Yoan Moncada is probably going to be great. Andrew Benintendi might be, too! Prospects like that are how the Red Sox ended up ranked as a top-10 farm system by the major outlets, and in some cases, even better than that. You know all about those dudes, though. So, this time around, let's focus on some prospects who haven't broken out yet, who might someday help the Red Sox even though things, as they stand, are a bit cloudy.
The inspiration? MLB released their top-30 prospects on the Red Sox, and since you're familiar with the top-10, for our purposes we'll be focusing on prospects 11 through 30. There are more than five intriguing prospects on this list, but out of a balance of proximity and ceiling, these are the five we think you'll want to know sooner than later.
With any luck, most of these five will breakout, and so will some we didn't cover. Not to be greedy or anything.
Rei was Boston's second pick in the 2015 draft, but selected in the third round. While his professional debut was uninspiring, with the right-handed catcher batting just .179/.285/.295 for short-season Lowell, there is a lot of talent and potential here. Baseball America's John Manuel believes Rei could be a better player than some of those selected on day one of the draft, and Baseball Prospectus' Christopher Crawford already rated Rei as the 10th-best prospect in the organization.
He'll be just 22 and debuting in full-season ball with the Low-A Greenville Drive in 2016. He'll also be starting off the year healthy, as he spent 2015 dealing with a torn thumb ligament that limited him to designated hitter duty until later in the season, when he was able to return to catching. He's already shown off some patience -- a .285 on-base percentage normally is a downer, but it was almost 100 points higher than Rei's average, and he showed a little pop for his level, too.
If he can get the average up and continue to draw walks without using a passive approach, then this year could be the start of the excitement around Rei, a season that could see him end up in the top-10 lists of other prospect analysts. Considering MLB has him ranked as the 25th-best prospect in the system, that would be quite the jump.
The Red Sox picked up Ysla in a trade with the Giants, where Boston sent Alejandro De Aza out to San Francisco. MLB ranked him as the number 21 prospect in the Sox system, mostly on the power of his deceptive mechanics and a fastball that sometimes gets up to 98. A lefty reliever who can throw 98 is someone who could break out at any time, especially now that he's got a new set of coaches who have seen him work a bit and can maybe smooth out some of the rough edges.
Ysla is not going to be a starter even if things go spectacularly for him, although he did make nine starts for the Giants' High-A team last summer. As a full-time reliever, though, he has the kind of stuff that, if he can control it, could see him in Boston's pen by late-2016. That's a huge if, obviously, but it's smaller than you think when you look a little closer at his numbers.
Ysla had a 6.38 ERA in 2015, but much of that damage was done in his starts, where opponents batted .388/.459/.576 against him. He wasn't perfect in relief, but .266/.350/.415 is significantly better, and he was still working lengthy, multi-inning stints in that role. If the Sox make Ysla a more standard reliever, seeing how he performs for an inning at a time when he can just let loose, there might be something worthwhile here. Hey, it worked for Pat Light at Double-A a year ago, so why not Ysla?
Speaking of Light, he still has the chance to break out. He did, to a degree, at Double-A, but he lost his control at Triple-A and slid back down the prospect lists he had just started climbing. Light is ranked 15th on MLB's list, but with that splitter, if he can regain his control, he could hop into the top-10 this summer.
He has real swing-and-miss stuff, at least after reverting to the repertoire that got him drafted in the first place, and the permanent switch to relief did wonders for his ability to get outs. He just needs to find the strike zone consistently, though, or else it won't matter how much his splitter can split. If he can get to four works or fewer per nine while maintaining that strikeout rate of one per inning, he'll be a valuable relief piece. If he's just got nothing against more advanced hitters than the ones who are in Double-A, though, in the sense he can't or won't challenge them in the strike zone, then it's sad to say that there's nothing here for the former first-round talent.
Don't give up on him just yet, though, as Light is 25 and has shown at least in brief spurts that he can harness his control. It took him a few years to even get to this point, so a few more months at Triple-A isn't a catastrophe.
Shepherd is ranked number 29 on MLB's list, and you might not be familiar with him at all unless you religiously read our prospect updates from last year. The Sox drafted him in the 13th round of the 2014 draft, and made the former starter into a reliever. He was once considered a potential top-100 draft pick until the forearm injury that helped the Red Sox decide his role, and while he lacks an obvious out pitch, he has a three-pitch mix with a low-to-mid 90s sinking fastball, and he can throw strikes with all three offerings.
Craig Kimbrel has a nasty curveball, too
Craig Kimbrel is known for his high-impact heater, but the complimentary curveball is what really makes him go.
He might not have the health to start even if he has the repertoire, but all that means is he could be a quality middle reliever or maybe even an eighth inning guy eventually, albeit not your traditional overpowering one. His ERA was a bit high for Salem, but he did produce a 6.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio and kept the ball in the park. He won't have to strike everyone out if he's avoiding walks and homers, and he'll get the chance to show that he can perform like this against high-minors hitters this year when he debuts for Double-A Portland.
Jerez broke out in the sense that many remembered the former outfielder and second-round pick existed, but he's not quite on the prospect radar yet in the way he could be. MLB ranked him as the number 20 prospect in the system after Jerez pitched well at three levels in 2015: Low-A, High-A, and Double-A. While he was a little less effective at that last stop, it's worth remembering he was a 23-year-old who came into the season with 34 pro innings on the mound: the fact Jerez wasn't pummeled at Double-A is impressive on its own, never mind that he managed an ERA well under four.
The 6-foot-4 lefty will likely get a second shot at Portland, and if his pitching career so far is any indication, he could start to make some noise as a legitimate pitching prospect. The Sox liked him enough that they protected him from the Rule 5 draft and placed him on their 40-man roster, and as he becomes more familiar with his secondary offerings and the way he needs to use them against advanced hitters, he should only improve.
If his command takes a step up in combination with the rediscovery of his feel for pitching, Jerez could be a legitimate bullpen option in the majors. We're not quite at that point yet, but what he's done in the little time he's had as a reliever is something to behold already.