Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Prospects to Dream On

The Red Sox farm system has been thinned out a great deal, with the team trading upper level prospects for established players.  Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey, and Mark Melancon all figure to be significant contributors in 2012 and beyond, but those trades have left the Red Sox with very few significant prospects who could contribute in 2012.

There are, however, many high upside players who just finished seasons in A ball.  The Red Sox have four players on Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein's top 101 prospects list, with SS Xander Bogaerts leading the way at 32, with Brandon Jacobs at 46, and potential Kevin Youkilis replacement Will Middlebrooks at 55.  Keith Law has Bogaerts as the Sox top prospect as well, and includes catcher Blake Swihart in his top 100, but Middlebrooks and Jacobs both missed the cut.  Also in the system is outfielder Bryce Brentz, who Goldstein ranked at the #6 prospect in the system, and is coming off a massive 30 homerun season, split between low-A and high-A.  Finally, there is Sean Coyle, who flashed signs of promise in his full season debut at low-A as a nineteen year old, hitting .247/.362/.464.  But what can we expect from them?

Baseball Prospectus' projection system, PECOTA, gives similar players at similar ages with its projections. While I've cherry picked these Red Sox prospects, their top comparable players are downright astounding.

Brandon Jacobs LF Johnny Callison, Miguel Cabrera, Boog Powell    46.4 53.8
Bryce Brentz RF Tony Conigliaro, Jay Bruce, Manny Ramirez    32.5  69.6
Sean Coyle 2B Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Adrian Beltre    30.2 56.1
Xander Bogaerts SS Wayne Causey, Ed Kranepool, Robin Yount    33.4 74.1

Every single one of them has a current or potential Hall of Fame hitter in their top three comparables.  To top it off, many of these players are still active and adding to their career wins totals or, in the case of Conigliaro, became star major leaguer before a freak injury derailed his career.  Essentially, a comparable player is picked based on the players statistics and position; Sean Coyle, for example, has both Uptons and Beltre listed because all came up as middle infielders , struck out a lot, and showed good power for a young player.  Brandon Jacobs and Bryce Brentz have both shown unbelievable power for players their age, and it is interesting.  This is not to say that these players will become stars, but the potential is there.  In the cold month of February, nursing a Patriots loss in the Super Bowl and waiting for spring training to wash away the taste of a bitter September, that list certainly stokes the fire of baseball enthusiasm and hope.


  1. Those are some pretty amazing comps, but I'm always a little suspicious of the PECOTA comps. There have been issues in the past with them being completely incorrect due to coding errors.

    This is probably the best cluster of high ceiling bats the Sox have had in awhile. With other prospects that are more sure things, though perhaps a lower ceiling like Lavarnway, Middlebrooks, and Iglesias (glove only would be replacement level) it's a pretty solid farm system, hitter wise.

    That said, the pitching is almost equally disappointing. Ranaudo took a big step back or was just overhyped due to his amazing play in the Cape Cod League immediately following the draft, Doubront looks to be nothing more than a decent swing man, and other guys like Pimentel and Britton stagnated. Pitching is very thin on the farm, so in some ways I'm a little relieved they have Lester and Beckett locked up for so long. Lackey, a little less so.

    Overall, it's a deep farm system for a team that has traded away a lot in recent years, though certainly light on pitching.

  2. That is a good point. The pitching is very, very thin. Barnes was ranked by Goldstein as the Sox #1 pitching prospect, and he hasn't even thrown a pitch in the minors. Ranaudo (#9 prospect) has fallen off the map and Goldstein has his CEILING as a #4 starter. If the 2012 rotation has a run of injuries they may be in a lot of trouble.