Wednesday, August 5, 2015

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- August 2015

As hard as it is to believe, August is the last full month of the minor league baseball season.  And as we again rank the top prospects as they enter that final month, we have some changes at the top of our list due to graduations and several new names in the lower ranks.

Eduardo Rodriguez, last month's Red Sox top prospect has graduated to big league rookie season status.  And although he is a dozen or so at bats shy of officially graduating, we have also bumped Rusney Castillo off our list.  It seems obvious at this point, Rusney is going to spent the rest of 2015 in Boston.

The July 31 trading deadline did not create any changes to our list, with no Sox kids being dealt away, nor were any prospects acquired by dumping Sox veterans.

Before we meet the new #1 Sox prospect and several players who have burst onto the Top 30, here is the usual housekeeping:  The team listed behind each player is their team as of July 31, and the number in { } is July's ranking.  The slash lines used are:

Hitters: HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and Pitchers: W-L/ERA/WHIP/K-BB/.

Here is the Top 30 for August 2015:

1. Rafael Devers, 3B Greenville {2} Each of the players in the top 6 spots were all considered as the new top dog, but Devers edged them all out.  Although his BA for July was down to .258, Rafael continued to show the power he is known for with five home runs and sixteen RBI.  One of the home runs was the third grand slam of his pro career, on July 25.  Not only has Devers delivered at the plate at only age 18, but a number of scouts feel he has been showing better defense than expected at third.  Despite his very young age, there has been some speculation the Sox may bump Devers up to high A Salem soon.  This remains to be seen and a full year at Grenville would certainly not set Devers back at all.

2. Yoan Moncada, 2B Greenville {3} The heralded Cuban youngster has come to life in the second half of the South Atlantic League season.  His line for July was 4/13/.316/.419/.945 with six doubles, a triple and 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts. His play at second base has been less than sterling, and there is very good chance his future big league position will be elsewhere.  Moncada, too, has been rumored to be on the cusp of a promotion to Salem.  In fact, Yoan's move to Virginia is more probable than Devers.

3. Manuel Margot, OF Portland {5} Margot continues to adjust to AA, hitting only .231 in July. But in addition to an outstanding defensive game in center field, Margot's July included nine extra base hits, and seven steals.  As with Devers and Moncada, Margot is still very young, he will not turn 21 until after the season on September 28.  When the Red Sox go shopping for a young controllable ace type pitcher this winter, you can be sure some or all of these first three names will be requested by the other side of any deal.

4. Henry Owens, LHP Pawtucket {6} From the start of the AAA season through June 9, Owens had seven games in which he walked four or more batters with an ERA of 3.64.  From June 14 through July 23, Owens pitching in his regular rotation had NO games in which he walked as many as four batters.  His ERA for that stretch was 2.77.  Another illustration that Owens has seemingly tamed his command issues to some degree.  For the season he had 103 strikeouts and 56 walks( this includes the good streak in June and July) at ratio of less than two K's per walk.  But in five July starts Owens had a K/BB of 34/8, better than a 4 to 1 ratio.  On August 4th Boston recalled Owens and he made his first big league start at Yankee Stadium.  He took the loss, in large part due to the putrid Boston bullpen who followed Henry to the mound.  Owens pitched 5+ innings allowing three runs on five hits.  Owens at one point retired 12 in a row, and he struck out five and walked only one.  Owens should get an audition for the 2016 rotation for the rest of 2015.

5. Brian Johnson, LHP Pawtucket {4} Johnson has had a roller coaster ride since our last rankings. As we predicted Johnson made his major league debut in July.  On July 21 Johnson started versus the Astros in Houston.  Johnson pitched fairly well ending up giving up four runs in 4.1 innings. At the time of this start, Johnson ( partially due to the All Star Break) had not pitched in nearly two weeks, and he looked rusty.  But this seemed to be the start of Johnson' s audition, but unexpectedly after the start he was optioned back to AAA.  A week or so later John Farrell told reporters both Johnson and Owens would be recalled in a matter of days.  Johnson made a start for Pawtucket on August 2, and went only four innings and sixty pitches, and everyone assumed the brief outing was a tuneup for his recall to Boston.  But the next day, Brian went on the DL with " left elbow tightness".  He was diagnosed with ulnar nerve irritation. The Sox say it is not serious and requires only rest and rehab, and he is not done for 2015.  But any injury that mentions ulnar nerve in the pitching elbow waves red flags.

6.  Andrew Benintendi, OF Lowell {8} The number one pick in the Red Sox 2015 draft made his pro debut in July for the Spinners.  Andrew had a strong offensive start: 4/10/.229/.396/.867.  The low batting average is more than offset by the near .400 OBP.  Last year the Sox assigned high draft pick Sam Travis to Lowell and by August 1, had promoted him to Greenville.  Benintendi should be expected to follow the '14 path of Travis and join the loaded Drive team any day now.

7. Javier Guerra, SS Greenville {10} Perhaps no other player on this list has boosted his stock more than Guerra in 2015.  Known as a top flight defensive shortstop, Javier has continue to rake at the dish all season long.  His red hot line for July: 5/17/.366/.398/.953.  This is not a one month hot streak, his YTD line: 13/54/.302/.351/.844.  Guerra is another teenager, who will not turn 20 until September 25.

8. Sam Travis, 1B  Portland {13} Travis has earned the five spot jump by handling the Eastern League almost since the day of his mid season promotion from Salem.  In a 27 game stretch in July Travis hit .356.  His July OBP was .407.  Travis was drafted last year out of Indiana University with a reputation of being a complete hitter.  Nothing in pro ball has disputed that so far, and Travis could be in the Red Sox first base mix before 2016 is out.

9. Anderson Espinoza, RHP  GCL Red Sox {18}.  The young righty is another hard charger up our list.  Anderson has continued to shine in Florida after his promotion from the Dominican Summer League.  His combined line for 2015: 0-1/1.15/1.05/38-11 in 39 innings. His relative slight stature bring comparisons to Pedro, but let's give it a few years and enjoy watching his development.

10. Michael Kopech, RHP Greenville {9} First let's admire Kopech's YTD line: 4-5/2.63/1.23/70-27.  These numbers put up in 65 innings will be Kopech's final line for 2015.  On July 16 MLB suspended Kopech for 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance, Oxilofrine.  This is a stimulant often used for weight loss.  Kopech apologized for the transgression, while claiming he did not intentionally use the stimulant.  From strictly a baseball point of view, the Sox will have Kopech pitch in the Instructional League and maybe winter ball to make up for any missed innings.

11. Michael Chavis, 3B Greenville {14} Chavis line for the year: 10/39/.222/.274/.654 illustrates two points. Last year's first round draft pick is showing the power scouts felt he possessed, but there is still a adjustment to pro ball as his low BA and OBP show.

12. Trey Ball, LHP Salem {12} Ball continues to make steady, but not spectacular progress.  His line for July: 2-2/3.67/1.26/14-13 largely mirrors the YTD line: 8-8/3.69/131/59-45.  But he has pitched 102.1 innings through July and that pro experience is what is needed for the first round draftee from 2013.

13. Deven Marrero, 2B-SS Pawtucket {11}  The good news for Marrero is due to Dustin Pedroia's hamstring injury, he spent from July 1-25 in the big leagues.  The bad news is he only received five plate appearances for Boston and back at AAA he only played four games and had just fourteen at bats for July.

14. Travis Shaw, 1B-3B Boston {15}.  Shaw continued to yo yo between AAA and Boston, and on August 1st Shaw may have pushed his way into Boston's plans going forward.  Playing third base at Fenway versus the Rays, Shaw exploded for two home runs, a double and single, with 3 RBI and five runs scored. Boston did not move Mike Napoli at the deadline but that move is still expected, and when it does it will be interesting to see how many of those at bats Shaw will get.

15. Ty Buttrey, RHP Salem {17} The big righty's numbers slowed some in July with a ERA of 5.11, but his line for Salem this year is still an acceptable: 7-5/3.65/1.40/56-31.  Barring a complete collapse in August, Buttrey has regained his highly regarded prospect status in 2015.

16. Pat Light, RHP Pawtucket {16} Light has not pitched as well at Pawtucket as he did in Portland.  His AAA line: 1-2/6.63/1.89/19-16 with two saves in nineteen innings.   But it is a small sample at AAA, and with the horrid performances coming from the parent club's bullpen, Light may still get a big league bullpen spot before 2015 is over.

17. Nick Longhi, 1B Greenville  {19} Longhi continues to hold his own amidst the potent Drive lineup.  His July line: 1/1/.282/.327/.725 with seven doubles and a triple.

18. Mauricio Dubon,  INF Salem {20} Dubon has struggled some in his adjustment to the Carolina League since his promotion from Greenville: 1/7/.235/.295/.579 but he still is hitting .274 on the year at both levels combined.

19. Garin Cecchini, LF Pawtucket {22} Garin has settled into mostly a left field role at Pawtucket, and his bat finally showed some sign of life in July: 1/6/.293/.366/.719.  As we ( and everybody else) has said before Cecchini must hit and hit to have any kind of sustained big league career.

20. Wendell Rijo, 2B Salem {21} Rijo continues to show some pop for a young middle infielder, but a paucity in the BA and OBP ( .242/.298 YTD) columns are concerns going forward.

21. Austin Rei, C Lowell {24} The 2015 draftee made his pro debut at Lowell on July 6. 1/5/.185/.302 is his line for his first 54 at bats.  There have been mixed reports on his defense, which was considered his strong suit coming out of Washington.

22. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP Salem {23} Stanky, along with his rotation mates Ball and Buttrey, has put up a very solid High A season and the three of them are likely to front the 2016 Portland Sea Dogs rotation.

23. Marco Hernandez, SS Pawtucket {NR}  The first new name on our list, may also be making a name for himself with the Boston brass. Hernandez was the player to be named later received from the Cubs for Felix Doubront last winter.  Seemingly he was a JAG ( just another guy).  Marco played in 2014 in the Florida State League and had not played above that level since signing with the Cubs in 2010.  But he was still just 22, and the Sox assigned him to AA Portland.  He was outstanding for the Sea Dogs at the bat: 5/31/.326/.349/.832 with 21 doubles and 4 triples.  Marco starred in the Eastern League All Star Game played at Hadlock Field, and he was named MVP of the game.  After the game, Hernandez was promoted to AAA.  Marco got off to a torrid beginning with the Paw Sox going 6-10 in his first three games.  In 60 AAA at bats through July Marco's line: 2/11/.283/.302/.768 with five doubles.  By reaching AAA before age 23, and with his '15 offensive output, Hernandez may not be a JAG.

24. Yoan Aybar, OF GCL Red Sox {NR} The 18 year old Dominican is playing his first season stateside.  In 95 AB's in the Gulf Coast League his line: 0/11/.305/.330/.709 with five extra base hits.  Aybar signed with Boston on July 3, 2013, his sixteenth birthday.

25. Carlos Asauje, 2B Portland {26}  Carlos has been one of the steadier players for a bleak Portland squad.  Asauje hit .286 with a OBP of .347 in July.

26. Williams Jerez, LHP Portland {NR} Jerez has made three stops this season Greenville, Salem, and now in Portland.  Jerez was drafted by Boston in 2011 in the second round of the draft, #81 overall.  Jerez was drafted as an outfielder.  In 2011 Jerez played in the GCL and in 2012 and 2013 for Lowell,  his batting averages were: .248,.241,.176.  Hey, Williams, you're left handed and throw pretty hard....welcome to the mound. In 2014 he pitched 34.1 innings for Lowell and Greenville with 40 strikeouts.  Jerez dominated to begin '15 in Greenville, made a pit stop at Salem before breezing up to Portland.  His line so far in AA: 1-1/3.00/1.57/14-12 in 21 innings.  So he has been challenged more in AA, but he is a bullpen lefty to keep an eye on.

27. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF Lowell {NR}  Basabe goes by his full name because his twin brother, Luis Alejandro Basabe also plays in the Sox system.  The twin brothers both signed in August 2012 from Venezuela.  In 2013 and some of 2014 Basabe played in the DSL before being promoted to the GCL after hitting .284 with eleven triples. At Lowell his line is 4/11/.268/.379/.843 with ten steals.  The four home runs have come in an unusual manner.  Twice this season the switch hitter has homered from both sides of the plate in a game.

28. Logan Allen, LHP GCL Red Sox {NR} Allen was the only player taken by Boston in this year's draft who was picked later than expected and then paid an overslot bonus.  Allen, who was drafted from IMG Academy ( as was Brady Aiken by Cleveland) in the eighth round and then given a $725,000 bonus.  After signing Allen has made two appearances for three innings, a typical Sox handling of young pitchers. Allen was likely a second round talent, so time will tell if he was a steal.

29. Edwin Escobar, LHP Pawtucket {25}  Injuries have pretty much made 2015 a lost season for Escobar.  And since his return in the last month or so Edwin has pitched poorly with an ERA of 8.10 and WHIP of 1.86 in 16.2 innings.  A complete return to health in 2016 could make Escobar a candidate for the Boston bullpen, but his chance may be slipping away.

30.  Jonathan Aro, RHP Pawtucket {30} Aro has pitched well at both AA and AAA, but in his game or two for Boston the success has not translated.  By September if not sooner, Aro is likely to get another chance to earn his way in the 2016 bullpen.

Here's a mercifully quick look at RSM favorite Portland 1B-DH David Chester.  Chester had another poor month in July: 0/7/.178/.208/.431.  As the 2015 minor league season winds down it is sadly looking like the end of Chester's pro career.

In September the rankings will come out after Labor Day which will be after the end of the regular season for the minors.

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