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November 4, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Staff Top 60 Rankings, 2015: Matt Huegel

This week, members of the SoxProspects.com brass will be participating in the third year of our annual individual rankings series, posting their end-of-season Top 40 rankings and answering some questions about their lists. Our aggregate rankings are already out as the current site rankings, so that will provide some context for some of the questions each staffer was asked. Next up is Managing Editor Matt Huegel.

The Rankings:

1. Yoan Moncada, 2B
2. Rafael Devers, 3B
3. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
4. Manuel Margot, CF
5. Andrew Benintendi, CF
6. Javier Guerra, SS
7. Brian Johnson, LHP
8. Michael Kopech, RHP
9. Sam Travis, 1B
10. Michael Chavis, 3B

11. Deven Marrero, SS
12. Trey Ball, LHP
13. Luis Alexander Basabe, CF
14. Wendell Rijo, 2B
15. Logan Allen, LHP
16. Nick Longhi, 1B/RF
17. Pat Light, RHP
18. Williams Jerez, LHP
19. Mauricio Dubon, SS
20. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP

21. Luis Ysla, LHP
22. Marco Hernandez, SS
23. Ty Buttrey, RHP
24. Jonathan Aro, RHP
25. Yoan Aybar, CF
26. Carlos Asuaje, 2B
27. Dayan Diaz, RHP
28. Noe Ramirez, RHP
29. Garin Cecchini, LF/1B/3B
30. Bryce Brentz, LF/RF

31. Edwin Escobar, LHP
32. Kyle Martin, RHP
33. Austin Rei, C
34. Kevin McAvoy, RHP
35. Jalen Beeks, LHP
36. Ben Taylor, RHP
37. Travis Lakins, RHP
38. Jordan Procyshen, C
39. Henry Ramos, RF
40. Christopher Acosta, RHP

41. Chandler Shepherd, RHP
42. Victor Acosta, 3B/2B
43. Marc Brakeman, RHP
44. Sean Coyle, 2B/3B
45. Austin Glorius, RHP
46. Josh Ockimey, 1B
47. Kyri Washington, LF
48. Mike Meyers, LF
49. Jorge Marban, RHP
50. Gerson Bautista, RHP

51. Josh Pennington, RHP
52. Tate Matheny, OF
53. Yankory Pimentel, RHP
54. Kevin Steen, RHP
55. Jeremy Rivera, SS
56. Jake Cosart, RHP
57. Ben Moore, C
58. Jake Romanski, C
59. Roniel Raudes, RHP
60. Lorenzo Cedrola, CF

Let’s start brief: Describe the state of the system in a tweet-length 140 characters.
Top eight or nine prospects rival any team’s in the game, but thins quickly after that. Young talent in majors or close to it is as good as I can remember.

We’ve all been at this for a while. When you compare these rankings to what you’ve done in past years, what are your thoughts?
I think the top nine is as strong as any in recent years, if not stronger, despite the fact that so much talent graduated to the majors over the last couple season. I don’t think the group directly after those top nine is as weak compared to past years as it’s been said to be either. Looking at our end-of-season rankings from last year, I think Deven Marrero, Michael Chavis (pictured, above), and Luis Alexander Basabe, ranked 10-12 this year in the official site rankings, compare favorably to last year's trio of Garin Cecchini, Trey Ball, and Marrero at their respective points in time. After the top 20, there are many relievers, but I feel that the system actually has a bunch of interesting relievers who are worthy of being in the top 40, in contrast to past years. We’ve talked on the podcast about how the organization seems to be shifting pitchers into a relieving role more quickly over the last year or so, and it’s paid off with a strong group of rising bullpen arms. The back of the top 40 is a bit weaker than past seasons, but that can be owed to so many graduated prospects recently, which is never a bad thing.

Can you give us a player or two from outside your top 40 who you think could potentially rise next year? How about from the back half of the top 40?
I like Josh Pennington as a riser from outside the top 40. He was rated 401st by Baseball America coming out of the 2014 draft before undergoing Tommy John surgery shortly after the draft. This year he returned and had little trouble with Gulf Coast League batters, allowing 17 hits in 22 innings with a 0.82 ERA and 13 walks to 22 strikeouts. Director of Scouting Ian Cundall saw him down in the Fall Instructional League recently and was impressed, citing a strong fastball-curveball combo. With a fastball that comes in at 94-96, he could fit well into a bullpen role down the line, but just coming back from surgery, we don’t know the possible upside in his arm.

From the back half of my top 40 (40 on the nose, in fact), I’d go with Christopher Acosta. We really just don’t know what we have there yet, but he received a $1.5 million bonus in 2014 and was better after returning from injury in the Dominican Summer League this season. The bonus suggests big potential, but it was a bit disappointing that he could not dominate the DSL more for such a high-bonus guy, but stats in that league are near-meaningless, so we just have to wait and see on him.

Here’s your top 40 from last year. Where would you like to pat yourself on the back? Where did you screw up? What surprised you?
I’ll go ahead and give myself a pat on the back for having Mauricio Dubon (pictured, right) as my first name under potential risers for this season, though I had him at number 43 overall, so can’t exactly call myself a soothsayer. I was just a bit higher than consensus on Travis Shaw, which I feel like was a good call.

On the negative side, my biggest swing-and-miss was on Javier Guerra. I was afraid he would be the next all-glove, no-hit shortstop prospect who would tease potential but strike out too much at the plate. I rose on him during spring training after seeing him live, and hearing more from the scouts on him. The strikeouts did continue for him, but he shot up our charts largely because he just kept putting up offensive results at an age-advanced level to go along with his elite play defensively. As we’ve talked about on the podcast, we are still skeptical of his projection offensively, especially with regards to his power potential, but this is still more than I thought he would do.

I was also high on Jake Cosart based on his big arm. The arm is still there, but seemed to have issues on the mental side of the game this season, so he has fallen greatly based on our many scouting looks.

You’re the lowest on Marco Hernandez. Why is that?
I feel like I had Hernandez in the same tier as the rest of the rankers, I just had him more at the bottom of that group. I have nothing bad to say about Hernandez, I just think his ceiling is not much more than that of a utility guy. He hit really well this year, and I saw him make some hard contact in Pawtucket, but I think the high average in Portland was somewhat luck-driven with a .382 babip. He’s also probably not going to bring a lot to the table in terms of power and speed at the major league level. A utility player who can come up next season definitely has value, but I think is more replaceable than the potential upside offered by guys like Luis Ysla, Williams Jerez, and Stankiewicz. Dubon is a similar player, but I feel there is a little more upside than Hernandez there as well.

You’re the highest on Austin Rei. Wei is that?
(I see what you did there, well played.) I actually don’t feel like I’m that high on him, but more that the prospect-ranking pendulum has swung too far, too quickly away from him early in his career. We heard a lot of negative feedback on him from internal and external scouts, and admittedly, he did nothing to impress when I saw him in brief looks. That said, he suffered a UCL injury in his left thumb on Feb. 19 that was rumored to linger, and he was ranked as the 68th-best prospect in the draft by Baseball America. If he comes back next season and scouting reports are similar to what we saw and heard in Lowell, then I’ll be moving him down my list, but for now I’m erring on the side of believing past reports and the scouting time and effort the front office invested into him, putting him into a wait-and-see category. 

Photo credit: Michael Chavis and Mauricio Dubon by Kelly O'Connor

Matt Huegel is managing editor for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegel.