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November 3, 2015 at 6:30 AM

Staff Top 60 Rankings, 2015: Mike Andrews

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 Site Founder and Editor-in-Chief Mike Andrews.
The Rankings
1 Yoan Moncada, 2B
2 Anderson Espinoza, RHP
3 Rafael Devers, 3B
4 Manuel Margot, CF
5 Andrew Benintendi, CF
6 Javier Guerra, SS
7 Michael Kopech, RHP
8 Brian Johnson, LHP
9 Sam Travis, 1B
10 Deven Marrero, SS

11 Luis Alexander Basabe, CF
12 Michael Chavis, 3B
13 Logan Allen, LHP
14 Trey Ball, LHP
15 Marco Hernandez, SS
16 Mauricio Dubon, SS
17 Wendell Rijo, 2B
18 Nick Longhi, 1B/RF
19 Luis Ysla, LHP
20 Williams Jerez, LHP

21 Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP
22 Ty Buttrey, RHP
23 Noe Ramirez, RHP
24 Jonathan Aro, RHP
25 Pat Light, RHP
26 Edwin Escobar, LHP
27 Dayan Diaz, RHP
28 Garin Cecchini, LF/1B/3B
29 Carlos Asuaje, 2B
30 Yoan Aybar, CF

31 Kevin McAvoy, RHP
32 Jalen Beeks, LHP
33 Ben Taylor, RHP
34 Austin Glorius, RHP
35 Travis Lakins, RHP
36 Marc Brakeman, RHP
37 Christopher Acosta, RHP
38 Bryce Brentz, LF/RF
39 Kyle Martin, RHP
40 Jordan Procyshen, C

41 Chandler Shepherd, RHP
42 Mike Meyers, LF
43 Yankory Pimentel, RHP
44 Austin Rei, C
45 Gerson Bautista, RHP
46 Victor Acosta, 3B/2B
47 Josh Pennington, RHP
48 Lorenzo Cedrola, CF
49 William Cuevas, RHP
50 Jake Romanski, C

51 German Taveras, RHP
52 Ben Moore, C
53 Jose Almonte, RHP
54 Jake Cosart, RHP
55 Josh Ockimey, 1B
56 Kyri Washington, LF
57 Denyi Reyes, RHP
58 Karsten Whitson, RHP
59 Sean Coyle, 2B/3B
60 Tzu-Wei Lin, SS

Let’s start brief: Describe the state of the system in a tweet-length 140 characters.
The top 10 is probably the strongest since 2006. Prospects 11-30 leave a lot to be desired. I like the focus on blue chippers over depth.

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?
Like I said above, the top 10 is probably the strongest since 2006, when we ranked Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buchholz, and David Murphy, after graduating Jonathan Papelbon earlier in the season. I think all of the current top five are highly likely to be impact players, while one or two of Javier Guerra, Michael Kopech, Brian Johnson, and Sam Travis should develop into regular major leaguers. But after you get past Travis at #9, there’s a pretty steep drop. You’re looking at a group of high-ceiling/low-floor lottery tickets, likely utility bench guys, or low-leverage relievers.

I appreciate that the team seems to have shifted its focus to landing a few blue-chip talents rather than spreading out the bonus wealth to a bunch of "maybes," hoping that a few will pan out. Somewhat corresponding with that, I think I’ve had what I would consider a fairly dramatic shift in the way I think about ranking prospects over the past year or so, focusing much more on ceiling and less on projection than I had previously. I'm not sure the other guys agreed with me, and it played out a bit with where we were trying to rank Anderson Espinoza at the end of July.

I've historically ranked players based on my MLB projection – I’d ultimately rank who I thought would end up having the better major league career above a high-ceiling player who I thought had less than a 50 percent chance of making any major league impact. Under that line of thinking, I would have ranked Tommy Layne higher than Luis Alexander Basabe (pictured, above). Over the past year, maybe two, I’ve been shifting away from that line of thinking and starting to focus on ceiling and valuing any projections at or around replacement level (1 WAR or below) as essentially zero. Whether the player flamed out in Double-A and never made it to the majors or played five years at exactly replacement level, they'd both be valued at zero. (Layne now has a 1.6 career WAR, so maybe he’s not the best example anymore, but you get the drift – replace him with Heath Hembree, Noe Ramirez, Dan Butler, etc.). But under my new thought process, Basabe is more valuable because he has a much better chance of becoming better than replacement level, even though he also has a significantly higher bust potential. Even if I was betting, I'd say it's more likely than not that Layne ends up with a better career WAR than Basabe, even if it ends up being 3 to 0. But Basabe has a better chance of turning into an impact player, so even if those chances are low, I'll take Basabe.

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?
Gerson Bautista. I had him at 45. He’s flying a bit under the radar right now. After having been suspended for the entire 2013 season for testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol, he posted a 0.96 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in the DSL in 2014. He held opponents to a .196 batting average over 52 innings in the Gulf Coast League this year, charging his fastball up to 100 mph in the process. He’s got some control issues and his secondary stuff is extremely inconsistent. If he can reign in his slider or changeup to even be a fringe-average pitch and hone his control just a touch, you’re looking at a potential setup man.  Or, more likely, somebody that the Red Sox package as the third player in a trade deadline deal in 2016.  Book it. 

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?
Looking back, that list looks pretty good overall, especially the top 6. I don’t think there’s a ton I would change. That said, I’ll take my lashes for ranking Anthony Ranaudo at #7. I consistently praised him to Ian Cundall and Chris Hatfield behind the scenes, declaring him a future back-of-the-rotation starter who has the potential to fix his flaws, and they told me I was out of my mind. Well, maybe I was out of my mind. Ranaudo was traded to Texas for bullpen flotsam shortly thereafter and never took off with the Rangers in 2015, although he was injured for a large portion of the season. Maybe he’ll prove me right in 2016 by righting the ship with his command and secondary stuff, but I’m no longer counting on it, and I imagine the Rangers aren’t either.

As for a surprise, I’m actually kind of shocked that Drake Britton was still in the system last year at this time. It feels like he’s been gone for a couple years when, in fact, the Cubs just claimed him off waivers in February. Maybe I’ve had a long year?

You’ve been the lowest on a trio of PawSox in Garin Cecchini, Sean Coyle, and Bryce Brentz all year. Looks like we’ve caught up to you on Cecchini, but you’re still low on Coyle and Brentz. What’s the thought there?

Cecchini hasn’t hit since 2013, which is probably why we’re all in agreement. To me, Coyle (pictured, left) is on the same exact path, even though he hit well in Portland in 2014. You’d think after six years in the system, he’d stop trying to hit a home run in each at-bat. He has also missed a ton of development time due to injuries, which could be a recurring issue due to his size and style of play. If he’s still with the club in 2016, I see him continuing to be challenged by Triple-A pitching, which doesn’t bode well for his future in the majors. As for Brentz, I actually haven’t given up on him yet. I think you could see him have a one or two Brandon Moss-in-2013 seasons at some point if he is ever able to stay healthy. In the event that Boston goes into the 2016 season with an outfield rotation of only Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Rusney Castillo, and Brock Holt, I have to imagine Brentz could get a chance for some major league playing time at some point next season. In the event that’s not the case, Brentz will more than likely be in another organization next year at this time.

Another one we’ve been talking about internally all year: what did Henry Ramos (ranked #68 on your full list) ever do to you?

First and foremost, he can’t stay healthy – he’s missed months and months (years?) of development time due to injuries. Secondarily, even if he was able to stay healthy, I just don’t see it. The hype to Ramos was always that he would turn his athleticism into something greater, and I don’t think that’s happened. While his arm and speed might be roughly average, I don’t think he has another major league tool – his hit tool, power, approach, and defense are all fringe at best. One might argue that he’s still 23 in Double-A, but so was Heiker Meneses. If everything falls right for Ramos, he stays injury free, and re-signs with the club next off-season, you’re still looking at a player with the ceiling of Darnell McDonald. That doesn’t excite me all that much.

Photo credit: Luis Alexander Basabe and Sean Coyle by Kelly O'Connor

Mike Andrews is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SoxProspects.com. Follow him at @MikeAndrewsSP.