The Boston Red Sox farm system is filled with talent, but that does not guarantee success for the minor league affiliates. In Brandon Magee‘s Greenville Drive offensive review, he details the ups and downs of the Class A team’s 2015 season.
The Greenville Drive had a productive season which just ended out of the playoffs. But, the blame for that ultimate failure is difficult to lay at the feet of the offense, who led the South Atlantic League in runs scored and was considered by Baseball America to have the best prospect lineup in minor league baseball at the end of August.
The Greenville Drive offense, the youngest in the South Atlantic League, scored 699 runs to lead the league, averaging just shy of five runs a game. Interestingly, despite scoring 25 more runs than any other team in the league, the team did not lead in any of the other major percentage categories. The team batting average of (.268) was third in the 14-team league, the on base percentage (.331) was sixth and the slugging percentage (.393) was third. The team did lead in hits (1,311, 42 more than the second place Lexington Legends) and doubles (282). The Drive also led the league in at bats (4,884, 148 more than the Legends) and plate appearances (5,436, 163 more than Lexington), indicating that the team reached base quite a few more times than the average team via errors. On the negative side, the team also struck out the most, whiffing 1,118 times, and were middle of the pack in walks with 409.
The offense was particularly adept at putting up crooked numbers. The team scored six or more runs on 47 occasions, going 38-9. They scored double digits 17 times, going 15-2. When the offense was stagnant, however, the team struggled. In games where the offense scored three runs or fewer, the Drive went 9-45.
With a team blessed to have the services of 18-year-old Rafael Devers and 19-year-olds Javier Guerra, Nick Longhi and Michael Chavis — each of whom showed outstanding potential and production and played in over 100 games, it takes a special talent to outshine them and earn the Most Valuable Player award.
Most Valuable Player
20-year-old Yoan Moncada debuted for the Greenville Drive on May 18, going 0-for-3 with a walk. Although he would pick up his first hit the next day and his first multi-hit appearance the day after, the first month in the U.S. was a struggle. In his first 25 games, Moncada batted .200/.287/.289 with five extra base hits, four stolen bases and 28 strikeouts. There was talk of the Red Sox wasting $61 million on the young Cuban.
Patience was quickly rewarded for the faithful. In the second half of the season, Moncada showed why he was the prize of the international free agency class. In 56 games, Yoan hit .310/.415/.500 with 25 extra-base hits, 34 walks, seven HBPs and stole 45 bases in 48 attempts. He had a multi-hit game in 19 of his second half games and earned a spot on the South Atlantic League post-season All-Star team. For the year, Moncada had a line of .278/.380/.438 with 19 doubles, eight HRs and 49 stolen bases.
18-year-old Rafael Devers led the team in hits (135), doubles (38), RBI (70) and runs (71), while playing in 115 games. If there is any concern about the season Devers put up, it is that he slowed down dramatically during the summer. Over his first 42 games, Devers batted .337/.365/.485 with a .386 BABIP. In his next 56 games, Devers hit .224/.277/.384 with a .247 BABIP. Devers ended the season on fire, putting up a line of .382/.421/.544 over the last 17 games of his season with 11 doubles. His line for the year was .288/.329/.443.
19-year-old Javier Guerra played the most games on the Drive with 116, batting .279/.329/.449 with 23 doubles and 15 HRs. Like Devers, Guerra started the year scorching, batting .303/.363/.524 in his first 41 games. Javier had a rough 19-game stretch during June, where he hit .191/.247/.338 before rebounding with a scorching 18-game stretch where he put up a line of .416/.452/.649. Guerra slowed down the rest of the season, batting .222/.266/.319 with nine extra-base hits in his final 38 games.
19-year-old Nick Longhi is not often brought up when considering the youthful prospects of Greenville, but his line of .281/.338/.403 with 27 doubles in 115 games should put him in the conversation. Longhi logged time at both first base and in right field, where he collected 4 assists. Longhi also showed great consistency from month to month, a .634 OPS in May being an outlier to his .725-.826 OPS range.
Michael Chavis is the final teenager on the team and, perhaps, the most intriguing due to his immense power potential. In 109 games, Chavis batted .223/.277/.405, leading the team in both home runs (16) and strikeouts (144). Chavis, a 1st round pick in 2014, struggled with his first exposure to full season ball, hitting just .207/.271/.358 with 11 doubles, six home runs and 71 Ks in the first half of the season. In the second half of the season, Chavis made some improvements, batting .236/.282/.442 with 18 doubles, 10 home runs and 73 strikeouts.
Outfielder Joseph Monge was the fifth regular to break the century mark in games played for the Drive, with the 20-year-old putting up a .241/.287/.335 line with 22 stolen bases. While Monge did not sparkle in the same way as his younger teammates did with the bat, he showed off a powerful weapon on the field, nailing 15 runners trying to take an extra base.
21-year-old outfielder Mike Meyers was the regular man in left field for Greenville until being promoted to Salem in mid-August. In 92 games for the Drive, Meyers hit .296/.364/.426, leading the team in batting average and in triples (6). Meyers was also 12 for 14 in stolen base attempts.
Cisco Tellez, the 23-year-old first baseman, was the old man of the Drive’s regulars in his first full season of professional ball. In 76 games for the Drive, Tellez batted .223/.311/.347 with 20 doubles and 30 walks. Tellez missed the final month of the season due to injury.
The Catching Crew
Jordan Procyshen earned the starting spot in the mid-season All-Star Game, batting .285/.356/.363 with eight doubles and a pair of home runs in his 51 games in Greenville, and was one of a trio promoted to Salem after the game.
Ben Moore was selected as the backup to Procyshen for the All-Star game, but was unable to participate due to a season-ending injury. Moore, who last played on May 27, hit .319/.356/.426 with eight doubles in 24 games.
After two years of active duty in the Army, J.T. Watkins returned to baseball, playing in 37 games for the Drive after joining the team in mid-July. Watkins batted .214/.235/.276 with six extra-base hits for Greenville.
21-year-old David Sopilka made his full-season debut in his sixth season with the Red Sox, playing in 35 games for the Drive. Sopilka recorded a line of .240/.288/.356 with nine extra-base hits.
Derek Miller earned himself an All-Star appearance and a promotion to Salem for his first-half work with Greenville. The outfielder hit .283/.385/.329 with 32 walks and 35 strikeouts in 63 games for the Drive. Miller, who manned all three outfield positions, also caught seven runners on the bases.
Mauricio Dubon also earned himself an All-Star appearance and a promotion with his first-half with the Drive. The utility infielder batted .301/.354/.428 with 19 extra-base hits and 18 steals in 58 games for Greenville.
Bryan Hudson started his season in Lowell before earning a quick promotion to Greenville for the second-half of the Drive season. Hudson had a line of .292/.399/.333 with 29 walks and 18 stolen bases.
Danny Mars started his season in the GCL, recovering from injury. Promoted in Mid-July, Mars batted .283/.335/.331 with 13 steals.
Deiner Lopez started the season with Greenville, was promoted in May to Salem, was brought back to Greenville for the second-half only to be promoted back to Salem in August. In 36 games for the Drive, the infielder hit .282/.321/.395.
The Phenom and the Travel Partner
Although Andrew Benintendi played in only 19 games for the Drive, his contributions down the stretch were immense. Benintendi obliterated South Atlantic League pitching to the tune of .351/.430/.581 with five doubles, four home runs and ten walks while striking out only nine times.
Carlos Mesa has had a long journey, playing two years as a teenager in Cuba, logging three seasons out of baseball before being signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates where he spent three seasons in A ball before spending last season in the independent Canadian-American Association. Brought in by the Red Sox to help with Yoan Moncada’s transition to the U.S., Mesa logged 53 appearances for the Drive, batting .212/.276/.394 with nine doubles and seven home runs.
In our final installment, we will take a closer look at the Greenville pitching staff.