by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Boston Red Sox have been aggressive in trading away prospects in order to improve their product at the highest level, and they’ve also graduated an impressive group of players in recent years (like Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers). While that has put a damper on some of the excitement surrounding their farm system, it doesn’t mean that it’s been left completely barren either. There are still some attractive names, at least for now, so let’s take a look at how the system currently stacks up:
1) Jay Groome – Left-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019
He clearly has big-time strikeout ability, including an 11.71 K/9 and 11.5% SwStr% while splitting time between two levels of Single-A. A 6.70 ERA and 1.56 WHIP at Single-A raised red flags, but it’s a small sample size (44.1 IP), was based off poor luck (.355 BABIP, 59.8% strand rate) and after missing time early with a strained lat he could’ve simply been rounding into form.
From a skills perspective it’s hard to argue against the upside, especially as he combined the strikeout stuff with an ability to generate groundballs (55.2% in ’17). The question comes from his control, as he posted a 4.88 BB/9 between the two levels. At the same time he’s big, listed at 6’6”, and that’s generally the last thing that taller pitchers are able to discover. A southpaw who throws hard and generates groundballs is a huge commodity, and it should just be a matter of time before he puts it all together.
2) Michael Chavis – Third Baseman
Grade – B
ETA – 2019
The presence of Devers on the Major League roster is going to slow the ascent of Chavis, but long-term there should be room for both players (one of them could slot in at 1B or DH). While Chavis did enjoy a breakout campaign in ’17, combining to hit .282 with 31 HR and 94 RBI between High-A and Double-A, there’s one big red flag hanging over him. Already 22-years old, a 21.6% strikeout rate isn’t going to raise red flags (especially since he improved to 20.4% upon being promoted to Double-A) but a 15.5% SwStr% will. Against more advanced pitching that type of aggressive approach is going to lead to significant questions. Now couple that with the potential that he gets home run happy (45.8% fly ball rate at Double-A), and he could easily see his average plummet. We saw that at Double-A, with a .250 average, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see it continue.
It’s not to say that there isn’t upside, but he needs to modify his approach if he wants to excel at the upper levels.
3) Tanner Houck – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B
ETA – 2020
Selected 24th overall in 2017, Houck showed a little something in his first 22.1 IP of professional baseball as he posted a 10.07 K/9 and 3.22 BB/9. Obviously we aren’t going to read too much into those numbers, given the sample size and coming at Low-A as a 21-year old, but it’s something to build on. The question is going to be whether or not he’s a future starter or reliever, and that relies solely on his ability to develop his secondary pitches. There’s no questioning his fastball, and a worst case scenario seems to be a late inning reliever with the potential to be a closer of the future, but for now the team will give him a chance to continue developing in the rotation.
4) Josh Ockimey – First Baseman
Grade – B-
ETA – 2019
The big concern is going to be his ability to make consistent contact, with a 14.4% SwStr% between High-A and Double-A. It has already started to show up, with a 26.2% strikeout rate, but he paired it with a 15.2% walk rate so it’s clear he holds a strong eye and there’s hope that he can continue to mature, develop and keep the strikeouts in check.
He did show that he can hit the ball particularly hard, with a 30.4% line drive rate, and the potential is there for his power to continue to grow (think 25+ HR). It’s possible his future lies as the team’s designated hitter, and some may see that as a negative, but the offensive upside is there and it’s conceivable he’s helping the MLB lineup by September.
5) Sam Travis – First Baseman
Grade – C+
ETA – Already Arrived
A first baseman who doesn’t hit for much power is never going to garner much attention, and he had 6 HR in 304 AB at Triple-A prior to joining the Majors (0 HR over 76 AB). If he was hitting a few more doubles we’d have more of a favorable outlook, but he had 14 doubles last season after posting a 51.4% groundball rate. He does bring a solid approach, with a 7.9% SwStr% at Triple-A, but how much value does that truly hold?
The Next Five:
6) Bryan Mata – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
7) Alex Scherff – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
8) C.J. Chatham – Shortstop (Grade – C+)
9) Mike Shawaryn – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
10) Darwinzon Hernandez – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C)
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