Maybe it's just me--and the fact that he's in our top-five certainly suggests that's the case--but it seems easy to forget just how good of a season Manuel Margot enjoyed in 2014.
Margot was pegged by many as a prospect to watch for a second straight season, despite a 2013 campaign in Lowell that had seen him hit to just a .697 OPS. Of course, that came with a decent .346 OBP, and even more importantly, Margot was just 18 at the time. It's never good for public perception when a player that's hyped as a potential breakout candidate fails to follow through, but when the player in question is that young, they certainly get more than one shot at breaking through.
Well, Margot got his second shot in 2014 and made excellent use of it. A good season from Margot was expected to include lots of hits, a decent number of walks, and a heap of stolen bases. He certainly delivered on those accounts. While he was slightly streaky in doing so, Margot hit .286 with the Greenville Drive, drawing 37 walks in just over 400 plate appearances and stole 39 bases, converting 75% of his attempts.
What we didn't expect were the ten home runs he hit with the Drive, or the two he added in a brief stint with the Salem Red Sox after a late promotion. Those twelve homers in 420 at bats this season are better than double the five he'd hit in his first two years in the system, and if Margot was expected to develop some marginal power at some point, this is certainly more than was expected and earlier to boot.
This leaves Margot at an interesting and exciting place headed into 2015. Is that power for real? Is its early arrival a sign that there's more to come than was expected? Will he be able to repeat his 2014 performance, or will we see something more mundane in 2015 than the .293/.356/.462 he produced between Greenville and Salem?
If it's more of the same--or even better--we may be talking about Margot as Boston's best prospect this time next year, particularly if Swihart has graduated. But even if he takes a step back, it's not actually a problem. Margot is the sort of player whose ability in the field and on the basepaths is enough to make him worth a roster spot and a regular place in the lineup so long as he keeps making contact enough to make use of that basestealing ability. The player Margot was before this power surge was good enough, even if the player he might be after is far more exciting.
It could be a while yet before we see Margot make his way to the majors. He'll likely start the season in High-A Salem since he only saw 50 at bats there last spring and the emphasis the Red Sox place on the jump between that level and Double-A. 2016 is pushing it even for a cup of coffee, with 2017 the earliest realistic date that might see Margot actually make the jump to the majors once and for all.
That's fine, though. Margot doesn't turn 21 until September 28, and is already ahead of the curve when it comes to development. Between him and Rafael Devers, the Sox are not lacking for a next wave to take over when Pawtucket's current wealth of talent moves on.
Here's the list as it stands:
- Blake Swihart, C
- Henry Owens, LHP
- Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
- Rafael Devers, 3B
- Manuel Margot, OF