|Original Published Date: December 2, 2016|
The Red Sox got back to their winning ways in 2016, finishing first in the AL East by four games. They looked poised to make a long run in the playoffs but their potent offense picked a poor time to get in a slump and lost in three straight to the Indians in the Divisional Series.
While Big Papi and Dustin Pedroia were the leaders of the team, the Red Sox improved 15 games on the backs of their young players, principally Mookie Betts, Xander Boagerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. Typically teams that graduate this level of talent will find their minor league system down, if not completely barren. Not so for the Red Sox. In fact, Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi are two of the top five players in the minor leagues and Rafael Devers is not far behind.
Michael Kopech is their top pitching prospect and routinely hits triple-digits as a starter. While he’s had some personal issues that have given the team pause, there’s no denying his talent. Right behind him was arguably the best talent in the 2016 draft, Jason Groome. He’s three or four years away but the upside is a number one starter.
The Red Sox will surely do some wheeling and dealing in the off season, so no telling what this list will look like by spring. For now, it’s one of the best in baseball.
Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2016, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 Player
Yoan Moncada was our mid-season number one overall prospect and will enter 2017 in the same spot. I know the season didn’t end the way he wanted, striking out seven straight times in a September call-up, but it was a great season nonetheless.
Ignoring his 19 plate appearances in the big leagues, Moncada slashed .294/.407/.511 in 106 games across High and Double-A. He also hit 15 home runs and stole 45 bases. He did strikeout too much as his 25% strikeout rate showed, but a 14.6% walk rate helped to regulate his on-base percentage. I don’t see him as a three-true-outcome player but just someone that needs to cut down on his strikeout rate to allow his impressive secondary skills to play.
As the September promotion showed, the Red Sox are clearly pushing Moncada hard. They only gave him a few weeks off before sending him to the Arizona Fall League. I expect him to start the 2017 season in Triple-A and be ready to join the Red Sox by mid-season. I don’t think the Red Sox will play the Super-2 game, but they will clearly want to get that extra year of team control. Therefore, don’t expect him until May at the earliest.
Scouting Report: If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Yoan Moncada play live, it’s a shame. The kid oozes athleticism and he looks like a tailback in a baseball uniform. His plus bat speed is very evident and with double-plus foot speed (3.94 from the left side) to complement a solid approach, he should be able to have an average, if not above-average hit tool. That said, the strikeouts are a problem, particularly as a big part of his game relies on his speed. If he was just a slugger with double-plus power, teams seem to be ok with 150 to 180 strikeouts a year. But, he needs to get on-base so his speed can play. The fact that he understands the strike zone is important, but 30 extra points on his average could move him into discussion as one of the best players in the game. He has the kind of upside.
When I first saw him, I didn’t see a 50 stolen base player, but he’s been posting those kinds of numbers. I think the speed will regress as he fills-out but until then, he could threaten 50 with a chance for 20 home runs. Throw in a .260 batting average with a .340 on-base percentage and the offensive upside is just “beastly”.
Fantasy Impact: Moncada’s failure in his brief September call-up was disappointing but in the long-run, it could prove beneficial. In that small taste, he was exposed to the challenge that lies ahead of him and that he can’t swing at everything. I expect him to be up and log considerable time at third base next year for the Red Sox. It might take him a year or two, but the upside continues to be a Top 5 overall fantasy player.
Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2016, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 OF
I was shocked when I did the calculation and saw that Andrew Benintendi was still rookie eligible (just barely) and therefore qualifies to make our list. I did contemplate putting him ahead of Yoan Moncada as the number one prospect in the system and therefore the game. However, in the end, I just couldn’t pull the trigger. He’s good…really good with a higher floor with less risk, but Yoan Moncada’s upside is so high, he edged out Benintendi.
Pick any stat you want at any level, Benintendi made it look easy. He hit .312 with a .910 OPS in 97 games across High and Double-A and just about duplicated that in his 34 games in Boston. He had a 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 90% contact rate in the minors, and a respectable 2.5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the major leagues with a 77% contact rate. He hit 10 home runs and stole 17 bases just to prove how ridiculous his year was. Maybe I should go back and reverse…nah, I’ll keep the rankings…I guess…
Scouting Report: When Benintendi was drafted in 2015, I thought that he had a chance to see the majors within the year. The reason was simple: he can really hit with an elite ability to control the strike zone. It’s a .300 batting average profile with a .360 on-base percentage. At 5-10 and 170 pounds, he’s not a big kid but generates plus bat speed with a definite pull swing to generate his power. Last year I wrote that I was comfortable with 12 to 18 home run potential, but I think he can hit 20 annually. His swing really works and his hands are very strong.
He also has plus speed and if the Red Sox want to run him, he can be a 20 stolen base threat. However, with a stacked lineup, the opportunities might not be there early in his career as he’ll likely be hitting at the bottom of the lineup. Yes, the Red Sox might be one of the few teams that can have a .300 hitter, batting 8th or 9th.
Fantasy Impact: The overall profile with Benintendi is impressive, however he doesn’t have a true double-plus fantasy tool, meaning the upside is not 30 home runs or 30 stolen bases. Instead, it’s more 20/20 with a high batting average and lots of runs scored. Guess what? That’s a top 10 fantasy outfielder. In fact, look at what Ian Desmond did last year: 22 HR, 21 SB, .285 BA, and 107 runs scored. I think that’s totally in Benintendi’s grasp.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 1B
Rafael Devers was ranked #18 on our Top 100 list coming into the season but perhaps the ranking messed with his head as he struggled mightily out of the gate. He was batting .138 at the end of April and only .201 at the end of May. However, he caught fire in the second half, batting .328, belting 7 of his 11 home runs to end the year with a slash line of .284/.337/.445. Considering he was the youngest full-time player in the Carolina League, that makes his performance really impressive.
There is a playing time crunch coming for the Red Sox. With Yoan Moncada just about ready and likely to play third, where will Devers play? First base is an option and the bat should be enough to play there, however that’s currently being manned by Hanley Ramirez. Would the Sox move Ramirez to DH? It’s a problem still in the future, but assuming Devers continues to perform at a high-level, that time will be here before you know it; likely sometime in 2018.
Scouting Report: Devers is the real deal. He could easily be number one on this list and is a Top 25 prospect in the game. His carrying tool is plus bat speed and strength that should allow him to hit for plus in-game future power. The numbers haven’t shown up yet, but they will. Remember, he turned 20 in October.
While Devers will likely be labeled a “slugger”, he makes excellent contact and profiles to have an average future hit tool as well. He’s currently very aggressive at the plate but if he improves there, the hit tool has a chance to improve as well. He’s a below average runner so I’m not sure where the 18 stolen bases came from. I don’t see this being a significant part of his game.
Fantasy Impact: Devers has the ceiling of a top five first baseman at the highest level. He has 30 home run potential with a .270 batting average. While he’s currently playing third, I see the Sox making the move sometime in 2017.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP or closer
It was a mixed season for Michael Kopech, one of the better arms in all of the minor leagues. He entered the season having just finished a 50-game suspension for amphetamines when he broke his hand during a fight with a teammate in Spring Training. When he finally returned, he was dominate, striking out 82 in 52 innings while giving up only 25 hits. Take that Tyler Glasnow…
The problem is he also gave up 29 walks or a rate of five per nine. While that’s clearly a problem, it really didn’t hurt him as few could make contact. That will not stay constant though as the competition will improve as he moves through the system and he’ll need to get his walks under control or face a potential move to the bullpen.
While it’s a dynamic arm, one of the best in the minors, punching a teammate and getting suspended for drugs inside of a year is concerning. Are these just youthful mistakes or is there something more serious going on? I honestly don’t know but it’s a red flag and something that needs to be explored further.
Scouting Report: I heard the hype of Michael Kopech and was anxious to see him in person. I got the chance to lay my gun on him once and while I didn’t get a 105 (which I had heard he did over the summer), I got plenty of 99’s and 100s. Plus, it’s just not high velocity, the pitch has some cutting action and just explodes out of his hand. By the way, I write that phrase all the time…”explodes out of his hand”, I know it’s cliché, but I’m trying to relate the movement. It’s not straight and batters struggle picking up the movement. While most fastballs are not meant to be swing and miss pitches, this one is.
He complements his fastball with a hard slider that was also not picked up well. He threw a couple of slower pitches (88 to 90), which I’m assuming were his change-up, but those need work.
It was indeed an impressive performance, particularly when you see the body. He’s just not a big kid. Yes, he’s 6-foot-3, but he’s more lanky than bulky. For now, he’s still more of a thrower than a pitcher. His change-up still needs a lot of work and of course the control is not there. If it all comes together, he could be a dominate starter. If it doesn’t, the Red Sox could throw him in the bullpen and he could have the upside of a right-handed Aroldis Chapman.
Fantasy Impact: Kopech is far from a finished product but the arm is special and he could be a force in fantasy. If his control improves, he has number one potential. If it doesn’t, he could be an elite closer. For fantasy owners, it’s a win-win situation.
Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 10 SP – fantasy ace
I had a chance to see Jason Groome on the day he pitched a no-hitter, striking out 19 of 21 batters. It was my first no-hitter at any level and I came away duly impressed. How could you not be – did you catch that he stuck out 19 of 21 batters! I was convinced he would be the number one overall draft pick a few months later and was shocked when he fell to the Red Sox at twelve. I did hear the noise about “makeup issues” but was never able to confirm it with anybody. In my opinion, the Red Sox got a steal as the upside is a top-of-the-rotation starter
Scouting Report: I wasn’t able to lay my gun on Groome but in peaking, I saw plenty of 96’s. It looked like his fastball was sitting 92 to 94 MPH and he held it deep into the game. That’s not surprising given his size and mechanics. It’s an easy arm swing with clean and simple mechanics. The scary part is he’s only 17-years-old, so one could argue there could be another grade in his fastball as he matures.
His best secondary pitch is a 12-to-6 downer curve ball that is already a plus pitch. He can throw it for strikes and the kids on the opposing team just had no chance. He also showed a feel for a change-up but from I saw, it’s his third pitch.
Fantasy Impact: Skipping over the make-up issues, the only concern that Groome presents to fantasy owners is his age and distance from the major leagues. His arsenal is advanced and he shows a surprising good feel in his pitching, but he’s still at least three, maybe four years away from helping a fantasy team. Plus, the history of hard throwing prepsters having arm trouble is high. If you’re picking in the top three of a rookie draft, do you take Groome? I probably wouldn’t and would instead look at one of the college bats. But, if I’m picking five or six, I’m all-in.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF
I had a chance to catch a weekend series (actually two games) when the Greenville Drive visited Lakewood New Jersey to play the Blue Claws. On my list of players to watch were the Basabe brothers. It was a little confusing to be honest; twin brothers with the same name on the back…wow. It didn’t take long to see that Alexander was the better of the two. In fact, I was convinced that when the Red Sox traded for Drew Pomeranz, the Diamondbacks got the players wrong and took the wrong Basabe.
He played well for the Drive, posting a .772 OPS with 12 home runs and 25 stolen bases. He was rewarded with a late season promotion to Salem and the new league did not phase him at all.
Scouting Report: Basabe is starting to translate some of his raw athleticism to baseball skills. He has excellent bat speed with a chance to hit for above-average power in the future. While there’s a chance he can hit 20 home runs in a season, I do think that will be his upper limit. He also has plus foot speed with a chance to also steal 20 plus stolen bases annually.
While the hit tool is far from polished, he is starting to show better plate discipline and a semblance of an approach. He still strikes out too much and he might not ever post a plus 80% contact rate, but I also don’t think he’ll be a strikeout machine either.
With a ton of promotions to the big leagues having already occurred and two more imminent, Basabe stands as the most exciting positional player left; and it’s a pretty exciting one at that.
Fantasy Impact: I don’t think Basabe will make my Top 100 list but it’s going to be very close. He should be owned in all Dynasty Leagues formats with the upside of a 20/20 contributor. The hit tool still needs some polish but the tools and overall game is very exciting.
Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder in deep leagues
When the Red Sox drafted Sam Travis in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft from Indiana University, they knew they were getting a player who could control the strike zone and were hoping he would develop at least average power. After three seasons in the minor leagues, he’s proven that he can control the strike zone. In 935 at-bats, he’s making contact 85% of the time with an 8.7% walk rate. The problem is he’s hit a total of 22 home runs, or nine less than he did in college.
In Travis’ defense, he was having a nice year when he tore his ACL in late May, ending his year. In 47 games in Triple-A, he hit .272, slugged .434 but had six home runs. He was on his way to hitting double-digit home runs for the first time in his career. He should be good to go in April with a chance to see some big league at-bats in 2017.
Scouting Report: Travis can hit but his swing lacks loft and therefore he has not been a home run threat to-date. If he was playing second base, that might work, but he’s a first baseman and that gives him a Joe Mauer-ish profile. With power now surging in the game, it’s hard to construct a lineup with a first baseman who is void of power. If the power develops, the profile gets more interesting and could start to look like Brandon Belt. That’s a second division player but the last I looked, Belt just signed a six-year contract for $79 million dollars.
Fantasy Impact: Given his draft pedigree and potential, Travis is owned in most Dynasty Leagues. Outside of a league that values on base percentage heavily, he’s tough to own. One is I’m not convinced he’s going to get everyday at-bats, particularly in Boston and even if he does, I see the upper ceiling as 15 to 18 home runs. Is that a player you want manning first base or a corner infield position? Unless it’s a very deep league or an only league, I think the answer is no.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder
First base prospect are tough. Many times they are simply failed players at other positions, even sometimes starting out as a shortstop. But at 20, Josh Ockimey is a first baseman and the question will always be is his bat good enough to stay there.
He had a fine season for the Drive, hitting 18 home runs but it game with a 26% strikeout rate. The good news is that he also walked a lot; 86 times in 117 games or a 17.4% walk rate. Players with this profile are known as three-true-outcome players, where the result of their at-bat results in a walk, strikemout, or home run.
Scouting Report: I had a chance to scout Ockimey in the spring and was impressed with his physicality. He’s long and lean and very athletic. His carrying tool is plus raw power and unlike many young players, that power has already showed up in games. His approach is also more advanced than I would have thought with excellent plate discipline. He strikes out too much and his swing can get long, but I believe he’ll hit enough to get to his power.
He’s a 30-runner, so speed will not be part of the equation.
Fantasy Impact: Ockimey reminds me of Jorge Soler – strong with plus power. Because of that, he needs to be owned in most Dynasty Leagues that roster at least 150 minor leaguers.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2017-18, Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
Drafted in the 26th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Mauricio Dubon has been flying under the radar in prospect circles but after yet another terrific year, it’s time to give him his due. In three seasons of professional ball, he’s posted a .765 OPS with an 87% contact rate and a 6.7% walk rate. While he’s an aggressive hitter, his hand-to-eye coordination is elite and it led to his promotion to Double-A at 21-years-old.
Scouting Report: I had a chance to see Dubon in the Arizona Fall League and he does a lot of things well. The swing is simple and made for contact. He has strong hands and enough physicality to handle inside velocity. However, at 160 pounds, he lacks both the strength and loft to ever be a power threat. In fact, I think it will be hard for him to replicate his lifetime .409 slugging once he is promoted to the majors. He is a good base runner but is not a burner. He reads pitchers well and that is the primary reason for his back-to-back 30 stolen base seasons.
Fantasy Impact: The ceiling for Dubon is likely a utility player but in the right situation, he could get full-time at-bats. That will not be in Boston but if he were to be traded in the offseason, things could get intriguing. The ceiling is a .270/.320 performer with 25 stolen base potential. However, I think he’ll hit at the bottom of the order which will hurt his overall fantasy value. He should only be targeted in leagues that roster 350 or more minor leaguers.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder
Michael Chavis slides in at number 10 on our list and will likely be a controversial selection. He has yet to live up to his first round status and several others in the Red Sox organizations had better years and should be higher. However, Chavis still has a lot of potential and we are not ready to give up on him.
The Red Sox had him repeat Low-A and even though the results in 2016 were similar to what he did in 2015, the Sox moved him on to High-A to end the season. His season was interrupted by a thumb sprain that cost him a month but it did not require surgery.
Scouting Report: After three seasons in professional ball and a less-than stellar OPS of .697, why do I still like Chavis. It’s simple. He has plus bat speed and plus raw power that I still believe will develop into something. What has been holding him back is his ability to make contact. That actually took a step up last season, going from a 31% strikeout rate in 2015 to a 24% rate in 2016. While that’s far from Altuvian, it’s moving in the right direction and with his ability to manage the strike zone, I believe he’ll eventually hit.
I understand I could be completely wrong with Chavis but I still find the skills intriguing. He has a long way to go but his hit tool improved last season and that gives me hope.
Fantasy Impact: While I like Chavis, that doesn’t mean he should be owned in a fantasy league. I would only roster him in leagues that have 400 or more minor leaguers.
2017 Emerging Prospect
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Bobby Dalbec got off to a fast start in the New York Penn League posting a 1.101 OPS. His carrying tool is double-plus raw power that he showed in his sophomore season at Arizona but injuries led to a drop off last year. He has length in his swing, so strikeouts will likely always be part of the equation. Finally, Dalbec was the closer for Arizona during his college career, so if third doesn’t work out, he could always move back to the bump.