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 Short Season Red Sox offensive review, he details the ups and downs of the two teams’ 2015 season.
The bridge between the Gulf Coast League and the New York Penn League is one that is well traversed. Prospects who outperform the GCL get called up quickly to the more advanced short season league. With an extra week of regular season playing time, the New York-Penn League also sees an influx of youngsters at the end of the year. Given the relative lack of games in both leagues and the great overlap, we have decided to combine the offensive reviews of the Lowell Spinners and the GCL Red Sox into one.
Baseball is a game of adjustments, especially in the short season leagues. Players coming in from college and high school need to adjust not only to the daily grind of living on your own, but also adjusting to wood bats. Players from foreign countries come in and have to adapt to a new country and a different dominant language. It is little surprise that the short season leagues tend to be dominated by pitching.
Lowell was one of the worst bottom offensive teams at the plate in the NYPL, but also one of the youngest. The young Spinners, over half a year younger than the league average, batted .237/.312/.338 as a team, the .650 OPS being the third-worst in the league. However, component stats are not the only measure of a team’s offense. Lowell scored an average of 4.53 runs per game, fifth best in the 14-team league, in large part due to their opportunistic baserunning. The Spinners stole 89 bases, second best in the league, while only being caught 28 times, easily the best percentage (76%) in the league. The team also led the league in sacrifice flies with 31. The team was near the bottom of the league in doubles, but in the top five in both triples and home runs.
GCL Red Sox
Given the structure of play in the GCL, how useful the comparison between the full 16-team league is up for debate. The GCL Sox were just over the league average in age and were also near the midpoint of the full league with their .249/.346/.317 team batting line. The .346 OBP was second in the league thanks in large part to leading the league in walks (248). It was a station to station offense, however, as the Sox ranked last in home runs (9) and in the bottom five in both doubles and triples. Nevertheless, the team scored an average of 4.47 runs per game, fourth in the league.
With a season that only lasts two and a half months, the data we are looking at must carry the dreaded small sample size warning. But, the small sample also allows us to see clear dominance.
Most Valuable Player
Andrew Benintendi was the best player in college baseball this year. Befitting his status, Benintendi had little trouble with the adjustment to professional baseball. In his 35 games for the Spinners, Benintendi batted .290/.408/.540 with two doubles, four triples and seven home runs. Benintendi stole seven bases in eight attempts (failing only in his first attempt), walked 25 times and only struck out 15 times. Benintendi failed to reach base for the Spinners in only three games. He also did not commit an error from his centerfield position while catching six runners on the bases.
Once promoted to Greenville, Benintendi continued to rake, batting .351/.430/.581 in 19 games, failing to reach base in only one game.
First Season Professionals
Unlike Benintendi, Tate Matheny had a miserable transition to professional baseball. A fourth round pick out of Missouri State and the son of current St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny, Tate never quite got the measure of the New York-Penn League. In 52 games for the Spinners, Matheny hit .181/.233/.218 while averaging a strikeout per game.
Third baseman Mitch Gunsolus, first baseman Tucker Tubbs and catcher Austin Rei also had rough transitions to the pro game. Gunsolus batted .225/.319/.281 with six doubles in his 49 appearances for Lowell. Tubbs hit .216/.303/.314 in his 47 games, slugging eleven extra base hits. In his 32 games, Rei put up a line of .179/.285/.295 with eight extra base hits.
Middle infielder Chad De La Guerra played the most games of any of the college draftees for the Spinners, appearing in 58 contests. De La Guerra slugged .265/.321/.381 with 19 extra base hits.
Kyri Washington and Tyler Spoon, both later round draft picks, started their professional career in the GCL before ending the season in Lowell. Washington played in 35 games between the two leagues, batting .263/.341/.381 with nine doubles. Spoon had a rough transition to the pros, going 5-for-35 in 13 games for the GCL. However, he turned his season around once promoted to Lowell, hitting .286/.333/.400 in 17 games for the Spinners, reaching base in 16 of the games and ending the season on a nine-game hit streak.
The GCL had a trio of college players who helped to support the great pitching. Jerry Downs was the only one of the three drafted this season, and the first baseman put up a line of .275/.399/.382 with ten extra base hits and 23 walks in 42 games. Downs was rewarded with a start in the final game of the Greenville Drive season. Andy Perez played in 26 games for the GCL Sox after being brought in as an undrafted free agent, leading the offense with his .355/.431/.409 line. Madera, who was also inked as an undrafted, batted .264/.340/.319 in 28 games.
The GCL Red Sox featured a quartet of high school players drafted this season, and all four struggled in their first season in professional baseball.
Yomar Valentin played the most of the four, appearing in 24 games and putting up a line of .233/.313/.291 with nine walks in 99 plate appearances. 5th round draft pick Jagger Rusconi slugged .170/.224/.283 with two doubles and two triples in 16 games played. Catcher Andrew Noviello batted .132/.267/.184 in his 18 games played, but caught the final game of the season, a 1-0 championship win. Nicholos Hamilton hit .102/.228/.122 in his 18 appearances, but stole seven bases in his limited time on the base paths.
With the initial transition out of the way, the quartet will look for improvement in their second seasons.
Second and Third Seasons
Josh Ockimey put up a .524 OPS in the GCL in his first professional season in 2014. One year later, he was one of the offensive leaders for the Lowell Spinners, batting .266/.349/.422 with 13 doubles, three triples and four home runs in 56 games. While the power potential was evident, so was the whiff potential, as Ockimey struck out 78 times.
Luis Alexander Basabe was a rare offensive in-season promotee from the Dominican Summer League last season, putting up an isolated slugging of .196 there in 2014. Promoted to Lowell this season, Basabe continued to show his blast potential, hitting .243/.340/.401 with eight doubles, three triples and seven dingers in 56 games.
Shortstop Jeremy Rivera showed much offensive improvement in his second season with the Red Sox, putting up a line of .256/.328/.284 with 24 walks in a team high 63 games for the Spinners.
Utilityman Victor Acosta, catcher Jhon Nunez and outfielder Jordon Austin all spent their third professional seasons in Lowell. Acosta played in the most games of the three, batting .251/.307/.351 with a team high 16 doubles in 57 games. Nunez split time with Austin Rei behind the plate, hitting .204/.299/.287 with three triples in 35 games. Austin, who played in only 23 games, put up a line of .266/.329/.313, his best as a pro.
Trenton Kemp had a decent second season over 40 games for the GCL Sox, batting .234/.373/.347 with 24 walks, six doubles and four triples. Promoted at the end of the season to Lowell, Kemp struggled in his ten games, going 2-for-29, although both hits went for extra-bases. Tyler Hill also had a brief audition with Lowell, going 6-for-15 in four games after batting .250/.344/.280 in 39 games with the GCL.
Catcher Devon Fisher spent his second season in the GCL, batting .194/.374/.247 with 22 walks in 31 games. Behind the plate, Fisher caught 17 of 41 batters who attempted to steal.
The Dominican Arrivals
Roldani Baldwin, third baseman and occasional catcher, made his first season in the US a good one. Baldwin was one of the leaders of the GCL offense, hitting .288/.362/.397 in 47 games while hitting a third of the team’s nine home runs. He also earned a late season promotion to Lowell, going 2-for-7 in three games.
Outfielder Yoan Aybar played in 45 games in his first season in Florida, batting .268/.298/.338 with five doubles and three triples. Aybar also showed a trait common to the Red Sox outfielders, nailing seven runners on the bases.
Injuries wreaked havoc on the debut GCL seasons of Raiwinson Lameda, Luis Alejandro Basabe and Carlos Tovar. Lameda was spectacular in his twelve-game sample, hitting .393/.528/.536 between his two month-long injury respites. Luis Alejandro Basabe spent the majority of July on the DL as well as the end of the season. Basabe batted .260/.387/.310 with 21 walks in his 28 games. Shortstop Carlos Tovar spent nearly two months on the disabled list in July and August, putting up a GCL line of .250/.281/.300 in 18 games before heading to Lowell for the final four games of the Spinners’ season, where he went 2-for-9.