Today we continue our summer reviews of the pre-season Top 20 Prospects lists with the Boston Red Sox.
This is a review of the pre-season list.
It is not a new list.
These are the pre-season grades.
1) Rusney Castillo, OF, Grade A-: Season split between Triple-A (.282/.337/.385) and the majors (.281/.315/.403). In his major league career between this year and last he’s hitting .291/.333/.429 with six homers and six steals in six attempts, 10 walks and 35 strikeouts in 175 at-bats, fWAR 1.1. Although considered disappointing by some, in 162-game notation this is 18 homers, 18 steals, and a 3.3 fWAR. That’s a good player. They just need to let him play.
2) Yoan Moncada, 2B, Grade A-: Hitting .289/.379/.458 with seven homers, 29 walks, 66 strikeouts
37 steals in 40 attempts over 249 at-bats in Low-A. Needs work on defense but overall this is a strong debut and he’s just 20.
3) Blake Swihart, C, Grade A-/B+: Hitting .259/.301/.345 in 210 at-bats in the majors, not showing any power at this point, wRC+ just 75. However his defense has been quite strong and given his age there is every reason to be optimistic about his future.
4) Henry Owens, LHP, Grade B+: Fine season in Triple-A, 3.16 ERA with 103/56 K/BB in 122 innings, 84 hits; mixed results in 16 big league innings over three starts, 17/6 K/BB but 6.19 ERA. Has some rough edges but little left to prove in the minors, just needs to pitch.
5) Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Grade B+/B: 2.98 ERA with 44/7 K/BB in 48 innings in Triple-A, 4.48 ERA with 68/27 K/BB in 86 innings in the majors. Erratic but can be brilliant, and like Owens there is nothing left to prove in the minors. He just needs to go out there every five days and refine his craft and I think he will.
6) Rafael Devers, 3B, Grade B+/B: Hitting .272/.313/.426 with 11 homers, 21 walks, 76 strikeouts in 401 at-bats in Low-A. Early-season reports were glowing but he’s been in a slump lately, hitting just .226/.286/.393 in last 40 games with some reports that he looks tired. He’s just 18 years old of course and an elite prospect.
7) Manuel Margot, OF, Grade B: Hit .282/.321/.420 in High-A, .249/.299/.381 in Double-A, 34 steals combined at the two levels, just 20 years old. Potentially broad skill base with speed standing out, a fine prospect certainly but strikes me as a little overhyped by some.
8) Garin Cecchini, 3B-OF, Grade B-: Hitting .216/.291/.304 with 35 walks, 93 strikeouts in 365 at-bats in Triple-A. One of my greatest disappointments in recent years, has completely failed to bring the superior pure hitting skills he showed in the lower minors to Triple-A. He’s 24 now and it looks like the skeptics were right with this one.
9) Matt Barnes, RHP, Grade B-: Trial in big league pen has gone poorly, 6.59 ERA with 29/11 K/BB in 27 innings, 40 hits. He throws hard and has maintained a good strikeout rate so more chances should come.
10) Deven Marrero, SS, Grade B-: Hitting .240/.302/.331 with 27 walks, 77 strikeouts in 308 at-bats in Triple-A. Not much of a hitter at this stage, glove continues to draw strong praise, general utility projection.
11) Brian Johnson, LHP, Grade B-: Fine year in Triple-A, 2.53 ERA with 90/32 K/BB in 96 innings, 74 hits. Currently on DL with "elbow tightness." If healthy he is ready for a trial next year.
12) Wendell Rijo, 2B, Grade B-: Hitting .254/.310/.364 with 24 walks, 82 strikeouts in 343 at-bats in High-A. Not much growth from last year, disappointing power, but just 19.
13) Sean Coyle, 2B-3B, Grade B-: Hitting just .159/.274/.302 in 126 Triple-A at-bats in injury-plagued season. On the DL again but was playing well recently. Injury mulligan.
14) Michael Chavis, 3B, Grade B-/C+: Hitting .227/.281/.398 with 22 doubles, 14 homers, 25 walks, 126 strikeouts in 374 at-bats in Low-A. Showing expected power but with severe contact problems and unreliable defense at third base. Just 20 years old and has hit better recently.
15) Edwin Escobar, LHP, Grade C+: 5.35 ERA with 19/16 K/BB in 34 innings in Triple-A, 38 hits. Elbow problems and command issues have plagued this season but has pitched better last couple of weeks.
16) Heath Hembree, RHP, Grade C+: Continues to dominate Triple-A (2.20, 32/10 in 33 innings, 25 hits) but we already knew he could do that. Still see him as a viable bullpen component going forward.
17) Michael Kopech, RHP, Grade C+: Strong performance in Low-A (2.63 ERA, 70/27 K/BB in 65 innings, 53 hits) until suspension for using a banned stimulant. Annoying but maybe it’s a good thing in the long run, keeping too many innings off a 19-year-old arm.
18) Trey Ball, LHP, Grade C+: 4.32 ERA with 67/53 K/BB in 117 innings in High-A, 109 hits. Not terrible really but lack of strikeouts remains disturbing and in general he is not living up to expectations generated by glowing high school scouting reports about his projectability and athleticism.
19) Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP, Grade C+: 3.72 ERA with 66/23 K/BB in 119 innings in High-A, 125 hits. Like Salem teammate Bell, not terrible and can eat innings but hardly dominant, dramatic decline in strikeout rate from last year is also distressing.
20) Carlos Asuaje, INF-OF, Grade C+: Hitting .257/.346/.377 with six homers, 52 walks, 75 strikeouts in 424 at-bats in Double-A. Has hit better over the last six weeks but he’ll get buried in this system quickly without a burst of performance, since he doesn’t have the physical tools to keep scouts happy during slumps.
It has been a difficult year at the major league level for the Boston Red Sox, difficult enough that owner John Henry decided to turn over the front office yesterday, bringing in highly-respected ex-Tigers mastermind Dave Dombrowski to oversee the baseball operation. GM Ben Cherrington chose not to stay on the job, completely understandable given the lack of confidence in his leadership that this move represents. It remains to be seen what will happen with the rest of Cherrington’s lieutenants.
Dombrowski inherits an organization with a chaotic and snake-bit major league roster but with a robust farm system. 2014 graduates Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts are already mainstays. Blake Swihart hasn’t hit much but he’s very young and the glove looks superior. Personally I don’t think that there is anything wrong with Rusny Castillo that at-bats and health won’t cure. Rodriguez and Owens have nothing left to prove in the minors and just need to pitch.
But this is Boston, and patience with young players and a multi-year rebuild project isn’t an easy sell. Unfortunately, attempts to patch holes with free agent veterans have not worked out.
That said, in a broader view there is a lot of material for Dombrowski to work with. You have the prospects and youngsters listed above. You have Sam Travis, a pre-season Grade C+ hitting .307/.373/.449 on the season and moving onto the list somewhere in around spot 10. You have 2015 first-round pick Andrew Benintendi, off to an excellent start. 25-year-old first baseman Travis Shaw is somehow hitting .371/.403/.645 in his first 22 major league games. That won’t last if his overall track record is any indication, but a career as a role player seems plausible.
19-year-old Panamanian shortstop Javier Guerra is hitting .281/.330/.468 in Low-A. Right-hander Anderson Espinosa looks great in the Gulf Coast League. Right-hander Ty Buttrey is having a solid year in A-ball.
Although Dombrowski has a reputation as a prospect-trader, that was part of a very specific strategy in Detroit that isn’t likely to be fully applicable in Boston. Dombrowski likes to sell high on prospects but has also shown he can identify young players who are worth sticking with. Sure, there will be some trades, but I don’t think Red Sox fans should worry that the farm system will be gutted.
Dombrowski’s task is to improve the short-term major league roster without harming the long-term viability of the organization. You don’t do that by messing with the things that aren’t broken. The farm system isn’t broken and that's part of what makes this a dream job for Dombrowski.