After an active offseason, the Boston Red Sox have had quite the frustrating year so far. The additions made by the front office haven’t meshed as well as they had hoped with the young talent already on the roster. However, the young talent has been largely impressive. With Brian Johnson set to make his debut with Boston, Tony Kosinski takes a look at how the top talent in the Red Sox farm system is doing this year.
As disappointing as the American League East standings are for Boston Red Sox fans in 2015, the future is still bright. As detailed by Rick Rowand in his 3 part series, the Kids Are Alright, Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart and Xander Bogaerts have all been positive MLB contributors at very young ages.
At 22 years old, centerfielder Mookie Betts has displayed exceptional power for a youngster while hitting .271/.321/.453 in 386 plate appearances. His first-half hitting, baserunning and fielding were detailed recently by Damian Dydyn. The 23-year-old Blake Swihart experienced an initial adjustment period upon his promotion this May. He rebounded in June to hit .258/.303/.387 before going on the disabled list with a sprained left toe retroactive to July 1st. Swihart’s solid June is even more impressive considering he played through the injury for two weeks while the Sox waited for Ryan Hanigan to return from the 15-day disabled list. Xander Bogaerts, another 22-year-old, has made considerable strides defensively while hitting .302/.336/.410. His .327 wOBA is good for fifth in MLB among qualified shortstops. Eduardo Rodriguez has captured the hearts of Sox fans by quickly becoming their second best starting pitcher with an 111 ERA+, 3.57 FIP, 7.9 K/9, and only 2.7 BB/9.
Swihart was brought back to the team today after completing his rehab for his sprained foot. Consequently, backup catcher Sandy Leon was designated for assignment. John Farrell said that Hanigan will still be the starting catcher but Swihart was promoted to bring more offense to the position and that, while being a back-up, he will play more than Leon was.
Despite graduating four potential All-Star players from their minor league system, the Red Sox are still loaded with top end prospects that have experienced continued success in 2015. Baseball America has named Yoan Moncada (#11), Rafael Devers (#15), Manuel Margot (#24), Brian Johnson (#38), and Henry Owens (#47) to their midseason top 50 prospects list. Baseball Prospectus is likewise bullish on the Sox farm system in their midseason top 50 list with Yoan Moncada (#11), Manuel Margot (#14), and Rafael Devers (#15) impressively showing very high. Jim Callis at MLB.com has also given Red Sox fans reason to follow the minor leagues with Yoan Moncada (#6), Henry Owens (#13), Rafael Devers (#76), Manuel Margot (#79), and Brian Johnson (#86) appearing on his recently updated top 100.
The following synopsis is a brief description of the Red Sox 12 most interesting prospects and their results in 2015. Any players that have made an appearance with the Red Sox have been excluded, as we have already covered them extensively.
The Red Sox officially signed the 20-year old Cuban second baseman on March 12, 2015. Moncada received a $31.5 million signing bonus and the Red Sox paid another $31.5 million to MLB by as a penalty for exceeding the international signing pool. Early returns suggest that this may have been a wise investment. Moncada has hit .273/.355/.420 with four homeruns and 17 stolen bases in 202 plate appearances at the Red Sox A affiliate the Greenville Drive. In July, he has really turned it on batting .343/.423/.582 in 80 plate appearances.
Left-handed hitting third baseman Rafael Devers was signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent in August 2013. Devers is now 18 years old and is more than holding his own with the Sox single-A affiliate Drive. In 77 games, he has hit .302/.329/.457 with nine home runs. The power is impressive but the 3% walk rate is concerning. In 2014 in rookie ball, Devers hit .322/.404/.506 with a 11.6% walk rate, so hopefully the patience will manifest itself as he adjusts to his first taste of full season ball.
The 20-year old centerfielder was signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2011. He was given a relatively modest $800,000 signing bonus. In nearly 300 plate appearances between high-A Salem and AA Portland in 2015, Margot has batted .278/.327/.404. His line has remained steady after the big leap to Portland (.270/.337/.371) from Salem. Combined across both levels he has four home runs, 27 stolen bases, and a reputation as an excellent centerfielder.
The 6’6” 22-year old lefthander has continued to obtain excellent results in 2015 after returning to AAA with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. The underlying peripherals are a bit concerning as he has a 7.7 k/9 and a 4.4 BB/9. He has always struck out more than one batter per inning in his minor league career prior to AAA. His low-90s fastball and potential plus-plus changeup will hopefully adjust to AAA hitters and he’ll return to being a high strikeout pitcher.
Brian Johnson was recently analyzed by our minor league guru Brandon Magee. I am not even going to be pretend that I can compete with Mr. Magee so I’ll only say that Johnson has seen excellent results in AAA in 2015. In 85 ⅔ innings, Johnson has a 2.73 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9. All of Red Sox nation patiently wait for his MLB debut tonight, July 21, 2015.
The Boston Red Sox selected 21-year old college centerfielder Andrew Benintendi 7th overall in the 2015 MLB amateur draft out of the University of Arkansas. Benintendi received the full-slot bonus of nearly $3.6 million on June 30th. He has reported to the low-A Lowell Spinners and has hit .250/.429/.472 displaying an impressive amount of patience and power in only 49 plate appearances. After his signing, Brandon looked at the speed at which dual winners of the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award have reached MLB. This certainly is a promising sign for the future of the former Razorback.
Michael Kopech was selected 33rd overall by the Boston Red Sox in the 2014 amateur draft. The tall, right handed Texan was having an excellent season for the Greenville Drive (2.63 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.7K/9, and 3.7 BB/9) before recently being suspended 50 games for the banned stimulant Oxilofrine. His mid-90s fastball, potentially plus slider, and potentially average changeup and curveball provide him with the tools necessary to continue succeeding at the higher minor league levels – assuming he decides to wake up and walk the straight and narrow.
The 67th overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft has rocketed through the Red Sox minor league system. Damian Dydyn recently wrote an excellent piece about Travis’ rise and hitting ability. The 21-year old first baseman has continued to hit at AA Portland (.302/.361/.419) since his promotion from high-A Salem. The power has not shown up in AA but it should come with experience at that level (he has only had 97 plate appearances) as he does have a career minor league slugging percentage of .460.
The Venezuelan right-hander was signed by the Red Sox in 2014 with a $1.8 million signing bonus. At only 17 years old, he has lit up the rookie leagues in 31 innings. He’s posted an 1.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, and a 2.3 BB/9. Despite atypical size for a power pitcher (6’0”, 170 lbs.), he sits in the mid-90s and touches 99. He mixes that with a potential plus curveball and a changeup.
The 21-year old lefthander was selected 7th overall by the Red Sox in the 2014 amateur draft. As detailed by Brandon Magee on June 15th, Ball is progressing through the minor leagues at about the rate to be expected of young, raw lefthander. His results have been encouraging in 2015 with a 3.61 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. However, his peripheral stats of 5.1 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, and 1.1 HR/9 are not. His abnormally low .244 BABIP against is probably driving his low ERA and that may not be sustainable. In the 34 ⅔ innings since the article came out, the results have been better but the K/BB ratio has not.
The 19-year old Michael Chavis was drafted 26th overall by the Red Sox in 2014 out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia. After being selected as a shortstop and playing 13 games there in 2014, he has only appeared at third base or designated hitter for the Greenville Drive this season. He is young for the league and has struggled hitting .217/.272/.365. With an early move down the defensive spectrum, his bat is going to have to start showing more promise.
One reason that Chavis may have moved to third base is because of newfound stud prospect 19-year old Javier Guerra. Guerra was signed in the 2012 international free agent class for a $250,000 bonus. After two decent seasons in rookie ball, his power has exploded for the Drive in 2015. He has hit .306/.361/.511 with 12 home runs in his first 309 plate appearances in full season ball. If he can continue raking, his slick defensive reputation at a premium position will carry the Panamanian a long way in professional baseball.
*All stats are through baseball-reference.com and were current on that site as of July 20, 2015. Pitchers’ scouting reports are from soxprospects.com. Links to baseballprospectus.com are behind a paywall.