Who are the best prospects in the Boston Red Sox system?

A subjective question, for sure.

Here is our take.

There are well-informed prospect lists, such as soxprospects.com and baseballamerica.com. Our list differs slightly in that it puts more emphasis on players in Double-A and Triple-A. Doing well in Class A is nice, but you have a ways to go. So while pitcher Matt Barnes is near the top of other prospects list, he is only No. 9 here, because he hasn’t pitched beyond advanced Class A Salem.

Similarly, lefty Henry Owens, a top-10 selection by others, is No. 17 here because he hasn’t pitched above low Class A Greenville.

There are 11 new players on our list. Last year’s rankings are in parentheses:

1. Xander Bogaerts (10), age 20, shortstop: Bogaerts stood out in Greenville in 2011. He made a believer out of us once he reached Portland in August of this year, using a smooth swing to bat .326 with five home runs. He certainly looks special, and his fielding is just fine.

2. Ryan Lavarnway (1), 25, catcher: Once considered a project behind the plate, Lavarnway was voted the best defensive catcher in the International League. Works counts and shows power potential.

3. Jackie Bradley Jr. (NR), 22, outfielder: Promoted to Portland on June 20, Bradley played the best center field Hadlock Field has seen in a long time. Also showed an advanced batting approach, taking pitches and drawing walks.

4. Jose Iglesias (5), 22, shortstop: It looks like Iglesias will finally get his chance to start in Boston. His glove is ready and, with patience, his bat may become major-league worthy

5. Chris Hernandez (25), 23, pitcher: Our first darkhorse pick. Hernandez, a lefty, does not have over-powering stuff. But he demonstrated a mature mound presence and solid pitch variety to record a combined 3.26 ERA in Portland and Pawtucket.

6. Bryce Brentz (9), 23, outfielder: In 122 games in Portland, Brentz batted .296 with 17 home runs. Also performed well in Pawtucket’s playoff run, and in the Arizona Fall League. Add more polish to Brentz’s batting approach and his fielding, and he’s good to go (to Boston).

7. Rubby De La Rosa (NR), 23, pitcher. Obtained in the mega-trade with the Dodgers, De la Rosa showed an explosive fastball in 13 major league games in 2011 (3.71 ERA) before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

8. Ryan Kalish (4), 24, outfielder: After two wasted years because of injury, Kalish may finally get his chance to be a regular, and not just an emergency fill-in.

9. Matt Barnes (15), 22, pitcher: Went 7-5 with a combined 2.86 ERA in Greenville and Salem. The first real test comes this season in Portland.

10. Allen Webster (NR), 22, pitcher: Also dealt in the Dodgers trade, Webster was considered Los Angeles’ No. 2 prospect. Raw talent. Had 129 strikeouts (and 61 walks) in 130 innings in Double-A last year.

11. Drake Britton (NR), 23, pitcher: Had bounce-back season this year (3.72) in Portland. A lefty with good stuff, Britton could be close to Boston if he keeps up his command..

12. Steven Wright (NR), 28, pitcher: Obtained from the Indians in the Lars Anderson trade, Wright’s knuckleball can be devastating at times. Had 2.54 combined ERA in Double-A and Triple-A. Smart for the Red Sox to keep him around.

13. Stolmy Pimentel (NR), 22, pitcher: Pimentel is entering his third season on the 40-man roster. Brilliant at times, but inconsistent, he may get another chance to start, or begin 2013 in the bullpen.

14. Juan Carlos Linares (NR), 28, outfielder: Another darkhorse. Maybe it’s his age, but Linares gets little attention as a prospect. Linares can hit and hit for power. He could be major-league ready this year.

15. Josh Fields (16), 27, pitcher: Fields kept improving in the Portland bullpen, and then put up a 0.00 ERA in 10 Pawtucket appearances. But Boston did not put Fields on the 40-man roster and could lose him.

16. Anthony Ranaudo (7), 23, pitcher: After a strong 2011 in Class A, Ranaudo looked like a prime prospect (see Matt Barnes), but injuries slowed him considerably. Looking for a bounce-back 2013.

17. Henry Owens (NR), 20, pitcher. Pitched fine in Greenville after being drafted out of high school. Too early to tell if he will match his potential.

18. Travis Shaw (NR): 22, first base. Spotlight shined on Shaw after Adrian Gonzalez was traded. Showed signs of promise in 31 games in Portland. Will be back at Hadlock.

19. Blake Swihart (20), 20, catcher: Promising player who improved throughout the season in Greenville.

20. Alex Wilson (6), 26, pitcher: After a full season in the Pawtucket bullpen (3.26 ERA), this could be Wilson’s season to get a call to Fenway.

21. Brandon Workman (19), 24, pitcher: Starter who throws strikes and has always had an ERA under four. A full season in Portland will be a good test.

22. Garin Cecchini (22), 21, third base: Batted .305 in Greenville in his first full pro season.

23. Jose Vinicio (23), 19, shortstop. Good fielder who hit .277 in Greenville.

24. Christian Vazquez (NR), 22, catcher: Fine defensive catcher who will get a chance to demonstrate his bat at the Double-A level this season.

25. Deven Marrero (NR), 22, shortstop: Shows good tools, and batted .268 in Lowell last year.

26. Brock Huntzinger (17), 24, pitcher: Slow, steady improvement, especially since going to the bullpen early in 2012. Left off the 40-man roster.

27. Brandon Jacobs (11), 21, outfielder: Gifted player who hit .303 in Greenville in 2011, but .252 in Salem this year. Hit a combined 30 home runs over the past two seasons.

28. Jeremy Hazelbaker (29), 25, outfielder: Began to pound the ball in Portland. The test will be how quickly he adjusts to Triple-A in 2013.

29. Alex Hassan (8), 24, outfielder: Struggled in Triple-A this year. Injuries did not help. Still worked counts well and could be in line for an excellent 2013.

30. Keury De La Cruz (NR), 21, outfielder. Had breakout year in Greenville, hitting .308 with 19 home runs.

FROM LAST YEAR’S LIST, three graduated to the majors: Will Middlebrooks (2), Felix Doubront (3), Junichi Tazawa (12).

Six dropped out: Ronald Bermudez (13), Kolbrin Vitek (14), Dan Butler (18), Sean Coyle (21), Chris Balcom-Miller (25), Ryan Westmoreland (30).

One was traded: Lars Anderson (26). And one was not re-signed: Caleb Clay (27).

Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: [email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases


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