|Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is one of four top-50 prospects in the Red Sox system. (USATSI)|
Prior to the start of the season, we'll highlight a few players in each team's minor-league system to let you know which players you should be paying attention to throughout the year. These aren't meant to be comprehensive top-prospect lists, but should provide a look at some key players within each team's organization.
The Red Sox completed a franchise-altering trade last season by sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto away for James Loney and a package of prospects and young players who may as well still be considered prospects. While one of the pitchers from that deal can be counted upon as a top prospect, most of the talent in this minor-league organization is homegrown. Who are the players that could play a key role in the next great Red Sox team?
2013 Impact Prospect
While the Red Sox have plenty of quality prospects in the minor leagues, none appear to be on the cusp of making a significant impact in the majors in 2013. One young player who could make a mark in the majors this season but isn't still considered a prospect -- but may as well be -- is right-handed pitcher Rubby De La Rosa.
A component of last August's massive trade with the Dodgers, De La Rosa pitched 60 2/3 solid innings with the Dodgers in 2011, posting a 3.71 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 13 appearances (10 starts). Capable of reaching the upper 90s with his fastball, De La Rosa was sidelined for much of 2012 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. However, he's drawn attention early in Red Sox camp, and while the team is likely to limit the number of innings he pitches this season, he could be primed to make an impact in the Red Sox bullpen if called upon.
The jewel of the Red Sox' system, Bogaerts was tabbed the No. 8 prospect overall by Baseball America this offseason after hitting .307/.373/.523 with 20 home runs in 532 plate appearances at Class A Advanced and Double-A. With his 6-foot-3 frame, Bogaerts may not stick at shortstop long-term, though the team will certainly pursue that avenue as long as possible. Even if moved off the position, he has the power potential and bat speed to play just about anywhere offensively. Just 20 years old, Bogaerts is likely to start the season at Double-A and work his way into Triple-A, though unless the Red Sox are surprisingly competitive in 2013, he shouldn't play much, if at all, in the big leagues.
The 40th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bradley lit up Class A Advanced in 2012, hitting .359/.480/.526 before being moved to Double-A, where he still produced a solid .271/.373/.437 line. The lefty shows a solid ability against left-handed pitching and should be a quality on-base player immediately. His excellent defensive skills, including a good arm and great range, make him a natural favorite to start in center field for the Red Sox in 2014. Once fully developed, Bradley should be capable of contributing double-digit home runs and 20-plus steals on a yearly basis while getting on base at a healthy clip.
SP Matt Barnes
A first-round pick in the 2011 draft, Barnes, 22, turned in a great first season in the Red Sox system, dominating Class A for five starts (42 strikeouts, four walks, one earned run allowed in 26 2/3 innings) before producing a nice year at the Class-A Advanced level, striking out 91 batters and walking 25 guys in 93 innings over 20 starts. While all his pitches still need work, Barnes has the ability to be a quality No. 2 starter long-term for the Red Sox once he further develops and settles in against major-league-caliber hitting.
The big name coming to the Red Sox in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, Webster has the potential to be an extreme groundball pitcher in the majors thanks to a sinking fastball and a potentially excellent breaking ball. However, Webster needs to develop better command of his pitches, having walked 4.2 batters per nine innings over 130 2/3 innings in 2012. Despite having thrown over 220 innings at the Double-A level over the last two years, Webster is likely to start back at that familiar level while the Red Sox evaluate the prospect. He should slot in behind Barnes in the Red Sox rotation by some point in 2014 barring injury.
The favorite to start at shortstop for the Red Sox before the team signed Stephen Drew, Iglesias is at best a work-in-progress at the plate, hitting .251/.302/.287 in 783 plate appearances at the Triple-A level over the last two seasons. He performed even worse at the major-league level in 2012, hitting .118/.200/.191 in 77 plate appearances. However, he plays exceptional defense at the game's toughest defensive position, which should keep him employed at the major-league level for a very long time. If Drew can't stay healthy over the course of a full season, Iglesias will likely become the team's stopgap until Bogaerts is ready.
The Red Sox boast four prospects ranked in the top 50 of Baseball America's 2013 top-100 list. While none are expected to be ready to produce in the majors in 2013, the rebuilding Red Sox can afford to be patient and hope for a huge boost both in the starting lineup and the rotation in 2014.