October 24, 2013 at 8:00 AM
SoxProspects.com is counting down its season-end top 40 prospects, recapping their seasons and previewing what's ahead in 2014. You can find all of the entries in this year's series here.
#14: Manuel Margot, OF
2013 Team: Lowell Spinners
Final Stats: 216 PA, .270/.346/.351, 1 HR, 8 2B, 22 BB, 40 K, 18 SB
Season in Review: Following a successful professional debut in 2012, Margot was assigned to the short-season Lowell Spinners for the first state-side assignment of his young career. While he did manage to get a hit in 12 out of his first 15 games, he got out to a relatively nondescript start, hitting .254/.343/.307 through July 24, when a hamstring injury laid him up. After a DL stint, he returned on August 16 with a vengeance, showing glimpses of his potential with a .447/.475/.658 line over his first eight games back. He came back down to earth to close the year (.121/.216/.152 in his final nine games), but while his overall numbers don’t necessarily pop, the 18-year-old held his own during an aggressive assignment, especially when one considers he faced older pitchers in all but two plate appearances this season. Playing with older competition did affect his game in other ways as well: after stealing 33 bases on 42 attempts last year, he had just a 68 percent rate this year, swiping 19 in 28 attempts. He also showed little power—his lone home run was of the inside-the-park variety.
First-Hand Report and 2014 Outlook: Though the statistical performance wasn’t there this season Margot, his tools really stood out and he established himself as one of the most exciting Red Sox prospects in the lower minors. Margot is a quick twitch athlete, who should be able to physically mature without losing athleticism. He has moderate projection with his frame, and will need to add strength in order to actualize his offensive tools. Margot’s defense is extremely advanced for his age. He will definitely stay in center field and has the ability to impact the game as a plus defender. He already has strong instincts, getting great reads and tracking the ball well. His arm is fringe-average at this point, but could slightly improve as he gains strength. Margot is a plus runner presently, and his speed plays both in the field and at the plate. At the plate, Margot has potential, but has a ways to go. He has a fluid swing, quick hands and plus batspeed. Margot’s pitch recognition skills are surprisingly good for someone his age, but he struggles at times to pick up the spin on breaking balls and has a tendency to be over-aggressive early in the count. He also gets good separation in his stride and when he squares the ball up you can see that in the future he will have some power. Presently, his power grades as well below average, but with added strength he could eventually have fringe-average to average power. Barring an unforeseen setback, Margot will get his first taste of full-season ball with Greenville. With a strong performance there he could establish himself on the national prospect radar and vault comfortably into the top 10 prospects in the system. – Ian Cundall
Christian Vazquez, C
2013 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
Final Stats: 403 PA, .287/.375/.391, 5 HR, 19 2B, 48 BB, 44 K
Season in Review: Always receiving rave reviews for his defensive abilities, Vazquez again had a very strong season behind the plate, throwing out 46% of basestealers, topping his career best of 41% set in 2010. At the plate, he had his best season in the system in terms of getting on base, setting a career high mark with a .375 on-base percentage. As has been the case for him, he proved to be very streaky: After starting the year 0 for 16, he had his first stretch of success from April 10 to May 22, hitting .337/.439/.542 in 99 plate appearances over 25 games, walking 14 times and striking out just 12 times. He went into another prolonged slump over his next 12 games, getting just two hits in 49 plate appearances, but he got things together heading into the Eastern League All-Star Break and didn’t look back, hitting .348/.413/.424 over his final 49 Double-A games before a very late call-up to Pawtucket for their playoff run. This period included a 12 game hitting streak that saw him hit .429 from July 31 to August 16. One key for Vazquez was a significant decrease in strikeouts, reducing them from 79 in 2012 to 44 this season. His strong defensive performance in the first half earned Vazquez a spot on the mid-season Eastern League All-Star Team, and buoyed by his strong second-half, he also went on to be named Portland’s team MVP, and earn a nod as a SoxProspects.com All-Star.
First-Hand Report and 2014 Outlook: Vazquez doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but the floor is high and he profiles as a future major leaguer. Vazquez has a solid catcher’s frame and is sturdily built, especially in his lower half. At the plate he has a direct swing, but can get tied up by velocity inside, as he only has average batspeed. He does a good job making contact and has made strides with his approach, specifically in recognizing secondary pitches. Defense is where Vazquez excels, with his arm and ability to control the running game. Vazquez has good footwork and a quick release, combined with a plus arm. In game action, he consistently pops under 1.9 seconds on throws to second base, and has been timed under 1.8 seconds on occasion. His receiving skills have improved, but at times he gets a little sloppy, especially with runners on base, leading to passed balls or the occasional errant throw. Regardless, as a whole his defensive skill set profiles as plus at the major league level, with the ability to control the running game and throw out even the best basestealers. As for next year, the Red Sox essentially have four catchers for three spots—backup catcher in Boston, two spots in Pawtucket—in David Ross, Ryan Lavarnway, Dan Butler, and Vazquez, but although one will likely need to go, it is not likely to be Vazquez. He will likely break camp in Pawtucket, with a strong chance to make his big league debut sometime next season. – Ian Cundall
Picture Credit: Manuel Margot and Christian Vazquez by Kelly O'Connor