Contributed by Ben Carsley
From fantasy studs like Hanley Ramirez and Jonathan Papelbon to role players like David Murphy and Hideki Okajima, the Red Sox have produced an abundance of fantasy-worthy players over the past ten years. While most of the real talent in Boston’s system is at the Single-A and Double-A levels, the Sox also have several prospects ready to make a splash in the upcoming season. The following breakdown offers fantasy owners all the information they need about Boston’s farm system in 2010 and beyond.
The Top Tier
Casey Kelly, RHSP: ETA, late 2011
Kelly is considered by many to be the Red Sox top prospect, as he is viewed as a safer bet to reach his ceiling than fellow prospect Ryan Westmoreland. Featuring a solid fastball, above-average curveball, and an improving changeup, Kelly was dominant as a starter in Low-A and still very good in High-A, walking only 1.5 batters per inning.
Once Kelly is a big leaguer, he has the chance to be a significant contributor to a fantasy staff as a second or third starting pitcher in a 10-team league. Kelly will probably not be a total strike out machine, but could be a Roy Oswalt-type pitcher, netting fantasy owners 170 strikeouts to go along with a sub-3.50 ERA, sub-1.50 WHIP, and 15-18 wins annually. The odds of Kelly being unclaimed in dynasty leagues are slim to none, but if he’s available, you should pounce.
Ryan Westmoreland, OF: ETA, 2012
Westmoreland has the highest upside of any Red Sox prospect, and is now ranked ahead of Kelly on some prospect lists. When healthy, there’s almost nothing Westmoreland can’t do on a baseball field. A true five-tool-threat, Westmoreland’s only red flag is his injury history, as he’s already suffered two significant shoulder injuries, limiting him to 223 at-bats last season.
Once he does reach the big leagues, Westmoreland has the potential to be a first round fantasy pick. His ceiling is a Grady Sizemore-type player, who could hit .290-30-100 with 30 stolen bases, annually. If he fills out more and slows down on the bases, he would still have top-3 round potential. Either way, Westmoreland is a must-have in dynasty leagues, and if he holds up for a whole season, he could easily be a top-10 fantasy prospect next year.
Lars Anderson, 1B: ETA, 2011
Yankee and Red Sox prospects are frequently victims of their own success and that may have been the case with Anderson in 2009. After a breakout 2008 season that had many Sox fans naming him the heir-apparent to David Ortiz, Anderson struggled mightily last year, hitting just .233-9-51 in Double-A with an abysmal .345 slugging percentage.
While many Boston fans will undoubtedly now write the young lefty off, his skill set remains impressive. If healthy, Anderson still has huge fantasy potential. Fully capable of hitting 30-plus home runs with a high average, Anderson’s upside is that of a Carlos Delgado-type player worthy of being drafted in the top 5 rounds of a draft. Those in dynasty leagues should hold on to Anderson and hope for a rebound in 2010. If he gets his career back on track, they will be handsomely rewarded.
Worthy of Mention: Jose Iglesias, SS: ETA, 2011
Don’t Forget These Future Fantasy Cogs
Michael Bowden, RHSP: ETA, 2010
Once considered the Red Sox future No. 4 starter, Bowden’s star faded considerably over the past season. Casual fans will look at his 9.56 ERA and immediately be turned off, but his minor league numbers were once again strong, and Bowden is still just 23 years old.
Bowden is sure to be up with the Red Sox at some point this season, either as an injury replacement or as a showcase for other teams. Those in AL-only leagues may want to take a late-round flyer on him. If he stays in the AL East, he’s unlikely to have appreciable fantasy value in standard 10-team leagues. If traded, however, especially to a National League club, he could turn in a Randy Wolf-like performance and sport a sub-4.00 ERA with 160 strikeouts.
Josh Reddick, OF: ETA, 2010
A similar player to former Red Sox outfielder David Murphy (but with more power), Reddick is a high-energy, medium-upside player who gets the most out of his considerable athletic abilities. With a good arm, above-average speed, and decent pop, the only thing Reddick needs to do to guarantee himself playing time is improve his selectivity at the plate, as his OBP dipped to .317 in 2009.
Reddick, who took 59 at-bats in the majors last year, was likely disappointed when the Sox traded for Jeremy Hermida, killing any chance he had to be the team’s fourth outfielder. Nonetheless, with the injury-prone JD Drew in right and the 38-year-old Mike Cameron in center,the odds of the Red Sox needing a fifth outfielder at some point during the season are very high. Reddick is not worth drafting right now, but should be picked up if any of Boston’s outfielders are going to miss significant time. Once in the majors for good, he could bat .280-20-70 with 15 stolen bases.
Dustin Richardson, LHRP: ETA, 2010
Richardson is a big, imposing lefty who, according to Baseball America, starred in the ESPN show, “Knight School” and nearly made Texas Tech’s basketball team as a walk-on. Fortunately for the Red Sox and fantasy owners alike, he decided to stick with baseball.
Richardson, who possesses three average-or-better pitches, was phenomenal in the minors last year, posting a 2.55 ERA and a K/9 rate of 11.68 between Double and Triple-A. He will compete for the final spot in the Red Sox bullpen and, even if he is initially sent back to the minors, will very likely see significant major league time this year. His fantasy value is rather limited, but he could pick up a few holds or vulture wins, all while providing good strike out numbers along the way. Consider him in deep AL-only leagues. If all goes well for Richardson, he could be the heir to Hideki Okajima as the Red Sox’ primary lefty reliever.
Worthy of Mention: Junichi Tazawa, RHSP: ETA, 2010
Looking Down The Line
David Renfroe, SS/3B: ETA, 2013
A young, power-hitting shortstop, Renfroe, who was Boston’s third round draft pick in 2009, will likely have to move to third base down the line. A four-tool player (he lacks plus speed), Renfroe could easily be a Top 10 prospect for the Red Sox next year. Offensively, his ceiling is that of a poor man’s Evan Longoria, who could hit .300-25-90. Those in deep dynasty leagues could do far worse than to fill out their team with Renfroe, whose professional approach should allow him to move quickly.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B: ETA, 2011
Just as dramatic as Lars Anderson’s fall was Rizzo’s rise to prominence in 2009. A gifted defensive first basemen, some, such as ESPN’s Keith Law, now rank Rizzo ahead of Anderson on the Red Sox organizational depth chart. While Rizzo cannot match Anderson’s fantasy potential, he’s not devoid of value himself. A lefty hitter with developing power, Rizzo’s easy swing could allow him to hit .300 with 20-plus homerun pop down the line. If Anderson continues to falter, his dynasty league owners could drop him in favor of Rizzo, who may be the better all-around player.
Derrick Gibson, 2B/SS/3B: ETA, late 2012
Whereas fantasy owners should pay attention to Renfroe and Rizzo for their power, Gibson needs to be mentioned for his speed. According to Baseball America, Gibson possesses “plus-plus” speed, and swiped 28 bags in 67 games in the New York-Penn league last season. Gibson is unlikely to ever possess the ability to hit for significant power, but for fantasy owners, any player capable of putting up a Chone Figgins-like line of a .300 batting average with 40-plus stolen bases is worth keeping track of. Jose Iglesias is pegged as the Sox shortstop of the future, but Gibson’s versatility should allow him to reach the majors relatively quickly.
Worthy of Mention: Ryan Kalish, OF: ETA, late 2011