The Red Sox are very good and are very good at maintaining a farm system. Case in point: Two of Keith Law’s top 20 prospects in baseball are former Red Sox, with Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, having been traded for Chris Sale, and the team still has three more guys in Law’s final annual grouping: Jason Groome at No. 20, Rafael Devers at No. 11 and Andrew Benintendi at No. 1.
That’s right: We’re number one! Suck it, Cubs.
So even without Moncada (No. 17) and Michael Kopech (No. 7!), the future looks bright, even if the only other Red Sox player to make the list was Sam Travis way back at No. 98. To the good news!
20. Jason Groome
Law writes that Groome has “one of the best curveballs I’ve ever seen from a high schooler,” though he suspects the Red Sox will ask him to work on his changeup in A-ball this year. Here’s Law’s hammer:
His arm works well, and he has the size to work downhill with his fastball, one of the aspects lacking from his game at the moment. He’s still relatively unpolished, and probably four years away from the majors, so there’s a higher flameout or injury risk -- maybe 30 percent or so -- than there is for other arms in this region of the rankings. I’ll still take a big lefty with an out pitch curveball and potential for a grade 55 or better fastball any day of the week.
17. Yoan Moncada
By this point we know enough about Moncada, most importantly that he’s not on the Red Sox any longer. Law implicitly raises the question: Did the Red Sox sell high?:
The White Sox, having just acquired him, have no need to rush him and should let him spend the year in Triple-A. I think he’s going to be a good big leaguer, maybe an above-average one, but there’s also a pretty high risk involved here, maybe 30 percent, that he never lives up to his physical tools.
11. Rafael Devers
Law calls Devers the forgotten man of the farm system, but says that he’s “a true third baseman with an exceptional ability to hit and huge raw power he’s just beginning to display in games.” Remember that David Ortiz guy? Well, we might not be without a big lefty bat for long, Law writes:
And there is big power to come -- Devers can already put the ball out to dead center on a line, so it’s a matter of some physical maturity and maintaining that hard-contact approach rather than becoming too pull-oriented. [...] Moving Moncada clears a path for Devers to take over at the hot corner in Fenway sometime in late 2018. Even average defense at third would make him an All-Star given how much I expect him to hit for power.
7. Michael Kopech
I love Chris Sale, but I’d still cover your eyes for this one. Law’s big on the big Texan we shipped away:
Kopech has modeled himself after Noah Syndergaard, another huge Texas right-hander who came out of high school with a fastball, a good delivery and little else, and the results so far are very promising.
1. Andrew Benintendi
Noting that Benintendi’s knee injury was the only thing that kept him eligible for this list, Law nonetheless names the outfielder the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. The rules are the rules.
Writing that Benintendi “dominated at every level of the minors,” Law is impressed by both his plate discipline and the power and quality of Benintendi’s contact. At 5’8”, he fits right in on the team’s undersized, overpowering lineup, and should be near the top of the batting order on Opening Day. Here’s Law’s overall assessment:
Although Benintendi played more left field in the majors, he’s capable of playing above-average defense in center if need be, thanks to above-average running speed and good instincts. And if he was a centerfielder with just average defense, he’d still be an All-Star thanks to the potential for him to post OBPs near .400 with 25-plus homers and value on the bases. And if the Sox end up putting him in center, Benintendi would be a potential six-win player. That’s incredible value for the seventh overall pick, and it makes Benintendi the best prospect in baseball for 2017.
Can we start the season now, please? Here’s the whole Top 20, which you can, of course, read on ESPN Insider:
- Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox
- Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves
- Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets
- Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees
- J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
- Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox
- Victor Robles, CF, Washington Nationals
- Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
- Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
- Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago Cubs
- Lucas Giolito, RHP, Chicago White Sox
- Josh Bell, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Nick Senzel, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
- Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Yoan Moncada, 2B/3B, Chicago White Sox
- Francisco Mejia, C, Cleveland Indians
- Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies
- Jason Groome, LHP, Boston Red Sox