Now that we’re over a month in to the 2013 minor league season, it’s a good time to check in on how the top prospects in each of the organizations are faring. It is way too early to get overly excited or overly depressed about anyone’s performance thus far, but it’s never too early to dig into the data and results that each prospect has added to their resume. For the purposes of these check-ins we will be using Baseball America’s rankings unless otherwise noted.
The Boston Red Sox were victorious 69 times in 2012. To find a season where they won fewer than 42.6% of their games, you’d have to go all the way back to 1960 when they won 42.2% of the time en route to a 65-89 record. Fortunately for Red Sox nation, last season is quickly becoming a distant memory. Fenway Park is once again the home of a first place team and the organization’s early success is not limited to the major league level. Each of Boston’s top five prospects find themselves included on most Top-100 prospect lists and as a collective group they have impressed early on – in the minor leagues at least.
#1: SS – Xander Bogaerts (20)
Portland (AA): 0.298/.365/.471, 4 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 3 SB, 11 BB and 29 SO in 116 PA
At the start of the season Bogaerts was the second youngest player in the Eastern League and third youngest in Double-A behind Baltimore RHP Dylan Bundy and Texas SS Hanser Alberto. His slash stats on the season are solid but he’s been far more impressive of late. 14 of his 29 strikeouts came in his first nine games of the year and during that stretch he hit 0.171 (7-41). Since April 16th he’s notched a hit in all but one of his last 15 games hitting 0.381 in the process.
#2: OF – Jackie Bradley (23)
Boston (MLB): 0.097/.263/.129, 1 2B, 1 SB, 6 BB and 12 SO in 38 PA
Pawtucket (AAA): 0.302/.400/.349, 2 2B, 1 SB, 7 BB and 13 SO in 51 PA
2012 was Bradley’s first full season as a professional and he used it to advance through the California League in just 67 games before hitting 0.271/.373/.437 in 61 games with Portland. With terrific defense, plate discipline, on-base skills and baserunning instincts he didn’t figure to stay in the minors long. Never-the-less, he arrived in Boston well ahead of schedule by making the team’s Opening Day roster on the back of the jaw dropping 0.419/.507/.613 slash line he produced in 28 spring training games.
He drew three walks in his major league debut and then hit in each of the next three games (3-12) before slipping into a 0-17 funk that resulted in his assignment to Pawtucket. While in Triple-A he’s been a bit streaky as he’s twice grouped 6 hits in a three game span with hitless stretches in between. After hitting 42 doubles in 2012, Bradley’s extra-base power hasn’t manifested itself yet but he’s otherwise been solid. His Grapefruit League performance created a lot of unnecessary hype and expectation while accelerating his time table slightly but there is little doubt that he should be back in Boston, hopefully for good, later in the year. That is assuming he gets healthy. On May 6th Bradley was placed on the 7-day disabled list with tendinitis in his right biceps but the injury is considered minor and shouldn’t keep him off the field for long.
#3: RHP – Matt Barnes (22)
Portland (AA): 5.19 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 32 H, 9 BB and 31 SO in 26.0 IP (6 GS)
Of the five players on this list, Barnes is having the roughest season of the group so far but recently he’s shown signs of changing that. His last two starts – both wins over Reading – have been his best of the young season with 8 H, 1 ER, 3 BB and 14 SO in 12.1 IP. Compared to his 2012 stats he’s giving up more hits and walks per nine innings but he continues to strike batters out at an impressive rate (10.7 SO/9). All in all he’s pitched three gems and three clunkers.
#4: RHP – Allen Webster (23)
Pawtucket (AAA): 2.70 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 12 H, 6 BB and 26 SO in 20.0 IP (4 GS)
Boston (MAJ): 11.73 ERA, 1.96 WHIP, 11 H, 4 BB and 7 SO in 7.2 IP (2 GS)
Webster opened the season in Triple-A and, as you can see above, has pitched extremely well for Pawtucket. He was also solid (6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO) in his major league debut on April 21st when he started the second game of a double header against the Royals. The only real blemish in that start was the fact that he served up two long balls to a Kansas City squad that has hit only 19 on the season (tied for dead last in MLB with Miami). The gopher ball plagued Webster again yesterday in his second major league start. The Minnesota Twins went deep twice and chased him from the game in the second inning. When the dust had settled he had allowed 6 H, 8 ER and 3 BB with 2 SO in 1.2 innings of work which obviously skews his stat line something awful. The Twins, it should be noted, are 27th in MLB with 24 HR on the season.
Giving up home runs has never been a problem at any stop in the minors – he’s allowed just 20 in 514.0 minor league innings – so at this point it’s safe to classify 4 HR allowed in 7.2 major league innings as an aberration. Of course big league hitters are also sending a clear message to Webster and the Red Sox that he needs to spend more time pitching in Triple-A.
#5: LHP – Henry Owens (20)
Salem (A+): 2.25 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 17 H, 11 BB and 40 SO in 32.0 IP (6 GS)
In terms of early 2013 performance for this Top-5, the best has been saved for last. In many ways that shouldn’t be a surprise for two key reasons. First, Owens has more upside and potential than either Barnes or Webster and is ranked behind them primarily because he’s further away from the major leagues right now. Second he’s pitching against High-A competition in the pitcher friendly Carolina League. However, that second point shouldn’t take away from Owens who is several years younger than Webster and Barnes. Not only has the talented young lefty had the best statistical production of Boston’s upper crust of prospects, he’s also been the most consistent. Owens has made six starts thus far in 2013 and he hasn’t allowed more than 2 runs or 4 hits in any of them. Aside from his first start of the year where he struck out 4 in 5.0 innings of work he’s also whiffed at least a batter per inning in each of his starts.