The biggest disappointment in the Red Sox farm system this year was Matt Barnes, who pitched to a 4.13 ERA and 11.28 K/9 between Portland and Pawtucket as a 23 year old. That that was the worst year of any high-profile Red Sox prospect says something about the success of the Red Sox prospects in 2013. Nearly every major Red Sox prospect either raised their stock significantly (in the case of Garin Cecchini, Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Blake Swihart, and Mookie Betts), raised it slightly (in the case of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brian Johnson, and Christian Vazquez), or stabilized and perhaps tailed off a bit (in the case of Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, and Deven Marrero).
However, the most remarkable thing about the season is how few prospects had outright bad seasons. Looking at SoxProspects’ preseason top 20 prospects, nobody except Jose Vinicio (ranked #19) had a bad season. Anytime there are more great seasons than poor or even mediocre ones, there is praise to go around and that is certainly evident in a Red Sox system that is beginning to churn up elite young talent at the big league level. Keeping this in mind, let’s divide major Red Sox prospects into those who have significantly raised their stock, slightly raised it, and stabilized to give a view of the success of the 2013 minor league season.
Those Who Have Significantly Raised Their Stock:
- Garin Cecchini was ranked as a top ten prospect in the Red Sox system by nearly all and a borderline top 100 prospect in baseball by some entering this year. However, Cecchini has vastly raised his stock by turning in an excellent season between Salem and Portland. Cecchini’s excellent batting eye and short, quick stroke translated to a torrid .350/.469/.547 start at Salem, and he has continued to succeed after a midseason promotion to Portland, batting a less flashy but still impressive .296/.420/.404.
- Henry Owens has been regarded a high-ceiling arm for the past couple of years, and that big arm translated to ridiculous strikeout numbers in Greenville in 2012, but not much else. He posted an 11.51 K/9 but only a 4.87 ERA; however, the Red Sox were aggressive and pushed him to Salem to begin the year. Owens made an immediate impact in Salem, posting a 2.92 ERA and 10.58 K/9. The 6’7″ lefty was making his presence felt before being promoted to Portland, where he has remarkably been even better. In six starts in Portland, Owens has an absurd 1.78 ERA and 13.65 K/9.
- Anthony Ranaudo was a high-ranking draft prospect in 2010 before injuries let him fall to the Red Sox. Then he was a high-ranking minor league prospect for the next year or so, before an injury-riddled 2012 season set him back big time. However, Ranaudo has put together a great rebound year between Portland and Pawtucket. He has been remarkably consistent between the two levels, as he had a 2.95 ERA in 19 starts for Portland and a 2.97 ERA in 6 games (5 starts) for Pawtucket. He is close to major league ready and could impact as soon as this September.
- Mookie Betts was a largely unheralded prospect entering the season. A fifth-round selection in 2011, Betts has never been especially highly-viewed as a prospect, but after a slow start to the 2013 season, Betts has gone on a tear and never looked back. For the first ~60% of the season, he was one of few bright spots at Greenville, slashing .296/.418/.477 and has been even better since a promotion to Salem, slashing .341/.414/.551. Betts combines extreme athleticism with a patient approach at the plate and surprising power for a 5’9″ second baseman. If he continues to rake, he could make things very interesting in a few years.
Those Who Have Slightly Raised Their Stock:
- Xander Bogaerts had two main questions surrounding him before the season. Everybody knew he had the raw talent and ability at the plate, but would his plate approach allow him to tap into that potential? After all, Bogaerts walked only once in 93 plate appearances in Portland in 2012. Bogaerts has answered that question with a 12.4% walk rate in the minor leagues this year. The second question was whether Bogaerts could stick at shortstop and whether his defense would be adequate. Scouts now give him much better chances to stick at short than they did even a year ago, and even if he can’t, he should be great at third base. Beyond answering those questions, Bogaerts also raked. He hit .297/.388/.477 between Portland and Pawtucket and has hit .316/.350/.368 since joining Boston.
- Jackie Bradley Jr. was aggressively promoted to Boston after an insane spring and lost some favor with the Fenway Faithful by hitting just .155/.258/.310 in the majors. However, he will soon get a chance to redeem himself after raising his own confidence with a solid season in Pawtucket. He has shown surprising power in his .275/.374/.469 slash line to go with his trademark excellent plate approach and defense.
Those Who Stabilized Or Lost Some Prospect Stock:
- Allen Webster’s prospect stock has not changed much since the beginning of the year, but it may have since midseason prospect lists. Webster has had an incredibly up-and-down year. He was dominant to start the year, but completely lost his control after being briefly rushed to the majors. He has worked himself out since then and brought his season statistics to a reasonable 3.60 ERA, excellent 9.94 K/9, and reasonable 3.69 BB/9 in Pawtucket. There’s no getting around that he has been awful in the majors, posting a 9.57 ERA and 4.79 BB/9; however, with his stuff, he’ll have every chance to right his control woes in Boston.
- Matt Barnes, mentioned earlier, has seen his prospect stock fall a bit. However, he not been bad by any means, with a 4.13 ERA and 11.28 K/9. His lack of success is primarily associated with an unsustainably high .357 BABIP. If that lowers, which it likely will, then Barnes will continue on as one of the highest-ceiling arms in the system.