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September 30, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Staff Top 40 Rankings: Jon Meoli

This week, members of the SoxProspects.com brass will be posting their end-of-season Top 40 rankings and answering some questions about their lists. We'll release our aggregate rankings on Friday as well, so don't worry if some of the player-specific questions about being high or low on players don't make sense yet. They will. First up is Senior Columnist Jon Meoli.

The Rankings:
1. Xander Bogaerts, SS
2. Jackie Bradley, OF
3. Henry Owens, LHP
4. Blake Swihart, C
5. Allen Webster, RHP
6. Matt Barnes, RHP
7. Garin Cecchini, 3B
8. Mookie Betts, 2B
9. Brandon Workman, RHP
10. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP

11. Drake Britton, LHP
12. Bryce Brentz, OF
13. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP
14. Christian Vazquez, C
15. Trey Ball, LHP
16. Manuel Margot, OF
17. Brian Johnson, LHP
18. Jon Denney, C
19. Sean Coyle, 2B
20. Wendell Rijo, 2B

21. Deven Marrero, SS
22. Alex Hassan, OF
23. Simon Mercedes, RHP
24. Myles Smith, RHP
25. Dan Butler, C
26. Michael Almanzar, 1B/3B
27. Rafael Devers, 3B
28. Luis Diaz, RHP
29. Jamie Callahan, RHP
30. Chris Martin, RHP

31. Noe Ramirez, RHP
32. Alex Wilson, RHP
33. Mathew Price, RHP
34. Henry Ramos, OF
35. Heri Quevedo, RHP
36. Keith Couch, RHP
37. Pat Light, RHP
38. Cody Kukuk, LHP
39. Kuery De La Cruz, OF
40. Ty Buttrey, RHP

Describe the system/rankings in a haiku

The One Where I Exhibit Questionable Taste

Top heavy, great arms
Neat tattoos and weird haircuts
Would be my dream girl

The One Where I Take The Exercise Semi-Seriously

Set for a decade
Salem will be rough next year
Love, miss you Xander

Why'd you make your pick for Owens/Cecchini no. 3?

It’s mainly based on projection. Though I haven’t seen Owens truly working and locating all three pitches (fastball, changeup, curveball) in the same outing, I’ve seen it all separately and feel pretty confident that he can develop it into a usable three-pitch mix. Cecchini, on the other hand, seems to be closer to the finished product. His on-base and bat-to-ball abilities are both among the best in the system, and he’s getting more comfortable at third base, but it’s not a typical corner profile.

Tell us about one guy not in your top 40 who you think could jump into it next season.

I had outfielder Mike Meyers as No. 41, but I’m going to go with Miguel Celestino. He improved down the stretch out of the bullpen, and with a fastball that sits in the high 90s, there’s potential for some real impact. I had a few other bullpen guys ahead of him this year because they’re closer to being finished products, but none of them have the ceiling Celestino has.

Who did you think you were going to rank higher? Lower?

I think it’s fair to say I may have dropped some of the guys I haven’t seen (Ball, Denney, and especially Buttrey) a little too far. I won’t say I thought they’d be higher, but I really leaned towards the known quantities that I’ve seen, so that’s why they ended up there. Buttrey, in retrospect, is probably way low.

As for who I thought would be lower, I’m going with Brandon Workman. I’ve seen him pitch very well over the years, but the point of lists like this and evaluating minor-league prospects is to see their potential big-league contribution. We know what Workman’s can be, and that means that as long as he’s eligible, he shouldn’t be buried. It’s wild to think he hasn’t broken our top 10.

You were the high man on Bryce Brentz. Why's that?

I think we’ve reached a point where holding Brentz’ faults, such as his approach, against him is kind of pointless. I’m not sure he gets the chance to do it in Boston, but Brentz is probably a second-division regular whose streaky power will carry a team for a week or so at a time.

I’m also swayed by what I’ve seen him do in person. I’ve seen a lot of Brentz, but right after he was promoted to Salem two years ago, he was crushing balls out of Wilmington in a way people said they had never seen before. You don’t forget that kind of power.

You were also the highest on Sean Coyle. Why's that?

Coyle was just outside the top 10 coming into 2012, and after a disappointing start to that season, he kind of fell off the radar. But Coyle bounced back in the second half and carried it over into a monster first month of 2013. He’s going to have to hit at every level, given the profile, but I believe in the bat. No one should be surprised if he has an Anthony Ranaudo-esque “Oh yeah, he was good before he was hurt and he’s not hurt anymore” season next year.

We had a big disparity on Myles Smith. Why'd you rank him where you did?

I saw Smith in the Lowell season finale here in Aberdeen and was very intrigued by what I saw. He was sitting 93-94 and grabbed 96 mph in his first inning of work before settling at 91-93 in his final two frames, and flashed a swing-and-miss slider and an occasional changeup. The slider has serious potential, but he has a loose, live (and low mileage) arm that people should be excited by.

As a little inside baseball, after around the 20th slot, I used the Low A and Short-Season A pitchers as a baseline for the rest of the rankings. I haven’t seen all of them, but got a good look at almost everyone in Lowell this year and have seen a lot of the Greenville guys at some point. Simon Mercedes, who has top-level potential, and Smith are the two best of that group, in my opinion.

Pick one guy on the list and talk about why you ranked him where you did.

This list is heavily tilted towards guys who I’ve seen and gotten reports on, which explains why some players are way lower than the rest of the lists. I also didn’t take much statistical performance into play, but that’s not to say that someone like Mookie Betts’ breakout year didn't come into account. I was impressed in my brief look at him, but it was only two games. That said, I thought eight was about as high I could go on him. Betts swings hard when he gets his pitch and compliments that with the kind of speed to stretch balls into the gap to extra bases. He’s a good defender at second base, and could be an exciting player going forward.

Photo credit: Bryce Brentz, Deven Marrero, and Sean Coyle by Kelly O'Connor.

Jon Meoli is a Senior Columnist at SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMeoli.