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Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects 2012

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After trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing free-agent Carl Crawford in a three-day span at the 2010 Winter Meetings, the Red Sox had the look of a legitimate championship contender. They shook off a 2-10 start in April to play as well as any team in baseball for most of the season, entering September with the American League's best record.

Boston exited with the humiliation of the biggest final-month collapse in major league history. Despite the third-highest payroll in baseball and the presence of 15 former all-stars on their roster, the Red Sox dropped 20 of their final 27 games to hand the AL East to the Yankees and blow a nine-game wild-card edge over the Rays.

Their disintegration on the field had repercussions off it as well. Two days after the season ended, Boston declined to pick up the option on the contract of Terry Francona, who won 744 games and two World Series titles in eight seasons as manager.

Following his dismissal, the Boston Globe ran a story in which a team source implied that Francona lost control of the team because he was distracted by marital issues and possible problems with painkillers, which he denied. The same story alleged that Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey—who combined for two wins and a 6.55 ERA in September—often drank beer, ate fried chicken and played video games in the clubhouse on days they weren't starting.

While Francona's departure seemed inevitable in the season's final weeks, general manager Theo Epstein's came as a shock. Epstein, who built the Red Sox's first championship teams since 1918, accepted a five-year, $18.5 million deal to become the Cubs' president of baseball operations on Oct. 25.

That set off a series of promotions in Boston's front office. Senior vice president/assistant GM Ben Cherington took over as GM, just as he had (along with Jed Hoyer) when Epstein took a three-month sabbatical after the 2005 season. Well regarded in the industry, Cherington has been with the club since 1999, working his way up from area scout to farm director to vice president of player personnel.

Cherington elevated Mike Hazen and Brian O'Halloran to assistant GMs, Dave Finley to director of player personnel and Ben Crockett to farm director. Cherington also fired senior vice president Craig Shipley, whose duties included overseeing international scouting, and put Eddie Romero in charge of those efforts.

The Red Sox may have embarrassed themselves and missed the playoffs for a second straight season, but they still won 90 games and will remain a contender in the near future. Likewise, Boston's farm system didn't cover itself in glory in 2011, yet still has plenty of talent. The system does lack an elite prospect, however, and many of its best players haven't advanced past Class A.

For the third time in four years, the Red Sox set a new franchise record for draft spending, upping the ante to $11 million in 2011. Their haul included catcher Blake Swihart, righthander Matt Barnes and outfielder Jackie Bradley, all of whom rank among their Top 10 Prospects. The draft changes that came out of baseball's new collective bargaining agreement may hit Boston more than any club, as it will have a relatively small signing bonus cap and fewer extra picks going forward.

TOP TEN PROSPECTS 1. Will Middlebrooks, 3b 2. Xander Bogaerts, ss 3. Blake Swihart, c 4. Anthony Ranaudo, rhp 5. Bryce Brentz, of 6. Brandon Jacobs, of 7. Garin Cecchini, 3b 8. Matt Barnes, rhp 9. Ryan Lavarnway, c 10. Jackie Bradley, of BEST TOOLS Best Hitter for Average Garin Cecchini Best Power Hitter Bryce Brentz Best Strike Zone Discipline Alex Hassan Fastest Baserunner Felix Sanchez Best Athlete Derrik Gibson Best Fastball Alexander Wilson Best Curveball Anthony Ranaudo Best Slider Alex Wilson Best Changup Noe Ramirez Best Control Keith Couch Best Defensive Catcher Christian Vazquez Best Defensive Infielder Jose Iglesias Best Infield Arm Will Middlebrooks Best Defensive OF Jackie Bradley Best Outfield Arm Che-Hsuan Lin

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Sheehan: Second Verse, Same As The First

All six division winners will repeat for first time in the 25 years of the divisional format.

PROJECTED 2015 LINEUP Catcher Blake Swihart First Base Adrian Gonzalez Second Base Dustin Pedroia Third Base Will Middlebrooks Shortstop Jose Iglesias Left Field Carl Crawford Center Field Jacoby Ellsbury Right Field Xander Bogaerts Designated Hitter Kevin Youkilis No. 1 Starter Jon Lester No. 2 Starter Clay Buchholz No. 3 Starter Josh Beckett No. 4 Starter Anthony Ranaudo No. 5 Starter Matt Barnes Closer Daniel Bard TOP PROSPECTS OF THE DECADE Year Player, Pos 2011 Org 2002 Seung Song, rhp Lotte (Korea) 2003 Hanley Ramirez, ss Marlins 2004 Hanley Ramirez, ss Marlins 2005 Hanley Ramirez, ss Marlins 2006 Andy Marte, 3b Pirates 2007 Daisuke Matsuzaka, rhp Red Sox 2008 Clay Buchholz, rhp Red Sox 2009 Lars Anderson, 1b Red Sox 2010 Ryan Westmoreland, of Red Sox 2011 Jose Iglesias, ss Red Sox TOP DRAFT PICKS OF THE DECADE Year Player, Pos 2011 Org 2002 Jon Lester, LHP (2nd round) Red Sox 2003 David Murphy, OF Rangers 2004 Dustin Pedroia, SS Red Sox 2005 Jacoby Ellsbury, OF Red Sox 2006 Jason Place, OF Yankees 2007 Nick Hagadone, LHP Indians 2008 Casey Kelly, RHP/SS Padres 2009 Reymond Fuentes, OF Padres 2010 Kolbrin Vitek, 2B/OF Red Sox 2011 Matt Barnes, RHP Red Sox LARGEST BONUSES IN CLUB HISTORY Jose Iglesias, 2009 $6,250,000 Casey Kelly, 2008 $3,000,000 Anthony Ranaudo, 2010 $2,550,000 Blake Swihart, 2011 $2,500,000 Daisuke Matsuzaka, 2006 $2,000,000 Ryan Westmoreland, 2008 $2,000,000

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