Saturday, April 9, 2016

RSM Red Sox Top 40 Prospects- April 2016

The last time we ranked the prospects in the highly regarded Red Sox system was at the end of the 2015 season. At that time we ranked the top 40 going into the off-season.  As suspected then, there are massive changes on the list since then.  Six players were traded: Manuel Margot (4), Javier Guerra (7), Garin Cecchini (21), Logan Allen (22), Carlos Asauje (29), and Jonathan Aro (31).  All but Cecchini and Aro went to the Padres for closer Craig Kimbrel. Three others used up their rookie eligibility in 2015 and graduated from the list: Henry Owens (3), Travis Shaw (10) and  Heath Hembree (34).  Finally five others who were ranked in the 30's on this list have slid behind some other promising kids are not in the top 40, at least for now: Bryce Brentz (starting another season on the Pawtucket DL), Edwin Escobar, Simon Mercedes, Sean Coyle (who has a glimmer of hope if he can stay healthy and hit for power in his second AAA season), and 2015 draftee Tate Matheny.

That makes a total of fourteen players removed from our last list, including four in the top ten. So, of course, that means fourteen new names on this April list, one as high as number thirteen. The team listed after each player is the opening affiliate assignment for 2016, the number in { } is their ranking at the end of 2015.

RSM does not proclaim ourselves as scouts or experts, our rankings come from following the ever increasing amount of information on the farm, and from some trips to Hadlock Field.  These are rankings as fans who closely follow the next crop of Red Sox kids.

One last note, in our rankings one of the factors we weigh somewhat more heavily than other lists is how soon a player may be able to contribute in Boston.  Especially now where a majority of the prospects are in the lower levels of the system, this factor is not the most important but it may explain the rankings of some of the players.


1. Yoan Moncada, 2B- Salem {1}. For now Boston is taking a conservative approach with Moncada, and the other top of the list uber-prospects, and are moving him one step up the ladder. The switch hitter had an outstanding second half of 2015 at Greenville, after an adjustment to baseball and life in America earlier on.  You could choose any of the top four prospects as the best, and as a group are all rated in the top 40 prospects in all of baseball.  Salem is beginning the year rated as the most prospect laden team in all of minor league baseball (as ranked by MLB.com) and we will meet a number of Moncada's teammates as we go down this list.

2. Andrew Benentendi, OF- Salem {6}. The 2015 first round draftee is the first player on this list that gets a little spike from the "helping the big league club sooner rather than later" factor.  Despite this being his first full pro season, many in the game are speculating Bennie could be in Boston by September if not sooner. The same jump taken in 2015 by the Mets' Michael Conforto. Benentendi did not tamp down these expectations on Opening Night when he went 4 for 5 with two singles, a double and triple.  With the seemingly failed attempt to take the left field job in Boston by Rusney Castillo, there could be an opening for Benentendi at some point. If not in 2016 certainly by next year.  It should be a race to see who between Benentendi and Moncada goes to Portland first this season.

3. Rafael Devers, 3B- Salem {2}.  You are beginning to see why Salem will be so good to begin 2016.  Devers who will play the entire season at age 19 is every much a top prospect as the two rated ahead of him.  As a matter of fact some national rankings this winter had Devers as the best prospect in the system, and a top 20 in all of MLB.  Devers, a lefty hitter, has a power stroke with 11 home runs and 70 RBI in the South Atlantic League at age 18 last year.  Devers could also join the race to Hadlock with Moncada and Benentendi, but since he is younger, could spend the entire campaign in Virginia.

4. Anderson Espinoza, RHP- Greenville {5}.  With the possible exception of Yoan Moncada, Espinoza is the most deservedly hyped prospect in the system and perhaps in all of baseball.  He begins the low A season at age 18, an age when most players would still be in the Dominican Summer League or the Gulf Coast League. But Espinoza blew through both of those leagues at age 17 and finished 2015 making a start for Greenville.  The lanky right throws in the upper 90's and also has or is refining a plus curveball and change up.  Due to his age, Anderson is expected to pitch the entire year at Greenville. Espinoza pitched only 58 innings in 2015 and the Red Sox are expected to hold his innings this year to 100 or a little more.  But if he completely dominates hitters in the SAL like he did in 2015, he could force a promotion to Salem before 2016 ends.  He began the season looking like he may still dominate: five scoreless innings allowing only two hits.  Anderson has said he would like to make the big leagues at the same age as his idol, Felix Hernandez.  King Felix debuted for Seattle at age 19.  Could Espinoza possibly make it to Boston before the end of 2017? It will be fun to watch.

5. Sam Travis, 1B- Pawtucket {8}.  The consensus of the national rankers this winter was Boston still has a top rate system (rated between 4 to 6, usually), but the ranking is based on the big four and then the system thins out.  Travis is making every effort to turn the big four into a big five.  The 2014 second round draft pick was a spring training invitee to the big camp based on his .310 batting average combined for 2014-15 from Lowell to Portland.  Travis took the opportunity to impress the brass.  Sam hit .469 with a OBP of 1.147 leading the team for the spring with 13 RBI.  But more important than the numbers was the work ethic shown.  His intensity was compared over and over to that of Dustin Pedroia.  His spring earned him a promotion to AAA less than two full years from being drafted from Indiana U.  If an injury should occur in the Sox first base/DH area, Travis could likely make his MLB debut.  There has also been talk of trying Travis at third or left field in AAA, since there are potential openings there in Boston.

6. Brian Johnson, LHP- Pawtucket {9} If not for ill-timed left elbow tightness, Johnson who made his MLB debut last July 21, would have likely pitched from July 21 on in the Boston rotation and would have graduated from this list.  But Brian begins 2016 recovered from the elbow issue and is the pitcher on this list who is the nearest to helping Boston.  Johnson does not have the stuff of a top of the rotation pitcher, but throws tons of strikes every start, and is considered the kind of pitcher who could spent a decade in the back part of any MLB rotation.

7. Michael Kopech, RHP- XST {11}.  By nearly every rating this off season Kopech was ranked as the number five prospect in the system and received some mentions in some Top 100 prospects in all of baseball lists.  Three factors push Kopech down to seven on our list.  First, the incredible spring by Sam Travis. Secondly, Brian Johnson is nearer to big league ready. Finally, and most importantly, Kopech created another setback himself.  After receiving a fifty game suspension for a using a banned substance in 2015, this spring he broke his pitching hand in a fight with a unnamed roommate.  Kopech's 2016 debut will come no sooner than May and the hard throwing righty will likely be returning to Greenville, where his abbreviated 2015 was spent.

8. Deven Marrero, SS- Pawtucket {12}. Marrero, who possesses a golden glove, but a questionable bat is blocked in Boston by shortstop Xander Bogaerts.  Even though, Marrero will be the regular shortstop at Pawtucket, he will also get starts at second and third to prepare him for a possible stint in Boston as an utility infielder.  Marrero could also be a trade chip if another MLB team has a need at shortstop due an injury (St. Louis?).

9. Michael Chavis, 3B- Greenville {13}. Chavis is returning to Greenville after spending all of 2015 there.  He htt only .223, but the projected power hitter did have 16 homers.  His return to Grenville is less about the Sox being down on Chavis, and more about breaking the third base logjam of 2015.  Both Rafael Devers and Chavis spent all of 2015 in low A, meaning Chavis often DH'd.  This year with Devers at Salem, the 2014 first round pick can play every day at third.

10. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF- Greenville {25}.  This 19 year old Venezuelan outfielder makes a big jump up our list.  In 2015 he hit only .248 at Lowell but led the Spinners in runs, home runs, total bases, walks, and steals (15).  He and his twin brother were signed on their 16th birthdays by Boston.  How Basabe handles his first full season assignment will help determine how bright his prospect star will be.



11. Noe Ramirez, RHP- Boston  {23}.  Another jump up the list largely fueled by his current presence in the Boston bullpen.  The spring training injuries to newcomer Carson Smith and Eduardo Rodriguez created an Opening Day spot for Ramirez.  His funky motion makes him potentially hard on right handed hitters. Noe made his MLB debut in 2015, and over three stops with Boston throughout the year, he appeared in seventeen games with an ERA of 4.15.  Ramirez does not have the overall stuff to be a closer, but could profile as an useful major league reliever.

12. Pat Light, RHP- Pawtucket {19}. Light is someone who has the arsenal to be a high leverage innings big league reliever.  Light, whose nearly 100 mph fastball impressed in spring camp, just needs to be more consistent with his command. The 6'5" Light had 32 K's with 11 walks for the Sea Dogs in '15, but when promoted to AAA had 26 walks in 26 appearances (with 35 K's).  If Light can harness the fastball, he can help the Boston bullpen this year.

13. Travis Lakins, RHP- Salem {NR}. Lakins was drafted last year out of Ohio State in the sixth round and signed near the deadline for $320,000.  He made one start for Lowell throwing only two innings, and other than one appearance in the post season for the GCL Red Sox. That was the total of his pro debut.  But in a sign of how much the Red Sox regard the 6'1" 180 lb. righty, they assigned him to start 2016 in the rotation for high A Salem.  His fastball sits at 91-93 but it is felt as Lakins becomes more physically mature the velocity could increase.   A move to the bullpen is not out of the question and that could move Lakins through the system even more quickly.

14. Nick Longhi, 1B- Salem {17}.  This 2013 draftee joins the parade of prospects moving up to Salem from Greenville.  Nick hit .281 with seven home runs and 62 RBI in 2015.  He is scheduled to be the everyday first sacker at Salem, and is on pace to continue to move up the Sox ladder at least a level each year.

15. Mauricio Dubon, SS- Salem {20}. Dubon began 2015 as part of the infield logjam at Greenville with Moncada at second base and Javier Guerra at shortstop, the two positions Dubon plays. Dubon was promoted to Salem last June 25 to help alleviate the crunch.  Dubon played a lot of second base last year, but with the trade of Guerra to San Diego, Dubon is back as the starting shortstop for the loaded Salem club.  Dubon is another player who impressed in his opportunities to play for the big club in the spring.  Dubon even made the trip and played in the Montreal series versus Toronto. There is a chance Dubon could make it to Portland during 2016.

16. Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP- Portland {16}.  The second round pick from 2013 has made steady progress up the Sox system.  Stankiewicz has pitched a complete season at each stop with no mid season promotions. Lowell, Greenville, and Salem in order and now AA Portland.  Expect Stankiewicz to continue his rate of progression and spend the entire summer in the Sea Dogs rotation.  As with nearly every prospect, AA is the dividing line and will be a test for Teddy.

17. Marco Hernandez, 2B- Pawtucket {24}.  Hernandez came to Red Sox before last season from the Cubs as the player to be named later for Felix Doubront.  He was considered just another minor league fill in type of player.  But Marco blossomed at Portland and continued with a strong season after an All Star break promotion to Pawtucket.  Hernandez also impressed in Red Sox camp this spring and if any need for a infielder arises in Boston, Hernandez, who like Deven Marrero will get games in at second, short, and third at AAA, could get the call.

18. Wendell Rijo, 2B- Portland {18} Another player who has steadily moved through the system now reaches AA.  A middle infielder with some pop, Rijo has hit .260 with fifteen homers in the low minors.  Again this year the most impressive number about Rijo is his age.  Wendell has reached AA at age 20, and will play the entire season at that age.

19. Luis Ysla, LHP- Portland {NR} Ysla if nothing else will go down in Red Sox lore as the answer to the trivia question "Who was the first player Dave Dombrowski traded for as Red Sox baseball ops head?"  Dombrowski traded OF Alejandro de Aza to San Francisco for Ysla.  Ysla is a hard throwing, up to 96, lefty who throws from a three quarter delivery.   Ysla is thought to have the potential to be a high leverage inning type of reliever.  Luis begins 2016 in the Sea Dogs bullpen.

20. Trey Ball, LHP-XST {14} 2016 could be a pivotal season for the number seven overall pick in the 2013 draft.  And Ball will begin the season in extended spring training due to a leg injury. When healthy it is expected Ball will be assigned to Salem or Portland.  Trey has not performed as hoped since being drafted. But considering Ball came out of an Indiana high school where he played mostly outfield, and does not turn 22 until late June, there is still time for Ball to develop.

21. Ty Buttrey, RHP- Portland {15} The big right hander revived his standing as a prospect last season and now will make his AA debut at Portland as part of the Sea Dogs rotation.  There is still doubt about how much of a prospect Ty really is.  The AA experience can answer some of those questions.

22. Williams Jerez, LHP- Portland {26} The converted outfielder made his AA debut last year, pitching 22 games in Portland after beginning 2015 at Greenville.  Jerez returns to the Portland bullpen to begin 2016, but a strong early showing at Hadlock could trigger a promotion to AAA, and even the Boston bullpen is not out of reach this year.

23. Yoan Aybar, OF- XST {27}. The 18 year old Dominican outfielder is currently at extended spring training.  This is likely a precursor to an assignment to Lowell when the Spinners' season starts in June. Aybar has hit a combined .270 in his two seasons, first in the DSL and then the GCL, with seventeen doubles and a dozen triples.

24. Roniel Raudes, RHP- Greenville {40} Raudes followed a path similar to Anderson Espinoza in 2015.  Raudes made his pro debut at age 17 pitching for first the DSL Sox and then promoted to the GCL at an age earlier than usual. Raudes complied a 7-3 with 2.81 ERA.  But the eye popping stat was 79 strikeouts to only nine walks.  The Nicaraguan righty will join Espinoza to begin 2016 in the Grenville rotation.

25. Austin Rei, C-Greenville {28} The 2015 second round draft pick did not play well in his pro debut.  Rei hit only .179 for Lowell and, despite a sterling defensive reputation, struggled behind the plate.  Rei will begin this year at Grenville and hopes to play more like his days at the University of Washington.

26. Christopher Acosta, RHP -XST { NR} Another in the stable of pitchers signed by the Sox as international free agents.  Acosta signed with Boston on July 2, 2014, the same day the Red Sox signed Anderson Espinoza.  Acosta received a $1.5 million dollar deal ( 300,000 less than Espinoza). Acosta pitched last year in the DSL and likely will be assigned to the GCL Red Sox team this year.

27. Yankory Pimentel, RHP - Salem {NR} Pimentel signed out of the Dominican Republic in October 2011.  Yankory has pitched two years each in the DSL and GCL.  Pimentel finished 2015 with a single one inning appearance for Lowell.  Pimentel, 6'2' 210, throws around 94 with a effective slider.  The Sox have skipped Pimentel up to high A Salem, and he will be someone to watch this year.

28. Austin Gloruis, RHP- Greenville  {NR}. Not only the best name on the list, but one of the better stories.  Glorius pitched at Valdosta State and despite being told by a number of scouts he would drafted last June, all forty rounds came and went and he was not taken. After the draft, a number of teams contacted Glorius, but he chose to sign with Boston.  Austin was assigned to Lowell , where his 95+ fastball helped rack up 36 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings.  If Glorius can replicate the Lowell performance at Greenville the Red Sox may have found a diamond in the rough.

29. Kyle Martin, RHP- Portland {NR}. The 2013 ninth round draft pick from Texas A&M reached Portland in 2015.  The 6'7" righty pitched 27 games from the Sea Dogs bullpen.  Martin was invited to big league camp this spring and was assigned to Pawtucket.  Martin projects as a middle relief arm.

30. Josh Ockimey, 1B- Greenville {30}  The power hitting prospect will begin his first full season at Greenville.  His short season debut at Lowell had a line of 4-38-.266.  As a first base only player, Ockimey will go as far as his bat will carry him.

31. Henry Ramos, OF- Portland {37}.  Ramos could very well be higher up this list and further along in his career if injury had not cut short both of his seasons in Portland -'14 and '15.  This could be a last chance for Ramos to kick start his promising career.

32. Chandler Shepherd, RHP- Portland {NR}  2014's 13th round draft pick from Kentucky, Shepherd entered that year expecting to be drafted much higher, but injury lessen his draft spot.  He split last year between Greenville and Salem, and has been promoted to Portland in 2016.  Shepherd will pitch out of the bullpen.

33. Victor Diaz, RHP- Greenville {NR} Diaz completed his first pro season last year in the DSL.  He will begin the 2016 season in the Greenville Drive bullpen.  Diaz features a 96-98 mph fast ball that has touched 100 at times.  The fastball is the Diaz calling card for now, his ability to develop secondary pitches will likely determine how far he goes in his career.  If Dave Dombrowski makes a big deal later this season, and needs to add a third or fourth piece to a deal, Diaz could be the type of lottery ticket added to the pie.

34. Jake Cosart, RHP- Greenville {38}.  Cosart is another fireballer who has touched 98 on his fastball.  He will also reside in the Drive bullpen because Boston has decided to convert Cosart to full time relief work.

35. Jalen Beeks, LHP- Salem {NR}  The 2014 12th round draft pick made 26 starts for Greenville in 2015. In '16 the 5'11" lefty will be in the Salem rotation.

36. William Cuevas, RHP- Pawtucket {NR} Cuevas had spent all of 2013 and 2014 at Salem and put up ERA's 5.05 and 4.70.  This after four years at DSL, GCL, and Lowell .  But pushed to AA last year Cuevas pitched to a 8-5, 3.40 ERA and 91 K's in 95 innings.  Cuevas was promoted to AAA and in 41 innings at Pawtucket pitched even better with a 2.63 ERA.  Cuevas begins 2016 as only one of two right handed starters in the Paw Sox rotation.

37. Marc Brakeman, RHP-  XST {NR}. Drafted last year in the 16th round out of Stanford, he somewhat unexpectedly signed for $225,000.  Brakeman is currently in extended spring training, likely to be assigned to Lowell.

38. Luis Alejandro Basabe, IF- Greenville.  No you have not already read this name higher up the list.  This is the twin brother of prospect #10, Luis Alexander Basabe.  Last year he played for the GCL Sox and hit .260, while his twin played in Lowell. Both on the roster on Opening Day for Greenville.  Luis Alejandro is not considered nearly the prospect his brother is and it was somewhat of a surprise he is at Greenville.  It is possible he could down to Lowell in June.

39. Aaron Wilkerson, RHP- Portland {NR} This 26 year old, who Boston signed out of independent league ball in July 2014 and at age 25 pitched at Lowell, is nearly too old to be a true prospect.  But he pitched well for Greenville, Salem, and Portland in 2015 and was the Opening day starter for the Sea Dogs this year.

40. Jordan Procyshen, C- Salem {NR} Along with Austin Rei, Procyshen represents the next tier of catching now that Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez are big league ready.  Jordan hit .285 for Greenville in 2015, but only .209 in 38 games when promoted to Salem. Procyshen returns to Salem as the starting catcher in 2016.  Procyshen is the ninth Salem team member on this list.

So that is our update at the beginning of another season for the Red Sox farm.  After this re-do of the off season Top 40 we will update each month with a Top 30 prospects during the season.

One last note on a favorite of the guys here at RSM, David Chester.  As suspected (feared) after hitting only .181 in 2015, Chester was released by the Red Sox on December 19th.  His pro career seemingly has ended.  So one last thanks to Mr. Chester from us here at RSM.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for introducing us to a lot of new names in the Red Sox farm system. This certainly is the next wave of prospects. Here's to hoping that the Salem studs are in Portland by June 25th when the Machias Terrill's will be making a trip to Hadlock Field.

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  2. A great writeup as usual, Art. Looks like Sox fans will have to keep an eye on some box scores coming out of Salem this year.

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