Red Sox Drop In Farm System Rankings As Player Development Embraces New Challenges

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BOSTON — The Red Sox’s Opening Day roster will look much different when the 2017 season begins. Because of that, so will the farm system.

The Red Sox were as busy as any team over the offseason, making a handful of moves all seemingly with one singular goal in mind: Make the major league club an even bigger World Series contender in the near future.

In the process, Boston made the splash of the offseason, acquiring ace pitcher Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox. To get something, you’ve got to give something, and the price for someone like Sale — one of the best pitchers in baseball at a very desirable contract number — wasn’t cheap. The Red Sox had to part with Yoan Moncada, considered by many to be the best prospect in all of baseball, and they also sent flame-throwing pitching prospect Michael Kopech to the White Sox. Oh, and the Red Sox included outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, another potential top-10 prospect within the organization.

The Red Sox also dealt a potential top-15 internal prospect to Milwaukee in the trade that brought set-up man Tyler Thornburg to Boston, and if you go back to June, the team traded top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza to San Diego in a deal to acquire Drew Pomeranz from the Padres.

That’s a long way of saying the Red Sox player development system has its work cut out for it.

“I think any time you have an opportunity to acquire a front-line starter or an All-Star-caliber elite player in the game, you have to give up some pretty good talent obviously,” vice president of player development Ben Crockett said Thursday at the team’s rookie development camp at Boston College. “We held those guys in really high regard, some of those guys we traded. Ultimately, we’re all here for the same reason and that’s to try to win a championship here in Boston. I think from a development standpoint, we’re excited about the challenge that brings us and the opportunity it provides other guys who were overshadowed at times.”

Coincidentally, as Crockett and his staff oversaw some of the remaining Red Sox prospects at the rookie camp, ESPN prospect expert Keith Law continued the roll-out of his farm system rankings. Law had the Red Sox at No. 16 on the list, down from No. 10 on last year’s rankings.

There’s talent left, of course, especially if you still consider outfielder Andrew Benintendi a prospect. Rafael Devers remains one of the best prospects in the game, and 2016 first-round draft pick Jason Groome has a very high ceiling, but as Law notes, Boston’s farm system is “the most top-heavy system in baseball,” adding “all those trades and two years out of the international market have thinned out the system quite a bit.”

If the Red Sox go out and win a World Series with Sale front-lining the rotation, then dealing top prospects such as Moncada, Kopech and Espinoza becomes easier to stomach. Regardless, the next few seasons are very important for Boston from the top of the organization to the bottom.

Thumbnail photo via Jonathan Dyer/USA TODAY Sports Images

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