Organizational Rankings: Current Talent – Boston

The Boston Red Sox have, by most projection systems, the second best current talent in the league. Their financial advantage, ability to to value players and commitment to their farm system has left them with this amazing current talent, and, thus, a solid chance at making the playoffs and winning the World Series.

On the position player side there is not a below-average player to be seen. The squad is lead by a pair of up-the-middle superstars, Victor Martinez and Dustin Pedroia: both good bats at premium defensive positions. Kevin Youkilis, who in the past two years added power to his existing walk- and defense-based skill-set, holds down first. The remainder of the infield is made up of two newcomers, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro. The outfield of J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury might not have quite the talent of the infield, but still is a solid group. As a whole the position players should play great defense (the off-season signings seemed particularly focused on defense) while still providing a solidly above-average offense.

The Red Sox’ starting pitching similarly shines. A top three of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and John Lackey gives the Sox one of, if not the best, top three in baseball. In fact, CHONE projects over 180 innings of sub-four ERA pitching from each. No other rotation can make such a claim. The cut-offs are arbitrary, but it illustrate how strong the top three-fifths of the rotation is. After that, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz complete the starting rotation. Both are probably average starters with the potential to be quite good — not too bad for the end of the rotation. But even if one of those two stumbles or anyone goes down with injury the Sox have very capable replacements in Tim Wakefield and Michael Bowden.

As Patrick Sullivan mentioned in an interview with Zack Scott, the bullpen had a couple guys whose performance took a step back last year (Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez), but I think there is enough talent in the pen for it to be an asset.

Overall this is a very talented team, it is brimming with projected three-plus-win players and has no real discernible holes (except maybe the potential for an Ortiz collapse). Their playoff probability takes a hit because they play in the same division as the Rays and Yankees, but still, if they played the season 1000 times, they should make the playoffs as often, if not a little more often, than they don’t.




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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


39 Responses to “Organizational Rankings: Current Talent – Boston”

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  1. YC says:

    I didn’t expect the day that the Red Sox are moved down to #2 in the Organizational Rankings, but then again, considering the incredible job the Yankees have done in the last while, it’s hard to argue with them. All I gotta say is, poor Rays.

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    • LibertyBoy says:

      Interesting note, the Rays were a .500 team vs. the Yanks and Sox, and the Sox were a .500 team vs. the Rays and Yanks.

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      • Eldingo says:

        wouldnt that mean that yanks were also a .500 team vs. the rays and the sox

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      • LibertyBoy says:

        Pardon, strike that reverse it, meant to say that the Sox were .500 vs. Yanks+Rays, Rays just under .500 and Yanks just over. It’s a narrow consideration of the division’s balance, but, amazing what huge payroll disparities amount to in terms of wins and losses.

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      • LibertyBoy says:

        pardon, meant to say that the Yanks were just above .500, the Sox at .500, and the Rays just below. Amazing, in that narrow consideration, how tens of million$ shake out to a handful of wins and losses.

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  2. Shaggychild says:

    They’ve got a pretty good bench too.

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  3. whonichol says:

    I wonder if the single factor of Westmoreland’s uncertain future might have been the deciding factor of putting the Sox below the Yankees here. From what I understand, this is about how each organization is set up to win now and in the future. By any account I can find, the Sox’ farm system is anywhere from solidly to vastly better than the Yankees’ (the latter with one prospect without a place to play on the major league roster).

    It’s interesting that the Yankees current major league talent is so much better (now, and in the future) to overcome the seeming vast difference in minor league talent. I suppose that difference is negated enough if Westmoreland disappears as a prospect?

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    • YC says:

      I think the Yankees’ $200 Million payroll might have been the reason they are #1. The Red Sox are ahead in Future Talent and in the Front Office Management, The Yankees are ahead in Current Talent and Financing the team. The gap between the first three factors have become very narrow, but the gap in terms of money between the Yankees and the Red Sox (and the rest of baseball) is still very, very huge.

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      • MikeS says:

        About that gap….

        Every once in a while I still hear some Red Sox official or (more often) fan complain that the Yankees spend to much money and it’s bad for baseball. Theo even said it once a few years ago. Don’t they know that the rest of the league wants to stab them in the kidney when they say stuff like that?

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      • Boomer says:

        I don’t think there’s been much of that lately from official sources. Kind of a “pot, meet kettle” vibe and they know it.

        Fans say a lot of silly crap.

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      • Mike C says:

        We do understand that the rest of the league wants to stab us in the kidneys – it’s a perfectly understandable impulse. However, the Yankees average-annual-salary monolith is so out of proportion with the rest of the league, you’re just sometimes compelled to mention it.

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    • Shaggychild says:

      I can’t imagine one prospect, that hadn’t played above A ball, losing a year would be the make it or break it between the top two teams rankings.

      Although I couldn’t see him as higher than a #3, it doesn’t help that Tazawa is losing a year as well with TJS.

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    • snapper says:

      I don’t see how the Red Sox farm system is that much better than the Yankees. Especially now with Westmoreland and Tazawa’s health.

      If you look at the various top 100 lists, the Yankees have a top-5 prospect (Montero, who cares where he plays with that bat) and a couple of fringy bottom of the list guys (Romine, Banuelos). They also just traded two top 100 guys in the offseason (Vizcaino, and Jackson).

      The Red Sox had 2 top-25 guys (Kelly, Westmoreland) but now that’s one. And three fringy bottom of the list guys (Tazawa, Anderson and Kalish), but now two.

      Looking at Sickels grades, the Yankees have 1 A (Montero), 1 B (Romine), 4 B-, and 10 C+.

      After the injuries, the Sox have 1 B+ (Kelly – who’s still in A ball), 3 B’s (Kalish, Reddick and Bowden), 4 B-, and 12 C+.

      Right now. I’d call those systems a dead heat, since an A prospects is probably worth 3 B’s by himself.

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      • Bob says:

        Okay well those Red Sox prospects are going to get a lot more time to develop than the Yankee’s prospects because of the Yankee’s age. They are a much older team than the Red Sox. The Sox can have much more patience with their prospects because of the young talent they already have playing at the major league level.

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      • Boomer says:

        How can you just excise Westmoreland and Tazawa? They are not going to be factors in 2010, sure, but this is supposed to be a 5-year projection (or something). There’s no evidence that either one won’t play baseball inthe future or can’t have a productive career.

        So, without your “adjustments”, the Sox come out ahead.

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      • t-lonious munk says:

        I like how people think the yankees are older then the red sox, this is not true, they just have 4 high profile players of an advanced age. They have about the same average age, with Boston having maybe one grayer hair. http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/rosters/_/sort/null/order/false

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  4. LibertyBoy says:

    Regarding “…maybe the potential for an Ortiz collapse”, I think the Sox have a fair shot at him producing in the middle-of-the-order, this being his walk year and him showing some recovery in the second half. An improved Papi means more strikes work their ways to Youkilis and Martinez (Victor also in a walk year, another plus). Will the benefit offset the Bay loss? Yes. I go against the flow and plunk a chip on the Sox scoring about as many runs as last year, given the same level of health.

    That said, there is an argument to be made against TB being a notch lower, as the Rays clearly field more premium talent with less headroom budget-wise than the Sox. I think Theo gets a little more credit than he should.

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    • MetsKnicksRutgers says:

      It seems at least IMO that Theo does some things that goes against his ideology, but he does them because of the payroll he can play with. The Lackey deal appears to be the most obvious to me. If Theo had a payroll in the 85-100 range I don’t ever see him going 5/83 for Lackey. Considering he has the ability to sustain poor production in years 4 and 5 makes it easier for him to go all out in years 1-3.

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      • LibertyBoy says:

        If I’m John Lackey (spoiler note: I’m not) I go nitrous this year, buy Josh Beckett steak dinners until he signs on the dotted line, spend years two or three on the fence but be sure to get back to the groove in years four and five because THAT’S the review period for the NEXT (and likely final, big-) contract. (caps=not shouting, just emphasizing).

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      • Boomer says:

        I think this will be Lackey’s (and Beckett’s, whenever it happens) last big payday. I can’t see anyone wanting to pay a 35-year old $18 million per year.

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      • LibertyBoy says:

        35 is the new 30!

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  5. Bob says:

    In the past other teams had to rely on the Steinbrenners interfering in free agent decisions and have them waste millions on players that were slow, aging, and/or injury prone. Last year’s signings of a workhouse in his prime (Sabbathia) and a slick-fielding 1B that can hit in the middle of the lineup for years to come (Teixeira), plus this year’s trade for an OF that is good with the glove and at the plate (Granderson) spells big trouble for pretty much every other team in the AL. The heist Cashman pulled off for Nick Swisher didn’t hurt either. It seems as though the days of the Yankees shooting themselves in the foot and wasting their huge financial advantage are over.

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    • MetsKnicksRutgers says:

      I agree, and it kills me. We all knew how good of a swindle the Swisher deal was. Cashman moved away from the Torre types and look at set this team is at the ML level. I still see the Burnett deal backfiring badly though.

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    • Boomer says:

      I think the jury’s still out on this hypothesis. The Yankees could look pretty ugly in terms of stranded dollars if they suffer some bad injuries. Plus, let’s see what they do with Rivera and Jeter in the off-season.

      I am not sure Swisher was a true “steal” except in retrospect. He pretty much stank on the White Sox and rebounded last year, but did Cashman really think that was going to happen? He was almost traded at the end of ST.

      Why are there more Yankees comments on the Red Sox thread?

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      • MetsKnicksRutgers says:

        IIRC his babip was crazy low in 08. A guy who can kind of play CF but plays RF decently, walks a ton and hits for some power is a pretty good thing to have.

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    • LibertyBoy says:

      Cashman went out of his way sometime in ’08 (I believe) to assert his GM-ship and centralize his power at the expense of what was known as the “Tampa crew”, FO executives hunkered down south who seem to have Steinbrenner’s ear for some of the biggest flops in the floppy ’00s.

      For the fan watching these guys 162 games a year, one notes the re-acquisition of Javy Vazquez as bit more than face value, he was a vocalized favorite of Cashman in his brief stint and unfortunately saddled with a lot of grief when he pitched through injury unsuccessfully in ’04. I say more than face value because at around that time the “civil war” in the FO seemed to reach fever pitch.

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      • Boomer says:

        I did like the Vaz move; something had to happen once the Sox brought on Lackey. But it does leave some holes in the OF if Gardner doesn’t come through.

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      • LibertyBoy says:

        Aye, some holes indeed, but I think Gardner is more smoke than fire right this moment (and that’s the timeframe of the discussion, I think). I made the point on a previous thread that the Yankees oversell players right up until they are traded, I wasn’t bragging but I got shouted down ANYWAY… Gardner won’t come through if he refuses to bunt every third AB like he should be doing, and, although he can take the extra base on a solid hit, he dumbly gets picked and doubled off way too often, and I’m not sure you can teach those baserunning instincts. I like the range in the OF but he gambles on it, still plays too shallow banking on his speed to get under high fly balls. Lot of “should have been caughts” out there, those don’t show in the numbers.

        BTW I’ll take the flak for this but Austin Jackson has a ways to go.

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      • LibertyBoy says:

        That said, I think Jacoby Ellsbury is the most exciting player on the Red Sox and I was pissed that the brought in Matt Cameron – metrics be darned. Not sure how legs like that can be leveraged, fielding-wise, in that tomato garden that is Fenway’s left field, I know the party line from Tito is to “save his legs for stealing”, which I can hear, but…CF is a money position, and I wonder.

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      • LibertyBoy says:

        Pardon, Mike Cameron.

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      • Boomer says:

        All you need to know is that Ellsbury’s agent is Scott Boras.

        But Cameron was a good deal and having him on the team enabled the more strategic move. Ellsbury is not a corner OF, but he can play one on TV for the arbitration hearing.

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      • LibertyBoy says:

        HAHAHAHA you hear that music, too. Thought it was a coincidence that “range” entered in to contract valuations at about the same time that the Red Sox essentially capped just how far Ellsbury could “range” going forward.

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    • MikeS says:

      The thing is, the Yankees are the only team that could have wasted all that money on hurt pitchers and aging hitters in the first half of the decade and had the resources to succeed and recover as well as they did. Any other team would have drowned with those cinderblock contracts around their necks. How many teams could have payed Jason Giambi $47M in ’07 and ’08 and not been looking to dump massive amounts of payroll to make up for it instead of just riding it out.

      Look at the White Sox. If Peavy and Rios are bad or hurt, they’re just plain dead. What happens to the Twins if Joe Mauer suddenly gets hurt year after year? That cripples the team for years to come, even with increased revenue from a new stadium. Money may not make you smarter, but it gives you the opportunity to correct mistakes more easily.

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  6. Fantasygeek says:

    Nobody blamed Steinbrenner and Torre for the handful of rings that were gathered in the late 90’s?

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    • Bob says:

      You couldn’t have because Cashman is the reason they won those, for drafting Jeter, Posada, WIlliams, and Pettite. The main core of those teams.

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  7. awayish says:

    An interesting potential change to this financial determinism that we are trending towards is the international draft. Although, when you get to the bottom of it, cost-saving measures are anti-player and pro owners, at a time when there is still space for revenue expansion. It may be nice for “the game” to level the playing field, but the ones that are really leveled are the players.

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    • MikeS says:

      If you had NFL model revenue sharing with salary floors and caps the theory is that the fans win too because it’s easier to be competitive. It doesn’t make Dayton Moore any smarter, but it means that Brian Cashman can’t just shrug his shoulder when a $100M player flames out. He also can’t just trade the guy away while paying 75% of his salary. If the theory works, more teams are competitive, more fans are interested, more money comes in, everybody wins. It’s up to the players union to make sure that the players get an appropriate sized slice of the pie.

      As an aside, it also changes the dynamic when the aging vet making $3M is competing for a bench job with a kid making major league minimum and both could probably offer similar production. Of course, nobody has complained about one of those decisions around here in nearly 24 hours.

      I’m not advocating a cap. It’s way more complex than this. But these are some real pro-cap arguments.

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  8. Nick says:

    “Right now. I’d call those systems a dead heat, ”

    You’d be the only one one, then. Farm systems go beyond 10 players, in case you didn’t know. Since we’re nitpicking, how about the uncertainty of Montero’s value? There’s no doubt he will hit, but we all know there’s a big difference between producing at C and doing it as a 1B/DH.

    The Yankees have zero pitching prospects and nobody with much of a ceiling other than Montero and Heathcott.

    You’re also forgetting that this is “Future Talent” not just “Farm System.” The Red Sox have an even more significant advantage in terms of a young Major League core.

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  9. pft says:

    I must admit, I am a bit concerned about the offense w/o Bay. I am somewhat hopeful Cameron will do fine at Fenway, but Beltre has shown little power in ST so I have to wonder if his shoulder is recovered, and then there is Papi. He will always be able to use the opposite field to sustain his OBP and beat up bad pitching, but his days of getting it done later in the game against elite pitchers may be over.

    V-Mart, Pedroia, Youkillis and Drew (in his 125 starts) are the nucleus of the offense, Beltre, Scutaro, Cameron, Youkillis, Ellsbruy and JD are all plus defenders at their respective positions. Beckett, Lackey and Lester with Paps as the closer. Not a bad team really, they could beat the Yankees if they stay healthy, and the Yankees show their age. Improved pitching and defense may offset lower offensive production, or not. Can V-Mart call as good a game as the Captain, or will pitchers ERA inflate.

    They will be paying alomost 22 million for talent that will not be playing or not playing much (Lowell and Lugo), thats 1/2 of the Marlins payroll. Fortunately, they are in a position to admit mistakes or accept reality, something not a lot of organizations can do, or are willing to do. For this I give them credit, even if Beltre may not work out.

    Not a lot of help thats MLB ready down in the farm, Lowrie, Bowden, Reddick and maybe Kalish (and the Fransden and Boof Bonser additions). Lin could help defensively in CF if needed. But if any holes develop, they can make a mid season trade like they did in getting V-Mart.

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