Lefthander Jalen Beeks has morphed from an overlooked 12th-round pick out of Arkansas in 2014 to a big league starter over the course of his five pro seasons.
The 24-year-old Beeks has overhauled his arsenal in pro ball to feature a four-seam fastball that ranges from 88-95 mph, a curveball, a four-seam changeup and—most significantly—a cutter that he added after the 2016 season. In college he threw primarily a two-seam fastball, a slider and a two-seam change.
“I’ve changed a lot,” Beeks said. “I don’t have any of the pitches I got drafted with.”
The changes have yielded results, particularly in 2018 at Triple-A Pawtucket. With strong fastball and cutter command and the ability to remain unpredictable in counts, Beeks went 4-4, 2.65 through 12 starts with an International League-leading strikeout rate of 12.4 per nine innings.
Though Beeks allowed five runs in four innings in a disappointing big league debut this season, his larger body of work has positioned him as a part of the organization’s starting depth equation.
BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD
While shortstop Santiago Espinal showed good bat-to-ball skills at low Class A Greenville in 2017, he showed little pop. But improved fluidity in his hands this year along with better pitch selection and recognition of counts in which he can drive the ball have allowed him to perform at a different level in the first half of 2018 for high Class A Salem.
Through 59 games, Espinal hit .315/.367/.491 line with more home runs (seven) and nearly as many extra-base hits (24) as he had all last year. While his arm looks like it will play best at second base, he also looks competent on the left side of the infield, with the potential to emerge as a doubles hitter who can hit for average with good on-base skills.
“He’s impacting the ball better than he has in the past. I think he’s become an even more confident defender,” farm director Ben Crockett said. “It’s very real improvement.”
** The Red Sox converted outfielder Yoan Aybar to the mound after four seasons of offensive struggles. As a lefthanded pitcher, the 20-year-old was up to 96 mph with a changeup and slider in extended spring training. He was assigned to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
** In his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League, 17-year-old third baseman Danny Diaz hit four homers in his first 13 games—half as many as the eight hit by the entire DSL Red Sox team in 2017.