3) “So long Boston Farm System, we barely knew you”
OK here’s the fun part of the article, despite the ramifications of this trade and how strongly you may feel about them, we can all gather together round the warm glow of awesome surrounding those who remain.
I mean, seriously, it’s not a stretch at all to suggest the Red Sox still have a top 3 farm system in baseball. You’ve got MLB.com’s 7th rated prospect Yoan Moncada around, who you’ve probably heard of before and for good reason. Moncada is a true, 5-tool superstar second baseman who has the skill to play elsewhere. He hits for power, he gets on base a lot and he steals extra bases an almost other-worldly amount of time thanks to his lightning speed. He’s only 20 but is easily among the very best prospects in baseball.
Oh, and just behind him is Rafael Devers, a 19 year old who makes a hobby of embarrassing hitters averaging 2 years older than him at Greenville. He plays at third and does a reasonable job from a defensive point of view, but his true value is in his monster bat. He hits consistently with super-fast bat speed and super-strong pop, clubbing homers and extra base hits with ease. It’ll be a while before we see him, but watch out Pablo Sandoval.
It’s not all just bats down there, Anderson Espinoza is a 17 (17!) year old right handed pitcher who is easily the most precocious player in low A. He throws a fastball in the high 90s that has touched 100 MPH, which is simply stunning for someone of his age and development. Not only velocity but he has amazing control and his fastball comes with knee-buckling sink and bite. His curveball and changeup are just as capable at generating swings and misses and as such he has a ceiling as high as your imagination allows.
Not just Espinoza, but don’t forget about Michael Kopech, a 19 year old right handed hurler the Sox took in the first round of the 2014 draft. Kopech also throws a fastball in the upper 90s and has a devastating slider. Kopech missed half the season after testing positive for using a banned substance, but is not to be underestimated as he sits second only to Espinoza for pitching talent in the system.
Hey, you guys remember Andrew Benintendi, right? The Red Sox first round, 7th pick in the 2015 draft. Well old Benny Baseball raked in Lowell, got moved up to Greenville and well, is raking there too. Slugging .351/.430/.581 and hitting 4 dingers in only 19 games at Low A make him a cert to start next year in Salem. The Providence Journal pegs him to move rapidly through the ranks ala New York Mets’ Michael Conforto. We could see Benintendi as an outfielder in Boston in 2017 or perhaps earlier. Sorry Margot.
What is the unique connection between these players? Why, they are all younger than 24 and along with Betts, Bogaerts, Swihart, Rodriguez and Henry Owens they are all locked in with the Red Sox for the long term. As Providence Journal beat writer Brian MacPherson tweets:
So basically, Boston enjoys a boatload of young talent, many of whom are ready for the show right now and others who are waiting in the wings to cover the cracks. Added to that is Kimbrel, who is 27 and still devastatingly brilliant. Is the farm system done? Not even close. It may have lost some depth but that depth exists to make the Red Sox better, whether by use or by trade. Right now, that depth provided Dombrowski with exactly what he needed to get one of the most automatic closers in baseball history and transform the bullpen in one fell swoop.
It’s nice to have prospects. It’s even nicer to have prospects and elite talent. I’ll take the latter and, it seems Dombrowski agrees.