Minor League Transactions: Dec. 13-23
Please see Trade Central for more on the prospects involved in December trades, and please see my Twitter timeline for more on some of the players referenced in this installment. […]
Top Ten Prospects: Boston Red Sox
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Jim Callis
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2005.
As you may have heard, the Red Sox won the first World Series championship for the franchise since 1918. Making that championship even sweeter, they pulled off an unprecedented comeback against the team they and their fans love to hate, the Yankees.
More than they may like to admit, the Red Sox were similar to the franchise team president Larry Lucchino dubbed the Evil Empire. New York had by far the highest payroll in the game at $190 million, but Boston came in second at $130 million. Both clubs had to rely on their wallets and not their farm systems to build winners. The Red Sox signed and fully developed only one player who was on their postseason roster for all three series: right fielder Trot Nixon, a 1993 first-round pick.
While former general manager Dan Duquette acquired Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, he didn't make good on his pledge to build through the farm system. Boston selected Nomar Garciaparra and Carl Pavano in 1994, Duquette's first year at the helm, but had little draft success afterward. The Red Sox also spent heavily on the international market with very little to show for it.
As a result, John Henry and Tom Werner inherited a barren farm system when they led the group that bought the team for $700 million in December 2001. GM Theo Epstein spoke of assembling a "$100 million player development machine" when he was hired in November 2002, but the Red Sox were so bereft of talent that he protected just 28 players on his initial 40-man roster.
Boston's system still isn't among the game's best, but it has improved. While shortstop Hanley Ramirez remains the organization's lone elite prospect, other farmhands are knocking on the door of achieving that status. After batting .226 in his first two pro seasons, outfielder Brandon Moss was the low Class A South Atlantic League MVP and hit .422 in the high Class A Florida State League during August. Righthander Jon Papelbon and lefty Jon Lester emerged as two of the better power pitchers in the FSL.
After issuing a press release noting that they spent a club-record $5.5 million to sign their picks in 2003, the Red Sox invested heavily in the draft again. They gave 12th-round lefty Mike Rozier a $1.575 million bonus, the most in baseball history for a player selected after the third round. Boston broke another mark in the eighth round by signing righty Kyle Bono for $432,000. Bono and several other 2004 draftees had impressive debuts, led by second-round shortstop Dustin Pedroia, who batted .357 and didn't make an error in 42 games in Class A.
The Red Sox also have made strides on the international front. In his first year as a pro, Dominican shortstop Luis Soto ranked as the top prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Righthander Anibal Sanchez earned recognition as the best pitching prospect in the short-season New York-Penn League after missing all of 2003 following elbow surgery. Fluid shortstop Christian Lara made BA's Top 10 Prospects list in both leagues in his first season in the United States.
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