Monday, February 13, 2017

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects Pre Spring Training Edition

Last September RSM ranked the top prospects in the Red Sox system following the 2016 season's completion. The biggest change in this ranking compared to September's is the exit of eight names due to trades, the rule 5 draft, and in one case leaving via minor league free agency. The now former Sox prospects (and their Sept. rank) are:

 1. Yoan Moncada
4. Michael Kopech These three were the bulk of the package used to acquire Chris Sale.
8. Luis Alexander Basabe

 7. Mauricio Dubon
28. Josh Pennington This pair of kids went to Milwaukee with Travis Shaw for Tyler Thornburg.

27. Justin Haley This pitcher was taken in rule 5 draft by Angels, who traded him to the Twins.

37. Aneury Tavarez Taken in Rule 5 draft by Baltimore

39. Henry Ramos Signed as a minor league free agent with the Dodgers.

So our new rankings are largely a reshuffling of the remaining names from the names presented in September, with one new name to our list down at number 20. Their September ranking is in { } and in a slight change from our past rankings, the team listed after the player is a projection of where that player will begin 2017.

1. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston {2} Benintendi is still regarded a prospect because his major league plate appearances were under 130 in '16 leaving eligible as a rookie in 2017. Every major prospect ranking this off season has Benintendi as the number one prospect in all of baseball and is considered the odds on favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year. It will be a shock if Benintendi is not the everyday starting left fielder for Boston. In addition, in several interviews this winter manager John Farrell has proposed the idea of Andrew batting second in the lineup. AB will be a key component to an offense trying to replace David Ortiz' production. If you are looking for a bold, off the wall 2017 prediction for the Red Sox try this one. Andrew Benintendi not only wins AL Rookie of the Year, but matching the player he is ofter compared to Fred Lynn, he also wins AL MVP.

2. Rafael Devers, 3B, Portland {3} Devers is ranked as a top twenty prospect in the game. Unless something very unexpected happens, Devers will inherit the number one spot on this list come May, when Benintendi comes to bat enough to lose his eligibility. For all the large, three top ten prospect, package Boston parted with to get Chris Sale, multiple reports stated the White Sox continuously asked for Devers along with Moncada and Kopech. Dave Dombrowski basically confirmed this and said the Sox would not trade Devers. Devers has been invited to his first big league camp and at age 20 is scheduled to play third base for the Sea Dogs. If Devers shines at Portland, he could make the jump to Boston in 2017 a la Benintendi in 2016. Or as Mookie Betts did in 2014 start at Portland, make a stop in AAA before going to Boston. Even if Devers comes to Boston in 2018, he is still one of the best power hitting prospects in all of baseball and he is still very young.

3. Jay Groome, LHP, Greenville {5} Groome is another one of top shelf highly regarded prospects in the baseball wide rankings. But since he just came out of high school in last June's draft, Groome is further away from the big leagues than the others in the top five of this list. Groome is known for a plus fastball and a devastating curveball. Boston will be cautious with the youngster's innings this year and he will likely spend the entire campaign at low A, but beginning in 2018 Groome's ascension will be guided by his production, and despite his age could be big league ready by 2020.

4. Sam Travis, 1B, Pawtucket {6} I will admit it I am higher on Sam Travis than some others. If he had not missed more than half of 2016 with a knee injury, he could all ready be Boston's first baseman. On more than one occasion this off season the Sox brass explained not going after free agent slugger Edwin Encarnarcion by saying they did not want a long term contract to EE blocking Sam Travis (or Rafael Devers). Now I think the Sox desire to stay under the new luxury tax cap, had more to do with not pursuing the Jays DH, but I believe they are high on Sam Travis. I think any injury to or slip in production from Hanley Ramirez or newcomer Mitch Moreland could lead to promotion to Boston for Sam Travis.

5. Brian Johnson, LHP, Pawtucket {9} This will be a big, maybe even a make or break year for the former first round pick. Johnson has missed a lot of time since making a one game major league debut in the summer of 2015. Before that time his reputation was that of a solid, strike zone pounding lefty who profiles as a back of the rotation starter in the big leagues. With the Red Sox depth for starting pitching after the front six questionable, Johnson could be the first guy summoned from Pawtucket if he can return to pre-late 2015 form.

6. Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Salem {10} The projection to high A Salem may be overly aggressive and Greenville to at least start 2017 may be more likely. But the 2016 draftee tore apart Lowell and showed off his prodigious power potential. In college at Arizona, Dalbec split time between third and the mound. In fact, his pitching nearly led the Wildcats to the College World Series title. But Boston was one team that preferred him as a hitter (many teams wanted him as a pitcher), and Dalbec himself credits not having to split time pitching and hitting for his strong Lowell performance.

7. Josh Ockimey, 1B Salem {11} Ockimey had an outstanding first half of 2016 at Greenville and lagged badly in the second half. The trading of four top ten prospects this winter, has elevated Ockimey into our top seven. In 2017 at Salem, Josh will have a chance to solidify his ranking and add another power hitting legitimate prospect to the Sox system.

8. Marco Hernandez, IF, Pawtucket {13} Hernandez at times gets overlooked as a "prospect"due to his entry into the Sox system from the Cubs, where he was considered just organizational filler. Also his yo-yo ing between AAA and Boston overshadowed some of Marco's plusses. First he will play nearly all of 2017 at age 24. In his stops in Boston, Hernandez has shown an ability to hit big league pitching. If Brock Holt or another Sox infielder should suffer an injury, Marco likely is next in line. Also, if third base remains an issue for Boston, Hernandez could factor in there as well.

9. Michael Chavis, 3B, Salem {12} The 2014 first round draft pick is another player who may face a make or break 2017. Chavis is considered a potential power hitter, but his overall hit tool has been an issue in his pro career. The desire to get Chavis everyday playing time at third for Salem, could be a big factor in Bobby Dalbec having to start at Greenville rather than Salem.

10. Roniel Raudes, RHP, Salem Raudes will make his High A debut at age 19. If the Red Sox system is to push back towards the top of all MLB systems, they not only will need to add next summer strong international signees and good draft picks, but the Sox need players like Raudes to step forward. Raudes doesn't have overpowering stuff, but pitches to his spots exceptionally well. As he climbs the ladder, the question is can Raudes be successful at the higher levels using the same formula?

11. Nick Longhi, 1B, Portland {15} As Longhi reaches AA the question is can he add some power to his hitting package? Longhi had 77 RBI to lead the entire system, but has never hit the home runs associated with a corner infielder in the big leagues. With several names ahead of Longhi on the list who play a corner infield spot and who have shown power, it would behoove Nick to blast some pitches out of Hadlock Field in 2017.

12. CJ Chatham, SS, Greenville {16} Taken in the second round last June, Chatham is another player Boston is hoping can replenish their farm system. Chatham has good pop for a middle infielder, and with his college background could reach Salem before 2017 is over. Also CJ is a good candidate to rise up into the top ten on this list as the year goes on.

13. Travis Lakins, RHP, Portland {17} Last spring the Sox aggressively placed Lakins at Salem, and even though his second half at Salem was poor and somewhat injury plagued, the Sox could again push Lakins by starting his 2017 at Portland. Even if the Sox have Lakins repeat his 2016 start at Salem, a few good High A starts should move the 2015 draftee to AA.

14. Trey Ball, LHP, Portland {18} The overall number seven pick in the 2013 draft should reach AA to begin 2017. Now matter how you slice it, Ball to this point has been a disappointment. But since he was drafted from high school, he will reach Portland at age 22, and still have a chance to redeem himself. But the sands are almost out of the hourglass.

15. Kyle Martin, RHP, Pawtucket {19} Martin is a contender for the 2017 Noe Ramirez trophy. The Texas A&M product had a strong 2016 in the Pawtucket bullpen. But with no apparent openings in the Boston pen, Martin likely will spend this upcoming season bouncing back and forth from AAA to Boston. The good news for Martin is the first time he is called to help the pen in Boston will be his major league debut.

16. Chandler Shepherd, RHP, Pawtucket {20} And here is Kyle Martin's main competition in the Noe Ramirez trophy race. Unlike Martin who spent all of 2016 at AAA, Shepherd split 2016 between Portland and Pawtucket.

17. Shaun Anderson, RHP, Greenville {21} Another draftee from last June, Anderson was the closer at the Univ. of Florida. As Boston has done many times before they are stretching Anderson out and using him for now as a starter. But if Boston decides to return Anderson to the bullpen, he could rise through the system rather quickly.

18. Mike Shawaryn, RHP, Salem {23} Another product of the 2016 draft from Maryland. Many draft observers were surprised Boston was able to grab Shawaryn as low as the fifth round. Unlike the other college hurlers taken in the upper rounds of that draft, Shawaryn is considered to be able to be a starter in the big leagues.

19. Yankory Pimental, RHP, Portland {22} The 23 year old Dominican product will be one of several players on this list expected to reach Portland to start 2017. Pimental pitched effectively for Salem throughout 2016 and could be a sneaky pick to reach Boston's pen sometime in late 2017.

20. Robby Scott, LHP, Boston {NR} The one addition to our September list, Scott was elevated from just another 27 year old minor leaguer to someone on Boston's radar when the Sox surprisingly added Scott to their September roster. Scott, in the middle of a pennant race, got into seven games and did not allow an earned run in six innings pitched, while fanning seven batters. Scott, whom Boston signed from an Independent League team in 2011, comes into Boston's spring camp for the first time and seemingly will compete with Fernando Abad for a bullpen spot.