The candidates generally seem to consist of last year’s breakout star Mookie Betts, on-base machine Garin Cecchini, 6’6″ left-hander Henry Owens, and switch-hitting catcher Blake Swihart. So let’s take a look at those candidates and come to a conclusion.
- Mookie Betts had a huge breakout last season, going from a virtually unheard of prospect to one of the more intriguing names in the Red Sox organization. Between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem, Betts slashed .314/.417/.506. While the slash line is interesting in and of itself, there are several other factors that make Betts an even more interesting prospect. The first of those is his athleticism; Betts is very speedy, stealing 38 bases in 42 attempts, and seems to have the potential to play all over the field. However, Betts also has surprising pop and plate discipline for a 5’9″ second baseman. He has translated last year’s performance into a torrid start in Double-A Portland– he is slashing .405/.456/.622 thus far– and if he keeps this going, could easily work himself into the top spot on a Red Sox prospect list.
- Garin Cecchini doesn’t have the raw potential of most top prospects, and doesn’t have the skill set to be an incredibly exciting player. However, he does have the skill set to make himself a very solid everyday player and he has a higher floor than nearly anyone else in the Red Sox’ organization. Cecchini had a great season in 2013 between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, slashing .322/.443/.471 but lost quite a bit of power following the promotion to Portland. He has been solid in Triple-A Pawtucket so far this season, slashing .300/.390/.378, but it’s unclear whether he’ll ever develop the power that could transform him from a solid everyday player into a star.
- Henry Owens is easily the most intriguing pitcher in the minor league system: a 6’6″ lefty who has a career rate of 11.1 K/9 in his minor league career. However, there are certainly concerns as well. Along with that high strikeout rate is a fairly hefty walk rate, as Owens has walked 4.2 per nine innings in his minor league career, though he has cut down on the walks in 2014, walking just 3.2 per nine. Owens also seems to thrive on deception as opposed to raw stuff, and that deception may not fool MLB hitters without the benefit of a great fastball or curve. Owens hasn’t been excellent so far in 2014, but there’s nothing wrong with the 3.89 ERA and 2.69 K/BB ratio that he has posted so far.
- Blake Swihart’s rise through the ranks hasn’t been fast or especially glamorous. However, he has improved at every stop through the minor leagues and is finally gaining recognition on most prospect lists; he has also gotten off to a great start in his first taste of Double-A Portland this spring, slashing .302/.318/.477 so far. Reports suggest that his defense behind the plate is at least on par with his offense and he has the makings to be a very solid all-around catcher, perhaps a Joe Mauer-lite type player. Swihart is still just 22 years old, very young especially for a catcher, and could be catching full time in Boston by the end of 2015.
So what do you think? Who is the top prospect in the Red Sox’ system? Give us your take.