold on that argument.
10. Cla Meredith
Yeah, he was lit up in his stint in the majors and he's not exactly doing so hot right now, but this is the same guy who was dominating at AA early in the year. In the spring and early summer the name Manny Delcarmen wasn't even thought about. It was all Cla Meredith. A little bit of rushing doesn't change the fact that this guy is good.
Randy's Top 10 List
I've ranked Papelbon as the number one pitcher in the system, and he only really gets the nod over Lester because he's closer to playing in Boston than Lester is. Both have very similar stats, and the only real difference between them is that Lester is younger and is left-handed. Some, like Brian, give Lester the top spot, while I give it Papelbon by very little. Very little.
The tall lefty who I got to see at the All-Star game this year in Portland is having a great season for the Sea Dogs. As Brian mentioned, and as I learned through a source from director of player personnel Ben Cherington, Lester is staying in AA for now because he is so young (21). If he were a year older, or Papelbon's age (24), I'm sure he'd be pitching for Pawtucket. Lester has the potential to be a great starter, just like Papelbon.
If Papelbon and Lester weren't have such great seasons, Pedroia would be my number one prospect. He has absolutely ripped up wherever he has played and has only hit a snap at Pawtucket because of a wrist injury. It will be interesting to see what happens with Pedroia next season, whether he starts the year in Pawtucket or as the starting second baseman in Boston. I say Boston.
I'm a fan of Ramirez, and even more so when I met him and saw him play at the Eastern League All-Star game, but he just hasn't put up the numbers this season. He should be dominating in Portland and be well on his way in Pawtucket, but he isn't. A .270+ line in Portland is not good, and he will have to improve on it if he wants to play in Boston.
I'm starting to love this guy. For a while I was very iffy about how well he would pitch after Tommy John surgery in May 2003, but 2005 has been one of his best seasons as a pro. He dominated Portland, and in his short stint in Pawtucket he pitched well. Now he's in Boston and looks great for a 23 year old. I notice that if he starts off the inning well, it tends to be a good inning. I can still read his nervousness, though, and that's why he had that one bad appearance. He let a runner on, got nervous and just collapsed from there. Once he gets these appearances under his belt, he'll be stellar day in and day out.
I know Brian is really big on Sanchez, and I am too, but I think these five guys deserve to be up where they are. Before I rank him any higher, even those I was close to ranking him 5, maybe 4, I want to see how he finishes in Portland and where he starts next year. He's pitched very well this season, with a K/9 that is freakish.
7. Craig Hansen
I may be crazy to rate him so high, but when he has the potential to be in the bullpen this season, and to be the first 2005 draftee in the majors, I think he deserves to be in the Top 10. He's got closer written all over him, and he may be the successor to Keith Foulke. I believe he also was rated the best fastball and the second best curveball in this year's draft.
This was a last minute change, as I had Jacoby Ellsbury here at number 8, with Alvarez and Shoppach pushed back, but I thought this was better. Alvarez is one of my favorite prospects and he's actually having a pretty good season, and has been the best as of late. Behind Lenny DiNardo, Alvarez has been Pawtucket's best starter going 11-4 with a 4.28 ERA. Lately he has been striking out a lot, and walking very little, and that's a great sign. I'd like to see him get start in the big leagues this year.
I used to be a big fan of Shoppach, but he has disappointed me this season. He is doing his usual thing of hitting home runs and walking a lot, but his batting average is way too low. He's 25 and hitting .254 at the AAA level. If he can't hit above .280 at the AAA level, I don't think he can hit well at the major league level.
10. David Pauley
A fresh face for the list, right? We acquired Pauley when we traded Dave Roberts to San Diego for Jay Payton and Ramon Vazquez who, oddly enough, aren't with the team anymore. Pauley has been a great pitcher alongside Lester in Portland, going 8-4 with a 3.38 ERA. Pauley is just 22 years old, and we may see him in Pawtucket next year.