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Xander Bogaerts Tops Baseball Prospectus Boston Red Sox List

January 6th, 2014 at 1:05 PM
By Ron Juckett

'Bogaerts and Bubble Gum' photo (c) 2013, Eric Kilby - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are the top two prospects for the Boston Red Sox for 2014, according to the website Baseball Prospectus (subscription required).

In their annual ranking of the top 10 prospects in the Red Sox system, the website teases that six of those players will be on their Top 101 prospects in Major League Baseball list that will be released shortly. Third baseman Garin Cecchini, right-handed reliever Matt Barnes, left-handed starter Henry Owens and catcher Blake Swihart are the rest of the top six.

Bogaerts, the website’s top Red Sox prospect of 2013 as well, is projected to be an all-star caliber player in the future. Jason Parks, the author, summed up Bogaerts 2014 forecast this way:

Bogaerts has the type of profile to develop into a star, a middle of-the-diamond defender with a high-upside bat capable of producing a high average and game power. The makeup is insane, and any setback or failure on the field won’t derail or dissuade his progression toward his ultimate goal. Adjustments will be necessary after the book on Bogaerts is passed around, but his feel for the game and speed of adaptation will allow him to thrive at the highest level despite his inexperience and age.

Bradley, considered the No. 2 prospect in the system last year, has the potential to be an everyday player for years, Parks writes. Bradley’s goal for 2014 is getting comfortable enough at the plate to relax.

Both players are penciled in currently to be staring on opening day. Bogaerts will be either at shortstop, his natural position, or third base if the Red Sox decide to bring back Stephen Drew. Bradley has the center field job to lose as Jacoby Ellsbury has departed for New York and the Yankees while trade discussions with the Los Angeles Dodgers over outfielder Matt Kemp did not progress beyond the informal chatting stage at December’s Winter Meetings in Orlando.

Cecchini will likely start 2014 at Triple-A Pawtucket after splitting his 2013 season between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland of the Eastern League. A strong early season could put pressure on current third baseman Will Middlebrooks to perform or Boston could give Cecchini a look at Fenway.

Barnes falls from No. 3 to No. 4 on their list.

Still projected as a mid-rotation starter in the future, Prospectus feels Barnes needs to master his off-speed pitches, including his change-up, if he hopes realistically to hit that goal.

Considered a potential innings-eater down the road, Henry Owens makes the jump from No. 7 to No. 5 on this year’s list.

After a successful run at both Salem and Portland, Owens has a big-league ability to strike out batters, but needs to develop his pitches better in order to succeed at the major league level. Owens was not ranked in their top 101 last year.

Also cracking the top 101 is Swihart. At No. 6 on their Red Sox list, Swihart hopes to play full time at Portland in 2014, the highest level of his young professional career. Swihart has the potential to hit 15-20 homers a year and hit for a decent average.

Allen Webster falls from No. 4 to No. 7 on their list, concerns with his fastball being too hittable being the major reason given for the drop off. Prospectus thinks he may have a future coming out of the bullpen with Boston rather than as a starter.

Second baseman Mookie Betts, catcher Christian Vasquez and lefty pitcher Trey Bell round out the list, making it for the first time.

Betts is expected to play in Portland in 2014 and his performance there will determine what kind of role he might have in the majors. Betts crushed it during the Arizona Fall League in 2013.

Vasquez figures to play in Pawtucket and features above-average defensive skills, giving the Red Sox all the more reason to be excited for the future behind the plate along with Swihart.

Bell, last year’s first-round draft pick out of high school, could have a ceiling as high as a No. 2 starter, according to the website. With a fastball, curve and changeup that are above average, Bell will get his first real taste of pro ball in 2014 as he will pitch in Single-A.

Tags: Baseball, Blake Swihart, Boston, Boston Red Sox, Christian Vasquez, Garin Cecchini, Henry Owens, Jackie Bradley Jr., Matt Barnes, MLB, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts

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