Right on the tail of his organizational rankings, Keith Law has released his top-100 prospects list for the 2016 season, and the Red Sox are remarkably well represented at the top, landing three spots in the top 20, and four in the top 50.
It doesn't start with the name you might expect. In fact, it's Rafael Devers who takes top billing for Boston, all the way up at number seven. While Law acknowledges that Moncada entered the season with more hype than the third baseman, Devers showed his ability to hold his own at the same level as Moncada despite being more than a year younger. Law sees few holes in Devers' offensive game, noting that the low walk rates shouldn't be seen as a red flag given the contact ability Devers combines with his developing plus power.
Perhaps most interesting, though, is just how much credit Law gives Devers defensively. Of those who have spoken in favor of Devers in the field, Law seems the most bullish on Devers to not simply survive at third, but possibly thrive, citing his "great hands" and "70-grade arm." Devers might be a bit far away to provide any comfort for Red Sox fans desperate for an answer if Pablo Sandoval should fail them again, but there seems to be some very real hope at a position that the Red Sox have struggled to find a long-term answer arguably since the departure of Wade Boggs.
Technically Yoan Moncada does make his appearance next, but it's really a bit disingenuous to separate him from Andrew Benintendi, as the pair check in at 17 and 18 respectively. Law's a bit reserved on Moncada, suggesting that the power might never quite come in in the way early projections had suggested. His "best projection" involves 15-18 homers, to give you an idea. But for all that, he still credits him with "a couple of paths to becoming an All-Star," which seems pretty good if you're down on the guy.
Personally, I wonder if Law is giving Moncada enough credit for coming in cold after more than a year out of baseball. He does note how he turned around his early-season struggles in the second half, but perhaps too much weight is being put on a first half which might be best viewed as spring training. Or perhaps I'm looking through rose-colored glasses at our $62 million man. One way or the other, 2016 should give us a good idea. Now that Moncada has gotten back on pace with his peers, he'll have the chance to really pull away and show exactly how good he is over the course of a full season.
As for Benintendi, Law notes the puzzling overall picture of Boston's first-round pick, noting that he's "a short, athletic power-hitting center fielder with the potential for a Mike Cameron stat line from a Reed Johnson body." The Red Sox certainly don't care what body the production comes from, though. Insert Dustin Pedroia reference here, and all that. If Benintendi doesn't have the scout's dream build, that just makes what he's doing all that much more impressive.
Truck Day is back in Boston
The baseball season has a long roll-out but the first rite of spring for Red Sox Nation has arrived in the form of a flatbed truck filled to the brim with baseball supplies and escorted by a pair of mascots.
Of course, Law does note that while Benintendi can stay in center, he's probably better suited to other spots in the outfield when the Red Sox have Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts available. And while, as a Jack-of-all-trades, Benintendi might not have too many truly superlative skills ala Rafael Devers' power, he's got what it takes to be above-average or better at every single aspect of the game. And is already at that level in the minor leagues, where Law notes he might not be for much longer, citing the quick rises of Michael Conforto and Kyle Schwarber to the major leagues.
Oh, and he gets the one Mike Trout mention in the entire top-100 as one of a dying breed of potential 20/20 threats. No, it's not really a Mike Trout projection, but it's always nice to be mentioned in the same sentence.
Rounding out Boston's contingent is, to nobody's surprise, Anderson Espinoza, coming in at 38. And, honestly, Law's first sentence just deserves to be shared and read by all.
He might be Pedro Martinez or he might be a right-handed Aroldis Chapman, but one thing Anderson Espinoza will not be is short of hyperbole.
How do I make fire emoji on here? I can't? Dammit!
Law's whole review of Espinoza is pretty glowing, to the point where you'd expect his ranking to be a lot higher. It's the sort of stuff you dream about. Which makes it pretty easy to guess why he's at 38 and not, I dunno, 2: age and distance. He's 17--nearly four years younger than Law's number one in Corey Seager--and has barely even touched Greenville. With so much time and development between him and the majors, there's plenty of chances for Espinoza to grow into a truly terrifying pitcher...or to jump the track, as it were. Law even admits that there's not really enough comparable pitchers from recent years to project his likelihood of staying healthy. We'll just have to wait and hope that nothing goes wrong.
Usually, the Red Sox would be good for at least one guy hanging around the tail end of the top-100, but it seems for now like we'll have to wait for the honorable mentions to see if the likes of Michael Kopech, Sam Travis, Brian Johnson et al. received any serious consideration. It's certainly a top-heavy farm system, and for those playing "what if", could have been even more so given Manuel Margot (25) and Javier Guerra (34) both making appearances--no surprise given how long Law has been bullish on Guerra. But for now, three of the top 20 seems like a pretty excellent showing.