As the 2012 season draws to a close, the Red Sox minor league looks as strong at the top as it has in several years, even taking into account the fact that Felix Doubront, Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Kalish, Ryan Lavarnway and Junichi Tazawa all graduated from prospect status over the course of the season. In terms of depth, there is also a solid mix of likely major league contributors, high-ceiling lottery-ticket prospects, and replacement-level insurance players. Here’s a look at the top 10 prospects in the system at the close of the season.
1. Xander Bogaerts (19)
SS, Double-A Portland
How acquired: Signed as an international free agent out of Aruba in August 2009. $410,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .305/.371/.522 with 20 home runs for Portland and High-A Salem
Scouting Report: Bogaerts is looking more and more like a future perennial All-Star. From a statistical standpoint, the Aruban shortstop posted solid numbers across the board this season while generally playing against competition three to four years his senior. Scouting wise, he continued to show an improved plate approach while maintaining impressive power production. He’s demonstrated a tremendous ability to adapt and learn at each level, proving to be an intelligent and mature player who takes well to coaching and the organization’s philosophies. The ball explodes off his bat to all fields, whether it be in-game situations or in batting practice. He projects as a middle-of-the-order run-producing bat for a first-division club. In terms of areas of improvement, Bogaerts still has fringe-average present pitch recognition and strike-zone judgment, and he’ll need to tone down the aggressiveness of his approach. On defense, he has a slightly above-average arm, solid range, and rough footwork. With more experience, he should be able to slow his game down defensively and resist the need to rush plays. But he also may lose lateral range as he continues to grow into his frame. While it still looks like he’ll need to move off position to third base or outfield over the long-term, it’s now a distinct possibility that Bogaerts could break into the majors as a shortstop, possibly in late 2013. If that’s the case, expect high error totals early on. While no one likes to cite errors as a measure of defensive prowess, Bogaerts has averaged 44 errors-per-162-games over his minor league career. To put that in perspective, the Dodgers have the most shortstop errors in the league in 2012 with 28. Boston has just 17.
Projection: Regular All-Star
Ceiling: Franchise Player
Projected 2013 assignment: Portland
2. Matt Barnes (22)
How acquired: Drafted in the 1st round, 2011. $1,500,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: 7-5, 2.86 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 133 strikeouts, 29 walks in 119.2 innings with Salem and Low-A Greenville
Scouting Report: With the 19th overall pick in the 2011 draft -- the club’s highest pick since 2003 -- the Red Sox selected Matt Barnes out of the University of Connecticut. He was considered a potential top-10 pick after an excellent summer in 2010 with Team USA, but his stock fell due to the impressive pitching depth in the 2011 draft class. A large right-hander with a very projectable body, Barnes features a plus fastball that sits at 93-95 mph and tops out at 98 mph. His command and control, which were identified as developmental areas coming into the season, were quite solid in 2012. His 74-77 mph curveball is his best secondary pitch, grading out as solid-average with plus potential. He also mixes in a fringe-average to average mid-80s changeup. His secondary pitches still need refinement, and he may need to re-incorporate a fourth pitch, such as a slider or a cutter, if he wants to develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. He began the 2012 season with a phenomenal run for Greenville, posting a 0.34 ERA in five starts, and continued his dominance through the All-Star break. However, he began to hit the rookie wall at the All-Star break, ultimately posting a 5.74 ERA in 12 starts in the second half. The hope is that the subpar second-half results were more a result of stamina issues than the league catching up with him, but it’s probably a little of both. If he works out those stamina issues and refines his secondary pitches, Barnes profiles as a third starter at the major league level.
Projection: No. 3 starter
Ceiling: No. 2 starter
Projected 2013 assignment: Portland
3. Jackie Bradley, Jr. (22)
How acquired: Drafted in the supplemental 1st round, 2011. $1,100,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .313/.428/.478 with 9 home runs and 24 stolen bases for Portland and Salem
Scouting Report: At one point considered a mid-to-high first-round pick, Bradley fell to the supplemental round in 2011 due to a poor statistical start followed by a tendon injury in his left wrist that ended his season. Hitting from an open stance, he closes down well on pitch approach to keep himself balanced. Overall, Bradley is a well-above-average contact hitter with quick hands, fluid mechanics, an upward swing plane, solid bat control, and a disciplined approach. However, he can overextend on occasion and struggle with balls on the inner third of the plate. Bradley’s power projection is average, but it’s not out of the question that he could fill out and add strength, much like Jacoby Ellsbury did earlier in his career. Bradley’s speed is also about a tick above-average, but he’s a smart runner on the base paths and will steal some bases. On defense, he’s a very polished outfielder who projects as an above-average center fielder over the long haul. He shows strong instincts, solid range, a plus arm, and a reliable glove. Overall, Bradley just might be the team’s center fielder of the future if Ellsbury leaves via free agency after the 2013 season.
Projection: Major league regular
Ceiling: All-Star center fielder
Projected 2013 assignment: Portland with an early promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket
4. Allen Webster (22)
How acquired: Acquired from Los Angeles with James Loney, Ivan De Jesus, and two players to be named later for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, and cash considerations in August 2012
2012 Stats: 6-9, 3.86 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 129 strikeouts, 61 walks in 130.2 innings for Double-A Chattanooga and Portland
Scouting Report: Webster is one of the two high-profile pitchers acquired from the Dodgers in the Adrian Gonzalez trade (the other being Rubby De La Rosa, reportedly one of the players to be named later, and therefore not included in these rankings). While he was not considered a major project coming out of high school in 2008, Webster turned himself into one of Los Angeles’ top pitching prospects prior to the trade. A groundball pitcher with a lean, projectable frame and solid makeup, he has a smooth delivery but tends to short-arm the ball on occasion, losing his release point. His fastball sits in the 92-94-mph range and tops out at 97 mph. It has strong downward movement, but his command of the pitch is fringe-average at this stage. The right-hander also mixes in a plus 82-84-mph changeup, an average 80-82-mph slider, and an average 76-78-mph 11-to-5 curveball. In addition to improving his command and maintaining a consistent release point, Webster will need to work on mixing his pitches better at the next levels. That said, he’s still quite advanced for a 22-year-old.
Projection: No. 4 starter
Ceiling: No. 3 starter
Projected 2013 assignment: Pawtucket
5. Bryce Brentz (23)
How acquired: Drafted in the supplemental 1st round, 2010. $889,200 bonus.
2012 Stats: .290/.349/.465 with 17 home runs with Portland and Pawtucket
Scouting Report: A solid athlete with a developed body, Brentz struggled initially after entering the pro ranks in 2010, but he has since worked out some kinks in his swing and adjusted to life as a professional. He’s an aggressive power hitter with middle-of-the-order power potential. While he can often get caught chasing breaking balls and elevated fastballs, he’s still managed to post impressive power numbers over the past five seasons in the college and professional ranks. Regardless, he’ll need work on improving his pitch selection, or he could end up as a 150-plus strikeout player. Brentz may not round out into a regular .300 hitter or a high-OBP guy, but he has 20-to-25 home run potential. On defense, he has a plus arm and the skills to profile as a slightly above-average right fielder at the major league level.
Projection: No. 3 or No. 4 outfielder
Ceiling: Everyday right fielder, No. 5 hitter
Projected 2013 assignment: Pawtucket
6. Garin Cecchini (21)
How acquired: Drafted in the 4th round, 2010. $1,310,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .305/.394/.433 with 4 home runs and 51 stolen bases with Greenville
Scouting Report: A tall, athletic third baseman with strong all-around tools, Cecchini has a sweet swing with outstanding bat speed. He shows a strong ability to hit the ball to all fields with gap power and improving plate discipline. His areas of development include improving his approach with breaking balls and maintaining balance at the plate. While his present power is below-average, he has decent power potential, and could round out into a 20 home run hitter. He has a great work ethic and excellent instincts in all phases of the game, which come from being the son of the head coach of Barbe High School, a baseball factory in Louisiana. And despite not having blazing speed, Cecchini is also an outstanding base runner, having led the system in stolen bases in 2012. On defense, he made ample strides in 2012, but he’ll need to continue to work on his reactions and footwork to complement his strengths, which include a soft glove, a plus arm, and the willingness to make proper adjustments.
Projection: Second division starter
Ceiling: All-Star third baseman
Projected 2013 assignment: Salem
7. Blake Swihart (20)
How acquired: Drafted in the 1st round, 2011. $2,500,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .262/.307/.395 with 7 home runs with Greenville
Scouting Report: Swihart is an athletic, switch-hitting catcher with a fluid swing from both sides of the plate. While he didn’t post dominant stats in 2012, scouts were still very impressed with his skill set and potential. He profiles as an above-average contact hitter with plus bat speed and explosive hands. He’s still young, and needs work on his plate approach and pitch recognition. While he’s a bit undersized for a catcher and shows below-average present power, Swihart has solid-to-average home-run power potential. On defense, he’s fluid and agile, and has excellent reflexes, a plus arm, and a smooth release. However, it’s unclear whether Swihart has the frame to endure the rigors of catching every day. That being said, he should have the athleticism and the bat to move to second base or third base if necessary.
Projection: Very wide range -- for now, let’s say a second-division regular
Ceiling: All-Star catcher
Projected 2013 assignment: Salem
8. Henry Owens (20)
How acquired: Drafted in the supplemental 1st round, 2011. $1,550,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: 12-5, 4.87 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 130 strikeouts, 47 walks in 101.7 innings with Greenville
Scouting Report: Owens is a tall, lanky lefty who has a lot of room to fill out and add strength. He has a smooth an easy delivery and a mature demeanor on the hill. His fastball presently sits in the 89-93-mph range with decent movement, and tops out in the mid-90s. He should be able to add sitting velocity if he fills out. He currently throws his fastball with below-average command. Owens’ best secondary pitch is an excellent mid-70s deep breaking curveball, which he can also loop in the mid-60s to keep hitters off balance. The left-hander also mixes in a below-average low-80s changeup with subpar command. Overall, Owens has a very high ceiling, but he’ll need to put in a lot of work to reach it, including adding strength, stamina, improving command, and refining his changeup.
Projection: No. 4 or No. 5 starter
Ceiling: No. 2 starter
Projected 2013 assignment: Salem
9. Jose Iglesias (22)
How acquired: Signed as an international free agent out of Cuba in September 2009. $6,000,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: .266/.318/.306 with 1 home run, 12 stolen bases for Pawtucket
Scouting Report: Iglesias has elite defensive skills highlighted by extremely fluid hands and a soft glove. He also shows excellent instincts and anticipation, resulting in well-above-average range. He gets to ground balls in the hole that most major-league shortstops would not have the range to field. With his plus, accurate arm, Iglesias is adept at throwing on the move and has outstanding body control, resulting in a lot of spectacular plays. He’s a future perennial Gold Glove shortstop that grades as an "80" defensively. On offense, he projects as a No. 9 hitter, with the potential to develop into a No. 2 hitter in his peak years. While he has plus bat speed, a smooth swing, quick wrists, and made positive advancements in 2012, he’s still an impatient and overly aggressive hitter, and he’s been overmatched in irregular time with the major league club in 2012. He also has minimal power projection, but could evolve into a doubles hitter at Fenway as he matures. He’s still just 22, but Iglesias is looking a lot more like Rey Ordonez than Omar Vizquel at this point.
Projection: Second-division shortstop, No. 9 hitter
Ceiling: Occasional All-Star (primarily due to defense), average contact hitter
Projected 2013 assignment: On the bubble between Boston and Pawtucket
10. Drake Britton (23)
How acquired: Drafted in the 23rd round, 2007. $700,000 bonus.
2012 Stats: 7-12, 4.45 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 118 strikeouts, 57 walks in 129.1 innings with Portland and Salem
Scouting Report: After an atrocious season with Salem in 2011, Britton bounced back nicely in 2012, putting himself back in the conversation as a potential impact arm at the major league level. His mechanics and delivery are modeled closely after Jon Lester, but he can tend to lose his release point on occasion, resulting in inconsistent command. Britton’s four-seam fastball sits in the 92-94-mph range and can get up to the 95-96-mph range in shorter stints. He also has a mid-70s curveball that has shown flashes of being a plus pitch, but not on any sort of consistent basis. He’s also working on developing his slider and changeup, both of which are works in progress. Britton has shown a tendency to get rattled on the mound too easily -- letting bad results snowball into worse -- but he demonstrated a lot of improvement in that area in 2012. Ultimately, he profiles best as a late-inning reliever, particularly if he can continue to show the improved mound presence he displayed in the second half.
Projection: 7th-inning reliever
Ceiling: No. 5 starter
Projected 2013 assignment: On the bubble between Portland and Pawtucket
Additionally, here’s a look the prospects ranked 11-40 in the Red Sox system, as ranked by SoxProspects.com:
11. Brandon Workman, RHP, Portland
12. Deven Marrero, SS, Lowell
13. Brian Johnson, RHP, Lowell
14. Alex Wilson, RHP, Pawtucket
15. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Portland
16. Keury De La Cruz, OF, Salem
17. Brandon Jacobs, OF, Salem
18. Jose Vinicio, SS, Greenville
19. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP, Portland
20. Pat Light, RHP, Lowell
21. Ty Buttrey, RHP, GCL Red Sox
22. Chris Carpenter, RHP, Boston
23. Mauro Gomez, 1B, Boston
24. Travis Shaw, 1B/3B, Portland
25. Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF, Pawtucket
26. Juan Carlos Linares, OF, Pawtucket
27. Frank Montas, RHP, Lowell
28. Jamie Callahan, , RHP, GCL Red Sox
29. Tzu-Wei Lin, SS, GCL Red Sox
30. Cody Kukuk, LHP, GCL Red Sox
31. Christian Vazquez, , C, Portland
32. Chris Hernandez, LHP, Pawtucket
33. Josh Fields, RHP, Pawtucket
34. Ivan De Jesus, IF, Boston
35. Sean Coyle, 2B, Salem
36. Kolbrin Vitek, 3B, Portland
37. Noe Ramirez, RHP, Greenville
38. Mickey Pena, LHP, Greenville
39. Che-Hsuan Lin, OF, Boston
40. Dan Butler, C, Pawt