Blake Swihart is the Red Sox' top prospect, according to Baseball America. (365DigitalPhotography.com/Portland Sea Dogs)

Blake Swihart tops Baseball America's list of top 10 Red Sox prospects

October 29, 2014 - 6:13 am
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Looking for a catcher in the minors to whom to compare Red Sox top prospect Blake Swihart? "There isn't one," said one evaluator. Swihart -- an extremely athletic switch-hitter who shows well above-average defensive tools, the ability to hit the ball very, very hard on a fairly consistent basis (a skill that translates more often to doubles than homers given that he typically hits screaming liners instead of lofting the ball) and runs well heads the list of Baseball America's Top 10 Red Sox prospects for the 2015 season. (Disclaimer: I authored the list.) Given the low standards for offense behind the plate, and the fact that he has a chance to be well above-average in every phase of the game, the 22-year-old stands the best chance of perhaps any Red Sox prospect of being a perennial All-Star. Some rough edges remain in his game (as evidenced by the fact that he walked just twice and struck out 15 times in a year-end stretch in Pawtucket after being promoted following a standout run in Double-A Portland), but the combination of a fairly well-defined floor as a big league starter with a ceiling that suggests the potential to be one of the top starting catchers in the game makes Swihart the Sox' top prospect. (Note: Mookie Betts had too many big league at-bats to qualify for the list. Otherwise, he would have been the No. 1 prospect. #feats.) Here's a look at Baseball America's full top 10 list, with their 2014 performance lines and links to stories about the prospects on WEEI.com: 1) Blake Swihart, C - Age 22 Triple-A Pawtucket: 18 games, .261/.282/.377, 1 HR Double-A Portland: 92 games, .300/.353/.487, 12 HR Other: Threw out 46 percent of would-be base stealers. Catching On: Blake Swihart's accelerating development behind the plate Blake Swihart most difficult Red Sox prospect to trade Why Blake Swihart looks increasingly like an elite prospect Blake Swihart taking off the gloves 2) Henry Owens, LHP - Age 22 Triple-A Pawtucket: 6 GS, 38 IP, 3-1, 4.03 ERA, 10.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 Double-A Portland: 20 GS, 121 IP, 14-4, 2.60 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 The importance of Henry Owens On the clock? Making sense of Henry Owens' likely big league timetable 3) Rusney Castillo, OF - Age 27 MLB: 10 games, .333/.400/.528, 2 HR, 3 SB Prime Time: Why Red Sox saw Rusney Castillo as a Goldilocks opportunity Why the Red Sox' first $100,000 for Rusney Castillo has been money well spent Rusney Castillo likely done in Arizona, Puerto Rico in question due to thumb injury 4) Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP - Age 21 Double-A Portland: 6 GS, 37 1/3 IP, 3-1, 0.96 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 Double-A Bowie: 16 GS, 82 2/3 IP, 3-7, 4.79 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 Based solely on his performance with the Red Sox after being traded from the Orioles, Rodriguez likely would have graded as the best prospect in the Red Sox system. Those who saw him in Portland witnessed a pitcher with an explosive fastball that touched as high as 97 mph while sitting at 93-94, coupled with a changeup that some suggested was better than Owens' signature offering and a slider that, while currently average to slightly below, projects to improve. A couple of adjustments -- embracing working inside after primarily pitching away from batters while with the O's, using his changeup to left-handers -- showed a pitcher capable of executing pitches to all parts of the strike zone, with a chance to be a true impact pitcher. Of course, the impression from that performance needs to be measured somewhat by the fact that he'd gotten hammered with the Orioles' Double-A affiliate prior to the deal. Did Red Sox land their future ace at deadline? 5) Brian Johnson, LHP - Age 23 Double-A Portland: 20 GS, 118 IP, 10-2, 1.75 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 High-A Salem: 5 GS, 25 2/3 IP, 3-1, 3.86 ERA, 11.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 Brian Johnson's big league future draws closer Brian Johnson, pitcher of the year Brian Johnson's prospect helium Why Brian Johnson's prospect status may take off 6) Rafael Devers, 3B - Age 18 Rookie Level GCL Red Sox: 42 games, .312/.374/.484, 4 HR Dominican Summer League Red Sox: 28 games, .337/.445/.538, 3 HR He led two Red Sox levels in home runs as a 17-year-old making his professional debut. He's tremendously far from the big leagues, and so he doesn't really have a defined floor, but his ceiling -- based on his ability to drive the ball out to all fields in a fashion befitting a player 10 years older than the teenager -- is likely the highest of any Red Sox position player of the last decade. "It's a special bat in the aspect that he has home run power to right and he has home run power to left'€¦ He's got a gift to hit the ball the opposite way. he did it during the season," said GCL manager Tom Kotchman. "It doesn't matter what age you are if you're 30, let alone 17, if you have opposite field power. And he does have it." 7) Manuel Margot, OF - Age 20 High-A Salem: 16 games, .340/.364/.560, 2 HR, 3 SB Single-A Greenville: 99 games, .286/.355/.449, 10 HR, 39 SB 8) Matt Barnes, RHP - Age 24 MLB: 5 G, 9 IP, 0-0, 4.00 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 Triple-A Pawtucket: 23 Gs, 128 IP, 8-9, 3.95 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 9) Deven Marrero, SS - Age 24 Triple-A Pawtucket: 50 games, .210/.260/.285, 1 HR, 4 SB Double-A Portland: 68 games, .291/.371/.433, 5 HR, 12 SB 10) Garin Cecchini, 3B - Age 23 MLB: 11 games, .258/.361/.452, 1 HR Triple-A Pawtucket: 114 games, .263/.341/.371, 7 HR, 11 SB

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