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October 2, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Staff Top 40 Rankings: Matt Huegel

This week, members of the SoxProspects.com brass are 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. Bringing you his list for Hump Day is Managing Editor Matt Huegel.

The Rankings:
1. Xander Bogaerts
2. Jackie Bradley Jr.
3. Garin Cecchini
4. Henry Owens
5. Blake Swihart
6. Allen Webster
7. Matt Barnes
8. Anthony Ranaudo
9. Trey Ball
10. Mookie Betts

11. Christian Vazquez
12. Manuel Margot
13. Brandon Workman
14. Drake Britton
15. Deven Marrero
16. Teddy Stankiewicz
17. Brian Johnson
18. Bryce Brentz
19. Alex Hassan
20. Jon Denney

21. Wendell Rijo
22. Luis Diaz
23. Rafael Devers
24. Jamie Callahan
25. Ty Buttrey
26. Dan Butler
27. Michael Almanzar
28. Sean Coyle
29. Steven Wright
30. Simon Mercedes

31. Alex Wilson
32. Henry Ramos
33. Pat Light
34. Cody Kukuk
35. Tzu-Wei Lin
36. Myles Smith
37. Sergio Gomez
38. Daniel McGrath
39. Keury De La Cruz
40. Heri Quevedo

Describe the system/rankings in a haiku.

Youth has developed:
Top-end position talent
Endless pitching depth

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

I would say these two were just about as even as any in my rankings. They are similar in that they both had big seasons and performed well, and both seem to have great baseball acumen, but I'm a bit concerned that neither has the highest ceiling. I obviously think both can be starters for the Red Sox which is clear based on my ranking, but Owens doesn't seem like a future ace-type to me, and Cecchini isn't a middle of the lineup guy. I did lean towards position players slightly in my rankings overall because I feel like they're more valuable to the system right now with strong pitching depth. In the end, I just get the feeling that Cecchini is the type of player that the team is going to want in its lineup everyday and will keep improving, including adding a bit more power to his offensive game.

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

One guy I had the trouble leaving off, and basically would have been 41, is Chris Martin (pictured). He's not exactly a high-upside guy who will jump in the rankings, but more someone I left off who I think could be a future contributor in the major leagues as a solid bullpen arm.

Nick Longhi is a guy that I couldn't find a spot for in the back part of my rankings who I think could really jump next year. He has high upside with the bat, but I just couldn't put him in over some other guys who have shown more professionally at this point. He was an over-slot bonus guy in this year's draft though, and definitely someone I could see developing into a high-level hitting prospect.

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

I thought I would end up ranking Cody Kukuk higher. He's been a guy I've had my eye on this year since seeing him pitch and talking to him in spring training. I was impressed with what I saw on the field and his maturity level in talking to him about moving on from a suspicion of DUI arrest in the spring of 2012. In following him this season, he had some pretty strong stretches, didn't give up much hard contact (.197 average/.609 OPS against on the season), and a high strikeout rate. Unfortunately, he also had some games where he couldn't find the plate, including six games where he walked five or more batters, and that final 6.8 BB/9 rate made me keep sliding him further down than I expected.

I would say Alex Hassan is a guy I wasn't expecting to rank in the top 20. It's not that I ranked him much higher than expected, but more that I ended up feeling a lot better about him than I thought I would. I feel his floor is high and he's going to be a major league bench player at least, especially now that he can play first base. He also improved his mechanics at the plate this year, which helps account for the increased power. Adding a little bit of power to his consistent improvement moving through the system makes me think of Daniel Nava and Kevin Youkilis, players who continued to improve and succeed because of their strong grasps of the strike zone. Obviously, those two are anomalies, but there are similarities in the approach leading to them making strides beyond what was predicted based on their natural ability. Having some natural power, which he has begun to tap into, will be key with Hassan's approach in order to make pitchers pay for mistakes, as we've seen others with great approaches fail for this reason.

You were the high man on Deven Marrero. Why's that?

Again, I tended to lean a bit towards position players when it was very close. We all know the glove is his best asset, and he showed solid hit tools in Salem for his first full professional season, outside of power. He's also been advanced aggressively by the Red Sox, being invited to major league camp in the spring, fresh out of college, and being promoted to Portland this season despite less-than-stellar hitting statistics. It's much like my argument with Jose Iglesias when I rated him comparatively high last winter, the offensive bar just isn't set that high for a strong defensive shortstop and I think his offense can get there.

You were by far the highest on Steven Wright. You lovin' the knuckleball?

I'm lovin' Wright's potential with the knuckleball; not sure I'd say the same about the pitch itself. Looking at it from an outsider's perspective, it seems the Red Sox value him pretty highly. First he was protected on the 40-man roster last offseason over other pitchers such as Josh Fields and Ryan Pressly, then this season he was given the chance to start a game for Boston after twice pitching masterfully in long relief (5 2/3 and then 3 scoreless innings in comeback victories). He was then a September call-up in the bullpen over guys like Alex Wilson (assuming he was healthy enough for consideration), for example. Though some pitchers I ranked below him have higher upsides, many will likely never even make their major league debut, something Wright accomplished this year.

In addition to his proximity to majors and small success there, he only began throwing the knuckleball full-time in 2011, and it is known to be hard to master and something that can seemingly click after years of practice. To me, he's really more like a 23- or 24-year-old in prospect terms. Lastly, he put up solid numbers as a starter in Pawtucket for most of the year, and though his walk rate could still use improvement (which is always something to watch with knuckleballers), it has gone down slightly over each of the past three seasons in which he's thrown the pitch.

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

Myles Smith is probably one of the guys I ranked that I had the least grasp on where exactly to put him. It's always tough with guys that have yet to perform much in the professional ranks and that our scouts have had very limited looks at, so my ranking was based mostly on upside. I like the sounds of his stuff, and the fact that he committed to pitching full-time somewhat later in his amateur career. With his natural athleticism I see room for growth, and he profiles well as a reliever if starting doesn't work out down the road. For me, he just hasn't proved it at the professional level yet, but has a chance to jump up significantly in the rankings next year with some professional success under his belt.

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

Heri Quevedo I ranked at 40, and considered ranking a few spots higher. He's an interesting guy who wasn't necessarily young for the High A level, but was pitching for the first time professionally. We heard solid first-hand reports about his stuff from Ian Cundall in the spring, then Jon Meoli this season, and though he started slow (as might be expected), he put up a 3.61 ERA and held batters to a .224 average against in just under 100 innings pitched following his first forgettable outing of the season. He also dealt with injury, but seemed to really excel after returning from a month-long DL stint on June 27. He will need to improve his control, but is another guy who could jump in the rankings next season with a year of professional experience.

Photo Credit: Christian Vazquez, Steven Wright, and Chris Martin by Kelly O'Connor.

Matt Huegel is Managing Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegelSP.