Boston Red Sox 2019 Top 10 Prospects Chat

Image credit: Bobby Dalbec (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam)

The Red Sox Top 10 prospects

Bryan (Illinois): 

    Do you have any update on Marco Hernandez?

Alex Speier: Only that he’s been around he Red Sox this month but that after two years wiped out by surgery, it’s very difficult to say what kind of player he’ll be going forward. Shoulder injuries for hitters are tricky.

J.P. (Springfield, IL): 

    Thanks for chatting. How close was Alex Scherff from making the top 10? I’ve read reports that project him as a future mid-rotation SP; have you heard differently?

Alex Speier: Not that close. He does have an interesting mid-rotation ceiling, but few evaluators put him in the top 10 after his first full pro season. He did show impressive makeup in working through his early-season struggles, but there’s a lot of development left in front of him after an injury-shortened year.

Frank (Indianapolis, IN): 

    How many of these guys would you consider worthy of making BA’s top 100 list, even though you’re not involved in putting it together?

Alex Speier: As you point out, I’m not involved in the top 100, and don’t have a great feel for the rest of the industry, but there’s enough of an absence of guys who combine high ceiling with solid floors that I wouldn’t be shocked if the Sox were shut out of the top 100. That doesn’t mean there won’t be good future big leaguers — just that it’s harder to say with certainty who they’ll be when looking at the Sox system than it might be elsewhere.

Mike (Tampa, FL): 

    Is Travis Lakins’ future as a starter or in the pen? Will he make the top 30?

Alex Speier: Straight bullpen, a role in which he a) stayed healthy for the first time and b) excelled this year.

Kyle (Detroit, MI): 

    Did the Sox make a good pick in Nick Decker, and which OF position suits him best?

Alex Speier: He’ll get time in center but his likely profile is in right field. TBD on how good a pick he is, but he was certainly impressive in instructional league from everything I heard, with an approach that exceeded expectations as a player who played HS in the shorter seasons of the mid-Atlantic. He is a baseball rat who seems driven to perform to the high end of his potential.

Eric (Boston, MA): 

    Which 1B are you higher on between Travis and Ockimey, and why? Are either of them likely to be trade bait?

Alex Speier: Ockimey, because he’s shown power and the ability to get on base … but with significant questions about his defense. He’s also lefthanded, which is the more valuable part of a potential platoon/timeshare at 1B/DH. I wouldn’t be shocked to see either moved at a time when Chavis and Dalbec are in the upper levels, but at the same time, there’s no rush to move either given the potential for Travis (1B/LF) and Chavis (3B/1B…and potentially LF and/or 2B) to move around.

Ryan (Worcester, MA): 

    The Red Sox already have to pay Nunez 2 million next year, and it’s very likely he will also pick up his 3 million player option. Can you see the Red Sox eating a lot of that to open his spot up for Tzu Wei Lin, who seems to have figured out the minors, has interesting abilities, and is seemingly the future of the Sox utility position?

Alex Speier: Lin had a really good year, but his value may remain as an up/down depth utility option with Holt already in the utility role at the big league level. The fact that Nunez is righthanded and Lin hits lefty means they’re not redundant as bench options.

DR (MD): 

    What’s the word on Nick Decker? I know he got bit by the injury bug, but how’s his power? Greenville candidate, or more likely Lowell?

Alex Speier: Multiple Decker questions! He’ll have a chance to make his case for Greenville in spring training, but I’d guess he’s more likely to open 2019 in extended spring given how little he was on the field this year. The transition from HS to pro ball is very, very hard right now. Observationally (I haven’t researched this enough yet), it used to be that the biggest talent gap in the minors felt like it was from Triple A to the big leagues. Now, it feels like it’s entering A-ball.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): 

    Both led the Spinners in home runs and both batted .300 plus so Devlin Granberg and Tyler Dearden must be deserving of notice. Are their futures as bright as their low minor league stats?

Alex Speier: Both are certainly in the top-30 conversation, with Dearden being particularly interesting given that he held his own in Lowell as a teenager and shows more tools. He needs to develop physically, but he’s an interesting sleeper in the system. Granberg certainly looks like he’ll hit enough to keep moving up the ladder.

Zac (NY): 

    The Sox have talent at the top but understandably seem to thin out pretty quickly. Would you agree? Could you see any trades to help them replenish some depth?

Alex Speier: I actually view it as the opposite — I think the Red Sox are sort of light at the top of their system, lacking elite prospects who mix ceiling and probability at the top, and then at the short-season levels, they have a bunch of interesting guys who have the chance to jump up a lot of prospect lists in the next couple years, but with even more extreme uncertainty about their most likely projections.

Paul Ivice (Jensen Beach, FL): 

    With a young 3B on the major-league team and three of their top 5 prospects currently at the same position, how will the Red Sox resolve this coming logjam?

Alex Speier: Excellent question (though Casas is probably going to be a 1B), and the depth is even greater than you suggest: Devers, Dalbec, Chavis, sort of Casas, Howlett, Northcut, Danny Diaz… The team can stretch the profiles of some of these players at first base and in the outfield (possibly even 2B for Chavis), but Dave Dombrowski is no stranger to making trades using his deepest positions, as when he dealt Margot to San Diego in the Kimbrel deal.

Al (New Jersey): 

    Does the farm system have enough talent, even at lower levels, to allow the Red Sox to retain their core players whose contracts are up soon (Sale, Betts, Bogaerts, etc.) and then fill in with lower salaried prospects, or are they going to let guys go and rebuild after 2020?

Alex Speier: They don’t rebuild, but they will have to make some tough choices on which players to retain — they’re clear-eyed enough to recognize that they won’t retain all of them. They won’t have ready-made replacements in the system for any of the three guys you mentioned at the time that they’re eligible for free agency.

Bob Loblaw (Mookieville, MA): 

    Yuuge fan Alex, thanks for all of your work. I know Dombro’s record with the Tigers was not great w.r.t the farm system, but don’t you think the Sox int’l signing ban/loss of prospects from 2015-2017 has played a big part in the state of the current farm system? Between that and the tragic death of Daniel Flores, seems a little unfair to blame Dombro 100% for being 29/30…but

Alex Speier: Agree, and with two international signing classes now in the system, I do think that the pipeline of short-season players moving up is getting more crowded. Dombrowski did a good job of identifying the players who could help contribute near-term to a championship core while trading others whose impact wouldn’t be felt for some time. It’s sort of the in-between guys — upper levels players who could serve as big league options in the near future, even if not as stars (the Logan Allens and the Dubons) who are missing.

Doug (Massachusetts): 

    Why have the Red Sox been unable to develop pitching talent? Is it a development issue? Bad luck with injuries? Is it something that they are studying to see how they can fix it? They need to get some pitching from the farm system and avoid paying free agents, particularly if they want to keep their position player talent once they get expensive.

Alex Speier: They’re showing improvement in this area — a fact perhaps best manifested with Jalen Beeks, a 14th rounder in 2014, completely overhauling his pitch mix to the point of being big league-ready, thus valuable enough to land Nathan Eovaldi. And Matt Barnes has quietly developed into a very valuable reliever. But there unquestionably has been a shortage of homegrown, upper levels starting pitching coming through the system, a fact that the organization has thought about quite a bit and that has prompted significant changes to pitcher development in the last couple years. It’s probably another year or two before anyone has a good feel for the overall success of those alterations. (There is also some bad luck with injuries, as you suggest — though it’s pitching, so injuries happen — and there have been some misses, as with Trey Ball in 2013.)

Warren (New London): 

    I enjoy hearing from you on the Red Sox games. Brandon Howlett exceeded expectations this year. Is he ready to start at Greenville in 2019? If he and Triston Casas are both there, what positions do they play?

Alex Speier: Howlett was probably going to see time in LF had Casas been healthy in the GCL this year. They’ll both have a chance to compete in spring training for roster spots in Greenville, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see either guy start there.

Randy Hughes (Virginia): 

    In your opinion which of these prospects could possibly be traded this off season—and what will the Sox be looking for 2019 team upgrade????

Alex Speier: There are no untouchables in the organization. The Sox will have to figure out what to do at closer (Kimbrel’s a free agent) and will want to add starter depth, with Eovaldi a free agent and Wright’s future something other than a guarantee. Pearce (RHH off the bench) is also a free agent.

Ryan (Detroit): 

    Darwinzon: Reliever or Starter?

Alex Speier: The Red Sox will give him a chance to start — and he could be a five-inning guy with big K rates — but a lot of people believe he can be a lockdown late-innings guy, a lefty who no one wants to face in the 7th/8th.

Alex (Miami): 

    Thank yu for taking my question. Whats the opinion on RHPs Bryan Bello and Denyi Reyes?

Alex Speier: Both were interesting this year — Bello probably needs to show a bit more performance to be a top-30 consideration, but he opened some eyes, and Reyes was utterly fascinating. He lacks anything that’s plus, save for spectacular command. He’s probably got the ceiling of a back-of-the-rotation starter, but he executed like a big leaguer for long stretches of 2018…even in A-ball.

Pam (Duluth): 

    Do you think the Red Sox farm system is better, worse or about the same compared to this time last year?

Alex Speier: A bit worse at the top with greater uncertainty regarding Groome after Tommy John, but better overall after strong initial showings from the 2018 draft and the 2017-18 and 2018-19 international signing classes. There are prospects who are nowhere near the top 10 but who have a chance to become very interesting within a couple years.

MD Sox Fan (Maryland): 

    Which of these prospects do you expect to spend most of the summer in AA, so we can see them visit Bowie, MD?

Alex Speier: A decent number – Hernandez, Mata, Houck, Chatham, and Dalbec all should see significant time in Double-A next year.

Chris (Wichita): 

    What is the Red Sox’ strongest position of depth in the minors and what is their weakest position.

Alex Speier: Strongest: 3B (Dalbec, Chavis, Howlett, Diaz, Northcut, etc.). Weakest: Middle-of-the-field guys.

William (Houston, Texas): 

    Of all the prospects the Red Sox have traded in recent years, who do you think they will regret the most for trading?

Alex Speier: Hard to answer in a vacuum since it depends on who they re-sign. They might miss guys like Kopech or Basabe, but if they have a WS ring because they dealt them, it’s hard to say they’ll “regret” the deal. Right now, anyone associated with the Thornburg trade seems subject to regret.

Bobby Bradley’s 40-time (MA): 

    “Plus defense” was not something I expected to see in Dalbec’s blurb. Is it truly “plus” defense, or is it closer to above average defense with a 70 arm (which cumulatively equals plus defense)?

Alex Speier: Depends on who you talk to, but some described the range as playing up to plus standards, with a great arm on top of it. Others saw average range, and yet others above-average — but I didn’t hear any suggestions that the range/instincts were anywhere short of average, which in combination with that outstanding arm suggests an above-average defensive floor with plus ceiling.

Thom (Clinton): 

    What is a likely 2019 plan for Jay Groome. Is he going to be able to get a relatively normal season of work or is he going to be very limited because of his elbow surgery?

Alex Speier: Best case scenario is probably that he’d be ready for the start of Lowell’s season, but it might be a couple months after that. They do expect to see him pitch with an affiliate in 2019.

Steve (Brooklyn): 

    Hey Alex! Is Cole Brannen still a prospect? His first two years couldn’t have gone much worse.

Alex Speier: He just hasn’t shown the strength to hit. It’s hard to project much from him until he does, even with speed and the athleticism to be a good defender.

Guidas (North Carolina): 

    Is Chavis athletic enough to play second base? What about Swihart? If they really believe Vazquez is the catcher going forward – an appraisal I disagree with as I think Swihart would be superior with regular reps – could he find a suitable position at second? Thanks!

Alex Speier: There are mixed opinions about whether Chavis could handle second. I wouldn’t be shocked to see at least some exposure to the position. It’s harder to imagine Swihart at second given how long it’s been since he’s been anywhere except behind the plate or on the corners. I do think there’s a belief that the Vazquez in the postseason is the one who they want to move forward with as their primary catcher.

Evan (New York): 

    I read a lot of glowing reports about Danny Diaz when he signed. Was he considered for the top 10? What do you think is his ceiling?

Alex Speier: He was a top-10 consideration, and he’s got the potential to be a corner bat with an average hit tool (probably modest OBPs) and plus power (or greater) with solid defense. He played both first and third in instructs, and will likely continue to see time at both corners of the diamond.

Mark (CT): 

    What are your thoughts on Gilberto Jimenez and how high could he finish on this list next year?

Alex Speier: I’ve heard great things and when I refer to the short-season guys with a chance to vault up in the system, he’s one of the guys who embodies the notion.

Mark (CT): 

    How close was Jarren Duran to the top 10 after his big debut? What do you think his ceiling is as a big leaguer?

Alex Speier: He was a consideration based on an absolutely dazzling debut — really, among Red Sox college players, his debut was behind only Pedroia, Benintendi, and maybe Ellsbury in recent years. His ceiling? Probably an average everyday CF. That’s an impressive find in the seventh round.

Mark (CT): 

    Does Josh Taylor have a future with the Red Sox? What other Rule 5 eligible players will be protected this winter?

Alex Speier: He certainly could, though I don’t know if the team will have the roster flexibility to protect him and as a lefty with velo, he seems a good candidate to get plucked in the Rule 5. The 9 Ks to 1 BB in the AFL increase the likelihood that he’ll either be protected or taken.

Blue (RR, TX): 

    Opinion on Trey Ball’s new adventures in hitting

Alex Speier: It makes sense to see whether his career can gain some forward momentum in the new venture — and I think the idea of continuing his development as a hybrid pitcher/outfielder is particularly intriguing, at a time when we’re seeing so many position players in games. He’s certainly struggled on the mound, but there’s *something* there, with a guy who was up to 95 and got some swings and misses this year.

Tommy (Irvine): 

    What type of player will the Red Sox be targeting in next years draft? Are they in on any big name international free agents?

Alex Speier: “The best player available.” They are never predisposed to a certain position or type. It’s all about value and finding the most impactful guy on the board when they pick. All of that said… because their top pick will be lower down (they will endure a 10-pick penalty for spending more than $40 million beyond the luxury tax threshold) and they’ll have less money in their pool, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them end up with a college pick at the top who permits them to take some shots at higher-risk HS guys with upside in later picks.

Mark (CT): 

    There were reports that Zach Schellenger was touching 100 pre-draft and was down to the low 90s in Spring Training after Tommy John. Did he regain any of that velocity this season and is he a future back of the bullpen option?

Alex Speier: I never heard about the 100s, but he’s a guy who comes with a) a significant injury history and b) electric stuff. Would I be surprised if he pitches in the big leagues next year as a guy with a swing-and-miss slider and a worm-killing two-seamer? No. Would I be surprised if he doesn’t pitch in the upper levels based on his injury history to date? No.

RJ (Napa): 

    Whatever will become of Justin Haley? Quad-A player, organizational depth, or major leaguer?

Alex Speier: Four-A guy who has a chance at picking up some decent innings for a team in a big park, but probably too flyball-prone to be an ideal fit for the AL East.

Ryan (Worcester, MA): 

    Were you surprised CJ Chatham didn’t get end of the year exposure to Portland? Is he still considered a top tier defensive shortstop? If he is, with his contact ability, it will be interesting to see his play in the upper minors during Bogaerts’ free agency year.

Alex Speier: I guess you could have made a decent case for Chatham in Portland, but it was important for him to get a full, healthy season regardless of the level, and he’d already moved up once. He’s at least a solid defensive shortstop with a good arm. But he lacks ‘wow’ tools. He’d need to make significant development moves in order to be a consideration behind Bogaerts.

Zac (NY): 

    Where do you stand on Travis Lakins, Kutter Crawford and Alex Scherff? Which of the three do you think has the best chance to stick with the big club?

Alex Speier: I guess Lakins because he’s already knocking on the door and the need for middle relievers is endless. Crawford did have an interesting year that suggests the possibility of being a back-end starter. Scherff has a higher ceiling than the other two but more uncertainty.

Ale (Miami): 

    Thank you for taking my question is Ronaldi Baldwin still the top catcher on the system or is it Jonathan Diaz?

Alex Speier: Tough, tough year for Baldwin with the injuries. I’d still view either him or perhaps Kole Cottam as the top catching prospect.

Alex Speier: Thanks for the great questions! Unfortunately, gotta run due to that World Series thing that’s happening out here, but thanks to all of you for taking the time to read the list and to share your insights and curiosities.

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