Saturday, March 5, 2011

TEAM #12 – Boston Red Sox

Ranaudo could end up as the best collegiate pitcher from the 2010 draft

We have always been admirers of the way Theo Epstein runs the Red Sox. They draft well, aren’t afraid to pay above slot bonuses, excel at scouting the international market, sign quality key free agents and aren’t afraid to trade prospects for quality Major League additions. But none of that was able to rescue the Red Sox in 2010 from a rash of injuries that saw Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis—three of their top four hitters from opening day--combine to miss nearly 300 games. Determined to not be left out of the playoffs again, the Red Sox pulled off some of the winter’s biggest coups dealing for Adrian Gonzalez and signing free agent Carl Crawford—which should provide the Red Sox the opportunity to challenge the Yankees for baseball’s most potent offense.

While the Gonzalez deal certainly weakend the Minor League system that was rated #3 last year (TEAM #3 – Boston Red Sox)—especially at the top—the Red Sox still have one of the deepest groups of Top 30 prospects in the game. This was aided in large part by a June draft that was among the best in all of baseball. Not only is it deep, it is incredibly balanced. Starting pitchers, relief pitchers, left-handers, right-handers, infielders, outfielders, near ready, not-so-near ready—you name it—it has them all. The only thing it doesn’t seem to possess, is a lot of low-ceiling/high-floor types, as that doesn’t seem to be part of the Red Sox philosophy. If there is an over-abundance of anything, it is middle infield prospects—especially shortstops—as no team in baseball can match the Red Sox depth at the shortstop position. The other thing the system seems to be short on is the catching position, as the Red Sox are banking on Saltamacchia becoming a main stay, because you have to go all the way down to #26 to find the first true catching prospect on this list. While 2010 was certainly a disaster if you are a Red Sox fan, it will be hard to shed many tears of sympathy, as the Red Sox appear to not only be one of the best teams in baseball at the Major League level, but they also have a minor league system that is positioned to remain strong for quite some time.

Best Pick from 2010 – We tend to be partial to players that have the defensive skills to guarantee them an opportunity to prove their worth from an offensive stand point at the Major League level. That was the key factor behind our ranking of Jose Iglesias at #6 last year. Iglesias is #2 on the list this season, and #1 on many others. Few shortstops in the game—at any level—can match him in the field, and we expect his offense to be at least league average.

Worst Pick from 2010 – We could easily call this for Westmoreland at #1, but, given the circumstance, that would be unfair to both him and us as his battles became more important than those about baseball. While we aren’t unhappy with much of what we said about the Red Sox last year, picking Lars Anderson at #4 now appears to be the biggest miss.

Grade A

1) Anthony Ranaudo, RHP

Ranaudo entered his junior season at LSU as the unquestioned top college pitching prospect available, but a nagging elbow injury caused him to pitch nothing remotely similar to his 2009 form. As the season wore on, he showed some signs of returning to his former self—enough so that the Red Sox selected him in the sandwich round. Determined to regain some of the luster that disappeared this spring, Ranuado went to the Cape this summer where he was lights out—allowing no earned runs in thirty innings of work. That was enough for Boston to believe he was worth the 8th highest bonus doled out to 2010 draftees—only $100,000 less than the Indians gave Drew Pomeranz. We became huge believers in Ranuado after 2009. When healthy, Ranuado shows a mid-90s fastball, a plus curve and an at least average change. At 6’7”, 230lbs, he is able to throw with a significant downward plane. Although he struggled with command this past season at LSU, his command has historically been a strength. If it all comes together, Ranaudo is a potential Major League ace. The Red Sox are likely to be cautious with his elbow this season, as he make his debut in the Carolina League (CAR). If his health concerns are a thing of the past, he should become a mainstay of the Red Sox rotation by mid-2012.

Grade A-

2) Jose Iglesias, SS (2010 Performance Scores– Power 30; Discipline 51; First Base Rate 67; Speed 49)

If Iglesias never becomes more than an average offensive player at the Major League level, he still is likely an all-star caliber shortstop, due mainly to his gold-glove caliber defense. With soft hands, smooth footwork and a powerful arm, Iglesias has the ability to make outstanding defensive plays look effortless and routine. Offensively, at only 21yo, there is every reason to believe that Iglesias will develop into an above average contact hitter. We would like to see my patience at the plate, he possesses only average speed for the shortstop position, and he will never have more than below average power. Still, he could become a formidable threat near the top of the order. 2011 should find Iglesias in the International League. Defensively he is Major League ready, so his ascension to Boston is merely a decision as to when the Red Sox are willing to live with his offense. Certainly by 2012 we expect Iglesias to be the Red Sox everyday shortstop.

Grade B+

3) Oscar Tejeda, 2B (2010– Power 53; Discipline 63; First Base Rate 53; Speed 75)

With the #6 Performance Score in the Carolina League in 2010, Tejeda made significant strides offensively. A converted shortstop, Tejeda demonstrated above average defensive skills playing second base. With potentially plus power and contact skills, to go along with above average middle infield speed, there is every reason to believe that Tejeda can become an above average Major League second baseman. However, only 21yo, there is still significant work to be done, as Tejeda’s attacking style offense leaves him vulnerable to talented pitchers. As he moves to the Eastern League (ESL) in 2011, he will have to begin to show more plate patience. While there is still considerable downside risk, Tejeda’s upside could be special.

4) Stolmy Pimentel, RHP (2010 – Dominance 44; Control 55; HRrate 43; Stamina 68)

Pimentel has been a fringe upper-tier prospects for a couple of seasons now, who made a major breakout when he posted the #6 Performance Score in the CAR in 2010. At 6’4”, 225lb, Pimentel, can cut an imposing figure. Pimentel uses a low- to mid-90s fastball to set up a devastating change. His curve shows at least average potential, making him a solid #2/#3 Major League starting pitcher candidate. Pimental’s control is at least average, if not slightly better, and he is showing increasing ability to pitch deeper into games. The comps show a durable, workhorse that may never be a star at the Major League level, but could be very good. Barley 21yo, Pimentel will open 2011 in the ESL, with a solid chance of seeing Boston sometime in 2012.

5) Garin Cecchini, SS

Cecchini opened his senior season as a Top 50 draft prospect before knee surgery cost him the bulk of his final prep year. While we still had him rated as a solid second round selection, the question entering draft day was how far he was likely to fall. The Red Sox were able to get him in the fourth round before signing him to first round money. Regarded as a hit first shortstop, his lack of fundamental quickness will likely dictate a move to third base where his contact skills should be solid above average, with potentially average power. Speed isn’t a significant part of his make-up, and is only likely to be less so after the knee injury. While we don’t foresee tremendous power, his ceiling appears to be that of an average everyday Major League third baseman. How he performs this spring is likely to dictate whether his first assignment is in the South Atlantic League (SAL) or the New York-Penn (NYP).

6) Drake Britton, LHP (2010 – Dominance 65; Control 55; HRrate 49; Stamina 52)

While we aren’t as high on Britton as are some, it isn’t because we don’t recognize the significant upside that exists with his plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s with sink. He complements that with a potentially plus curve and a change that is best described as useful. If it all comes together, we can envision a Major League #2/#3 starter. That said, with only 121 innings over three professional season and a 2009 Tommy John surgery, combined with averaging only 3.6 innings per start in 2010, we believe Britton will be most effective as a two-pitch back of the bullpen lefty, where his fastball has the potential to be a high-90s offering. Turning 22yo in May, Britton is a tad behind schedule, as he is likely to begin the year in the CAR. We’d like to see him continue his dominance there in the first half of 2011 before moving to AA in the second half of the season.

Grade B

7) Josh Reddick, OF (2010– Power 67; Discipline 66; First Base Rate 28; Speed 35)

Reddick returns to the #7 position on this list, after a year in which he opened it competing for a job and Boston and finished it as his most disappointing season as a pro. In between he did manage a Top 25 Performance Score in the International League (INT) and he did see 62 MLB ABs. Reddick profiles as a prototypical Major League right fielder, with average or better speed, a strong arm and solid contact and power skills. The downside is that he is tremendously impatient at that plate, and therefore doesn’t produce the on base numbers that you would like from a corner outfielder with likely 20HR power. All things considered, Reddick is looking more and more like a very good fourth outfield candidate. Further complicating things is the fact that, barring injury, there isn’t likely a spot in the Boston outfield for him. 24yo, Reddick seems destined for a third stint at Pawtuckett. While injury could provide opportunity for him, we would not be surprised to see Reddick dangled as trade bait come mid-summer.

8) Felix Doubront, LHP (2010 – Dominance 56; Control 43; HRrate 77; Stamina 64)

Like Pimentel, Doubront has been trying to break through to the upper tiers of prospect status for quite some time, as he posted the Top Performance Score in the VSL as long ago as 2005. In 2010, he posted the #7 Performance Score in the ESL, before posting the #14 Score at Pawtuckett. He also made it all the way to Boston in 2010, and looks positioned to get a long look for a bullpen job there this spring. With a low-90s fastball that he primarily uses to set up a plus change, and an adequate curve, Doubront has the upside of a solid back of the rotation Major League starter. However, it looks more likely that he will end up as a bull pen contributor. While he has an outside shot at opening the year as a left-handed arm in the Red Sox bullpen, expect him to return to Pawtuckett in 2011.

9) Yamaico Navarro, SS (2010– Power 67; Discipline 72; First Base Rate 53; Speed 65)

Seemingly a bargain, Navarro was a $20,000 signing by the Red Sox in 2005. He has had somewhat of an up and down career that seemed on the way up after the 2008 season, but a wrist injury in 2009 wiped out any progress he seemed to have made. Finally, in 2010, we got that breakout offensive performance that we have been waiting five years for, as Navarro posted the ESL’s #11 Performance Score. With plus middle infield power and solid on-base skills, Navarro has the upside of an above average Major League middle infielder. The question is whether or not it will be at shortstop—the position where he would hold the most value—as his stocky build causes us to wonder if second base, or perhaps even third, may be a better fit. Questionable work ethics and a poor fundamental approach to the game leave many wondering how much of his potential Navarro can realize. The 23yo, will return to the INT in 2011.

10) Bryce Brentz, OF – 2010– Power 58; Discipline 32; First Base Rate 24; Speed 47)

Brentz entered the 2010 college season as one of our top ten draft eligible position players. While he didn’t have a horrible season (.350/.400/.640) it wasn’t as strong as we expected, nor enough to allay concerns about his level of competition. Add to that his profile as somewhat of a center/right field ‘tweener’ and it is perhaps surprising that he went as high as the sandwich round where the Red Sox landed him. His disappointing pro debut left many wondering just how high his upside really is. We believe his 2009 collegiate season, where he led the nation in both average and home runs, was no fluke, and while recognizing his negatives, we see the potential of a Major League right fielder, with at least average speed and above average power. The downside is that he has an impatient approach at the plate that leads to far too many strikeouts, accompanied by far too few walks. We are willing to give him a full season of A-ball to make the necessary adjustments.

11) Kolbrin Vitek, 3B/2B/RF (2010– Power 63; Discipline 31; First Base Rate 57; Speed 79)

We had Vitek rated as a sandwich round selection, but the Red Sox bought into his bat and tabbed him with their first round pick. Offense will likely never be the problem for Vitek, as he possesses 20 home run power potential, makes above average contact and has above average speed. The question is where he will find a home on defense. A two-way player at Ball State, Vitek possesses an arm that is capable of handling third base or right field. While he has good game speed, his quickness isn’t exceptional and he lacks soft hands and good fundamental footwork. For these reasons, we believe he is likely to end up a right fielder where his value will be significantly diminished. For now, the Red Sox are trying him at third base. If he shows capable of handling it, we may have him rated a bit low. Nonetheless we will have a better idea after he plays in the CAR in 2011.

12) Lars Anderson, 1B (2010– Power 73; Discipline 32; First Base Rate 51; Speed 36)

Despite a disappointing 2009 season, we snuck Anderson into the tail end of our 2010 Top 100 prospect list. After a return trip to AAA produced a .768 OPS for the 23yo in 2010, there won’t be such a lofty ranking come this year’s list. There is still plenty to like about Anderson, beginning with some of the best raw power potential in the system. The problem is that he hasn’t had the power potential manifest itself into anything more than the 18 home runs he belted in 2008, he doesn’t make consistent contact and possesses near base-clogging speed. With first base as his only plausible defensive destination, finding his offensive potential is a must. After spending parts of three seasons in AA, Anderson will see AAA for a repeat performance in 2011. This is a once-bright star that is fading rapidly.

Other Potential Top 300 Prospects – 13) Brandon Workman, RHP; 14) Jose Vinicio, SS; 15) Xander Bogaerts, SS; 16) Che-Hsuan Lin, CF.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation and here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.

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