|Original Published Date: December 1, 2017|
Once one of the best farm systems in baseball, the Red Sox organization is a shell of itself. While a number of their former prized prospects are now contributing for the Red Sox in a significant way, over the last year and a half, they’ve traded a number of their other young assets for veteran help. It’s a tried and true Dave Dombrowski playbook that has had mixed reviews in his previous jobs. It will be interesting to see if the moves he made will work for the Red Sox…he gave up a lot.
Left in the system is not a whole lot. I love Jason Groome and believe he could one day be pitching at the top of the Boston rotation. However, he has a long way to go and didn’t have a great season in 2017. Michael Chavis made great strides and looks like he might have the upside of a major league regular. Will he be able to beat out Devers for playing time? It’s not likely, but he could eventually replace Dustin Pedroia at second when his contract ends after the 2019 season.
The Red Sox are all-in with their major league squad and while they have a few more chits to trade for additional help in the off-season, their system is getting thin…quickly.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP
It was a down season for Jason Groome, the 12th overall pick in the 2016 Draft. He pulled a lat muscle in his first start of the season, giving up nine earned runs in the process. He didn’t return to game action until June 9th. He had moments of pitching well during the season but in the end, posted a pedestrian stat line of 44.0 IP, 48 strikeouts, 25 walks, and a 6.70 ERA. That said, you have to remember that at 18, Groome was the youngest pitcher in the Sally League.
In researching the article, I stumbled across what can only be described as a disturbing story about Jason Groome’s father. He was arrested in July and charged with weapons and drug charges. I’m sure this must have been a huge distraction for Jason and might explain some of the struggles he had.
Hopefully, 2018 will bring health and some stability back home and Groome can get back on track. The talent is clear and the upside still remains a Top 30 pitcher, if not more.
Scouting Report: When I saw Groome in high school, his fastball was sitting 92 to 94 MPH with plenty of 5’s and 6’s. I heard from reports that the arm strength and velocity were still in tack this past season. At 6-foot-6, he’s still projectable and could add another tick or two on his fastball.
His best secondary pitch is a 12-to-6 downer curveball that is already a plus pitch. When his mechanics are in sync, he can throw it for strikes. He also shows a feel for a change-up.
Where Groome ran into trouble last season was in repeating his delivery. This is to be expected with young, tall pitchers. At this juncture, I’m not too worried. He’s athletic enough and from all accounts, works hard, so I think he figures it out.
Fantasy Impact: The biggest concern that Groome presents to fantasy owners is his age and distance from the major leagues. His arsenal is advanced and he shows a surprisingly good feel for pitching, but he’s still at least three, maybe four years away from helping a fantasy team. When it all comes together, the upside is a high strikeout pitcher with above-average ratios.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
A lot was expected of Michael Chavis when the Red Sox drafted him 26th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft. I for one loved his swing and bat speed and thought he had a chance to be an above-average hitter with plus power. However, that has not been the case as he’s struggled at every level. In fact, he repeated both Low-A and High-A in consecutive years. The primary problem has in fact been the hit tool. He expands the strike zone too much which is leading to a lot of swing and miss.
Last year though, we started to see some positive signs. He struck out less, all the way down to a 20% strikeout rate in 67 games in Double-A. That’s a marked improvement from his 30% strikeout rate in his first full season in 2015. Plus, he slugged .563 with 31 home runs across High and Double-A. Clearly, Chavis is starting to figure things out and the best part, he just turned 22-years-old.
Scouting Report: I had a chance to sit in on a couple of Chavis’ games last season and once again, I came away impressed. The bat speed is premium and that combined with good raw strength should allow him to hit 25 plus home runs at the highest level. He does expand the strike zone and while his strikeout rate has improved over the past two years, I don’t think he will ever be a plus hitter. Instead, I believe he will waffle between a .230 and .270 hitter depending on his BABIP. He’s an average runner today and that will likely reduce as he matures and fills out.
Fantasy Impact: While many dropped Chavis from their rankings last year, we kept steadfastly and ranked him at a robust number 10. While he has improved his strikeout rate, he’s not going to be a high batting average or on-base percentage player. However, there is 25, perhaps 30 home runs in his bat. He should be squarely back on the radar in all Dynasty Leagues with a chance to see the major leagues in 2019.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 SP
One of the better stories in the Red Sox organization is the emergence of Venezuelan right-handed pitcher Bryan Mata. After holding him back in the Fort Myers complex to begin the season, the Red Sox aggressively assigned him to full-season affiliate, Greenville where he performed extremely well. In fact, he performed much better than his more famous teammate, Jason Groome.
In 17 starts, he pitched to a 3.74 ERA, striking out 74 while walking a very respectable 26 (3.0 per/nine). He also kept the ball in the ballpark giving up only three home runs the entire season. It will be interesting to see what the Red Sox do next year with Mata. He pitched well enough to earn a promotion to High-A, but he won’t turn 19 until May so it would be a very aggressive assignment. Then again, his assignment to Low-A was very aggressive and he did just fine.
Scouting Report: Mata has a good arm with a fastball that sits in the low-90’s. Given his 6-foot-3 and a whopping 160 pound frame, there’s a very good chance that his fastball will improve a grade, perhaps two, as he matures. He shows an ability to spin a curve and a feel for a change-up.
What impressed the Red Sox the most was the control of his arsenal. He’s athletic with the ability to repeat his delivery, which should bode well for his long-term success.
Fantasy Impact: Mata is a name that’s flying under the radar. While the stuff is not premium, it could easily jump up over the next year or two and if it does, he becomes a different pitcher. I would be adding him as a lottery pick in Dynasty Leagues that roster 200 or fewer minor leaguers.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 1B
First base prospects are tough. Many times they are simply failed players at other positions, even sometimes starting out as shortstops. Josh Ockimey has always been a first baseman and the question continues to be: Will his bat good enough to make it there as a major leaguer?
We’ve now seen two solid years of similar production – good raw power that has yet to translate into in-game power, plate patience that has resulted in a 15% walk rate and the penchant to strikeout a ton.
2017 was more of the same. He split time between High and Double-A, hitting .274 with 14 home runs, striking out 26% of the time while walking 15% of the time. He did have a BABIP of .386, so you can’t expect a .274 batting average going forward. In fact, with this high strikeout rate, a .230 batting average is more likely.
Scouting Report: I had a chance to scout Ockimey in the spring of 2016 and was impressed with his physicality. He’s long and lean and very athletic. His carrying tool is plus raw power and while he hit 14 home runs last season, there is a lot more in the tank.
While he has an understanding of the strike zone, the swing gets long and he’s prone to the strikeout. Given he has no speed, a high BABIP is not likely. Therefore, the profile suggests a .230 hitter.
There are plenty of players in the major league baseball with this profile and in fact, there are too many. The market is starting to devalue that 30 home run single-dimensional player. Ockimey’s ability to work a walk might be the deciding factor. If he can post a .330 OBP, even with a .230 batting average, it might be enough to make him a major leaguer.
Fantasy Impact: I would probably take a flyer on Ockimey in deeper Dynasty Leagues in hopes that he can cut down the strikeouts. At this juncture, it’s 50/50 for me.
Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2019-20, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
Travis Lakins season was cut short for the second year in a row with a stress fracture in his elbow. His season started off very well where he pitched to a 2.61 ERA in seven starts in High-A. He struck out 43 and walked 13 in 38 innings. In May he was promoted to the Eastern League and the wheels promptly fell off.
Perhaps he was struggling with his health, but the performance was poor. His control left him and he stopped missing bats. In fact, he walked more batters than he struck out. After eight starts, the Red Sox shut him down.
Scouting Report: When he’s on, Lakins has really good stuff. He has a fastball that he can run up to the mid-90’s and promising secondary pitches. He’s athletic and repeats his delivery well which has resulted in good control. The problem has been his health and when your season ends in consecutive years with the same injury, you have to be worried.
Fantasy Impact: Lakins is not well known in prospect circles but assuming he comes back healthy, he has the stuff to be a mid-rotation starter. As of the time of this writing, there has been little discussion on the status of his recovery. Owners need to monitor this situation.
Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder
Sam Travis has hit at each and every level and that was again the case in 2017. He split time between Triple-A and the Major Leagues where he hit .270 and .263 respectively. He also controls the strike zone very well as he posted a 16.7% strikeout rate in Triple-A to go along with a 10.8% walk rate.
What Travis has yet to show is any power. He has yet to hit more than six home runs at any level and given his position, it makes him likely a tweener at the highest level. While he saw time in Boston last season, I don’t think this will continue on a regular basis as there is just no room on the roster for him. I expect him to be moved in this off-season or next.
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 signed a six-year contract for $79 million dollars.
Fantasy Impact: Given his draft pedigree and potential, Travis is owned in many 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: Short Season, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP or Middle Reliever
With the 24th pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Red Sox selected Missouri’s Friday night starter, Tanner Houck. He had a terrific junior year for the Tigers, posting a 3.33 ERA while striking out a batter an inning and walking slightly over two per nine.
After signing, the Red Sox assigned him to Lowell in the New York Penn League where he posted a 3.63 ERA in 22.1 innings. He struck out 25 while only walking eight. He was hittable though as he gave up nearly a hit an inning.
Scouting Report: Houck has good stuff with a heavy fastball that can hit the mid-90’s and a slider that misses bats. He relies heavily on both pitches with his fastball being his money pitch. He’s yet to show a feel for a change-up. The good news is that a change-up is teachable as oppose to a curve (it’s either in your arm or not).
His delivery is where the problems exist. First, he throws from the third base side, which provides deception but also puts a lot of stress on his arm. Secondly, he has a drop and drive delivery but doesn’t stay tall on his landing. In other words, his arm slot moves down considerably. It’s not a sidearm delivery but is definitively a low arm-slot. While he’s never been homer-prone, I would not be surprised to see this in the future.
People always ask why guys become relievers. The reasons are many, but the inability to throw strikes leads the list but right after that is a non-classic delivery. Houck has the latter and for every Chris Sale, there seems to be a hundred Tanner Houck’s. In the end, I think Houck is a reliever but he does have good stuff, assuming he develops a change-up. Therefore, I’m not all the way in the reliever camp.
Fantasy Impact: While I like Houck’s arm, his delivery and lack of a third pitch point to a career in the bullpen. The Red Sox though disagree and see him as a starter. I’m taking the under for now and therefore he will not be very high on my shopping list during Dynasty League re-drafts.
Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2021-22, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
In the second round last June, the Red Sox selected Cole Brannen in the second round and paid him a $1.3 million signing bonus. After signing, the Red Sox assigned him to the GCL where he had mixed results.
In 39 games he hit .231 but walked nearly as much as struck out. The problem is he struck out 22% of the time. While you can argue that he demonstrated an understanding of the strike zone, his high walk rate was more about being tentative at the plate. This can lead to bad consequences including getting put into poor hitting counts and you guessed it, striking out a lot.
Scouting Report: Brannen is pretty tooled up. He’s a plus runner, a plus defender and evaluators like his swing. The swing is more geared to contact but he does have good bat speed so he might eventually develop a little bit of pop down the road.
While he has a long way to go, the Red Sox believe that he will develop into a classic top-of-the-order table setter with the ability to stay in center field.
Fantasy Impact: I like rostering toolsy players and might take a run at Brannen in my Dynasty League redrafts in the middle rounds. He should be able to steal some bases and with tweaks to his approach, could hit enough to get regular at-bats at the highest level. He’s four years away, so temper your expectations.
Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 70 SP
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Mike Shawaryn split time between Greenville and Salem last season. He pitched well in 26 starts posting a 3.81 ERA with 169 strikeouts and 48 walks in 134.2 innings. He was able to pitch deep into most games, averaging over six innings per start.
Despite only pitching a half-season in High-A, there’s a good chance that the Red Sox will start him in Double-A to begin the 2018 campaign. That should put him on target to see big league action sometime in 2019.
Scouting Report: Shawaryn has a solid three-pitch mix with a fastball that he can run up to 94 to 95 MPH. Both his slider and change-up can get swings and misses with his slider being the better pitch. He’s a drop-and-drive pitcher and his mechanics do have some effort. Because he doesn’t pitch tall, he loses his plane and will give up the long ball. This will likely be a problem going forward as rarely do drop-and-drive pitchers change. In my opinion, this will limit his upside to a number four or five pitcher, or a bullpen arm.
Fantasy Impact: Shawaryn is a good name to monitor but doesn’t have a true plus pitch and with a questionable delivery, I’m only going to own in a league that rosters at least 400 minor league players.
Highest Level: Low-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 Corner Infielder
Bobby Dalbec was a two-way player at the University of Arizona, serving both as it’s closer and starting third baseman. The Red Sox drafted him as a third baseman but with his plus arm, there’s still a non-zero chance he moves to the bump. Based on his first full season, there is clear questions about his approach and the ability to get to his double-plus raw power.
In 78 games in Low-A, he slugged .437 with 13 home runs but also struck out an alarming 37% of the time. He did walk 11% of the time but his strikeout rate was Joey Gallo-esque. While Gallo’s 80-grade raw has evolved into a serviceable skill at the highest level, Dalbec doesn’t have the same raw and therefore not the same upside.
Scouting Report: Dalbec’s carrying tool is his double-raw power. It’s primarily born of a leveraged power swing and his 6-foot-4 frame will always make him susceptible to strikeouts. If he can control the strike outs, he could develop into a major league regular. However, after his first taste of full-season ball, there are now many questions on whether he’ll make enough contact to get to his power. While Gallo only hit .209, his 41 home runs were tolerated because he did get on-base at a .333 clip. Dalbec’s 11% walk rate was encouraging but he needs to push that up higher if he continues to strikeout 35 plus percent of the time.
Fantasy Impact: There is 30 home run pop in Dalbec, but it could easily come with a .220 batting average. I believe he needs to reduce his strikeout rate to get regular playing time. If he can, he’s a guy I would be adding. If not, the carrying risks are too high for Dynasty Leagues that roster 300 or fewer minor leaguers.
2018 Emerging Prospect
In looking for the Red Sox 2018 emerging prospect, Alex Scherff caught my attention. Drafted in the fifth round last year, he signed for a significantly over-slot $700,000 signing bonus. He’s got a great arm and can run his fastball up to the mid-90’s. The Red Sox kept him on the sidelines last season and he’ll likely start 2018 at the Red Sox Complex before being assigned to a short-season affiliate.