The Boston Red Sox farm system is still talented despite the promotions of Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi, but that talent is not always bound for Boston. In Brandon Magee‘s 2016 DSL Red Sox recap, he details the ups and downs of the rookie league teams.
2016 DSL Red Sox 1
Regular Season Record: 50-18
Division Result: First of Eight in the Northwest Division
Playoff Result: Defeated DSL Mariners 2-1 in Semifinals, Defeated DSL Rangers 3-1 in Finals
2016 DSL Red Sox 2
Regular Season Record: 48-22
Division Result: First of Six in the Northeast Division
Playoff Result: Defeated DSL Diamondbacks 2-0 in First Round, Lost to DSL Rangers 2-0 in Semifinals
The Red Sox were among the most talked about teams of the Dominican Summer League in 2016 – bad and good. Major League Baseball determined the Boston Red Sox circumvented the international signing rules in 2015, leading to sanctions that included the voiding of contracts for players on both DSL squads. Despite the sanctioned depletion of the teams, both made the playoffs. The Red Sox ended the DSL season on the highest of notes, with the Red Sox 1 taking home the Championship.
The DSL features 42 teams in a short-season league. Every MLB team has one affiliate with a dozen – like Boston – fielding a pair of teams. Given the size of the Summer League, teams do not play every other Dominican team during the season. In fact, each of the six divisions are essentially autonomous units, meaning that teams only play games within their division. Only in the playoffs do intra-division matchups occur.
This setup certainly benefits the lowest rung of the minor league ladders – the young kids need to play, often – but it makes direct comparisons between teams and players very tricky. At the higher levels of the minor league ladder, where all the teams play all the other teams, it is easier to compare and contrast.
On July 1 Major League Baseball announced penalties levied against the Red Sox organization for circumventing international signing bonus rules by the usage of “bundling.” Basically, they were signing multiple players from the same agent and reporting each individual signing bonus to be the maximum $300,000 that the Red Sox were allowed to spend. However, since the bonuses were routed through the agent, he could distribute the funds to individual players as he saw fit. Some players got more than the allowed 300K – some got less. For breaking the rules, the Red Sox’ major penalty was a ban from signing any youth international free agents during the 2016-2017 time period. The prohibition on new signings will almost certainly result in the Red Sox contracting to a single DSL team for the 2017 season.
Additionally, five players who had signed during the 2015-2016 signing period had their contracts voided. The Red Sox 1 lost outfielder Simon Muzziotti, who batted .317/.354/.383 in 17 games with the Sox before being signed by the Phillies organization; shortstop Eduardo Torrealba, who slashed .247/.318/.247 in 22 games and then signed with the Yankees; and pitcher Cesar Gonzalez, who tossed 11 ⅔ innings over five games for the Red Sox before being taken on by the San Diego Padres. The Red Sox 2 roster was depleted of two players: outfielder Albert Guaimaro,who had a line of .250/.302/.420 in 23 games with the Sox before being scarfed up by the Marlins, and shortstop Antonio Pineiro, who managed a .198/.258/.198 in 22 games before being relocated to the Brewers organization.
The loss of the five players hurt the Red Sox DSL squads in several ways: by shortening the benches but also forcing other players into bigger roles. However, neither team allowed the adversity to affect them record-wise. The Red Sox 1 were 18-5 at the time of the penalty announcement and would go 32-13 over the rest of the regular season. The Red Sox 2 enjoyed a record of 17-6 on June 30, and finished up with a 31-16 record over the final two months.
Red Sox Pitching
The strength of both squads was their pitching staffs. While the average DSL squad allowed 4.46 runs per game, the Red Sox 1 – which averaged an age of 18.7 years, younger than the DSL-wide average of 19.1 – led all 42 clubs by only yielding 2.84 runs each game. The Red Sox 2 followed closely, earning seventh place in the DSL with a 3.56 runs per game average.
The underlying component pitching stats also favored the Sox. The Red Sox 1 staff – led the league in fewest hits allowed and hits per nine innings (425 and 6.3), fewest home runs allowed (six), fewest runs and earned runs yielded (193 and 150) – and ended the season second in ERA (2.22) and WHIP (1.090) to the Royals (1.95 and 1.050 respectively). The team also allowed the tenth fewest walks (237), were tied for fifth in fewest hit batsmen (45), and had the fourth fewest in wild pitches with 63.
[It should be noted, again, that this is primarily a teaching league. Skills are still very raw. For example, the Athletics led the league in HBP with 88 and the Marlins led the league in wild pitches with 175.]
The even younger staff of the Red Sox 2 (17.9 years) ended the season eighth in the league in ERA (2.86), seventh in WHIP (1.194), seventh in fewest walks (222), seventh in fewest HBPs (46), and third in WPs with 61.
Unsurprisingly, a pair of Red Sox hurlers were among the top six pitchers in the DSL, as ranked by ERA: Ritzi Mendoza started 14 regular season games for the Red Sox 1 and posted a 1.05 ERA to go with a spotless 7-0 record, placing him third in the league ERA race. Mendoza gave up only one earned run over 10 innings in the playoffs and was the winning pitcher in the championship finale, was also ranked third by WHIP, finishing the season at 0.76. Mendoza will be 21 at the beginning of next season after four seasons in the DSL, and almost certainly will head stateside next season.
The dominator for the Red Sox 2 was Jose Gonzalez, who celebrated his 18th birthday midseason. The right-hander picked up eight victories and no defeats in 14 appearances – 13 starts – putting up a 1.32 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP, good for sixth and eighth in the league, respectively. Gonzalez also picked up a victory in his only playoff appearances, going six scoreless innings against the DSL Diamondbacks. He, too, has probably earned a trip to Florida.
However, there was much to like beyond these two pitchers. On the Red Sox 1 staff, 14 of the 17 hurlers put up ERAs below 3.00 and WHIPs below 1.28; with a dozen of those pitchers working at least 24 ⅔ innings. While the starting staff was stout with Juan Perez, Alejandro Rodriguez, Edilson Batista, and Rayniel Adames; the work of Eduard Bazardo, Oddanier Mosqueda, and Carlos Cortes in long relief roles deserves recognition. Nor should short reliever Juan Florentino, who finished out 21 games with 12 saves and two victories.
The staff of Red Sox 2 was much more fluid, with just Bryan Mata starting fourteen games. However, the top six pitchers by innings pitched – Mata, Jose Gonzalez, Warlyn Guzman, Rayniel Moreno, Jose Zacarias, and Luis Rivero – each topped 50 frames, all posting ERAs under 2.81 and WHIPs under 1.21. Each also appeared in at least 14 regular season games with three or more starting nods.
The pitching for both squads was aided by a very good defense.
The Red Sox 1 only allowed 43 unearned runs while the Red Sox 2 gifted the opposition just 52 unearned runs – both among the top performances in the DSL. The Red Sox 1 were second only to the Phillies 1 in fewest errors committed (82) and fielding percentage (.969). Their primary catchers (Carlos Pulido and Eddy Reynoso) combined for only four passed balls, tying with the Rangers 1 as the only squads to not hit double digits. They also threw out 34% of runners attempting to steal. Meanwhile, the Red Sox 2 ranked ninth in errors (101) and fielding percentage (.962). Their catching trio– Eduard Conde, Marcos Martinez, and Kleiber Rodriguez– was also stout in corralling pitches, allowing only a dozen passed balls. The triumvirate caught 33% of attempted pilferers of bases.
While the pitching staffs were the calling cards of the two squads, the offenses each ranked in the top third of the league in runs per game, with the Red Sox 2 scoring 4.73 runs per game to rank 14th, while the Red Sox 1 landed three spots lower with 4.66 R/G – both higher than the DSL average of 4.46. However, how they got there was very different.
With a league average slash line of .240/.334/.320; converting opportunities is the name of the game in the DSL. The Red Sox 1 were one of the more adept clubs in the league at conversion, given their woeful .231/.334/.299 team average. The team finished in the bottom quarter of the league in hits and doubles, and in the bottom third in home runs. However, the team landed in the top third of the league in walks and hit by pitches, strategically stole 82 bases (landing in the top half) and lifted 30 sacrifice flies, fourth in the league. In other words, they got on base, the ran the bases effectively, and they played good situational baseball. Interestingly, the team also was among the league leaders in not striking out, landing eighth with just 425. Given the generally rough defensive play in the league, putting the ball into play is a key to scoring runs without hitting.
While the Red Sox 1 did not have any individuals who posted league-leading performances at the plate, they did have four players who were able to compile OPSes of above .690 in at least 50 games played. Ramfis Berroa led the quartet with a line of .247/.350/.423; he also led the team with a quintet of triples and a quartet of home runs. Carlos Pulido batted .283/.401/.345 in a team high 66 games. Eddy Reynoso led the team with 44 RBI and 16 doubles hitting .278/.309/.404. Kervin Suarez was the team leader in hits (71), runs (40), stolen bases (18), and strikeouts (58); slashing .274/.345/.351.
The Red Sox 2 were a better than league average offense, recording a team line of .258/.350/.334. However, while the Red Sox 2 were very similar to the Red Sox 1 in their respective strategies – with nearly identical walk and strikeout numbers – they were slightly better at producing power – with 91 doubles and 29 triples – and slightly more adept at stealing a base, with 97. These small differences resulted in just 14 more runs scored than their organizational sibling.
The Red Sox 2 had a trio of players who put up an OPS higher than Ramfis Berroa’s Red Sox 1-leading .774. Pedro Castellanos was the Sox 2 catalyst, ranking sixth in the league with his .890 OPS (.326/.394/.496). Pedro also finished ninth in the league in hits (77), first in doubles (23), and fourth in RBI (47) and total bases (117). Everlouis Lozada led the team with 48 runs scored, 35 walks, and 17 steals while hitting .298/.390/.391. Yeison Coca hit .308/.372/.408 while leading the team with 80 hits and nine triples.
The Red Sox have a number of bright prospects moving forward from their Dominican Summer League teams. Will Ritzi Mendoza and Jose Gonzalez continue to avoid losing in Florida? Will Pedro Castellanos continue to be among the league leaders in hitting for the GCL? And, will the Red Sox have a second GCL team to supplement the learning process as they reduce their DSL presence to only one squad? Stayed tuned in 2017 for these continuing developments.