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SoxProspects News

April 4, 2014 at 8:01 AM

System Restart 2014, Pt. 5: Upper Minors Pitchers

Position in a Nutshell: In terms of near-MLB-ready pitching talent, the Sox are perhaps the deepest in the game.

Burning Question
What are the Red Sox realistically going to get out of the Workman/Webster/Ranaudo/De La Rosa/Britton group? Time for our annual “pump the brakes” chat. These five represent one of the best near-major league-ready groupings of pitchers in the game, if not the best. But that does not mean the group will definitely become the better part of a future Red Sox rotation plus a late-inning bullpen arm or two. As you will read below, all have questions. Fixing those issues will allow them to reach their ceilings as at least mid-rotation major league starters, while not doing so could lead all of them to become bullpen arms, and not necessarily late-inning ones.

Perhaps the best recent example of a similar assemblage of talent was the Orioles’ group of Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton. All four were ranked at least in the top 75 of Baseball America’s Top 100 in 2009 or 2010, and of the four, only Tillman looks to be a major league starter. That is not to say that the Red Sox group will face a similar fate, but something similar is within the range of reasonable results, particularly given that Tillman, Matusz, and Britton were all Top 30 prospects at one point, something nobody in this particular Sox group can boast quite yet.

Who to Watch
Top Prospect #1a: Allen Webster, Assignment: Pawtucket – Webster has the best raw stuff of any of the pitchers on this list. He has a solid four-pitch mix that can feature three plus-to-better pitches at times. Webster’s fastball works 92-95 mph usually, topping out at 97-98. The pitch shows late sink and life, but he can get out of sorts with his delivery and struggle to command the pitch. Webster’s changeup is generally cited as his next-best offering, showing plus-to-better potential. Webster throws the pitch 82-85 mph, and it has the potential to miss bats at the highest level. Webster also mixes in two breaking balls, a slider and a curveball. The slider is the more advanced of the two, showing late depth through the zone in the mid-80s. Webster’s curveball is the least refined of his pitches, but it can be effective when he throws it in counts to steal a strike. If Webster can refine his arsenal and improve his command, he profiles as a big league starter, and at some point this year he will likely get another shot to show what he can do in Boston.

Top Prospect #1b: Anthony Ranaudo, Assignment: Pawtucket – Finally healthy, Ranaudo came out in 2013 and put together an impressive statistical season in Portland and Pawtucket. Ranaudo has the frame and delivery that could play in a major league rotation, but his stuff limits his profile more to the back end of a rotation. Ranaudo mixes three pitches effectively: a low-90s fastball that has topped out in the mid-90s, a plus 78-81 mph curveball and an improving changeup. His fastball, however, does not always miss bats and flattens out up in the zone. The curve is a legit, major league out pitch, but his changeup does not project to be anything more than average. Ranaudo has some upside, but at the same time is polished enough to serve as a potential depth option should the need arise for another arm at some point this season.

Top Prospect #1c: Matt Barnes, Assignment: Pawtucket (DL)/Extended Spring Training – Though Barnes did not put together as great a 2013 season statistically as his 2012 breakout, his stuff still looked the same and his future projection did not change much. Barnes’s best pitch is his fastball, which works in the low-to-mid-90s. Last year, he struggled at times with his command, leaving the ball up in the zone and giving up loud contact. Barnes’s secondary pitches lag behind his fastball—both flash potential, but tend to be very inconsistent. His curveball is the better of the two at this point, showing two-plane break and tight rotation when he finishes the pitch. His changeup shows some arm-side fade, but he throws it with inconsistent arm speed. In game action last year, he showed he could miss bats with the change, and for Barnes to reach his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter, he will need to continue to develop the pitch, as he will need it to get left-handed hitters out. Barnes will get off to a late start this season due to shoulder soreness he experienced during spring training. He has resumed throwing in Fort Myers, but there is no timetable for his return.

Top Prospect #1d: Brandon Workman, Assignment: Boston – Workman showed his versatility last year, pitching in the big leagues both as a spot-starter and ending the year as one of the club’s primary set-up options. And therein lies the big question with Workman: Does he profile best as a starter or as a reliever? Coming into last season, the latter was the better bet, but Workman showed cleaner mechanics and a refined arsenal that now could potentially profile in a major league rotation. Workman has an advanced four-pitch mix, but no true out pitch. His fastball works in the low-to-mid-90s and he compliments it with a cutter, an inconsistent-but-improving curveball, and a changeup. His cutter is his best secondary offering, as he has excellent feel for the pitch and has shown the ability to command it as well. Though he is currently on the big league roster as a bullpen arm, Workman will presumably head back to Pawtucket and slot into the rotation when Craig Breslow is activated, likely this weekend.

On the radar
Rubby De La Rosa, Assignment: Pawtucket – Was very inconsistent in his comeback from Tommy John surgery in 2012, but flashed excellent raw stuff, including plus to plus-plus velocity and a plus changeup. This year could go a long way to determining his future. Will begin the year in the rotation, but he could move to the bullpen, where he has an arsenal with late-inning potential.
Drake Britton, Assignment: Pawtucket – After moving to the bullpen last year, Britton showed what he could do at the big league level. Back in Pawtucket, Britton is just biding his time and refining his arsenal until a big league spot opens up. Has the potential to be a seventh or eighth inning bullpen arm.

Alex Wilson, Assignment: Pawtucket – Back in Pawtucket for the third straight season, Wilson has the stuff to potentially pitch in the big leagues, but inconsistency and command have held him back, and he is falling behind on the depth chart
Noe Ramirez (pictured), Assignment: Portland – Raw stuff does not stand out, but funky delivery, solid command and the ability to change speeds have him on the path to be a potential major league reliever.
Miguel Celestino, Assignment: Portland – Tall and lanky with plus-plus velocity, but his fastball is straight. Hitters get a great look at it and he struggles to command the pitch. Has the raw stuff to pitch in the major leagues, but will need to take significant steps forward in order to reach his potential.

Among the upper minors group, the Red Sox are obviously quite flush, as discussed above.

SP (and piggyback starters)
Boston: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy, Clay Buchholz, Brandon Workman
Pawtucket: Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby De La Rosa, Jeremy Kehrt, Matt Barnes (DL), John Ely (DL)
Portland: Henry Owens, Keith Couch, Mickey Pena, Mike Augliera, Mike McCarthy
Salem: Brian Johnson, William Cuevas, Luis Diaz, Corey Littrell, Simon Mercedes, Justin Haley, Kyle Kraus
Greenville: Cody Kukuk, Jamie Callahan, Pat Light, Teddy Stankiewicz, Sergio Gomez, Mario Alcantara, Myles Smith, Jason Garcia (DL)
Greenville Taxi Squad: Ty Buttrey, Trey Ball (these players aren’t with Greenville yet, but we project them to join the team eventually.)
Lowell: Daniel McGrath, Randy Perez, Jake Drehoff, Edwar Garcia, Dioscar Romero, Keivin Heras, Willie Ethington
GCL: Jose Almonte, Jalen Williams, Dedgar Jimenez, Carlos Garcia, Yankory Pimentel, Luis Ramos, Javier Rodriguez
DSL: Daniel Gonzalez, Jhonathan Diaz, Enmanuel DeJesus, Carlos Caceres, Gerson Bautista, Algenis Martinez
60-day DL: Steven Wright
Long-term DL: Gabe Speier
Extended Spring Training: Wilfredo Boscan

RP (and spot starters)
Boston: Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Chris Capuano, Craig Breslow (DL)
Pawtucket: Drake Britton, Tommy Layne, Brayan Villarreal, Rich Hill, Alex Wilson, Dalier Hinojosa, Chris Resop
Portland: Noe Ramirez, Miguel Celestino, Michael Olmsted, Robby Scott, Matty Ott, Nate Reed, Jose Valdez, Pete Ruiz (DL), Aaron Kurcz (DL)
Salem: Madison Younginer, Kyle Martin, Kyle Stroup, Austin Maddox, Dayan Diaz, Matt Price (DL), Heri Quevedo (DL)
Greenville: Joe Gunkel, Jonathan Aro, Mike Adams, Jacob Dahlstrand, Raynel Velette
Lowell: German Taveras, Ellis Jimenez, Taylor Grover, Carlos Pinales, Rob Smorol, Oscar Perez
GCL: KJ Trader, Enfember Martinez, Pat Goetze, Victor Ramirez, Christian Perdomo, Jeffry Fernandez
DSL: Yeferson Ardiles, Samir El Halaby, Jose Espitia, Ritzi Mendoza, Ender Machuca, Hildernaro Requena, Darwinzon Hernandez, Shair Lacrus
Suspended: Francisco Tena

Photo Credits: Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Noe Ramirez by Kelly O'Connor.

Follow Director of Scouting Ian Cundall on Twitter @IanCundall

Follow Executive Editor Chris Hatfield on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield