The departures of Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly in the Adrian Gonzalez trade was an immediate blow, although a necessary one the team would endure eight days a week for what it received in return. When you add to that injury-plagued years for Ryan Kalish and Felix Doubront, progressive but not overwhelming seasons from Jose Iglesias and Lars Anderson, and the need for Josh Reddick to shed his prospect status and jump to the big club, the ranks have been made a bit leaner.
Last winter, general manager Theo Epstein said as much even before much of this occurred, but upon making that statement he emphasized the organization's confidence in its lower half, still teeming with top-notch talent.
The stockpile of players with upside has only been increased with the team's continued success in signing draftees. Prior to Monday’s midnight deadline, the club finished deals with seven of their top 10 picks from June's first-year player draft. The other three in the top 10 had already inked deals well in advance of the deadline. In Epstein's tenure, Boston has signed 100 of 106 (94.3 percent) selections taken in the first 10 rounds of the draft.
This new flood of talent, which includes first-rounders Matt Barnes, a right-hander out of the University of Connecticut, and Blake Swihart, a high school catcher from New Mexico who had verbally committed to Texas, will back up what has turned into a solid 2010 class at the fortified lower levels.
From last year's class, top pick Kolbrin Vitek is batting .286 at Salem, the team's advanced Single-A squad. Bryce Brentz, the organization's second pick in 2010, has hammered 27 home runs in just 95 games at two levels this year. Pitchers Anthony Ranaudo and Brandon Workman have made strides.
The upside with the current collection of signees may be even greater, especially with the organization’s ability to wrest Swihart from the college ranks. Questions over his signability may have caused him to tumble to the latter portions of the first round, but his talent at a premium position makes him a potential impact player in the coming years.
Barnes and Henry Owens, a lefty taken in the compensation round, provide the same type of promise as Ranaudo and Workman, the top two hurlers taken last season. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., also taken in the compensation round, was one of the top players in the country in 2009 before injuries hurt him last season. Just as it thought with Ranaudo, the organization considers those issues to be a thing of the past.
And with these signings, as well as those of fourth-round pick Noe Ramirez, a righty, fifth-rounder Mookie Betts, a shortstop, and lefty Cody Kukuk, a seventh-rounder, the somewhat thin top of the organization will be a thing of the past as well.