Sunday, September 17, 2017

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- September 2017

Another minor league season has ended for the Red Sox system.  Only one affiliate qualified for the post season, the Greenville Drive.  Congratulations are due to the Drive, as they won the South Atlantic League playoffs, and are the league champions.

The other news here on our list, and in Red Sox Nation, is the blossoming of Rafael Devers as the everyday third baseman for the division leading Boston Red Sox. Devers has indeed played nearly every game at third since his recall. In 44 games through September 16 Devers is hitting .292 with eight home runs and twenty RBI. Devers reached the 130 at bat mark on September 4th, meaning he is now classified as a major league rookie and no longer a prospect.  So we will have a new number one prospect on our list as we go into the off season.  Other than the top there is not much change since August, only one complete newcomer to the top 30 and two others who have been in the top 30 before return.  Devers and two others exit the top 30.

As usual the team listed with the player is where he ended 2017.  The slash lines used for hitters are: HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and for pitchers: W-L/ERA/WHIP/K-BB.

1. Jay Groome, LHP {2}- Greenville.  Last year's first round draftee, with Devers now graduated, has by far the highest ceiling of any prospect listed here.  But no matter how you slice it, Groome's first full pro season was a roller coaster ride.  Groome missed substantial time due to injury.  Jay suffered a lat muscle injury in his first start of the year and was out until June.  After his return Groome made 14 starts including a couple for Lowell. His line was 3-9/5.69/1.43/72-30 in 55.1 innings.  Not great raw numbers except for 72 K's in 55 innings.  But Groome was pitching very well at times.  For example, on August 7, he pitched five shutout innings, and combined with his previous start, Jay compiled eleven innings of scoreless ball with 14 K's. But on August 24th the roller coaster plunged downward again when Groome returned to the DL again.  Groome finished the year on the DL, missing the Drive's championship run.  Groome was disabled with a forearm strain, with "no structural damage".  If Groome can have a healthier 2018, he may return to Greenville or be pushed to Salem to begin the season.  With Dave Dombrowski's record of pushing young pitchers to the big leagues, it would not be surprising if Groome's early 2018 is healthy and productive, he could make it to Hadlock Field before his 20th birthday on August 23, 2018.

2. Michael Chavis, 3B {3}- Portland.  There is no question of the players who spent the entire season in the minors (in other words not Rafael Devers) Chavis easily was the outstanding player of the year for Sox minor leaguers. The former first round pick from 2014, in his first three seasons with the Sox system had 25 home run combined and after hitting .269 for the 2014 GCL Sox , had not come close to that average since.  But Chavis crushed the ball all season long, first for Salem, then AA Portland.
Chavis' combined line was 31/94.282/.347/.910  with 35 doubles and a pair of triples.  His 31 bombs tied Bryce Brentz for the system lead. There are two main questions going forward for Chavis.  First was 2017 a fluke or is this batting production the real Michael Chavis?  Chavis had been hurt throughout his entire career until 2017 and he was a first round draftee considered to have power potential.  So it is entirely possible Chavis can be this type of power hitter.  The second question will come into play as soon as next year (maybe even this off season). The question is, with Rafael Devers looking anchored in Boston for a long, long time, where will Michael Chavis play in the big leagues? Often third base minor leaguers who are blocked get moved to first base.  And first base is the closest thing Boston has to an upcoming open line up spot.  But Chavis is 5'10" and there have not been many major league first baseman who are under six feet.  Many observers feel this would prevent Chavis from playing there.  Chavis is one of six Sea Dogs going to play in the Arizona Fall League, and he is expected to get some time at first base.  This experiment may answer the part of the positional question.  If in fact Boston truly has an opening at first base in 2018 and beyond may depend on our next prospect.

3. Sam Travis, 1B {4}- Boston.  Travis was a September call up to Boston, another leg in the season long Pawtucket-Boston shuttle for Sam.  Travis is hitting .304 in his big league appearances, and has received some starting time in the September pennant drive for Boston. With Hanley Ramirez missing some games due to injury lately and with Boston's season long struggle versus lefties, it is possible Travis could find his way onto the post season roster. But the long term question with Travis is still can he find enough home run power to be an everyday big league first baseman?  He has a half dozen doubles for Boston but has yet to hit his initial home run.  In 304 at bats at AAA, Travis had six home runs.  Especially if Travis finds himself competing with Michael Chavis and his power, Travis' own ability to hit home runs will be paramount.  If the Red Sox decide to go outside of the organization and bring in an established first sacker (Eric Hosmer, Jose Abreu?), at least one if not both of Chavis and Travis could become trade chips.  Travis will play winter winter ball in the Dominican Republic, trying to recoup some at bats lost on the shuttle.

4. Daniel Flores. C {5}-unassigned.  Flores will not see game action until the 2018 Dominican Summer League season. But the 16 year old Venezuelan catcher still has the scouts buzzing about his cannon of an arm and his switch hitting abilities.  Flores, considered to be the second best international prospect in this year's pool of available talent, was bet on by the Sox to the tune of a $3.1 million dollar bonus.  If someone other than Jay Groome is atop of this list a year or so from now it could be Flores.

5. Bryan Mata, RHP {6}- Greenville. Another of teenage phenoms near the top of this list.  Mata will not turn 19 until May 3 of next year. By then Bryan should be hurling for Salem in the Carolina League.  Unlike Groome, Mata did take his rotation turns for the Drive during the playoffs.  In consecutive starts, one being his his last regular season start and the other his first playoff start, Mata threw fifteen innings giving up one earned run and had twenty strikeouts.

6. Josh Ockimey, 1B {7}- Portland. On August 1st, Ockimey was promoted to Portland after putting up a very solid 11/63/.275/.388/.827 line at Salem.  The thought was the Red Sox were challenging Ockimey with move to AA.  Ockimey responded well  3/11/.272/.372/.799 in 103 at bats for the Sea Dogs. Ockimey, who turns 22 in October, very likely will return to Portland to begin 2018.  But a promotion to AAA before 2018 is over could be in the cards for Ockimey.

7. Tanner Houck, RHP {10}- Lowell.  This year's first round draft pick from the University of Missouri made his pro debut for the Lowell Spinners. Houck pitched in ten games for 22.1 innings. Houck had 25 strikeouts in those 22.1 innings.  Boston has often pushed college pitchers up their system, so Houck could very well begin 2018 in Salem.

8. Mike Shawaryn, RHP {13}- Salem. Shawaryn, who was drafted in June 2016 in the fifth round from University of Maryland, had one of the outstanding minor league seasons for the Red Sox in 2017.  Shawaryn split the campaign between Greenville and Salem, pitching effectively for both. His combined line was 8-7/3.81/1.21/169-48.  The 169 strikeouts, in 134.2 innings, led the entire system by a fairly wide margin. Shawaryn is sure to begin 2018 pitching for the Portland Sea Dogs, less than two full years after being drafted.

9. Jaleen Beeks, LHP {9}- Pawtucket.  Beeks would be Shawaryn's main competition for pitcher of the year in the Sox system.  The University of Arkansas product also made two stops, splitting his season between Portland and Pawtucket: 11-8/3.29/1.21/155-55. Beeks was second in strikeouts to Shawaryn.  A September call up to Boston was widely speculated, but not being on the 40 man roster seemed to prevent the promotion.

10. Bobby Dalbec, 3B {8}- Greenville.  Dalbec's season was interrupted by a hamate bone injury in mid season.  But Dalbec did get back in time to finish the regular season and participate in the Drive's successful playoff run. Dalbec was 2-4 with an RBI in the championship game, and also hit a big three run home run to help win another.  Dalbec did get into 85 games, with a somewhat disappointing line of 13/41/.248/.347/.772.  Dalbec is still likely to begin next season at Salem.  A productive first half could very well lead Dalbec to Portland.

11. Cole Brannen, OF {11}- Lowell.  This year's second round draft pick played in 39 games for the Gulf Coast Red Sox batting .231 but with an OBP of .383.  Brannen, known for his speed, also stole nine bases in ten attempts.  Brannen was promoted to Lowell on September 3rd, and he played in three games for the Spinners, going one for nine, with another stolen base.  Brannen should begin 2018 playing in Greenville.

12. Brian Johnson, LHP {12}- Pawtucket.  2017 was a split decision for Johnson. He showed he can pitch at the big league level, making five starts.  Johnson won two games with an ERA of 4.33.  One of the wins was a complete game.  But when September rolled around Johnson was not one of the September call ups. Doug Fister swallowed up the rotation spot the Johnson intermittently filled earlier and no other available starting spots opened.  So Johnson did not rejoin the big club, and leaves his status with Boston murky for 2018.

13. Alex Scherff, RHP  {14} GCL Red Sox.  Boston swooped in and grabbed this highly regarded Texas high school righty in the fifth round of this year's draft.  Even though Scherff was assigned to the GCL Red Sox he did not appear in a game.  It is not uncommon for the Red Sox to handle newly draft pitchers with kid gloves, especially high schoolers.  Scherff will likely make his pro debut next June in the rotation for the Lowell Spinners.

14. Roniel Raudes, RHP {17}- Salem.  This nineteen year old from Nicaragua did not match his 2016 campaign at Greenville when at age 18 he won eleven games with an ERA of 3.65.  But even with a line of 4-7/4.50/1.53/95-44, Raudes did pitch an entire season at High A at the tender age of 19.  Because of the so-so numbers and his age, Raudes is likely to return to Salem to begin next year.  Numbers that look more like 2016's could get him to Portland before next year is over.

15. CJ Chatham, SS {18}- Greenville.  Chatham finished the year where he spent the most of it, on the DL. Chatham began the year expecting to be assigned to Grenville, but he ended only playing one game for the Drive getting three at bats.  CJ also had sixteen rehab at bats for the GCL Red Sox, and those  nineteen at bat's were it for the season.  Chatham is still highly regarded as an offensive minded shortstop.  2018 needs to be a healthy, bounce back year for the second round draftee from Florida Atlantic.

16. Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP {16}- Greenville. The twenty year old left hander spent the entire season with the champion Greenville Drive team. His line 4-5/4.01/1.30/116-49 came in twenty three games on the hill.  Hernandez was a key contributor all year long through the playoffs for the Drive. A full season at Salem in 2018 is likely.

17. Tzu-Wei Lin, IF {20}-Boston.  Lin was of the more interesting stories of 2017.  Into his third year with the Portland Sea Dogs, Lin who had a sterling defensive reputation, finally seemed to click offensively.  Lin was hitting .302 with seventeen extra base hits, when Boston, in late June, desperate for infielders due to injury called Lin from Portland to the majors. Lin surprisingly held his own at the plate for Boston as well, hitting .273 in 55 at bats.  Lin also contributed in the field and on the bases.  Lin was sent to AAA after his first stint in the major leagues. Lin only hit .227 in Pawtucket, but was called back to Boston on September 2nd.  If given the opportunity, Lin could very well compete for the super utility job now held in Boston by Brick Holt in 2018.

18. Brett Netzer, 2B {22}- Greenville.  The infielder drafted this year in the third round from UNC-Charlotte began his pro career in Lowell.  Netzer hit .317 in 22 games for the Spinners, and then was promoted to Greenville on August 2nd. Brett played in another 26 games for the Drive and into the post season for Greenville.  Netzer was the offensive star in the title clinching game for Greenville, going 2-3 with three RBI.  With his college pedigree, Netzer should begin 2018 playing in Salem.

19. Danny Diaz, 3B {15}- unassigned.  Another international signee from July, Diaz also will make his pro debut next year in the Dominican Summer League.  Diaz was an amateur shortstop, but has all ready been converted to third base by Boston.

20. Bryce Brentz, OF {37}- Pawtucket.  One likely last appearance in the top 20 RSM prospects list for the long time Red Sox farmhand.  After working with Paw Sox hitting coach, Rich Gedman, Brentz incorporated a toe tap into his hitting setup and his numbers soared.  Brentz finished the year with 31 home runs, leading the IL and tying Michael Chavis for the system lead.  Brentz was named to the year end IL All Star team, and from mid August on, his return from AAA was discussed.  But Brentz had been taken off the 40 man roster in the spring, and Dave Dombrowski determined there was no one he wanted to cut to make room for Brentz.  Despite the overall lack of power for the parent Red Sox and ongoing struggles versus lefty pitching, Brentz was deemed as not needed. Despite his banner AAA season, it is quite obvious, Brentz is not wanted in Boston.  Bryce will be a minor league free agent this winter, and finally it seems, he will move on from the only organization he has ever played for. It is hard to believe that Bryce Brentz could not have provided more to the 2017 Red Sox these last two months than Chris Young.

21. Travis Lakins, RHP {19}-Portland.  In just two years since being drafted, Lakins had progressed to AA Portland.  But as mentioned last month, for the second straight year, Lakins ended his season on the DL with stress fracture in his pitching elbow.  If he can remain healthy, Lakins could reach AAA next year.  That may be a big if.

22. Danny Mars, OF {23}- Portland. The switch hitting Mars compiled his second straight strong offensive season, this time for the Sea Dogs in AA.  After hitting .293 for Salem in 2016, this year Mars hit 6/47/.304/.351/.754 with 21 doubles and four triples.  Despite the six home runs Mars does not really profile has having much power.  Mars did steal twelve bases, but neutralized this by being caught stealing ten times.  A promotion to begin '18 in AAA is likely.

23. Jake Thompson, RHP {27}- Lowell. Thompson was drafted by Boston in the fourth round of the June 2017 draft out of Oregon State.  Thompson, who signed after the College World Series, has an impressive fastball which can reach 98.  Thompson pitched in seven games for Lowell for 11.1 innings. Thompson struck 11 hitters in those 11.1 innings.  Thompson should likely begin 2018 in Grenville, but Salem is not out of the question.

24. Chad De La Guerra, SS {25}- Portland.  De La Guerra began the year by hitting .294 in a 58 game stint with Salem.  After his recall to Portland, the 24 year old played in another 52 games, and had a solid line of: 4/23/.270/.353/.761 with fifteen doubles at AA.  De La Guerra has been chosen to play in the Arizona Fall League.

25. Hildemaro Requena, RHP {NR}- Greenville.  This 20 year old Venezuelan was signed four years ago as an international free agent.  In 2016 in his first stateside performance, Requena had an ERA of 2.35 for the GCL Red Sox.  Requena appeared in 32 games pitching the entire 2017 season for the Drive.  His line was 3-3/1.98/1.08/84-31.  Very strong numbers across the board.  On September 8th, in the SAL playoffs, Requena hurled 7.1 innings of four hit,  no earned run ball in a Greenville win.

26. Lorenzo Cedrola, OF {24}- Greenville. This speedster had a very strong first try at a full season pro league.  His Greenville line was: 4/34/.285/.322/.709 with nineteen stolen bases.   Unfortunately, Cedrola missed the SAL playoffs, as he finished the year on the DL. Salem should beckon in 2018, when Lorenzo will be only 20 years old.

27. Roldani Baldwin, C {26}- Greenville.  Another member of the Greenville Drive champs.  Roldani was name to the post season South Atlantic League All Star team.  This product of the Dominican Republic hit 14/66/274/.310/.800 with 35 doubles while being the regular catcher for the title team.

28. Austin Maddox, RHP {32}-Boston.  This bullpen specialist has returned to our top 30 based his recent production in Boston.  Maddox was recalled back to Boston on September 1st, when the rosters expanded.  John Farrell has called on the big righty more and more  as September winds along. Maddox has responded in September with this line in ten appearances: 0-0/0.00/0.81/10-1 in 12.1 innings. If Maddox continues pitching this way, he has a real chance to sneak onto the post season roster.

29. Hector Velazquez, RHP {28}- Boston. Velazquez was also called back to Boston as a September call up.  For the year, the Mexican righty has pitched 18.2 innings for Boston as a stater and reliever and has won one game.  His role in September will be long man out of the pen.

30. Dedgar Jimenez, LHP {29}-Portland.  This big ( 6'3"230) lefty from Venezuela elicits mixed reviews about how much of a prospect he is.  But there is no doubt that in 2017, Jimenez put up strong numbers at both Salem and Portland.  First in Salem 10-3/3.07/1.20/93-23.  After his promotion to AA Dedgar responded with 5-0/2.91/1.36/25-18.  Jimenez will turn 22 next March and likely will begin 2018 once more at Hadlock.

Finally here another dozen names to keep in mind going forward:

Zach Schellenger
Bobby Poyner
Aneury Tavarez
Trey Ball
Ben Taylor
Ty Buttrey
Chandler Shepherd
Joan Martinez
Josh Tobias
Tyler Hill
Tate Matheny
Justin Haley

Sometime this winter we will be back to reconsider the rankings, and perhaps to see which names on this list have been traded away. Go Sox.