Sunday, November 20, 2016

It's On to 2017 Part Two

We will pick up on the state of Red Sox position by position around the roster before the winter meetings arrive in  a couple of weeks.

OUTFIELD

LF Andrew Benintendi
CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
RF Mookie Betts
OF Chris Young
U/OF Brock Holt
Bryce Brentz
?? Yoan Moncada

Recently during the General Managers Meetings in Arizona Sox boss Dave Dombrowski succinctly summed up the state for the Red Sox starting outfield listed above: "entrenched for a long time".
Despite the likelihood of other teams asking for Benintendi or the never dying rumor of JBJ being the centerpiece of a Chris Sale trade (with Benintendi taking over center field), it is very, very doubtful Dombrowski will break up his self described entrenched outfield.  Having a major league caliber defensive center fielder manning all three garden spots can only be a big positive for Boston going forward. Especially when all three can also be All Star caliber offensive assets as well.

Chris Young is nearly as entrenched for another year as the fourth outfielder who can rake lefties especially.  Brock Holt can fill in from time to time in his utility role as well.  Brentz showed he could be a capable platoon outfielder in a brief mid-2016 cameo, but his days in the Boston system will likely end before spring training rolls around.

Yoan Moncada is thrown in here as more of a long range outside possibility.  There are some scouts who feel Moncada cannot play either second or third well enough for the big leagues and will end up as an outfielder.  I am not sure if I buy this, but if ever did come to fruition down the road, that is when JBJ could be dealt, but not this winter.

STARTING ROTATION

David Price
Rick Porcello
Eduardo Rodriguez
Clay Buchholz
Drew Pomeranz
Steven Wright
Henry Owens
Brian Johnson
Roenis Elias
Michael Kopech

Despite those Chris Sale rumors mentioned above, Dombrowski seemingly threw a big bucket of cold water on Sale (or any other name starting pitcher)being acquired in this hot stove season.  Several Dave D. quotes again from the Arizona bases GM meetings included: "Starting pitching not much of a priority", " I would be surprised if we traded for a starter", " We are not in the market for a starter, because of the six guys we all ready have".  Let me remind you last winter Dombrowski was very forthright with the Sox needs he looked to fill.Take Dave at his word, the Red Sox are not adding a starting pitcher of any renown.

Your definite front three are David Price, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez.  When Porcello won the Cy Young Award this past week, he made a telling comment, admitting how much pitching in Boston bothered him his first year, 2015.  And Porcello is not the first to rebound in recent years with Josh Beckett and John Lackey being two other notable cases.  If David Price follows that path and shines in 2017 ( and that is a very strong possibility) this could take any pressure of Porcello to repeat his Cy campaign.But since Porcello only turns 28 two days after Christmas, he should still have several prime years ahead of him. And Rodriguez, who turns 24 on April 7 next spring, now has the better part of two MLB seasons under his belt and is a strong candidate to blossom.

The other three starters: Clay Buchholz, Drew Pomeranz, and Steven Wright will compete for the last two rotation spots with the odd man out holding a bullpen job.  Due to the nearly total lack of starting pitchers in the free agent market this winter, there is some speculation teams may coming asking for Buchholz.  If Boston was overwhelmed with an offer the may move Buch, but with only the three younger lefties (Owens, Johnson, Elias) as depth I think Dombrowski hangs on to everyone through the winter at least.

Kopech, who was dominating at times in the Arizona Fall League, will begin 2017 as the top of the rotation starter for the Portland Sea Dogs.  Kopech will be making his AA debut, so a big league appearance in 2017 is far from a lock.  But if Kopech treats the Eastern League at age 21 the way he did the AFL, he could see Boston next year.  Remember this about Dave Dombrowski, he is not afraid of bringing quality young starters to the big leagues.  In 2009, after only one minor league season, Dombrowski and the Tigers put their 2007 first rounder in their rotation at age 20.  That pitcher was Rick Porcello.

BULLPEN

Craig Kimbrel
Joe Kelly
Matt Barnes
Heath Hembree
Robbie Ross Jr.
Fernando Abad
Carson Smith
Brandon Workman

Three names not listed from the 2016 are three pitchers who are now free agents : Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler, and Junichi Tazawa.  Tazawa has been worked by the Red Sox over his career like a rented mule, and barring a major surprise his days in Boston are over.  Thank you Junichi for the big outs over the years, especially striking out Miguel Cabrera in the 2013 ALCS.

As the season ended in 2016, most observers felt the Red Sox would like to bring both Koji and the recently acquired Ziegler back as bullpen depth. Many felt Ziegler would rather find a closing job elsewhere, but if not both he and Koji would be open to a return.

Either these speculations were wrong or something has changed.  Again from the GM meetings, no direct quotes but every Boston beat writer was reporting "no enthusiasm" to bring back any of the free agents.  Instead Dombrowski talked about a power arm, shut down type pitcher needed to pitch eighth innings in front of incumbent closer Craig Kimbrel. There are major free agent closers on the market, but they are not coming to Boston ( or anywhere else) to pitch eighth innings and not close.  Names heard most often are two stalwarts of recent championship Royals bullpens: Greg Holland     ( as a free agent) and Wade Davis ( who is reportedly available in trade).

If the Red Sox get fortunate they may have an in house set up man for Kimbrel.  The pitcher who was acquired a year ago: Carson Smith.  Smith who underwent Tommy John surgery last June, is expected back in June or July.  That alone would be a great mid season boost. But the Arizona air must have made Dave Dombrowski talkative, because while holding court at the GM meetings, Dombrowski opined Smith being ready for Opening Day was not out of the question.

Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes both throw in the high 90's and could be the needed eighth inning guys.  Kelly was finally assigned to the bullpen after Boston trying to make him a starter for two years.  Kelly was very effective in his late season audition.  Barnes had an up and down 2016 as he also converted full time to relieving, but also finished well late in the year.

Hembree will be out of options in 2017, so he will make the Sox pen or have to be traded.  Workman after missing nearly all of 2015 and 2016 could be a surprise contributor if healthy.

Ross Jr., Abad, and former Indy ball pitcher, Robbie Scott will compete for one or two spots for a lefty. Abad, in particular, needs to be used strictly as a lefty on lefty specialist if he has any hope of helping.

Soon the winter meetings will be upon us.  As they near we will discuss the Sox Hot Stove rumors more in depth.  But as an early prediction, I think the Sox will be relatively quiet, adding the needed bullpen arm and some type of DH. Neither may be a big name addition.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's On To 2017

Now that the 2016 World Series has concluded, and what a great series it was (congratulations to the Cubs and also to the Indians) it is time to look forward for our Boston Red Sox.  Despite the quick exit from the ALDS this fall, the future is very bright for the defending AL East Champs.  Almost all of the betting lines and publications early (very early!) projections for 2017 have Boston as the AL Champs right behind the Cubs as favorites to win it all next year.

Let's go around the roster, by position, with some random thoughts about the hot stove season that we are now in, and for 2017.

CATCHER

This position is one of only one or two around the diamond for Boston that is a question mark. But is almost a certainty the answer comes internally. Here are the candidates:

Sandy Leon
Christian Vazquez
Blake Swihart
Bryan Holaday

First let's say there is almost zero chance Holaday even is on the 40 man roster much longer. He is likely a non tender. Any of the other three could be the starting catcher on Opening Day 2017.  Each have question marks.  Is Sandy Leon the strong defensive catcher who cannot hit at all or is he the catcher Boston saw from June through early September this year?  His career average before 2016 was .187, and then when Boston called him up in mid season due to injury Sandy hit between .350 and .450 with power for two months or better.  Leon has to enter at least spring training as the number one.  Another somewhat little known fact about Sandy Leon is he is not that old.  He looks like and until 2016 played like a 36 year old third string catcher. Leon will not turn 28 until the middle of spring training 2017.  He is only about 1 1/2 years older than Vazquez.

Vazquez has the same basic question as Leon: can he hit enough to get his rocket arm into the daily lineup?  In Christian's favor he will be another year removed from Tommy John surgery and there is definitely a faction of Red Sox Nation who feel that Vazquez is the catcher of the future.

The first question about Blake Swihart: Does Dave Dombrowski even consider Swihart a full time catcher?  Early into 2016 the Sox moved Blake to left field.  Was this move because the Sox didn't feel Swihart was a good enough defensive catcher or was it just to get another strong bat into the line up at a time when left field was a hole?  Swihart also needs to come to Fort Myers and show his leg injury sustained while playing left field is healed.

One possible but I think highly unlikely hot stove move at catcher is the signing of free agent Wilson Ramos.  The Nationals catcher was heading to a big free agent pay day when he tore up his knee in September.  Ramos likely cannot catch until at least mid 2017.  But there is a school of thought out there that Boston could sign Ramos for shorter money due to the injury and DH him until he can catch again.

Neither Leon or Vazquez have options left, Swihart does.  Because of this I expect Leon and Vazquez to start 2017 as the two catchers and Swihart returns to AAA to further his experience as a catcher. This allows Boston to continue contractual control over all three.  Also, even if Boston does not feel Swihart can catch, other clubs will, and Swihart catching at AAA will increase his trade value.  Speaking of trade value if the Sox swing any kind of big trade this winter for pitching, Swihart could be a trade chip. But I would be very cautious of this, as I still feel Swihart has the best future of these three catchers.

CORNER INFIELD/DH

I listed this as one position because several of the candidates factor in at multiple spots here:

Hanley Ramirez
Pablo Sandoval
Travis Shaw
Brock Holt
Yoan Moncada
Sam Travis
Addition at DH

Hanley Ramirez was likely the most pleasant surprise of 2016.  First and most importantly Hanley proved he could play a very acceptable brand of first base, while hitting 30-111-.286-.361.  In most cases you would say here is our first baseman for 2017 and move on. But with the subtraction of our DH David Ortiz from the lineup due to his retirement (you may have heard about that by now), there is a hole at DH. Throughout his career, and especially in 2016 when giving Big Papi some days off, Ramirez' numbers at DH are better than when he is also playing in the field.  Late in the year when being interviewed by Peter Abraham of the Globe Ramirez was asked if he would like to be full time DH, he responded " hell, yes".  Ramirez them caught himself and added, " but I'll do whatever the team wants. In addition there has been some concern that the reason Ramirez has been a good teammate and citizen while in Boston, despite his checkered NL past, was the presence of Ortiz.  Without Ortiz around everyday, how will Hanley behave is the worry.  I suggest that if Ramirez was handed the mantel of Big Papi's successor this might mitigate any issues the absence of Ortiz may present.

For all of you who would just like Fat Pablo Sandoval to go away, even if the Red Sox release him and eat (no pun intended) the tens of millions remaining on his long term contract, I remind you of Hanley Ramirez from last winter. No Sandoval is not going to, nor ever has, hit 30 home runs with over 100 RBI. But Pablo is only 30 years old and has a career BA of .288.  Recent photos have shown an apparently slimmed down Panda, and if Pablo is in just a little better shape than 2015-16 he could still be an asset.  With multi millions still owed to him through 2019, he will at least be given a chance to win back a job...likely at third, but first base and DH also in the mix.

Travis Shaw hit 16 home runs with 71 RBI in his first full big league campaign, while playing a solid third base.  But Shaw tailed off as the year wound down, and he finished hitting only.242 with an OBP of .306.  For the second spring training in a row, the Red Sox will let Sandoval and Shaw compete for a job.  As with Sandoval, Shaw could be in the mix at third, first, of DH.  Shaw could also be a trade chip this winter.

If both, Sandoval and Shaw fall flat, or play as the first baseman or DH more than third, Brock Holt could become the "regular" third baseman.  But this would be a sub optimal Red Sox lineup, Holt is more of an asset to Boston when he can fulfill the super utility role.

Both prospects Yoan Moncada and Sam Travis are almost certainly ticketed to begin 2017 at Pawtucket. And both seemingly could use the AAA experience of at least a half a year.  Moncada the top rated prospect for Boston was promoted from Portland late in the season, and after getting a couple of big league hits, he struck for his last nine at bats.  Moncada had a propensity of the K in the minor leagues, too. At the very end of the 2016 season at Portland Moncada was shifted from second base to third.  So adjusting to his new position, and trying to cut down at least some on striking out, are his goals to work on at AAA.  For those you overly worried about Moncada's K rate in the minors, go check out the K rates for the Cubs Javier Baez.  I can tell you they are very similar to Moncada's, and like Baez there is no reason to think in a year or two Moncada will not be a similarly impressive young big leaguer as Baez.

Sam Travis began last year at AAA, but will need more time there because a torn ACL kept him out from Memorial Day on. Travis was very impressive in the big camp spring training last year, and was off to a good AAA start.  Sam Travis with another good April and May could push his way into the picture in Boston.  Both or either of Travis and Moncada could be ready to contribute in Boston by late June or so.  Depending on how confident the Red Sox are in this pair,  they may influence the route the Sox go to replace David Ortiz externally.

It is almost a cinch the Red Sox will bring in one veteran bat to help replace Papi's production.  I will not go into detail now on the candidates, later this off season we will delve more into free agent and trade rumors.  But let me just say for all of the free agent signing rumors of the Jays' Edwin Encarnarcion, he would cost the Sox $80-120M and perhaps more importantly their first round draft pick ( unless the soon to be handed down new CBA changes the free agent compensation). I see the Red Sox first target being Carlos Beltran, who they tried hard to acquire from the Yankees at the last trade deadline.  As opposed to the barren starting pitching free agent market, there are many bats available if the Sox want to add to their current DH options.

MIDDLE INFIELD

Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Brock Holt
Marco Hernandez
Mauricio Dubon

No much to say here, the middle infield combo for Boston in 2017 and beyond will be Dustin Pedroia at second and Xander Bogarts at shortstop.  The only questions for Bogaerts are was his weak hitting for the end of 2016 a fluke, and will his power continue to develop after jumping to 21 long balls in 2016.  Expect the X man to continue to rise in home runs to maybe the 25 range and his BA to be closer to 2015's .320 rather than 2016's perfectly acceptable .294.

The only question for Pedroia is when does his age and injury history catch up with him? 2016 was a banner season of 15-74-.318-.376. Now he is the elder statesman on this team and will turn 34 next August, how many more seasons like 2016, does Dustin have left?

Both Holt and Marco Hernandez are utility types who would only see extensive playing time in the middle infield if there was an injury to the incumbents.

The 22 year old Dubon pushed his way onto the fringe of the Boston 2017 picture with a sterling 2016 season.  Mauricio began the '16 season as Salem, and was promoted to Portland ahead of heralded teammates Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada.  Dubon hit .306 for Salem  and drove in 29 despite having no home runs.  Dubon who has played both second and short in the Sox system, hit even better for the Sea Dogs: .339 with with 40 RBI, with the added power of 6 home runs, 6 triples, and 20 doubles. The Red Sox rewarded Dubon by assigning him to the Arizona Fall League, where he played well enough to make the AFL All Star team.  Like Moncada and Travis, Dubon should open 2017 at Pawtucket making his AAA debut.  Dubon could make himself the first option behind Pedey and Xander with a strong AAA showing.  His strong 2016 right through the AFL also makes Dubon a very attractive trade piece for this winter.

In upcoming posts RSM will examine the Red Sox in the outfield, utility roles, and on the mound.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

ALDS Live Chat Red Sox @ Indians

Welcome to game one of the 2016 ALDS! Come chat with us live!
Live Blog ALDS Live Chat Red Sox @ Indians
 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Thoughts on the Red Sox-Indians ALDS and Beyond

For the first time since 2013 and only the second since 2009 the Red Sox are back in the ALDS. They will face Terry Francona's pitching-depleted Cleveland Indians. The Sox may well have been favored in this matchup anyway, but with the Tribe rotation missing Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, and with ace Corey Kluber hurting as well, the Sox should be prohibitive favorites to move on.  Here are a few things to watch for (worry about) for Red Sox fans.

* The Red Sox rotation.  I said it in mid September and I will say it again, Boston has the best rotation in the American League and it is not even close.  No team can match the front two of Rick Porcello and David Price (OK maybe, Texas with Hamels and Darvish, but their rotation is non existent after that).  Not only is Porcello the Cy Young favorite and Price one of the top pitchers in the game, but they have multiple years of post season experience.  Price has been in the AL playoffs every year since 2008 except 2009 and 2012.  And you just know that Price would like to turn in a Madison Bumgarner type post season to quiet his critics.  The next two, Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz, are not sure bets, but are very capable of going out and pitching shutout ball for the Bostons.

*Kan Kimbrel, Koji, Kelly, and Kompany klose out the games?  The return of Koji Uehara from the DL to the eighth inning, has solidified all the other roles it seems.  Choices like Brad Ziegler, Joe Kelly, and Robbie Ross Jr. can be used in the seventh or at any appropriate times.  Starter Drew Pomeranz opened eyes on the last day of the regular season coming out of the bullpen and hitting 96 on the gun.  Drew could be a weapon, he has a career 2.14 ERA out of the pen in 54 games. Kimbrel staggered the last week, but his overall numbers for the year are All Star caliber.  Kimbrel must be able to pitch shut down ninth innings, if the Red Sox are to go all the way.

* Big Papi, David Ortiz.  Ortiz put up a final regular season beyond our wildest dreams, hitting 38 home runs and tying for the league lead with 127 RBI with an OPS of over 1.000.  So the question is can Big Papi add one more World Series ring by adding another heroic post season to his resume?  If there is any doubt of his Hall of Fame credentials at this point ( and I do not think there is), one more title that Ortiz plays a leading role in obtaining, would seal the first ballot deal.

* The kids are all right.  Xander Bogaerts received 27 at bats in the 2013 post season, including playing in six World Series games. But all of the rest of the young stars who drive this team: MVP candidate Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi ( and maybe, just maybe Travis Shaw), along with the aforementioned Eduardo Rodriguez are all brand new to the glare of post season spotlight.  But especially with all of the young outfielders, their personalities and the demands of playing in Boston, should allow them to prosper in the playoffs.  I feel that one of the B-Boys may well be the World Series MVP (if Papi doesn't edge them out on sentimentality points).

* What will the Red Sox get from Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez?  Both vets had outstanding regular seasons.  Pedey has struggled in past ALDS hitting only .153, but a robust .325 in ALCS of the past.  Hanley appeared in the NLDS in both 2013 and 2014 for the Dodgers and hit a combined .467 (14 for 30).  Both of the former Portland Sea Dogs double play combo seemed primed for big post seasons.

* The defense never rests.  One of the underrated facets of this Red Sox team is their overall defensive play.  They have Gold Glove candidates in Pedroia, Bradley Jr., and Betts.  Andrew Benintendi in left( and Cleveland has all right handed starters) gives Boston three top notch center fielders manning all of the garden.  The catching is in fine hands defensively whether Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez, or even Ryan Hanigan are behind the dish.  The Sox could steal a game with their defense.

* Base Running. And speaking of stealing a game, the high stolen base percentage the Sox sported for the first half of the campaign has come down some, but they still take the extra base, and score from second or even first as effectively as any other team in baseball.

Prediction time.  Okay, I am biased, sue me.  But many national media members are picking the Red Sox to prevail in October (November?).  Here is my shot at the Boston post season:

ALDS

 Boston over Cleveland in 4 ( I really think a sweep is likely, but I am hedging).  Boston pitching is just fine, but the Sox win by battering the crippled Indians rotation.

ALCS

Boston over Baltimore ( who best the Jays and takes Texas in 7) in six games.  Boston clinches the pennant on the Fenway sod, behind ALCS MVP Xander Bogaerts.  One more prediction, Boston wins one of their games by beating Zach Britton in the ninth inning.

Peek at the NL

Giants win the wild card game and then lose to Cubs in 7, Dodgers best Nats in 5.  Cubs, despite nearly wilting under the tremendous pressure of breaking their non-World series streak, edge Dave Roberts' club in 7, reaching the Fall Classic for the first time since the end of World War Two.

World Series

Cubs spend all they have just getting to a World Series and Boston repeats the 2004 and 2007 script and sweeps the Cubs.  All three of the B-boy outfielders hit home runs, but David Ortiz has three home runs ( two in the Game Two shutout by David Price) and Big Papi goes out on top as World Series MVP.



Sunday, September 18, 2016

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects Season End Edition


Another minor league season is in the books, and as the big league club steams towards an AL East title, we will take time to rank the kids on the farm one last time for 2016. Although it was not a successful season in terms of wins and losses (with only Salem and Lowell making their playoffs- each eliminated quickly) there were a number of outstanding performances.  Some of these were by the biggest names on the farm, others were breakout seasons.

The team(s) listed behind each player this time are where the player spent the majority of his season.  The number in { } is the August ranking. The slash line for hitters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS, for hurlers W-L/ERA/WHIP/K-BB.

Let's take a look at the best the Red Sox system has to offer at the end of 2016.

1. Yoan Moncada, 2B-3B Salem-Portland {1}.  Moncada maintained his number one ranking all year long. And with the gentleman sitting a number two, that alone says much about Moncada.  Moncada raked at both levels: 4/34/.307/.427/.923 at Salem and exhibiting more home run power for the Portland Sea Dogs: 11/28/.277/.379/.910.  The numbers along with 40 additional extra base hit on top of the 15 home runs and his 45 stolen bases lead Baseball America to name Moncada as their minor league player of the year.  Moncada becomes the first Red Sox farmhand to win this prestigious award, which has been given out since 1981. But not the first Portland Sea Dog.  Josh Beckett won in 2001, while Portland was a Marlins affiliate. Moncada was recalled to Boston as the minor league season wound down.  Yoan had four quick hits, but is currently mired in a streak of nine straight strikeouts. Moncada has also been assigned to play in the Arizona Fall League, where he will get more work at third and hitting the off speed pitching. Expect Yoan to begin 2017 at AAA, but with a likely mid-2017 arrival in Boston, this time for good.

2. Andrew Benintendi, OF Salem-Portland-Boston {2}.  The 2015 first round draftee began 2016 by terrorizing the Carolina League: 1/32/.341/.413/.976 with 13 doubles and 7 triples. After a recall to Portland and a slow first 50 at bats or so, the onslaught continued in AA with the addition of the home run to his game: 8/44/.295/.357/.872 with 18 doubles and 5 triples. After Dave Dombrowski refused many trade requests for Benintendi at the August 1 deadline, he was recalled to Boston and made his MLB debut the next night.  He has not stopped hitting since reaching the show either: 1/10/.324/.364/.957 with 7 doubles, a triple, and 11 runs scored through September 17.  The only thing that has slowed Benintendi is a left knee sprain suffered on the bases in late August.  The injury was first thought to be season ending, but was not and Benintendi is back in the Boston lineup after being activated from the DL on September 13.  It will be very surprising if Andrew Benintendi is not a starting everyday outfielder for Boston in 2017 from Opening Day on.

3. Rafael Devers, 3B Salem {3}. There are very, very few systems in which Rafael Devers would not be the number one prospect. And Devers has his supporters. One unnamed scout recently was quoted in the Boston media as saying he felt Devers combined the best of Moncada's power and Benintendi's hitting tool.  After a very slow start to 2016, the nineteen year old ripped through the Carolina League in the second half, for example hitting .357 with 8 home runs in July.  Rafael finished the 2016 campaign with:11/71/.282/.335/.779 with 32 doubles and 8 triples.  Devers also scored 64 runs.  His 142 hits were second in the system, and he was in the top 6 in runs and RBI.  It has been long speculated that Devers would have to move off third, but he played very well defensively, in fact the Red Sox named Devers as the system defensive player of the year in their post season awards.  After spending all of 2016 at Salem (as expected), Devers, who turns 20 next month, is set to be in the Opening Day lineup for Portland in 2017.  Unless Dave Dombrowski uses Devers as a chip in an off season deal.  In order to pry Devers from Boston, it would have to be a very major trade.

4. Michael Kopech, RHP Salem {4}. After overcoming a broken hand suffered in a spring training off the field fracas, Kopech was dominate for nearly all of his time in Salem.  After pitching the Lowell Spinners opening game in June, Kopech reported to Salem. In 11 starts spanning 52 innings pitched, Kopech put up this line: 4-1/2.25/1.04/82-29.  Kopech's ERA was actually even better until he was rocked in his last start.  Kopech also pitched poorly in a Salem playoff game.  The most talked about number posted by Kopech was the reported 105 mph pitch he threw in a mid season game.  Kopech was assigned to the Arizona Fall League, where he will get back some of the innings lost to his hand injury and 2015's suspension.  Kopech should be on the mound for Opening Day 2017 for the Portland Sea Dogs.

5. Jay Groome, LHP GCL-Lowell {5} The first round draft pick this June at #12 overall signed with Boston near the the July 15 deadline.  The Sox sent him to Florida, where he worked on adjusting the the pro life at age 18. In late August Groome (who prefers to go by Jay rather than his given name of Jason) did pitch in two GCL games striking out 8 with no walks over four innings. Groome gave up three hits and a run. Jay ended his season by pitching a game for Lowell, another 2.2 innings and also made a post season appearance for the Spinners.  Groome also leads the names of players going to the Red Sox Instructional League this fall. Since the Lowell season does not begin until June, there is a strong chance Jay Groome begins 2017 with Greenville.  This would for the second straight year put a highly rated 18 year old pitcher in the Drive rotation.

6. Sam Travis, 1B  Pawtiucket {6} Travis, who was outstanding for Boston in spring training, continued to impress with a fast start at Pawtucket. His line was 6/29/.272/.332/.765 with ten doubles and 26 runs scored through May 29.  But on that date Travis tore his left ACL on the bases and missed the rest of 2016.  That ended his AAA debut after 47 games and 173 at bats.  Because of the limited AAA experience, it is very likely Sam begins 2017 back at Pawtucket.  Depending on how the Red Sox address the DH-1B situation after David Ortiz retires at the end of 2016, Travis could be in the mix by mid-2017.

7. Mauricio Dubon, SS Salem-Portland {10} Dubon, who began the year at #15 on the RSM rankings, reaches his highest point after an outstanding season: 6/69/.323/.379/.840 with 31 doubles, 9 triples, and 101 runs scored combining his time at A and AA. His 157 hits led the entire system as did the 101 runs scored.  He was second in BA and OBP. He hit even better for Portland than he did at Salem, hitting .339 with all six of his home runs for the Sea Dogs.  Dubon now profiles as a shortstop in the major leagues, but of course, Xander Bogaerts' presence precludes Dubon starting at short for Boston. Dubon could also play second, which he has done in the Boston system.  Most likely Dubon will be used as a trade chip, and after the 2016 outburst, this winter may be a time to sell high.

8. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF Greenville {8} Like Rafael Devers at Salem, Basabe was a highly regarded prospect who had a slow start to 2016.  Also like Devers, Basabe came on like gangbusters.
Luis finished at 12/52/.258/.325/.772 with 24 doubles and 8 triples, scoring 61 runs for the Drive.  Near the end of August, Basabe was promoted to Salem, going 8 for 22 in five games.  Basabe, also had the make the social adjustment of having his twin brother and Drive teammate, Luis Alejandro, traded in mid season to Arizona for Brad Ziegler.  Basabe will return for a longer stint in Salem to begin 2017, and do not be surprised if he moves in the top 5 Sox prospects in 2017.

9. Brian Johnson, LHP Pawtucket {7}.  Johnson had an up and down season that was punctuated by missing a substantial portion of year in mid season as he dealt with depression issues.  Johnson pitched better after he returned, but his calling card of great command of the strike zone faltered.  Brian ended the season with an ERA of 4.09.  The Red Sox chose not to recall Johnson in September as a depth starter, opting for Henry Owens instead.  2017 will be a pivotal year in Johnson's Red Sox career.  If he returns to his early 2015 form, he could contend for a rotation spot in Boston by mid 2017.  If not he may be considered organizational depth or could be traded.

10. Bobby Dalbec, 3B Lowell {23}. In the fourth round of this June's draft, the Sox grabbed Dalbec who had led the Cape Cod League in home runs in 2015.  This followed a strong sophomore season at Arizona.  Big time power is Dalbec's strong suit, but during his junior campaign at Arizona, he became known for striking out in big amounts.  The Sox signed Dalbec right after the College World Series, assigned him to Lowell and watched him erupt. In 34 games for the Spinners, Dalbec received 134 at bats and hit: 7/33/.386/.427/1.101 with 13 doubles and a pair of triples.  Because of Dalbec's major college background, it would not be surprising to see Boston push him.  Beginning 2017 at Salem rather than Greenville should be a real likelihood.  And if Dalbec continues to hit for power and average and limits his strikeouts, Dalbec could see Hadlock Field before 2017 is over. Between Jay Groome, Dalbec, and several college pitchers the 2016 draft could be seen as a bonanza for the Red Sox.

11. Josh Ockimey, 1B Greenville {9} After playing for short seasons teams in 2014 and 2015 (GCL and Lowell), the 20 year old burst on the scene at Greenville.  His 18 home runs cemented his spot as one of the best Sox power prospects.  But since 2016 was the first year spent with a full season team, Ockimey faded in the second half, finishing with just a .226 batting average.  But not only his power, but an OBP of .367 fueled by bushels of base on balls, offset the .226 BA somewhat.  The fact that Ockimey was a high school draftee from the northeast (Philly) in 2014, adds to the belief he just tired out this year. In 2017 at age 21 he will report to Salem, and this time he will be expected to hit over the entire campaign, if he is to be considered an elite prospect.

12. Michael Chavis, 3B Greenville {11}. Chavis returned for a second season at Greenville, and got off to a blazing start. But he injured his right thumb in April, and missed a month or so.  After his return, the numbers leveled off and he finished his Greenville year at: 8/35/.244/.321/.711.  Like Luis Basabe, at the very end of the season, Chavis was sent up to Salem for a handful of at bats. Chavis went 4 for 25 at Salem. Despite flashes of his reputed power, Chavis has now hit under .250 for each of his two seasons for the Drive.  His 2017 assignment to Salem should produce a pivotal year for Chavis, although he will still be just 21.

13. Marco Hernandez, IF Pawtucket-Boston {12}. Because of the way the Red Sox utilized Hernandez, it is somewhat difficult to judge him as a "prospect".  But there is no question Hernandez has gone from joining the Sox system to begin 2015, in a trade from the Cubs, as just another guy to a player who has hit .311 in 45 major league at bats this year. It is not out of the question that Marco could be on the Red Sox post season roster.

14. Roniel Raudes, RHP Greenville {15}. This 18 year old was named by the team as the Red Sox minor league pitcher of the year.  He spent the entire season at Greenville as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League. His line of: 11-6/3.65/1.19/104-23 came in 24 starts for a total of 113.1 innings. His fastball is only at 89-91, but his success is predicated on outstanding control.  Although the Red Sox expect his velocity to increase as he matures.  Raudes will spend his age 19 season in the Carolina League, where again he will one of the youngest players in his league.

15. Nick Longhi, 1B Salem {13} Longhi continues his one level per season climb up the Red Sox system, spending 2013-15 at GCL, Lowell, and Greenville before spending this whole season at Salem. Longhi put another solid season, with his 77 RBI and 40 doubles each leading the Red Sox system.  With players like Sam Travis and Travis Shaw ahead of Nick, and Josh Ockimey behind, the competition for future time at first base in Boston could be fierce, although Longhi also has limited outfield playing time.  For now Longhi will continue his one step at at time trip up the ladder, by opening 2017 as the first baseman in Portland.

16. CJ Chatham, SS Lowell {14}. CJ was the first of the higher Red Sox draft picks to sign this summer.  The second rounder made a brief 24 at bat cameo in the Gulf Coast League, then was promoted to Lowell.  Chatham hit a respectable 4/19/.259/.319/.745 while scoring 19 runs for Lowell. 2017's Opening day assignment should be as starting shortstop for Greenville. Chatham along Bobby Dalbec and most of the other 2016 high draft picks will report to the Instructional League.

17. Travis Lakins, RHP Salem {16} This 2015 draftee from Ohio State pitched only a couple of innings for Lowell in 2015 and made GCL playoff appearance.  But for all intents and purposes, Lakins made his pro ball debut for high A Salem.  This assignment shows how highly regarded Lakins is by Boston. And Travis began the campaign with a couple of strong months.  His numbers fell precipitously in the second half.  In early August, Lakins was placed on the DL with right elbow inflammation. He did make 19 starts for 91 innings, so his 2017 could begin back in Salem, or a strong training camp could push him to Portland.

18. Trey Ball, LHP Salem {17}. The former first round draftee began the season on the DL with a leg injury.  When healthy, Ball returned to Salem for a second season. His overall numbers were acceptable: 8-6/3.84/1.61/86-68.  But as you can see from the WHIP and K to BB ratio, Ball's command continues to be an issue.  The ERA is actually his best to date.  In 2017, Ball will report to Portland, and at age 22, still has time to take a step forward. Before that Ball will pitch for Surprise in the Arizona Fall League.

19. Kyle Martin, RHP Pawtucket {18} The tall 6'7" righty, taken in the 2013 draft in the ninth round from Texas A&M, spent all of 2016 in Rhode Island, after a spring training invite with the big club. Martin was effective out of the pen exclusively: 3-4/3.37/1.18/78-21 with six saves.  However, despite the numbers one wonders with all of the bodies shuffling in and out of the Boston pen, why was Martin not tried? In spring training 2017, Martin, who began the year as #29 on our list, should be in competition for a Boston bullpen spot.

20. Chandler Shepherd, RHP Portland-Pawtucket {19} Shepherd is the other top bullpen prospect in the upper levels of the system. Shepherd split the season between AA and AAA and pitched well in both spots. In 40 games over both levels Shepherd complied 7 saves in 64 innings.  Shepherd will likely go back to Pawtucket to begin 2017, with a call to Boston a possibility.

21. Shaun Anderson, RHP Lowell {20} The third rounder from this year draft was the closer at the Univ. of Florida.  The Sox will use Anderson as starter initially.  Anderson' s brief cameo with Lowell did not go well at all. In two games, Anderson pitched 2.2 innings giving up 12 hits and 9 runs for an ERA of 30.38.  But in reality Anderson will begin his pro baseball journey in 2017, likely in Greenville.

22. Yankory Pimental, RHP Salem {22} This Dominican righty, who will turn 23 on September 29, was a season long relief ace for Salem.  In 32 games pitched, Yankory hurled 78 innings posting a line of 9-6/3.12/1.37/70-36 with four saves. Pimental will arrive in Portland to begin 2017, and from that platform will hope to push for a bullpen spot in Boston by late 2017 or 2018.

23. Mike Shawaryn, RHP Lowell {21} Another right handed college pitcher (Maryland) grabbed by Boston in this year's draft. Mike was drafted in the fifth round and paid an over slot bonus of $637,500. Shawaryn also dipped his toe into the pro ball water at Lowell. Unlike Shaun Anderson, Shawaryn had a very good 0-1/2.87/1.40/22-7 in six games for 15.2 innings. With a number of potential starters for Greenville, there is a chance the Red Sox could push Shawaryn up to Salem a la Travis Lakins in '16.

24. Tate Matheny, OF Greenville {24} The son of the Cardinals manager compiled a very nice second pro season.  In 2015 Tate hit only .181 in nearly 200 at bats for Lowell.  But it was a different story in Grenville this year: 5/52/.277/.324/.706 with 20 doubles, four triples, and scored 59 runs.  In many quarters, Matheny is not considered a bona fide big league prospect.  But could he follow in the foot steps of another recent Sox minor leaguer who is the son of a former big leaguer, Travis Shaw? Next year at Salem could be a step towards answering that.

25. Jake Cosart, RHP Greenville-Salem {28} If you are looking for a bullpen ace who could be quickly on the rise through the system, it could the brother of big leaguer, Jared Cosart. Jake has a big time high 90's fastball and he compiled great numbers at both stops: 4-1/2.05/1.16/76-25 with 4 saves at Greenville and 0-0/1.00/1.00/28-11 in 18 innings for Salem.  Cosart should begin 2017 in the Sea Dogs bullpen, although a return to Salem for a few more Class A innings is not out of the question.

26.Yoan Aybar, OF Lowell {25} The international signee who first signed with Boston on his sixteenth birthday in 2013, struggled offensively in Lowell. After hitting.271 and .268 the previous two seasons in the DSL and GCL, Aybar finished 2016 for Lowell at .207.  But the nineteen year old did hit his first three pro home runs. Despite the low BA, Aybar is on target to play for the Grenville Drive next year.  Aybar is also the "lottery ticket" kind of prospect that could be included in a trade package by Boston this winter.

27. Justin Haley, RHP Portland-Pawtucket {NR} This big 6'5" righty makes his debut for the year on this list. Haley was drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 draft from Fresno State.  Haley first arrived in Portland on July 29, 2014 after a strong Salem performance.  But then Haley after finishing 2014 in Maine, spent all of 2015 there (5-16, 5.15 ERA) and returned to Portland to begin 2016. Haley was one of the few bright lights for the early season Sea Dogs going: 5-4/2.20/1.10/59-19 in a dozen starts earning his long awaited promotion to AAA.  Haley then made 15 more starts for Pawtucket and pitched nearly as well as he did in AA: 8-6/3.59/1.12/67-26. Haley capped his strong season by pitching his best game of the year in his last start: 8 scoreless innings allowing 2 hits with 7 strikeouts. Haley will turn 26 next June, so it may be his time to compete for a big league job.  Haley will need to be placed on the 40 man roster this winter or the Sox run risk of losing Haley in the Rule 5 draft.

28. Josh Pennington, RHP Lowell {34}Another pitcher making his debut in our top 30, after an honorable mention in August. Pennington was drafted out of a New Jersey high school in the 29th round in 2014.  He dropped way down the draft due to needing Tommy John surgery in high school.  Pennington signed somewhat unexpectedly, and sat out all of '14 and spent all of 2015 in the GCL. In 2016 Pennington pitched for Lowell: 5-3/2.86/1.16/49-27 in 13 games for 56.2 frames.  Now that Pennington is healthy, and still just 21,  Boston may have stolen a top prospect in the 29th round back in 2014.

29. Jaleen Beeks, LHP Salem-Portland This 5'11" lefty was drafted in the 2014 in the 12th round out of the Univ. of Arkansas (the next year the Sox grabbed Andrew Benintendi from the same school).  After pitching five innings in the GCL in 2014, Beeks made his full season debut in 2015 spending the whole year at Greenville going 9-7 with 100 strikeouts with only 28 walks in 145 innings. Beeks made his high A debut this year at Salem after compiling a 3.07 ERA in 13 starts, he was pushed up to Portland.  For the Dogs Beeks went: 5-4/4.68/1.5356-28 in 13 more starts. Beeks will continue his efforts to impress the Sox by pitching in the Arizona Fall League.

30. Kyri Washington, OF Greenville {35} Kyri sneaks back into the top 30, where he debuted for the first time earlier this year. Washington finished:16/73/.262/.323/.810 with 20 doubles and 9 triples and scored 51 runs in a complete campaign spent in Greenville. Washington is at best a borderline prospect, but his 16 home runs were third in the system behind AAAA player Chris Marrero and Josh Ockimey. The power, if Kyri can sustain it, could be his calling card.

Here are another baker's dozen names that were under consideration for this list:

* Luis Ysla: made his AAA debut in last appearance of the year
*Austin Rei: U of Washington product hit only .212 at Greenville
* Steve Nogosek: Another  college righty drafted in June's draft
*Teddy Stankiewicz: August 2 pitched first complete game one hitter in Sea Dogs history
*Austin Glorius: signed in 2015 as undrafted pitcher from Valdosta State, 3.20 ERA in '16
* Marc Brakeman: 15th rounder in '15 from Stanford, 76K/19BB in 2016 for Greenville
*Aneury Tavarez:  outfielder second in EL with .335 BA, first strong season in Sox system
*Williams Jerez: lefty spent all of 2016 in Portland pen with 4.71 ERA
*Henry Ramos: AAA debut in mid season, hit .247, returned to Portland (hit .281 at AA)
*Devin Marrero: former top ten prospect finishes below Mendoza line at AAA: .198
* Bryce Brentz: played at Portland, Pawtucket & Boston, hit the best in Boston .279 w/ 1st MLB HR
* Jamie Callahan: assigned to Arizona Fall League
* Noe Ramirez : just enough MLB games to show he is just bullpen filler

That brings a close to this minor league season.  During the winter between the winter meetings and spring training, RSM will review the list again updating for any changes due to trades, fall/winter league performances, or just a change of heart by RSM as some 2016 performances may be re-evaluated.

Go Sox bring home another trophy!


Monday, September 12, 2016

Two Games Ahead Twenty Games to Go

After finishing their second successful long road trip inside of a month, by taking two of three from AL East contending foe Toronto, the Red Sox return home two games ahead in the AL East.  As the Red Sox are attempting another last to first turnaround, let's take a look a some factors which could decide the race.

1. Schedule.  From Opening Day all Red Sox fans dreaded the August and September schedule which featured a nearly unprecedented number of late season road games. But after going 7-4 and 6-3 on the road trips, the Sox now have 10 home games and 10 away left.  Seven each with Baltimore and New York, three each with Tampa Bay and the Jays.  The ten home games are three this week with the O's followed by the Yanks for four.  The last three games of the year are hosting Toronto.  The ten remaining road games are on one more long trip, four in Baltimore, three in St. Pete and three in the Bronx. While it would be great to make hay at home, it is worthwhile to note Boston has the best road record in the AL at 39-32.

2. Starting Rotation. First, no other team in the AL East has a David Price. Price's career record for regular season September-October games is 23-7 with an ERA of 2.70.  The only team that come even near to a Price is New York's Masahiro Tanaka.  But there is one AL East pitcher who could make a case to be better than David Price at this stage of their careers.  And that is Red Sox teammate, Rick Porcello.  Currently the only AL 20 game winner, at 20-3, Porcello has dominated the whole campaign.
Currently in all of Porcello's last nine starts he has pitched 7+ innings and allowed three or fewer earned runs. Drew Pomeranz has pitched better and better since an initial shaky start for Boston back in July.  In the five starts he has made versus AL contenders, Pomeranz has an ERA of 2.40. His ERA at Fenway, if you take away the first clunker against the Giants, is 3.00. Eduardo Rodriguez showed what he is capable of in his near no-hitter in Oakland.  Clay Buchholz is the wild card holding down the fifth spot, but before his bad outing in Canada yesterday, had pitched effectively as of late. And Clay does have late season pennant race experience.

Boston has the best rotation in the AL East and it is not even close.

3. Veteran Leadership.  David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Hanley Ramirez (and the aforementioned Price and Porcello) have pennant race and post season experience.  Ramirez helped lead the Dodgers to the post season in 2013 and 2014 hitting about .340 in the Septembers and .467 in the two divisional series. Price has been in every postseason since 2010 (except for 2012) and Porcello has pitched in three. Of course Pedroia's and especially Ortiz' exploits this time of year are well known.  But the intertwined pennant push and the end of Big Papi's career could be fascinating going forward.  Imagine Papi coming to the plate at Fenway Park versus the Jays on October 2nd in the ninth inning needing a home run to move into the playoffs, and making an out could end the career.

4. Will the Kids "B" All Right?  Despite the huge contributions from the vets listed above, this team has been largely driven by Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr.  Xander experienced a division clinching in 2013, but on a team that was coasting to the title.  The others have not experienced a close September race until now.  The early returns look as if this trio will continue to play as they have all year.  Bogaerts has been struggling at the plate for a month, but had some big hits in Toronto. JBJ hit his 24th home run of the year in Toronto, and if he can get on one of his patented hot streaks, 30 long balls are not out of the question.  And with any sort of production these last three weeks, Mookie Betts will be the 2016 AL MVP. Another B boy who could be a factor down the stretch is rookie Andrew Benintendi. barring a last minute setback, Benny is due back from the disabled list on Wednesday.  His offense and glove could help.  An outfield of Benny, JBJ, and Mookie is the best defensive outfield in all of baseball by far.

5. And the Rest.  Do not be surprised if the Sox win a few games in which the stars of the night include Brock Holt, Travis Shaw, Chris Young, and any of the catchers ( especially the Kings of Leon, Super Sandy).  And despite the fact he has looked overmatched and is seemingly mired on the bench, I predict Yoan Moncada will play a key role in at least one Sox win down the stretch (look up Astros' Alex Bregman's start and what he has done since).

6. Koji Time. The biggest problem for this team has been the lack of a reliable 8th inning arm to get to closer Craig Kimbrel.  The best, but not only hope, to fill this cavity is 2013 super closer Koji Uehara.  Yes Koji is 41 now, but he has guile and much tense post season experience under his sash. Koji pitched a key shutout 8th inning in the big win at Toronto yesterday. Brad Ziegler and Joe Kelly also could add to the end of the Sox bullpen.

If Boston can finish the upcoming seven game home stand with the O's and Yankees with the two game lead intact, or better yet extend the lead to four games, at that point with 13 games to go, the Red Sox would be in the drivers seat.  They may not be in the drivers seat yet, but they do have the front door open.  Let us see if they climb in this week.  If they do get ready for a great ride.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

RSM Top 30 Red Sox Prospects- August 2016

As expected there are more movements- comings and goings- on this month's rankings of the top of the Red Sox system than there has been from one month to the next in a long time.

Dave Dombrowski, while not pillaging the entire system as feared by some, did trade three players from July's top 30, and  fourth from July's honorable mentions.  Anderson Espinoza (#4) was the biggest name dealt by far.  He went to the Padres straight up for All Star pitcher Drew Pomeranz. Pat Light (#8) was dealt to the Twins on deadline day for fellow reliever lefty Fernando Abad.  Also from July's top 30 the Red Sox now only have one Luis Basabe in the system.  Luis Alejandro Basabe (#23) leaves his twin brother, Luis Alexander behind in Greenville, as "AJ" was traded to Arizona, along with pitcher Jose Almonte for Brad Ziegler. Paw Sox righty Aaron Wilkerson, who was just off the top 30 in July, was traded to Milwaukee for Aaron Hill. The Brewers also received second baseman Wendell Rijo, who had fallen off the top 30 in July, but had resided there for the last couple of seasons.  In addition to Rijo, another player no longer in the top 30 recently, but had spent many months on our rankings over several seasons has left the organization.  Infielder Sean Coyle was designated for assignment to make room on the 40 man roster.  The Angels claimed Coyle and he is now in their minor league system.

Last month, second round draftee, shortstop CJ Chatham joined our list as the first of the top picks from the draft to sign.  By the July 15 signing deadline, all of the the top ten picks had signed, and the other four players selected in the top five join Chatham on this list for August.

As usual the team listed behind each player is their assignment as of July 31 ( with one exception marked by an *).  The number in { } is July's rating.

The hitter's slash line:  HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS, for pitchers W-L/ERA/WHIP/K-BB.


1. Yoan Moncada, 2B Portland {1}.  Moncada was selected to play in the Futures Game in San Diego as part of baseball's All Star celebration.  He took the opportunity and polished his sterling reputation even more, by winning the game MVP. The highlight of his game was a long home run to left field.  Of note, Yoan hit the home run batting right handed.  During the regular season Moncada has 12 home runs, combining his A and AA totals. All 12 home runs have been hit from the left side by the switch hitting infielder. His right handed hitting is still one skill that could use some more minor league tuning. After the Futures game, the Sox brass continued to state the intent to leave Moncada at second base for this season.  However, just days later Moncada began a routine of pre-game workouts at third base with his manager at Portland, former big league infielder Carlos Febles.  As July ended and August began, rumors of a promotion to AAA abound as Yoan has hit 7/18/.307/.408/1.078 in his first full month at Portland.

2. Andrew Benintendi, OF Boston* {2}. Benintendi, who turned 22 on July 6th, continued to rake at AA after a slow start.  Benintendi was hitting just .213 in his first 47 at bats for the Sea Dogs.  In 190 AB's since his AA line is at 8/44/.295/.357/.872 with 18 doubles and five triples.  The Red Sox, after some quotes from Dave Dombrowski about being willing to bring players to the majors from AA in certain cases, began playing Benintendi in left field instead of his usual center.  Andrew capped his torrid July by being named the Eastern League Player of the Week for the 25th-31st. It turned out to be his last week in the Eastern League because in the late night hours of August 1, Benintendi was recalled to Boston and flew to Seattle to join the Sox. Benintendi made his MLB debut the next night going 0 for 2 as a late game sub.  On August 3, Andrew, in front of numerous family members who flew into Seattle for the game, had two singles while making his first big league start.  The chance to grab a big league job is there.  It will be fun to watch Benintendi play in a pennant chase.

3. Rafael Devers, 3B Salem {3} As well as the top two super prospects have played, in July Devers was right there with them.  Rafael collected 41 hits in July to go: 5/17/.357/.408/1.078 for the month.  After a terrible beginning to '16, Devers is now hitting .272 with nine home runs for the year.  Keith Law of ESPN ranked Devers as the seventh best prospect in all of MLB in his mid-season report. If Devers was truly a piece Dombrowski was dangling for pitching at the deadline, the Red Sox may be very happy in the future that Devers was not dealt.

4. Michael Kopech, RHP Salem {6}.  With the trade of Anderson Espinoza, Kopech inherits the mantle as the Sox best pitching prospect. Kopech, after an injury plagued beginning to 2016, finally made his Salem debut in July: 0-1/1.21/1.20/32-15.  Kopech did not allow an earned run until his fourth start. Kopech also gained attention around the game by hitting 105 mph on the radar guns in one  of his starts. A strong last month at Salem should set Kopech up to head the Sea Dogs rotation for Opening Day 2017.

5. Jason Groome, LHP GCL Red Sox {NR}.  At the signing deadline Boston came to an agreement with Groome, their first round pick, for $3.65M.  It had been widely reported the high school lefty, who had been by many considered the best player in this draft, was looking for $4M or more to sign. On July 30, Groome was assigned to the Red Sox team in the Gulf Coast League. If Groome turns out to be anything close to his draft profile, he could be the top name on this list in the future.

6. Sam Travis,1B Pawtucket {5}.  The first baseman whose season ended two months ago due to injury is still the top hitting prospect in the tier after the top three super prospects.

7. Brian Johnson, LHP Pawtucket {10}. Johnson has returned after dealing with depression issues.  Johnson made six starts in July,  two each for the GCL Red Sox and Lowell and then returned to AAA for two more.  Johnson has pitched very well since his return with a July ERA of 2.28 in the six starts.  The best sign of all is Johnson's command, which is his calling card, has returned with 26 strikeouts versus only eight walks in July.

8. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF {17}. Basabe is another player who has used a torrid July to turn around his poor start to 2016, and to rocket back up our rankings.  Basabe raised his batting average for the year to .263 with ten homers, by rocking July: 4/19/.363/.438/1.032.  For the year, Luis has 18 stolen bases in 21 attempts, and along with his ten home runs,  this provides a glimpse as to why scouts feel Basabe has 20/20 potential.

9. Josh Ockimey, 1B Greenville{12}. The first sacker, who has put together one of the best 2016's in the Sox system: 15/50/.253/.388/.859 with 22 doubles, has broken into our top ten for the first time. Ockimey actually struggled in July, hitting only .151. But Ockimey did hit four home runs, one of which was a 485 foot bomb.  Something to keep an eye on for August will be how Ockimey adjusts to the struggles of July.

10. Mauricio Dubon, SS Portland {11}. Another top ten newcomer, who has had a very solid, consistent season throughout stints with Salem and Portland.  For the season Dubon has hit .309.  On July 31st Dubon hit his first AA home run.

11. Michael Chavis, 3B Greenville {7}. Chavis continues to have a solid second season for the Drive after returning from an April injury.  Chavis is hitting .266 an improvement of over 40 points from the .223 Chavis compiled for Greenville in 109 games in 2015.

12. Marco Hernandez, U Pawtucket {9}. After hitting a very respectable 1/5/.295/.367 in limited time for Boston, Hernandez has settled back in at Pawtucket, where he is hitting .310 for the season.  Marco will continue to need to prove he can be more than a AAAA player, and compete for a big league spot as an utility player.

13. Nick Longhi, 1B Salem {13}. The only number really missing from an otherwise good season at Salem is the home run ball: 2/62/.288/.359.755 with 27 doubles and three triples for the year to date. Longhi has also played some in right field which could give him some positional flexibility going forward.

14.CJ Chatham, SS- Lowell {18}. In his first 28 pro at bats for the GCL Sox and Lowell, Chatham is off to a 4 for 28 start.  CJ was hitless in his first few GCL games and then broke out with a double and home run,  The next day Chatham was promoted to Lowell.

15. Roniel Raudes, RHP Greenvile{14}. The 18 year old is now the youngest member of the Drive after the Espinoza trade.  Raudes did not shine in July with a 5.76 ERA, but for the season his numbers are 9-3/443/1.28/82-17.  Obviously the 82 K's to only 17 walks is the number that jumps off the page.

16. Travis Lakins, RHP Salem {16} After a strong start to 2016 this Ohio State product has now struggled through both June and July.  But other than two innings pitched for Lowell in 2015, this is his pro debut and in High A.  Despite his July ERA of 7.20 raising his seasonal ERA to 5.93, Lakins is still a highly regarded pitching prospect.  On July 28 Lakins went on the Disabled List with right elbow inflammation, perhaps an explanation of the poor June and July.

17. Trey Ball, LHP Salem {15} The 2013 first rounder seemed to be coming around in early 2016, but Ball pitched poorly in late June and worse in July, with a terrible monthly ERA of 8.17. Ball had stretch of three July starts in which he did not make it to the fourth inning in any.  Ball's day of reckoning as a Sox prospect may be coming sooner rather than later.

18. Kyle Martin, RHP Pawtucket {21}.  With the trade of Pat Light, Martin moves to the top of the list of young bullpen prospects for Boston.  Martin continued a strong '16 campaign with a 2.93 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in July.

19. Chandler Shepherd, RHP Pawtucket {20}. And if Kyle Martin is #1 relief prospect, Shepherd is 1A. The 14th round draft pick in 2014, has made his way to AAA and in July had a 3.86 ERA in seven games.

20. Shaun Anderson, RHP Lowell {NR}.  Anderson was the third round pick for Boston in this year's draft.  Anderson signed on July 3 for $700,000.  Anderson, 6'4" 225 lb., was the closer for the University of Florida, but Boston is likely to try him as a starter.  By the end of July, Anderson, who features a 95 mph fastball, had made just one appearance at Lowell.

21. Mike Shawaryn, RHP unassigned {NR}.  This righty was the fifth round draft pick from the University of Maryland.  His three year career record for the Terrapins was 30-10.  Shawaryn signed for an over slot bonus of $637,500 on deadline day, with Boston using some of the money saved on Jason Groome.  Shawaryn throws in the low 90's and has a plus slider.

22. Yankory Pimental, RHP Salem {19} Another bullpen arm who has spent the season at Salem.  His line for the year is 7-5/3.47/1.35/51-29.  Like many of the pitchers on this list, Pimental struggled in July with an ERA of 6.75.

23. Bobby Dalbec, 3B Lowell {NR} The final new draftee on the August rankings.  The Sox grabbed this power hitting third baseman from the University of Arizona (where he also pitched, including in this year's College World Series).  Dalbec had an outstanding sophomore season at Arizona, but he regressed this year with many strikeouts.  But Dalbec has off the charts power potential, and if he can cut down even a little on the whiffs, and makes enough contact, the Sox may have stolen him in the fourth round.  Dalbec signed on July 15 for $650,000 (using more of the Groome savings) and on July 23 he his pro debut for Lowell.  In his first 18 at bats Dalbec has already hit his first pro home run and is hitting .444 (8 for 18).  Dalbec is one to really keep an eye on.

24. Tate Matheny, OF Greenville {25}. Matheny is a model of consistency in 2016.  In July he produced a line of 1/13/.318/.348/.771, with a nearly identical seasonal BA and OBP of .316 and .357.

25. Yoan Aybar, OF Lowell {28} Aybar who turned 19 on July 3, has been playing regularly in the Spinners outfield.  He has three home runs showing signs of his potential but his overall numbers are  a weak 3/12/.216/.269/.613.  Aybar ,who also has three doubles and two triples, hit only .177 in July.

26. Austin Rei, C Greenville {26}  Rei is another player whose future depends on being able to hit enough to match his stronger defensive game.  July brought mixed results, with only a .200 batting average but with four home runs for the young catcher.

27. Henry Ramos, OF Pawtucket {27}. July was not Ramos' best month as he hopes to take full advantage of his first AAA assignment: 3/8/.221/.269/.641.  Ramos is very athletic, but to have a big league career even as a fourth outfielder, he needs to hit more than .221.

28. Jake Cosart, RHP Greenville {NR} Cosart reappears in the top 30 after slipping from 26th in June to just off the top 30 in July.  Cosart has thrived after being converted full time to the bullpen this year.  Jake had one of the better July lines for any Red Sox minor league hurler: 1-0 with two saves and an ERA of 2.92.  His seasonal mark is 4-1 with 2.09 ERA.  But his outstanding entry on the seasonal stat sheet is 76 strikeouts with only 25 walks.  Cosart who can throw in the high 90's could move quickly as a bullpen arm.  The move began on August 4 when he was promoted to Salem.

29. Deven Marrero, SS Pawtucket {22}.  The former first round draft pick and top ten Red Sox prospect is on the verge of failure.  He has had a miserable 2016 at the plate:0/21/.196/.242/.277.  His July was even worse hitting only .134.   The question with Marrero since the day he was drafted is can he hit enough?  The answer is no.

30. Bryce Brentz, OF Boston {NR} The is an unique situation where a former top ten prospect whose light had dimmed made his way back to our list because of his major league showing.   In June with the Red Sox left field looking like a MASH unit, Brentz was recalled seemingly just as a warm body.  But in a platoon facing mostly lefty starters, Brentz has acquitted himself admirably.  He may never be a big league star, but Brentz has shown he could be at least a fourth outfielder for many big league teams.  Through July for Boston Brentz is hitting:1/7/.288/.327/.712 with a pair of doubles.  Brentz has also played well in left field overall.  On June 26 in Texas, Brentz hit his first big league home run.  When Chris Young returns from the DL, Brentz likely will return to AAA.  But by then he will have spent a coupe of months in the show, and another team may have been watching.

Here are few other names just missing the Top 30

Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP Portland
Jalen Beeks, LHP Portland
Luis Ysla, LHP Portland
Josh Pennington, RHP Lowell- '14 29th round draftee from Cape May, NJ who fell due to TJ surgery
Kyri Washington, OF Greenville
Steve Nogosek, RHP Lowell sixth round draftee, closer from Univ. of Oregon

Believe it or not August is the last full month for the minor leagues which end their  regular season campaigns on Labor Day.  Our next rankings will come after Labor Day, after those regular seasons are over.




Monday, August 1, 2016

Trading Deadline Day Live Chat

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sale Price

If the Boston Red Sox can swing a trade for the possibly available White Sox All Star lefty, Chris Sale, the name of this post would be the front of the Red Sox rotation. But the topic of the post is in actuality what it may cost the Red Sox in players to acquire the best pitcher in the American League.

Chris Sale is only 27 years old, he will not turn 28 until right before Opening Day 2017.  He is signed through 2019 at very short money for a star pitcher.  He is earning $9.15M this year with 12M due in '17 and '18 and 15M in 2019.  He is 71-43 with an ERA of 2.95 for his career.  The White Sox will ask for the moon for him it would seem.  Let's look at some of the rumored asking prices out there for Chris Sale.

First the most common rumor is the White Sox want a package of five top young players, with some major league ready players in the package ideally.  There are also reports Chicago would want at least two pitchers in return to help offset the loss of Sale.  There are a very limited amount of teams who have the young players to make this happen probably Texas, Boston, the Dodgers, and maybe Houston.

We will examine groups of Red Sox players who have been mentioned in Sale rumors and present a package that could entice the Chisox.

The core, the B-Boys: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr.

Several reports claim any Sox-Sox deal must begin with one of these three, plus one of the Sox best two prospects plus more.  Let me be clear there is no chance in hell I would trade Mookie Betts straight up for any pitcher including Chris Sale.  There is the same no chance that I would trade Xander Bogaerts straight up for any pitcher, again including Mr. Sale.  I might, maybe deal JBJ straight up for Sale but I doubt I would (and to be honest I doubt the White Sox trade Sale one for one for Jackie).  I do not think Dave Dombrowski trades any of these three guys either.   The basis of the deal needs to start elsewhere.

The Super Prospects: Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers

Many of the same reports which claim the deal begins with one of Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley go on to say the second piece needs to be Moncada or Benintendi.  I hate to sound like a broken record but I do not trade Yoan Moncada for any pitcher.  This would be akin to trading Bogaerts or Betts two or three years ago.  My preference would be to hang onto Benintendi as well.  This may be difficult to do because there was a report out of Chicago today saying the White Sox would be willing to build a deal with Benintendi as the main piece. Last year when the Red Sox picked Benintendi at number seven overall in the draft, the White Sox were sitting at number eight, and apparently had every intention to take Benintendi there.

If there is to be a blockbuster package it must include one top ten type prospect (that means top ten in all of baseball, just not Red Sox top ten).  If Boston hopes to hold onto both Moncada and Benintendi, luckily they have one more top ten player in their system.  Rafael Devers, a power hitting third baseman, after a slow start to 2016 has been raking of late in Salem. Keith Law of ESPN in his mid season rankings had Devers as the seventh best prospect in all of the game.  At age 19, Devers is further from big league ready, but is a similarly rated prospect to Yoan and Andrew.

So piece number one would be Rafael Devers.

Pitching

With the trade of Anderson Espinoza to San Diego earlier this month for Drew Pomeranz, the Red Sox system is not loaded with pitching, the way they are with batters. The two best by far are Michael Kopech, who recently hit 105 on the radar guns, pitching for Salem and the second top 50 type prospect is recently signed number one draftee, Jay Groome.  Groome should not be dealt (even though with new rules in MLB recent draftees can be traded), until Boston has a better idea what they have in Groome.  This may take a year or two. And I do not think they are in position to trade Kopech either (although I would if it meant making the deal or not).

Neither Henry Owens nor Brian Johnson have the panache to be a leading piece in the trade at this time.  I do think however one of them (Owens likely) could be added as a fourth or fifth piece.

Boston does have a couple of other mid range pitching prospects, but likely no one else to spark Chicago's interest.  But Boston certainly does have other pitching to offer.  Out of the current Boston bullpen, Matt Barnes could interest the White Sox (especially if they still believe he could start in the big leagues) and at the back end of a deal Joe Kelly may spark some interest.

But if Chris Sale were to join the Red Sox rotation, Boston could include in the trade package the starter leaving the rotation. Tonight on NESN Nick Cafardo said if the Red Sox included Eduardo Rodriguez in the package it would take only two other pieces to make a deal. Now considering it was Cafardo the other two pieces could be Betts and Moncada, but the question is would you trade E-Rod in a package for Sale?  Rodriguez is not only young, but has over a year of MLB experience.  I cannot imagine any other team offering a better young pitcher.

About a week after the Drew Pomeranz trade to Boston a report surfaced that Theo Epstein and the Cubs had been trying hard to acquire Pomeranz.  The Cubs did not intend to keep Drew, but the report said the Cubs were going to include Pomeranz in a package for a starting pitcher who was not previously known to be available.  Now I cannot believe the White Sox would have traded Chris Sale across town to the Cubbies, but could Boston use Drew Pomeranz in a similar manner?  Pomeranz is the same age as Sale and is coming off an All Star Game appearance, and is signed for two more years.  Pomeranz could "replace" Sale in the Chisox rotation, and attraction of acquiring some young talent with him from Boston would offset the differences in the two lefties.

So I include in my proposal to Rick Hahn so far: Rafael Devers, Drew Pomeranz.

Big League Ready Talent

If the White Sox, as reported, are looking for the package to include a big leaguer, the third piece of our deal would likely come from the following list:

Blake Swihart
Travis Shaw
Brock Holt
Christian Vazquez

Let's review the list in reverse order.

The White Sox catching is dreadful Dioner Navarro, Alex Avila.  Christian Vazquez would be an immediate and long term upgrade.  Vazquez' poor offensive showing in 2016 might limit his value, but I could see him being attractive to a team with such crappy catchers.

Brock Holt is probably too valuable to the Red Sox as they begin the last two months of the season.  But if the Red Sox could keep Benintendi out of the deal, he comes up to Boston to help out in left field.  If Chicago is looking for players to help them now, Holt fits the bill. Plus Chicago second sacker, Bret Lawrie is a free agent to be, so Holt could play there full time in 2017.

Travis Shaw has been slumping of late, but he has shown he can hit for power at the major league level.  The White Sox seem to have the corner infield spots covered with Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier.  But Frazier is another name Chicago is rumored to be shopping at the deadline, and Abreu would make a fine DH if Shaw manned first. For those who are still Shaw skeptics, this would be considered trading high on Shaw.

But by far the most attractive name on this list, a player who in my eyes is just a notch or so below Moncada, Benintendi, and Devers is Blake Swihart.  Swihart despite being out currently with an ankle injury, could be the answer to the Chicago catching situation detailed above. Swihart has already shown flashes of the strong major league hitter he can be, and likely will be.  Swihart is not someone I would like to trade, and if the Red Sox do they had better hope Sandy Leon is not a mirage or that Vazquez will hit when he is further removed from Tommy John surgery.  But if you are looking to build a blockbuster package and keep all five of Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, Moncada and Benintendi, Blake Swihart likely needs to be in the package.

Offer so far: Rafael Devers, Drew Pomeranz, Blake Swihart.

This offer includes a major league All Star pitcher, a big league catcher/outfielder, and a prospect rated in the top ten to fifteen in all of baseball.

The rest

For the rest you could look back at any of the Red Sox Maineiacs top 30 prospects.  For another pitcher I would offer one of Travis Lakins, Trey Ball, or Teddy Stankiewicz.  Lakins is the highest rated Red Sox prospect of these three, Ball of course was drafted the highest, and Stankiewicz is the only one of these three at AA.  Henry Owens or Brian Johnson could fit here as well, but I would prefer to send along someone in a lower level.

One player who has had a very strong 2016 is current Sea Dogs shortstop, Mauricio Dubon.  Dubon has also played second base, and with the White Sox having young shortstop, Tim Anderson, Dubon could be a keystone partner for Anderson in the future.

So let's make our final offer: Devers, Pomeranz, Swihart, Dubon, and Trey Ball for Chris Sale.

So would Chicago make this deal?  I am not sure, but this is an offer that does not include the five guys I would not want to trade (plus it keeps E-Rod).  It is also an offer that I feel would be the best Chicago receives unless Texas trades several guys like Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara.  But Texas does not have the pitching to trade to match Pomeranz (and especially not Rodriguez if he was included).

If the White Sox really want to trade Chris Sale this package might get it done.  But to be honest, I am not convinced Sale will be traded.  Jose Quintana, anyone?







Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Night Baseball Live Chat Red Sox @ Yankees 7-17-16

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