Swihart leads five Red Sox prospects in Top 100
Top-ranked catcher joined by Owens, Rodriguez, Devers and Margot
The Red Sox may have had a disappointing 2014 season, but they still have a wealth of talent in the farm system. When MLB.com released its Top 100 Prospects list on Friday, Boston had five players represented in that group.
The annual ranking of baseball's Top 100 Prospects is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2015. Team-by-team Top 30 Prospects lists for 2015 will be unveiled in March.
Catcher Blake Swihart, who continues to impress with his consistent approach at the plate and his skills on the defensive side, is ranked No. 18. Though he didn't become a regular catcher until 2010, Swihart is now the game's top prospect at the position, reminding many of a young Buster Posey. He threw out 46 percent of potential basestealers in 2014 and didn't commit a passed ball in 97 games.
"Each year, [Swihart has] become more refined in his entire game," said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. "At the plate, it's a lot about consistency, it's a lot about staying within himself, staying with the approach he needs at the plate to be successful attacking pitches. It's something that I think you saw improvement on over the course of the year in Double-A last year in terms of the pitches he was swinging at, the confidence that he had in the box.
"Then defensively, the same. He talked about some of the biggest challenges he had once he got to Triple-A last year was just learning the entire staff and really focus his energy on the defensive side. I think any of these guys, when they get called up to the Major Leagues for the first time, those are the kinds of basic expectations that the staff is looking for: reliable, consistent defense, knowing what you're supposed to be doing, knowing where you're supposed to be. Obviously that's amplified behind the plate, where you're trying to lead a starter or a guy you may not have caught or a guy you may not have caught for some time."
Left-hander Henry Owens is right behind Swihart, ranking No. 19 on the list thanks to a stellar 2014 season. After a breakout '13 campaign, Owens led the Minor Leagues in wins (17), ranked fourth in strikeouts (170) and started the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game for the U.S. team.
Much of Owens' success has come because of his ability to keep hitters off balance with a mix of his low-90s fastball, changeup and curveball. If he can continue on that track, look for the left-hander to join Boston's rotation before the season ends.
Eduardo Rodriguez, another left-hander in the Red Sox's system, comes in at No. 89 on the list. The Sox acquired Rodriguez from the Orioles prior to the 2014 non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Andrew Miller.
Rodriguez has steadily improved since signing out of Venezuela as a 17-year-old in 2010. He came into his own during the '13 season, reaching Double-A Bowie with the O's and Triple-A Pawtucket with the Red Sox before finishing the year as the starting pitcher in the Arizona Fall League championship game.
Coming in at No. 96 on the list is third baseman Rafael Devers, whom MLB.com ranks as the seventh-best third-base prospect in the Minors.
When Devers signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, many scouts considered him the top left-handed bat available on the international market because of his compact swing and bat speed. Though the 18-year-old has the arm and natural ability to play third, his footwork and consistency need to improve before he moves up through the system.
Boston's final prospect in the rankings is outfielder Manuel Margot at No. 99. He signed with the Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic in 2011.