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See my Top 100 Prospects list and the AFL content index for previous scouting reports and videos from every team in the league. For draft fans, here's my ranking of the top prep prospects for the draft. I'm currently doing an updated college rankings series right now but ranked my top 50 overall prospects for the draft back in August. See all of my previous rankings at the rankings index
For an explanation about how to use asset values, how I grade players and their tools, what order I'll be breaking down each organization and what players are eligible to be ranked, see this primer of the minor league org prospect rankings series. Also, check out the Scout.com Prospect Rankings Central for more information.
Covered in the primer is the cut-off for players to qualify for this list. Among the young, MLB-ready pieces that will be included in the MLB rankings because they're too old/experienced for this list: Xander Bogaerts (Video), Jackie Bradley, Jr. (Video), Will Middlebrooks and Rubby De La Rosa. It's not as long as some other team's list of barely ineligible players, but it may be the most valuable. RHP Brandon Workman may still open the season in the big league bullpen, but it isn't guaranteed a spot like Bogaerts, Bradley and Middlebrooks, so Workman is included on the list.
The Red Sox have arguably the best system in the game and have accomplished that by getting amateur players from college, junior college, high school, Latin America and Asia, since they usually aren't making trades to acquire prospects. Like the Rays system, due to extra draft picks, over-slot bonuses before the current CBA and spending their allotment internationally, the Red Sox have their share of high bonus players lower on the lost that project as role players. The separator is that the Red Sox have found above average regulars despite a lack of high picks and additionally have been outstanding in Latin America.
In the last few years, the Red Sox have recovered in a big way from a bloated, overpaid, generally old big league team, a new GM after Theo Epstein left and just an average system. Some luck, some money, some extra picks and some good old-fashioned good scouting have replenished the cupboard and have Boston back to the dynasty level group of talent they had in their original curse-defeating victories.
As for this year's July 2nd period, the Red Sox have a verbal deal with Venezuelan RHP Anderson Espinoza, a medium-framed righty with a good delivery and an above average fastball-slider combo. According to scouts, the deal is for $2 million, making Espinoza the top signing for Boston in this year's crop and I'd slot him at the area between the 40 and 45 FV transition, near Almonte, Hinojosa and Stankiewicz.
Dollar Value Of The System
The Red Sox take the lead through five systems with a very deep and top-heavy group valued at $430 million. They would easily surpass $500 million if Bradley and Bogaerts were included, as both still have rookie eligibility and would be in the top three of this list. I think Boston will end up as the #1, but we've got a ways to go (though I'll be getting through teams much quicker now). Click on a player's bold/hyperlinked name to see previous articles, including scouting reports and video.
50+ FV Group (Asset Value Range: $21 - $45 million)
1. Henry Owens, LHP
2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 21.7/AA, 6'6/210, L/L
Drafted: 36th overall (sandwich round) out of CA high school in 2011 for $1,550,000 bonus
PV/FV: 40/60, Asset Value: $44.9 million, Ranked 21st in the Top 100
Fastball: 50/60, Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 45/50
Owens is a super long-limbed lefty that was once very lanky and has since added some weight and strength, yielding a little more arm speed. His velocity went from the high 80's in high school to consistently sitting in the low 90's and getting as high as 96 mph at times now. His formerly fringy curveball flashes above average potential and his plus changeup is still a weapon. Owens' delivery is solid but the long limbs that give him leverage and projectability also give him some trouble repeating his delivery, so his command can come and go. He projects as a #3 starter and if there's another spike in velocity, or added body control with maturity, a #2 starter upside is still in play. Owens could be ready as soon as the end of 2014, but with a loaded rotation, it's more realistic to see him settling into a slot in 2015 if 2014 goes as expected.
2. Allen Webster, RHP
2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 24.1/AAA, 6'2/190, R/R
Drafted: 547th overall (18th round) out of NC high school in 2008 for $20,000 bonus
PV/FV: 40/60, Asset Value: $40.4 million, Ranked 54th in the Top 100
Fastball: 70/70, Slider: 55/60, Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 50/55+, Command: 45/50
Webster was a very-low profile draft prospect, mostly known as a shortstop in high school and signing for only $20,000 in the 18th round. His arm speed jumped after a few seasons on the mound in pro ball and his above average stuff made him one of the Dodgers top arms, later traded to Boston in the big deal that sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to Los Angeles. Webster relies on a mid-90's sinker with plus life that generates a lot of ground balls. His fastball ranges from 92-98 mph and he backs it up with above average off-speed stuff, led by a plus slider with three-quarter tilt at 85-87 mph. Webster's changeup is a little firm at 85-88 mph and a little inconsistent, but shows above average to plus potential, while he also mixes in an above average curveball as a 4th pitch to change eye level.
Webster's command still varies game-to-game but the stuff is consistently good, he's a solid athlete and his delivery is clean, so most assume his command will become average with work. Webster had trouble with the long ball in his MLB appearances in 2013, similar to Baltimore's top prospect RHP Kevin Gausman, but both are ground ball types that were the victim of command jitters and small sample sizes. Webster will be one of the first arms summoned from AAA Pawtucket in 2014 and could claim a spot in the Red Sox rotation this year if given the opportunity.
3. Mookie Betts, 2B
2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 21.5/AA, 5'9/170, R/R
Drafted: 172nd overall (5th round) out of TN high school in 2011 for $750,000 bonus
PV/FV: 20/55, Asset Value: $38.1 million, ranked 58th in the Top 100
Hit: 40/60, Power: 40/45, Run: 60/60, Defense: 55/60, Arm: 45/45+
Betts got an over-slot bonus out of Tennessee high school in 2011, but wasn't a high-profile prospect as nothing was truly plus but he was a smaller guy with advanced feel. He was okay in short-season Lowell in 2012, but then crushed both A ball levels in one of the biggest breakout seasons in recent memory in 2013. His speed is above average but it plays up in game situations, be it quick jumps out of the box, on the bases or on defense, where he could be plus at second base. Betts' arm is fringy but he can play short in a pinch.
A big reason he was overlooked as an amateur is there are some moving parts to Betts' swing, but he's grown into his mechanics, with great bat and body control, emerging gap power that might produce double-digit homers, a direct bat pat path to maximize contact and outstanding plate discipline. Betts will see a lot of time at AA this year and another strong season could put him on the radar for the big league club. He's about as blocked as possible long-term with Dustin Pedroia, Bradley and Bogaerts in front of him at Betts' three possible positions, but any injuries, super utility needs or trades could find Betts his home.
4. Garin Cecchini, 3B
2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 22.9/AAA, 6'2/200, L/R
Drafted: 143rd overall (4th round) out of LA high school in 2010 for $1,310,000 bonus
PV/FV: 40/50, Asset Value: $36.2 million, ranked 61st in the Top 100
Hit: 45/65, Power: 40/45+, Run: 45/45+, Defense: 45/45+, Arm: 50/50+
Cecchini was a high-profile player from a powerhouse Louisiana prep program, with a younger brother (Gavin Cecchini) that went in the first round a year later to the Mets. Garin's draft stock slid from the solid late first round to sandwich round area when he tore his ACL during his senior spring, but he managed to get a commensurate bonus in the 4th round from the Red Sox. Cecchini has a very smooth lefty cut with a direct path, good eye-hand coordination, bat control and plate discipline but raises some doubt on his ultimate upside with scouts due to a Sean Burroughs-like lack of raw power. One scout I talked to said Cecchini simply doesn't have enough power to profile everyday for the Red Sox, and will end up as a bust or trade bait given the hype around him in a loaded system.
If the bat really plays, there is are some examples of players (like Joe Mauer) slowly adding strength, making tweaks to mechanics and being a type that gets to all his power in games. That said, it's a very tall order given Cecchini's frame and bat speed, something that a similar prospect, Marlins 3B Colin Moran, has more physical tools and physical projection to possibly achieve. Cecchini projects as a fringe to average defender at third base and isn't a slam dunk to stay at the position, with some questions about his range to where other corner spots may be the best fit down the road. Cecchini, like Betts, could be used in a (corner) utility role, to plug in for an injury (or Middlebrooks slump) but may fit best in a trade to a club with a hole at third base.
5. Blake Swihart, C
2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 22.0/AA, 6'1/175, B/R
Drafted: 26th overall (1st round) out of NM high school in 2011 for $2,500,000 bonus
PV/FV: 20/55, Asset Value: $31.5 million, ranked 81st in the Top 100
Hit: 40/55, Power: 45/50, Run: 45/45+, Defense: 45/50+, Arm: 50/50+
Swihart was a high-profile prep prospect that slipped a bit due to bonus demands, bolstered by his choice to start catching and switch-hitting his senior year of high school. He was good enough to give clubs the inkling that he might stick and Swihart has improved behind the plate to the point that some scouts are calling him a solid-average receiver. His arm is good not great and his raw power is average at best as more of a doubles guy in games right now, but the defense and advanced bat are the carrying tools here. Swihart has a smooth swing from both sides with a direct path, solid plate discipline and above average plate discipline. He'll start 2014 in AA and could be in play for big league time a soon as 2015, though Pierzynski, Ross and Vazquez are in his way.
6. Trey Ball, LHP
2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 19.8/Lo-A, 6'6/185, L/L
Drafted: 7th overall (1st round) out of IN high school in 2013 for $2,750,000 bonus
PV/FV: 20/60, Asset Value: $30.3 million, ranked 84th in the Top 100
Fastball: 55/60+, Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 50/55+, Command: 45/50+
Ball was a high-profile two-way guy in the 2013 draft class, with some thinking the athletic 6'6 lefty could go in the top couple rounds as a right fielder. That talk subsided when Ball threw harder during the spring, sitting in the low 90's after working mostly in the 80's over the summer. Ball picked up a curveball late in his prep career that's already flashing above average potential and some think his changeup will be a plus pitch in time. Ball was very old for his prep class and you're relying on him filling out his lanky frame for the plus stuff to materialize, but his smooth delivery and downhill plane should give him the solid-average command to fit in a rotation even if that anticipated added arm speed doesn't come. Ball's full-season debut in 2014 should set expectations for how quickly he could advance through the system.
7. Matt Barnes, RHP
2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 23.8/AAA, 6'4/205, R/R
Drafted: 19th overall (1st round) out of Connecticut in 2011 for $1,500,000 bonus
PV/FV: 40/50, Asset Value: $24.0 million
Fastball: 65/70, Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 45/45+, Command: 45/45+
Barnes jumped on the scene in his pro debut with some dominating performances and the command that held him back from being a top-10 pick out of UConn. Slowly, that command and feel for off-speed pitches have reverted back to their amateur form, but Barnes still could profile in a rotation. His mid-90's fastball can get up to 98 mph and still overmatches minor league hitters either with velocity or sink, but he won't be as successful in the big leagues without development of his curveball and changeup. His changeup is fringy at best right now, like his command, but average/acceptable isn't so far he can't fix that this year, and his curveball flashes power, he just has an inconsistent feel for it. There's a solid #3/4 starter here with some adjustments, but Barnes brings back-end starter or set-up man value as-is.
8. Christian Vazquez, C
2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 23.6/AAA, 5'9/205, R/R
Drafted: 292nd overall (9th round) out of PR high school in 2008 for $80,000 bonus
PV/FV: 45/50, Asset Value: $22.9 million
Hit: 40/50, Power: 40/40+, Run: 35/35, Defense: 55/60, Arm: 70/70
Vazquez was a low-profile, defensive specialist draft prospect but had an offensive breakout in 2011 at Low-A Greenville with an 18 HR, .863 OPS season. That overstates his potential at the plate, but his 2013 season at AA (.289/.376/.395) was a solid performance for a 22-year-old defensive standout. Vazquez has a mature frame but is athletic behind the plate, with plus defensive skills, quick feet and soft hands. His plus-plus arm and regular game pop times in the 1.8s will give him a long MLB career regardless of what he does with the bat. Vazquez has some feel for the bat head and a solid approach, but lacks big power or bat speed to truly excel at the plate. He makes the most of what he has and will probably always be a below average offensive threat, but given the position and defensive ability, that's a solid, cost-effective starter. He'll start 2014 in AAA and should be called on if Pierzynski or Ross misses extended time.
9. Brandon Workman, RHP
2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 25.6/AAA, 6'4/195, R/R
Drafted: 57th overall (2nd round) out of Texas in 2010 for $800,000 bonus
PV/FV: 45/50, Asset Value: $21.3 million
Fastball: 60/60, Slider: 50/55, Curveball: 50/50+, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 45/50
Workman was a successful closer for the Longhorns, has some effort to his delivery and was seen as a solid relief prospect. Due to his deep arsenal and surprising feel, the Red Sox saw a potential big league rotation piece and they may end up correct. Workman usually works around 91-94 mph with his fastball, and can tick higher in short stints, as he was used late in the 2013 MLB playoff run out of the bullpen. His best weapon in college was an above average slider (that some call a cutter), but in the minors he was forced to learn and curveball and changeup to becomes a starter and both became average pitches. The Red Sox are loaded with pitching at the big league and minor league level, so Workman may find his first opportunities in the bullpen, but he has the stuff to be a solid #4 starter and may be ready to contribute for long stretches in 2014, if needed. It's worth noting he was very close to not being eligible for the list, as he may open the year in the big league bullpen.
45 FV Group (Asset Value Range: $7 - $14 million)
10. Manuel Margot, CF: 2011 July 2nd signing got $800,000 bonus and has only improved since then, with many scouts anticipating his full-season debut in 2014; 5'11/175 speedster has easy plus speed, good instincts, advanced righty stick and surprising pop.
11. Deven Marrero, SS: Marrero has been a high-profile name from his time with high school teammate Eric Hosmer to being projected as a top 5 pick before his draft year out of Arizona State; he lasted until the 24th pick after a terrible spring in Tempe and while the glove is still above average and the tools to hit are there, the bat still isn't doing much.
12. Brian Johnson, LHP (Video): 2012 late 1st rounder out of Florida has four pitches that are all above average at times and repeats his delivery well despite not being a great athlete; he doesn't miss a ton of bats but still looks like a solid #4 starter if it all works.
13. Rafael Devers, 3B (Video): The Red Sox top 2013 July 2nd signing was inked for $1.5 million and brings an advanced lefty stick with above average power potential, a chance to stick at third and surprising fluidity for his size.
14. Simon Mercedes, RHP: Dominican righty signed for $800,000 in 2012 after year-long suspension for paperwork issues related to his identity voided a deal with the Giants for $400,000; the 6'4/220 Mercedes has been up to 96 mph with a heavy sinker and plus curveball that prompted one scout to say he had the 2nd best stuff in the system behind Owens.
15. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP (Video): 6'7/230 righty has nasty stuff at times but injuries and inconsistency have had his stock and stuff all over the map; at his best, the fastball has hit 96 mph with a curveball that's a 65 on the 20-80 scale and a changeup that's at least average.
16. Wendell Rijo, 2B: As a smallish (5'11/170) second baseman with plus speed, an advanced glove and limited power but outstanding feel to hit, Rijo sounds a lot like 2013 Red Sox breakout prospect Mookie Betts; the 2012 July 2nd signing is son of a Dodgers Dominican scout and Wendell's $575,000 bonus was limited by an ACL tear in the spring of 2012.
17. Drake Britton, LHP: Britton has had an up-and-down (and up-and-down again) career with volatile performance and a likely bullpen fit longterm due to his elite stuff (plus-plus sinker up to 97 mph, hard slider, solid changeup) and fringy command while a 2013 DUI for going 111 mph in a 45 mph zone during his first big league spring training isn't helping.
18. Cody Kukuk, LHP (Video): 2011 7th rounder out of Kansas high school got over-slot $800,000 bonus but the 6'4/200 lefty has had trouble harnessing his above average to plus stuff: a 90-93 mph sinker and low 80's changeup and slider.
19. Dalier Hinojosa, RHP: Cuban defector is 27 and signed for a $4.25 million bonus in October 2013 but since he should spend much of the year in AAA, he qualifies for the list. The athletic 6'1/195 righty has extensive international experience and the moxie to get the most out of his 88-93 mph fastball, average curve and above average splitter, with an upside similar to Alfredo Aceves.
20. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP: Unsigned Mets 2012 2nd rounder out of a Texas high school went 30 picks higher to Red Sox near the top of the 2nd round in 2013; 6'4/215 righty has above average breaking ball and fastball that's been up to 96 mph, though changeup and command can waver.
40 FV Group (Asset Value Range: $2 - $6 million)
21. Jose Almonte, RHP: 2012 July 2nd signing out of the Dominican for $610,000 has ordinary size at 6'2/185 but flashes above average sinker and changeup with a smooth arm action; he makes his stateside debut in 2014 and could make a jump forward.
22. Jon Denney, C (Video): 2013 3rd rounder that got over-slot bonus out of an Oklahoma high school looked like a high 1st rounder before a disastrous spring; his plus raw power, feel to hit and defense all regressed, so Boston hopes the good version comes back for 2014.
23. Tzu-Wei Lin, SS: Taiwanese shortstop that has raked in international competition signed for $2.05 million in 2012; plus-plus runner and above average defender has some feel to hit and shortstop is requiring less and less at the plate, so watch the full-season debut closely.
24. Ty Buttrey, RHP (Video): 4th rounder signed for $1.3 million out of powerhouse Charlotte-area high school in 2012; 6'6/230 righty has three above average pitches but consistency will be key in 2014's full-season debut.
25. Bryce Brentz, RF (Video): 2010 first rounder out of Middle Tennessee has moved through the system quickly, but scouts worry his above average arm and power are all he has to offer, as upper level pitching has exposed some holes that may limit him to platoon duty or even the dreaded 4-A slugger tag.
26. Myles Smith, RHP: 2013 4th rounder came from NAIA powerhouse Lee University in Tennessee and offers starter traits; athletic 6'1/175 righty sits in the low 90's and has hit 96 mph with an above average changeup and improving cutter/slider.
27. Sean Coyle, 2B: Similar to Betts for his size (5'8/175), handedness (righty) and high profile prep second baseman profile ($1.3 million out of PA high school in 2010), Coyle has the elements for success headlined by plus bat speed and average raw power, but inconsistent performance have him looking for a balance between patience, contact and power.
28. Jamie Callahan, RHP: 2012 2nd rounder out of a South Carolina high school will have a 2014 full-season debut to monitor as the 6'2/205 righty has been up to 95 mph with a four pitch mix and was young for his draft class.
29. Austin Maddox, RHP (Video): Maddox transformed from a premium power bat out of a Jacksonville-area high school to a premium power reliever at Florida before going in the 3rd round to Boston in 2012; he works with a low 90's sinker that can hit 95 and an above average slider, but had a rough 2013 in Low-A.
Sleeper: Jordon Austin, OF (Video)
Austin jumped on the scene in January, 2013 at the PG World showcase, known before that mostly as a football prospect, eventually signing with the Red Sox out of a Florida high school for $254,900 in the 6th round. He's a plus runner with a stocky 6'0/200 frame and a fringy arm that profiles in center field. Austin is still a little rough at the plate, but is a good athlete with solid hitting mechanics that's still learning the game. He flashes average raw power potential that give him a chance to be a breakout prospect with more reps at the plate.
I considered mentioning for July 2nd bonus baby SS Jose Vinicio here, but his 2013 was so atrocious at the plate (.192/.225/.256), I need to see a little more first. LHP Dan McGrath is a 6'3 lefty that signed for $400,000 out of Australia in 2012 and offers three pitches around average, so his 2014 full-season debut is worth monitoring.
A couple other names to look out for: 1B Nick Longhi (video; 2013 draftee from Florida high school signed for $440,000 after up and down senior year but made tons of contact the summer before his senior year), RF Henry Ramos (6'2 switch hitter was drafted as a raw power bat out of Puerto Rico and is slowly showing it in games) and RHP Sergio Gomez (6'3 Colombian signed for $110,00 and 20-year old righty has fastball that sits around 90 with good feel for a changeup).