State of the (Red Sox) Farm System

In light of last night’s State of the Union Address, I thought it might be good timing to examine the State of the (Red Sox) Farm System.  And don’t worry, much to the displeasure of my office-mate, Rick Medeiros, there will be no further talk of politics.

I was an avid follower of the Red Sox farm system in 2009 when I was the No. 2 broadcaster with the Portland Sea Dogs (best summer of my life).  For the last two years I’ve done my best to check up on things while I was broadcasting games in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the Frisco RoughRiders (Double-A, Texas Rangers).  I’ll share with you some of my findings over the last month on how the “experts” believe the Sox system looks heading into 2012.

Tejada played in 123 games last year for Portland, hitting .249 with five HRs and 41 RBIs (Kelly O'Connor)

1) recently ranked the Top-10 prospects at each position (LHP, RHP, C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF).  Of these eight positions, the Sox had a Top-10 prospect in the following four:

  • Second Base: Oscar Tejada, ranked 4th
  • Catcher: Ryan Lavarnway, ranked 8th
  • Third Base: Will Middlebrooks, ranked 6th
  • Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, ranked 10th
Four other teams had four prospects ranked within the Top-10 at any given position (CHC, PIT, SD, STL).  Only one team, Seattle, had five prospects ranked within the Top-10.  Of the 30 major league clubs, two were not represented by any Top-10 prospects: Chicago (AL) and Los Angeles (NL).

2) Former Bill James research assistant and current SB Nation minor league guru John Sickels ranked the Sox farm system as the 11th best among the 30 major league teams.

“Large group of B- types who can improve. Hitting stronger than pitching at this point.”
According to Sickels’ rankings, Toronto has the top system, followed by San Diego and then Texas. Milwaukee, Miami, and Chicago (AL) round out the bottom three.

3) Who is the Red Sox No. 1 overall prospect entering 2012?  Well, pretty much everyone agrees.

  • Baseball America: 3B, Will Middlebrooks

    Middlebrooks figures to spend much of 2012 in Pawtucket (Kelly O'Connor)

“Middlebrooks could use a full 2012 season in Triple-A, after which the Red Sox will face an interesting decision.  They hold a $12 million option for 2013 on Kevin Youkilis … Middlebrooks figures to push Youkilis to DH or out of town at that point, and has the tools to blossom into an all-star.”
“Middlebrooks is the top prospect [in the system], but could be the furthest away. Look for the 23-year-old third baseman to get the call to the big club in August or September, but any injury to Kevin Youkilis could require an earlier promotion for the third baseman. “
“The 2007 draftee started to turn some of his strong tools into performance in the Carolina League in 2010, setting highs in average, slugging percentage, doubles, homers and RBIs. There’s more power to come and with his good glove; he has the chance to be a prototypical all-around third baseman.  “
“Bogaerts is seemingly on the track for stardom.  He still has to prove he can hit at the upper levels, and he may not stay at shortstop, but the scouts agree on one thing: Xander Bogaerts has the highest ceiling in the Red Sox system.”

According to SoxProspects, “the key story to watch in 2012 may be how Bogaerts fares against more advanced pitching, especially pitchers with refined off-speed offerings. Fans may also want to keep an eye on him in the early spring, to see how much he’s physically matured during the offseason. If he continues to grow, he could end up moving to third base or right field down the line.”

Red Sox fans will enjoy plenty of interesting minor league story lines throughout 2012 thanks to some promising young players.  Some will be seen on a nightly basis here at McCoy Stadium, others at Hadlock Field in Portland, and many more at the lower levels.

There’s no doubt Boston has invested heavily.  According to Baseball America, “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.”

As a result, on paper there’s a good group of minor league talent  in the system – especially offensively. Now it’s up to the coaches and the work ethic of these young teenagers and twenty-somethings to truly develop.


1 Comment

There’s room for both Middlebrooks and Youkilis!

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