The Red Sox haven’t looked so hot in New York this weekend. But overall, they still look pretty good. As it stands now, the team is 17-13 and tied for first place in the AL East. The offense can score in bunches, the bullpen and rotation are mostly improved (OK, David Price kinda sucks), and the team seems to be playing with a revamped energy.
Hell, entering Sunday’s game in New York, the Sox have the third-best defense in all of baseball, and have more steals than any team in the MLB with 24.
It will be tough for anyone at Fenway tonight to top this grab by Jackie Bradley Jr. pic.twitter.com/paZCyFeWo4
— Ian Browne (@IanMBrowne) April 27, 2016
But none of those factors represent the biggest reason that fans should be excited about how this Red Sox team will look once October rolls around. Perhaps more than any other team, and more than any year in recent memory, the Red Sox are in a unique position to fill any need they may have for the second half of the season.
It’s been a while since the Sox have made a big splash before the July trade deadline. Outside of the 2013 World Series year — when they traded for Jake Peavy — the Red Sox have primarily been out of contention in three out of the last four seasons.
But this year could be very different.
— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) April 28, 2016
Armed with a farm system that still ranks in the top-10 in baseball, per ESPN’s Keith Law, the Red Sox have all the resources necessary to add a major piece for the stretch-run. And with Dave Dombrowski already showing he’s not afraid to be aggressive, coupled with the urgency to perform in David Ortiz’s final season, there’s a good chance that fans shouldn’t get too attached to some of the team’s top prospects.
Areas of need can pop up at any point in the season. Rick Porcello and Steven Wright have looked great, but what if they drop off? What if the pitchers in Pawtucket still aren’t ready to be regular contributors in the big leagues?
Injuries are always a concern, especially with a handful of players on the roster that are well into their thirties. And what if some of the team’s young players start to fade as the season wears on?
These are issues that every team faces — successful or not — but most don’t have the luxury of being able to fill any void, without making significant subtractions to their Major League roster.
While many of the team’s prospects have been promoted in recent seasons — or traded, in the cases of Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra — the Red Sox still have a wealth of top prospects at every position on the diamond. And with many of these positions currently occupied in Boston by veterans with large contracts, a lot of these prospects would seem to be expendable.
Have a look at the Red Sox’ current roster depth by position, with prospect rankings via MLB.com’s prospect rankings. Some players are listed at multiple positions, while some no longer have prospect rankings, as they already have big league experience. There are no prospects listed outside the Red Sox’ top-15.
Big League Starter – Hanley Ramirez
Prospect Depth – Sam Travis (Red Sox #7, MLB #10 1B)
Big League Starter – Dustin Pedroia
Prospect Depth – Yoan Moncada (Red Sox #1, MLB #5), Mauricio Dubon (Red Sox #12), Marco Hernandez (Red Sox #13)
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) May 8, 2016
Big League Starter – Xander Bogaerts
Prospect Depth – Deven Marrero (Red Sox #9) Dubon, Hernandez
Big League Starter – Travis Shaw, Pablo Sandoval (Well, Kind of)
Prospect Depth – Rafael Devers (Red Sox #2, MLB #14) Michael Chavis (Red Sox #10)
— Jeff Archer (@jeffarcherSport) April 11, 2016
Big League Starter – Christian Vazquez, Ryan Hanigan
Prospect Depth – Blake Swihart (Former Red Sox #1, MLB #1 C)
Big League Starters – Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Brock Holt, Chris Young
Prospect Depth – Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox #3, MLB #22), Rusney Castillo, Luis Basabe (Red Sox #8)
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) May 8, 2016
Big league rotation – David Price, Rick Porcello, Clay Buchholz, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly
Prospect Depth – Anderson Espinoza (Red Sox #4, MLB #35), Henry Owens (Former Red Sox #1 P) Michael Kopech (Red Sox #5), Brian Johnson (Red Sox #6) Pat Light (Red Sox #15)
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) April 18, 2016
Out of all the prospects listed above, only Moncada, Devers, Benintendi, and Espinoza could be considered “elite” or “untouchable.” Bentintendi and Moncada, in particular, have been red-hot in High-A Salem, and may not be far off from promotions to to Double-A Portland.
But this is Dave Dombrowski we’re talking about. And, for better or worse, the Red Sox have many of these positions filled for at least the next few years.
Fun game called “Stretch Yoan Moncada’s Current Production over 162 Games”:
.338/.474/.446, 0 HRs, 32 2Bs, 16 3Bs, 73 RBI, 130 SB#RedSox
— Joon Lee (@joonlee) April 30, 2016
The most likely candidates to be moved are Swihart, Devers, Owens, and Johnson. The Red Sox have clearly shown a commitment to Christian Vazquez, and Moncada may very well end up at third base, leaving Devers and Swihart expendable.
Devers and Swihart are considered premiere hitting prospects at their respective positions, and a combination of either of those two, along with Owens or Johnson, and perhaps a someone off the big league roster, could bring a legitimate all-star caliber pitcher to Boston. Or an all-star at any position, for that matter.
Beyond the top-15, the Red Sox have additional quality prospects at every position, which are often the types extra pieces necessary to make a big deal happen.
Again, much of this is predicated on the Red Sox remaining in contention through the end of July. In their current state, they don’t look championship-ready. But they certainly look like they’ll be in the thick of the playoff race, which could be enough for Dombrowski to pull the trigger.
The team, as well as the fans, want to see the Red Sox succeed in David Ortiz’s final season. Adding a big piece at some point this season is both possible and probable.
Better yet, if none of this ever comes to fruition, the alternative is that some of these young players get promoted either this season or beyond, which is a pretty fun consolation.
But when the July 31 trade deadline approaches, the Sox may not have to make a deal, but you can sure bet that they’ll want to, and they probably will.