The Red Sox landed one of the top late-innings relievers in the game Friday in Craig Kimbrel. In exchange, the team is parting with its most significant prospect package since landing Adrian Gonzalez – coincidentally, also from the Padres – in exchange for then-top prospect Casey Kelly, No. 3 prospect Anthony Rizzo, and No. 6 prospect Reymond Fuentes after the 2010 season.
Here’s a closer look at the players the Red Sox gave up in the Kimbrel deal. In the listings, I’ve also included the ranking that I gave to each player in Baseball America’s Red Sox top 30 prospect list, a list that I was in the draft stages of compiling.
Javier Guerra, shortstop
Red Sox prospect rank: 5
Future scouting grades (on 20-80 scouting scale): Bat: 50 (average); Power: 55 (above-average); Speed: 45 (below-average); Defense: 60-65 (plus or better); Arm: 65-70 (elite)
Notes: When the Sox signed him for $250,000 out of Panama, Guerra showed advanced instincts and defensive tools while also displaying a solid swing that offered an offensive foundation. His emergence as an impressive defensive shortstop is not shocking, but Guerra’s offensive development advanced faster than anyone anticipated and beyond anyone’s best-case scenario.
The Sox believed that Guerra could become at least a gap hitter, but in 2015, he turned heads with the frequency with which he showed pull power, finishing second in the team’s system with 15 homers while hitting .279/.329/.449 – excellent marks for a 19-year-old shortstop with a potentially elite glove.
With a lean, athletic frame, Guerra’s actions on the field are fluid and easy, yet come with an element of electricity, both in terms of his ability to make standout plays thanks to elite instincts and field awareness on defense (he would often make spectacular plays, throwing behind runners after gloving balls with dives) and his ability to barrel fastballs.
The combination of plus-defense and 15 or even 20 home run potential at shortstop offer considerable ceiling, though his high strikeout rate (23.5 percent), particularly against lefties (33.8 percent), raises questions about the likelihood he’ll be an everyday player. Still, if his plate approach improves, his ceiling is that of a championship-caliber shortstop.
“Guerra hurts,” said one major league evaluator of the package the Sox sent to San Diego.
That said, because the Sox have Xander Bogaerts at shortstop for years, it made that point of pain somewhat more tolerable – even if Guerra represents a striking chip to use for a reliever, even an elite one.
Manuel Margot, center field
Red Sox prospect rank: 7
Future scouting grades: Bat: 50 (Average); Power: 45 (Below-average); Speed: 60 (Plus); Defense: 60 (Plus); Arm: 55-60 (Above-average to plus)
Notes: Margot earned national attention by opening 2015 with an excellent start that included 62 straight at-bats without striking out, but between injuries and the challenges of playing at a higher level, his year leveled to marks of .276/.324/.419 with six homers and 39 steals in 110 games. Still, he impressed as a player who was considerably younger than his league at two separate levels.
His Salem manager, Carlos Febles, said that Margot’s tool set bore some resemblance to that of another 20-year-old with whom he played, former Royals teammate Carlos Beltran.
Margot’s strong wrists create plus bat speed, and he can manipulate the bat well enough to post high contact rates that should allow him to hit for average. He also has the strength to drive the ball out of the park on occasion, though his aggressive approach – he chases pitches out of the zone – and emphasis on hitting the ball up the middle and to right-center mean that his power will manifest primarily in doubles and triples.
He combines above-average speed with baserunning smarts in a way that suggests an impact runner, and has the ability to glide to the ball in center. Though young, he’s close to maxed out physically, limiting his future projection, but his overall skill set suggests an excellent likelihood of at least an average starting center fielder in the bottom-third of the order.
Though Margot has moved quickly, and he’s a major league defensive center fielder now, he could benefit from a lengthier apprenticeship in Triple A as he adjusts to pitchers attacking him with more advanced mixes. He’s also lost time to injuries in each of his pro seasons.
Margot is a good player – an excellent bet to be a starting center fielder – who is held in high regard throughout the industry, but with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, and possibly (in the future) Yoan Moncada ahead of him as future center field options, there was a wide expectation that Margot would be used as a trade chip, particularly given that he’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason.
Logan Allen, LHP
Red Sox prospect rank: 12
Notes: Allen entered the draft out of the IMG Academy as a polished high schooler with a four-pitch mix. The Sox signed Allen to a $725,000 bonus that would have been in line with a third-rounder.
Once in the Sox system, he reminded some team officials of a familiar pitcher in both appearance and delivery.
“If you put his video right next to Jon Lester, you’d think it was Jon Lester. That’s how eerily similar the body type is, the delivery is, the way he looks,” said GCL Red Sox manager Tom Kotchman. “When our scouts first saw him at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, that’s exactly what he looks like.”
“I actually think Logan’s curveball is more advanced than Jon’s was,” said Red Sox pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel, who worked with Lester as an 18-year-old after the Red Sox picked him in the 2002 draft. “The secondary pitches, both of them – the changeup and curveball – are a little more advanced. I think Jon threw a little harder early on. But that’s a pretty good guy to be compared to.”
Allen doesn’t have a lot of physical projection left, so no one would suggest that he has Lester’s ceiling as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. But as an 18-year-old who regularly worked at 92-93 mph (a likely above-average pitch given his ability to repeat his delivery and command), he showed comfort incorporating his changeup, demonstrated the ability to spin a curveball, and threw four pitches for strikes while punching out 26 and walking just one in 24 1/3 innings between the Gulf Coast League and Lowell. Allen showed what could be No. 3 or No. 4 starter potential.
Given his unusual refinement and pitch mix, he has a chance to move through a system quickly compared to the normal high school pitching population. He ranked as the Sox’ fourth best starting pitching prospect, behind Anderson Espinoza, Brian Johnson, and Michael Kopech.
Carlos Asuaje, IF/OF
Red Sox prospect ranking: Not in Red Sox Top 30 prospects this year; No. 25 Red Sox prospect entering 2015
Notes: Asuaje’s 2014 season – a .310/.393/.533 line between Single A Greenville and High A Salem – was one of the foremost surprises in the Red Sox system last year, particularly given the startling way that he consistently drove the ball with a big swing from a diminutive, Brock Holt-sized frame. He led the Sox in 2014 in slugging percentage (.533), extra-base hits (65) and RBIs (101) in 129 games.
In 2015, however, he proved far streakier in Double A Portland, posting a .251/.334/.374 line with eight homers and 38 extra-base hits in 110 games. In 2015, against Double A opponents, he struggled against lefties (.216/.328/.267) but showed a bit more pop while posting solid across-the-board marks against righties (.261/.336/.406). He does a good job of swinging at strikes, which has allowed him to strike out in just 15.8 percent of his career plate appearances – a useful trait for a player whose best bet for a big league future is as a reserve/superutility option.
He’s looked respectable both at second base and in left field, and he has experience at both third and shortstop, positions where he could help in a pinch, though he is limited by below-average arm strength.
Follow Alex Speier on Twitter at @alexspeier.