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When Major League Baseball declared Moncada, a 19-year-old Cuban sensation, free to sign with any club in February 2015, it incited a bidding war. His workout in late 2014 brought hundreds of evaluators to Guatemala and led to additional rounds of private workouts. The Red Sox decided to go all-in on Moncada after working him out in Fort Myers, Fla., in February 2015. In that session, he took live batting practice against five different pitchers as a test of his offensive approach against an array of offerings. In the end, Boston was convinced that Moncada's skill set would make him a potential No. 1 overall pick if he were draft eligible, so they spent $63 million to sign him. Their bill included a $31.5 million bonus and an MLB-issued $31.5 million tax penalty for obliterating bonus pool allotments. Assigned in May to low Class A Greenville to considerable fanfare in 2015 that included MLB authenticators, Moncada initially struggled in his first game activity in more than a year, hitting just .200 through 25 games. But when he returned from the South Atlantic League all-star break, he played with a renewed freedom and aggressiveness after a move to the leadoff spot, asserting himself as one of the most dynamic talents in the minors. He hit .310/.415/.500 with 25 extra-base hits and 45 steals in 48 attempts over his final 56 games. "I haven't seen a player make those types of strides . . . in such a short period of time," one evaluator said. Physically, Moncada stands out. "He could be a defensive back for Ohio State," one scout said. That physicality lends itself to explosiveness in games, though it remains to be seen if that will manifest itself as power or in the rest of his game. At Greenville, his level swing plane created hard liners to the gaps instead of loft, meaning he might profile more as a standout two-hole hitter than a middle-of-the-order threat. Even if that proves the case, Moncada will offer plenty of impact with 10-12 homers, given bigger baserunning and defensive upside than anticipated. While he made errors in bunches at times, and finished with 23 overall he made some spectacular plays at second base that showed above-average defensive potential at the position. He also showed the athleticism (and offensive profile) to move nearly anywhere but shortstop depending on team need. Though Moncada's disciplined approach is more advanced from the left side, where his swing draws frequent comparisons with that of Robinson Cano, he put up better numbers--particularly in terms of power--as a righthanded hitter and shows the overall skill to be a true switch-hitter. His power projection ranges from average to plus. Moncada suffers from occasional concentration lapses, and he still needs to learn how to handle the physical rigors of a full season, but he's a rare physical talent who engenders all kinds of daydreaming projections. Moncada, whose planned participation in the Puerto Rican League was scrapped by a bone bruise suffered on a hit by pitch in instructional league, will open 2016 at high Class A Salem. Boston has Dustin Pedroia signed through 2021, and its major league outfield already looks overstuffed, making it hard to see where Moncada fits. But he looks primed to force the issue. With the rust of his layoff behind him, it wouldn't be surprising to see him play at multiple levels in 2016. "He could completely explode and be in Fenway in September," one evaluator said.
The Red Sox evaluated Devers as the best international amateur bat available in 2013, viewing him as a potential all-fields slugger who would spend a career in the middle of the order. Nothing has altered that opinion. At low Class A Greenville in 2015 he ranked among the South Atlantic League leaders with 38 doubles and 50 extra-base hits. Devers launches the ball to all fields with a lefhanded swing that generates both loft and backspin. Though he hit just 11 homers in 2015, few doubt he will build on that total as he adds strength and gains a greater understanding of when to complement his up-the-middle and opposite-field ability with a willingness to turn on pitches for pull power. Devers' physical development will determine if he stays at third base--a position he has the hands, feet, and arm to play--or moves to first. One evaluator described him as a still-maturing player who could either shed his baby fat or who will struggle with weight in a fashion reminiscent of Pablo Sandoval. At either corner, his bat should play. He surprises evaluators with his athleticism and baserunning ability. Given that Devers was one of the youngest players in the SAL, the Red Sox need not rush him. At the same time, they don't necessarily need to shy from an aggressive development path for a player with the most straightforward middle-of-the-order projection of anyone in the system.
After injuries impaired his performance as an Arkansas freshman, Benintendi dedicated his summer to strength training rather than playing in a wood-bat league. As a sophomore in 2015, his stock soared when he hit .376/.488/.717 with a Division I-best 20 homers en route to the Golden Spikes and BA College Player of the Year awards. The Red Sox selected him seventh overall and signed him for $3.59 million, a franchise record for a draft pick. Many view Benintendi as the system's top prospect, given that he could quickly become an above-average big leaguer. Though so small that his name is difficult to squeeze across his jersey back, he finished his pro debut at low Class A Greenville and hit a cumulative .313/.416/.556 with 11 homers in 54 games. Benintendi's exceptional approach helps him unlock surprising thunder. Though he's not a burner, he glides to the ball with advanced instincts, convincing most evaluators that he can be at least an average center field defender. His size raises some injury concerns, and it's worth noting that he was sidelined for much of the instructional league as the Red Sox cautiously rehabbed his quadriceps injury. Benintendi probably will start 2016 at high Class A Salem, but he could develop quickly and be a starting outfielder in Boston by the end of 2017.
The Red Sox considered Espinoza to be the jewel of the 2014 international pitching class when they signed him for $1.8 million. Yet not even Boston anticipated what he became in 2015. Espinoza touched the mid-90s in spring training and eventually reached triple digits while breezing from the Dominican Summer League all the way to low Class A Greenville as a 17-year-old. Espinoza's precocious feel for a high-quality, three-pitch mix and efficient delivery are uncommon traits for a teen, to say the least. Despite his slight build, he generates striking velocity with an easy, repeatable delivery, while also featuring a curveball and changeup that grade as big league average now, with plenty of projection for improved command. The fact that Espinoza throws so hard at such a young age and with such a slight build raises questions about whether he can remain healthy. But if he can, he has obvious front-of-the-rotation talent and makeup and intelligence to maximize his ability. Espinoza probably will start 2016 where he ended 2015: at Greenville. If he stays healthy, evaluators believe that he could reach the big leagues by the time he turns 20 in 2018--or perhaps sooner, depending on how Boston decides to parcel his innings.
Kopech in high school set a goal of hitting 100 mph. In 2015, days after he turned 19, he achieved it. He often proved overpowering at low Class A Greenville, but evaluators remained unsure about whether he would harness his delivery and secondary pitches. Ironically, a mid-July, 50-game suspension for amphetamine use allowed Kopech to focus on those key areas of development during instructional league. Though he's a strike-thrower who isn't afraid to challenge hitters, Kopech has not yet developed command. If he does, he possesses what one evaluator described as "a mega-special fastball," with velocity and late, explosive life at the plate. His power breaking ball, flashing plus but inconsistent, sits in the 78-82 mph range, and some believe he'd be better off sharpening it into a true slider or even a cutter. Kopech almost never used his changeup in high school, but during his suspension he made strides with it. His size and strength suggest the potential to handle a starter's workload. While the suspension raised some makeup questions, most evaluators viewed it as a case of poor judgment or carelessness. If Kopech develops a three-pitch mix, he possesses a No. 2 starter ceiling. If not, he will fit as a late-innings arm. He appears destined for high Class A Salem in 2016.
After a breakout 2014, Johnson cruised through the first half of 2015 at Triple-A Pawtucket, looking like a major league-ready starter. But when the Red Sox called him up, they handled his debut in puzzling fashion. Johnson's initial start on July 21 came after a 15-day layoff, and he allowed four runs in 41?3 innings. Sent back down, he suffered nerve irritation in his elbow two starts later, and it ended his season and cost him a post-trade deadline opportunity in the big league rotation. Johnson is a pitcher in every sense of the word. While he features a swing-and-miss curveball, his trademark is the ability to unbalance hitters and induce bad contact by changing speeds and locating his four-pitch mix. He keeps batters on the defensive with an aggressive pace that echoes Mark Buehrle. Johnson sat mostly at 88-89 mph in 2015, which was down from 90-91 in 2014 and perhaps a sign that he was pitching through elbow discomfort prior to his shutdown. At his best, he adds and subtracts from the high 80s to the low 90s. While Johnson's injury virtually guaranteed that he will open 2016 back at Pawtucket, he represents a first-wave depth option. He resumed throwing in 2015 instructional league and is expected to be healthy for 2016. Evaluators are nearly unanimous that he can start in the big leagues, with a ceiling as a No. 4 or 5 starter.
A 2014 second-round pick, Travis shined in his full-season debut, batting .307/.381/.452 with nine homers in 131 games at high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2015. He continued hitting in the Arizona Fall League to thrust himself into Boston's unsettled long-term outlook at first base. Travis describes his offensive approach as an attempt to "break the white thing into bits," the brute strength in his gloveless approach described admiringly by evaluators as evocative of a caveman. While he made frequent, hard contact with pitches all over the strike zone, Travis' willingness to let the ball travel and work to the middle of the field meant that his considerable strength translated to hard line drives rather than homers. That, in turn, creates profile questions given that his likeliest position is first base, even as some believe he has the athleticism to play left field as well. If he develops average power, however, there's a considerable amount of value to his game. His makeup is a plus. Travis probably will open 2016 at Triple-A Pawtucket, with a chance to position himself for a callup should the Red Sox need a righthanded bat. He could see time at positions other than first base in an attempt to make him more marketable.
After he spent the second half of 2014 at Triple-A Pawtucket, Marrero returned there in 2015. Though he did make some strides, he didn't show the offensive step forward that many anticipated in repeating his level. Nonetheless, he continued to show standout defense at shortstop and in his first career exposure to second and third base. Marrero still represents a special defensive infielder who shows aptitude, instincts and an excellent clock in the field. His feel for the game, rather than pure athleticism or speed, makes him an impact defender at a position where offense is a bonus. At the plate, even with modest offensive results in 2015, scouts saw a diminished hitch and quieter approach that allowed his hands--the strength of his game on both offense and defense--to track the ball for respectable contact. Marrero won't be confused for a power hitter, but evaluators see a player with at least the ceiling of a valuable utility player, with the possibility that he'll deliver enough offense to sustain a place at the bottom of the lineup. With Xander Bogaerts entrenched as Red Sox shortstop, Marrero's future role in Boston probably is utility infielder--or trade chip to a team seeking a defensive upgrade at shortstop. Safe
When Basabe and his twin brother Luis Alejandro, a shortstop, signed with the Red Sox, the distinctions between the two were modest. But Luis Alexander, an outfielder, has had a growth spurt, adding two inches, more strength and hand speed while retaining his athleticism to create an interesting collection of tools. As one of the youngest players in the short-season New York-Penn League in 2015, Basabe's tools and athleticism established him as one of the circuit's top talents. He became the first player in Lowell history to switch-hit homers in a game, something he did twice on his way to seven homers, the most by a NYPL 18-year-old since 2004. He also showed speed and impact potential in center field. The switch-hitter is more advanced from the right side, and his high strikeout rate (26 percent) raises questions about his bat, though one evaluator noted that he often struck out looking, in part because his strong strike-zone judgment left him vulnerable to bad calls. Basabe has dealt with injury issues in his young career, and he's miles from the big leagues. But if he stays healthy, he has the potential to combine top-of-the-order skills with a solid center-field glove and above-average power. A promotion to low Class A Greenville awaits in 2016.
Despite questions about his future position, Chavis was drafted 26th overall in 2014 on the strength of his loft power. True to form, he led the Red Sox system with 16 home runs at low Class A Greenville in 2015, though he also led the organization with 144 strikeouts and hit just .223. Chavis features bat speed that generates plus raw power that plays as average in games. Some evaluators felt he cheated on fastballs in an effort to demolish them, and in the process became completely vulnerable to breaking balls. Chavis himself acknowledged the need to establish and refine his offensive approach and recognize pitches--something that he never required in high school. His short, thick frame is atypical for a third baseman (he more often evokes Dan Uggla comps), but he worked hard and showed defensive gains over the course of the season. Some evaluators would like to see him try second base or left field, and he will need to manage his size to maintain the necessary agility to contribute defensively. The struggles Chavis went through in 2015 were the most severe of his baseball life, but he showed improvement, leading to hope for further future gains. For all the questions about his overall profile, his plus power potential comes with a mandate for patience as he advances to high Class A Salem in 2016.
Light struggled for much of his first two full pro seasons, but late in 2014, while long-tossing between starts, he discovered the potential impact of greater extension in his delivery. The epiphany yielded a watershed, with Light hitting 100 mph in his next start for the first time in his career. He carried that increased power into spring training, living in the high 90s with late-life that generated bad contact, while reintroducing a split-changeup--his out pitch in college, but one the Red Sox had asked him to shelf while focusing on his other pitches. The altered arsenal, along with a move to the bullpen, brought Light the sort of success in 2015 he'd never previously achieved. He dominated at Double-A Portland to earn a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he endured significant control struggles (7.1 walks per nine innings), a reminder of the challenges he faces to harness his delivery at his size. At his best, he looked like a late-innings arm, perhaps even a closer. At the least, his power arm and the fact that he'll enter 2016 on the 40-man roster suggests that he'll get a chance to contribute at the big league level.
Acquired after the 2014 season from the Cubs as a player to be named for Felix Doubront, Hernandez made a tremendous impression in his first opportunity to play in the upper levels. A former switch-hitter who became a full-time lefthanded hitter in 2014, he showed solid shortstop defense and the ability to make hard contact against righthanded fastballs at Double-A Portland (.326/.349/.482) before seeing his marks dip in Triple-A Pawtucket (.271/.300/.409), where he played shortstop, second base and third base. Ultimately, his best defensive position might be second, but he's capable enough at short--and with a sufficiently wide-ranging set of offensive skills, including a line-drive swing and talent as a bunter--to suggest a potentially valuable utility infielder. Hernandez may need much of 2016 at Triple-A Pawtucket to refine his offensive game, but he's seemingly not far from a big league role.
A native of Honduras who moved to the U.S. for his junior year of high school to pursue a baseball career, Dubon performed his way past non-prospect profile. He finished second in the short-season New York-Penn League batting race in 2014 (.320). In 2015, he got off to an impressive start at low Class A Greenville (.301/.354/.428), combining the ability to make contact, play solid middle-infield defense and run with occasional pop. After a promotion to high Class A Salem, Dubon struggled initially but made strides down the stretch, hitting .274/.343/.325 in the second half. Between the two levels, he stole 30 bases in 120 games while showing an intriguing skill set that suggests a potential utility player. He'll need to make strength gains and swing improvements to elevate his potential projection to that of a regular, but at the least, he is on a track that is well beyond the organizational player profile that he seemed to represent at the time he was drafted.
After his pro introduction at short-season Lowell was shortened by a torn thumb ligament in 2014, Longhi validated the view that he is a player who can "flat-out hit," in the words of multiple evaluators. At low Class A Greenville in 2015, he posted impressive marks for an 19-year-old, hitting .281/.338/.403 while showing good hands that stayed inside the ball and allowed him to match the velocity of virtually any fastball. However, as a lefthanded thrower, Longhi is limited to corners that typically require not just an above-average to plus hit tool but also similar grades for power. To this point, however, Longhi has shown more of an all-fields line-drive swing than an approach that would lend itself to power (eight homers in 161 minor league games). He's both young enough and strong enough that power--and with it, projection as an everyday first baseman or left fielder--could emerge down the road, but with defensive tools that profile as fringy, it's hard to forecast a regular big league role for Longhi if he doesn't develop the loft needed to elevate his line drives over fences.
Rijo, the son of a scout, has stood out for the advancement of his offensive skills since the time that the Red Sox signed him out of the Dominican in 2012. He bypassed the Dominican Summer League in his first pro year in 2013, and he has been one of the youngest players at his level in each season, including a 2015 campaign spent at high Class A Salem. Rijo's age is a necessary piece of context when considering his modest offensive totals in 2015--.260/.324/.381--as is the fact that all of those slash numbers were slightly above league average in pitcher-friendly ballparks of the Carolina League. One evaluator noted Rijo ranks among Boston's best pure hitters when he remains under control rather than trying to play "a big man's game," something that became a problem in 2015 when his walk rate slipped to a career low 7.5 percent. At his best, he can hit for average and perform like a doubles machine, and while some grumble about his commitment to defense, evaluators believe he showed considerable improvement at second base, to the point where he appears to have the potential to be an everyday player, particularly if he re-establishes his most effective offensive approach.
Lakins had a strong freshman year out of the bullpen at Ohio State (2.45 ERA, 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings), with his numbers ticking down as a draft-eligible starter in 2015 (3.75 ERA, 7.9 strikeouts per nine). Yet between his ability to touch the mid-90s with his fastball, the tremendous spin on his curveball and the athleticism to repeat his delivery and start, the Red Sox saw Lakins as a college pitcher with a higher-than-usual ceiling when they signed him for an above-slot $320,000 bonus as a sixth-round pick. Though he pitched just three pro innings in 2015 while building shoulder strength, Lakins opened eyes in instructional league, showing the ability to throw strikes with three pitches (fastball, curve, changeup) while displaying life on a fastball that regularly registered at 92-93 mph and topped out around 95, along with a true curveball and a changeup with late action. In a very limited look, Lakins showed the potential for three pitches that grade as average or better, even if he offers an element of the unknown because he's a pitcher who has spent so little time in the system.
When the Red Sox selected Ball with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft, they saw a rail-thin athlete who would pitch at 92-94 mph with the ability to spin a curveball and a surprisingly developed changeup. His frame and athleticism made it easy to daydream about gains in stuff that might one day take him towards a mid- or even front-of-the-rotation future. Instead, if anything, Ball's stuff has become less tantalizing in the pro ranks than it was in high school. He often pitches in the 89-92 mph range with a decent changeup and a below-average curveball. Yet he works hard, has made some strength gains, still has room to add perhaps another 20 pounds of muscle and has a loose arm and the athleticism to repeat his delivery. At age 21, he still could find another gear to his stuff that would create a path to being either a back-end starter or, if his fastball plays up as some expect, a valuable lefthanded reliever. In deference to his struggles with his curveball, Ball started incorporating a slider in late 2015. It's possible that there will be more adjustments along with the way--particularly given the belief that Ball has the athleticism and physical aptitude to take to them--in hopes of capturing some of the considerable promise that brought him to the Red Sox organization.
The Red Sox signed Buttrey to a bonus in line with a first-round pick ($1.3 million) out of high school in 2012 after seeing a pitcher who, despite a max-effort delivery, proved a relentless strike-thrower with a low- to mid-90s fastball and breaking ball, someone who looked like he had an easy floor of a reliever with the possibility of developing a starter's arsenal. But after he signed, Buttrey's velocity dropped in his early pro career, leading to mounting frustrations that peaked in 2014 when, after an infield play, Buttrey broke his hand while slamming it on the infield dirt at low Class A Greenville. In some ways, the downtime proved to his benefit. Buttrey made a few small delivery adjustments that freed him up on the mound, enabling him to repeat, and he returned to roughly his high school velocity while working with a better downward angle with a step forward in results. He dominated in four starts when opening 2015 back in Greenville, then delivered a solid performance while supplying steady innings at high Class A Salem. Given that he shows an above-average fastball without above-average secondaries, his most likely big league projection is as a bullpen arm with the possibility of time as a back-end starter. After the two long seasons that preceded 2015, however, that outlook suggests considerable progress.
Drafted out of high school as a five-tool ball of clay, Jerez never progressed as an outfielder, hitting just .221 with a .529 OPS while spending three years in short-season ball. The decision to move Jerez to the mound for the 2014 season, then, changed his career course completely. He went from running in place to sprinting forward through the system as a lefthanded reliever. Given his conversion to the mound, Jerez has surprised with how quickly he's become a strike-thrower with a fastball that is often at 92-94 mph and a slider that features some tilt and bite. In 2015, he went from low Class A Greenville to high Class A Salem to Double-A Portland, recording a 2.54 ERA with 8.7 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings. He got enough swings and misses and bad contact with his fastball and showed enough promise with a secondary offering that the Red Sox believe that he can emerge as a power lefty with the potential to slot into the seventh or eighth inning.
When the Red Sox selected Stankiewicz in 2013 as a 19-year-old out of junior college, he offered a lot to like: a four-pitch mix, the ability to sit in the low 90s and touch the mid-90s with his fastball, and a frame that suggested both potential durability and projection as he filled out. Stankiewicz has certainly shown the ability to suggest a starting profile in his first two full pro seasons--making 25 starts and logging just more than 140 innings in both--but his four pitches have graded as roughly fringy to average, raising questions of his future profile. In 2015, Stankiewicz worked to a 4.01 ERA at high Class A Salem, but he struck out just 4.9 batters per nine innings. He did show the ability to throw strikes with his full arsenal, resulting in a walk rate of 2.0 walks per nine and creating the possibility that he could forge a path to a back-end rotation spot on the strength of command and pitchability with his current arsenal. Stankiewicz is likewise young enough that he could see one or more of his pitches develop, which would likewise increase his chances of being an eventual rotation option. Otherwise, his strike-throwing with the possibility of elevating his velocity in shorter stints could result in a bullpen future--with at least one evaluator wondering if he could add impact by lowering his arm angle from his current over-the-top delivery.
Sinkerball pitchers who generate high groundball rates have long been difficult to evaluate based on minor league performance given the inconsistent quality of fields and defenses behind them and the counterintuitive nature of embracing a pitch-to-contact approach. For that reason, some evaluators believe that McAvoy's first full pro season--in which he spent all of 2015 at high Class A Salem while forging a 3.89 ERA with just 5.2 strikeouts and 4.5 walks per nine innings--showed more promise than the surface numbers. He showed a low-90s fastball with plus sink that generated 2.5 groundouts for every flyout, the fourth-highest ratio among qualified full-season starters. He struggled to throw strikes, quite possibly due to the action on his sinker. If McAvoy can harness his two-seamer and develop his slider, then given his athleticism (which, in turn, creates the prospect of repeating his delivery and commanding), he could have a chance to make a considerable step forward with some chance of starting. More likely, he's a future reliever who can deliver key groundballs.
No one in the Red Sox system better embodies the extreme nature of prospect status than Aybar, a deep projection athlete who could emerge either as an everyday standout or never make it beyond Class A. His first campaign in the U.S. in 2015 included a low walk (4.1 percent) and high strikeout (27.2 percent) rates in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, proving he's still learning his swing. For now, Aybar shows flashes of offensive ability, the ability to run complementing occasional in-game raw power--which has a chance to grow into something more based on the ability to forecast significant strength gains for the lanky 18-year-old. He adds the running speed to beat out hits, though his long arms yield a long swing that is subject to whiffs. Defensively, he stands out both for the ground he covers and the best outfield arm in the Red Sox system. In fact, if his offense doesn't take, it wouldn't be a shock to see Aybar moved to the mound. If everything syncs as he fills out physically, Aybar could emerge as a future five-tool outfielder, but he'll require immense offensive development to come anywhere near that ceiling. Higih
As a high school first baseman with size and head-turning power in Philadelphia, it became impossible for Ockimey to avoid comparisons with Ryan Howard. Given that Howard emerged as one of the best power hitters in the game after being taken as a fifth-rounder in 2001, Ockimey--taken by the Red Sox in the 2014 fifth round--could do worse as a basis for comparison. Ockimey showed some impressive attributes as a 19-year-old at short-season Lowell in 2015, hitting .266/.349/.422 with four homers and 20 extra-base hits. Though he struck out 34.1 percent of the time, Ockimey received high marks for his hard work that netted sizable improvements in his first year after being drafted, and he was Boston's offensive standout at instructional league, showing plus power in launching three homers to right-center field. He still requires significant defensive improvement to be a first baseman, and given that he is limited to first base, he'll have to hit his way to the big leagues, but given the potential for plus power, Ockimey has shown the upside of an everyday player.
Raudes represented one of Boston's first signings out of Nicaragua in years when the team signed him in July 2014. As a slight righthander with a whippy arm and swing-and-miss breaking ball, Raudes reminded Rookie-level Gulf Coast League manager Tom Kotchman of a young righthander he'd seen with the Angels, Francisco Rodriguez. Signed with a projectable mid-80s fastball, Raudes saw his velocity bump up to solid-average levels in 2015, when he worked in the low 90s. Yet he also showed the ability to adapt his plan of attack and pitch backward with a three-pitch mix, suggesting starter potential. He's an aggressive strike-thrower, as evident from his 9.7 strikeouts and 1.1 walks per nine innings in his pro debut in 2015, which was split between the Dominican Summer League and the GCL. While there's plenty of room for both physical and pitch development, Raudes will probably pitch at short-season Lowell as an 18-year-old in 2016, and he has a chance to emerge as one of the better starting pitching prospects in the Red Sox system.
Acquired from the Giants at the end of August 2015 for outfielder Alejandro De Aza, Ysla already owns a mark of distinction as the first player acquired by the Red Sox in a trade under president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Ysla is an intriguing power arm with a chance to be an impact lefthanded reliever down the road. Signed by the Giants as a lanky 20-year-old out of Venezuela, he had a strong fullseason debut at low Class A Augusta in 2014, recording a 2.45 ERA with 8.5 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings. In 2015, his ERA soared to 6.21 at high Class A San Jose prior to his trade, in part because his walk rate spiked to 4.6 per nine, but his strikeouts likewise jumped (10.6 per nine innings). If he can throw strikes, then Ysla's fastball-slider combination with deception-creating funk in his delivery should give him a strong chance to be a left-on-left weapon, and if he can successfully incorporate his changeup (rated the best in the South Atlantic League in 2014 by opposing managers, but not a pitch of distinction in 2014), he has the ceiling of a setup man.
Ramirez emerged as one of the top college performers in the country at Cal State Fullerton on the strength of his willingness to attack the strike zone fearlessly with a low-90s fastball and a standout changeup that he learned from former Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero. Some Red Sox officials thought Ramirez, a 2011 fourth-round pick, might fast-track, but he instead had a more deliberate minor league progression even as he delivered three consistent years of success once moved to the bullpen at high Class A Salem in 2013. While Ramirez often got lost in the shuffle, he impressed team officials during a September callup. He was often matched up against elite righthanded batters, against whom his low three-quarters delivery, slider, and changeup resulted in a noteworthy number of swings and misses. He'll be in competition for a bullpen spot coming out of spring training in 2016, with the possibility of an early-season callup if he doesn't break camp with the team.
Aro was just about ready to give up on a pro baseball career after being hospitalized in two separate summers due to Dengue fever during his attempts to audition for teams. The Red Sox took a $10,000 flyer on him in June 2011, the sort of modest bonus that let the pitcher know that he was no more than a long shot to reach the big leagues. Yet after spending three years in the lower levels from 2011-13 and pitching at two Class A levels as a 24-year-old in 2014, he flew through Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in 2015 on the strength of a three-pitch mix (fastball, slider, changeup) to reach the big leagues in June. His solid minor league resume (3.14 ERA, 8.7 strikeouts and 2.2 walks per nine innings) did not translate to the big leagues (6.97, 7.0 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine). Aro's ability to create deception in his delivery while changing elevations allowed him to get swings and misses at times with a fastball that he wasn't afraid to throw for strikes. He was vulnerable to hard contact in his brief big league exposure, but Aro's strike-throwing gives him a chance to contribute out of the big league bullpen in 2016.
Coyle followed his career-best 2014 campaign--a year in which his improved offensive approach allowed his surprising plus power to play--with his most disappointing. In the continuation of an ongoing pattern, he was limited drastically by injuries, playing just 52 games in 2015 (39 at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he opened the year) due primarily to an upper-back/trapezius issue. In his five full pro seasons, he's averaged just 86 games a year. On the field, Coyle posted dreadful numbers, hitting just .159/.274/.302 and striking out nearly 30 percent of the time at Pawtucket. He's a streaky offensive player with a considerable gap between his on-field ceiling and floor. When locked in, Coyle can produce homers and extra-base hits in bunches in a fashion that suggests a potential everyday second baseman (with the athleticism to contribute in the outfield and perhaps at third base). However, if he remains unable to withstand the demands of playing everyday, it may be hard for him to turn his big swing into steady results in a part-time role.
Pennington looked like one of the top prep arms in the Northeast in 2014, but a torn ulnar collateral ligament in April shut down his season and left him on the board in the 29th round. His pro unveiling in 2015 after a year spent rehabbing from Tommy John surgery suggested a potential steal. Pennington forged a 0.82 ERA with a strikeout an inning in seven games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, a prelude to an instructional league performance in which his stuff was among the most impressive on display among Red Sox pitchers. The slight righthander, whose fastball registered at 94-97 mph, showed the ability to spin a curveball in a fashion that suggests a potential future average pitch and some feel for a changeup. He'll be developed as a starter to give him a chance to tap into his considerable potential. At this point, he's a wild card (a notion underscored by his 13 walks in 22 innings in the GCL), but the ease with which he was able to show premium stuff offers the possibility that he could elevate his prospect stock considerably if he can get on the mound for a full, healthy season.
Cecchini spent three years looking like the best pure hitting prospect in the Red Sox system, and so when he struggled in 2014, evaluators noted his season-ending uptick at Triple-A Pawtucket and the big leagues. But when his offense reached even more severe depths in 2015 (including a 21.3 percent strikeout rate), his 2014 season could no longer be dismissed as an outlier. Whereas Cecchini's calling card had always been his ability to work deep counts while letting the ball travel and use his hands to shoot line drives all over the field, evaluators in 2014 and 2015 saw a player who appeared pull-conscious in trying to force power, with the result being the unraveling of one of what seemed like a formula that could yield high batting averages. Meanwhile, after spending most of his career at third base, Cecchini spent more time in left field (seemingly his most comfortable position) and at first base than at third in 2015, striking scouts as below-average at all three positions and raising significant positional questions going forward. Still, while Cecchini's recent struggles can't be dismissed, nor can his prior track record as a patient, .300-caliber hitter. If he can rediscover his approach, even with his defensive questions, he'd have a chance to reassert himself as a corner bat capable of earning semi-regular play against righthanders. Whether that opportunity comes in a Red Sox organization that is now a bit crowded with corner infielders is another question.
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