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Boston Red Sox Top 20 prospects for 2018

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After graduations and trades, what do the Sox have left on the farm?

Peoria Javelinas v Mesa Solar Sox Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Boston Red Sox Top 20 Prospects for 2018

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) Jay Groome, LHP, Grade B: Age 19, first round pick in 2016 from high school in New Jersey, posted 5.69 ERA in 55 innings between New York-Penn League and Sally League, 72/30 K/BB, 49 hits; season hampered by nagging injuries including strained intercostal muscle and a sore forearm but he was erratic even when healthy; hit 96-97 in high school but has been 90-94 in pro ball; very impressive curveball but still working on slider/cutter and change-up along with overall command; still has a shot at being a top-of-the-rotation starter but has a lot of work to do to get there, risks are high. ETA late 2021.

2) Michael Chavis, 3B, Grade B: Age 22, first round pick in 2014 from high school in Georgia, hit .282/.347/.563 with 31 homers, 39 walks, 113 strikeouts in 471 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; 60-grade power that he’s learned to tap, still has some issues with contact and strike zone judgment but has improved, though he’s not likely to hit for average at higher levels; good arm at third base and has cleaned up his footwork a bit though error rate remains elevated; needs a full year facing Triple-A breaking stuff to consolidate the progress he made in ’17. ETA late 2018.

3) Tanner Houck, RHP, Grade B: Age 21, first round pick in 2017 from University of Missouri, posted 3.63 ERA in 22 innings in NY-P with 25/8 K/BB, 21 hits allowed; posted 3.33 ERA in 95 innings for the Mizzou Tigers with 95/24 K/BB; fastball varies between 90 and 98 but works well even at the lower velocities due to hard sinking action; slider flashes plus but needs more consistency, as does his rudimentary change-up; usually throws strikes and has workhorse build; potential number three starter if off-speed pitch develops as hoped. ETA 2020.

4) Bryan Mata, RHP, Grade B: Age 18, signed out of Venezuela in 2016, jumped up to Low-A at a very young age and held his own, posting 3.74 ERA in 77 innings with 74/26 K/BB, 75 hits; heavy fastball at 90-94, with additional velocity possible; both curveball and change-up are promising but inconsistent, typical for his age of course; some sources prefer the curve, others the change; mound presence is a big positive; potential number three starter who deserves more attention than he’s received. ETA 2021.

5) Mike Shawaryn, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, fifth round pick in 2016 from University of Maryland, posted 3.81 ERA in 135 innings between Low-A and High-A, 169/48 K/BB, 115 hits; fastball 90-95, mixed with inconsistent slider and change-up, shows three solid pitches on the right day and throws strikes but secondaries need more polish; possible number four starter but could be quite dominant on a per-inning basis if used in the bullpen. ETA late 2019.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees
Sam Travis
Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

6) Sam Travis, 1B, Grade B-/C+: Age 24, second round pick in 2014 from Indiana University; hit .270/.357/.375 in 304 Triple-A at-bats, then .263/.325/.342 in 76 major league at-bats; “professional hitter” type with good strike zone discipline and on-base skills but unclear how he fits into lineup; reliable at first base in terms of avoiding errors but range/mobility nothing special and he’ll need to show more power to have a future at that position; there’s been some talk of using him in the outfield; will fall into C+ range soon without more power. ETA 2018.

7) Jalen Beeks, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 24, 12th round pick in 2014 from University of Arkansas; nice season in the high minors, 3.29 ERA with 155/55 K/BB in 145 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 121 hits; fastball anywhere between 88 and 94 MPH with good command and deception; good change-up that helps heater play up, mixes in adequate curveball and slider; doesn’t get a huge amount of attention but could be a sneaky fourth starter or a fine bullpen lefty. ETA 2018.

8) Alex Scherff, RHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 19, fifth round pick in 2017 from high school in Texas; could have gone in first round if not for Texas A&M scholarship but Red Sox were able to sign him; has yet to pitch in pro ball, high school reports indicate 90-97 MPH fastball with workable curveball and change-up; obviously we need to see how all this translates into pro ball before going high with the grade. ETA 2022.

9) Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 21, signed out of Venezuela in 2013, posted 4.01 ERA in 103 innings in Low-A, 116/49 K/BB, just 85 hits; lively stuff especially from a lefty with 92-96 MPH heater, mixes in erratic breaking ball and change-up; some see him as future bullpen fireballer but optimists believe there’s enough potential in the change-up for him to be a mid-rotation starter; will need to sharpen control either way. ETA late 2020.

10) Jake Thompson, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, fourth round pick in 2017 from Oregon State University; terrific college spring, 14-0, 1.52 with 113/36 K/BB in 118 innings, just 76 hits; on short pitch count in NY-P League but posted 3.18 ERA with 11/6 K/BB in 11 innings; heavy fastball up to 95-96 mixed with a plus slider; change-up and command need some work; if command holds up he could be a number three starter although many view him more as a reliever; personally I am among the optimists. ETA: 2020.

11) Roldani Baldwin, C, Grade C+: Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; hit .274/.310/.489 with 14 homers, 19 walks, 73 strikeouts in 368 at-bats in Low-A, also hit 35 doubles; former third baseman converted to catcher and performed well, with low error and passed ball rates while throwing out 33% of runners; well-kept secret outside of Red Sox circles but keep an eye on him; he’s got power, he’s young, and looks like he can catch. ETA 2020.

12) Cole Brannen, OF, Grade C+: Age 19, second round pick in 2017 from high school in Georgia, hit .224/.383/.252 with 34 walks, 41 strikeouts, 10 steals in 143 at-bats between rookie ball and NY-P; 70-grade speed and impressive strike zone judgment make him a potentially potent leadoff hitter; no power at this point; if the power doesn’t come he could be a four/five outfielder but if he develops sufficient pop he could be a regular. ETA 2022.

13) Josh Ockimey, 1B, Grade C+: Age 22, fifth round pick in 2014 from high school in Pennsylvania; hit .274/.385/.436 with 14 homers, 83 walks, 143 strikeouts in 452 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; patient approach and will take a walk, some sources give 65-grades for his raw power but it doesn’t show up in games enough to rate that highly due to mediocre pure hitting ability and swing-miss issues; more homers could come in time; defense is below average at first base and he may be a DH long-term. ETA 2020.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox
Tzu-Wei Lin
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

14) Tzu-Wei Lin, INF, Grade C+: Age 23, signed out of Taiwan in 2012; hit .267/.335/.410 with 31 walks, 55 strikeouts in 300 at-bats in Double-A/Triple-A, then hit .268/.369/.339 in 56 major league at-bats; being groomed as utility player, capable at second, third, short, and the outfield; decent approach at the plate and can surprise you with gap power, could have long career as a role player. ETA 2018.

15) C.J. Chatham, SS, Grade C+: Age 23, second round pick in 2016 from Florida Atlantic University; missed almost all of 2017 with hamstring problems; went 6-for-19 (.316) with a home run in seven games between rookie ball and Low-A; chance to hit for average with moderate power and solid shortstop defense. ETA 2020.

16) Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Grade C+: Age 22, fourth round pick in 2016 from University of Arizona, hit .246/.345/.437 with 13 homers, 36 walks, 123 strikeouts in 284 at-bats in Low-A; stands out for 60-65 raw power and 70 throwing arm but has serious problems with contact; whiffed in 46% of at-bats; he’s a decent enough third baseman but hard to see how the bat will work at higher levels without adjustments; he could always become a pitcher. ETA 2021.

17) Danny Diaz, SS, Grade C+: Age 17, signed out of Venezuela last summer for $1,600,000, hasn’t played yet; stands out for power potential and arm strength; some international experts regarded him as the best hitter available on the market last summer; probably winds up at third base; high ceiling but we need to see if his skills match the reports. ETA 2023.

ANALYST NOTE: I wrote up spots 18-20 because these three guys could see significant major league action in 2018. The “other C+” guys could also slot into these notches.

18) Hector Velazquez, RHP, Grade C+: Unusual case, a 29-year-old purchased from the Mexican League last spring; long track record of success in Mexico and continued that in the United States, posting 2.21 ERA with 79/24 K/BB in 102 innings in Triple-A, then 2.92 ERA with 19/7 K/BB in 25 major league innings; obviously not a traditional prospect due to age, a finished product but could be quite valuable; works strike zone with 90 MPH sinker, slider, curveball, change-up, knows how to pitch; should not be under-estimated. ETA 2018.

Divisional Round - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Two
Austin Maddox
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

19) Austin Maddox, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, third round pick in 2012 from University of Florida; career slowed by nagging injuries and off-field issues but took huge step forward in 2017, posting 2.92 ERA with 46/26 K/BB in 49 innings in Double-A/Triple-A then 0.52 ERA in 17 major league innings with 14/2 K/BB; fastball up to 93-96 MPH, slider and change-up; stuff profiles well in bullpen if he throws strikes like he did in the majors; ETA 2018.

20) Ben Taylor, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, seventh round pick in 2015 from University of South Alabama; missed much of 2017 with intercostal/oblique strain; posted 2.70 with 12/5 K/BB in 13 Triple-A innings, 5.19 ERA in 17 major league innings with 18/9 K/BB; middle relief profile with 90-95 MPH fastball, decent slider and change-up, can succeed if control sharpens a bit. ETA 2018.

OTHER GRADE C+: Lorenzo Cedrola, OF; Chad De La Guerra, INF; Williams Jerez, LHP; Travis Lakins, RHP; Joan Martinez, RHP; Bobby Poyner, LHP; Roniel Raudes, RHP; Hildemaro Requena, RHP; Chandler Shepherd, RHP

OTHER OF NOTE: Trey Ball, LHP; Bryce Brentz, OF; Ty Buttrey, RHP; Pedro Castellanos, 1B; Andre Colon, SS; Jake Cosart, RHP; Jhonathan Diaz, LHP; Nick Duron, RHP; Santiago Espinal, INF; Tyler Esplin, OF; Juan Florentino, RHP; Antoni Flores, INF; Justin Haley, RHP; Kyle Hart, LHP; Tyler Hill, OF; Dedgar Jimenez, LHP; Brian Johnson, LHP; Trevor Kelley, RHP; Trenton Kemp, OF; Everlouis Lozada, 3B;

Danny Mars, OF; Kyle Martin, RHP; Algenis Martinez, RHP; Tate Matheny, OF; Kevin McAvoy, RHP; Brett Netzer, 3B; Durin O’Linger, RHP; Aaron Perry, RHP; Yankory Pimenel, RHP; Esteban Quiroz, 2B; Denyi Reyes, RHP; Zach Schellenger, RHP; Robby Sexton, LHP; Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP; Kervin Suarez, INF; Aneury Tavarez, OF; Josh Tobias, 2B

As noted above, spots 18-20 were selected because those guys could help in the majors now. The Other Grade C+ guys are also worthy of discussion and let’s talk about them in the comments thread.

The Sox have thinned out due to trades and graduations but there’s still some raw material here. I will be back in the morning to answer your questions and complaints.