Over the last few seasons, the Red Sox have consistently been in the top-third of farm systems around the league. Ben Cherington built up a large stable of young players that continued to recycle itself as players were promoted to the majors. Since Dave Dombrowski has taken over, he’s dealt a lot of young talent that figure to rank well in various top-100 lists coming later this winter. Because of these trades, among other reasons, the organization’s minor-league system has been ranked 16th in Keith Law’s annual rankings.
It’s not entirely surprising, as since the start of last offseason Dombrowski has dealt Anderson Espinoza, Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and Mauricio Dubon (sad face) from their top-10 prospects. The good news is that it wasn’t done in vain, as the team is easily the favorite to win the American League East and is arguably the favorite to represent the American League in the World Series. Drew Pomeranz allowed them to stop giving Sean O’Sullivan starts and was a big help towards making the postseason last year. He should be in the rotation for the next couple years, too. Chris Sale is arguably the best pitcher in baseball not named Clayton Kershaw, and Tyler Thornburg should be a fantastic number two in the bullpen behind Craig Kimbrel.
Even with all that talent, it’s still a little jarring to see the Red Sox simply sitting in the middle of the pack rather than close to the head. It’s not all bad news, though. As Law states in his write-up of the organization, they have three elite-level prospects at the top of their rankings in Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Jason Groome. Sam Travis isn’t an elite prospect, but he’s extremely close to the majors and has a higher floor than most prospects around the league. Bobby Dalbec, last year’s fourth-round pick, had a phenomenal pro debut and possesses a high ceiling. It should be mentioned, though, that scouts differ on how they feel he’ll progress as he starts to face more advanced arms in the higher levels. Things drop off precipitously after the top-five, though, with a combination of low-ceiling players in the upper levels and far away prospects that lack elite ceilings.
As disappointing as this ranking may be, it’s not a complete negative. As I said above, the major-league roster is still stacked. It may suck to see your favorite prospects dealt — and trust me, I melted down when Dubon was sent to Milwaukee — but the hard truth is that part of a prospect’s value is using them to strengthen the current-day roster. On top of that, the team has been kept out of the international market for the past two seasons, which has been a huge boon to their farm system in the past.
The other good news is that, while the team may be lacking in prospects, it’s not lacking in young talent. Mookie Betts has already established himself as a premier position player in the league, and he just turned 24 a few months ago. Xander Bogaerts is the same age, while Jackie Bradley will be just 27. On the pitching side of things, Eduardo Rodriguez continues to show flashes that made him a top prospect, and he won’t turn 24 until April. Even Blake Swihart, who took a bit of a step back in terms of reputation last season, still has a bright future and turns 25 in April.
Minor-league rankings are an easy way to check in on the young talent around the league, and the value of having a strong farm system is clearly important. However, it’s certainly not everything. The Red Sox are merely in the middle of the pack in terms of farm systems, but they’d surely rank much higher if we included all of their young talent. As much we’d like them to have a better rank here, this team should be a contender for a long time.