Saturday, May 2, 2015

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- May 2015 Edition

The first month of the 2015 minor league season is in the books and it is time to update our rankings of what may now be the best system in minor league baseball.  Most major coverage of minor league ball had the Sox at number two behind the Cubs. But with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell promoted to the big leagues the Sox may just be the best in all of baseball.

With one exception our rankings look a lot like April in the top 20, with some changes and shuffling in the lower third.  As usual the number in { } is the previous month's ranking and the slash line for hitters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for pitchers W-L/ERA/WHIP/K-BB.  Team listed is their April 30 assignment (and that matters in a couple of cases).

1. Blake Swihart, C- Pawtucket {1} The best prospect in the system is off to a hot start at the plate, with a line of 0/11/.338/.392/.774, and he has been even better hitting left handed with a BA of .390 and a OBP of .457.  And behind the dish, Swihart has acquired another month of AAA experience. And the big news for Blake is that month may be all he gets in AAA, because late in the evening of May 1, he was recalled to Boston to replace the injured Ryan Hanigan (who fractured a knuckle on his throwing hand). With Hanigan expected to be out for a "significant" period, Swihart has an opportunity to grab the job.  The spectrum of possibilities range from Swihart flourishing and keeping the job for a decade to not being ready and returning to Pawtucket while the Sox acquire another veteran catcher.  We will see right now.

2. Rusney Castillo, OF- Pawtucket {2} Rusney and the player at number three both spent April in neutral gear but for different reasons.  Castillo, as has been the case several times all ready in his brief career in America, was injured.  Castillo injured a shoulder diving for a fly ball. He returned to active duty on April 29 as a DH at Pawtucket. Consequently Rusney had only 16 AAA at bats in April.  It would seem he must put together around a month of so of regular playing time before his expected promotion to Boston occurs.

3. Yoan Moncada, 2B- XST {3} Moncada spent the entire month of April in extended spring training without his expected assignment to Greenville.  Apparently this has nothing to do with his ability to handle the South Atlantic League, the Red Sox are just being cautious and allowing Yoan plenty of time to adjust to playing and living in the States.  With the Drive all ready having a loaded infield (we will meet all of them on this list), it is possible when Moncada leaves XST he may be assigned to a higher level than Greenville.

4. Manuel Margot, OF- Salem {7} This is the biggest change in our top twenty.  The original draft of the May rankings still had Margot at seven.  But with his pedigree and performance in April it just screamed out top five prospect.  In April Margot hit 1/7/.324/.377/.891 with nine stolen bases as Salem's leadoff hitter.  The other news on Margot is that Philadelphia sent senior advisor Charlie Manuel to Salem to scout him in regards to a Cole Hamels to Boston deal.  Peter Gammons as far back as January stated he thought a package of Margot and Henry Owens would be the best return the Phillies could hope for.  If Margot's May matches his April, he very likely by June will be in Portland or atop the Phillies prospect rankings.

5, 6, & 7. Brian Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, LHP- Pawtucket {4,5,6}.  Three fifths of the Paw Sox rotation each move back a spot due to Margot's jump.  They do stay in the same order in relation to each other.  Johnson and Rodriguez were both outstanding in April and continue to deserve to be ranked ahead of the more ballyhooed Owens.  Johnson's line was 3-1/0.86/1.00/24-9 in four starts totaling 21 innings pitched.  Eduardo's was 2-0/1.93/0.70/16-1( that's right one walk in April) in three starts for 18  2/3 innings. Owens's numbers do not match the other two, especially in the control department: 1-1/4.29/1.43/19-17 in four starts.  Owens will continue to work on repeating his delivery, a challenge for taller pitchers sometimes.  If another starter is needed in Boston due to injury or otherwise, Johnson and Rodriguez would seem to be the leading candidates.

8. Rafael Devers, 3B- Greenville {8}.  His April line was 0/6/.308/.333/.687.  While his previous power surge has not resurfaced yet, the eighteen year old is more than holding his own at the plate in a league where the average pitcher is 22 years old. The Red Sox are reportedly very happy with Devers' early showing and expect the power to come as 2015 goes on.

9. Matt Barnes, RHP- Pawtucket {9}  Barnes has managed to pitch only eight innings at Pawtucket so far.  The beginning of his season was slowed by the need to stretch his innings back out after spending all of spring training in the Boston bullpen.  And then a week or so ago, Barnes was one of a succession of Paw Sox hurlers called to Boston for one day at a time to help the overworked Boston pen.  Barnes pitched two scoreless innings in his MLB game, and despite returning to the AAA rotation, most observers expect to see Barnes as a full time member of the Red Sox relief corps in 2015 at some point.

10. Michael Kopech, RHP- Greenville {14} Kopech leapfrogs over his fellow 2014 first round draftee, and others, to join our op ten.  The fireballer from Texas had an outstanding April in South Carolina with a line of 1-1/1.98/0.59/11-2 in three starts for 13 2/3 innings.  Kopech, whose fastball sits at around 95, has lit the radar guns at 99 and 100 on occasion.

11. Michael Chavis, 3B- Greenville {10} Despite showing home run power, Chavis is not off to the fast start as fellow '14 first rounder Kopech is.  Chavis is hitting 3/9/.197/.258/.635.  If and when Moncada is assigned to Greenville, Chavis will need to pick up the pace to continue getting regular playing time.

12. Deven Marrero, SS- Pawtucket {11} Based on his April numbers, 2/10/.281/.348/.822, Deven may be on his way to duplicating his Portland experience.  Marrero, in 2013, finished at Portland hitting .236 with no extra base hits.  He went back to Portland to begin '14 and he hit .291 with 19 doubles,  two triples, and five home runs and was promoted to Pawtucket.  In AAA he dropped to .210 with little to no power.  If Marrero masters AAA at the bat, he becomes a legitimate big league prospect.  The other interesting Marrero tidbit is the Sox have begun to play the shortstop at second and third base at times.

13. Garin Cecchini, 3B-OF- Pawtucket {12}.  Unlike Marrero, Garin did not flourish in April in the beginning of his second AAA campaign: 1/2/.182/.211/.501.  If/when Cecchini gets to big leagues for good it will be on the strength of his bat.  April is a relatively small sample size considering his career minor league BA is .298, but his bat must come to life.

14. Trey Ball, LHP- Salem {13} Ball started the 2014 season poorly at Greenville then poured it on in the second half.  His April in Salem indicates another slow start may be in the cards. His April line was 1-2/5.57/1.29/15-6 in four starts.  Ball is still young and is likely to spend all of 2015 in Salem so he will have time to rebound as in '14.

15. Javier Guerra, SS- Greenville {15} In sixty at bats in April the slick fielding shortstop showed some pop at the plate, but with very few walks leading to a subpar OBP.  His line was 2/8/.283/.295/.795.

16. Sam Travis, 1B- Salem {17} Sam finished April strongly and posted an overall line of 1/7/.242/.316/.679.  If May shows continued improvement, Travis still could make an appearance at Hadlock Field before the summer is out.

17. Travis Shaw, 1B-3B- Pawtucket {16} Shaw has got off to a slow start this season while splitting time between first and third base: 1/9/.185/.260/.568.  With no clear path to a big league job at first or third in Boston, Shaw will need to show the offensive output he did in 2014 to force the issue.

18. Sean Coyle, 2B-3B- Pawtucket {18}  In his AAA debut Coyle has continued the show the power he has exhibited throughout his minor league days, despite his short stature: 3/6/.205/.327.736, but his overall offensive performance has been a struggle.  Coyle is another player the Red Sox are attempting to make more versatile in the field.  After adding third base to his original second base last year at Portland, the Sox announced recently Coyle would be tried in the outfield as well as the infield.

19. Wendell Rijo, 2B- Salem {19} Rijo hit reasonably well in April for his Carolina League debut, while still leaving room for improvement as he adjusts to high A: 2/6/.246/.295/.769.

20. Bryce Brentz, OF- Pawtucket {20}  Brentz' April again shows a player who is big league ready, just needing an open spot to arise:  3/9/.297/.361/.875.  Bryce who also shows a strong throwing arm from either corner outfield spot, can only continue to produce and hope for another big league shot.

21. Nick Longhi, 1B-OF- Greenville {23}If Longhi can avoid an injury like the one that shortened his '14 season at Lowell the 2013 draftee from Venice Beach, Florida could be in for a breakout campaign and a rise up our rankings.  His April line was 2/7/.301/.346/.826, a top notch month for the 19 year old.

22. Mauricio Dubon, 2B- Greenville {UR} A newcomer who jumped onto the list with a strong April at Greenville: 1/8/.338/.370/.786.  Dubon who is from Honduras, moved to California to live with his travel baseball coach's family to further his chances for a pro baseball career.  The Red Sox drafted Dubon in the 26th round of the 2013 draft.  The natural shortstop who has moved to second due to Javier Guerra playing short at Greenville, hit .320 last season for Lowell, indicating that April's gaudy numbers may not be any fluke.

23. Edwin Escobar, LHP- Pawtucket {21} The hard throwing lefty acquired last year from the Giants, has yet to pitch in 2015 due to injury.  When Escobar returns to action, he may regain some of the spots he has lost on our list, and gain a chance to help the Boston bullpen during '15.

24. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP- Salem {24} Stankiewicz has been a mainstay of the early season Salem rotation making four starts and has thrown 23 innings with a line of 0-3/3.91/1.30/12-6. As with teammate Trey Ball, Teddy is likely looking at a complete Carolina League campaign, and will try to improve start by start.

25. Ty Buttrey, RHP- Greenville {UR} Buttrey is the second prospect on this list, along with #1 Blake Swihart, who was promoted a level on May 1.  Buttrey will join Ball and Stankiewicz in the Salem rotation.  The big righty ( 6'6" 235) was taken by the Sox in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and given a first round type bonus to sign the thought to be unsignable  high schooler.  After very good performances for the GCL Sox in '12 and Lowell in 2013, Buttrey's star dimmed considerably after a terrible '14 at Greenville going 0-5 with a 6.85 ERA.  The Red Sox returned Ty to Greenville to begin '15 and he responded with this line: 1-0/2.45/0.91/22-3. That was only three walks in 22 innings as opposed to 24 walks in 46 innings at Greenville in '14.  Buttrey, who turned 22 on March 31, has plenty of time to gain top prospect status if he can build on this April while in Salem.

26. Pat Light, RHP- Portland {30} Light continues to make the transition to full time reliever in Portland with an ERA of 4.76 ( bloated by a bad inning or two) but with 13 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings pitched versus only two walks.  If Light can continue to show that type of command with this big time fastball, he could, just maybe help in Boston before 2015 is out.

27. Simon Mercedes, RHP- Portland {29} The other righty undergoing a conversion to reliever at Hadlock Field.  Mercedes has similar number to Light except he has walked seven batters in 12 2/3 innings.  Neither Mercedes or Light have a save yet, as Portland has been using them in middle relief, as they adapt to their new roles.

28. Henry Ramos, OF- Portland {22}.  Ramos will miss significant time for the second year in a row as he has undergone knee surgery and is on the DL.  If he cannot comeback before the year concludes, he may well fall off our list entirely, and off the Red Sox radar as well.

29. Luis Diaz, RHP- Portland {27} Like a lot of his Sea Dog teammates, Diaz is off to a slow start in April: 0-1/5.62/1.69/16-7 while making four starts for only sixteen innings.

30. Carlos Asauje, 2B- Portland {26} Carlos continues to shine in particular offensive category which is OBP with an April number of .405.  This knack for getting on base and his defensive versatility could be his ticket to big league career as a bench player.

That is May's Top 30, before we go let's meet one more Portland Sea Dog and check in two of our favorites.

Jonathan Aro, RHP- Portland Aro, along with Light and Mercedes, is a third pitcher the Red Sox are converting to full time reliever at Portland.  The difference for Aro is that he has been largely a bullpen guy throughout his minor league career.  The 2011 international free agent signee from the Dominican has made 67 appearances with only twelve games started in his minor league career.  But since joining the Portland pen full time he has put up  a line of 2-1/3.07/11-6 in 14 2/3 innings.  His fastball sits at 91-93 topping out at 95.

David Chester, 1B-DH- Portland.  The RSM favorite son is off to a slow 2015 at Portland.  He has only one home run for April ( although he hit a two run shot on May 1) with his complete line being 1/4/.185/.302/579.  Is it possible AA will be the end of the line for Chester?

And finally we want to check in on one of the graduates from these rankings who now finds himself back at Pawtucket (except for a one day cameo on the Boston bench): Jackie Bradley, Jr.  JBJ, after a strong spring training with Boston, is seemingly regaining the batting stroke he had always exhibited in college and the minors. His April line in 77 at bats: 0/6/.325/.388/.804 including six doubles.  There may or may not be a spot for JBJ in Boston ( although RF and fourth outfielder are in play in my eyes), but it will be interesting to watch JBJ's season.

That is it for May, there will be only one more report at the beginning of June before the 2015 draft in early June.  The Red Sox have the seventh overall pick for the second time in three years and a chance to add more prospects to an overflowing inventory that all ready exists.  We will have a post or two on the draft in the coming weeks.

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