After using some hindsight to evaluate my body of work over the course of the 2015 season, this week I thought I would peer into the future a little bit.
Watching the Red Sox over the past couple seasons has been pretty rough (well, as a Rays fan it has actually been pretty pleasant), but through the vortex of losses looms a bright future supported by great young prospects and major leaguers. Rebuilding is never easy and rarely quick, but with smart international free agency signings and strong draft picks taken early and even in the depth rounds, they appear to be an exception to this rule.
Heading the new look for the Sox starts in two key defensive positions, shortstop and center field. Mookie Betts absolutely tore up every level of the minors last season, enough to earn himself a call up to the Show, with a permanent spot earned this year forward. He flashes an All-Star caliber bat with a 117 wRC+ and above average defense at center, with the ability to play infield as well. He crushed 15 bombs at just 22, leaving plenty of room for his power and overall offensive ability to develop even more.
And at short, Xander Bogaerts is starting to finally look like the elite prospect we saw just a couple of years ago. After a rough rookie season where he was barely replacement level, Bogaerts has absolutely taken off in his sophomore season. The power hasn’t really shown, with an isolated slugging mark just over .100, but his all around game is superb. His 113 wRC+ is strong for being just 22, and his total fWAR to date of 4.7 is good enough to be a first team All-Star.
But the depth and high hopes goes even deeper than just the couple who are expected to lead the team. A notable surge is found in Jackie Bradley Jr., who was absolutely abysmal with the bat in his first season and a half of major league time. But all of a sudden, after hard work with the hitting coach and in the film room, JBJ has completely turned on the jets. After compiling an impressively brutal 23 wRC+ (just to reiterate, that means he was 77% worse than your average major league hitter), his second half stats have jumped over 100 points to a 147 wRC+.
Despite only playing about a third of a season, Travis Shaw is showing impressive numbers as the first baseman of the future. A 128 wRC+ with a thunderous .230 ISO, Shaw makes pitchers tremble the second his 6’4, 225 pound frame fits itself into the batters box. Extrapolating his numbers over a full season, he would have over 35 bombs, with good contact thanks to a .280 batting average. Also playing in limited time, Blake Swihart is making his mark as well. He’s been slightly below average offensively, but that is expected for catchers as they develop. Thanks to excellent play calling and pitch framing, his spot as Boston’s catcher is all but locked up.
Deeper into the system we get players like Rafael Devers and Manuel Margot, high upside prospects who have yet to crack the show. Devers shows good contact with a 30 homer potential bat at third base, solidifying the hot corner for the Red Sox for years to come. Margot is an insanely athletic outfielder who does everything well. A small frame but maximizes what he has to get good jolting power that appears surprising for someone of his size. Good defense will allow him to play any outfield position, although his arm lacks behind that of JBJ who seems to be the preferred right fielder for them now and in the future.
There is also an enigmatic Cuban duo in Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada. Although Castillo is seven years older (27 to 20), both have yet to show their best. Moncada projects as yet another athletic freak in the system with five tool status, and Castillo is similar although still adjusting to the American style of play. Castillo may end up slotting in as an elite fourth outfielder or even trade bait, while Moncada looks like a cornerstone player to build around at second base.
All of the young talent is there for the Sox, but what is also impressive is the existing talent at Fenway. David Ortiz has continued to defy age, and Dustin Pedroia is still a franchise second baseman for them. They have slumping stars as well, with Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Allen Craig. Rebounds from the three will lead to veteran presences and strong performance across the board.
It isn’t easy to like much of the Red Sox this season, but heading forward they look to be a star-studded system ready for seasons of contention. The talent pipeline is fully stocked, and Red Sox Nation is about to reap the benefits and enjoy a serious stretch of domination.
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