The Boston Red Sox can lay claim to four of Baseball America's top 20 International League prospects, with Mookie Betts, Anthony Ranaudo, Christian Vazquez, and Allen Webster all making the list. Not quite the six-man showingthey managed in the Eastern League, but impressive all the same.
#2 Mookie Betts
It's no surprise to see Mookie Betts leading the pack once more. He already showed up in the Eastern League rankings, but thanks to a mid-season promotion, Betts is eligible for the International League honors as well. And while he wasn't quite as completely ridiculous in Triple-A as in Double-A, it's hard to say he wasn't dominant given his line of .335/.417/.503 in 211 plate appearances.
Of course, now Mookie is on to bigger and better things, and it will be no surprise if those 211 plate appearances are the last he sees as a minor leaguer. Certainly no prospect can feel completely safe from the threat of a sophomore slump--Xander Bogaerts showed us that this summer--but aside from that caveat Betts seems like a bundle of momentum that's shown no signs of stopping anytime soon.
#6 Anthony Ranaudo & #19 Allen Webster
Where Betts' excellence carried over to the majors, the same cannot be said for Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster. While both kept runs off the board in Triple-A (producing ERAs of 2.61 and 3.10 respectively), neither one showed much ability to translate their minor league success when facing big league hitters. Webster was punished for his usual struggles with control, leaving him with an ERA north of 5.00 while Ranaudo's lack of deception left him completely incapable of missing bats.
At this point, minor league success only means so much for two players who need to show they can make the jump. The problem will be in finding opportunities. There were plenty of innings to go around this year after the trades of Jon Lester and John Lackey, but the Red Sox are not going to go into 2015 with a rotation weak enough that Ranaudo and Webster will be considered legitimate options, and with the likes of Henry Owens and Matt Barnes right there with them, it's not hard to imagine these two being left by the wayside, or making the trip to the bullpen.
#16 Christian Vazquez
For Christian Vazquez, the major league transition should be rather easier. His rookie campaign was certainly not without its flaws. Vazquez hit just .240/.308/.309 in the major leagues, and his minor league line was not terribly impressive either. But even a down year of .279/.336/.385 in Pawtucket is worthy of recognition when it comes with his stellar defense behind the plate. It's the glove that's going to carry Vazquez to a successful major league career, and that's certainly shown up in his time in both the minor and major leagues.
Is he Boston's starter? In the long term, Blake Swihart will be the one to challenge that. In the short term, it's a question of just how low a bat can get before the team considers it untenable no matter how good the defense. Because if any glove can make up for it, it's Vazquez'.
Then again, maybe he just hits better in his sophomore season and push never comes to shove in the first place.