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October 1, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Staff Top 40 Rankings, 2014: Ian Cundall

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. Next up is Director of Scouting Ian Cundall.

The Rankings:

1. Blake Swihart, C
2. Henry Owens, LHP
3. Rafael Devers, 3B
4. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
5. Manuel Margot, OF
6. Brian Johnson, LHP
7. Michael Chavis, SS/3B
8. Matt Barnes, RHP
9. Garin Cecchini, 3B/OF
10. Trey Ball, LHP

11. Edwin Escobar, LHP
12. Deven Marrero, SS
13. Michael Kopech, RHP
14. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP
15. Sean Coyle, 2B/3B
16. Wendell Rijo, 2B
17. Sam Travis, 1B
18. Javier Guerra, SS
19. Nick Longhi, OF/1B
20. Simon Mercedes, RHP

21. Travis Shaw, 1B
22. Bryce Brentz, OF
23. Henry Ramos, OF
24. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP
25. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
26. Heath Hembree, RHP
27. Noe Ramirez, RHP
28. Luis Diaz, RHP
29. Steven Wright, RHP
30. Jake Cosart, RHP

31. Christopher Acosta, RHP
32. Dan Butler, C
33. Alex Hassan, OF/1B
34. Dalier Hinojosa, RHP
35. Drake Britton, LHP
36. Cody Kukuk, LHP
37. Aaron Kurcz, RHP
38. Jamie Callahan, RHP
39. Carlos Asuaje, Util
40. Josh Ockimey, 1B

You’ve got 140 characters - describe the system in a tweet-length summary.

Top heavy, especially with arms and some intriguing guys at the lower levels, but not a lot in between.

Manuel Margot/Rafael Devers/Eduardo Rodriguez were the highest-ranked players we had ranked differently at 3-to-5. Why’d you order these the way you did?

I ordered these three Devers, Rodriguez, Margot, but you could make a strong case for them in any order. First, throughout baseball these days—and especially in the Red Sox system—there is a lack of true power hitters. Devers has the chance to be one of the rare prospects who can hit both for average and power. With that potential and his ceiling that is enough to outweigh the risk and thus he gets the three spot for me. Next, left-handed starters are at a premium these days, so although Rodriguez got off to a rough start this season, part of which could be attributed to a knee injury suffered early in the year, he has looked like a different pitcher since joining the Red Sox. His fastball returned to the 92-94 mph range with reports of him touching as high as 97 mph after the trade. His secondaries also showed better with the Red Sox, thus a potential arsenal of a plus-to-better fastball and two at-least-average secondaries in the upper minors. Finally, Margot greatly exceeded expectations between Greenville and Salem, showing off the potential to impact the game both offensively and defensively, but when it came down to it, the offensive potential of Devers and the combination of upside and proximity to the big leagues for Rodriguez gave them a slight nod over Margot. I still think Margot could have some trouble as the pitching he faces improves, and I am still not sure how much power he actually projects to hit for.

Who, not in your top 40, do you see as a potential riser next year?

Kevin McAvoy could easily push his way into the top 20 discussion if he continues to pitch like he did in Lowell. Though he doesn’t have the highest ceiling, what McAvoy can do is throw quality strikes and generate a lot of weak contact on the ground. McAvoy’s fastball sits in the low-90s, but he can touch higher at times. The pitch shows plus sink and when down in the zone it is very difficult to square up. His secondaries need improvement, but the fastball alone will carry him, especially early in his career.

Here’s your top 40 from last year. Where would you like to pat yourself on the back? Where did you screw up?

Obviously you're going to get some calls right and some wrong, as these lists are only a snapshot in time based on the information at hand. I’m pretty happy overall with my calls, especially being the highest on Blake Swihart, Rafael Devers, and Christian Vazquez, although I probably wasn’t high enough on Vazquez based on his defensive ability. Also, I snuck Nick Longhi onto the end of my top 40, and based on what he showed in Lowell this year, that turned out to be a good call. On the other hand, I was too down on Sean Coyle after last season especially based on what he showed he could do when he is healthy. I was too high on Myles Smith, as I underestimated how much work he needed, especially with his delivery.

You’re the lowest guy on Anthony Ranaudo on our staff. Why so?

I’ve seen Ranaudo many times since he entered the system, and though the numbers have generally been good, he has never been someone I projected as anything more than a back-end starter. Others in the industry are even more down on him than me and don’t see anything more than a reliever. This year, he got an extended run at the big league level and he showed why people are concerned, striking out only 15 batters in almost 40 innings and allowing 10 home runs. Ranaudo doesn’t miss enough bats with his fastball and lacks a true third pitch. Furthermore, his command is average at best, and he pitches up in the zone too often with a straight fastball. As a result, his overall arsenal and profile as currently constituted isn’t one I see having great success at the big league level, thus the low ranking.

You’re particularly low on Carlos Asuaje. Why so?

I like Asuaje as a player and think he could have a big league career, but I don’t see an impact player and think he is more of a utility player than even a second-division starter. Though his numbers this year seem to indicate a run producer, that isn’t Asujae’s game, and he was old for the level this year as a college guy starting in Greenville. He projects more as a contact-oriented hitter with gap power who can play multiple defensive positions. If he continues to show power as he gets into the upper minors, I’ll have to reevaluate, but I don’t think he will show this type of power in the upper minors, and without that, he is a contact hitter who can play multiple positions. Solid prospect and a great guy to have in your organization, but not any sort of impact guy.

Open floor - pick one more thing on the list to expound upon.

I mentioned earlier there was not a lot in between the upper minors and the short-season/complex levels, and I think that goes back to the big misses early in the 2012 and 2013 drafts. In 2012, Pat Light in the supplemental first round and Ty Buttrey in the fourth round both received over a million dollars, but both have really struggled to the point where neither is in the top 40. Similarly, in 2013, Jon Denney received the third-highest bonus of any Sox draftee, and he has barely played for off-the-field reasons. Those are three picks that the organization could not afford to miss on based on the new draft rules that restrict their ability to spend big on later-round, high upside guys.

Photo credit: Matt Barnes, Bryce Brentz and Kevin McAvoy by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.