The 2017 Boston Red Sox Top 10 Prospects

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1. Andrew Benintendi, LF/CF                                        
Born: 07/06/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Preston Tucker, Gregory Polanco, Oswaldo Arcia, Stephen Piscotty, Josh Reddick
Height: 5-10 Weight: 170 Throws: L
 

Year 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 16.30% 9.80% 175
2016 21 A+ 155 13 7 1 0.341 0.413 0.563 0.222 9.70% 5.80% 164
2016 21 AA 263 18 5 8 0.295 0.357 0.515 0.219 9.10% 11.40% 138
2016 21 MLB 134 11 1 2 0.295 0.359 0.476 0.181 8.50% 21.20% 120

Background: It took the former Razorback less than a full season’s worth of games to go from top collegiate bat to the big leagues – 151 games to be exact. Of course, when you torch short-season ball and the Midwest League during your debut (.313/.416/.556) and make quick work of the Carolina and Eastern Leagues (.312/.378/.532), it makes it awfully easy for a front office to quickly pull the trigger. And you know what? Benintendi didn’t stop hitting once he got the call to The Show either. In 34 games with the Red Sox, the former seventh overall pick batted .295/.359/.476 with 11 doubles, one triple, two homeruns, and a stolen base. The only thing that slowed down the promising outfielder? A knee injury, which cost him a few weeks at the end of the year.

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote prior to his selection in the first round of the 2015 draft:

“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-than- 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.”

And I followed that up with this in last year’s book:

“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.”

And I’m not one to throw out some off-the-wall comparisons, but I get the gut feeling that Benintendi has some Fred Lynn in him. The toolkits are pretty similar: strong plate discipline, 20-homerun pop, double-digit speed, and above-average bats. Now, that’s an awfully lofty – perhaps haphazard – comp, but I have a feeling about Benintendi becoming the next Boston icon.

Ceiling: 5.5- to 6.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

2. Rafael Devers, 3B                                                            
Born: 10/24/96 Age: 20 Bats: L Top CALs: Jeimer Candelario, Mike Mosutakas, Edinson Rincon, Matt Dominguez, Jomar Reyes
Height: 6-0 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 17 R 174 11 2 4 0.312 0.374 0.484 0.172 8.00% 17.20% 146
2015 18 A 508 38 1 11 0.288 0.329 0.443 0.156 4.70% 16.50% 118
2016 19 A+ 546 32 8 11 0.282 0.335 0.443 0.161 7.30% 17.20% 113

Background: Signed for a cool $1.5 million in early July 2013, the lefty-swinging third baseman continued his rapid ascension up the minor league ladder as he spent the entire year performing well in High Class A. At the age of 19. In 128 games with the Salem Red Sox, Devers, who stands 6-foot and 195 pounds, hit .282/.335/.443 with 32 doubles, a career best eight triples, a career-high-tying 11 dingers, and – you guessed – a career best 18 stolen bases. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 13%. For his career, Devers owns a .293/.348/.457 triple-slash line with 87 doubles, 14 triples, 29 homeruns, and 26 stolen bases in 313 games.

Projection: While his overall production as measured by Weighted Runs Created Plus doesn’t scream “domination,” consider this: only two other teenagers had better showings at the plate in High Class A: Luis Urias and Gleyber Torres. But it was the young third baseman that paced all teenagers in doubles (32), triples (8), and tied for the lead in homeruns (11). In fact, since 2006 there have been just two other qualified teens in High Class A to slug 32 doubles or more: Cody Bellinger and Tommy Joseph.

But the best part of Devers’ 2016 campaign: his walk rate grew up towards league average-ish totals (7.3%).

He hits lefties and righties well; has power that will develop into 20- to 25-homer territory, and owns a solid hit tool. Whether or not Boston can find a role for him in their crowded infield and outfield is an entirely different question.

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

3. Jason Groome, LHP                                              
Born: 08/23/98 Age: 18 Bats: L Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-6 Weight: 220 Throws: L

Background: The second prep southpaw taken in the draft last June, Groome made just three appearances between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues during his debut, throwing 6.2 innings with 10 punch-outs and four walks.

Projection: Big projectable lefties are typically worth their weight in gold. So it’s not surprising that the Red Sox signed him to a whopping $3.65 deal – the largest ever given out to a drafted pitcher by the franchise (according to an MLB.com report). Per the usual, there’s barely nothing in terms of data available, so I’ll wait till the end of next season.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

4. Nick Longhi, 1B/RF                                                     
Born: 08/16/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Brandon Snyder, Ronald Guzman, Austin Gallagher, Jose Osuna, Franmil Reyes
Height: 6-2 Weight: 205 Throws: L
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 19 A 488 27 3 7 0.281 0.338 0.403 0.122 7.00% 18.00% 112
2016 20 A+ 535 40 3 2 0.282 0.349 0.393 0.110 9.30% 19.80% 106

Background: One of only seven qualified players under the age of 21 in the Carolina League last season, Longhi, nonetheless looked at home against the older, more advanced pitching – especially when it came to bashing doubles. The former 30th round pick roped 40 two-baggers, one of only two players in the League to do so (the other being the Orioles’ Anthony Santander). Here’s the important part: since 2006 no 20-year-old player in the Carolina League has slugged more doubles. Expanding upon that even further, since 2006 only two other 20-year-olds have accomplished that feat in any High Class A league: Colorado top prospect Ryan McMahon (2015) and Alex Liddi (2009). Anyway, Longhi hit a solid .282/.349/.393 with three triples and a pair of homeruns to go along with all those doubles.

Projection: First, here’s what I wrote about Longhi in last year’s book:

“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.”

The power bubble is approaching a bursting point as he slugged 45 total extra-base hits. And his walk rate took a significant step forward as well, going from 7.0% to 9.3%. I still think an Eric Hosmer-type ceiling is possible.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018/2019

 

 

5. Roniel Raudes, RHP                                              
Born: 01/16/98 Age: 19 Bats: R Top CALs: Scott Allen, Manny Banuelos, Tyler Skaggs, Omar Poveda, Jen-Ho Tseng
Height: 6-1 Weight: 160 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2016 18 A 113.1 11 6 3.65 3.12 8.26 1.83 22.20% 4.90% 0.64 60.90%

Background: Let’s ignore the impressive stats in the South Atlantic League for a moment. The most notable thing about the Nicaraguan-born hurler is his wind-up. Well, it’s more about the actions leading up to his wind-up. Raudes crouches down like he’s getting ready to do a squat, makes a helicopter-like motion with his arms over his head forming a halo-like oval, and then proceeds to rock-and-fire. I love it. It’s fantastic. Personally, I wish more pitchers would emote more often. I wish I would have been a live when Luis Tiant was in his prime. Anyway, the 6-foot-1, rail-thin right-hander began to blossom in Low Class A last season, throwing a career best 114.1 innings with 104 punch outs, just 23 walks, and a promising 3.12 FIP – all at the age of 18.

Projection: I listed Raudes in the Bird Doggin’ It section last year, mentioning how he was nearly unhittable in the Dominican Summer League and the GCL in 2015. Well, add the Sally to that list now. There’s still not a tremendous amount of data – at least in terms of reliability – but Raudes has been nothing short of phenomenal. He looks like a mid-rotation-type arm right now. But if he begins to fill out and mature, he may up that ceiling a bit.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

6. Sam Travis, 1B                                                       
Born: 08/27/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Jose Osuna, Logan Morrison, Gregory Polanco, Joe McCarthy, Greg Bird
Height: 6-0 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

Year 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 2.30% 10.30% 140
2015 21 A+ 278 15 4 5 0.313 0.378 0.467 0.154 9.40% 15.50% 146
2015 21 AA 281 17 2 4 0.300 0.384 0.436 0.136 11.70% 12.10% 140
2016 22 AAA 190 10 0 6 0.272 0.332 0.434 0.162 7.90% 21.10% 120

Background: The former Indiana product looked poised to be a potential late-inning bench-bat for the Sox down the stretch, but a torn ACL in late-May ended his third professional season rather abruptly. The former third-baseman-turn-first-baseman – and former Kyle Schwarber Bash Brother – hit a respectable .272/.332/.434 with 10 doubles and six homeruns in 47 games. For his career, Travis is sporting a solid .303/.364/.453 with 58 doubles, eight triples, 22 homeruns, and 25 stolen bases in 1,038 plate appearances. The Sox grabbed him in the second round in 2014, the 67th overall pick.

Projection: First, 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.”

And I followed that up with this in last year’s book:

“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.”

CAL still compares him to many promising big names: Logan Morrison, Gregory Polanco, and Greg Bird. I still think he’s going to be roughly a league average bat. He’s a good candidate to get flipped at the trade deadline as Boston gears up for a stretch run.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

7. Brian Johnson, LHP                            
Born: 12/07/90 Age: 26 Bats: L Top CALs:  Merrill Kelly, Randy Wells, Allen Webster, Nick Additon, Jeff Niemann
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 A 69.0 1 6 2.87 3.63 9.00 3.65 24.00% 9.70% 0.52 69.40%
2014 23 A+ 25.7 3 1 3.86 1.76 11.57 2.45 30.30% 6.40% 0.00 56.70%
2014 23 AA 118.0 10 2 1.75 3.15 7.55 2.44 21.90% 7.10% 0.46 79.70%
2015 24 AAA 96.0 9 6 2.53 3.22 8.44 3.00 23.10% 8.20% 0.56 74.80%
2016 25 AAA 77.0 5 6 4.09 4.73 6.31 4.21 16.40% 10.90% 1.05 74.20%

Background: For the second consecutive season the former first round pick out of the University of Florida missed significant time – though last season was unrelated to arm issues. Johnson took a sabbatical from the mound to help combat anxiety issues. And after a few tune-up starts in the GCL and NYPL, Johnson’s numbers did dramatically improve after the treatment:

  • Before: 33.0 IP, 4.64 ERA, 28 K, 22 BB
  • After: 0 IP, 3.68 ERA, 26 K, 14 BB

For his career, the big lefty has averaged 8.1 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings.

Projection: As someone who tends to be a bit anxious about everything, I can fully empathize with Johnson; and I sincerely hope he can control it as he moves forward. As for the analytical part, here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“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.”

The elbow certainly had a negative impact on his heater; he reportedly lost about 5 mph. But last year was a significant step backward in terms of production. His control completely abandoned him and he stopped missing a solid amount of bats.

He’s now entering his age-26 season coming off of two back-to-back shortened years and Boston’s rotation has now become a strength. Expect Johnson to spend some significant time in Boston’s pen at some point in 2017.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

 

8. C.J. Chatham, SS                                         
Born: 12/22/94 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-4 Weight: 185 Throws: R

Background: A three-year starter for Florida Atlantic, Boston grabbed the 21-year-old shortstop in the second round last June, 51st overall, making him the highest draft pick in the school’s history. Chatham showed consistent offensive development over the course of his tenure with the Owls. He batted .300/.336/.415 during his freshman season, followed that up with a .335/.361/.496 triple-slash line, and then he set career highs in several categories en route to batting .357/.422/.554 during his final year. Boston opted to send the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Chatham to the Gulf Coast for a quick crash course in professional ball before promoting him up to Lowell for the final 27 games. Overall, he batted .259/.319/.426 during his debut, with six doubles, one triple, and five homeruns.

Projection: Chatham never really swung-and-missed a whole lot during his collegiate career, so it’s not surprising that he fanned in less than 17% of his plate appearances in the New York-Penn League. But the high pick also never walked that much in college either, so it’s equally not surprising that he didn’t take a free pass all that often as well. Just get the feeling he’s going to be a poor man’s Khalil Greene, or a.k.a. a fringy big league regular.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

9. Jake Cosart, RHP                                                        
Born: 02/11/94 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs:  Gabriel Castellanos, Matt Milroy, Jake Diekman, Casey Beck, Kenny Koplove
Height: 6-2 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 21 A- 33.0 2 2 5.45 5.15 7.36 5.45 18.80% 13.90% 0.82 64.70%
2016 22 A 52.2 4 1 2.05 2.49 12.99 4.27 35.40% 11.60% 0.34 82.80%

Background: The younger brother of former top prospect Jarred Cosart, Jake absolutely dominated the South Atlantic League while working out of Greenville’s bullpen: 52.2 IP, 76 K, and 25 BB. The club bumped him up to Salem for another eight games.

Projection: Drafted out of Seminole Community College in the third round in 2014, Boston pushed the young flame-thrower into the bullpen after 16 mostly disappointing starts between the rookie leagues and short season ball. And, of course, it goes without saying but he blew up in a big way. In terms of upside, think the Angels’ Cam Bedrosian – another hard-throwing punch out specialist.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

10. Deven Marrero, SS                                     
Born: 08/25/90 Age: 26 Bats: R Top CALs: Gregorio Petit, Pete Kozma, Yadiel Rivera, Chris Mcconnell, Argenis Diaz
Height: 6-1 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Year Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 21 A- 284 14 3 2 0.268 0.358 0.374 0.106 12.00% 16.90% 122
2013 22 A+ 376 20 0 2 0.256 0.341 0.334 0.078 11.20% 16.00% 94
2014 23 AA 307 19 2 5 0.291 0.371 0.433 0.142 11.10% 18.60% 126
2014 23 AAA 202 11 0 1 0.210 0.260 0.285 0.075 5.90% 18.30% 48
2015 24 AAA 419 13 1 6 0.256 0.316 0.344 0.088 7.90% 20.80% 92
2016 25 AAA 388 11 1 1 0.198 0.245 0.242 0.044 5.70% 23.20% 37

Background: Sometimes there’s disappointing seasons and then there’s disappointing seasons. Guess which one the former Arizona State University star falls into. The slick-fielding shortstop saw his prospect status take a huge hit as he batted a putrid .198/.245/.242 with 11 doubles, a three-bagger, and one dinger in 96 games with Boston’s Triple-A affiliate. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was – get this – a mind-boggling 63% below the league average mark. That’s not just bad; that’s signed off the street with no baseball skills and put into pro ball bad. For his career, Marrero is sporting a far less dooming – although still not promising – .246/.316/.329 triple-slash line across five minor league seasons. He also has had a couple brief – and unsuccessful – calls up to Boston as well.

Projection: Very similar to MLB vagabond Brendan Ryan, another slick-fielding, no-hit, automatic out shortstop. Once upon a time, Marrero looked like an offensive force at the plate – he slugged .397/.442/.628 as a true freshman at ASU – but his offensive skills have been in decline ever since. Average eye. Average speed. But the defense, according to Clay Davenport’s DRS, is solid so he could be a late-inning replacement on a championship squad.

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.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.