There was, perhaps, some question about who would take first between Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi. And then if Rafael Devers could take third, but let's be honest, there's never really been a point where the top-four in Boston's farm system headed into 2016 was in question. And so, when Devers landed the third spot, Anderson Espinoza taking fourth was more-or-less a foregone conclusion. The big four have landed, standing a tier above the rest.
Of the four, Espinoza is the newbie. Which is something given how much time we spent on Rafael Devers' youth. But Devers has a good year and a half on Espinoza, who made his first appearances in the farm system this past season. It's quite the meteoric rise to the top levels of prospects, and one that can only have so much backing from performance. After all, we haven't even seen 60 innings from the guy! Yes, those innings were quite good. He completely dominated his peers at the rookie levels in the DSL and GCL, allowing just 37 hits and 5 earned runs in 55 innings down there. When the 5:1 K:BB ratio is less impressive than the numbers it results in? That's a good thing.
But really what's gotten Espinoza so much attention is the fact that he's a 17-year-old pitching like anything but. He's able to leverage everything in his six-foot frame to hit triple digits with his fastball, and he's got the sort of off-speed offerings that aren't supposed to exist at these low levels of the minors.
Could his repertoire use some diversifying? Could his offerings use some refinement? Sure. He's got six years to make that happen before Minor League Free Agency rears its ugly head, and by that point he'd still be following a typical timetable, arriving in the big leagues as a 23- or 24-year-old. That's better than a third of his life so far, though chances are he won't need anywhere near that much.
Espinoza is one of those prospects who enters the game with his talents assumed. He didn't so much need to prove himself to be real as to avoid proving himself fake. But if he didn't need to, it doesn't hurt that he did what he did in the rookie levels. If his first three innings in Greenville weren't perfectly smooth, well, we just got done talking about how a guy 18 months his senior is playing above his level there. Next year should give him a chance to show he's ready for everything full-season ball has to throw at him--or that full-season ball isn't ready for what he has to throw at it, I suppose. If he does, he might well make even his current impressive rankings seem like major underestimations.
Alright, there's your top four, as pretty much everyone expected them to be. Let's get into the more interesting rankings now, and see who takes fifth. Voting with recs in the comments as usual. I think by now you all know the drill.