February 2

On Baseball: Red Sox prospects blossoming in farm system

Boston reaping the good seeds it sows.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Depending on the publication or website you read, the Boston Red Sox feature the best or one of the best minor league systems in baseball.

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Xander Bogaerts has just 18 regular-season major league games on his resume, but his postseason stats – a .296 average in 12 games – seem to make him a can’t-miss prospect, even though in the minds of many, he’s already gone from prospect to genuine big leaguer.

File Photos/The Associated Press

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Brandon Workman also seems like his prospect possibilities should be referred to in the past tense, as he didn’t allow an earned run in 8 innings during the Red Sox postseason run.

And we continue our tradition of presenting the best of Boston’s minor leaguers (last year’s ranking came out in November of 2012 but this year’s World Series pushed everything back).

Everyone ranks prospects different and we tend to favor players who are closer to being called up to the majors (thus first-round pick Trey Ball is not in the top 10).

There are 10 new players to our list (last year’s rankings in parentheses).

1. Xander Bogaerts (1), age 21, shortstop. Anyone who has not ranked Bogaerts No. 1 has probably disqualified him because he is an obvious major leaguer. But Bogaerts played only 18 regular-season games so he’s still a prospect – never mind that he batted .296 in 12 postseason games with a .893 OPS (combined on-base and slugging percentages). He’s been called a special player for years and he is proving to be just that.

2. Brandon Workman (21), 25, pitcher. Workman may not have the star potential of Bogaerts but they shared a World Series experience together. And, like Bogaerts, Workman should be a non-prospect (i.e. a major leaguer) in 2014. After making three major league starts, Workman moved to the bullpen. In the postseason he didn’t allow an earned run in 82/3 innings. He may be in the pen again this year but his value still could be as a workhorse starter.

3. Jackie Bradley Jr. (3), 23, outfielder. Much is made of his major league struggles last year (.189 average in 95 at-bats). But remember Dustin Pedroia’s call-up in 2006 (.191 in 89 at-bats) the season before being named Rookie of the Year. Maybe Bradley doesn’t make that drastic a jump, but he brings a lot of intangibles, including superb defense.

4. Henry Owens (17), 21, pitcher. Other prospects may make it to the majors sooner, if they haven’t already, but Owens also could be there this season. If he continues his development, watch out; poised beyond his years with a fastball-curve-change combo that put up a 1.78 ERA and 46 strikeouts in six Double-A starts to end 2013.

5. Anthony Ranaudo (16), 24, pitcher. He may have been the comeback pitcher of the year in the Sox system, going from injury-plagued 2012 to an 11-5 combined record last year in Portland and Pawtucket, with a 2.96 ERA. Success after adversity is always a good sign.

6. Blake Swihart (19), 21, catcher. Like Owens, who he will be catching in Portland, Swihart may see other catching prospects in the majors before him but once he gets there, he could be the star. While he developed into a top defensive catcher, his offense remains, having batted .298 in Class A Salem.

7. Mookie Betts (NR), 21, second baseman. Betts had a breakout season last year in Class A Greenville and Salem, combining for a .314 average and .923 OPS, including 15 home runs. And yes, the Bogaerts comparisons are being made. The only question is his position. Boston’s current second baseman is under contract through 2021.

8. Rubby De La Rosa (7), 24, pitcher. Made 11 major league appearances. A raw talent with an outrageous fastball, De La Rosa could dominate,

9. Matt Barnes (9), 23, pitcher. Up and down in Portland (4.33 ERA), Barnes still showed the potential of a first-round pick (2011).

(Continued on page 2)

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