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The Red Sox's best international prospect since Hanley Ramirez, Bogaerts keeps raising his performance and raising expectations. Boston signed him for $410,000 out of Aruba in 2009, promising his mother that he could finish high school before making his pro debut. He hit .314/.396/.423 in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2010, then came to United States. The Red Sox planned on sending him to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2011, but Bogaerts so dominated extended spring training that they sent him to low Class A Greenville at age 18, and he responded with 16 homers in 72 games. He was just warming up for 2012, when he was Boston's minor league offensive player of the year and appeared in the Futures Game. Bogaerts batted a combined .307/.373/.523 and reached Double-A Portland, where he was the youngest position player in the Eastern League. About the only negative in his year came when the Sox sent his twin brother Jair, a first baseman, to the Cubs in March when the teams exchanged players as compensation for former Boston GM Theo Epstein. Chicago released Jair in June. Bogaerts has the offensive potential to be an all-star at any position, and that position just might be shortstop. He's a confident, strong hitter who doesn't muscle up to tap into his plus-plus raw power. He has an easy swing with plenty of bat speed, and he does a nice job of keeping his weight back and using the entire field. Despite his youth, he has a feel for making in-game adjustments. He improved his selectivity in 2012, though he still expands the strike zone at times. While that flaw doesn't hurt him much because he still makes hard contact on balls off the plate, the Red Sox want him to draw more walks. His walk rate was acceptable at high Class A Salem (43 in 104 games), but he drew just one free pass in 23 Double-A contests. Though scouts look at Bogaerts' 6-foot-3 frame and wonder if he'll outgrow shortstop, he has good actions at the position and could stay there longer than expected. His plus arm isn't a question and he played more under control on defense in 2012. He made just 21 errors in 119 games, after making 26 in 72 games the year before, boosting his fielding percentage from .924 to .959. He's an average runner who's not quite as quick as a typical shortstop, but he still exhibits solid range. He's athletic and has good body control for his size. If Bogaerts has to move, he'd profile best at third base or right field. Along with his considerable tools, he draws praise for his intelligence and work ethic. Bogaerts likely will open 2013 in Double-A to focus on his plate discipline, but Boston has had a hard time holding him back. He easily could hit his way to Triple-A Pawtucket before he turns 21. The Red Sox don't have a clear starter at shortstop, so it's not out of the question that he could put himself in the major league mix before the end of the season. More realistically, Bogaerts will make his Boston debut in 2014. Whether he does so at shortstop likely depends on how much slick-fielding Jose Iglesias shows at the plate between now and then.
The Most Outstanding Player at the 2010 College World Series, Bradley slipped to No. 40 in 2011 after a wrist injury and lower production with toned-down NCAA bats. Signed for $1.1 million, he regained his form in 2012. The Red Sox named him their minor league defensive player of the year, while managers rated him as having the best bat, plate discipline, baserunning skills, outfield defense and outfield arm in the high Class A Carolina League before his promotion in June. Bradley is an outstanding center fielder who can run down almost any ball, thanks to his quickness and instincts, and he has a plus arm as a bonus. An on-base machine with quick hands, Bradley works deep counts and sprays line drives to all fields. He has enough power to hit 10-15 homers annually, though it can make him too pull-conscious at times. He's an average runner whose speed plays up on the basepaths. The Red Sox love his competitive makeup, which sparked consecutive national championships at South Carolina. Ticketed for Triple-A to start 2013, Bradley has no major adjustments to make. He's a better center fielder than Jacoby Ellsbury, who becomes a free agent after 2013.
Barnes set a Connecticut career record with 247 strikeouts and pitched the Huskies to their first-ever NCAA super-regional in 2011, before Boston drafted him 19th overall and signed him for $1.5 million. His 2012 pro debut was a tale of two halves, as he went 7-1, 0.99 before the all-star break before tiring and going 0-4, 5.74 afterward. He required just a pair of 95 mph fastballs to record two outs at the Futures Game. Barnes pitches aggressively with his swing-and-miss fastball. He effortlessly throws heaters with riding life, usually sitting at 93-95 mph and topping out at 98. The Red Sox had him scrap a slider he started to fiddle with in college and had him focus on throwing his hard curveball, a plus downer at times. Barnes is learning the need for a changeup, which he throws a bit too hard in the upper 80s but sells well with his arm speed. He's not afraid to throw strikes or pitch inside. If Barnes can refine his secondary pitches, he can become a No. 2 or 3 starter. After easing him into pro ball with 120 innings, Boston will turn him loose in 2013. He'll start in Double-A and could push for a spot in the big league rotation by the end of the season.
Mainly a shortstop in high school, Webster threw 91-92 mph in a pitching appearance late in his senior year in front of a Dodgers scout who was evaluating another player. Signed for $20,000 as an 18th-rounder, he has blossomed into a top pitching prospect. Other teams marveled that Boston was able to acquire him while also dumping $261 million in salaries in the Adrian Gonzalez trade in August. Webster turns bats into kindling and generates groundballs with a 92-95 mph fastball that peaks at 97 but is most notable for its late sink and armside run. In 2012, he ranked fourth in the minors in home run rate (0.1 per nine innings). His changeup can be just as devastating with its fade and sink. His mid-80s slider lacks consistency but has the makings of a third plus offering. Webster's pitches move so much that he can struggle to command them, and he gets hit when he falls behind in the count. He also tends to revert to predictable pitch patterns. Some prefer him to Matt Barnes because he has a deeper repertoire, though Webster still must learn to harness his stuff. A potential No. 2 or 3 starter, he's ready to graduate to Triple-A after getting added to the 40-man roster and could make his major league debut in 2013.
Yet another member of what is shaping up as a strong 2011 draft class for the Red Sox, Owens went 36th overall and signed for $1.55 million. Though kept on a short leash in his 2012 pro debut, Owens led the system with 12 wins and ranked second with 130 strikeouts. Owens is a rare lefthander who can get swings and misses with three different pitches. His fastball has mostly average velocity and life, ranging from 88-94 mph, but plays up because his tall body and long limbs give him deceptive angle and plane. He has advanced feel for his plus changeup and an average breaking ball. He varies his breaker, using a loopy 67-72 mph curveball early in counts for strikes and a 78-81 mph slurve to put hitters away. While Owens' lanky frame gives him plenty of room to add strength, he won't require more power to succeed. His control is better than his average of 4.2 walks per nine innings would indicate, but his command needs refinement. He's athletic and repeats his delivery well. Owens is further away than Matt Barnes or Allen Webster but may have more upside. He'll head to high Class A in 2013 and should advance quickly as soon as he starts to locate his pitches with more precision.
The 26th overall pick in 2011, Swihart was the highest-drafted player out of New Mexico since Shane Andrews in 1990, and it was the earliest Boston has taken a catcher since John Marzano in 1984. Adjusting to tougher competition while becoming a full-time backstop, Swihart hit just .198 through mid-May but rallied to bat .289/.329/.439 afterward. As an athletic catcher who projects as an above-average hitter, Swihart's overall tool package is similar to a young Buster Posey. Swihart has a good swing from both sides of the plate, with bat speed and the ability to keep the bat in the hitting zone for a long time. He's still learning to recognize pitches and tone down his aggressiveness. He makes a lot of hard, line-drive contact that should produce average power once he adds strength and loft to his stroke. Swihart is still learning behind the plate but has made progress with shortening his release and cleaning up his footwork. He threw out 31 percent of basestealers in 2012 while showing average arm strength. He has quick feet and soft hands but needs to quiet down his receiving. He's an average runner. Swihart is a long way from becoming the next Posey, and the Red Sox will develop him patiently. He'll likely spend all of 2013 in high Class A.
After blowing out his right knee as a high school senior and having a pitch break his right wrist in his pro debut, Cecchini finally stayed healthy in 2012. The $1.31 million bonus signee ranked third in the low Class A South Atlantic League in doubles (38) and steals (51 in 57 attempts) and was named Red Sox minor league baserunner of the year. The Mets drafted his younger brother Gavin 12th overall in June. Garin is a pure hitter who excels at controlling the strike zone, managing at-bats and making adjustments. He has enough bat speed and strength to develop average power once he learns to load his hands better in his swing. It's hard to believe considering his 51 swipes, but Cecchini is a below-average runner out of the box. Though he has a quick first step and tremendous instincts on the bases, he won't be a huge basestealing threat at higher levels. He's also savvy in the field, leading SAL third basemen in fielding percentage (.944). He moves well laterally, and managers rated his infield arm as the best in the league. He has the tools to be a solid regular at third base, but Will Middlebrooks and possibly Xander Bogaerts may preclude Cecchini from playing there in Boston. If his power comes, he'd profile well on an outfield corner. He'll open 2013 in high Class A.
Brentz topped NCAA Division I in batting (.465), home runs (28) and slugging (.930) in 2009, then went 36th overall in the next year's draft and signed for $889,200. He hit 30 homers in his first full pro season and reached Triple-A in his second. He batted .333/.385/.792 in the International League playoffs to lead Pawtucket to a championship. Brentz has the two most important tools for a right fielder, as both his power and arm grade as better than average. His bat speed and pure strength give him at least 65 raw pop on the 20-80 scouting scale. He'll always pile up strikeouts, but he has shortened his swing and used the whole field more often as he has risen through the minors. He can get out of control at times, trying to uppercut and pull pitches, and his biggest weakness is a propensity to chase breaking balls. Managers rated Brentz's outfield arm as the Eastern League's best in 2012, when he recorded 10 assists and cut down on needless throws that led to errors in the past. He's a below-average runner with average range in right. The Red Sox view Brentz as a potential solid regular in right field. After more Triple-A seasoning, he could compete for a starting job in Boston in 2014.
A Cuban defector, Iglesias signed in 2009 for an $8.25 million major league contract that included a Red Sox-record $6.25 million bonus. He made his major league debut in 2011 but spent the bulk of 2012 in Triple-A. Iglesias may be the best defensive shortstop prospect in the game. Rated as the International League's top defensive shortstop for two years running, he has exceptionally quick hands and feet. His arm is strong and former manager Bobby Valentine said Iglesias has more range than Rey Ordonez, the Gold Glover he had with the Mets. The problem is that Iglesias has hit .251/.302/.287 in Triple-A and looked helpless at the plate with Boston. While he has bat speed and makes contact, he draws few walks and offers no power. With average speed and good instincts, he can steal 10-15 bases a season. After trading Mike Aviles to the Blue Jays in order to get new manager John Farrell, the Red Sox will give Iglesias the opportunity to win the shortstop job in spring training. His defense can make him a valuable regular, even if his bat relegates him to the bottom of the lineup.
Marrero entered 2012 as a potential No. 1 overall draft pick, but he lasted until No. 25 after hitting just .284 as a junior at Arizona State. A rare college shortstop who looks like a good bet to remain at the position, he signed with the Red Sox for $2.05 million. His cousin Chris was a Nationals first-rounder in 2006 and has appeared briefly in the majors. Marrero reads balls well and has fluid actions at shortstop, with the above-average range and arm strength to make all the plays. He can improve his focus and consistency on defense, though that can be said of most players entering pro ball. Marrero hit better with wood bats in summer play than he did with metal bats during the college season, and the Red Sox think he'll produce at the plate. He stays inside the ball well, controls the strike zone and may flash enough pull power to hit 10 homers a year. With solid speed, a quick first step and keen instincts, he could add 20 steals a year. He isn't in Iglesias' class defensively, but Marrero is a plus defender with much more offensive upside. Those two represent Boston's future at shortstop if Xander Bogaerts outgrows the position. Marrero figures to skip a level and start his first full pro season in high Class A.
Since he signed for $700,000 as a 23rd-round pick in 2007, Britton's stock has been as volatile as anything offered on Wall Street. He blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery in 2008, bounced back in 2010 to surge to No. 3 on this list, then posted a 6.91 ERA at Salem in a hugely disappointing 2011. He's on the upswing again, after he shook off more struggles in high Class A and closed the 2012 season with a 2.23 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 44 innings over his final eight Double-A starts. For Britton, his success comes down to confidence rather than stuff. Few lefthanders can match the velocity on his fastball, which averaged 94 mph in Double-A and peaks at 97. He maintains that velocity deep into games, and his heater plays up further because it features plenty of sink. He doesn't have a plus secondary pitch, but he has made strides with an 81-86 mph slider that has supplanted his curveball as his go-to breaking ball. His changeup has deception and sink. Britton hasn't always trusted his stuff, leading to deep counts and getting hit harder than he should, but he did a better job of attacking hitters and battling through jams down the stretch in 2012. His finish has the Red Sox encouraged again that he can make it as a starter, and if he doesn't, he could be a dynamic late-inning reliever. He should see Triple-A at some point in 2013, with a chance to make his big league debut late in the year.
Workman receives less hype than comparable Red Sox prospects, but he's accustomed to getting overshadowed. Though he was a second-round pick in 2010, he spent that spring as Texas' No. 3 starter. He signed for $800,000, but that was just the sixth-highest bonus in Boston's draft class. He generated little attention when the Red Sox eased him into pro ball in 2011, and not much more when he won their minor league pitcher of the year award in 2012. Workman doesn't have the sexiest stuff, but he does a good job of locating a vast array of pitches where he wants. His fastball sits at 92-94 mph into the late innings and reaches 96. His heater has nice life and he throws it on a steep downhill plane, and his command of the pitch improved after Boston made that a priority for his first pro season. His No. 2 option is a pitch that varies between a true slider and an 85-88 mph cutter, and both versions are effective. Workman also has an average curveball and changeup, not to mention the best mound presence in the system. There's some stiffness in his delivery, which leads some scouts to project him as a reliever, but he repeats it well and pounds the strike zone. The Red Sox see him as a workhorse No. 3 starter and expect him to reach Triple-A during 2013.
Jacobs has one of the more intriguing bats in the system, but aside from his 2011 breakout season in low Class A, he has hit a combined .248/.318/.407 in his other three years as a pro. To be fair, a hamate injury in his left hand hampered him throughout much of 2012. A talented running back who turned down an Auburn football scholarship to sign for $750,000 as a 10th-round pick in 2009, Jacobs remains an unfinished product on the diamond. His strength and bat speed give him impressive raw power, though he's still refining his swing and approach. He must adapt to quality breaking pitches and learn to make adjustments. Jacobs has remade his body since his football days, trimming from 240 to 225 pounds and reducing his body fat to under 10 percent. He has gotten quicker, exhibiting solid speed and a knack for stealing an occasional base. He has become an average left fielder as he has learned to take better routes on balls, and he even saw his first action (27 games) in center field in 2012. He has fringy arm strength, which rules out right field as a possibility. Jacobs still has youth on his side and will compete for a Double-A job in spring training.
Ranaudo's pro career has been as much of a roller-coaster ride as his time at Louisiana State. He pitched just 12 innings as a college freshman because of elbow tendinitis, then rebounded in 2009 to win the College World Series clincher and establish himself as the top college prospect for the 2010 draft, only to come down with a stress reaction in his elbow and post a 7.32 ERA in 2010. The Red Sox still drafted him 39th overall in 2010, and when he threw 30 innings without an earned run in the Cape Cod League that summer, they rewarded him with a $2.55 million bonus. Ranaudo began his pro career with a strong stint in low Class A in 2011 but wasn't as impressive after a midseason promotion. He looked poised for a big 2012 when he popped 97 mph fastballs in spring training, only to come down with a strained groin that sidelined him until mid-May. He never got right during nine starts in Double-A, as his mechanics got out of whack before he was shut down in early July with shoulder inflammation. Some club officials thought his problems were as much mental as physical. Before Ranaudo got hurt, he was throwing 93-96 mph in short stints and showing a better curveball than he had previously as a pro. Both can be plus pitches, and he complements them with a solid changeup. When he's on, he repeats his delivery, uses his tall frame to leverage pitches down in the strike zone and works both sides of the plate. Ranaudo threw well in instructional league before heading to the Puerto Rican League, but he had to leave Puerto Rico after aggravating his groin injury. The Red Sox still can dream on him as a No. 2 or 3 starter, but it's hard to ignore the reality that he has dealt with injury problems in three of the previous five seasons.
A two-way star at Florida, Johnson won 22 games and hit 15 homers while leading the Gators to three straight College World Series appearances from 2010-12. Though he offers potential as a lefthanded hitter, most teams preferred him on the mound. That includes the Red Sox, who drafted him 31st overall in June and signed him for $1.575 million. Johnson stands out more for his ability to command four pitches than his pure stuff, though he may add velocity now that he's concentrating on pitching full-time. He usually pitched at 88-91 mph with his fastball in college, but he worked at 92-93 mph during brief outings at short-season Lowell and touched 98 when he faced former Florida State rival Jayce Boyd. Johnson hides the ball well with his delivery, so his fastball gets more swings and misses than might be expected. He also has good feel for both a curveball and a slider, changing speeds easily with them. His changeup helps him keep righthanders at bay. While he doesn't have the most athletic body, he controls it well and repeats his delivery. Johnson earned a start in the annual Futures at Fenway event in Boston in mid-August, only to get struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of the leadoff hitter. The shot broke multiple bones in his face and ended his first pro summer. He returned to work out but didn't see any game action during instructional league. Assuming there are no lasting effects from the injury, he has the polish to move faster than most Red Sox pitching prospects. Johnson will open 2013 at one of the club's Class A affiliates. He has a ceiling as a durable No. 3 starter.
The Red Sox have several talented shortstop prospects, led by Xander Bogaerts and including Jose Iglesias, Deven Marrero, Jose Vinicio and Cleuluis Rondon. In the end, Lin could develop into a better all-around shortstop than any of them. After winning MVP honors at the 18-and-under World Championship in 2010, he nearly signed with the Yankees for $350,000 as a 16-year-old. That deal collapsed, however, when the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association threatened to block him from ever playing or coaching in Taiwan if he signed before graduating from high school. Lin waited to do so, then signed with Boston for $2.05 million in June, setting a bonus record for Taiwanese position players. The fastest runner in the system, he has plus-plus speed and perhaps more offensive upside than any of the Red Sox' shortstop hopefuls aside from Bogaerts. Though he's not big, Lin has a quick bat and an advanced approach for his age. He repeatedly squares balls up, though he sometimes drifts out in front on pitches. He won't have much power but has the ingredients to become a quality leadoff man. Reports on his overall defense and arm strength range from average to plus, though no one doubts Lin can stay at shortstop. He played in the world 18-and-under tournament again after the 2012 season, earning recognition as the event's top defensive player. If Marrero and Vinicio open 2013 as the everyday shortstops at Boston's two Class A affiliates, Lin could wind up at Lowell.
The Red Sox invested heavily in international shortstops in 2009, signing Vinicio for $1.95 million in July and Jose Iglesias for $8.25 million two months later. After Iglesias, Vinicio is the top defensive shortstop in the system and he shows more promise at the plate. He has the actions, quickness, range, hands and arm strength to make all the plays at shortstop, though at times he can get too flashy for his own good. He made 25 errors in 72 games last year, though his .925 fielding percentage represented a career high. Vinicio has quick hands and some life in his bat, though he's frail and won't ever hit for power. If he fills out and develops more patience, he could be a contact hitter who produces solid batting averages and decent on-base percentages. He has plus speed but still is learning the nuances of basestealing. Added strength also would help him cope with the grind of the long season, as assorted nicks and bruises limited him to 72 games last season. With 2012 first-rounder Deven Marrero ticketed for high Class A, Vinicio figures to return to Greenville to begin 2013.
Though Wilson was Boston's minor league pitcher of the year in 2011 as a starter and didn't make a single relief appearance in his first three pro seasons, scouts long have projected him as a bullpen arm. He made three more starts to open 2012 before becoming a full-time reliever in mid-April. He had ups and downs in his new role but was lights-out in the International League playoffs, working five perfect innings as Pawtucket won the championship. Wilson mainly works with a 91-94 mph fastball and a 81-85 mph slider that devastates hitters at times. His stuff didn't kick up a notch as expected, however, when he made the move to the bullpen. Wilson's fastball lacks life, and his command, control and changeup are average at best, which is why he profiles better as a reliever. He has a maximum-effort delivery that contributed to Tommy John surgery while he was in college in 2007. Wilson has the mentality to work the late innings, and could wind up in that role with slightly better stuff and improved command. For now, he has a good shot to break into Boston's bullpen as a middle reliever in 2013.
After smashing 18 homers in 2011, Vazquez got too power-conscious to open last season. He hit just .211 with one homer through the end of May before making adjustments. With a shorter swing and more of an up-the-middle approach, he batted .322/.434/.534 in the next two months to earn a promotion to Double-A. He swings and misses too much to hit for a high average, but he draws his share of walks and has solid power. He should provide more than enough offense to profile as a regular, because he stands out most with his work behind the plate. Managers rated him the Carolina League's best defensive catcher in 2012, and he led the circuit by throwing out 42 percent of basestealers. He enhances average arm strength with a fast release, regularly recording 1.9-second pop times. He has improved as a receiver and blocker. He speaks both English and Spanish well, allowing him to communicate effectively with his pitching staff. He's a well below-average runner but has instincts on the bases. Vazquez struggled offensively during his month in Portland, so he'll head back there at the outset of 2013.
Margot has done nothing but impress the Red Sox since signing for $800,000 in 2011. He tripled, homered and drove in six runs in his first pro game this June and went on to win the organization's Latin American program player of the year award. After that, he was one of the standouts in Boston's instructional league camp. Margot has an advanced approach for his age, works counts and recognizes pitches well. He has a fast bat and wiry strength, with the potential for average power as he gets stronger. He showed promising opposite-field power during instructional league. Margot is an above-average runner who's still raw on the bases, though he did rank third in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League with 33 steals in 68 games. His speed also makes him an asset in center field, where he reads balls well, and he even has a solid arm. Margot will make his U.S. debut in the Gulf Coast League in June.
A 28th-round pick by the Twins out of high school in 2009, Light opted to attend Monmouth, where he set a Hawks single-season strikeout record (102 in 101 innings) last spring and became the highest-drafted player in school history. Selected 39th overall in June, he signed for $1 million, well below the assigned pick value of $1,394,300. But he's far more than a bargain-bin draftee. The Red Sox took pitchers with eight of their top nine choices in 2012, and Light has a better fastball package than any of them. He operates at 92-94 mph and can reach 97, and his heater is just as impressive for its heavy sink. He commands it well, too. Plagued by blister issues on one of his pitching fingers during the spring, he added power and velocity to his slider once he put those behind him in pro ball. He threw a fringy splitter/changeup as an amateur, but Boston had him switch to a true changeup in instructional league. The Red Sox will develop Light as a potential No. 3 starter, and if that doesn't work out he could make a living as late-inning reliever who works off his sinker. He'll spend his first full pro season in Class A.
No one in the system can light up a radar gun like Montas. Signed for $75,000 in 2009, he hit 99-100 mph in the Dominican Summer League two years later. He regularly reached triple digits a few times a game in his 2012 U.S. debut, and did a better job of staying under control and not overthrowing. The angle and armside run on his fastball make it that much tougher to hit, and when he's on he can be untouchable. He blew away the Twins' Byron Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, with three straight 97-100 mph heaters during instructional league. Montas still is far from a finished product, however. His fastball command needs significant improvement and his other pitches are works in progress. He'll flash impressive sliders but without much consistency, and he often throws his changeup too hard in the upper 80s. There's a good chance that Montas eventually will wind up in the bullpen, though he'll continue to get innings as a starter for now. If he throws enough strikes in spring training, he can earn an assignment to low Class A.
The Red Sox originally drafted Shaw in the 32nd round out of an Ohio high school in 2008, but they had to wait until he played three years at Kent State to sign him for $110,000 as a ninth-rounder in 2011. The son of former all-star reliever Jeff Shaw, Travis was one of the most pleasant surprises in the system last year. He led the Carolina League in on-base percentage (.397) and slugging (.517) and continued to hit after a promotion to Double-A. He also earned MVP honors at the California/Carolina League all-star game after hitting a two-run homer, and recognition from managers as the CL's best defensive first baseman. Shaw has a fluid lefthanded stroke suited for Fenway Park, as he can pull pitches for home runs or take them the other way for potential doubles off the Green Monster. His disciplined approach never wavers, as he continued to work counts even when he went 27 games without a homer to open the 2012 season or when he tired at the end of his first full pro season. Boston thinks he can post high batting averages and on-base percentages while hitting for solid power. Shaw has below-average speed and athleticism, but he moves well for his size and has a strong arm. A third baseman in college, he has shown soft hands and good footwork since moving to first base in pro ball. Now that his stock has surpassed that of Michael Almanzar and Kolbrin Vitek, Shaw could get more of an opportunity at the hot corner in 2013. He'll likely return to Portland to open the season.
One of the Carolina League's youngest players last year at age 20, Coyle got off to a slow start and compounded his problems by overswinging and chasing pitches out of the strike zone. He hit just .211/.285/.343 in the first half before tightening his approach and batting .297/.355/.451 after the all-star break. That's the kind of offensive production that led the Red Sox to invest $1.3 million in him as a third-round pick in 2010. Because he's a 5-foot-8 second baseman in the Boston system, he inevitably draws Dustin Pedroia comparisons. Those are a stretch, though Coyle does have surprising pop for his size and plays an aggressive, instinctive game. His bat speed, strong lower half and hand-eye coordination give him average power. He's at his best when he works counts and uses the middle of the field. The Red Sox expected that he might have growing pains in high Class A, but they were surprised that his walk total dropped to 29 from 60 the year before. Coyle has plus speed and went a perfect 16-for-16 stealing bases last season, but scouts would like him to get more out of his quickness by bunting and attempting steals more often. He has solid range, hands and arm strength on defense, and he topped Carolina League second basemen with a .967 fielding percentage. Coyle will advance to Double-A in 2013 and should be close to big league-ready when Pedroia's contract expires after the 2014 season.
De la Cruz was Boston's Latin American program player of the year in his 2009 pro debut and encored by leading the Gulf Coast League with 94 total bases in 2010, but his lack of a consistent approach caught up to him at Lowell in 2011. He hit more under control in 2012, which combined with improved strength and bat speed resulted in the first 20-20 season by a Red Sox farmhand since George Lombard in 2005. De la Cruz's swing is more sound, his balance is improved and he's more willing to use the opposite field than he was in the past. He's still overly aggressive at the plate, which more experienced pitchers may be able to exploit. Signed as a center fielder, de la Cruz has taken on a different profile as he has filled out. He now has fringy speed, and basestealing won't be a big part of his game despite his 20 steals last season. His below-average arm will relegate him to left field, and he topped South Atlantic League outfielders with nine errors in 2012. Some scouts don't think he puts forth enough effort on defense. His bat will have to carry him, and it may because de la Cruz has the upside of an above-average hitter with solid power. He finished last season in high Class A and will return there to begin 2013.
Buttrey is the latest top prospect to come out of Charlotte's Providence High, following Richie Shaffer, who became a Rays 2012 first-round pick after three years at Clemson, and Brett Austin, a Padres 2012 supplemental first-rounder. Buttrey's price tag and commitment to Arkansas dropped him to the fourth round in June, with his $1.3 million bonus more indicative of his true value. While he's just getting going in pro ball, he has the potential to be a No. 2 or 3 starter. Buttrey's velocity fluctuated during the spring, but he's capable of sitting at 90-93 mph and reaching 96. He throws a 77-79 mph knuckle-curve that has downer action and a chance to become an out pitch. His changeup shows nice fade. Buttrey's large frame creates tough angles for hitters and should lend him the durability needed to start. He's advanced for a high schooler and will turn 20 before the start of the 2013 season, giving him a chance to open it in low Class A.
A potential third-round pick in the 2011 draft, Kukuk lasted until the eighth round because he had a reported seven-figure asking price. He signed for $800,000 that August but didn't make his pro debut for another 12 months. He was arrested and charged with drunken driving in May while in extended spring training, and the Red Sox held him out of game action until the charges were dropped for lack of probable cause. He overpowered Gulf Coast League hitters, who went just 3-for-35 (.083) with 16 strikeouts against him, and continued to impress during instructional league. After pitching at 88-91 mph as a high school starter, Kukuk sat at 92-93 mph and peaked at 95 in short pro stints. His fastball has life as well, and he's improving his feel for a hard slider that shows the potential to give him a second plus pitch. His changeup isn't as far along as his other two offerings. Like most young pitchers, Kukuk needs more consistency with his stuff, command and delivery. But there's no doubting that he has a quality left arm and plenty of upside. Because he has just 10 pro innings under his belt, it remains to be seen whether Boston will deem him ready for a full-season assignment to start 2013.
In the murky world of Latin American signings, several players have had deals voided after Major League Baseball investigations into their identities and birthdays, only to land bigger bonuses from a second team. The Red Sox got burned when they landed Dominican righthander Carlos Matias for $160,000 in 2009, lost him when MLB didn't clear him, then saw him develop into a top prospect with the Cardinals after signing for $1.5 million as Carlos Martinez. In a reversal of that, Boston signed Mercedes for $800,000 in March 2012, after he had agreed to a $400,000 deal with the Giants in March 2011, only to have MLB kill it and declare him ineligible to sign for one year. He used the same name and birthdate on both contracts, and he finally received a U.S. visa and MLB approval last August. Mercedes has one of the heaviest fastballs in the system, sitting at 92-94 mph and topping out at 96. His hard curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch at times, but he sometimes gets under the pitch and doesn't command it well. He also throws a splitter to keep hitters off balance. Mercedes could become more efficient if he can smooth out his delivery. He draws physical comparisions to Guillermo Mota and could wind up in the bullpen if he can't refine his secondary pitches and command. He'll be 21 at the start of the 2013 season, so the Red Sox may send him to low Class A with just four innings of pro experience.
The Red Sox read a lot of positives into Pimentel's 6-7, 4.59 performance in Double-A last year. Though his results were mediocre, they represented a marked improvement from his previous stint at Portland (0-9, 9.12), and he made strides with his stuff and command. A growth spurt resulted in extra fastball velocity in 2011 but threw his mechanics and the rest of his game out of sync. Pimentel worked to tighten his delivery and throw in a more direct line to the plate last season, which helped add life and deception to his pitches. While he's capable of reaching 98 mph with his four-seam fastball, he's learning that he's more effective when he works with 91-94 mph two-seamers. He generates weak contact with a cutter/slider hybrid, and he has regained the feel for a quality changeup that he lost in 2011. The next step is for Pimentel to miss more bats and achieve more consistent success. If he can't, he'll make the transition from possible No. 3 starter to potential set-up man. He should make his Triple-A debut at some point in 2013.
The Nationals made Pena a fifth-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2008 because he was a projectable lefthander with three pitches. During two years at San Jacinto (Texas) JC and two in pro ball, he hasn't gotten much stronger and his stuff hasn't gotten much better. Yet he remains intriguing because he's a southpaw whose pitchability gives him a chance to develop into a No. 4 starter. Pena is athletic and has a clean delivery, which allows him to command all three of his pitches with ease. His best offering is a changeup that projects as a plus pitch. He also throws an 87-92 mph fastball that sits around 90, and a mid-70s curveball with some bite. He's fearless on the mound, attacking hitters while also keeping them off balance. Pena's first full pro season in 2012 went well, highlighted by six perfect innings May 8 as part of the first no-hitter in Greenville franchise history, though he missed most of July with a strained hamstring. The Red Sox will send him to high Class A this year and could move him quickly if he keeps getting results.
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