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Benintendi was one of the top high school hitters in Ohio history and also drafted by the Reds in the 31st round but opted to head to Arkansas. After a modest freshman season with the Razorbacks, Benintendi passed on playing in summer leagues, instead focusing on improving his strength and conditioning. The result was a spectacular 2015 season that saw him lead the country with 20 home runs on the way to winning BA College Player of the Year and vaulted him to top-of-the-first-round status. The Red Sox selected him seventh overall. Benintendi confirmed the expectation that he could take the fast track to the big leagues by flying through high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland--he batted .312/.378/.532 in 97 games--en route to a callup to Boston at the beginning of August. He missed three weeks with a knee injury but returned in September. He homered in his first postseason plate appearance and put together the best at-bats of any Red Sox hitter in their American League Division Series loss to the Indians. Multiple evaluators believe that Benintendi has a chance to be a perennial all-star who competes for batting titles. "He's a once-in-a-decade hitter," one said. Benintendi combines excellent hand-eye coordination with the pitch recognition to avoid strike zone expansion. His precisely-tuned swing, with his strong forearms and core along with a rare knack for putting the bat on the ball, allow him to drive the ball with surprising authority given his diminutive stature. Another evaluator thought Benintendi's upside was that of a 20-25 home run player with 50 doubles. More conservative views of his abilities still suggest an everyday player with a plus hit tool, which would make him an ideal No. 2 hitter with modest extra-base abilities but whose lack of weakness will minimize slumps. Though he hit just .179 in 28 at-bats against big league lefthanders, his willingness to use the whole field mitigates long-term platoon concerns. Defensively, Benintendi has the ability to play center field at an above-average level, though with Jackie Bradley in center and Mookie Betts in right in Boston, he appears destined for left where his plus range will be barely taxed playing in front of the Green Monster. Benintendi isn't a burner on the bases, but his baserunning impact exceeds his pure speed, which grades as above-average. In short, evaluators see a player who does everything well while displaying phenomenal makeup that could make him a cornerstone for years to come. Benintendi seems almost certain to open 2017 in the same role he occupied at the end of 2016: a near-everyday outfielder in the big leagues. Depending on how his game evolves--whether to feature more power or take more walks--it would come as little surprise to see him occupying one of the top three spots in the Red Sox lineup for years to come.
The Red Sox felt that Devers was the best international amateur bat available in 2013, viewing him as a future middle-of-the-order slugger. He hasn't disappointed them yet. Devers started slowly at high Class A Salem in 2016, carrying a .195 average into June, but he was one of the best hitters in the Carolina League over the final three months. Devers shows an unusual ability to drive the ball to all fields with loft and backspin that creates the possibility for all-fields power. He's aggressive in a way that likely will cap his on-base percentage but with bat-to-ball skills that suggest solid batting averages and that, to date, have limited his strikeout totals. As a 19-year-old in 2016, his most significant progress came at third base, where evaluators saw a player with above-average to plus range and throwing arm. His wide hips suggest that his weight management and conditioning will always be a focus, but to this point, he's maintained athleticism not only to stay at third but also to surprise as a solid baserunner. That reflects well on his makeup and willingness to work. At this point, Devers looks like the top power-hitting prospect in the system, a future five- or six-hole hitter with plus power and above-average defense. He appears destined for Double-A Portland for most if not all of 2017.
The Red Sox considered Groome the best high school pitching prospect in the 2016 draft. His imposing frame and repeatable delivery, along with an easy low- to mid-90s fastball and nasty breaking ball, screamed future big league impact. Though Groome seemed like a possible No. 1 overall pick, questions related to both his signability and off-field concerns left him on the board for the Red Sox at No. 12 overall. He signed for $3.65 million at the July 15 deadline. Groome shows unusual polish for a prep pitcher, his delivery generating easy power in a fashion that reminds some of Jon Lester or Andy Pettitte. Without ratcheting up his effort level, he comfortably dials his fastball from 91-95 mph with a hammer curveball that seems likely to overwhelm lower-levels competition. He didn't need his changeup as an amateur but shows feel for the offering. Feedback about his makeup in his seven-inning pro debut was also universally positive. Groome should open 2017 at low Class A Greenville, and the quality of his stuff suggests he could cruise through the lower levels if he remains healthy and keeps his delivery in order. He shows all the elements of a potential front-of-the-rotation starter.
Travis landed on the map as Kyle Schwarber's middle-of-the-order partner in crime at Indiana, but he appeared close to coming into his own both during a strong 2015 and at the start of 2016, when he garnered attention in spring training for the steady thunderous contact he made. A solid if unspectacular start to the 2016 season, however, was derailed when Travis blew out his ACL on the bases. He required season-ending knee surgery but is expected to be at full strength in 2017. One can imagine Travis--who eschews batting gloves--emerging from the womb with bat in hand. Evaluators describe him as a hitting machine whose strength and flat bat path through the strike zone result in resounding collisions of barrel and ball. That same swing plane has, to date, established him as a middle-of-the-field hitter who mostly drives the ball into the gaps, but if he can learn to turn on pitches that are middle-in, he has a chance to develop at least average power. His actions at first base remain inconsistent and sometimes clunky, though his tenacious work ethic convinces some evaluators that he can become average at the position. Despite the lost development time Travis suffered in 2016, his bat is close to big league ready. It wouldn't be a shock to see him contribute at first base and DH in the post-David Ortiz era, or potentially in left field, depending on the rest of the depth chart.
When Dalbec dominated on the mound at the 2016 College World Series, it led to plenty of questions about why the Red Sox intended to develop him as a third baseman. Once he reported to short-season Lowell, those questions faded, both because the 21-year-old made clear that he wanted to be a full-time position player and because he showed an enormous offensive ceiling, as he had in the 2015 Cape Cod League, when he slugged 12 homers in 27 games. After a junior year in which Dalbec's approach proved inconsistent with varying stances, loads and strides that made it difficult for him to repeat his swing, he relaxed and smoothed out his mechanics in short-season Lowell with dazzling results. The pull-happy approach he showed this year in college was replaced by an up-the-middle emphasis in which Dalbec showed a vastly improved ability to make contact and to drive the ball with prodigious power to all fields. He slugged .674 in the New York-Penn League thanks to impressive bat speed and a power hitter's extension through the ball. He certainly has the arm for third base, with the actions to suggest he can continue to develop at that position. Dalbec's spring will determine whether he opens 2017 at low Class A Greenville or high Class A Salem.
When international scouting director Eddie Romero saw Raudes pitch in a tournament in Mexico in 2012, he couldn't help but be mesmerized by a 14-year-old who, despite throwing 78-80 mph, conducted himself like a big leaguer by mixing three pitches and displaying dogged competitiveness. Raudes continues to display fearless strike-throwing ability that has allowed him to hold his own against older competition. Raudes is built like a bird, with long, thin limbs that limit the power of his stuff. He controls and sequences his fastball, curveball and changeup well, however. At 18, none of his pitches grades as plus, but he shows the ability to spin the ball with a quick, whippy arm in a way that has some believing his fastball velocity can tick up from its current 88-91 mph range to be more of a low-90s offering. His fastball is relatively straight right now, but Raudes creates deception with a repeatable delivery, and his ability to command the ball allows his stuff to play up. He limits hard contact against him based on his unpredictably. Raudes will likely be one of the youngest pitchers in the high Class A Carolina League in 2017. Assuming he remains healthy, his control and pitchability suggest the floor of an up-and-down depth starter with a likely ceiling as a No. 4 barring an unexpected jump in his velocity.
The 31st overall pick in the 2012 draft, Johnson reached the majors in 2015 but has had his progression interrupted by multiple ill-timed occurrences. He took a line drive to the face in his 2012 pro debut and then suffered elbow nerve irritation that ended his 2015 season. Johnson struggled early in 2016 with his normally advanced command--22 walks in 33 innings--suggesting more trouble with his elbow. But the lefthander's concerns ran deeper than his mound struggles. Johnson left Triple-A Pawtucket in May to seek treatment for anxiety. After nearly two months in Fort Myers, Fla., and on a rehab assignment, he returned to Triple-A. His control and ability to mix four pitches--fastball, curveball, changeup and cutter--returned, though his stuff was diminished from his dominant 2014 form. His fastball sat in the mid-80s in 2016 rather than his 89-91 mph peak, and his curveball--once a plus pitch--lost bite. Still, the fact Johnson was back on the mound and throwing strikes represented an accomplishment. If his arm strength returns in 2017, he could quickly emerge as a big league depth option.
Hernandez, a former switch-hitter who now bats solely from the left side, continued his ascent in the Red Sox system in 2016. He hit .309 at Triple-A Pawtucket with a .787 OPS that ranked third among International League shortstops and then hit .294/.357/.373 in 40 big league games and made the postseason roster. At Pawtucket, Hernandez hit lefties well (.328) for the first time in his career, but his primary strength is his ability to play shortstop, second base and third base adequately while delivering offensive impact against righthanders. Though his aggressiveness will cap his on-base ability, he shows the potential to hit for solid averages with gap power and speed that is a tick above-average. Hernandez's skill set best fits as a valuable utility infielder, though he could serve as a platoon second baseman.
Many scouts viewed Chatham as a pitching prospect when he played high school ball in Plantation, Fla., but he believed he could play shortstop if he could find a willing college program. He found one in Florida Atlantic. Chatham flourished at FAU, particularly in a junior season in which he hit .357 with eight homers, while showing the glove to convince the Red Sox he could stick at the position. That made him one of the top college shortstop prospects in the 2016 draft, and Boston selected him at the head of that demographic, taking him in the second round, No. 51 overall, and signing him for $1.1 million. Chatham showed rust in his pro debut at short-season Lowell after he returned from a broken thumb he suffered at the end of the college season, but still he hit .259 with power and above-average contact ability. A merely average runner, he possesses the instincts and body length to show above-average to plus defensive potential at shortstop. While he didn't walk as much in his pro debut as he did in college, Chatham has everyday shortstop potential even with average to below-average hitting potential and fringe power because he plays strong defense at the position. He will likely make the jump to low Class A Greenville in 2017 for his first full season, with the potential to move quickly if there are no lasting effects from his thumb injury.
The Red Sox were the primary team on Ockimey as he rose late in the 2014 draft process, ultimately taking him in the fifth round and signing him for a $450,000 bonus to pass up an Arkansas commitment. Ockimey appeared to be the organization's breakout player during the first half of 2016, when the powerful first baseman made improvements to his offensive approach to unlock his plus raw power at low Class A Greenville. He hit .297/.435/.531 en route to South Atlantic League all-star recognition, but he faded badly down the stretch, hitting .152 in the second half. Still, Ockimey managed to rank second among SAL first basemen with 18 home runs and first by a mile with 88 walks. He made plenty of progress compared with 2015 by improving his walk rate from 11 percent to 18 percent and dropping his strikeout rate from 34 percent to 26 percent. At his best, Ockimey displays at least plus power to all fields, though he lost that approach and became pull-heavy down the stretch in a way that resulted in an uptick of whiffs. He will need to make considerable strides against lefties after hitting .192 in 2016 if he is to profile as more than a platoon option. Ockimey has the upside of a middle-of-the-order hitter who is average defensively at first base, and he has shown a strong work ethic and the aptitude to make considerable strides.
The Red Sox challenged 2014 first-rounder Chavis with an assignment to low Class A Greenville in 2015. He hit for power but little else, so Boston had him repeat the South Atlantic League in 2016. Initially, the results suggested the possibility of a breakthrough. Chavis showed an ability to stay back on pitches and drive them to all fields with plus power, hitting .356/.415/.576 in his first 15 games of April. However, that early progress stalled when he sprained a thumb ligament that sidelined him for the next two months. When Chavis returned, he was unable to sustain the same approach that had proven so effective early, and he regressed to the pull-heavy, all-or-nothing form he showed in 2015 en route to a .237/.313/.372 season between Greenville and a season-ending seven-game cameo at high Class A Salem. Though his short, compact frame is atypical for third base, Chavis continued to make steady defensive strides to the point where some evaluators can now project him as a potentially average defender with an arm that may grade as a tick above-average, though some wonder if he faces a move to left field. He is likely to return to Salem to start 2017.
Shawaryn entered 2016 as one of the most consistent college performers in the country. He truly shined as a Maryland sophomore by going 13-2, 1.71 with 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings, but the righthander stumbled early in an underwhelming junior year in 2016 and went just 6-4, 3.18 with 8.8 strikeouts per nine. Thus, his draft stock took a hit. The Red Sox saw an unexpected opportunity and selected Shawaryn in the fifth round, signing him for $637,500. They see a potential big league starter with a fastball that sits 92-93 mph and can bump 95 with a curveball--which ticked down from a sharp, true curve in 2015 to a slurve in 2016--and changeup that are roughly average. Shawaryn has untapped potential if his pitch-to-contact emphasis as a junior gives way to a more aggressive arsenal capable of generating swings and misses. With deception creating the possibility that his average arsenal can play up beyond that, Shawaryn looks like a pitcher capable of becoming a possible No. 4 starter. His early college pedigree suggests an advanced pitcher with a chance to move relatively quickly through the Red Sox system.
Lakins represented something of an unmolded ball of clay when the Red Sox took him out of Ohio State as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2015 and signed him for $320,000. He had been a pitcher who shuttled between the rotation and bullpen while receiving little guidance about how to channel his excellent athleticism and four-pitch mix into consistent results. Lakins showed enough in his pro debut and during spring training to convince the Red Sox to push him to high Class A Salem in 2016, and the initial returns were impressive. He recorded a 2.13 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning in April. However, he proved inconsistent over the next three months with an ERA north of 7.00 before the Red Sox shut him down at the end of July with a stress fracture in the tip of his elbow. The injury may have contributed to his struggles, but his elbow healed enough for him to follow a relatively normal offseason program. At his best, Lakins showed a low- to mid-90s fastball that he mixed with a true 12-to-6 curveball and feel for a potentially average changeup. He paired that repertoire with the athleticism to repeat his delivery, which could lead to average command and a ceiling as a mid-rotation starter. Regardless, his fastball-curveball combination gives him a floor of depth starter or middle reliever.
Longhi surprisingly signed as a 30th-round pick for $440,000 in lieu of attending LSU out of high school and has worked his way into becoming one of the best pure hitters in the Red Sox system. He has an accurate barrel and flat bat plane that allow him to hit line drives to all fields, and those traits make him a doubles machine. One of 11 minor leaguers to hit 40 doubles in 2016, Longhi nonetheless slugged just .393 as a primary first baseman at high Class A Salem. As a lefthanded thrower, he is limited to first base or the outfield, positions that require more thump than he has demonstrated as a pro with his five home runs per 650 plate appearances. Those power questions remain relevant after he hit just two homers in 2016. Some believe he will figure out how to loft the ball as he develops, while others are a bit more skeptical, seeing him as a complementary righthanded-hitting reserve. An answer may start to form in the second half of 2017, when warmer weather at Double-A Portland creates favorable conditions for hitters to drive the ball out of the park.
Armed with their highest draft pick in 20 years, the Red Sox in 2013 selected Ball with the No. 7 overall pick and signed him for $2.75 million. The team saw a lefthander with tremendous athleticism and arm speed along with a repeatable delivery who already had shown the ability to work into the mid-90s with the potential for a plus curveball and changeup. While that profile suggested an enormous ceiling, Ball's stuff has backed up in pro ball and the former Indiana prep has yet to reach Double-A in four seasons. Despite a strong work ethic and some strength gains, his velocity has slipped to the low 90s, and while he showed the potential to get swings and misses with his slider early in 2016, he didn't sustain that trend. Moreover, hitters appear to track his pitches well, resulting in little separation from his strikeout and walk rates. While he has poor present control, Ball retains an athletic, repeatable delivery, and he can spin the ball enough to keep alive the hope of developing into a back-end starter or reliever. The Red Sox had Ball work as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League, where he allowed 23 baserunners and nine runs in 13 innings.
After Cosart struggled to a 5.45 ERA in nine starts at short-season Lowell in 2015, the Red Sox made the decision not to wait on his probable move to the bullpen. As a reliever, he didn't need to hold anything back, and he showed one of the quickest arms in the system while regularly showing 94-99 mph fastballs mixed with an inconsistent curve that flashed plus but was sometimes was thrown too slowly to be effective. He also has been working to add a splitter. Chiefly on the strength of his fastball, Cosart dominated at low Class A Greenville and high Class A Salem in 2016, where he posted a combined 1.78 ERA with 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings. There were times when Cosart made opponents look bad, but in other instances, his rotational, max-effort delivery created struggles with his release point and resulted in the same control problems that plagued him as a starter. His walk rate of 4.6 per nine innings underscores that. On the right day, Cosart has the weapons to out-stuff batters at lower levels, though his mechanics may make it hard to achieve consistent effectiveness. He needs to improve his control and secondary stuff to emerge as a big league option.
Scott barely pitched in two years at Florida State, so he not surprisingly went undrafted after his senior year in 2011. But he was determined to pursue a pro career, so he ended up pitching for Jose Canseco's team in the independent (and now defunct) North American League. After six relief appearances, Scott showed enough to convince Red Sox scout Al Nipper to sign him after the first inning of his first pro start. Scott thus began the long, deliberate journey up the ladder. The ascent culminated more than five years later with seven scoreless appearances in September 2016. Scott throws strikes using two deliveries--a relatively conventional, over-the-top approach from which he mixes three pitches (85-88 mph fastball, curveball, changeup) against righties and a sidearm delivery from which he uses just fastballs and sliders against lefties. Same-side batters have a difficult time tracking him, creating a clear path to a big league role as a matchup reliever. Scott held Triple-A lefties to a .147 average with 30 percent strikeouts in 2016, and big league lefties looked only marginally better. While he lacks electrifying stuff or a glamorous projected role, he's shown he can be a valuable long-term bullpen piece.
Martin, a towering, 6-foot-7 righthander, threw sidearm for a time in college, but his return to an over-the-top delivery as a senior clicked in a way that made him an attractive draft candidate as a senior. The Red Sox made him a ninth-round pick because they liked how he could leverage his fastball down in the zone and use his changeup to get chases off of his heater. That view has largely held in a level-by-level progression in the Red Sox system, and it culminated in a strong showing at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2016 in which Martin forged a 3.38 ERA, including a 2.29 mark in his final 35 innings. While he throws his low- to mid-90s fastball for strikes, his lack of precise location results in the offering getting hit hard at times. Still, Martin's willingness to throw his fastball for strikes allows him to sell a plus changeup (while also incorporating a slider) that helped him to punch out 10.5 batters per nine innings in 2016. The Red Sox added Martin to the 40-man roster in November, so he represents an obvious major league depth option in 2017.
Aybar remains an all-tools exercise in projection. A "colt" in the eyes of one evaluator who, like many others, sees a fantastic athlete who has yet to translate his tools to performance. Aybar hit .207/.247/.315 with a 26 percent strikeout rate at short-season Lowell in 2016. Despite the lack of in-game impact, Aybar is too young to abandon hope--he turned 19 in the middle of the New York-Penn League season. He showed a willingness to work and try to refine his crude tools even through his struggles. He has an elite arm and moves well enough in center field to suggest the possibility of plus defense. If he finds a swing and approach that works, Aybar has a chance to deliver above-average across-the-board impact. If not, he might not make it past Double-A--unless he is converted to the mound.
Bautista turned 19 not long after signing with the Red Sox in April 2013 and performed well as a starter in the Dominican Summer League in 2014 and Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2015. He showed explosive stuff in his move to the bullpen in 2016, mixing a 95-100 mph fastball with an above-average high-80s slider that has a chance to be a second plus offering. This allowed Bautista to impress evaluators while making the transition from short-season Lowell (where he had a 0.87 ERA) to low Class A Greenville in 2016. He throws with some funk in his stride and delivery, particularly with a dip that occurs with his lower half that can create inconsistency in his ability to throw strikes. But when Bautista is on, he shows the possibility of two plus weapons that creates a potential set-up reliever ceiling. Because of the work he faces in locking in his delivery, Bautista remains far from the big leagues, but he does have more upside than many of the relief prospects in the Red Sox system.
Since the Red Sox selected Taylor as a senior sign out of South Alabama in 2015, he has shown that his impressive college strikeout numbers (14.3 per nine innings as a senior) were no fluke. He continues to miss bats with a fastball that peaks at 96 mph with deception, and he complements the pitch with a slider that has shown the potential to miss bats but is inconsistent. Taylor struck out well over a batter per inning at both high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2016, pitching well enough at both levels that he could open 2017 at Triple-A Pawtucket. He has the upside of a Kevin Jepsen-type reliever, a seventh-inning contributor who offers a bit of a different look with the ability to miss bats with his fastball at the top of the strike zone. Taylor receives high marks for his makeup and willingness to work, and he is nearly big league ready.
In his first full season in the Red Sox organization, Ysla showed the power lefthanded arm that drew Boston to him in the August 2015 trade that sent Alejandro De Aza to the Giants. Ysla sits in the mid-90s with a two-plane fastball that misses bats. That pitch alone should play in the majors if he can throw it for strikes, though its value is mitigated by the fact that he hasn't developed a consistent secondary pitch as a complement. Given that Ysla's fastball tends to cut to his glove side, he showed significant reverse splits while working as a reliever in 2016. Righthanded batters hit just .225 against him at Double-A Portland (plus one Triple-A appearance) while lefties mashed him at a .321/.404/.523 clip. Still, he struck out 30 percent of the lefties he faced. If he improves his slider and uses it to attack the inner part of the plate, he could emerge as the primary lefthanded bullpen option on the farm, particularly now that the Red Sox have added him to the 40-man roster.
In his first pro season in 2015, Shepherd showed the sort of strike-throwing ability with a three-pitch mix that allowed him to perform well out of the bullpen at two Class A levels (62-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio) and the Arizona Fall League. He carried that success into a dominant start to the 2016 campaign at Double-A Portland, where he posted a 1.80 ERA and held opponents to a .139 average while striking out 11.7 per nine innings. Shepherd's numbers were less impressive after a midyear promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, with his strikeout rate falling off by roughly a half. Still, he continued to throw strikes with a three-pitch mix of a low-90s fastball, a curveball that has gotten swings and misses and a changeup. Shepherd's command is above-average, and with adjustments to his pitch sequencing, he could have a future as a middle-relief option.
The Red Sox named Cedrola their Latin American program player of the year in 2015 after he hit .321/.420/.415 in the Dominican Summer League. He followed that performance with another strong showing in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2016, when he hit .290 and led the GCL with 62 hits and 14 doubles while ranking fourth with 33 runs scored. Though an excellent athlete and plus runner, Cedrola is physically limited. His barrel control allows him to make contact at a high rate (he struck out just 12 percent of the time in 2016), while giving him just enough gap power to sometimes undermine a more sound approach predicated on shooting line drives to all fields. Still, between his contact skills, plus range in center field and average arm, he has a clear path to being at least a reserve outfielder--and possibly a quality fourth outfielder. In games, Cedrola has been a catalyst and a gamer, with two-way impact that has captured the notice of opponents as well as his own organization.
In his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2016, Coca impressed by displaying his instincts, athleticism, advanced middle-of-the-field defensive ability and bat-to-ball skills. That combination suggests the possibility of a future everyday shortstop, albeit with a long developmental road in front of him to see if such a ceiling is realistic. Coca's athleticism and footwork allowed him to move well at shortstop, a position where he showed an average arm. Though he has below-average power, he delivered a .308/.372/.408 batting line. The switch-hitter shows the ability to make frequent contact, manage the strike zone and generate liners that found the gap, all while featuring a bit more raw power from the left side of the plate. One evaluator suggested that he has some similarities to a young Starlin Castro.
Nogosek concluded three years of dominance at Oregon with a 1.11 ERA and 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings as a junior in 2016, but those numbers told an incomplete story. In the middle of the season, he developed a wicked slider to accompany a fastball that had topped out at 96 mph. In the eyes of Red Sox area scout Justin Horowitz and national pitching cross-checker Chris Mears, Nogosek became a different pitcher down the stretch with that additional weapon, and Boston selected him in the sixth round. His fastball is an impressive offering due both to its velocity and its spin rate that can carry it over the barrel of opponents' bats. Nogosek's plus slider allowed the 21-year-old to hit the ground running in while working as a reliever in his pro debut. He reached low Class A Greenville in August and in 20 combined appearances he recorded a 3.62 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 10 walks in 27 innings. Given his clear development path as a reliever, Nogosek has a chance to move aggressively towards the big leagues in the next two years.
The Red Sox signed Mata late in the 2015 international signing period, waiting until Jan. 2016 to sign him as a 16-year old out of Venezuela. Physically, Mata looked like a man among boys in his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2016. The 6-foot-3 righthander has both the frame and delivery to suggest the possibility of durability, while his quick arm already has him working up to 94 mph. Mata's performance likewise distinguished the young pitcher. He recorded a 1.55 ERA over his last dozen DSL starts (regular season and playoffs), while his three-pitch mix (fastball, curveball, changeup) is headlined by a heater that projects as a plus offering. His curve and changeup both flash average at times, and their development will determine whether his likelier projection is in the bullpen or as a starter.
A second-round pick in 2012, Callahan's career advanced deliberately as a starter and even after his transition to the bullpen in 2015. But after a poor start in 2016 at high Class A Salem, he turned what had been a slurvy breaking ball into a hard slider that became a weapon by midseason. Callahan's numbers reflected the transformative significance of the pitch, both in his arsenal (chiefly that power slider and a fastball that sits at 94-96 mph) as well as his confidence and aggressiveness. After he recorded a 4.32 ERA with 7.9 strikeouts and 5.7 walks per nine innings in the first half of 2016, he dominated in the second half with a 2.23 ERA with 10.0 strikeouts and 4.7 walks per nine. He carried that performance into the Arizona Fall League, posting a 0.75 ERA with 12 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings while recording a pair of saves. Callahan needs to work on execution with a fastball that gets fewer swings and misses than expected, but if he starts to command that pitch up in the zone, he has a chance to emerge as a big league middle reliever.
Baldwin hasn't found a positional home yet while shuttling between catcher and third base--positions where he did not distinguish himself in 2016--but his bat will keep him progressing up the ladder. He struggled at the outset of 2016 at low Class A Greenville, hitting .235/.275/.382, but when he moved back to the New York-Penn League, he showed the ability to make regular loud contact, pounding the ball at a .305/.358/.442 clip with 10 extra-base hits in 25 games. Even if Baldwin ends up being a below-average defender at catcher, third, and first, that kind of corner versatility in combination with the ability to hit for average with some pop gives him a chance emerge as a valuable reserve, particularly given what he's shown against lefties (.311/.333/.475 in 2016 in Lowell and Greenville). The coming season will be a significant one for Baldwin to prove that he's ready to keep moving up the ladder in full-season ball, but if he cements the impressions that his bat has produced with short-season affiliates, his appeal will grow.
Signed for just $7,500 out of Venezuela in 2013, Hernandez jumped from the Dominican Summer League in 2015 to short-season Lowell for his U.S. debut in 2016. He showed a fastball that featured power up to 96 mph and natural cut that, in concert with the deception in his low three-quarters delivery, generated swings and misses in volume. He struck out 26 percent of batters in in the New York-Penn League in 2016 to rank ninth among pitchers with at least 40 innings. While Hernandez has worked as a starter to date, given the dominance of his fastball and his work-in-progress secondary offerings, it's easier to imagine him in a future relief role. He switched from a curveball to a slider, and he could be taught a split-finger fastball in the future. The cut on his pitches suggests the potential to emerge as a full-inning pitcher as opposed to a left-on-left guy, though in addition to developing a consistent secondary offering, Hernandez will also need to improve his well below-average control. He recorded the highest walk rate (16 percent) in the NYPL in 2016, but that should improve as he continues his physical maturation.
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