The Red Sox have a loaded farm system at the moment. There's an inherent desire to hold on to all of that prospect depth and hope enough comes out of it to fuel the next great Boston club, but baseball doesn't work like that. For one, roster rules prevent teams from holding on to every young player potentially worth the money invested in them. Boston's 40-man roster is already packed, and next year, when even more players are Rule 5 eligible, things won't get any easier.
Second, not all prospects turn out like you hope they will. In fact, most prospects do not. Both of these items are why it's fine to trade prospects. You don't want to trade all of them, but due to space issues, and the fact that promise doesn't necessarily translate into production, you make deals where you can, and when you can, to bolster the big-league roster and improve the club's fortunes in other ways. You keep the prospects that will help shape your roster, and send others out to acquire the pieces that will fill in the holes.
Boston has done quite a bit of this over the years, and while sometimes Red Sox fans wish a certain player were still in town, they often brought in a piece that helped Boston compete in the present, complementing the core of prospects and young players the Red Sox did keep. We're likely to see more of that this off-season, as the team rebuilds from a disaster 2012 campaign. Throw in that, with the loss of a former prospect in Che-Hsuan Lin, and now becomes as good of a time as any to review the last decade in projecting Red Sox prospects.
Baseball America has the longest-running prospect rankings out there, so for this exercise, that's the source. Starting back in 2002, we'll go through the top 10 of each season up through 2011, seeing who was ranked as a prospect, and then checking to see how well Baseball America did in projecting future major league players. Why not 2012? We're barely removed from that season, so a little more space, especially when talking prospects, is necessary.
|1||Seung Song||Hanley Ramirez||Hanley Ramirez||Hanley Ramirez||Andy Marte|
|2||Tony Blanco||Kelly Shoppach||Kelly Shoppach||Brandon Moss||Jon Lester|
|3||Rene Miniel||Kevin Youkilis||David Murphy||Jonathan Papelbon||Jonathan Papelbon|
|4||Manny Delcarmen||Freddy Sanchez||Kevin Youkilis||Jon Lester||Craig Hansen|
|5||Casey Fossum||Phil Dumatrait||Matt Murton||Anibal Sanchez||Dustin Pedroia|
|6||Freddy Sanchez||Manny Delcarmen||Chad Spann||Dustin Pedroia||Jacoby Ellsbury|
|7||Phil Dumatrait||Billy Simon||Abe Alvarez||Luis Soto||Kelly Shoppach|
|8||Josh Thigpen||Jon Lester||Jon Lester||Kelly Shoppach||Manny Delcarmen|
|9||Anastacio Martinez||Jorge De La Rosa||Juan Cedeno||Ian Bladergroen||Jed Lowrie|
|10||Frank Francisco||Aneudis Mateo||Manny Delcarmen||Abe Alvarez||Clay Buchholz|
|1||Daisuke Matsuzaka||Clay Buchholz||Lars Anderson||Ryan Westmoreland||Jose Iglesias|
|2||Jacoby Ellsbury||Jacoby Ellsbury||Michael Bowden||Casey Kelly||Anthony Ranaudo|
|3||Clay Buchholz||Lars Anderson||Nick Hagadone||Josh Reddick||Drake Britton|
|4||Michael Bowden||Justin Masterson||Daniel Bard||Lars Anderson||Josh Reddick|
|5||Daniel Bard||Jed Lowrie||Josh Reddick||Ryan Kalish||Felix Doubront|
|6||Lars Anderson||Ryan Kalish||Casey Kelley||Junichi Tazawa||Stolmy Pimentel|
|7||Dustin Pedroia||Michael Bowden||Junichi Tazawa||Reymond Fuentes||Garin Cecchini|
|8||Bryce Cox||Nick Hagadone||Ryan Westmoreland||Anthony Rizzo||Lars Anderson|
|9||Craig Hansen||Oscar Tejeda||Michael Almanzar||Jose Iglesias||Kolbrin Vitek|
|10||Kris Johnson||Josh Reddick||Yamaico Navarro||Derrik Gibson||Oscar Tejeda|
A few of those years are ugly. Not necessarily because of Baseball America's prognostication, but due to the names involved, and the lack of depth in the system. Let us never speak of 2002 again.
You can see plenty of names that were dealt here. Freddy Sanchez was moved in 2003 to try to shore up the rotation with Jeff Suppan. Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez were part of the 2005 trade that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell (and eventually a World Series title) to Boston. Matt Murton was sent to the Cubs in the 2004 Nomar Garciaparra trade. David Murphy was part of the Eric Gagne deal that was meant to solidify the bullpen, but instead made things sketchier in the late innings. Thankfully, Boston won in spite of this.
Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen were both involved in the Jason Bay deal in 2008. Kelly Shoppach and Andy Marte brought in Coco Crisp before the 2006 season. Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone were sent off for Victor Martinez in 2009. Josh Reddick was traded to the A's for Andrew Bailey in a deal that has happened too recently to be judged completely yet. And, of course, Casey Kelly, Reymond Fuentes, and Anthony Rizzo were sent to the Padres in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez.
Did Boston always send a player who turned into nothing in exchange for this help? No, but generally speaking, they've done an excellent job of holding on to the best talent from the group. Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, and others were less well-thought of than others on this list, but all stuck in Boston, and all became integral parts of winning Sox clubs. There were misses with some of the players held on to -- Michael Bowden and Lars Anderson spring to the fore in that regard -- but the Red Sox shipped out their fair share of duds while they retained enough value to be traded, as well.
No one is going to correctly predict the value of a team's top prospects, including the team themselves. Baseball America did a solid job of it here over a long stretch of time, identifying many of Boston's valuable trade assets and pieces of future Red Sox clubs. They weren't always correct, but neither were the Red Sox. And that's something to keep in mind this winter, and in the future, when Boston inevitably sends someone's favorite prospect packing in a deal to help in the present.