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 Salem Red Sox offensive review, he details the ups and downs of the High-A team’s 2015 season.
Salem had a schizophrenic year, six games over .500 in the first half, thirteen games under .500 in the second half. Inconsistent play by both the offense and the pitching staff led to a very streaky team. Today, we take a look at the Salem offense.
The Offense Overall
By certain metrics, Salem’s offense was one of the better ones in the Carolina League. Their batting average of .258 was second in the league to the Lynchburg Hillcats. Slugging percentage and on base percentage were both third in the league to Lynchburg and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Despite putting up an OPS 30 points higher than the Winston-Salem Dash, the Dash outscored the Red Sox. Despite a 25 point advantage in OPS on the Frederick Keys, the Red Sox only outscored Frederick by a single run. While the Red Sox only had an OPS that was 11 points lower than the Pelicans, they scored 41 fewer runs. Clearly, scoring runs was problematic.
Salem was second in the league in both hits and doubles, but ranked tied for last in triples and third from the bottom in home runs. However, neither number was particularly low in comparison to the league. Salem was middle of the pack in walks, second in stolen bases and in caught stealing. They were in the lower half of the league in strikeouts.
There was consistency in the team’s performance when the offense hit the four-run mark. In the first three months, the team hit that mark 45 times, going 32-13. In the final three months, the offense only hit the mark 31 times, going 22-9 in the process. When the team scored three runs or fewer, the results were predictably worse. In the first three months of the season, the team went 8-23 in those games. In the final three months, the team went a woeful 4-28 when the offense failed to hit the four-run mark.
While 27 players took hacks for the Salem Red Sox during the 2015 season, there was a relatively consistent (for the minor leagues) core for the team. Seven players participated in more than half the team’s games, with a surprising name providing the biggest offensive spark.
Most Valuable Player
Kevin Heller was not the most valuable prospect on the Salem Red Sox. In fact, the 25-year-old outfielder is likely never to make an impact on a major league roster. However, that should not obscure the fact that he was the best long-term provider of offense on the team. In 93 games for the Red Sox, Heller put up a line of.297/.409/.435. He led the Carolina League in on-base percentage, ranked second in the league in batting average and ranked fifth in the league in slugging percentage. Heller led the team in walks (49), hit by pitches (13) and RBI (52). He also contributed 13 stolen bases, threw out nine runners from his outfield positions and did not commit an error.
Manuel Margot was also promoted to AA Portland after a first-half where the 20-year-old showed himself to be a rising star. In 46 games, Margot batted .282/.321/.420 with 14 extra-base hits, including team-highs with five triples and twenty stolen bases.
Aneury Tavarez spent 39 games in Salem before earning a promotion to Portland in late May. Tavarez showed significant improvement in his second season in Salem, hitting .280/.368/.447 with 14 extra-base hits and eight stolen bases in his short time with the Red Sox.
19-year-old second baseman Wendell Rijo continued to show his prospect credentials, putting up a line of .260/.324/.381 in his first season in High-A Salem. In 108 games, Rijo led the team with 105 hits, 47 runs and 27 doubles. He also contributed six dingers and swiped fifteen bases.
Jordan Betts, in his first full season of professional baseball, led the Salem Red Sox in appearances with 113. The corner infielder, however, had a difficult time offensively, batting an abysmal .212/.279/.302 while grounding into ten double plays.
Journeyman corner infielder Mario Martinez spent his second season in Salem, batting .271/.322/.392 with 23 doubles and a team-high eleven grounded into double plays.
In his third season with the Red Sox, Forrestt Allday played in 79 games for Salem and continued to show great plate discipline. Allday walked 48 times – second on the team to Heller’s 49 – and was hit an additional eight times, leading to a strange .249/.383/.301 line. He continued his injury woes from 2014, spending the month of May on the disabled list. Allday earned a September call-up to Portland.
Cole Sturgeon, in his second professional season, was the test rider for the new Salem-Portland express, shuttling between Maine and Virginia twice during the season. In his 76 games for the Red Sox, the outfielder batted .265/.309/.359 with 19 extra-base hits and ten steals.
21-year-old shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin had his best offensive campaign in his fourth season for the Red Sox, batting .281/.331/.367 in 73 appearances in Salem. Lin put the ball in play, seeing strike three only 32 times while taking first base on balls in 22 instances. He earned a promotion to AA Portland in mid-July.
Part Time Performers
Yoilan Cerse played for nine seasons in Cuba, last playing in 2012. The 28-year-old showed considerable rust in his first season in the States, batting .243/.325/.363 with 18 extra-base hits. Like Lin, Cerse put the ball in play, accumulating 25 walks and 31 strikeouts.
Mauricio Dubon was a South Atlantic League All-Star during the first-half of the season and was promoted to Salem for the second half of his first year in full-season ball. In 62 games for Salem, Dubon hit .274/.343/.325 with 23 walks, 12 steals and ten extra-base hits while committing only six errors as he traversed the infield.
Injuries continue to wreak havoc on the development on Jose Vinicio. With a conversion to utility infielder under way this season, Vinicio put up a line of .294/.321/.378 over 57 games for Salem, before going down with an injury for the season in July.
Franklin Guzman also could not keep himself healthy, participating in only 49 games for Salem due to multiple DL stints. Guzman’s power potential should not be diminished, as he led the team with eight home runs, hitting .232/.279/.424 on the season.
Jake Romanski was the primary Salem catcher during the first half of the season, batting .262/.335/.317 in 47 games. Romanski was promoted to Portland in June, where he played in only 16 contests before injury ended his season.
Jordan Procyshen was a South Atlantic League All-Star for the Greenville Drive during the first half of the season. In the second half, he struggled in his first exposure to the rigors of high-A baseball, hitting just .209/.309/.248.
Jordan Weems started the year with Romanski, but an injury put him on the disabled list for a month and a half starting in May. Weems returned in June, replacing the promoted Romanski. In 31 games for Salem, Weems put up a line of .257/.333/.343. He was promoted to Portland in late July, once again replacing Romanski.
In our next installment, we will take a look at the travails of the pitching staff.