Sox's elite prospects among baseball's best
World Series champs have nine players on MLB.com's Top 100 list
BOSTON -- Not only are the Red Sox coming off a World Series championship, but they are enjoying what could be the glory days of their farm system.
When MLB.com released its Top 100 Prospects list Thursday on MLB.com and MLB Network, Boston had nine players who represented that group. In addition, based on rankings awarding 100 points for the No. 1 overall prospect, 99 for No. 2 and so on down the line, the Red Sox were ranked behind only the Houston Astros.
The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis , who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch , only includes players with rookie status in 2014.
"This time of year is very exciting," said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. "I think you get past the holidays, you start thinking about Spring Training a little bit more -- especially when we have a bunch of guys who are really excited about, guys that we feel are really close to the Major Leagues."
It could be a continuation of 2013, when Xander Bogaerts and Brandon Workman were among the prospects who played visible roles in the World Series.
Shortstop Bogaerts, who is expected to make the jump this season from prospect to everyday player, is ranked second in the Top 100.
Lefty Henry Owens, one of a group of exciting young pitchers who will join the Red Sox for Spring Training, is ranked No. 30.
Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who will compete with Grady Sizemore to be Boston's starting center field, is ranked No. 33.
Though hard-throwing right-hander Allen Webster struggled with his command in his stints in the Majors last season, he's another Boston pitching prospect who should not be forgotten. He is No. 46.
Then there is third baseman Garin Cecchini, who has done nothing but hit since being drafted by the Red Sox, at No. 57.
"I think Garin has shown us a lot within his progression in High-A and Double-A last year, and then again in the [Arizona] Fall League," said Crockett. "He's got an excellent approach at the plate, and one that I think certainly could -- in short stints -- hold his own at any level. I think there is absolutely development left to be done on both sides of the ball -- offensively as he continues to learn his swing and hitting against more veteran pitching, and certainly on the defensive side."
Blake Swihart, taken out of high school in 2011, continues to impress with his left-handed bat and his swift adjustment to catching, something he never did until he went pro. He is No. 61.
"Blake really has continued to make a lot of progress on both sides of the ball, but particularly defensively," said Crockett. "I think we kind of recognized that with the Defensive Player of the Year. He's a tremendous athlete -- someone who has gotten a lot better behind the plate. He's got plenty of arm strength, and I think that athleticism is really starting to translate behind the plate.
"He took more leadership this year, and I think the leadership, the game-planning, the relationship with pitchers are things that he will continue to prioritize as someone who's kind of new to the position. And then I think offensively, the approach improved quite a bit this year but will continue to be a focal point for him. He's someone that is a very good hitter and feels like he can hit a lot of pitches."
Right behind Swihart at No. 62 is second baseman Mookie Betts, who has the type of athleticism that should allow him to expand to other positions if the Red Sox need him to.
"Actually, in high school, I played a lot of center field, a lot of shortstop and not as much second base," said Betts. "It's kind of weird how that happens. Hopefully my athleticism works out so I can play somewhere else [if need be]."
Right-hander Matt Barnes, a former ace at the University of Connecticut, continues to improve and will join Owens in Major League camp. He is No. 86 in the rankings.
"That's the first stepping stone any Minor Leaguer takes toward their dream of being able to play in the big leagues," said Barnes. "I'm very fortunate that I'm getting that opportunity this year. I'm going to continue to work hard and try and make an impact in Spring Training."
Boston's final prospect in the rankings is lefty Trey Ball at No. 96. He was a first-round selection in last June's First-Year Player Draft.