Andrew Benintendi

BP Top 101 Prospects: Comparing the Red Sox Position Players

Welcome to prospect list season! ‘Tis the time of year for us to project the future performance of hundreds of teenagers at a sport that is notoriously hard to predict. As you may have seen, the Baseball Prospectus 2016 Top 101 list has been posted, and five Red Sox players made the list. The Sox are internet-famous for having a rich, deep farm system, and it’s a delight to see so much young talent on the list.

Of course, as we all know, not every prospect pans out. Today, what I wanted to do was look at a few of the Red Sox players on that top 101, and compare them to reasonably similar players near their position on the list from Top 101 lists over the past seven seasons. Perhaps that could give us some idea of how players like the Red Sox’s young talent have succeeded recently? Perhaps not. I’m not Nostradamus here.

One of the things I’d like to point out here is this: I AM NOT A SCOUT. As such, it’s a fool’s errand to try and compare tools or projectability for these guys. Even though I’ve seen some video, I’m not completely qualified to talk about their skills except on a general level. So when we talk about comps here, we’re looking at only a few basic things:

  1.     Top 101 Ranking
  2.     Position
  3.     Age, level, or any other demographic factors that I can find
  4.     Basic skill types (power, speed, defensive profile, etc.)

So let’s see what this gives us.


Yoan Moncada – 2B (No. 7 on the 2016 BP 101)

Potential Comps: Dustin Ackley (No. 12 on the 2010 BP 101), Mike Moustakas (No. 7 on the 2011 BP 101), Xander Bogaerts (No. 12 on the 2013 BP 101), Carlos Correa (No. 4 on the 2014 BP 101)

Moncada’s a tough comp due to his position: second basemen don’t really find themselves on the list, which favors shortstops who eventually get moved off the position. Also, Moncada’s got a bonkers physicality, is pretty young (even for a prospect), and has ridiculous speed.

The upper end of Top 101 prospects is a lot different than the middle- and back-end; guys who live in the Top 10 or Top 25 tend to be a different class of prospect than the others on the list. As such, I tried to limit my comps to guys within about five places on the list. That left us with a load of talented players, but precious few second basemen.

For that reason alone, I think that Dustin Ackley is worth examining. Ackley was a lower-tier prospect on the 2010 list, and he certainly has a different skillset than the Red Sox wunderkind. However, I do think that using him as a comp can help highlight how rough a second-baseman profile can be on a guy. Ackley had to be moved off the keystone, and that drastically damaged his value. If Moncada is put in the same situation, we could see more of the same … and that would require his still-developing bat to play up more. The fact that the only real 2B prospect on this list more or less busted isn’t all that encouraging.

On the other side, I think there are a few ways in which Astros superstar Carlos Correa is a fair comp. Like Moncada, he’s a middle-of-the-diamond talent with impressive physical gifts at a young age. Correa’s physical development threatens to bump him off shortstop eventually, but he showed potential in all facets of the game early on, enough to earn him a 1-1 draft position. There’s no question that Moncada would also have challenged for a 1-1 draft position if he were eligible for the draft and not a Cuban defector.

Moncada’s already been able to leverage his run tool in the minor leagues, so he’s very different from many other players on any of the Top 101 lists. It’s like in football drafts where they draft a guy as “Athlete” and work out the position later. Sometimes the team gets a Brian Urlacher–a long-term, impact physical talent who slots in where needed–and sometimes you draft a guy who’s gone and forgotten in a year. Moncada could be a huge success for the Red Sox (and I’d lean that way), but all outcomes are still in play.

Rafael Devers – 3B (No. 35 on the 2016 BP 101)

Potential Comps: Nick Castellanos (No. 37 on the 2013 and 2014 BP 101), Miguel Sano (No. 31 on the 2011 BP 101), Josh Vitters (No. 31 on the 2010 BP 101)

Surprise, surprise … the anecdotal evidence already look like some good and some bad. Devers was signed internationally as a very young man, projects as a bat-first regular with hit and power tools and could (at this point, probably will) eventually slide down the defensive spectrum. Sano is obviously the best-case scenario, but Devers doesn’t have Sano’s crazy 80-grade power all over the diamond. He can bang, but he’s not Joey Gallo. A bat-first regular who can paper over any defensive flaws would be nice, but Devers doesn’t yet look like a 40-homer guy.

Nah, I think we need to take a closer look at Josh Vitters … sorry Sox fans. Vitters was a highly-sought-after high school bat who tore up the minors for a bit but failed to materialize as a productive big-leaguer. Vitters also had a line at Single-A that matches nicely with Devers’ line from Greenville last year: both were highly successful, without big swings between their batting average and OBP, both hit for respectable power, and both didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory defensively.

Tigers third-sacker Nick Castellanos is another bat-first five who split the middle a bit between the worst-case Vitters run and an All-Star at third. He also had a shockingly good line at Single-A, and he has an improved hit tool that matches Devers’ profile better than perhaps Vitters did. Castellanos never quite came into his power enough to thrive, and his defense is still an open issue, but at least he’s an effective regular at an important position.

The Red Sox could do worse than their own Castellanos, but with the hype Devers has, it’s tough to imagine anyone being happy with that outcome. But this just goes to show that Devers’ bat will carry him either to the top or to the bottom. His combination of offensive skills already looks shiny, but the error bars are a little scary. We shouldn’t expect resounding success from such a young, bat-based prospect, but be very happy if he more resembles Sano than Vitters.


Andrew Benintendi – CF (No. 46 on the 2016 BP 101)

Potential Comps: Michael Choice (No. 39 on the 2012 BP 101), Joc Pederson (No. 50 on the 2014 BP 101), Aaron Judge (No. 49 on the 2015 BP 101)

This is a legitimately difficult one. Benintendi is an under-sized college draftee without the prototypical center fielder speed-and-defense profile, without the mass or size of some monster hitters, but still a bat-first guy who could potentially hit .300 and knock 20 homers with a good OBP. There simply haven’t been a lot of guys at his draft position with his combination of demographics and skills in recent years!

Without a doubt, I feel that Michael Choice is easily the best comp for Benintendi so far, which has got to be a scary proposition for folks like me who’re rooting for Benintendi to succeed. Choice put up terrific college numbers like Benintendi, was drafted in the Top 10 overall like Benintendi, and dominated in his first taste of the minors like Benintendi. Choice had more power and less hit than the Sox prospect, so there’s probably a little less likelihood of complete failure–which is basically what Choice has been in his pro career so far. After getting off to a rip-roaring start, Choice struggled after facing tougher pitching and suffering his first injuries, and has only surfaced briefly in the big leagues.

I think that’s an important reminder here–players can hit snags when faced with challenges, whether they be injury- or performance-related, and sometimes these events can really come out of nowhere. It wasn’t too long ago that Choice was considered a fairly “safe” prospect, much like Benintendi is now. Life comes at you fast.

Also, Pederson is an easy choice here–he’s a PECOTA comp for Benintendi in this year’s BP Annual, and the same type of post-college all-around player. Pederson had a much higher strikeout rate expectation than Benintendi should, but also a bit more power. I’d expect Benintendi to post a solid OBP like Pederson, but perhaps a higher average. Meanwhile, Aaron Judge is something like if Benintendi ate a Super Mushroom after falling into a Mario Brothers game. With almost nine inches on AB, Judge has a very different physical look, and a power-based skillset that doesn’t exactly resemble Benintendi’s.

I’m not sure that I learned anything truly substantive or objective here, but this exercise did one thing for me: it reminded me of the bust potential of prospects. While we all hope that these hitters continue to develop, prospecting is a fickle, fickle thing. These three guys all have a ways to go to reach their ultimate ceilings. As much as we love to hold our prospects close, busts are real, and do happen. The Sox are loaded with multiple high-end talents, bursting with possibility, but we also need to prepare for the possibility that one or more won’t really pan out.

Photo by Andrew Benintendi/Kelly O’Connor,

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