Sunday, April 15, 2018

RSM Top 25 Red Sox Prospects- April 2018

Another season of major league and minor league baseball is underway.  And with the new season here, it is time to again review the top prospects in the Red Sox system.  Right off the top you may notice a change in the name of the post, that is itself a bit of a commentary of the Sox organization.  In the past RSM has ranked a top 30 or even 40 prospects.  Currently by all accounts the Sox no longer are one of the top systems in all of MLB.  Not to say there are not highly regarded players still to be watched, there are plenty of them. And the move to 25 is by no means permanent. Once we get a month or two of game action and stats in 2018, the list likely will expand.

One other topic we must address before moving on to the new rankings for 2018 is Daniel Flores.   Flores, rated at #4 on our last rankings, was signed out of Venezuela last July for $3.1 million dollars at age 16.  Flores was participating in last October's instructional league and felt some lower back pain.  He was flown to Boston for examination and on October 28 was diagnosed with a very rare, aggressive form of testicular cancer. Less than two weeks later on November 8th, Daniel passed away at age 17.  Such an unthinkable tragedy.

On the new list for April the number after each payer in { } is their ranking last September.  The team listed is their assignment to begin 2018.

1. Jay Groome- LHP. XST {1}.  Groome ended his up and down 2017 season on the DL with a flexor strain in his left, pitching arm.  Groome had an upbeat off-season highlighted by having regular workout sessions with Sox ace Chris Sale.  Sale and Groome both live in South Florida in the winter and Sale reached out to Groome.  Groome also had a successful spring training, but at the end of camp, when assignments were being made it was announced Groome was again dealing with a mild flexor strain in his left arm.  The official word is the strain is mild and Groome should soon be on his way to Greenville. Hopefully that turns out to be true, a strong early season pitching for the Drive should lead to a mid season promotion to Salem.  But first Jay has to show he can stay healthy.

2. Michael Chavis- 1B-3B, Portland {2}.  More travails at the top of our rankings come from Michael Chavis. Chavis had exploded offensively in 2017 for both Salem and Portland. This performance earned Chavis an invite to Red Sox camp for the spring.  But Chavis missed all of the games due to an oblique injury, then came the real bombshell.  Chavis was suspended by MLB for 80 games due to failing a test for steroid use. So his 2018 season will not commence until early July or so.  Chavis claims to be unsure how the banned substance got into his body, perhaps a dietary supplement he ingested.  Either way, not only will he miss a half a season or more of development, but he will need to put up numbers when he does return.  Because unless Chavis continues to rake, his 2017 numbers will come under a cloud of suspicion of being steroid induced numbers.

3. Sam Travis, 1B- Pawtucket {3}.  2018 should be a very pivotal season  for Sam Travis' future with the Boston Red Sox.  Again this spring, Travis had a very big offensive output for the big club.  This year, Sam also added the home run to his arsenal.  There has never been any doubt of Travis' ability to hit big league pitching, but there is a doubt if he can hit enough home runs to hold down first base for a contending club.  So the first part of the two part riddle of Travis' future in Boston starts with his need to continue his spring power outburst at AAA. The second part is where does he fit in on Boston's current roster.  Unless there is an injury to Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland, or JD Martinez it is hard to see an open spot.  And even with an injury involving the 1B/DH/LF spots, there is a good chance Blake Swihart would get the at bats rather than Travis.  Sam Travis will be a good big league hitter, it may just not be with Boston.

4. Bryan Mata- RHP, Salem {5}. At the age of 18, Mata is eight months younger than any other Carolina League player.  And to show that does not bother him in the least, Mata began his 2018 by throwing five scoreless innings in his first start.  Mata was signed by Boston out of Venezuela in January of 2016, and in basically two years has reached high A.  Last year for the Drive, Mata struck out 74 in 77 innings pitched.  Mata is listed at 6'3" 160, which means he should have more filling out of his frame to go.  It is not impossible he reaches Portland at age 19, before 2018 is over.

5. Tanner Houck- RHP, Salem {7}.  The 2017 first round draft choice from the University of Missouri, pitched just 22.1 innings for Lowell after signing.  But in another aggressive placement by Boston, Houck jumps over Greenville and begins his first full pro season at High A Salem.  Houck will join a loaded Salem Sox rotation, as a spoiler alert we will meet the entire rotation in our top 20.

6. Jalen Beeks- LHP, Pawtucket {9}.  Although the majority of our top 12 prospects are pitchers, the one who is by far the closest to helping Boston this year is Beeks.  Jalen reached AAA for the first time during the 2017 campaign.  After dominating the EL with a 2.19 ERA, Beeks pitched solidly for the Pawsox as well throwing 95 innings with 97 K's and a 3.86 ERA.  Currently Beeks likely ranks about the fourth option behind the Sox starting five ( Wright, Johnson, Velazquez ahead of him), but depending on the timing if/when a need arises for a spot starter, Beeks could be in the discussion.

7. Mike Shawaryn- RHP, Portland {8}. Shawaryn, a fifth rounder draftee from Maryland in 2016, makes his AA debut to begin 2018.  In his first full pro season in 2017, Shawaryn split the year between Greenville and Salem.  In 150 innings pitched in the two stops, Shawaryn compiled 169 strikeouts. That was the fourth highest K total for any Class A pitcher in baseball last year.

8. Darwinzon Hernandez- LHP, Salem {16}. The 21 year old lefty pitched all of 2017 for Greenville.  He hurled 103 innings and posted 116 strikeouts. Another of Boston's numerous international signees from Venezuela, Hernandez blossomed last year after two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and a year at Lowell. A strong 2018 could put Hernandez near the front of the next wave of Sox pitching prospects, if he isn't there all ready.

9. Josh Ockimey- 1B, Portland {6}.  The power hitting first sacker made his AA debut midway through last season.  Josh got into 31 games for the Sea Dogs and hit .272 with three home runs.  Ockimey begins 2018 on the DL with what is considered a minor injury and expects to be in the Portland line up soon.

10. Bobby Dalbec- 3B, Salem {10}.  Dalbec's up and down career in the Red Sox system took a down turn in '17. He was on the DL for the Drive from May 11 to July 11 with a hamate bone injury.  But Dalbec, taken from the University of Arizona in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, has off the charts raw power.  Dalbec hopes to stay healthy and continue to hit the long balls in 2018.

11. Alex Scherff- RHP, Greenville [13}. Yet another aggressive assignment to begin 2018. Scherff was signed last summer by Boston out of a Colleysville, Texas High School.  Scherff was considered a first or second round talent with signability issues.  This caused Scherff to drop to the fifth round.  Scherff was assigned to the GCL Red Sox after signing, but did not pitch in any game in 2017.

12. Cole Brannen- OF, Greenville {11}. Last year's second round draft pick will begin his first full pro season with the Drive.  Brannen played last year with the GCL Red Sox , plus three games with Lowell. Brannen is a speedy runner and is the kind of player who is projected to be both a good hitter  and runner.  A strong 2018 could bring Brannen to the top of the offensive prospects on this list.

13. CJ Chatham-SS, Greenville {15}. Like Brannen, Chatham is a recent second round draft pick(2016).  Chatham, out of Florida Atlantic, had less than 20 at bats in all of 2017 due to injury. Chatham needs to have a full, healthy season of playing time to solidify his standing as the top middle infielder in the system.

14. Roniel Raudes-RHP, Salem {14}. Raudes pitched all of 2017 at Salem at age 19, starting 23 games.  Raudes returns to Salem this year, but with full year at High A already  on his resume and all of the strong starting pitching at Salem, a strong early season could get Roniel promoted to Hadlock Field.

15. Bobby Poyner- LHP, Boston {32}. Poyner was a non roster invitee to Red Sox training camp.  And he just kept getting batters out. In the biggest surprise of the spring, Poyner impressed new manager Alex Cora and his staff enough to make the team out of camp. A large majority of Red Sox Nation did not know much abut Poyner. But Portland Sea Dogs fans certainly knew about Poyner. Bobby joined the Dogs mid way through 2017 from Salem.  In 27 AA games Poyner compiled nine saves and an ERA of 0.94.

16. Tzu-Wei Lin-SS, Pawtucket-Boston{17}. Lin was in a spring training battle for the utility role with Boston with Brock Holt and Deven Marrero. Holt won the job and Marrero was traded to Arizona, Lin sent back to AAA. When Xander Bogaerts went on the DL in early April, Lin was recalled.  Lin, who is an outstanding defensive player, hit .268 in his big league debut for Boston in 2017. if Lin continues to show he can hit big league pitching at even that rate, he can be an asset to this Red Sox team.

17. Brian Johnson- LHP, Boston {12}.  Johnson is now out of minor league options, so he will spend all of 2018 with Boston or will need to be dealt.  Johnson began this season in the Boston rotation due to injuries to Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz.  But ERod missed only one start, so Johnson has moved to the bullpen.

18. Hector Velazquez- RHP. Boston {29}. Like Brian Johnson, Velazquez began 2018 in the Boston rotation due to injuries.  But unlike Johnson, Hector does have options left, so despite pitching very effectively for the big club, Velazquez is likely to ride the shuttle between Boston and Rhode Island all year long.

19. Jake Thompson- RHP, Salem {23}.  Thompson is yet another member of the Salem Red Sox pitching staff, the fifth in the top 19 players.  And yet again, another aggressive placement by Boston.  Jake was drafted last June in the fourth round out of Oregon State.  After signing, Thompson pitched in seven games for only eleven innings for Lowell.

20. Danny Diaz- 3B- DSL {19}.  Along with the late Daniel Flores, Diaz was considered one of the top members of last year's international free agent class. Diaz was signed as a shortstop, but is expected to play third base in the pros, beginning this summer in the Dominican Summer League. Diaz is projected to be a power hitter.

21. Pedro Castellanos- 1B, Greenville {NR}. A newcomer to our list, Castellanos was signed in July 2015 out of Venezuela.  All Pedro has done since the signing is hit. In 116 minor league games, in the DSL, GCL, and NYP League, Castellanos combined average is .332. So far Pedro only has five home runs, but is expected to develop power.  Defensively only first base (or DH) is in his future, so the hitting will need to continue.

22. Joan Martinez- RHP, Salem {NR}. The second newcomer to our rankings is also the sixth member of the Salem pitching staff.  Martinez was signed in January 2016 out of the Dominican Republic.  Since his signing, Martinez has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. And how he has pitched.  In 37 games for the DSL Sox, Lowell, and Greenville his ERA was 1.48, with 57 strikeout in 61 innings.  Martinez makes his High A debut at age 21.

23. Chad de La Guerra- SS, Pawtucket {24}.  Not selected until the 17th round of the 2015 draft, after an invite to Red Sox spring camp, De La Guerra has made it to AAA in less than three years after that draft.  Chad reached Portland mid way through last season and hit .270 for the SeaDogs.

24. Brett Netzer- 2B,  Salem {18}.  Drafted last year in the third round from UNC-Charlotte, Netzer will begin his first full pro season at Salem.  In 2017, Netzer hit .286 splitting the campaign between Lowell and Greenville.

25. Travis Lakins-RHP, Portland. {21}.  Lakins was drafted in 2015 out of Ohio State and less than two years later had advanced to AA.  But at the moment pitching talent is not the question for Lakins.  He will begin 2018 on the disabled list rehabbing from the same issue which has ended each of his last two seasons.  That injury is a stress fracture in his pitching elbow.  If this injury does not recur again, Lakins could move quickly up the chain.  But the type of injury it is and the fact it has happened more than once is certainly concerning.

Before we go, one more name to mention, This is not a new name for the RSM rankings, he has spend many, many months here.  It is lefty pitcher Trey Ball.  This season the Red Sox have moved him into the Portland bullpen.  Through last year Trey had appeared in exactly 100 minor league games with an ERA of 4.67. 99 of those appearances were starts.  In the early accounts from April, Ball's bullpen stints have been spectacular, with an overpowering fastball and throwing nearly all strikes.  More work is to be done, but could Trey Ball reach Boston's bullpen this year? Something to keep an eye on.

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