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Groome was viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft as a standout talent who as a teenager had a big league frame, low-effort velocity and a swing-and-miss curveball that made it easy to imagine an impact starter. He fell to No. 12 due to both signability and off-field concerns, but the Red Sox felt comfortable with his makeup and were thrilled at the chance to select someone with such a high ceiling, and they signed him for a just-above-slot $3.65 million. Groome's full-season debut in 2017 proved rocky. He left his first start at low Class A Greenville with an intercostal strain that sidelined him for two months and later experienced minor forearm soreness that ended his season in mid-August. During the season, his father was arrested on drug and weapons charges. In between those challenges, Groome showed inconsistent but promising flashes of the stuff. With a tall, upright delivery and the ability to spin a hammer curveball to pair with elevated four-seam fastballs, Groome already harbors similarities with Drew Pomeranz. While he worked in the low 90s for most of his injury-riddled 2017, he's expected to gain velocity with more exposure to a professional conditioning program. He's still learning how best to employ a changeup, but evaluators believe that his natural ability to manipulate the ball will give him the ability to emerge with at least a solid-average pitch, while anticipating that his ability to spin the ball will allow him to develop a quality cutter. His cutter, in turn, could allow him to open the plate in a way that allows him to move beyond some of the pitch efficiency challenges he endured in 2017. His athleticism and easy ability to generate power from his delivery suggest that, despite walking 4.9 per nine innings in 2017, he has a chance to develop above-average control. With Chris Sale reaching out to Groome to work out with him during the offseason, the Red Sox are optimistic that the young lefthander will be ready to hit the ground running in 2018. He should be able to gain momentum at Greenville before an in-season move to high Class A Salem. He'll be pitching nearly all of 2018 as a 19-year-old, suggesting little need to rush across levels. If he can remain healthy, his anticipated pitch development suggests a possibility of a No. 2 or No. 3 starter.
After struggling in 2015 and 2016 with a crude offensive approach and injuries, Chavis made a concerted effort to address those concerns in 2017. He took extensive notes about everything from his pregame routine and pitch-by-pitch sequences of his plate appearances, starting in spring training. That meticulous approach set the stage for a breakout season in which Chavis blasted 31 homers to rank fifth in the minors) and 68 extra-base hits (third), marks that had several evaluators identifying him as the system's top prospect.Chavis uses phenomenal bat speed and a strong core to generate standout power from his compact frame. While he proved hyper-aggressive in his attempt to drive the ball 600 feet in previous years, he showed a greater commitment to maintain his balance, stay back and drive the ball to all fields in 2017, particularly at high Class A Salem. That approach led to both a career-low 21.6 percent strikeout rate and impressive displays of in-game power. Defensively, Chavis likewise made significant improvements to the point that many evaluators now believe he can be playable at third base. Chavis has middle-of-the-order power, though his relatively low walk rates (7.4 percent in 2017) suggest more of a future No. 6 hitter in the mold of a Mike Moustakas than a No. 3 or 4 hitter. Even though he had balanced left/right splits in 2017, some evaluators wonder whether he'll end up being a platoon contributor. With Rafael Devers at third base, the Red Sox exposed Chavis to first base in the Arizona Fall League, and he also has the potential to add left field and perhaps second base to the corner infield positions. His spring training will dictate whether he opens 2018 at Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket.
After strong performances in his freshman and sophomore seasons as well as a solid showing for Team USA in 2016, Houck entered 2017 as a preseason All-American. Yet despite another solid year in the Southeastern Conference, his anticipated dominance as a junior didn't materialize, leaving a pitcher projected as a potential top-10 pick on the board for the Red Sox at No. 24, where the Red Sox jumped at a chance to take a pitcher who it saw as having potentially untapped upside. Houck features a low three-quarters arm slot and a cross-body delivery, with moving parts that create deception but also pose challenges for his mechanical consistency. While his velocity was down at the start of his junior year, he was once again sitting at 92-93 mph and topping out at 97 by the end of the year, with a nasty two-seamer that evoked comparisons with Jake Peavy and Kevin Brown. He also threw a slider that came on as a wipeout offering. The Red Sox believe that with his ability to spin the ball from a low arm slot, he has a chance to generate more swings and misses by using his slider off an elevated four-seamer. They also plan to introduce a cutter, changeup and two-seam fastball to the mix. Houck's fastball and slider offer a solid floor of a late-inning reliever, but if he can broaden his mix with the addition of a cutter and development of a changeup, he has mid-rotation potential. After a pro debut that saw Houck acclimate to a five-day routine and incorporate a four-seamer, He will open his first full pro season in 2018 at one of the Class A affiliates.
Signed for $25,000, Mata has stood out since entering the system for the maturity of both his stuff and demeanor, traits that earned him a late-May assignment at low Class A Greenville, making him the youngest pitcher in the South Atlantic League. Mata's clean delivery allows him to attack the strike zone with a three-pitch mix anchored by a four-seamer that typically sits at 91-92 mph, tops out at 94 mph, and has a chance to gain additional ticks as he fills out. His arm speed and consistent release point create good sell on a changeup that has late fade, creating the potential for a plus offering that he uses for swings and misses. Though his 77-78 mph curveball hasn't been a swing-and-miss offering, it has depth and he can throw it for strikes., giving him a potential mix of three pitches that are average or better. Projected above-average command will allow his pitch mix to play up. As an 18-year-old, Mata showed the potential to advance quickly. If his breaking ball doesn't progress, then his future may be in the bullpen. But if Mata gains more consistency with the pitch while gaining additional power on his fastball, he has the upside of a No. 3 or No. 4 starter.
Brannen stood out in the showcases following his junior year of high school, offering glimpses of a potential five-tool talent with his move to the outfield. Surgery to repair a broken hamate prior to the start of his senior year contributed to a slow start. Brannen fell to the second round of the 2017 draft, where but over the season he once again displayed the tools that had drawn the Sox to him entering the year, with the Red Sox signed him for an above-slot $1.3 million. He started well in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before hitting a wall in August as he wore down in the Florida humidity. Brannen possesses elite speed and athleticism that serve as the cornerstone of his projections, giving him a chance to be a true center fielder (once experience permits him to take cleaner routes to the ball) while also elevating his offensive impact. He's shown advanced plate discipline and solid bat-to-ball skills that suggest a top-of-the-order skill set of high averages and on-base percentages, strong stolen base totals, and the ability to take an extra base. He showed the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field as an amateur, but it remains to be seen whether his strength is playable or whether he's a line-drive hitter whose ability to use the opposite field would play well at Fenway Park. Brannen will be a candidate to open 2018 at low Class A Greenville. He has one of the highest ceilings of any Red Sox position player and represents the system's best up-the-middle prospect in the U.S. While it will take years to get a read on how his offense plays against professionals, his tools permit the Sox to daydream.
Signed out of Venezuela for $25,000, Hernandez has shown stuff matched by few others in the Red Sox system. He has struck out more than a batter per inning as a starter across three consecutive levels, including a strong performance at low Class A Greenville in 2017, where his success was a product of stuff, because his abilities remained relatively unrefined. Hernandez makes hitters uncomfortable with his low three-quarters arm slot, coming at them aggressively with 93-96 mph fastballs that top out at 97. His fastball can be so overwhelming to lower-level hitters that it may have slowed the development of his secondary pitches. Though his primary breaking pitch has been a curveball, his arm slot has long seemed suited to a slider. He used the pitch sparingly for most of 2017 before, in his final outing, leaning heavily on it in a dominant performance. While his walk rate remains high (4.3 per nine innings in 2017), it represented a major improvement over 2016 (6.7). Poor control is a major stumbling block after walking 4.3 per nine innings in 2017. Hernandez's fastball and slider give him the look of a pitcher with at least late-innings potential–lefties hit .134 with a 37 percent strikeout rate against him–and if he can improve his control, he has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter.
After his 2016 season was cut short by a blown out ACL in his knee, Travis got off to a strong start in spring training but endured an uneven season. At times, he looked like a hitter who controlled the strike zone and did a good job identifying pitches on which he could make hard contact, with a May surge at Triple-A Pawtucket setting the stage for his first big league callup. However, from that point, his year became disjointed, with occasional contributions as a big league platoon option but he provided little sustained impact. Despite his 2017 inconsistencies, Travis still has the foundation of a strong offensive approach, with an ability to identify pitches he can hit hard and barreling them while limiting his swings and misses (10.8 percent walk rate, 16.7 percent strikeout rate)thanks to strong strikeout and walk rates. His flat-plane bat path, however, has resulted in line drives rather than the power of a first base prototype, resulting in questions of whether he'll hit enough to be an everyday player or if he'll fall more into the mold of a platoon bat against lefthanders. (He pounded southpaws in Pawtucket and the big leagues.) Defensively, Travis made considerable progress at first base, and he also gained exposure to left field in the Dominican League. Most evaluators agree that Travis soon will be ready to help in the big leagues but remain divided on his potential role. The 2018 season may be pivotal in shaping Travis' future. If he can make swing adjustments to turn raw strength into in-game power, he could carve out a big league role, but a return to Pawtucket is likely until he proves he has the power needed from a first baseman.
After a dominant sophomore year at Maryland (1.71 ERA, 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings), Shawaryn's draft stock slipped thanks to a less-impressive draft season. The Terrapins ace pitched more to contact as a junior. He went 6-4, 3.18 as a junior, while his strikeout rate dipped and his walk rate got worse. The 2016 fifth-round pick elevated his strikeout rate in 2017, ranking 11th among full-season minor league starters with 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings at two Class A levels. Shawaryn has the frame and thick core of a starter. His low three-quarters release point, somewhat evocative of Max Scherzer, challenged hitters to recognize whether he was throwing his low-90s fastball or a slider that frequently became a chase pitch. In 2017, Shawaryn showed increasing comfort elevating a four-seamer, creating a greater vertical spread of his arsenal. He's working to add a changeup with depth that will give him greater freedom to attack both sides of the plate. Shawaryn's swing-and-miss slider and fastball offer a floor of a reliever. If he can improve his changeup, he could be an innings-eating No. 4 starter. He'll likely open 2018 at Double-A Portland, but his ability to attack the strike zone with his pitch mix could allow him to move up during the season.
A few years ago, Scherff was one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the sophomore class as he could already get to 92-93 mph. But Scherff admits he wasn't mature enough to yet understand the work involved in keeping that velocity. He gained weight as the summer wore on and he wore down, losing 5-6 mph off his fastball. Scherff learned from the experience, upper his workout regime, dropped 40 pounds of bad weight, regained his velocity and turned himself into one of the better arms in the 2017 draft class. Scherff claimed Gatorade Texas player of the year honors in 2017 after going 8-0, 0.44 and striking out 89 in 48 innings as a senior at Colleyville (Texas) Heritage. His performance made him a consideration for the Red Sox with their first-round pick. While signability concerns pushed him into the fifth round, he passed on a scholarship at Texas A&M to sign for $700,000. He didn't pitch after signing, but the Red Sox said that he was healthy but with a heavy spring workload they kept him out of any official outings. Scherff, a former linebacker in football, has a number of delivery traits--size, strength, athleticism, repeatability--that suggest starter potential, and his command of a low- to mid-90s fastball that tops out around 97 mph is unusual for a high school pitcher. He shows some late fade on his changeup, which could become a swing-and-miss weapon. His curveball is inconsistent but flashes the potential to be a decent third pitch. That arsenal gives Scherff a chance to start, though his ability to generate tremendous arm speed from a relatively upright/low-extension delivery might eventually push him to the bullpen. Scherff will have an opportunity to open at low Class A Greenville in 2018. If he solidifies a three-pitch mix anchored by an elite fastball, he has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter, though it's also easy to imagine him complementing his fastball with one swing-and-miss secondary option as a reliever, with a fallback option of two-pitch, late-game reliever.
Acquired from the Cubs for Felix Doubront in 2014, Hernandez stood out at times in 2015 and 2016 for the electricity of his tools. He opened 2017 in the big leagues as a utility infielder, though when given a chance to take over at third base, he struggled defensively while providing only modest offense. Hernandez dealt with ongoing left shoulder subluxations that required season-ending surgery. Hernandez's quick-twitch athleticism and strong wrists help generate bat speed and frequent firm contact. His extremely aggressive approach and flat-plane swing limit his power and mean that much of his offensive value is built around his batting average and above-average speed–and on the latter front, his stolen-base figures don't align with his raw speed. Defensively, he's shown the potential for average to above-average defense at second base and playable defense at shortstop, though a player who struggles with his game clock he has yet to look comfortable at third base. Hernandez's recovery from shoulder surgery serves as a wild card for 2018. With Dustin Pedroia out for at least the first two months of 2018, Hernandez will have a chance to claim playing time at second base. He has a chance to be a second-division starter at the position or a lefthanded-hitting utility infielder.
In his first two full pro seasons, Beeks flashed interesting components but did so in inconsistent fashion. In 2017, however, he regained the impressive depth to his changeup that he showed in Greenville in 2015 while developing a cutter that he could use to get on the hands of righties, thus opening up the plate for a two-plane, low-90s fastball and an average curveball in a campaign that altered the view of his abilities. In his third straight season of making all 26 of his starts, Beeks saw his strikeout rate jump to 25.6 percent while seeing a healthy uptick in his groundball rate--a noteworthy development given concerns that as a shorter pitcher, he could be susceptible to fly balls and homers based on the plane of his pitches. Beeks' four-pitch mix of solid average to slightly above-average pitches coupled with a high mound IQ and impressive competitiveness suggest a pitcher with a chance to contribute as a spot starter in 2018 with a chance to emerge as a solid No. 5 starter.
Ockimey continued to show impressive pole-to-pole raw power along with advanced plate discipline (his 83 walks ranked ninth in the minors) while posting a .274/.385/.436 line with 14 homers for high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland. Ockimey features an open stance with little shorter stride and reduced lower body movement, instead relying on his hands and impressive core and upper body strength to drive the ball. It's an approach that also comes with plenty of swing-and-miss (he struck out in 26.1 percent of plate appearances) and raises questions about whether he'll be a low-average, three-true-outcomes hitter. Evaluators are split on whether he'll continue to make sufficient defensive improvements to stay at first base or if he'll need to DH. There's also a concern among some that Ockimey might only be a platoon player. Still, there's enough power in the bat to give him opportunities, and his work ethic and makeup suggest that he'll maximize his talents. Ockimey should return to Double-A to begin 2018, with a chance to move to Triple-A in the second half. If he succeeds at the upper levels, he'll do quite a bit toward improving his stock.
Thompson was one of the top college performers of 2017, going 14-1, 1.96 at Oregon State. However, his sinker/slider combination (which gained deception thanks to some herky-jerky funk in his delivery) seemed solid, perhaps the stuff of a depth starter or middle reliever. Yet when Thompson joined the Sox, he informed team officials that he had a curveball and a changeup that he'd rarely used in college, and he also proved amenable to shifting to a four-seamer that topped out at 96 mph in seven outings of two or fewer innings with short-season Lowell in his pro debut. One Sox official after another who saw Thompson emerged raving about an explosive fastball he used to fill up the zone, accompanied by an ability to spin a slider, get action on his changeup, and mix in some solid curveballs. In a brief glimpse, the Sox are hopeful that they may have found a sleeper with No. 4 or 5 potential. If Thompson doesn't stick in that role, his fastball and slider have late-innings potential. He'll get his first chance at full-season ball in 2018, likely with a trip to low Class A Greenville.
There's plenty of risk associated with a player who has yet to play an official game of pro ball, but Diaz showed tremendous size and strength as a 16-year-old July 2 signee by the Red Sox. As an amateur, he was lauded as one of the best hitters in the class and ranked as the No. 7 international prospect in the 2017 class. While he's demonstrated standout power that runs from the left-field line to right-center, the Sox also saw an impressive feel to hit and an ability to impact the ball while generating loft. Diaz has above-average raw power and projects to have 60-grade raw poweronce he's fully developed. He gets in trouble when he hunts for home runs and lets his swing get long. Though scouted as a shortstop, the Sox moved Diaz to third once he entered their system, and the Red Sox believe he has the glove and the plus arm to make the hot corner his long-term home. If that isn't the case, Diaz could move over to first base and have his bat profile at the position. He's posted average run times as an amateur, but could slow down as he gets older.
After he shuttled between catcher and third base in his early pro career, Baldwin flourished in his first everyday opportunity as a catcher in 2017. He performed solidly on offense with 14 home runs in 95 games, and scouts see a line-drive hitter who combines a slightly lofted bat path with a strong, powerful frame. Baldwin does need to work to increase his 4.8 percent walk rate, though. Although he threw out 33 percent (41 of 124) of runners trying to steal, evaluators see a catcher with suspect footwork and inconsistent throws. Sometimes that footwork would lead to throws in the dirt before reaching the bag, while others would sail into center field. He needs work as a receiver, too. He stabs at balls when trying to frame and lets them travel too deep in the zone. Scouts also noticed that he had particular trouble handling sinkers to his gloveside. Baldwin's future may be as a catcher/corner infielder, but given the lack of quality catching prospects in the minors, it would be smart for the Red Sox to continue giving him chances to stay behind the plate. Baldwin will likely head to high Class A Salem in 2018.
Though Dalbec propelled Arizona to the brink of a championship with his work on the mound in the 2016 College World Series, he remained resolute in his preference to pursue a career as a position player. Dalbec made a spectacular short-season debut with Lowell that year, showing immense power and a better-than-expected offensive approach while hitting .386/.427/.674. But in 2017, a difficult start was quickly compounded by wrist soreness and a broken hamate, the latter of which required surgery. While injuries played a role in some of his approach challenges, Dalbec endured extreme difficulties making contact, striking out in a shocking 37.4 percent of plate appearances with low Class A Greenville while hitting .246/.345/.427. There were particular concerns about his inability to recognize breaking balls and a tendency to swing through hittable fastballs in the strike zone. Those woes were sufficient to have some evaluators writing off Dalbec, but others remained convinced that injuries rendered the 2017 season insufficient to overlook Dalbec's top-of-the-charts raw power and potentially strong third base defense. He represents as much of a boom-or-bust prospect as the Red Sox have.
The Red Sox signed Flores for $1.4 million based on a diverse complement of tools, including a shortstop's athleticism and arm strength and an advanced feel to hit with potential doubles power. He's also been praised in the past for his knowledge of the game, which is advanced for a player his age. Flores has a skinny frame now, but there's plenty of room for projection still. Some liken the wiry shortstop to a young Alcides Escobar, identifying a player whose future will be on the left side of the infield with enough offensive potential to give him a chance many years down the road of emerging as an everyday option. One minor ding scouts found was with Flores' throwing arm. Its overall strength was solid-average, but he tended to throw from a lower, less accurate slot. The lack of power or elite speed limits Flores' upside, but his feel for the game gives him the potential to make the most of the tools that he does have and to emerge as a big league regular.
Netzer showed a consistently sound offensive approach at Charlotte, posting a .342/.425/.509 line with more walks (29) than strikeouts (27) as a junior. He also got a bit of a boost from a pair of strong summers--first in the Ripken League in 2015 where he ranked as the No. 8 prospect, then in 2016 in the Cape Cod League. Netzer makes steady, hard contact while controlling the strike zone, a combination that has tended to yield some undervalued college players in the draft. His hit tool is his calling card because of a strong knowledge of the strike zone and above-average bat speed. He projects to have gap power, or perhaps a tick better. Still, a hitter who seemingly represents a quality eight-hole option with a chance to move rapidly up the ladder stands out in a system that is short on middle-of-the-field players. He played to those expectations in his first pro summer, hitting .317/.376/.390 with short-season Lowell before moving up to low Class A Greenville, where he performed modestly in the final month of the regular season. His defense is closer to average or a tick below. Netzer should return to Greenville to start the year with a chance to finish at high Class A Salem.
Maddox endured an undistinguished first few years in the Red Sox's system, a period in which he didn't move beyond Class A while struggling on the field and missing time due to off-field issues. But starting in 2016, Maddox's velocity--roughly 91-92 mph at the beginning of 2016--started to creep up, and he impressed as a non-roster invitee in spring training, becoming one of the final cups of camp. When he finally got his big league opportunity, he was determined to take advantage of it, attacking the strike zone with a four-seam fastball that sat at 93-96 mph with sink and tail, an offering he complemented with a changeup that showed enough depth to create an effective north-south mix against big league hitters. He also features an occasional slider that scouts think could be average in the future. The mix was enough to earn Maddox a surprise spot on Boston's playoff roster. Maddox lacks a true plus out pitch that would give him a clear path to a setup role, but he showed the ability to be a useful big league bullpen piece in 2018 on the strength of his fastball.
Velazquez represented a considerable success in the Sox's concerted effort to expand their scouting efforts in the Mexican League–the cost of acquiring prospects is less expensive for international slot bonus purposes because only the amount paid to the player counts toward the bonus slots, while the amount paid to the team does not. The Sox acquired Velazquez's rights from Campeche after a 2016 season that saw him win the league's pitcher of the year honors for the second time in his career, believing he could emerge as a solid rotation depth option despite a lack of knockout stuff. Velazquez did just that, carving both sides of the strike zone with a sinking fastball that sat at 90 mph and topped out at 94, while mixing in enough split-changeups and sliders to stay off the barrels of hitters in both Triple-A and the big leagues. He also mixed in a cut fastball in the high-80s that scouts believe could be a tick above-average at its best. Velazquez has shown enough of a feel for pitching, command, deception, and guts to look like a solid depth starter who could emerge as No. 5 starter on some teams. Velazquez is likely to return to Triple-A Pawtucket in 2018 but could make starts in the big leagues if needed.
Lin represented a player with a diverse skill set--the glove and arm to play shortstop, speed, and good bat-to-ball skills--that the Red Sox signed him out of Taiwan for a $2.05 million bonus in 2012. The on- and off-field cultural transition proved long and challenging, with Lin's offensive passivity holding back his progression through the system. This spring, Sox officials challenged Lin to use some of the strength in his swing and to focus on hard contact even if it meant an uptick in swings and misses. The message took and set the stage for something of a revelation, with Lin earning a big league promotion after hitting .302/.379/.491 in 48 games to start the year in Double-A. He gave the Sox a midsummer spark, hitting .268/.369/.339 in 23 big league games before spending most of the season's remainder Triple-A Pawtucket. Defensively, Lin added impressive work in centerfield to already solid defense at short, second, and third. That versatility, in combination with high contact rates, the ability to shoot gaps with his liners, and good baserunning speed suggest a player who could have a lengthy career as a valuable utility man.
After his 2016 season with high Class A Salem was halted by a stress fracture in his right elbow tip, Lakins returned to the Carolina League to open 2017 and looked as impressive as any pitcher in the Red Sox system. Lakins improved his strike-throwing by moving from the first- to the third-base side of the rubber, and a tightened his slider into a swing-and-miss pitch that complemented a mid-90s fastball and a potentially above-average curveball and changeup. But after Lakins went 5-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 27.7 percent strikeout rate in seven starts in Salem, his season ground to a halt following a promotion to Double-A, where he went 0-4, 6.23 with a 13.8 percent strikeout rate in eight starts before getting shut down with a recurrence of his elbow stress fracture. Scouts also noted that Lakins needs to focus on keeping the ball down in the zone. At his best, Lakins' four-pitch arsenal continues to show mid-rotation potential, and the Sox plan to continue his development as a starter, but some evaluators wonder whether narrowing his repertoire to a fastball/slider pairing as a reliever will become necessary to protect his elbow.
Once seemingly on the cusp of claiming a long-term spot in Boston's rotation, Johnson has endured a challenging three-year span in which he's been sidelined both while seeking treatment for anxiety and dealt with numerous injuries and that have led to a steady drop in his velocity and power. A pitcher who worked at 88-92 mph in 2014, Johnson now typically sits at 87-89 mph while occasionally cracking 90-91 mph. Yet while that velocity gives him little margin for error, he understands how to mix with his fastball, still above-average to plus curveball, changeup, and slider, with pitchability that allowed the Sox to go 5-0 in his five big league spot starts in 2017. It's possible that Johnson could still see an uptick in velocity if he emphasizes explosiveness rather than a rocking-chair rhythm to his delivery, and Sox officials are hopeful that his planned exposure to the bullpen in spring training could aid that process. Johnson's feel for pitching is good enough that even a small bump in the power of his stuff could allow him to realize his ceiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter or multi-innings reliever.
Martinez slipped through the scouting cracks, permitting the Red Sox to sign the wiry righty with intriguing arm speed to a bonus of just $5,000 as a 19-year-old in early 2016. Martinez has done nothing but dominate while moving through the system in a late-innings role, combining standout velocity (96-98 mph) with a slider that was inconsistent but had moments that it could be evaluated as a potential plus pitch with plenty of refinement. Martinez forged a 1.11 ERA in 32.1 innings split between short-season Lowell and low Class A Greenville in 2017. He hasn't struck out as many batters (24.8 percent in 2017) as might be expected from the power of his fastball, but the arm-side action on the pitch has kept it off barrels and allowed him to pitch in to righthanders, making him a very uncomfortable at-bat. A number of mechanical improvements would also help Martinez's stock. Namely, he needs to add deception to his delivery, work to get over his front side more often and stay on line toward home plate. If he can accomplish that, Martinez has back-end potential with a chance to move quickly as a strike-thrower on a straight relief track.
De La Guerra immediately showed a surprising ability to hit after entering the Red Sox's system following a four-year college career, but with questions about whether he had the defensive ability to move up the ladder as a solid utility option. In 2017, however, De La Guerra held his own in the field while playing mostly shortstop, and he showed likewise solid offensive ability at both high Class A and Double-A, posting a combined .283/.361/.437 line with 43 extra-base hits. One evaluator referred to him as an “intangibles giant” whose instincts permit him to play at a level beyond his tools. While second base is his best position, he now profiles as a reliable utility option who can play at shortstop or third base as well with more bat than is typically found in that role. The Red Sox sent De La Guerra to the Arizona Fall League at season's end, and he saw time at mostly second and third base with one game of shortstop mixed in as well. He's not far from big league ready.
The Sox took Chatham out of Florida Atlantic as arguably the top college shortstop prospect in the 2016 draft and signed him to a slightly underslot bonus of $1.1 million. He's a player with the glove and arm for the position along with the power to elicit J.J. Hardy comps. Chatham showed that power in his junior season with FAU when he led Conference USA with a 1.017 OPS. But near the end of spring training in 2017, Chatham felt a pop in his hamstring that required six weeks of rehab. When he finally got to low Class A Greenville, he re-aggravated the hamstring injury in his first game, essentially wiping out his first full pro season. This comes after he played through a bone chip in his right wrist during his draft year. Because he's so tall and rangy, there were questions coming out of the draft about whether he'd be able to stick at shortstop in the long-term. Chatham's bat speed and defense suggest a player with the tools to profile as an everyday shortstop--particularly if the all-fields approach that he showed in spring training is sustainable--but it's hard to anticipate how he'll be impacted by the lost year of player development.
As a converted outfielder who is now four years into his career as a pitcher, it's not surprising to see Jerez continuing to develop as he moves through the upper levels. The 2017 season represented a sizable step forward for the lefthanded reliever. Jerez has a heavy four-seam fastball that sits at 93-96 mph and a slider in the mid-to-high-80s that helped him hold lefties to a .182/.264/.221 with a 26.1 percent strikeout rate. He also developed a splitter this year that gave him a pitch that got righthanders off his fastball and helped him excel over a nearly two-month midsuummer stretch in Portland and pave the way for both a season-ending promotion to Triple-A and a return to the Red Sox's 40-man roster. The final step for Jerez is to drive his pitches down in the zone consistently and work to not get his delivery out of sync to the point that he yanks his fastball out of the zone. At the least, Jerez appears to have a good shot at emerging as a power left-on-left option, and if he can gain greater consistency with the splitter, he could emerge as a solid middle-innings contributor.
The Red Sox found Esplin at the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and liked his line-drive stroke and present strength and power. That was enough to take him in the seventh round. Though Esplin features unusual size for a high schooler, the Sox were taken with the fact that despite standing at 6-foot-4, Esplin demonstrated balance at the plate, athleticism, excellent makeup, and an understanding of how to drive the ball in the air to all fields. In a pre-draft workout, Esplin showed the ability to clear the 40-foot left-field wall at the Red Sox's spring training facility, an almost unheard-of feat for a big league left-handed hitter, let alone a high schooler. Esplin didn't turn 18 until just after he'd started pro ball, suggesting plenty of time and room for development to build upon a promising debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. His hitting ability and projectable power give him a chance to rise rapidly in these rankings. Esplin split his time between right and left field as a pro and projects as an average defender with an average arm. He's an average runner as well. His next stop should be low Class A Greenville.
One year after Raudes excelled as a pitchability starter in low Class A Greenville at 18, the righthander failed to carry his performance forward to high Class A, going 4-7, 4.50 with a declining strikeout rate and a walk rate that ascended by 75 percent to 3.41 per nine innings. Still extremely skinny, Raudes' average fastball velocity sat at 90 mph and peaked at 92. He added a slider to his mix in July and showed improvement over his final 10 outings. Raudes still throws strikes with a four-pitch mix, and he creates deception with his delivery, but his stuff will need to improve for him to advance as a starter. The closest he has to a plus pitch right now is his changeup, which features both fade and sink. He'll double or triple up on the pitch and isn't afraid to throw it to either right or lefthanders. His curveball is below-average because it lacks enough depth and bite get swings and misses. Raudes could open 2018 back at Salem or with Double-A Portland.
Suarez stands out as arguably the best athlete in the Red Sox system, a player who one evaluator described as looking like a defensive back with plenty of quick-twitch and fluidity in his overall game. Suarez started switch-hitting after entering the Sox's system, showing some intriguing pop from the left side while displaying greater refinement as a righthanded hitter (.322/.369/.407 in the GCL in 2017). Both of his swings have average or better bat speed with smoothness and rhythm. He's got average hands and range, which means he's probably more suited to second base than shortstop. His average speed with controlled aggression on the basepaths showed up in games, as he went 11-for-12 in stolen base attempts last year, adding to the impressions of a player who, though raw, has the diverse skill set to emerge as an everyday center fielder. No matter where he plays, the next step is either at low Class A Greenville or a return to short-season Lowell after extended spring training.
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