Spring training hasn't officially started yet, which is good news if you're ready to see more prospect rankings. It's certainly a positive for MLB Draft Insider, which just finished releasing their top 100 prospects list on Thursday. As you would expect, shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts comes in at #2 behind uber-prospect Byron Buxton, but it's after Bogaerts that things get intriguing: the Red Sox have nine prospects in total in this top 100.
Chris Crawford, who created this top 100, put Jackie Bradley in at #42 -- it's not the best ranking Bradley's seen, but we've seen him in this neighborhood before. Of more interest is the third-ranked Sox prospect here, Blake Swihart: the backstop comes in at #46 overall, easily the highest ranking he's seen all off-season long. Crawford told Over the Monster why this aggressive rank exists, stating that "few -- if any -- prospects improved as much as Swihart did from 2012 to 2013, and what was once a mess of a swing from the left-side now looks significantly improved." While the in-game power isn't part of Swihart's game yet, Crawford believes he has the potential to swat 18-20 per year, which, when combined with his impressive glove, makes him a top-50 prospect.
Three prospects in the top-50 is great, especially when one of them sits in the second spot and has retained his shine into the start of his big-league career. It's the back-end of this list where the Sox show off their farm's depth, however, with six more prospects coming in between 51 and 100:
58: Henry Owens, LHP
63: Garin Cecchini, 3B
68: Matt Barnes, RHP
89: Mookie Betts, 2B
98: Allen Webster, RHP
100: Trey Ball, LHP
It's always encouraging to see someone still has faith in Matt Barnes -- he's a pitcher who might surprise some in 2014, as he had a strong second half masked by a tough initial adjustment to Double-A. There's a strong argument to be made that he remains Boston's best pitching prospect. The only other arm to counter that with is Owens, due to being left-handed, and, by Crawford's own past admission, potential to be a number two starter if he keeps this up any longer.
None of this is to say the Sox lack pitching prospects, of course: Barnes and Owens likely just stand out in a crowded and talented group, at least until Trey Ball gets some pro experience behind him.
While #89 is a little lower for Betts than we might collectively like, Crawford also sees him as someone who could play shortstop if he had to, and even possibly an outfielder if that's the space that opens up by the time he's big-league ready. As with other lists, another year of Mookie doing Mookie things will likely see him shoot up the rankings.
As for Webster, you know the story by now: the stuff is there to be a number two, or at least a quality mid-rotation arm, but he needs to start showing he knows how to actually pitch and has some semblance of command before he can climb any higher in the rankings.