|Original Published Date: December 4, 2018|
Ben Cherrington took a lot of criticism for some bad deals he signed when he was the GM of the Red Sox, but his draft acumen and International signings were the keys to building a young and very good core. Plus, the excess talent gave Dave Dombroski currency to bring in Chris Sale and others to round out the team. Throw in some great free agent signings and you are World Champions.
The above exercise has depleted the minor league system. Nobody is complaining, except for maybe guys like me who have to write about the players left.
I debated Michael Chavis, Jay Groome, and Bobby Dalbec as the top prospect in the system. I like the upside of Groome the most but injury and some personal issues have delayed his development. Chavis got busted for PEDs and Dalbec has never struck out less than 30% in any stop along his development. And, these are the crème of the crop.
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1. Michael Chavis (3B)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
Michael Chavis had a difficult year in 2018. He only played in 61 games due to getting suspended for 80-games for taking Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (DHMCT), an oral anabolic steroid. While Chavis vehemently denied taking it “knowingly”, he at a minimum lost valuable playing time, but does it also explain his 31 home run outburst in 2017?
I’m not sure and while I doubt he’ll ever repeat the .650 SLG he accomplished in High-A in 2017, he did post an impressive .538 SLG last season after returning from his suspension. He does strikeout out too much and continues to be aggressive at the plate. But, the bat speed is still there. It’s not Javier Baez-esque, but it’s a close cousin. This is what continues to give me hope that he has a chance to be a solid major league regular. I’m not sure that will be in Boston as I still like Rafael Devers a lot. Ultimately, he could be a nice trade candidate when the Red Sox need to add a piece for another playoff run.
2. Jay Groome (LHP)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 Pitcher with extreme risk
Since his much celebrated no-hitter in high-school in 2016, things just have not gone well for Jay Groome.
First, he was bypassed by a number of teams on draft day and dropped to the Red Sox with the number twelve pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. While it was never clear as to why he dropped, rumours of poor makeup were whispered. Then, he performed very poorly in 2017 with his mind probably distracted by the arrest of his father on weapons and drug charges. Finally, he had Tommy John Surgery in missed all of the 2018 season.
For now, we only have the dream in which to hang our hats. He’s a lefty and prior to his surgery, he had a plus fastball with a wipeout curveball. Can he make it back through all the diversity? I don’t know, but I’m not willing to drop him just yet in my Dynasty League. The arm still could be special.
3. Bobby Dalbec (OF)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B but will he hit enough?
I really struggled with players like Bobby Dalbec. He is becoming the definition of a three true outcome player – he strikes out, walks, or hits a home runs in a large portion of his plate appearances. In Dalbec case, he’s never struck out less than 30% of the time at any level. The swing and miss is prodigious and while he hit 26 home runs in High-A, as he moves through the minor leagues, the strikeouts could get worse. In fact, he was promoted to Double-A for the last month of the season and struck out 37% of the time.
He is a good defender and that gives him extra value, but I’m just not sure he makes it. He should be owned at this in all Dynasty League teams that roster 200 or more prospects, but you’ll have to live with the low average to go along with the plus power.
4. Triston Casas (3B/1B)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
The Red Sox drafted Triston Casas with the 26th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. He played one game before injuring his thumb which required season-ending surgery.
Casas has intriguing skills with 70 raw power and an advanced approach at the plate. However, he’s 6-foot-4 and usually guys that tall will have holes in their swing and are prone to strikeout in bunches. While he was drafted as a third baseman, his size might prompt a move to first base. If that occurs, it will put a lot of pressure on his bat.
Because of the power potential as well as his patient approach at the plate, he should be drafted in all Dynasty League re-drafts. While it’s disappointing that he missed the 2018 season, he just turns 19 in January and should be able to make up for lost time.
5. Darwinzon Hernandez (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or bullpen arm
I got a chance to see Darwinzon Hernandez in the Fall League and there is a lot to like. He’s got good stuff with a fastball that topped out at 95 MPH and a curveball that can miss bats as well as a feel for a change-up. What I didn’t like was the body and his inability to throw consistent strikes.
He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds but most of the weight is in his lower half. I’m concerned that conditioning could become a problem. The delivery is simple and easy but he doesn’t repeat his delivery very well and that’s where the control problems start. He does keep the ball down in the zone which is limiting home runs.
It’s going to come down to his ability to repeat his delivery. If he can, he has number three starter upside. If not, he’ll move to the bullpen which is where the Red Sox had him performing in the Fall League.
6. Bryan Mata (RHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
We wrote last year that Bryan Mata stuff was not premium, but…“ it could easily jump up over the next year or two and if it does, he becomes a different pitcher”. Well, this year his velocity did, in fact, jump up as he added two miles to his fastball. He also did turn into a different pitcher, but not to the positive. He stopped throwing strikes.
In 17 starts in High-A, he walked as many guys as he struck out. Somehow he pitched to a 3.50 ERA but when you walk 7.25 per nine after walking only 3.0 per nine in 2017, something isn’t right. Perhaps we got an explanation when the Red Sox put him on the Disabled List with back stiffness in July, or maybe they just pulled him to work on his mechanics.
So, what do we have? The stuff has improved but the control has backed up. Injury? Perhaps. I guess we are left to see what 2019 brings. For now, I’m still keeping his ceiling as a Top 45 pitcher.
7. Josh Ockimey (1B)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder
If you like Josh Ockimey, you believe that he’ll be able to tap into his 70-grade raw and hit for 30-plus home runs in the big leagues. If you don’t, you believe the swing and miss is too great to allow him I to get to that power. Since he’s a first base only player and a below-average defender at that, I’m more in the second camp.
He’s a big strong kid and batting practice is impressive. Plus, he walks a ton. In his five-year minor league career, he’s posted a 15% walk rate. There’s a chance he’ll have some BABIP driven .250 seasons where he hits 30 home runs and post a .350 OPS. But for the long run, I’m not quite buying. I’m definitely not buying it in Boston. Therefore, look for a trade at some point down the road.
8. Tanner Houck (RHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP or Middle Reliever
The Red Sox made Tanner Houck their first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. I thought it was a reach at the time and after his first year of professional action, I’m more convinced.
He does have good stuff with a fastball that can touch 95 MPH with average secondary pitches. The problem is he pitches from a lower three-quarters slot and doesn’t repeat his delivery. A profile like this usually moves to the bullpen and that’s where I see Houck eventually moving. If he does, I think the fastball will play up and he could become a weapon against arm-side batters.
9. Denyi Reyes (RHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP
Denyi Reyes was by far the most impressive pitcher in the Red Sox minor league system in 2018. He started the year in Low-A and pitched to a 1.89 ERA in 123.2 innings striking out just shy of a batter an inning while walking just 13 hitters. He got six starts in High-A with similar results.
If Reyes had better stuff, I’d be a little higher on him but his fastball sits in the Low 90s with fringy secondary pitches. He’s getting guys out by spotting his fastball and throwing strikes where he wants to. The challenge will be once he moves to the upper minor leagues. Will the stuff continue to play? I don’t think it does.
10. Antoni Flores (SS)
Highest Level: GCL ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS with extreme risk
The Red Sox signed Venezuelan shortstop Antoni Flores for a $1.5 million dollar signing bonus in 2017. He put up impressive numbers in the DSL, slashing .347/.439/.510 in only 13 games while walking more than he struck out. The Red Sox promoted him to the GCL but he only played in two games before spending the rest of the season on the Disabled List.
Flores doesn’t have loud tools but does have plus speed with excellent bat speed. He also has an idea at the plate with a swing that is more geared to contact than power. He’s a long way off but the Red Sox spent a considerable sum on signing him and while his time has been limited in professional game action, he showed that he might be worth the investment.
11. Danny Diaz (3B)
Highest Level: DSL ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B with extreme risk
As with Antoni Flores, Danny Diaz was signed in 2017 but for $1.6 million dollars. After that, there really is no comparison between the two except they will likely move through the system together.
Diaz brings good bat speed with some physicality that points to future plus power potential. He did pop six home runs in 105 at-bats in the DSL last season before needing hamate surgery. He also struck out 27 times and walked five times, so there is clearly work to be done on his approach and hit tool. But, he’s 17-years-old with promising power and time to work on improving his contact and learning the strike zone.
12. Mike Shawaryn (RHP)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP or Bullpen Arm
After a celebrated career at Maryland, the Red Sox drafted Mike Shawaryn in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft and is nearly ready to help the Red Sox, likely in the bullpen.
I got a chance to see him in the Fall League in October. His fastball was sitting 91 to 93 MPH with a pretty good curveball and change-up. I would grade all three pitches as solid-average pitches. His release point is definitely lower three-quarters and that will likely lead him to the bullpen long term. I think the stuff and the control will play though and he could be quite effective as a bullpen arm at the next level.
13. Nick Decker (OF)
Highest Level: Rookie ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
The Red Sox drafted Nick Decker in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft. He only played in two games before fracturing his wrist and being lost for the season. It is odd that Decker and first round pick, Triston Casas both injured themselves in the first week of action. The Red Sox must have felt snake-bit.
Decker’s carrying tool is his plus raw power. The power comes from a compact swing and physicality as opposed to plus bat speed. He doesn’t have a ton of foot speed and therefore profiles more in a corner outfield position.
14. Brandon Howlett (3B)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 3B
As a 21st round draft pick, you’re a bit of lottery pick. Scouting has gotten so good that rarely do you see gems that deep in the draft. Long gone are the days you can draft Mike Piazza in the 50th round. With that as a backdrop, the Red Sox have to be thrilled with the production so far of Brandon Howlett, their 21st round draft pick in 2018.
In his GCL debut, he posted a .930 OPS with five home runs. At a 23% strikeout rate, he struck out too much, but he also showed a patient approach by walking 13.5% of the time. The Red Sox like what they’ve seen with Howlett so far and believe that his plus raw power could translate.
15. Eduardo Lopez (OF)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
The Red Sox spent $1.15 million dollars to sign Eduardo Lopez last July. He’s an athletic outfielder with a potential plus hit tool and enough speed to stay in centerfield. He’s not a burner but has enough foot speed to steal bases. Since he just got drafted and is only 16-years-old, he’s years away from contributing at the big league level, if he ever even gets there.