With there being virtually nothing going on at the moment and much of the baseball internet being mired in prospect season (including us! Go vote in our prospect voting!), I figured now made sense as a perfect time to look back at the 2013 farm system. Why 2013? Well, because it was five years ago and that’s a nice round number. Who cares about the system four or six years ago? Idiots, that’s who. Anyway, I’m not even sure what kind of overarching point I’m looking for heading into this, or if I’m seeking a lesson at all. Really, I just think it’s always useful to look back at what we thought a few years ago as a reminder that we may not know as much as we think. For reference, there were some differences of opinion on the strength of Boston’s system, as Baseball America had them ranked sixth while Baseball Prospectus had them all the way down at 16. I’ll go through the entire top twenty from our own community list from that winter and see how the player has actually panned out compared to expectations.
1. Xander Bogaerts
If you recall, 2013 was the year in which the Killer B’s prospect grouping really peaked, and that was a group that didn’t yet include Mookie Betts. Bogaerts clearly led that charge and was seen as perhaps the best prospect in baseball and a potential superstar. I think it’s fair to say that the young shortstop hasn’t quite lived up to that hype, but I also think it’s fair to say that people are a little too down on him. It’s hard for players to live up to the hype when so many people talk about their ceilings, but Bogaerts even without substantial improvement is a solid outcome for a team’s top prospect in any given season.
2. Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley is perhaps the most fascinating player to look back on as a prospect. Bogaerts is certainly a different player than we expected, but much of that difference is due to underperformance. Bradley, meanwhile, is just a totally different guy. Coming up, there was very little power and if he was going to make it at the plate it was going to be because of his on-base ability. Instead, Bradley has shown massive power during his hot stretches and the on-base ability hasn’t really been as great as we thought. The one part we got right, though, was the defense. Bradley seems like a true hit here as a strong prospect, but not one as highly thought of as Bogaerts.
3. Matt Barnes
Right now, it’s clear that Barnes is the number three among the old Killer B’s trio, but at the time there was an argument that he had a higher ceiling than Bradley. At this point in history it seemed like Barnes had all of the ingredients to be a legitimate mid-rotation starter, at least, and was ready to take the next step. Of course, that didn’t really work out. I like him out of the bullpen more than many people, but I also don’t think he’s a future closer and he’s probably not even a setup man on a good team. Not a total bust here, but Barnes didn’t quite live up to the hype.
4. Rubby De La Rosa
Here we have our first player who is no longer in the Red Sox organization. De La Rosa had just come over from the Dodgers at this point and was a thrilling pitcher with plenty of potential. It was unclear if he’d make it as a starter, but if he didn’t many thought he had a great chance at being a late-inning arm. It never worked out in Boston and he was eventually sent to Arizona for Wade Miley. He’s still with the Diamondbacks and spent most of last year in Triple-A. De La Rosa will get another chance as a reliever, but entering his age-29 season the chances are getting fewer and farther between.
5. Allen Webster
Webster is wildly similar to De La Rosa, at least in terms of career trajectory. He came from Los Angeles to Boston in the same trade, and was eventually sent to Arizona in the same Miley deal. He seemed like a bit of a safer bet to stick in the rotation, though maybe not with the same ceiling. It’s all gone wrong for Webster since this ranking, an he spent last year pitching to a 6.79 ERA in 12 Triple-A appearances in the Texas organization.
6. Garin Cecchini
Once upon a time, Cecchini was the third baseman of the future and seemed like such a sure bet to be something, at least. He had decent enough power to go with a great hit tool and tremendous plate discipline and even a little speed to boot. He stalled out in Triple-A, though, and while he’s still plugging away he is one of the more disappointing prospects in recent years for me.
7. Henry Owens
*Sigh* This one is sad because it’s all gone so wrong relatively recently. The young southpaw, at this point in time, had just finished his first professional season and there was still room to dream on a big ceiling. This was a tall lefty with legitimate stuff and we could all envision a top-of-the-rotation arm. Unfortunately, he can no longer find the strike zone and he’s been designated for assignment twice this winter alone. As of now, he’ll spend 2018 in the Dodgers organization.
8. Bryce Brentz
So, here’s something crazy. In Ben’s write-up of Brentz back in 2013, he was the relatively boring Triple-A player who was voted this high because of his proximity to the majors. That was five years ago, and that kind of still describes the outfielder. Right now is as high as Brentz’ stock has been since at least 2013, though I’m still a bit lower on him than most.
9. Blake Swihart
This was just the start of Swihart’s professional career, and obviously his stock would improve tremendously after this point. Still, even in 2013 we all saw the potential for him to become the athletic catcher who could stick behind the plate while hitting at an above-average clip. Unfortunately, mismanagement and injuries have derailed him in the last couple years and 2018 is a huge prove-it season for the former top prospect.
10. Brandon Workman
Like Brentz, Workman was seen as something of a safe selection here. There wasn’t a big ceiling, but it seemed nearly certain he’d carve out a major-league career for himself either as a back-end starter or a reliever. Of course, he’d end up playing a big role in that fall’s World Series run. Now, it’s still not entirely clear what kind of reliever he is five years and one Tommy John surgery later.
Let’s go more quickly through the second-half of the top ten, yes?
11. Jose Iglesias
Iglesias was always second-fiddle to Bogaerts in the farm system, though he’s carved out a decent little career as a glove-first shortstop.
12. Deven Marrero
Iglesias-lite, though Marrero did show enough in 2017 to believe he could spend a while on major-league benches.
13. Brian Johnson
Johnson has had some tough luck throughout his career, but it’s still easy to see him sticking around somewhere as a back-end arm.
14. Jose Vinicio
Vinicio was always mildly exciting because of his glove and youth, but he’s now 24 and has topped out at Triple-A.
15. Drake Britton
Britton had a few solid innings in the majors for Boston in 2013, then was claimed off waivers the next year and was never heard from again.
16. Brandon Jacobs
Jacobs was once ranked much higher than even this, but the outfielder never made it above Double-A and is now plugging away in Indy Ball.
17. Anthony Ranaudo
I used to be really excited about Ranaudo’s potential in the rotation. That...didn’t work out for me.
18. Pat Light
Light was the poster boy for a pitcher whose stuff played up in the bullpen, but even that wasn’t enough for him to make in the majors with his command issues.
19. Manuel Margot
Margot’s stock would skyrocket from here, and he was eventually one of the team’s top prospects before being sent to San Diego in the Craig Kimbrel deal. He had a solid rookie year in 2017.
20. Christian Vazquez
The glove has always been there, and the bat is starting to come along. Not many (myself included) expected him to surpass Swihart, but here we are.
Overall, I’m much more impressed with this group than I expected to be heading into this. Sure, there was a group in the middle of the top-ten that got really depressing, but there is a good amount of major-league talent on this list. Even better, most of that talent is still with the Red Sox while some of the busts were shipped out while they still had a little value, though you could argue many should have been traded earlier. So, what’s the lesson? I don’t have one! Eat your vegetables.