Boston Red Sox Top 20 Prospects for 2017
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Andrew Benintendi, OF, Grade A: Age 22, first round pick in 2015 from University of Arkansas; hit .312/.378/.532 in 372 at-bats between High-A and Double-A, then .295/.359/.476 in 105 MLB at-bats; adapted extremely quickly; outstanding hitting approach with beautiful swing, all-field power, superb batting eye; will provide batting average, OBP, and at least moderate power; above-average running speed and average-but-accurate arm combine with sound instincts to make him an above-average defender as well; what he did in the majors is not a fluke and he is ready now. Leading ROY contender and my current Number One prospect in all of baseball. ETA 2017.
2) Rafael Devers, 3B, Grade A-: Age 20, signed for $1,500,000 out of Dominican Republic in 2013; hit .282/.335/.444 with 32 doubles, 11 homers, 18 steals in 503 at-bats in High-A; left-handed bat with 60-grade raw power and excellent bat speed, steadily gaining command of the strike zone although not likely to be a walk machine; doesn’t have Benintendi’s polish but has more pure power projection; despite past doubts about his glove at third base, his defensive stats are strong with improving reliability and above-average range; scouting reports are now catching up with the defensive numbers and his reputation for defense is improving; ETA 2019.
3) Jason Groome, LHP, Grade B+: Age 18, first round pick in 2016 from high school in New Jersey; possible first-overall pick but fell to 12th overall due to bonus demands and late negative rumors about his makeup; fanned 10 and walked four in 6.2 innings at lowest levels; big 6-6 southpaw with fastball up to 94-95 along with a plus curveball; change-up needs work but he has the upside of a number two starter and was also young for the draft class; certainly young enough to overcome any lingering immaturity concerns. ETA 2021.
4) Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Grade B-: Age 21, fourth round pick in 2016 from University of Arizona; hit stunning .386/.427/.674 in 132 at-bats in New York-Penn League with nine walks, 33 strikeouts; 60-grade power at least, maybe more; also has strong throwing arm; impatient hitter and seems unlikely to maintain that kind of batting average at higher levels, though he did show more polish in pro ball than he did in college; third base defensive profile but glove is raw at present; there is star potential in this bat but we need to see how approach works at higher levels before going with higher grade. ETA late 2019.
5) Sam Travis, 1B, Grade B-: Age 23, second round pick in 2014 from Indiana University; hit .272/.332/.434 with six homers in 173 at-bats in Triple-A until season ended early with knee injury; scouts love the bat and they aren’t easily impressed with right-handed hitting first baseman; projects as .280ish hitter with moderate power; defensively limited to first base due to lack of speed or plus arm strength; should be ready soon if healthy. ETA late 2017.
6) Marco Hernandez, INF, Grade B-: Age 24, originally signed by Cubs out of Dominican Republic, traded to Red Sox in 2014; hit .309/.343/.444 in 223 at-bats in Triple-A then .294/.357.373 in 51 major league at-bats spread over five separate recalls in ’16; has hit very well for two years, with a .305/.330/.454 mark in Double-A/Triple-A in ’15; line drive hitter with doubles power can surprise with his pop; tools fit best at second base but workable at other positions; projects as super-utility type with better-than-normal bat in the role; doesn’t get as much attention as other Boston prospects but should not be under-estimated. ETA 2017.
7) Roniel Raudes, RHP, Grade B-: Age 18, signed out of Nicaragua in 2014; posted 3.65 ERA with 104/23 K/BB in 113 innings in Low-A; extremely young for the level but more than held his own; unusual 6-1, 160 build; doesn’t throw hard yet, fastball around 90, but more velocity may come as he physically matures; curveball and change-up better than normal for his age, as are his pitching instincts; whole may be greater than the sum of the parts here. ETA 2020.
8) C.J. Chatham, SS, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, second round pick in 2016 out of Florida Atlantic; hit .242/.299/.417 in 132 at-bats between rookie ball and New York-Penn League, eight walks, 27 strikeouts; polished defender with arm and range for shortstop, quite athletic with 6-4 build; hitting approach needs refinement but there’s pop in the bat; we’ll have to see about how batting average and OBP hold up; ETA 2019.
9) Michael Chavis, 3B, Grade C+: Age 21, first round pick in 2014, hit .237/.313/.372 between Low-A and High-A with 24 walks, 81 strikeouts in 304 at-bats; best tools are 55-60 raw power and 60 arm; hasn’t lived up to offensive potential yet due to aggressive approach and tendency to expand strike zone too much; athletic, tools work at third base though I think he’s better to his right than his left; high offensive ceiling but low floor due to approach. ETA 2021.
10) Josh Ockimey, 1B, Grade C+: Age 21, fifth round pick in 2014; hit .226/.367/.425 with 18 homers, 88 walks, 129 strikeouts in 407 at-bats in Low-A; strong 6-1, 215 build with 60-grade power; has improved his swing mechanics and shown a much better batting eye lately but contact remains a significant concern as he moves up; below average first baseman and doesn’t run well enough to play the outfield; power/patience combo stands out but not as athletic as Chavis or Chatham. ETA 2021.
11) Brian Johnson, LHP, Grade C+: Age 26, posted 3.60 ERA in 95 innings with 74/40 K/BB; 77 innings in Triple-A with 4.09 ERA, 54/36 K/BB; pitched 18 innings at lowest levels warming back up after treatment for anxiety; typical finesse arsenal with fastball at 88-92, mixes in change-up, curve, and slider/cutter; needs to lower walk rate to succeed with this arsenal but has a good track record when healthy. ETA 2017.
12) Kyle Martin, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, one of several arms ready for MLB bullpen trial; posted 3.38 ERA with 78/21 K/BB in 67 innings in Triple-A; fastball 91-94 with peaks at 96; excellent change-up is strikeout pitch even when hitters expect it; slider is less impressive; can be solid middle relief arm if command holds. ETA 2017.
13) Chandler Shepherd, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, 13th round pick from University of Kentucky in 2014; posted 2.81 ERA with 62/18 K/BB in 64 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with just 42 hits; another bullpen option with low-90s fastball, plus slider and OK change-up, throws strikes, should compete with Martin if bullpen spot opens up. ETA 2017.
14) Jake Cosart, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, third round pick in 2014 from Seminole State Community College; younger brother of Jarred Cosart; posted 1.78 ERA with 104/36 K/BB in 71 innings between Low-A and High-A, 43 hits; struggled as starter in ’14 and ’15 but took well to bullpen, fastball up to 95-97, made progress with breaking ball; never developed a good change-up but doesn’t need as much in bullpen; working in splitter to replace it; excellent dominance ratios and better pure stuff than Martin or Chandler, though they’ll get to majors first. ETA 2018.
15) Luis Ysla, LHP, Grade C+: Age 24, yet another bullpen option for ’17 and ’18; posted 4.07 ERA with 60/27 K/BB in 55 innings in Double-A; acquired from Giants in ’15; fastball as high as 98 MPH, also mixes in promising slider; can dominate late innings when his command is working; stuff good enough to be more than just a LOOGY. ETA late 2017.
16) Shaun Anderson, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, third round pick in 2016 from University of Florida; gave up 12 hits in 2.2 innings in New York-Penn League; posted 1.05 ERA in 43 innings for Gators with 56/6 K/BB, 13 saves; will reportedly work as a starter due to broad arsenal including 90-94 fastball, slider, cutter, curve, change-up; command was exceptional in college, will have to see how workload management goes. ETA late 2019.
17) Mike Shawaryn, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, fifth round pick in 2016 from University of Maryland; posted 2.87 ETA in 15.2 innings in NY-P with 22/7 K/BB; low-angle delivery with low-90s sinker, mixes in plus slider and average change-up; excellent pitching instincts; could be inning-eating workhorse starter but could move very rapidly if shifted to bullpen. ETA 2019.
18) Nick Longhi, 1B-OF, Grade C+: Age 21, 30th round pick in 2013 from high school in Florida but 25 rounds higher without LSU commitment; hit .282/.349/.393 with 50 walks, 106 strikeouts in 471 at-bats in High-A; hit just two homers but knocked 40 doubles; like Sam Travis he draws praise for hitting instincts; excellent defender at first base, not bad in the outfield corners; needs to show more power as he moves up. ETA 2019.
19) Gerson Bautista, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; posted 2.55 ERA in 35 innings between NY-P and Low-A, 36/13 K/BB, 25 hits; fastball 94-97 MPH can touch 100; plus slider, took well to relief role; needs to prove his command and keeps mechanics consistent but high ceiling pen arm. ETA 2019.
20) Ben Taylor, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, seventh round pick in 2015 from South Alabama; posted 2.96 ERA with 98/22 K/BB in 79 innings between High-A and Double-A, 63 hits allowed; low-90s fastball with average change-up and slider; stuff plays up due to command and deceptive delivery; another middle relief option; note high strikeout rate. ETA 2018.
OTHER GRADE C+: Jalen Beeks, LHP; Tyler Hill, OF; Bryan Mata, RHP; Yankory Pimentel, RHP
GRADE C: Yoan Aybar, OF; Trey Ball, LHP; Marc Brakeman, RHP; Pedro Castellanos, 1B;
Lorenzo Cedrola, OF; Jhonathan Diaz, LHP; Junior Espinosa, RHP; Austin Glorius, RHP; Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP; Williams Jerez, LHP; Travis Lakins, RHP; Deven Marrero, INF; Danny Mars, OF: Tate Matheny, OF; Joseph Monge, OF: Stephen Nogosek, RHP: Robby Scott, LHP; Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP; Kyri Washington, OF
Trades have thinned this system but they’ve shown the ability to recharge quickly. It is notable that they have a lot of bullpen arms on the way up. That’s very much a Dave Dombrowski/Tigers pattern, although most of these guys were acquired before he came on board. It will be interesting to see if that continues.
We can discuss in the comments, particularly the “other Grade C+” guys who all have a case for spots 11-20.