It's Keith Law Prospect week at ESPN, and Thursday marks the release of his top 100 list. Five Red Sox prospects made the cut, with three of them coming in the top-50 and one in the top-10, and it all bodes well for Boston's future when you consider this is what's left when Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts are already in the majors and Rusney Castillo doesn't count as a prospect.
You will not be shocked to see Blake Swihart leading the pack, but you might be surprised to see him all the way up as the 10th-best prospect in baseball. Law has nothing but positive things to say about the switch-hitting backstop, citing all the major improvements he's made both offensively and defensively during his time in the pros as well as his "All-Star upside" at the plate.
After that, Henry Owens is at 20 and Eduardo Rodriguez at 29. Law, like many seem to, believes Rodriguez's upside is better than that of Owens, but that Owens is further along in his development with fewer questions about his eventual readiness and ability to reach his ceiling. Law states that Rodriguez has the potential to be a number one starter, but that he has "a few developmental hurdles ahead of him", mostly having to do with command of both his fastball and his slider. The stuff is there, but as Red Sox fans better be well aware of at this point, if he can't command it, then he'll never realize his full potential.
After that, it's a pair of teenagers pointing towards a future that's still a ways away. Rafael Devers will be just 18 years old in 2015, but he'll also be playing full-season ball for the first time with Low-A Greenville. Law explains that the number 55 prospect is still at least three years away, but that there is All-Star upside here thanks to his very legitimate power. Last on the list is Manuel Margot at 70: there are more questions here, mostly related to how big Margot eventually gets. If he's too big, he'll lose speed and also his ability to play center, cutting into both his defensive value and his baserunning upside. If he doesn't outgrow the position, however, there is 30-steal potential as well as above-average defense to look forward to, and that doesn't even get into his bat that blew away older Single-A competition this past summer.
The Sox have more prospects than this, but these are the big five at the moment, and it's somewhat incredible they were able to stuff them into the top 70 spots given last year's promotions. The Red Sox are looking good in 2015, but it's comforting to know that when huge chunks of that team hit free agency in a year, there are still some legitimate pieces left in the minors to replace them.