Boston Red Sox Prospects: Players At Each Level Worth Watching In 2014

Anthony RanaudoThe Boston Red Sox have three World Series titles in 10 years. Player development is a huge reason for that success.

The Red Sox’s four full-season minor league affiliates — Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, High-A Salem Red Sox and Low-A Greenville Drive — began their respective regular-season schedules Thursday. While the major league club figures to contend for another World Series ring in 2014, there is plenty to like about the organization’s farm system, too.

Baseball America ranked the Red Sox as having the second-best farm system in Major League Baseball going into the 2014 season. The Red Sox’s blend of high-end talent and intriguing lower-level prospects put the organization behind only the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It’s possible several players will continue their ascent up the Red Sox’s organizational ladder in 2014, but let’s focus on three players at each level worth watching as the season gets into full swing.

Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox

Garin Cecchini, 22, 3B
Cecchini made quite an impression during major league spring training this year, and it’s clear the 22-year-old is close to being big league ready. Cecchini has an incredible baseball IQ — Red Sox manager John Farrell called Cecchini a “baseball rat” during spring training while lauding the third baseman’s work ethic — although it’s his excellent on-base ability that ultimately will punch his ticket to the majors.

Big league ETA: 2015

Allen Webster, 24, RHP
Expect to see Webster in the majors at some point this season. Webster struggled in his first big league action last season, but the 24-year-old could be the first one called upon if/when the need for a starter arises. Webster can light up radar guns, and he features a devastating sinker that should serve him well at the major league level once he overcomes command issues and early-career jitters.

Big league ETA: 2014

Anthony Ranaudo, 24, RHP
Ranaudo, like Webster, could find his way to Boston in 2014. Ranaudo’s stock dropped after a rough, injury-plagued 2012 season, but the big right-hander bounced back in 2013. Ranaudo stood out during spring training this year, largely because of his overpowering fastball, his confidence and his advanced mound presence.

Big league ETA: 2015

Double-A Portland Sea Dogs

Henry Owens, 21, LHP
It took Owens, who was nearly unhittable last season, one start to leave his fingerprints all over the Sea Dogs’ 2014 campaign. Owens tossed a six-inning no-hitter Thursday in Portland’s season opener, showing again why he’s considered the Red Sox’s top pitching prospect. The 6-foot-7 left-hander features great secondary stuff — particularly, an awesome changeup — that often makes hitters look downright silly.

Big league ETA: 2015

Mookie Betts, 21, 2B
The Red Sox have a pretty good second baseman in place for the foreseeable future, but Betts has pop, speed and solid defensive skills. The athletic infielder, who is already off to a hot start, could move around the diamond at some point to expedite his big league arrival.

Big league ETA: 2016

Blake Swihart, 22, C
Swihart is an incredibly athletic catcher who also happens to be a switch-hitter. There aren’t many minor leaguers like him.

Big league ETA: 2015

High-A Salem Red Sox

Brian Johnson, 23, LHP
Johnson, a first-round pick in 2012, is a big lefty with good fastball command. The 23-year-old probably would be higher up in the Red Sox system if not for getting hit in the head by a line drive in 2012 and suffering a shoulder injury in 2013.

Big league ETA: 2016

Simon Mercedes, 22, RHP
Mercedes, who signed as an international free agent in March 2012, has a very live arm. The young Dominican product can dial it up to the high 90s and drop in a devastating changeup. He’s still raw but absolutely worth keeping an eye on.

Big league ETA: 2016

Corey Littrell, 22, LHP
Littrell has a nice assortment of pitches. The fifth-round pick’s ceiling, however, could be determined by his fastball velocity, which currently struggles to sit in the low 90s.

Big league ETA: 2016

Low-A Greenville Drive

Teddy Stankiewicz, 22, RHP
Stankiewicz, a 2013 second-round pick, throws a hard fastball despite being in the early stages of development. There’s plenty of room for growth, but the combination of that heater and a nice changeup/curveball is enough to feel good about his future.

Big league ETA: 2017

Manuel Margot, 19, OF
Margot has exceptional speed, which he effectively uses on the bases and in center field. The biggest question is whether he’ll hit enough. Margot just turned 19 in September, so he should fill out, which, in turn, could help him evolve into a more dynamic offensive player.

Big league ETA: 2018

Jamie Callahan, 19, RHP
Callahan, a 2012 second-round pick, sits in the 92-95 mph range with his fastball and typically pounds the strike zone. The development of the right-hander’s secondary pitches will be critical, but the 19-year-old has shown an ability to make adjustments on the fly thus far.

Big league ETA: 2018

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