Tuesday, July 4, 2017

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects July 2017

Welcome to this month's rating of the best prospects in the Red Sox system.  There is a new look on the list. Not only has the annual June draft taken place, but the signing of international free agents has also begun as of July 2. Because of how important some of these 16 year old international prospects can be to replenishing the Sox system, we have pushed the date to consider players for this list back from June 30 to July 3. So you will see a number of new players from the draft and the "J2" signees.

The international signing period, now has a hard cap for each team.  But teams are able to trade to acquire more cap money from other teams.  Boston made two deals, one sending a pair of Lowell infielders to St. Louis for around $800,000 and in a bigger move traded Portland first baseman, Nick Longhi to the Reds for a reported $2.75 million dollars. So Longhi exits our list.

Each player is listed with the team they finished the month with ( and there have been promotions within the system as well as new players) and the number in { } is the June ranking. The stat line used are:  hitters: HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and pitchers: W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP.

1. Rafael Devers, 3B- Portland {1}.  The only surprising element to Devers' season is that it still says Portland behind his name.  16/50/.301/.364/.947 with nineteen doubles and a trio of triples.  His June numbers were even better smashing eight home runs while compiling a .326 BA and an OBP of .380. As an example of his power to all fields, Rafael has hit six home runs to left, four to center and six to right field.  Devers has been named to play for the World team in the Futures Game in Miami on July 9.  This will likely set in motion a promotion to AAA soon after the game.

2. Jay Groome, LHP- Lowell {2}.  After suffering a lat injury in his first start for Greenville in April, Groome has returned to the hill.  Groome pitched the season opener for Lowell, and for his third start on June 29, Jay pitched five no-hit, no-run innings.  Groome should be returning to the Greenville Drive before July is over.

3. Daniel Flores, C unassigned {NR}. Flores is the cream of the crop of the new players joining the system. Flores was ranked as either the first or second best player available in this pool of players.  Some scouts called him the best player they have ever seen on the international market. He is a 16 year old switch hitting catcher, with power from both sides of the plate.  But the rave reviews come for the Venezuelan for his defense.  Flores has an off the chart throwing arm, with a pop time clocked at 1.8. seconds.  All of his catching mechanics are considered top shelf.  Some scouts have called Flores the best defensive 16 year old catcher they have ever seen.  One of the comps for Flores is Ivan Rodriguez. Since Daniel is only sixteen, it remains to be seen how he develops.  After officially signing on July 3 for $3.1 million dollars, Flores is likely to be sent to the Dominican Summer League.

4. Sam Travis, 1B- Boston {3}. Travis finished June making his second appearance in Boston. While not receiving regular at bats in the majors, Travis is hitting .310 in 29 at bats with an OBP of .394. Travis has yet to homer in the big leagues, but has hit three doubles.

5. Michael Chavis, 3B- Portland {5}.  Chavis marched through the Carolina League, after a brief DL stint in April: 17/55/.318/.388/1.029 with seventeen doubles.  Chavis capped off his Carolina League experience by being named the MVP of the CL All Star Game, doubling in the only two runs in a 2-0 win. Chavis, on June 23, was promoted to Portland. Michael celebrated the promotion by hitting a home run on the first AA pitch thrown to him. Chavis began his Portland career going 5 for 10 with two home runs and a double.

6. Josh Ockimey, 1B- Salem {4}. July and August will be crucial months for the young first sacker, who was a starter in the Carolina League All Star Game. In 2016, Ockimey pounded South Atlantic League pitching for the first half of the Greenville Drive season.  But Josh tailed off badly for the second half, finishing at .226.  This year again, Ockimey came roaring out of the gates, and took an eighteen game hitting streak into the first days of June.  But then Josh faltered throughout the rest of June: 0/5/.212/.362/.632 with five doubles.  The one bright light in that line being the .362 OBP. Ockimey must show the ability to put up consistent numbers for an entire season.  With the trade of Nick Longhi, there is now an opening ahead of Ockimey in the system, an opportunity that can be seized.  But first Ockimey needs to show his hitting prowess in July and August.

7. Bryan Mata, RHP- Greenville {15}. Mata makes the biggest leap of any of the players who were in the system prior to this month.  Mata, also from Venezuela, signed a modest international free agent contract in January of 2016.  After turning 18 on May 3, Mata continues to shine at Greenville.  His line for the year though June was: 1-0/2.08/25-6/1.04 in five starts. In late June the Drive had Mata skip a start as part of the plan to limit his innings.  The next time Mata took the mound he threw an impressive five inning stint with five K's.

8. Brian Johnson, LHP- Boston {7}.  Johnson has shown he can be effective pitching in the major leagues, now he just has to stay healthy. After first sustaining a minor right calf injury in Pawtucket, Johnson later in June had to leave a start for Boston, while on the verge of his third MLB win, with a left arm injury.  The arm injury also seemed to be relatively minor, and on June 29 Johnson made a rehab start for Lowell. While Johnson has been on the DL, the Red S0x have acquired veteran big league starter, Doug Fister. Also, Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez seems to be nearing a return from his knee injury.  With these developments, when Johnson is activated from the DL, he is certainly ticketed to return to AAA.

9. Bobby Dalbec, 3B- Greenville {6}. Dalbec missed the entire month of June for Greenville, after hamate bone surgery.  On June 29, he was assigned to the GCL Red Sox to begin a rehab. Hopefully, Dalbec will be able to return to action in July and August, where he will attempt to replicate his 2016 performance.

10. Tanner Houck, RHP- Lowell {NR}.  This product of the University of Missouri was the Red Sox first round draft pick, at #24 overall.  Earlier in Houck's college career, he had an outstanding tour with Team USA.  A year  ago, Houck was considered to be a candidate to be taken near the top of the draft.  His junior season at Mizzou was inconsisent, which lead to the drop to 24, where Boston happily scooped him up.  Houck throws from a three quarter type delivery and his fastball sits in the mid 90's.  The development of his secondary pitches will likely determine if Houck is a future MLB starter or bullpen arm. Houck signed for lot money of around $2.6M and has been sent to Lowell. Some have compared Houck's delivery with another former University of Missouri right hander.  A guy by the name of Max Scherzer.  Boston can only hope.

11. Cole Brannen, OF -GCL Red Sox {NR}. Brannen is a left handed hitting, speedy outfielder taken in the second round as a high school draftee from Georgia.  Brannen signed for $1.3 million, which about $400,000 over the slot money for his draft spot.  One name thrown out as a comp for Brannen is a young Grady Sizemore.  Cole made his pro debut on June 29 going 0 for 2.

12. Danny Diaz, 3B- unassigned {NR}. Diaz is the second international player signed this week by Boston, who is considered one the top 10-15 best players in this crop.  Diaz signed as a shortstop but the scouts consensus is his future lies at third base.  Diaz, also from Venezuela, is considered by many to be the best power hitting prospect in the international signee field for this year.

13. Jalen Beeks, LHP- Pawtucket {16}.  Beeks was promoted from Portland to Pawtucket on June 3. At the time of his promotion, Beeks led the Eastern League in strikeouts with 58 in 49 innings pitched.  In five starts in June at AAA, Beeks went:2-3/3.90/29-11/1.20. If Beeks can continue to perform at this level throughout 2017 at AAA,  he would put himself in contention for a big league job for next year.  That may come in Boston or as a trade chip to another MLB club.

14. Alex Scherff, RHP- GCL Red Sox.  Scherff signed on June 23 for $700,000 after Boston plucked him in the fifth round of the draft.  The 6'4" 205 lb. Texas high school righty was considered to be ranked around number 50-60 in the draft.  But Scherff had an apparent strong commitment to Texas A&M.  But the Sox, who had Scherff workout at Fenway before the draft, were confident they could sign him and took him at number 161 overall. Scherff has pitched for three different high schools during his schoolboy career.  One of his mentors is Roger Clemens, whom Scherff has worked with.

15. Shaun Anderson, RHP- Salem {9}. Anderson continues to adjust to the Carolina League after his promotion from Greenville.  His June line for Salem was: 1-0/3.86/9-6/1.22.

16. Travis Lakins, RHP- Portland {8}.  Lakins has struggled more at Portland than he did at Salem before his recall in May.  But just two years after being drafted in the sixth round from Ohio State, Lakins is in the rotation at AA. His ERA for June at Portland was 4.12, while making four starts.

17. Mike Shawaryn, RHP- Salem {10}. The third of the trio of former college righties to tumble down our rankings this month.  Like Anderson and Lakins,  Shawaryn slipped back partially due to an adjustment to a higher level after a promotion.  But mostly the lower ranking has to due with three draftees and two international signees moving in ahead of them.  Shawaryn leads the entire system in strikeouts through June with an even 100.  Only Jalen Beeks with 91 K's is even in shouting distance of Shawaryn.

18. CJ Chatham, SS- Greenville {14}. Chatham missed all of June with the nagging hamstring injury, which has limited him to three at bats all season for the Drive.  Last year's second round pick is hopeful of being able to play soon.

19. Roniel Raudes, RHP- Salem {12}. Raudes is another pitcher who dropped substantially in our rankings, but again the five newcomers ahead of him were a factor.  But Raudes has not had a stellar season so far for Salem: 2-4/5.14/51-23/1.60.  The strikeouts to walks are acceptable, but otherwise Raudes needs to show improvement. But remember Raudes is pitching at the High A level at age 19.  Even if he stayed with Salem for the rest of 2017 and all of 2018, he could still be on target to pitch for the Sea Dogs down the road at age 21.

20. Tzu-Wei Lin, IF- Boston {32}. A continued rash of injuries to infielders caused Boston to reach down to AA and bring Lin to the major leagues from Hadlock Field. Lin has not only reached the majors, he has been playing at second, short, and third.  In his short big league stay so far, Lin has looked completely comfortable in the field and at the plate. A pair of triples and a bunt single to help ignite a rally are among Lin's accomplishments so far.  As some of the other injured players return, can Lin's versatility, defense, and an ability to contribute on offense keep him in the big leagues?

21. Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP- Greenville {18} The lefty hurler only pitched 5 1/3 innings in June due to a DL stint caused by a blister.  On the year Hernandez is: 2-1/3.20/55-27/1.29 in eleven starts.

22. Austin Maddox, RHP- Pawtucket {22}. The former University of Florida closer earned his major debut in June.  Maddox was recalled to Boston on the strength of a 2017 combined line with Portland and Pawtucket of 2-1/2.27/26-13/1.07 with three saves.  While with Boston, Austin pitched in two games without allowing a run and garnered his initial major league strikeout, before being returned to AAA.  As fluid as major league bullpens are these days, Maddox is likely to return to Boston, at least for another cameo, before the year is out.

23. Jamie Callahan, RHP- Pawtucket {17}. Three unheralded minor league relievers stood out in Boston's big league camp and all three made it until the final cut: Ben Taylor, Austin Maddox, and Callahan.  Two of the three have appeared for Boston during 2017, and Callahan is knocking on the door.  His combined numbers at AA and AAA for the year: 4-2/3.52/39-11/1.17 with four saves. How soon Callahan gets his opportunity may depend on when/if Boston acquires another bullpen arm from outside the organization.

24. Ben Taylor, RHP- Pawtucket {13}. Taylor made the big club out of spring training and pitched effectively in spots during April for Boston.  But first Taylor began to ride the Boston-Pawtucket shuttle, then Ben missed nearly all of June with forearm tightness (never a good pitching arm prognosis).

25. Kyle Martin, RHP- Pawtucket {21}. Martin is still on the outside looking in as far as getting a shot with Boston.  Recently Martin came out of the PawSox pen and made an emergency start, as doubleheaders piled up due to rainouts.

26. Chandler Shepherd, RHP- Pawtucket {23}. Shepherd, a 2014 13rd round draft pick from Univ. of Kentucky, has been used mostly in non closing situations for Pawtucket.  Shepherd has averaged two innings per appearance and has yet to have a save.

27. Ty Buttrey, RHP- Pawtucket {26}. Another in the line of right handed relief prospects.  Buttrey was recalled to AAA for the first time in his career at the beginning of June and made his International League debut on June 4.  Buttrey has struggled in his first seven AAA games with an ERA of 10.80, striking out nine versus seven walks.

28. Aneury Tavarez, OF- Pawtucket {20}. Tavarez was on the disabled list for nearly all of June.  His only action was a 28 at bat rehab stint for Lowell in which he hit .179.  Tavarez is now back with Pawtucket.

29. Danny Mars, OF- Portland {36}. Mars makes his first appearance in our top 30 fueled by a red hot June for the Sea Dogs: 1/4/.354/.402/.836 with five doubles.  Mars was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 draft by the Sox. The 23 year old switch hitter is making his AA debut this year after hitting .293 for Salem in 2016.

30. Lorenzo Cedrola, OF- Greenville {27}.  Cedrola was named to the South Atlantic League all star team.  The selection was earned on the basis of his: 2/25/.286/.323/.711 line. Cedrola also has a dozen doubles, three triples and twelve stolen bases.

That is our top 30 with seven different names than June.  Here are another dozen names to watch:

Antoni Flores, SS  Another of this week's international signees, MLB.com's #20 J2 prospect.
Bryce Brentz, OF- Pawtucket      Brentz is on fire closing in on 20 HR-please trade him!
Trey Ball. LHP- Portland             Two months left to salvage his Sox career?
Tyler Hill, OF- Greenville           15 steals for the Drive
Tate Matheny, OF- Salem            Hitting only .245
Josh Tobias, 2B- Portland            Tailed off in June to .242
Yoan Aybar, OF- Lowell              On the rebound back at Lowell
Brett Netzer, 2B- Lowell                  ' 17 3rd round draftee form UNC-Charlotte
Zach Schellenger, RHP- GCL            Sixth round pick from Seton Hall
Hector Velazquez, RHP-Pawtucket    Starter depth for Boston
Jake Cosart, RHP-Portland                Must learn to throw strikes
Chad De La Guerra, SS-Portland      Came to AA with Chavis from Salem

Only two months to go in the minor league campaigns.  We will rank the system again in August.

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