By BRENDAN McGAIR
For those minor-league followers wishing to get a better grasp of the upcoming season, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the 2012 Minor League Baseball Analyst (MLBA).
Co-authored by Rob Gordon and Jeremy Deloney, Minor League Baseball Analyst offers a refreshing take on the minor leagues based on two of the gameâ€™s most keen principles â€“ sabermetrics and scouting. Blend the two together and what you have is a 146-page manual that serves as a sneak peak for 2012.
The book is broken down into several sections with a hearty portion devoted to analyzing up-and-coming hitters and pitchers. There are also passages devoted to those who stood out, both good and bad, at the 2011 Arizona Fall League (no Red Sox appeared on either list). MLBA did think highly of Bostonâ€™s 2011 first-year player draft haul with promising players such as pitchers Matt Barnes and catcher Blake Swihart helping in receiving a grade of A.
Compared to other organizationâ€™s farm systems, Boston received an overall grade of B-plus based on marks in the following categories: hitting (A-minus), pitching (B-minus), top-end talent (B) and depth (B-plus). The Red Sox were one of five organizations awarded an all-encompassing B-plus mark with the highest marks belonging to the Padres (A), Rays (A-minus), Nationals (A-minus) and Rockies (A-minus).
Of course no in-depth minor-league report would be complete without some sort of ranking. Now in its seventh year, Minor League Baseball Analyst compiled a top 100 ranking with Red Sox farm hands Will Middlebrooks (No. 51), shortstop Zander Bogaerts (No. 79) and pitcher Anthony Ranaudo (No. 92) making the cut.
In addition each author composed a top 100 list of their own. Gordon included Bogaerts (No. 62), Middlebrooks (No. 78), Ranaudo (No. 95) and catcher Ryan Lavarnway (No. 96). As further proof that no two lists are ever identical, Deloneyâ€™s rankings include Middlebrooks (No. 31), Ranaudo (No. 81), outfielder Bryce Brentz (No. 94) and Bogaerts (No. 99).
The section devoted to the top prospects in each organization included 15 names, several of who played for the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2011. MLBA named Middlebrooks as Bostonâ€™s top prospect, a distinction he also received from Baseball America. Thereâ€™s a position-by-position breakdown along with a skills assessment (best power, fastball, etc.). We donâ€™t want to give away all the secrets, hence why the plug to plunk down $20 on something that will surely get you in a healthy baseball frame of mind.
Still, itâ€™s worth noting some of the takes written up, particularly in relation to several Red Sox farmhands who figure to grace the inside of McCoy Stadium this season. Here are some examples:
Lars Anderson, first baseman, grade of 8C (eight means solid regular, C means 50 percent probability of reaching potential). â€śHas the strength and bat speed for plus power but hasnâ€™t realized it and struggles with LHP,â€ť is a sample of the quick scouting report written up by MLBA. Anderson hit .242 against Class AAA lefties in 2011.
Felix Doubront, pitcher, grade of 7B (seven means average regular, B means 70 percent of probability of reaching potential). The scouting report notes that Doubront could end up as a starter or reliever with Boston, something that the team will no doubt explore during spring training.
Jose Iglesias, shortstop, grade of 8C (eight means solid regular, C means 50 percent probability of reaching potential). Stop if you havenâ€™t read this before: â€śDefensive standout who struggles with the bat currently but glovework gives him significant value.â€ť For further reading: http://www.woonsocketcall.com/node/4483.
Ryan Lavarnway, catcher, grade of 7A (seven means solid regular, A means 90 percent probability of reaching potential). Lavarnway is the reverse of Iglesias in that his offense overshadows his defense, which MLBA notes in writing â€śhis receiving, blocking and agility arenâ€™t up to snuff.â€ť
Will Middlebrooks, third baseman, grade of 8B (eight means solid regular, B means 70 percent probability of reaching potential). MLBA lauds the power and defense Middlebrooks brings to the table while noting that he â€ścould stand to draw more walks.â€ť Last season he drew 26 free passes in 116 games.
Alex Wilson, pitcher, grade of 8C (eight means solid regular, C means 50 percent probability of reaching potential).
In a future post, weâ€™ll take a look at some of the promising Red Sox prospects in the lower levels in addition to those with Rhode Island ties.