By now you may have heard that the Red Sox farm system was rated 18th out of MLB’s 30 teams by ESPN Insider’s Keith Law, but the worse news is that he ranks Boston last in the AL East. Among all 30 MLB teams, Toronto finished #2 and Tampa #3, just behind #1 San Diego, while the Yankees finished 8 slots ahead of the Sox at #10 with the Orioles just above then at #17. And, guess how many Red Sox minor league players made the ESPN Top 100 Prospects: just two!
Law said the “Red Sox are very thin at the top of the minor league chain due to the amount that the organization has spent on amateur players. However, he sees some potential breakout candidates in the single A level.” [NESN]
Law believes that Boston prospects at that entry level Brandon Jacobs, Garin Cecchini, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes and Sean Coyle could have a big year in 2012, but none of them were the two who made the ESPN Top 100.
Bob Dylan said: “To live outside the Law, you must be honest,” so let’s take an honest look at the AL East farm systems and see if we fall too far outside the judicious opinion of Mr. Law.
To simply the process, let’s look at all five teams by levels (AAA, AA, A) and list the players that are likely to make it to The Show in the next three years.
NOTE: Since some AAA players are listed in the teams’ 40-man rosters [to protect them from being taken by another team], we will define a minor leaguer as a player who has never played in MLB, or who has not played enough games in MLB to lose their rookie status, defined by MLB: “a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.”]
Here our goal is not to provide in depth analysis of prospects, but, rather to do a tally of prospects who will play in MLB in the next three years for a team in the AL East and to evaluate Mr. Law’s ranking of the team’s farm systems.
Predicting the future curve of any minor league player is as accurate as forecasting the weather on a planet experiencing rapid climate change, or how many miles are left on my “previously owned” 2000 Suburu.
Just yesterday, John Sickels, Prospect Guru at Baseball America and Minorleagueball.com candidly said:
“Most successful/elite players (at least in 2011) were strongly rated as prospects, at least Grade B types or higher. Some guys exceed expectations, but most of the elite players (especially on the pitching side) were also strong or elite prospects, at least how I define them.
Even so, a large number of their elite prospect peers fail, somewhere between 30 and 40%.
Reasons for failure vary, but among pitchers injuries seem to be the biggest factor.
I used to think that position players were more predictable than pitchers, but over the last few years my thinking on that has changed. Nowadays I am more confident in our ability to judge pitchers. Absent injuries, I think it is easier to judge pitchers both traditionally (stuff, mechanics, projection, etc) and sabermetrically,” [http://www.minorleagueball.com/2012/2/8/2785017/prospect-analysis-lessons-learned#storyjump]
With that humbling admission in mind, let’s list future MLB players in AAA and start with Boston, where Mr. Law avers that the Red Sox prospects are “very thin.”
AAA [ETA in MLB: 2012]
Applying our criteria, players who will make it to MLB in the next three years, we have the final score for AAA level:
Sox , Yanks , Jays , Rays , Orioles 
AA [ETA in MLB: 2013]
Sox: Bryce Brentz (OF), Anthony Ranaudo (RHP)
Yanks: Adam Warren (RHP) *We will trust the evaluation of MLB.com.
Rays: Hak-Ju Lee (SS)
Jays: Deck McGuire (RHP), Jake Marisnick (OF), Drew Hutchison (RHP)
Orioles: Manny Machado (SS), Xavier Avery (OF), Robert Bundy (RHP)
Applying our criteria, players who will make it to MLB in the next three years, we have the final score for AA level:
Orioles , Jays , Sox , Yanks , Rays 
Applying our criteria, players who will make it to MLB in the next three years, we have the final score for A level:
Orioles , Sox , Yanks , Rays , Jays 
Applying our criteria, players who will make it to MLB in the next three years, we have the final score for all three levels [AAA, AA, A]:
Red Sox , Orioles , Yanks , Jays , Rays 
But, here is how Mr. Law ranked the minor league systems of the AL East teams:
Jays, Rays, Yanks, Orioles, Red Sox
We would be remiss, if we fail to point out a few of the AL East prospects who are potential All-Stars: Matt Moore (LHP, Rays), Anthony Gose (OF, Jays), and Manny Machado (SS, Orioles).
In 2014, the Red Sox lineup might look like this:
SP 1 Beckett
SP 2 Lester
SP 3 Renaudo
SP 4 Bucholz
SP 5 Bard
[NOTE: For young Red Sox fans who collect Rookie cards, don’t miss Xander Bogaerts (SS/3b), who is just 19, but a future Fenway star.]
In response to ESPN Keith Law’s assessment of the minor league organizations of the AL East, we must respectfully disagree with his placement of the Red Sox at the bottom of the pile; our fearless forecast of future MLB players suggests that the Red Sox are not “thin” at the upper levels (AAA and AA) and not bad at A-level either.
But, as Astros’ pitcher Jaoquin Andujar said, when a reporter asked: “What is your favorite word in English?”—
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Tags: 1B 2014 2b 3b AA AAA Aceves Adam Warren Adrian Gonzalez AL East Anthony Gose Anthony Ranaudo Austin Romine (C) Rays: Matt Moore Bailey Baltimore Orioles Bard Baseball America Beckett Bob Dylan Boston Red Sox Brandon Jacobs Brentz Bryce Brentz C Carl Crawford CF CL Clay Buchholz Crawford Daniel Bard David Adams Deck McGuire Dellin Betances (RHP) Drew Hutchison Dustin Pedroia Dylan Bundy ESPN Insider ESPN Top !00 ETA Evaluation Farm System Felix Doubront (LHP) Yanks: Manny Banuelos (LHP) Fenway Park Garin Cecchini Gonzalez Hak-Ju Lee Henry Owens Iglesias Jackie Bradley Jake Marisnick Jays Joe Mahoney John Sickels Jon Lester Jonathan Schoop Jose Iglesias (SS) Josh Beckett Kalish Keith Law Kevin Youkilis Lavarnway Lester LF LHP Manny Machado Matt Barnes Melancon Middlebrooks Minor Leagues Minorleagueball.com A MLB MLB.com New York Yankees OF Orioles Oscar Tejeda Pedroia Popular Prospects Rays Renaudo RF RHP Robert Bundy Ryan Kalish (OF) Ryan Lavarnway (C/DH) Sean Coyle Set-up Sox SP 1 SP 2 SP 3 SP 4 SP 5 SS SS/2b Tim Beckham Toronto Blue Jays Transactions TRAVIS D'ARNAUD Will Middlebrooks (3b) Xander Bogaerts Xavier Avery Yanks