Editor's note: This is the fifth of a five-part series on depth in the Red Sox farm system.
The depth of outfield prospects in the Red Sox system is highlighted by Jackie Bradley Jr., 19-year-old Dominican prospect Manuel Margot, and power-hitting right fielder Bryce Brentz -- all solid prospects. Beyond that, most of the outfielders in the system profile as role players or borderline major leaguers.
POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE STARTERS
CF Jackie Bradley, 23, is still an outstanding prospect, but some of the shimmer has worn off since this time last year, at which point he forced his way onto the major league roster with a monstrous spring. He ended up being overmatched during his short time at the major league level in 2013, but ultimately went on to hit a respectable .275/.374/.469 for Triple-A Pawtucket. He pairs a solid offensive approach with spectacular defensive skills, and should ultimately prove to be an adequate everyday center fielder for a first-division club. However, he’s also struggled at the plate this spring. Normally, that would mean next-to-nothing, but Bradley was vying for a roster spot and was among the only players on the bubble with options, which is one of the reasons he’s starting the season in back in Pawtucket. But his stay in the minors should not be long this time around.
CF Manuel Margot was signed for an $800,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic in July 2011. He spent 2012 in the rookie-level Dominican Summer League, where he hit .285/.382/.423 and stole 33 bases in 68 games, and then in 2013 he hit .270/.346/.351 with 18 stolen bases for Short-A Lowell. Margot is an impressive athlete with elite speed, strong instincts, an above-average bat, average power potential, plus defensive skills, and a slightly below-average arm. He also carries himself with the swagger of a top prospect. Margot should stick in center field over the long-term, and has the potential to develop into a leadoff hitter for a playoff team, but he has several years of development left to get there. He’ll need to work on improving his pitch recognition this season, where he’ll likely start at Low-A Greenville.
RF Bryce Brentz, 25, hit .264/.312/.475 with 17 home runs for Pawtucket in 2013. This followed having his invitation to 2013 major league camp rescinded after he accidentally shot himself in the leg. He's a below-average contact hitter with plus power and an overly aggressive approach. If given the opportunity to play in the majors for a full season, Brentz might hit 20-plus home runs, but he'd also likely strike out 150-plus times. On defense, he has a plus arm, a solid glove, and decent fundamentals. He's shown flashes of makeup issues over his minor league career. His overall his ceiling is that of an everyday right fielder and a No. 6 hitter for a second-division team. He should spend most of 2014 with Pawtucket, working on toning down his plate approach. That was the same exact spot he was in last year at this time, although he has had an impressive spring this year. Brentz would probably get a look if Shane Victorino ever missed extended time.
POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE ROLE PLAYERS
LF/RF Alex Hassan, 25, was selected in the 20th round in 2009. A local product out of Milton, Mass., he has a big frame, an average hit tool, an above-average approach, slightly below-average power, and fringe-average defense. However, he is versatile in that he can play left field, right field, and first base adequately, if not spectacularly. After recovering from an injury, Hassan played 55 games with Pawtucket in 2013, hitting .321/.431/.460. He’ll be back with Pawtucket in 2014, and given that he’s already on the 40-man roster, he’ll be an option for a major league promotion at some point. However, for the time being, he’s behind Bradley and Brentz on the depth chart.
CF/RF Henry Ramos, 21, was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 draft out of Puerto Rico. He spent the 2013 season in High-A Salem, posting a line of .252/.330/.416 with 12 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Ramos is a switch hitter with an athletic frame, a raw-but-developing approach, solid power potential, slightly above-average speed, a strong arm, and good makeup. He’s a breakout candidate for 2014, but will need to focus on being more selective against advanced pitching and getting better reads in the outfield. Ramos will likely start the season in Portland. Given that he should be capable of playing all three outfield positions over the long-term, his versatility may improve his chances of earning a bench slot in the majors.
Keury De La Cruz, 22, is a free swinger at the plate. After posting an impressive .307/.350/.533 line with Low-A Greenville and Salem in 2012, he came back to earth in 2013, hitting .258/.297/.398 with Salem. He’s likely due for a promotion to Portland this season, where his overly aggressive approach will be seriously tested and he'll need to continue to make significant adjustments. Beyond approach, he has the tools to develop into a fringe-average major league hitter. The former Red Sox Latin Program Player of the Year has the makings of an average defender, but it's worth noting that he was moved from center field to corner outfield in 2012, which diminishes his value. While the tools are there, without adjustments to his approach, De La Cruz is a borderline major leaguer at this point. He’s expected to begin the season with Ramos in the Portland outfield.
Others to watch: CF Corey Brown, 28, has limited major league experience in each of the last three seasons with the Nationals, and is capable of playing all three outfield positions; LF Bo Greenwell, the son of former Red Sox OF Mike Greenwell, should be in Salem’s outfield mix to start the season; Bryan Hudson, Jordon Austin, and Joseph Monge, all 2013 draft picks, will likely be Short-A Lowell’s starting outfield when the Spinners’ season begins on June 13.