It's the middle of the 2015 season, which means it's the time of year where we're going to see those midseason prospect lists. Baseball Prospectus released theirs on Monday, and now Baseball America has published their own -- it includes five Red Sox prospects, too, so it's worth our time to dissect it.
You won't be surprised by the first three prospects ranked on the list, as they are the same ones BP had, only in a different order and placement. Yoan Moncada comes in at 11th once again, then Rafael Devers is at 15 again, but Manuel Margot has fallen back a bit and sits at 24th by Baseball America's reckoning. Rather than go over these three again, you can read what we wrote about them on Monday, as there is plenty to say about the two new players included on the list: lefty starters and Triple-A teammates Brian Johnson and Henry Owens.
Johnson actually ranks ahead of Owens at number 38, a huge jump for him from his pre-season ranking of 82. It makes sense to a degree that he would see such a massive boost in his ranking: Johnson is toying with Triple-A hitters and is clearly big-league ready, and midseason lists are the thinnest of any you'll find because anyone who has been promoted isn't included on them, and recent draft picks and international signings aren't part of the equation, either. Johnson could move back on the list a bit by the time the post-2015 lists come out without actually pitching any worse, just because of the addition of new prospects. For now, though, measured this way, he ranks 38th.
His real first challenge, as I've been something of a broken record on for a few years now, should come in the majors. Johnson is polished with a four-pitch repertoire and excellent control combined with quality command. He knows how to pitch and can hit the spots he wants to, and that's maddening for minor-league opponents. He won't get away with quite as much in the majors, but we are talking about a pitcher who has a 2.73 ERA in Triple-A and has allowed two runs or fewer in 13 of his 16 starts on the year: he's got plenty of cushion to see his ERA increase while still being a productive pitcher. Ranking 38th is probably high since Johnson's ceiling is likely as a mid-rotation guy, but if there was a list it was going to happen and make sense on, a midseason one was it.
As for Owens, he began the season ranked 44th by Baseball America, so he fell three spots but actually a whole lot more than that when you consider the promotions mentioned earlier. Still, credit to Baseball America for not forgetting about Owens' entirely because of a couple of rough months to begin the year as he was adjusting to utilizing his curveball more often, rather than relying entirely on his fastball and his change. He's come around of late, too, with a 3.00 ERA and 25/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last five starts and 33 innings, so if that continues, BA will look good for not panicking and cutting him from the list entirely.
Owens probably has the higher ceiling, and is still just 22, but Johnson has proven with his performance at Triple-A that he's more of a sure thing. There is a far better chance he's in the 2016 rotation -- or maybe even in the 2015 one -- than Owens, who might end up needing, if not a full season, at least another stint at Triple-A to sort things out. Let's be patient, though: Owens has another two months to show that what he learned about using his curve has stuck, so maybe the strikeouts will climb again and the walks will continue to stay down, and he'll be back to impressing scouts everywhere once more.