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Red Sox Prospect Update

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Prospect Options for Red Sox Holes

One of the great benefits of building a strong farm system is creating organizational depth that is available to address issues that pop up during the season.

John Tomase walked through the top ten options of Sox prospects who could play a role down the stretch run.

Of course, SS Xander Bogaerts leads the way and Brandon Workman is in the second spot – with Workman potentially playing role as a starter or in the bullpen.

Two sleepers: Drake Britton who could get the chance to fill Andrew Miller’s shoes as a lefty in the bullpen (even with Matt Thornton here). And Will Middlebrooks as a bounce-back player – the Sox need more right-handed pop.

Bogaerts Kudos

Keith Law placed Bogaerts at #3 on the mid-season update to his top 50 baseball prospect list (subscription required).

3B Garin Cecchini continued his meteoric rise up prospect lists coming in at #21. Law wrote Cecchini has one plus tool – “he can hit.”

Also on the list: OF Jackie Bradley Jr. at #24 and LHP Henry Owens #31. Blake Swihart made honorable mention.

Not a bad turnout for the Boston organization and note: Baltimore placed three players on the list. While New York, Toronto and Tampa Bay each landed one.

One that Got Away

Here’s one for all the prospect hoarders this trade deadline. Oakland pitching prospect Raul Alcantara was recently named California League pitcher of the week by MiLB.com. Alcantara, sent over to the Athletics in the Andrew Bailey deal, is 10-2 with a 2.42 ERA this season.

Red Sox and Justin Upton – Can it Happen?

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Justin Upton exercised the no trade clause in his contract to reject Arizona trading him to Seattle.

The rumored players heading from the Mariners were four young players: one of right-hander Taijuan Walker and lefties Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, plus infielder Nick Franklin, lefty Charlie Furbush, and right-hander Stephen Pryor.

Upton would look pretty good in the Red Sox line-up.

What would a comparable trade package from Boston look like?

With the understanding that Upton also has Boston on his no trade list. (Give him more money or extend his contract to change his mind.)

  • Walker. Matt Barnes, the Red Sox best pitching prospect, probably falls below Walker. If deal had Hultzen or Paxton, then Barnes is an equivalent.
  • Franklin. Red Sox comparables are probably either Jackie Bradley Jr. or Garin Cecchini (a third baseman who would fill an organizational need). (Shout out to John Sickels for his evaluations of the Seattle and Boston farm systems.)
  • Furbush. He is a decent reliever who does not reach free agency until 2018. That means Red Sox lefties Andrew Miller and Franklin Morales (both free agents in 2015) may not be seen as equal values. Felix Doubront (free agent in 2018) fits the mold – but is a better player than Furbush (he could balance the Walker/Barnes differential, if that was a trade component). Other possibilities among righties: Alfredo Aceves and Clayton Mortensen.
  • Pryor. He’s a young bullpen power arm. Maybe Daniel Bard is a fit. Junichi Tazawa is too much. Alex Wilson would be appealing to Boston if Arizona saw value in him. Or lefty Drake Britton.

So what’s a trade look like?

At its costliest – probably something like: Upton for Barnes, Cecchini, Doubront and Bard. That feels like too much for Boston.

Or maybe Boston can get Arizona to accept Miller or Morales in Doubront’s place.

Or an alternative: Upton for Barnes, Cecchini, Aceves (does he have value?) or Mortensen, and Britton. This probably feels “light” to Arizona.

This off-season, Boston GM Ben Cherington has been pretty clear about his non-interest in trading prospects.

However with an Upton trade, we are talking about a 25 year-old elite talent. Barnes is just three years younger – and has not yet pitched in the big leagues. Upton has been in the majors for six seasons.

Of course, Upton must have some warts (otherwise, why would Arizona even be thinking about trading him?).

But we are talking about a five-tool player who is under contract for three more years.

Should the Red Sox go after Upton? What do you think it would take to make the trade?

Red Sox Minor League Update

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May Report Card. SoxProspects posted its best and worst performances from Red Sox prospects in May. Some takeaways:

  • Last year’s draft looks like it delivered some top talent – notably, OF Jackie Bradley and P Matt Barnes.
  • Portland OF Bryce Brentz was a beast and Greenville 3B Garin Cecchini looks like an “impact player.”
  • While it is still early – P Anthony Ranaudo is falling short of pre-season expectations.
  • There were no players close to big league ready on the best performer list.

Minor League Round-up. Alex Speier provided his weekly review of the Red Sox farm system. Of note:

  • PawSox SS Jose Iglesias is still out with a bad back – which could be an issue if 2B Dustin Pedroia can’t get back on the field soon and help is needed in Boston.
  • Lefty pitcher Drake Britton was promoted to AA Portland after a stretch of seven strong starts for Salem – with numbers: 2.76 ERA, 36 Ks in 32 2/3 innings.
  • C Blake Swihart – a top pick in last year’s draft – has started hitting well in low A Greenville.

Lavarnway – Trading Chip? Pawtucket C Ryan Lavarnway is known for his bat – but so far, he is not repeating the offensive performance he delivered last season for the PawSox. Lavarnway says he is not sweating the slow start. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia putting up All-Star offensive numbers, look for Lavarnway to be a potential bargaining chip in any deal the Red Sox make to fortify the big league club.

Prior Moving Up. The Red Sox promoted former big leaguer Mark Prior to Pawtucket. Prior is six years removed from pitching in the majors – shows you how far and wide teams will go in their search for quality pitchers.

One That Got Away? Former Sox farmhand Miles Head made this week’s Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet. Boston sent third baseman Head to Oakland in the Andrew Bailey trade. Head hit .571/.636/1.143 (16-for-28), 3 HR, 3 2B, 2 3B, 9 RBIs in the past week.

State of the Red Sox Farm System

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Received my copy of Baseball America’s 2012 Prospect Handbook this weekend and it got me thinking what’s the state of the Red Sox farm system.

What the Experts Think

Baseball America placed Boston as the number ten farm system in baseball. Not bad overall.

It is a little troubling the Blue Jays (#5) and Yankees (#6) are ahead of the Red Sox – with the Rays (#11) right behind Boston. Baltimore is way behind at #20.

Shows how competitive the AL East will continue to be.

When you look at the Top 50 prospects – as ranked by Baseball America editors – one sees:

  • Jim Callis: No Red Sox in Top 50 – Blue Jays had three, Yankees (one – not counting Jesus Montero who has been traded to Seattle), Rays (two), Orioles (one).
  • J.J. Cooper: Red Sox (one – Xavier Bogaerts), Blue Jays (one), Yankees (two), Rays (two), Orioles (two).
  • Will Lingo: Red Sox (one – Will Middlebrooks), Blue Jays (two), Yankees (one), Rays (two), Orioles (two).
  • John Manuel: Red Sox (none), Blue Jays (two), Yankees (two), Rays (one), Orioles (two).

This perspective fits with how minor league guru John Sickels views Boston’s farm system: deep but no elite prospects.

Sickels pegs Boston as the #11 farm system – behind the Blue Jays (#1) and Rays (#7). But ahead of the Yankees (#16) and Orioles (#19).

MLB.com’s View

Let’s look at one more expert – Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.

Mayo has six Rays farmhands in his Top 100 prospect list. Yankees (four), Blue Jays (four), Orioles (two).

Boston fares well on Mayo’s list with four Top 100 prospects – but no one in the top 50.

The list: Middlebrooks (#56), Bryce Brentz (#64), Bogaerts (#76), Ryan Lavarnway (#93).

Where Red Sox Stand

Boston has a solid farm system – particularly when you consider they traded top prospects Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly last off-season.

The Red Sox farm system strength is in the lower minors – where there is a lot of volatility.

Players can move up top prospect lists – or down – quickly.

This upcoming season is important for a number of Red Sox prospects – seeing if they make the step up Boston expects.

Players to watch:

  • Middlebrooks – can he demonstrate he’s ready to takeover for Kevin Youkilis at 3B in 2013?
  • Bogaerts – does he become a top-tier MLB prospect?
  • Matt Barnes – he makes his pro debut – does establish himself as a big-time pitcher?
  • Garin Cecchini – can he make it through an entire season injury-free – and flourish?
  • Brandon Jacobs – does he become a 20/20 player?
  • Blake Swihart – in year one as a pro, does he establish himself as an elite prospect?

Red Sox Prospects Report

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