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The 2016 Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: After peaking as the #3 book among all baseball books on Amazon last year, my new book, The 2016 Prospect Digest Handbook, is on sale! Check it out here!

And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.

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1. Yoan Moncada, 2B                                                       
Born: 05/27/95 Age: 21 Bats: B Top CALs: Chris Bostick, Ryan Dent,

Karexon Sanchez, Marc Wik, Forrest Wall

Height: 6-2 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 20 A 363 19 3 8 0.278 0.380 0.438 0.160 11.6% 22.9% 135

Background: The club made a big splash in the international market season – and one that occurred after the publication of last year’s book – by inking the Cuban-born infielder to a colossal $31.5 million deal. But that total more than doubled as the club paid the hefty 100% tax fee. Moncada, 6-foot-2, 205-pound switch-hitting infielder, started gaining notoriety when he first debuted in the Cuban National Series at the ripe age of 17. He would slug .283/.414/.348 for the Cienfuegos that year and would follow up with a better showing as an 18-year-old in 2013, hitting .273/.365/.406 with seven doubles, three triples, and three homeruns in 45 games. Once signed, the Red Sox pushed the highly-touted youngster straight in the Sally last season. And he fared well – especially once the calendar flipped to July.

After starting off a bit sluggish – he batted .200/.287/.289 over his first 25 games – Moncada looked every bit the budding star over his final 56 contests. In 262 trips to the plate, Moncada smoked the Sally pitching to the tune of .310/.415/.500 with 16 doubles, a pair of triples, seven homeruns, and a laughably absurd 45 stolen bases in just 48 attempts.

Projection: And just for fun here is his production over his final 56 games prorated to a full 162-game season: 46 doubles, six triples, 20 homeruns, and 130 (freaking) stolen bases. So now the $63 million price doesn’t seem so outlandish, does it? Moncada is a bit large for second base. And just for some added context: there have been just 17 players since the turn of the 20th century to stand at least 6-foot-2 tall and appear in at least 162 games at second base in their career – Bobby Grich, Ben Zobrist, and Neil Walker being the best of the bunch. So it remains to be seen whether Moncada is the heir apparent to Dustin Pedroia’s vaunted throne. He’s a budding All-Star, potentially even a future MVP candidate.    

Ceiling: 5.0- to 5.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

2. Rafael Devers, 3B                                                         
Born: 10/24/96 Age: 19 Bats: L Top CALs: Jomar Reyes, Matt Dominguez

Josh Vitters, Victor Acosta, Jarek Cunningham

Height: 6-0 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 17 R 127 5 3 3 0.337 0.441 0.529 0.192 15.0% 15.7% 175
2014 17 R 174 11 2 4 0.312 0.374 0.484 0.172 8.0% 17.2% 146
2015 18 A 508 38 1 11 0.288 0.329 0.443 0.156 4.7% 16.5% 118

Background: Devers had his coming out party two years ago when he bashed his way through 28 Dominican Summer League games (.337/.445/.538) and torched the Gulf Coast League pitching to the tune of .312/.374/.484 with 11 doubles, a pair of triples, and four homeruns. So it seemed like a lock that the Dominican-born third baseman would head to the South Atlantic at the ripe age of 18 last year. And he did just that. In 115 contests with the Greenville Drive, the lefty-swinging Devers stroked a solid .288/.329/.443 with plenty of extra-base firepower; he nearly paced the circuit in doubles (trailing league leader Jose Marmolejos-Diaz of the Nationals 39 to 38) and tied for the 13th most dingers as well. Of course, I’d be remiss to mention that he was one of just two qualified 18-year-olds in the Sally last season (the other being the Braves’ Ozhaino Albies).

Projection: Again, it’s all about perspective. So let’s add some. Since 2006, , the first season of FanGraphs’ minor league numbers, no other 18-year-old prospect in the Sally has slugged as many two-baggers as Devers did last season; his closest competition was former top prospect Jurickson Profar, who knocked 37 doubles in 2011. So let’s widen the parameters a bit, shall we? Since 2006 no 18-year-old in any Low Class A league has slugged more doubles than Devers. 

Now onto the tangible skills: the lefty-swinging Devers showed a bit of a platoon effect last season, hitting .302/.343/.479 vs. RHP and .252/.297/.356 vs. LHP. But he wasn’t completely helpless against southpaws either. The power has a chance to develop into an above-average or potentially even plus skill. And the hit tool is incredibly promising. He needs to continue to make strides against LHP, but there’s an All-Star caliber ceiling here.

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

3. Anderson Espinoza, RHP                                          
Born: 03/09/98 Age: 18 Bats: R Top CALs: Chris Luck, Jio Orozco,

Fernando Romero, Junior Fernandez, Orlando Romero

Height: 6-0 Weight: 160 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 17 R 15.0 0 0 1.20 1.67 12.60 1.80 33.9% 4.8% 0.00 66.7%
2015 17 R 40.0 0 1 0.68 2.28 9.00 2.03 26.0% 5.8% 0.00 86.5%
2015 17 A 3.3 0 1 8.10 2.88 10.80 5.40 23.5% 11.8% 0.00 50.0%

Background: The Pedro Martinez comparisons are going to come all too easy – and likely very soon. Gifted with an arm from the baseball gods – sort of like Nuke LaLoosh – the 6-foot-nothing right-hander out of Caracas, Venezuela, convinced Boston to hand a hefty $1.8 million deal – a deal, by the way, that essentially eliminates the franchise’s ability to sign international amateur free agents to deals in surplus of $300,000 through the 2016-2017 season. And barring any horrific – or unfortunate – injury, Espinoza’s going to prove that the club made the right deal, hands down. The 160-pound right-hander, who could stand to walk around with a couple Big Macs in his back pocket for snack time, was as dominant as any teenage prospect in baseball last season, small sample size be damned. Espinoza blew through the Dominican Summer League in four starts, put on his best Pedro impression in the Gulf Coast for another 10 games, and finished off his pro debut with one start in the Sally. The sinewy right-hander finished the year with an aggregate 1.23 ERA in 58.1 innings of work, fanning 65 and walking only 14.

Projection: New Sox General Manager Dave Dombrowski is going to have to write his predecessor Ben Cherington a rather lengthy thank you note for inking the supremely talented hurler. While the data is still rather limited – just under 60 innings of work – Espinoza’s ceiling could be as high as any hurler in the minor leagues, including that of Julio Urias. Equipped with a bazooka for an arm and blessed with what appears to be pinpoint control, Espinoza is likely going to be a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future. Here’s hoping the kid stays healthy.   

Ceiling: 4.5- to 5.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

4. Andrew Benintendi, CF                                             
Born: 07/06/94 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Carlos Santana, Ian Happ,

Brett Siddall, Reid Fronk, Garin Cecchini

Height: 5-10 Weight: 170 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 20 A- 153 2 4 7 0.290 0.408 0.540 0.250 16.3% 9.8% 175
2015 20 A 86 5 0 4 0.351 0.430 0.581 0.230 11.6% 10.5% 183

Background: Since 1968 the Red Sox have owned three top 10 draft selections and in each of those seasons – 1993, 2013, and 2015 – the organization’s been armed with the seventh overall pick. The club selected former fan favorite outfielder Trot Nixon more than two decades ago, right-handed prepster Trey Ball in 2013, and, finally, grabbing Andrew Benintendi last June. The rare draft-eligible sophomore, Benintendi garnered a whole helluva lot of awards and recognitions during his final year with the Razorbacks, including:

  • Golden Spikes Award
  • Dick Howser Trophy
  • SEC Male Athlete of the Year
  • Baseball America National Player of the Year
  • Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year
  • SEC Player of the Year (as chosen by the coaches)
  • All-SEC First Team (as chosen by the coaches)
  • Louisville Slugger All-America First Team
  • ABCA/Rawlings All-America First Team
  • D1 Baseball All-America First Team
  • Baseball America All-America First Team
  • Collegiate Baseball All-America First Team

The 5-foot-11 center fielder had a season for the records in 2015, hitting .376/.488/.717 with 13 doubles, two triples, an NCAA-leading 20 homeruns, and 24 stolen bases (in 28 attempts). Perhaps the most impressive statistic to note: Benintendi finished the year with a laughably absurd 32-to-50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And as Arkansas’ website states, Benintendi became just the third player in the SEC lengthy history to lead the conference in both batting average and homeruns. The other two occurrences were by Rafael Palmeiro in 1984 and Kurt Abbot ten years later. And Benintendi’s impressive offensive run didn’t end with his conversion to wood bats either.

The club had the seventh overall pick begin his professional career in the New York-Penn League, which lasted all of 35 games; of course, hitting .290/.408/.540 goes along way too. He got bounced up to Greenville for his final 19 games and still managed to swing a scorching stick, slugging .351/.430/.581. Overall, he finished his pro debut with an aggregate .313/.416/.556 with seven doubles, four triples, 11 homeruns ,and 10 stolen bases.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote during his pre-draft evaluation:

“Not too much data to go off of, just about two seasons worth, but Benintendi is showcasing an incredible collection of offensive potential for Arkansas this season: power, speed, patience, and a solid hit tool. Making it more impressive is [the fact] that Arkansas’ home ballpark tends to deflate offensive production.Benintendi has the potential to develop into a better-tha- average everyday MLB’er down the line, offering up 15/15 potential with solid on-base skills and perhaps the ability to hit in the upper third of team’s lineup.”

That 15/15 projection looks a bit on the low side for now. I’d bump it up to 20/20, perhaps even going a touch higher to 25/25 now. If the defense grades out even as average, Benintendi has a chance to develop into a perennial All-Star. 

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

5. Michael Kopech, RHP                                                
Born: 04/30/96 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: John Lamb, Yoel Mecias,

Frank Lopez, Jake Thompson, Robbie Ray

Height: 6-3 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 13.7 0 1 4.61 3.14 10.54 5.93 26.7% 15.0% 0.00 65.0%
2015 19 A 65.0 4 5 2.63 3.35 9.69 3.74 25.9% 10.0% 0.28 73.9%

Background: The supremely talented Kopech was in the midst of a breakout season before he got slapped – and slapped hard – by the minor league drug testing system. The former supplemental first round pick got popped – and subsequently suspended for 50 games – for having the performance enhancer Oxilofrine in his system. The drug falls under the amphetamine umbrella. Before the punishment was doled out, Kopech was a force to be reckoned with in the South Atlantic League last season, fanning nearly 26% and walking 10.0% of the total hitters he faced. He was sporting a 2.35 ERA to go along with a 3.35 FIP before being shut down for the season.

Projection: Equipped with a power-pitcher’s arsenal, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander can sling it with the best ‘em. And unlike so many other teenagers blessed with an above-average- to plus-fastball, Kopech actually knew where it was going the majority of the time. Look for him to have a big, big year in 2016. 

Ceiling: 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

6. Nick Longhi, 1B/LF/RF                                             
Born: 08/16/95 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Austin Dean, Justin Williams,

Reid Engel, Jose Martinez, Luis Domoromo

Height: 6-2 Weight: 205 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 18 A- 121 10 1 0 0.330 0.388 0.440 0.110 9.1% 18.2% 144
2015 19 A 488 27 3 7 0.281 0.338 0.403 0.122 7.0% 18.0% 112
2015 19 A 488 27 3 7 0.281 0.338 0.403 0.122 7.0% 18.0% 112

Background: Don’t let the 30th round draft selection fool you. The franchise signed the former 2013 pick to a hefty $440,000 bonus – basically the equivalent to late third/early fourth round money that year. And the low risk/high reward signing has been paying off in big way over the past two seasons – something that is very likely to continue despite General Manager Ben Cherington earning his walking papers. Longhi, a lefty-swinging corner outfielder/first baseman, had a less-than-auspicious debut in the Gulf Coast in 2013, hitting .178/.245/.356 in 50 plate appearances, but he’s handled the New York-Penn and South Atlantic Leagues with aplomb. As an 18-year-old in 2014, Longhi topped the NYPL average offensive production by 44% en route to hitting a robust .330/.388/.440 – despite failing to hit a single homerun. The club pushed him to the Sally last season, and he responded with a .281/.338/.403 showing, hitting 27 doubles, three triples, and seven dingers.

Projection: The power hasn’t come through in the typical over-the-fence fashion, but it’s slowly taking the appropriate steps forward – especially with the then-19-year-old bashing 37 extra-base hits last season. Decent plate discipline with the ability to develop an above-average hit tool, Longhi hasn’t shown any favoritism towards facing lefties or righties – another positive sign. If everything breaks the right way for the former 30th round pick could develop into a quasi-Eric Hosmer type bat.  

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

7. Sam Travis, 1B                                                             
Born: 08/27/93 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: Rangel Ravelo, Gregory Polanco,

Aaron Cunningham, Josh Bell, Logan Morrison

Height: 6-0 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 20 A- 174 5 1 4 0.333 0.364 0.448 0.115 2.3% 10.3% 140
2014 20 A 115 11 1 3 0.290 0.330 0.495 0.206 6.1% 12.2% 124
2015 21 A+ 278 15 4 5 0.313 0.378 0.467 0.154 9.4% 15.5% 146
2015 21 AA 281 17 2 4 0.300 0.384 0.436 0.136 11.7% 12.1% 140

Background: I hate the phrase “Professional Hitter.” If you get paid to play baseball as an everyday guy – regardless if it’s multi-millions of dollars or a small pittance handed out to Indy League players – you are, in fact, a Professional Hitter. Some are definitely better than others, but they all fall under the same umbrella. Now with that little rant behind me, I can’t believe I’m going write/say this: when the phrase inevitably pops up it could easily be slapped on Sam Travis, the former University of Indiana slugger who teamed with – and was overshadowed by – Kyle Schwarber to form an NCAA version of the Bash Brothers. Travis, the second round pick of the Sox in 2014, bashed his way through the New York-Penn and Sally Leagues during his debut, hitting a combined .316/.351/.467 with 16 doubles, a pair of triples, and seven homeruns in 67. And he continued his upward-and-onward march towards Boston last season. He opened the year by slugging .313/.378/.467 in 66 games with Salem and closed it up by batting .300/.384/.436 in 65 Eastern League games.  

Projection: For a jog down memory lane, here’s what I wrote prior to the 2014 draft:

“While his contact rates have improved – and ignoring some vagaries in BABIP – Travis has seemingly plateaued as a hitter. Solid-average power with the chance to top out in the 15- to 20-HR area, a pretty good hit tool, and a decent eye at the plate, which will likely become below-average in the professional ranks.

Depending upon his defense, Travis could develop into a league-average everyday third baseman or a below-average first baseman (where the bat clearly doesn’t play well), give or take a half-win either way.

He could, however, just as easily flame out as a Quad-A guy too. There’s some risk, but one that’s worth taking in the late second/third rounds.”

Well, there’s an awful lot of right and wrong in that pre-draft evaluation. The right: solid-average power and a pretty good hit tool. The wrong: Travis didn’t plateau as a hitter and his patience at the plate held firm. CAL remains rather impressed, linking him to Gregory Polanco, Josh Bell, and Logan Morrison. Think of a big league triple-slash line that hovers between 95 and 105 wRC+ when it’s all said and done.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

8. Brian Johnson, LHP                                                    
Born: 12/07/90 Age: 25 Bats: L Top CALs:  Nick Tropeano, Jeff Locke,

Robert Ray, Alex Wilson, Boone  Whiting

Height: 6-4 Weight: 235 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 22 R 5.0 0 0 0.00 1.86 12.60 3.60 41.2% 11.8% 0.00 100.0%
2013 22 A 69.0 1 6 2.87 3.63 9.00 3.65 24.0% 9.7% 0.52 69.4%
2013 22 A+ 11.0 1 0 1.64 3.26 6.55 4.09 17.8% 11.1% 0.00 85.7%
2014 23 A+ 25.7 3 1 3.86 1.76 11.57 2.45 30.3% 6.4% 0.00 56.7%
2014 23 AA 118.0 10 2 1.75 3.15 7.55 2.44 21.9% 7.1% 0.46 79.7%
2015 24 AAA 96.0 9 6 2.53 3.22 8.44 3.00 23.1% 8.2% 0.56 74.8%

Background: The lanky lefty out of the University of Florida battled a fairly serious injury for the second time in his professional career. The 31st overall selection in the 2012 draft, Johnson took a line-drive off the face, breaking several bones, and limiting his professional debut to just over five innings of work. Fast forward a couple years – and a couple hundred innings – and Johnson was shut down in early August with elbow tightness, an injury that precipitated a trip to the MRI machine which, thankfully, revealed no structural damage. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound southpaw made 18 starts with Pawtucket in the International League last season, throwing 96 innings with 90 punch outs, 32 walks, and a 3.22 FIP. The club bounced him up for a disastrous start in late July; he would face off against the Astros and allow four walks and four earned runs in 4.1 innings.

Projection: During his brief big league stint – and it should be noted he would be shut down for the season shortly after – Johnson’s fastball averaged a smidgeon over 87 mph. And once again CAL links a bunch of backend starter types to the lefty: Nick Tropeano, Jeff Locke, Robbie Ray, etc… He’s not going to miss nearly the amount of bats he has in his minor league career, but, again, as I stated in last year’s book, every team needs a #5, right? Here’s hoping that the elbow doesn’t slow him down at any point in the future.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

9. Sean Coyle, 2B/3B/OF                                                
Born: 01/17/92 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Bruce Caldwell, Josh Tolisano,

Trevor Story, Brandon Woods, Javier Baez

Height: 5-8 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 21 A+ 224 9 1 14 0.241 0.321 0.513 0.272 10.7% 29.0% 125
2014 22 AA 384 23 1 16 0.295 0.371 0.512 0.217 9.9% 24.7% 144
2015 23 R 42 4 0 1 0.289 0.357 0.474 0.184 7.1% 45.2% 149
2015 23 A- 13 1 0 0 0.250 0.308 0.333 0.083 7.7% 23.1% 92
2015 23 AAA 148 3 0 5 0.159 0.274 0.302 0.143 13.5% 29.7% 71

Background: Disappointing in nearly every sense of the word. Coyle’s initial trip to the International League was hampered by injury, more specifically left elbow inflammation, and a subsequent lack of production. The once-budding sabermetric darling hit a paltry .159/.274/.305 with just eight extra-base knocks – three doubles and five homeruns – en route to tallying a career low 71 wRC+. It’s quite a fall from grace for the same player that batted .295/.371/.512 with plenty of extra-base firepower in Class AA the year before. For his career, Coyle is sporting a solid .251/.338/.445 triple-slash line, hitting 102 doubles, 11 triples, 61 homeruns, and 66 stolen bases in 434 total games.

Projection: A do-over is in definite order. When he is right Coyle offers up an average or better package of offensive skills: plate discipline, power, and speed. Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Of course there’s going to be bad news, right? For everything Coyle does well, his strikeout rates have always toed the line between high and red flag territory. Fringy every day guy who could – and likely will – succeed in a super-sub role.”

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

10. Wendell Rijo, 2B                                                     
Born: 09/04/95 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: John Tolisano, Yamaico Navarro,

Luis Mateo, Chris Bostick, Delino Deshields

Height: 5-11 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 203 15 0 0 0.271 0.368 0.359 0.088 10.8% 14.3% 121
2014 18 A 473 27 6 9 0.254 0.348 0.416 0.161 11.8% 21.8% 115
2015 19 A+ 455 27 2 6 0.260 0.324 0.381 0.121 7.5% 20.7% 107

Background: Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 for a little over $600,000. Rijo’s aggressive developmental plan continued without a hitch in 2015 – he was one of just five qualified teenage bats in any High Class A level last year. Rijo was the rare international free agent signing that would bypass the foreign leagues and head straight into the stateside rookie leagues, where he more than held his own (.271/.368/.359). Boston bounced him to Greenville two years ago and once again he handled the test with aplomb: .254/.348/.416. Last year Rijo batted .260/.324/.381 with plenty of gap power (27 doubles and a pair of triples) while slugging six dingers. He finished the year with a 107 wRC+ – the third best showing among those teenage bats in High Class A. 

Projection: A fairly well-rounded middle infield prospect. Rijo packs more wallop than his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame would lead you to believe. He can swipe 15 or so bags, take the occasional walk, and won’t get burned chasing too many pitches outside the zone. He’s a fringy big league regular, something CAL seems to agree with (Delino Deshields, Yamaico Navarro, and Chris Bostick).       

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

Author’s Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.


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