Monday, Baseball Prospectus rolled out their organizational rankings, with Boston’s farm system coming in sixth. They weren’t exactly going out on a limb, either. Keith Law ranked the Red Sox 5th in this regard, and generally speaking they are conservatively considered a top-10 system by most, if not all, analysts. The bottom line is that this is going to be a fun season to follow the minor-leagues in this organization.
Fortunately, the talent is relatively spread out, so there isn’t just one team that needs to be followed to understand how the system is performing this year. The question becomes: which teams are more worth paying attention to than the others? This ranking isn't going to be about which team wins the most games, but instead it’s an entirely subjective ranking about which team will be fun to follow. A couple of housekeeping notes before I begin. The rosters obviously aren’t set in stone at this point, so I’ll be using Sox Prospects’ projected 2015 rosters as a blueprint. I’m also going to only be ranking the four full-season teams. I can revisit this midseason when the short-season squads begin playing, but their rosters are too dependent on the draft to include them now.
Although the talent is spread throughout the system, it’s not hard to see that the AAA club has the most impressive group of prospects to follow this season. Their rotation is absolutely sick, filled to the brim with legitimate prospects. Between Matt Barnes, Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Steven Wright, there are five starting pitchers in Pawtucket that have at least some chance at becoming an MLB SP in their career. Four of the team’s top-10 prospects are in this group. Even the bullpen is loaded, with Noe Ramirez, Edwin Escobar, Heath Hembree and Zeke Spruill in relief. Their crop of position players is also extremely talented. The number one prospect in Blake Swihart will be behind the plate, with Garin Cecchini, Travis Shaw and Deven Marrero in the infield and Jackie Bradley Jr. in the outfield. With all of these exciting young names on the roster, it will definitely be worth the drive to Rhode Island multiple times in 2015.
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The number two and three spots were extremely close, and it could’ve gone either way depending on what kind of mood I’m in. One of the more intriguing names for the upcoming season is Trey Ball, the former top-10 pick who is entering his second full season. He’ll be leading the way in Salem’s rotation. Fellow member of the 2013 class Teddy Stankiewicz will also be starting for the high-A club, and while he doesn’t have Ball’s ceiling, he is a very solid and underrated young arm. The lineup is where Salem is really intriguing, though. Top-5 prospect Manuel Margot leads the way here. With Sam Travis, Wendell Rijo and Carlos Asuaje also among its position players, Salem’s offense has some high-upside talent to watch in 2015.
If you wanted to put Greenville ahead of Salem in these rankings, I certainly wouldn’t waste my breath arguing hard with you. They are very close and both have a lot of fun talent on their rosters. The fact that the Drive’s players have a little less seasoning than Salem’s put them slightly behind for me. Still the rotation has some fun names, most notably Michael Kopech. The supplemental round pick last season turned some heads in his professional debut last season, and could have one the fastest rising reputations in the system. Jamie Callahan is also an intriguing name to watch, despite the fact he’ll be repeating the level. On the offensive side of things, Rafael Devers is the number one guy to watch. The 18-year-old isn’t a guarantee to make his full-season debut just yet, but if he’s there, he’s arguably the top prospect to watch for in 2015. If he’s not there, last season’s first round pick Michael Chavis likely will be, and he’ll be a fun one to watch in his own right. Surrounding them will be Nick Longhi and Javier Guerra, both solid mid-tier prospects who could take a step forward in 2015. There is also a personal favorite of mine in Mauricio Dubon, who I saw a couple time in Lowell last season and came away impressed with his swing.
Poor Marc. One year after having easily the most exciting team in the farm system, this year’s Sea Dogs team figures to be the one weak link in 2015. There is really no high-upside pitching on the staff, with Simon Mercedes and Keith Couch coming in as the most exciting names. Sox Prospects has Sean Coyle starting the year in Portland, and if that ends up being the case, that’s at least one legitimate player to watch in Maine. The downside is that even if he starts in Portland, he’ll probably be up in Pawtucket before too long. Other than him there is Henry Ramos along with Marco Hernandez, who came back as the player to be named later in the Felix Doubront deal. It’s a sad state of affairs for the 2015 Sea Dogs, who will need some midseason promotions from Salem to move up on this list.
Overall, it’s going to be a really fun year for those who will be following the minor-league teams. There is a lot of high-end talent, and three of the four teams have a handful of interesting players to watch. It’s a little upsetting for someone like me who lives in Northern Mass., as the closest team to me is the most boring team in the system. Still, the drive down to Pawtucket will surely be worth it. For those further south who can get to Salem and/or Greenville, it will be more than worth it to see all the high upside on those teams.