06 January 2006

BA Red Sox Top 10 Prospect List

Baseball America has released it's Top 10 prospect list for the Red Sox. About a month ago, just after the Andy Marte trade, I made a post-trade prospects list myself. Here is my original list (NOT BA's):

  1. Andy Marte, 3B

  2. Jonathan Papelbon, SP

  3. Jon Lester, SP

  4. Dustin Pedroia, 2B

  5. Craig Hansen, RP

  6. Kelly Shoppach, C

  7. David Murphy, OF

  8. Manny Delcarmen, RP

  9. Brandon Moss, OF

  10. Jed Lowrie, 2B

The one mistake, looking back, was probably keeping Brandon Moss in the top ten. Though he was number two in the system on BA's list last year, he had a really poor season in AA showing very little discipline or power. He had a mid-year surge that petered out rather quickly, and though he's still somewhat young for his league, the concerns with his breakout 2004 season (an aberrant BABIP rate, middling BB rates) coupled with the decline in 2005 are bad harbingers for his prospect status. Should have booted him from the top 10.

Regardless, here is BA's list, as well as the one from SoxProspects.com and SoxStats.com (thanks to SoxScout from SoSH):

Given the opportunity, I'd include Ellsbury over Moss to edit my own list. That said, not a whole lot of variation from list to list. This year's list is the first since the 2002 BA rankings (Seung Song) not to feature Hanley Ramirez at the top (BA's ranking of FLA's prospects was written before the Josh Beckett trade).

BA also, of course, has an essay on the current Sox farm system as well as a list of superlatives by specific tools. Here are some highlights:

Even if Epstein stays away, the in-house promotions mean that Boston will keep a good chunk of its braintrust. Assistant GM Josh Byrnes took the Diamondbacks’ GM job before Epstein resigned, and Byrnes brought director of baseball operations Peter Woodfork with him. But Cherington and Hoyer are obviously sticking around, as is scouting director Jason McLeod. The Red Sox also would like to retain special assistants Bill Lajoie and Craig Shipley, though Lajoie, 71, has health issues, and Shipley may join Byrnes and Woodfork in Arizona.

I wasn't sure specifically whether McLeod was sticking around- so that's great news. McLeod has had a couple very good drafts now, and with a surfeit of picks coming from losing, among others, Johnny Damon, Bill Mueller and Mike Myers- this year could be another strong infusion of talent. For all we lost via trades this winter from our farm (including two of our previous top ten prospects in Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez), having returned with such a strong set is encouraging.

All the front-office machinations and the sudden loss of Johnny Damon have helped obscure the fact that the Red Sox system is percolating with its most talent in years. Jonathan Papelbon came up at midseason and quickly asserted himself as the top set-up man in a beleaguered bullpen. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, catcher Kelly Shoppach, righty relievers Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen and lefty starter Jon Lester may be counted on for key contributions in 2006. The Red Sox had the prospect depth to not have to think twice about including shortstop Hanley Ramirez, righthander Anibal Sanchez and two power arms in a November blockbuster that landed them Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota from the Marlins.

Jim Callis (the author of the article) is someone I know to have been high on the current Sox farm. It's nice to read someone not portending doom and gloom in the wake of losing Johnny Damon- a scenario often not supported by much more than abstract descriptions of his being a "catalyst" and "the key to [their] success." Certainly the recent quote from Ellsbury's coach at OSU- that he was ready to be given a shot in spring training- was WAY over-optimistic. That being said, the Red Sox appear to be getting good and strong in their system at the pitching level and up the middle (SS, 2B, C, CF). If they can maintain that wellspring of talent and use their financial resources on corner power bats, they could have a regenerative pool of talent year in and year out.

Of course, now I'm getting WAY ahead of the game. I would like to see, at some point, a ranking of minor league systems by organization. I would imagine Boston has pulled close to or is in the bottom of the top ten.

Boston also added plenty of talent in 2005. In his first draft as scouting director, McLeod had five picks before the second round. All five of his choices—outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Hansen, righthanders Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden, infielder Jed Lowrie—had very promising debuts.

Our last draft can be described as nothing short of a success- so far. Certainly years are needed to bear out the careers of these players, but as much as can be expected in year one after a draft, these seem to be solid picks.

BEST ATHLETE: Jacoby Ellsbury
BEST CURVEBALL: Manny Delcarmen
BEST SLIDER: Craig Hansen

Interesting to see Soto slot in at the power position ahead of Marte. I wonder if those rankings were made before the Marte trade? Soto, though lower in the system, is a good power prospect. We shall see.

I'm also still trying to decide what my two prospects will be this season. Last year it was Papelbon and Moss, and what I had initially decided on was to do bi-weekly updates on them, and less-specific ones on the entire system. I'm going to chuck that. There are plenty of resources for people to go and catch up on everybody- I'm going to pick a pitcher and position player in the system and stick to them, mentioning other mLers where there is significant "news" to opine on. This seems like a more interesting path to take (to me), and it will hopefully encourage me to NOT slack off on it like I would do routinely last year.

I'm going to update the pitcher on the occasion he makes an appearance, and give weekly (or bi-weekly) updates on the positional player. Here are the candidates so far for me:

  • Jon Lester

  • Clay Buchholz

  • Michael Bowden

  • Jacoby Ellsbury

  • David Murphy

  • Jed Lowrie

  • Luis Soto

  • When picking a pitcher, I wanted to err on the side of a guy that actually WON'T get promoted- as exciting as the whole Papelbon experience was last season. I'd rather have someone to follow through the whole year. That said, Lester is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, and it would be tough to ignore his season. We'll see.

    I'm taking nominations though between these four positional guys. Who does everyone want to see? Ellsbury building on a first great few weeks in 2005? Seeing if Murphy can FINALLY build on some success and blossom into something that DOESN'T make taking him one ahead of Conor Jackson remarkably painful? Seeing if Jed Lowrie can make a Pedroia-like tear through the system? Watching Soto claw his way to the top ten? Let me know, I'll take everyone's thoughts into consideration.

    Talking to a reporter after a game in the Dominican Winter League, David Ortiz expressed assurance about an extension on his current contract. Citing meetings between his agent Fern Cuza and the Sox FO, Ortiz is looking for something in the 5-to-6 year category:

    But Ortiz said his agent, Fernando Cuza, has spoken this winter with both principal owner John W. Henry and CEO Larry Lucchino, and that they expressed great interest in striking a deal soon.

    ''They haven't said for how long [the extension would run]," Ortiz said. ''I have two more years. I'd like another four or five years more. I think that would be perfect. By that time I'd be 36, so we'll see.

    ''I would like to stay. Boston has been good to me. Yes, the owners really want to make this happen. I guess they want, with all that's been going on, to give Boston some good news."

    The greatest postseason performer in the team's history, three straight seasons of not only MVP-worthy hitting, but MVP worthy hitting at $1.5 million, $4.6 million, and $5.25 million. Yes, he's a big guy, and yes his body will break down. But extending him through age 36 buys the remainder of his peak and rewards him for what he's done for the franchise. He WILL BE OVERPAID in the last years of his deal.

    So fucking what. Sign him, keep him, enjoy it. There are very few players this is acceptable with, and Ortiz is, in my opinion, one of them.

    According to ESPN, the Sox have signed 1B JT Snow to a 1 year, $2 million dollar deal, pending a physical. With Kevin Youkilis slated to be the starter at 1B in 2006, Snow will act as the "Doug Mientkiewicz/ John Olerud" type- LHH ace defensive 1B.

    This is a role the Red Sox have identified as a place of need on the roster, and leaving the debate about that aside, they got the best guy for the role here. Snow is a tremendous defensive player and has very good plate discipline. His power plummeted last year, but one thing to keep in mind regarding Snow is his propensity to bottom out, followed by a rebound (especially power-wise). It's not a conventional career path, but he's shown it before:


    1995- .465
    1996- .384____-81
    1997- .510____+126

    2000- .459
    2001- .379____-80
    2002- .360____-19
    2003- .418____+58
    2004- .529____+111

    Of course, doesn't mean he'll be "back" next year- just something to chew on. I think he fits that roll wonderfully, and will be a great LH bat off the bench. Versatility and age are definitely problems, however, but due to the size of the contract, DFAing him at some point in the season for whatever reason (though it'd have to be drastic) wouldn't be the end of the world.

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