There’s always a danger in running our annual ranking of the Top 30 Red Sox prospects on the eve of baseball’s winter meetings – especially given the way team president Dave Dombrowski deals them away.

In February 2015, the Red Sox featured the second-best farm system among the 30 major league organizations, according to Baseball America.

Enter Dombrowski, who was hired by Boston in August 2015. Three months later he dealt prospect Manuel Margot as the centerpiece of a package to land closer Craig Kimbrel.

By 2016, Boston dropped to No. 4 in the Baseball America farm-system rankings.

We published our 2016 list of Top 30 Sox prospects late last fall – and it was devastated within nine days when Dombrowski traded three of the top four prospects on our list. To land starter Chris Sale, he dealt No. 2 Yoan Moncada, No. 3 Michael Kopech and No. 17 Luis Alexander Basabe. Among those traded for reliever Tyler Thornburg was No. 4 Mauricio Dubon.

Heading into the 2017 season, Boston’s farm system fell to 14th in the rankings.

Is it a big deal that Dombrowski is raiding the farm? Former GM Ben Cherington’s 2015 Red Sox finished in last place. Since then Boston has won the AL East two straight years with Dombrowski at the helm – using a mix of veterans and Cherington’s prospects.

Before presenting our 2017 list, we include the annual disclaimer that this group does not mirror those found at other publications and web sites. Our Top 30 includes guys close to the majors, younger players with promise … and a few educated guesses.

Here are the rankings (with last year’s ranking in parentheses) and the age of the player on Opening Day 2018:

1. Michael Chavis (NR), 22, third base

Chavis has gone from somewhere (first-round draft pick, 2014) to nowhere (.237 in 2016) to relevance again. He broke out in 2017 by hitting a combined .282 with 31 home runs at Class A Salem and Double-A Portland. He stayed healthy and got his quick wrists aligned with his swing. With Rafael Devers at third base for the Red Sox, Chavis played some first base in the Arizona Fall League. A 2018 call-up is feasible.

2. Jay Groome (8), 19, starting pitcher

Groome’s rise to No. 2 is based on his potential (and other prospects moving on). The 12th overall draft pick in 2016, the left-handed Groome has been handled carefully, especially after a lat strain early last season. He made 11 starts in Greenville (6.70 ERA), which included a no-hit effort (five innings) and two one-hit performances (over five and six innings). His 93 mph fastball and killer curve might reach Portland by the end of next season.

3. Jalen Beeks (NR), 24, starting pitcher

Beeks did not stay in Portland long (5-1, 2.19 ERA) last season and reached Pawtucket (6-7, 3.96; 97 strikeouts in 95 innings). The low-90s fastball, cutter and change-up mix well. He’s not a big-name prospect but is a lefty who produces. Now on the 40-man roster, Beeks is a phone call away from Fenway.

4. Tzu-Wei Lin (NR), 24, infielder

Remember what I said about educated guesses? In 66 plate appearances, Lin surprised with a .268 average (.369 on-base percentage) while playing third, short and second with the Red Sox. He also can play center field. Lin is the heir to Brock Holt’s utility role in Boston.

5. Austin Maddox (NR), 26, relief pitcher

After 12 straight scoreless appearances with Boston, Maddox finally allowed a run. In 13 games (171/3 innings), Maddox had a 0.52 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, with 14 strikeouts and two walks. His fastball/change-up mix works well.

6. Marco Hernandez (9), 25, infielder

Hernandez seemed to be settling into 2017 when he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery after 21 games (.278 in Boston). He was a surprise in 2016 (.294 in 40 games) and should get another shot at Fenway Park.

7. Mike Shawaryn (23), 23, starting pitcher

He likely is headed to Portland after splitting time in Greenville and Salem last year (3.81 ERA, 169 strikeouts/48 walks in 1342/3 innings). If his mid-90s fastball, slider and change-up play in Double-A, he could be on a fast track.

8. Sam Travis (7), 24, first base

This will be a big year for Travis after injury shortened his 2016 season. He was so-so in 2017 (.270/.726 OPS) at Triple-A Pawtucket, though he reached the majors briefly (.263/.667 OPS in 33 games). Travis, who hit .300 in Portland in 2015, needs more work on his defense.

9. Tanner Houck (NR), 21, starting pitcher

Boston’s 2017 first-round draft pick, Houck made 10 starts at short-season Class A Lowell (3.63 ERA/1.30 WHIP) last summer. He will bring his mid-90s fastball to Class A Greenville next season and will be promoted to Salem if he’s dominating. He might reach Portland in 2019.

10. Bryan Mata (NR), 18, starting pitcher

The surprise of the 2017 Red Sox minor leagues was the emergence of Mata. He skipped two levels to make his Greenville debut in late May (three weeks after his 18th birthday). He features a low-90s fastball with a curve and change-up.

11. Brian Johnson (11), 28, pitcher

Johnson is out of minor league options so he’ll likely get a chance to make it to the majors as a reliever and spot starter. Johnson made six major league starts last year (4.33 ERA/1.48 WHIP). He has pitched brilliantly as times, but needs consistency.

12. Bobby Poyner (20), 26, relief pitcher

We called Poyner a dark horse last year and he still holds the label, even though he recorded a 0.94 ERA/0.78 WHIP in 27 appearances with Portland. A lefty with deception, his fastball typically is at 89-90 mph. We’ll see how it plays in Triple-A.

13. Alex Scherff (NR), 20, starting pitcher

The best high school player in Texas in 2017, Scherff was selected by Boston in the fifth round and signed for $700,000. He has a mid-90s fastball with an advanced change-up. Scherff did not pitch after being drafted and could make his pro debut in Lowell.

14. Bobby Dalbec (18), 22, third base

Dalbec was hampered with a wrist injury and played only 78 games in Greenville (.246/.782 OPS). He struck out 123 times in 329 plate appearances. Still, he’s a huge talent and should be in Salem with a shot at Portland by next summer.

15. Ben Taylor (NR), 25, relief pitcher

Taylor won the spring competition for the final bullpen spot in Boston. Bouncing between the majors and Triple-A, Taylor made 14 major league appearances. He had ups and downs (eight of his 10 runs allowed came in three games).

16. Chandler Shepherd (15), 25, pitcher

A reliever in Pawtucket last year (4.07 ERA/1.29 WHIP), Shepherd has made starts in the Mexican Winter League and might be converted to the rotation. He does have a workable fastball/slider/change-up mix and Boston needs starting depth.

17. Justin Haley (14), 26, starting pitcher

Speaking of starting depth, Haley gives Boston that, and major league experience. A Rule V pick of the Twins, Haley made 10 appearances (6.00 ERA, 14 strikeouts in 18 innings) before being returned to Boston.

18. Jake Cosart (21), 24, relief pitcher

Cosart was the Wild Thing with his high 90s fastball before the All-Star break in Portland (24 strikeouts/33 walks in 281/3 innings, with 4.45 ERA/1.73 WHIP). He adjusted in the second half: 28 strikeouts/eight walks in 21 innings.

19. Danny Mars (NR), 23, outfielder

The 6-foot, 195-pound Mars showed a little power (six homers) for the first time but that’s not his game. He simply hits, leading Portland with a .304 average (.754 OPS). Mars will take his underappreciated talents to Triple-A.

20. Dedgar Jimenez (NR), 22, starting pitcher

A lefty with a high-80s fastball, Jimenez relies on deception and command. He was 10-3 in Salem with a 3.07 ERA. He moved to Portland, going 5-0 with a 2.91 ERA in eight starts. He’ll be back in Double-A to keep proving himself.

21. Josh Ockimey (NR), 22, first base

An intriguing power prospect, Ockimey hit 18 home runs in Greenville in 2016 (batting only .226). Last year he batted .275 with 11 homers for Salem in 100 games. After 33 games in Portland (.272, three homers), he will return to Hadlock Field next summer.

22. Cole Brannen (NR), 19, outfielder

Boston’s second-round draft pick in 2017 out of high school. Brannen received a $1.3 million signing bonus. Considered a five-tool player, Brannen likely will be in short-season Lowell again in 2018. Portland by 2020?

23. Ty Buttrey (NR), 25, relief pitcher

Buttrey is still adjusting to a bullpen role but the Red Sox like what they see, putting him on the 40-man roster. The fastball can hit 100 mph. As he masters his secondary pitches, Buttrey could be a force. He will be in Pawtucket in 2018 with a chance for a call-up.

24. Kyle Martin (13), 27, reliever

Martin was put on the 40-man roster before last season. Now he’s looking to rebound after a 4.36 ERA /1.53 WHIP in Pawtucket (50 strikeouts/26 walks in 532/3 innings). As Boston builds depth, Martin cannot afford another so-so season.

25. Roniel Raudes (19), 19, starting pitcher

After a breakout 2016 season in Greenville, Raudes struggled in Salem (4-7, 4.50 ERA/1.53 WHIP). He’s still young with a polished three-pitch mix. Raudes will get another shot in Salem with a chance at Double-A possible in 2018.

26. Williams Jerez (26), 25, relief pitcher

Jerez was put back on the 40-man roster as the Red Sox hope the tall lefty with a 93 mph fastball continues to progress. Jerez is in his fifth season as a pitcher (he was drafted as an outfielder). He spent most of 2017 in Portland and will move to Triple-A in 2018.

27. Aneury Tavarez (16), 25, outfielder

Tavarez looked like he was going to make the Orioles’ roster last spring after being a Rule V pick. But he was promptly returned to the Red Sox organization and had an injury-plagued season (58 games). He’ll be in the Pawtucket outfield this year.

28. Hildemaro Requena (NR), 20, pitcher

There were better-known pitching prospects in Greenville last year (Darwinzon Hernandez, for example), but none more effective than Requena (1.98 ERA). He started his last eight games (7-0, 0.59) and will go to Salem in 2018.

29. Jeremy Barfield (NR), 29, outfielder

A wonderful underdog story, Barfield went from the independent leagues to batting .288 with 27 home runs in 92 games for Portland. Counting his indy games and late-season promotion to Pawtucket, Barfield hit 37 home runs. The question: Can he keep it up?

30. Jake Romanski (29), 27, catcher

After a stellar season in Portland in 2016 (.308/.751 OPS), Romanski was suspended 50 games for using amphetamines and struggled when he returned (.233/.529 OPS). He’s still Boston’s best minor-league catcher and gives the Red Sox needed depth.

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