It's difficult to envision the futures of the players in the Gulf Coast League, because they are basically still children even though they're playing professional baseball. It's where most of the teenagers the Red Sox either sign internationally or draft end up playing early on in their careers, and where statistics barely matter since almost everyone is such an early version of whatever it is they're going to become. That's what makes reports from outlets like Baseball America helpful, as they can give us some context that we otherwise would not have with players at this level.
Baseball America released their top-20 list of GCL prospects this week, and three Red Sox kids made the top-10. One of them even managed to nail down the top spot overall.
1. Rafael Devers, 3B
We knew Devers was supposed to be the top hitter on the market when he was signed by the Red Sox last summer, but even with that information in hand, his first pro season was a huge surprise. He crushed the Dominican Summer League, batting .337/.445/.538 in 28 games, and found himself promoted to the GCL as a 17-year-old because of it. Once stateside, Devers didn't slow down, posting a .312/.374/.484 line in 48 contests, in a league where the average hitter is well over 19 years old and hit .249/.331/.346.
Baseball America believes he needs to improve his footwork and watch his figure, or else risk a move to first base from third base. They had plenty of lovely things to say about his bat, however:
Devers has a sweet, buggy-whip swing from the left side, plus bat speed and a knack for barreling the ball with authority, whether it's in or out of the strike zone. He uses a simple, compact stroke that stays in the hitting zone, giving him excellent plate coverage and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. His power output has improved since he signed, with plus raw power that could tick up with natural strength progression.
7. Javier Guerra, SS
Guerra spent 2013 in the Dominican Summer League, and while he showed off some patience there, his contact and power were limited. The walks dropped with a move to the GCL, but Guerra bumped his slugging up to .408 with 18 extra-base hits in 51 games. There's a whole lot of work to be done here to make him a more complete hitter, but there's time: he's all of 18 years old. Plus, the primary intrigue with Guerra is his defense, especially now that his arm strength has improved to where it grades as plus, according to Baseball America.
9. Michael Chavis, SS/3B
Chavis was Boston's first overall pick in this past summer's draft, at number 26. While he was a bit slow coming out of the gate after signing, he heated up with the weather in August, batting .372/.430/.590 over his last 22 games of the season. Baseball America describes him as having plus bat speed, and a short swing that can handle "premium" velocity.
The concern is on defense, as they believe the 18-year-old will have trouble sticking at short as he gets older and fills out. As it is, the Sox had him play 10 games at third and another 16 as the designated hitter, so while they're saying they think shortstop could be in his future, they aren't committing 100 percent to that, either. Though, with Guerra around, too, and roles not being the primary focus at this level, maybe that's reading too much into it.