The Boston Red Sox have three prospects ranked on Baseball America’s Top 100 list for 2017, including the top overall prospect in baseball.
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Jul 5, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski speaks on the phone prior to a game against the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The notion that the Boston Red Sox have left their farm system barren through a series of trades under the reign of Dave Dombrowski is a bit overblown.
The Red Sox president of baseball operations has never been shy about making a blockbuster deal, which he’s proved in less than two years at the helm of the front office. Dombrowski has surrendered premium assets in deals to acquire Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale, but trading for elite talent is supposed to be costly.
These trades have weakened the depth of a farm system that was once the envy of the league, but the Red Sox have still retained several high quality prospects for fans to get excited about.
Aug 22, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi (40) on deck to bat against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The No. 1 overall prospect ranked by Baseball American this year is Andrew Benintendi, who made his major league debut with the Red Sox last August. Since he tallied fewer than 130 at-bats, Benintendi retains his rookie status entering 2017, making him eligible to still be considered a prospect.
The 22-year old hit .295 with an .835 OPS over 34 games with the Red Sox last season. He skyrocketed through the farm system after being drafted with the 7th overall pick in 2015, bypassing Triple-A on his path to Boston. Despite skipping a level, Benintendi didn’t miss a beat, quickly establishing himself as a reliable option in left field and an emerging force in the lineup.
Andrew Benintendi is the No. 1 prospect on the Baseball America Top 100 list. Polished hitter, relatively low risk with high reward upside.
The former Golden Spikes Award winner from the University of Arkansas is a polished hitter with the maturity to adapt quickly to the majors. He’ll hit for average and has decent pop in his bat – although is power may emerge sooner than expected given his focus on bulking up this winter.
Benintendi is a natural center fielder who has been pushed over to left by the presence of defensive wizard Jackie Bradley. He should become an excellent left fielder once he learns the quirks of playing in front of the Green Monster at Fenway Park, while in the long-term, Benintendi has the ability to shift to center if the Red Sox aren’t able to lock up Bradley when he reaches free agency in a few years.
Benintendi is expected to open the season playing left field in Boston. He spent his brief time in the big leagues stranded near the bottom of the deepest lineup in baseball, but he’s likely to hit higher in the order this year and manager John Farrell is even toying with the idea of putting him in the No. 2 hole.
The Red Sox may have raided the farm system in their quest to deliver impact players to help the team win now, but it appears they saved the best prospect for themselves.
Jul 12, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; World infielder Rafael Devers grabs a ground ball against the U.S. Team during the All Star Futures Game at Great American Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Rafael Devers is quickly shooting up many prospect lists after displaying his natural swing and exceptional raw power in High-A Salem last year.
The 20-year old hit .282/.335/.433 with 11 home runs in 128 games in Salem last year. The home run total may seem low for a prospect projected to become a power-hitter, but keep in mind that he was the third-youngest player in the Carolina League last year. He makes hard contact and has shown the ability to hit the ball over the fence in deep center field, so more homers will pile up as his body matures.
Unlike many other young power hitters, Devers doesn’t strike out a ton, posting a solid 17.2 strikeout percentage last year.
Red Sox 3B Rafael Devers is No. 18 on the BA Top 100. Love his swing. Natural hitter. Pleasant surprise: Transformed his defense last year.
The concern with Devers had always been whether or not he could stick at third base, but he showed improvement defensively last year and has a strong throwing arm. He may eventually outgrow the position and be forced to move to first base or DH, but for now the plan is to keep him on track to take over the hot corner for the Red Sox in the near future.
Devers has yet to play above High-A, but we’ve seen that Dombrowski isn’t afraid to allow his top prospects to skip a level. If he succeeds at the Double-A level then it’s conceivable that we could see Devers get a September audition in Boston.
The Red Sox are hoping for a bounce-back season from Pablo Sandoval to hold down the fort until Devers is ready, but the young prospect is clearly the future at that position in Boston.
The 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft was widely considered to be the most talented pitcher in his class, but fell to the Red Sox mostly over signability concerns. The lefty possesses a fastball that he can dial up into the mid-90’s, but his signature is a knee-buckling curveball.
Pitchers that are this far away from the majors are generally difficult to project, otherwise Groome would arguably deserve a higher ranking based on his potential. Only 14 pitchers ranked ahead of him on Baseball America’s list, about half of whom are projected to appear in the majors this season, while all of them have an ETA of no later than 2019.
It may take Groome a bit longer to arrive, but this projection lines up nicely for the Red Sox. Sale and Rick Porcello are both slated to hit free agency after the 2019 season, but Boston may not be willing to pay to keep both given that they’ll be focused on locking up their young core of position players around that same time. If Groome is ready to claim a rotation spot by that point, it would make the Red Sox feel a lot more comfortable with letting one of their aces go.
Sep 24, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada (65) works out prior the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The debate will rage on for years – should the Red Sox have kept Moncada and dealt Benintendi instead? Time will tell, but at least according to these rankings, it appears Dombrowski choose wisely. It helps that Benintendi hit the ground running in Boston, while Moncada struggled in his brief debut.
Moncada was also blocked for the foreseeable future at his natural position of second base. Boston transitioned him over to third, but the bright future of Devers makes dealing Moncada away easier to swallow.
Seeing Espinoza ranked higher than any pitcher in the Red Sox farm system isn’t going to make anyone feel better about the Drew Pomeranz trade. Dombrowski pulled the trigger on that deal knowing his team needed another reliable starter down the stretch, but Pomeranz wasn’t able to carry over his All-Star first half with him to Boston.
There are a number of reasons to be optimistic that Pomeranz will turn things around this season, but the addition of Sale has created a logjam in the rotation, meaning Pomeranz isn’t guaranteed a spot. If he ultimately settles in at the back of the rotation or out of the bullpen, while Espinoza develops into a star a few years from now, we’ll look back at that deal as a disaster.
The speedy outfielder was shipped to San Diego in the Kimbrel trade. Margot projects to become an elite defensive player who brings an impact bat to the lineup.
Margot should become a very good player for the Padres, but he was unlikely to crack Boston’s star-studded outfield. That made him expendable, while the Red Sox acquired a flame-throwing closer they can trust to lock down the ninth inning.
Boston may feel a tinge of regret about letting Kopech get away when they see his 100+ mph fastball blazing by hitters at some point next year, yet trading him as part of the package for Sale was still the right move. Kopech may be great one day, but Sale already is one of the best pitchers in the league.
With Sale on board, joining two other Cy Young candidates, two more that were All-Stars last year, plus the emerging Eduardo Rodriguez, this is already a crowded rotation. If Boston managed to keep Kopech out of the Sale trade then the right-hander would still struggle to earn a spot on this loaded staff.