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After an offseason spent working out in Fort Myers with Red Sox ace Chris Sale, Groome looked in spring training like a pitcher on the cusp of validating much of the hype that greeted his entry into pro ball as a 2016 first-rounder. His combination of a low-effort mid-90s fastball, a hammer curveball, and a promising changeup offered clear front-of-the-rotation potential. Yet a highly anticipated season was derailed before it started by a forearm injury that ultimately required Tommy John surgery in May. While Groome won’t pitch again until 2019, the pre-injury spring training outings suggested a ceiling that surpasses that of any other pitcher in the organization.
Casas distinguished himself both in high school and in three years playing for Team USA as one of the best high school hitters available in this year’s draft class, combining not just tremendous power from the left side (he cleared the bullpens in right field at Fenway in a team workout prior to the draft) but also the ability to drive the ball to all fields in a fashion that reminded some evaluators of Freddie Freeman. In his second game, however, Casas (while attempting to make a diving play at third) suffered a torn ligament on his right thumb that required season-ending surgery. There’s a chance he’ll be ready to participate in instructional league, but if not, the Sox see a potential middle-of-the-order bat who can either play a passable third or who will have well above-average defensive abilities at first.
After Chavis emerged as a potential everyday corner bat on the strength of a 31-homer breakout season in 2017, his prospect standing was thrown into question when he was suspended for a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance that left him sidelined for 80 games to start this year. Chavis insists that he never knowingly took a PED, and that his positive test during the Arizona Fall League didn’t reflect on what he did during last season, but he’s also aware that performance is the only possible rebuttal to suspicions that his 2017 surge was PED-fueled.
With a mid-90s fastball, a changeup that shows plus potential, and the makings of a solid curveball, Mata shows a starter’s mix. The Red Sox asked him to emphasize his two-seamer over his four-seamer this year. While the pitch shows excellent action that has yielded elite groundball rates, Mata has struggled to keep it in the strike zone, resulted in an enormous spike in his walk rate. That said, Mata still has been able to hold his own in the Carolina League, allowing consistently poor contact while showing a mix that can play in the rotation.
A sinker/slider mix drew the Red Sox to Houck as a first-rounder in 2017, but during the offseason, the big righthander explored several changes to his mix, committing to a four-seamer and curveball. The changes led to early-season struggles (a 6.16 ERA, control struggles and homerun vulnerability through 11 starts) before Houck recommitted to his two-seamer in mid-June. When he did, the results—more groundballs, better control—followed almost immediately. With a mid-90s sinking fastball and a breaking ball that has wipeout potential, Houck has the makings of a late-innings reliever. If his changeup develops, there’s still a chance he could emerge as a starter.
While Beeks lacks a clear plus pitch, the development of a cutter in 2017 and its refinement in 2018 has allowed him to emerge as a big league starting depth option. He shows a four-pitch mix, anchored by an 88-94 mph fastball and cutter, complemented by a curveball and changeup, that has helped him generate huge strikeout numbers in Triple-A. His vulnerability to flyballs represents a potential limitation, particularly in Fenway Park, but his ability to mix and sequence pitches has positioned him as a depth consideration.
Shawaryn has been one of the steadiest performers in the Red Sox system since the start of 2017. He combines an average fastball (92-94 mph) with an above-average to plus slider that plays well off of it. Some evaluators see a changeup that could give him a chance to start, while others see a future reliever with a two-pitch mix. Still, among upper levels Red Sox prospects, Shawaryn looks like a solid bet to be a big league contributor.
Chatham missed almost all of his first full pro season in 2017 due to hamstring issues, but in his return to the field in 2018, he’s shown the defensive tools to stay at shortstop and a sufficient hit tool (combined with doubles power) to suggest everyday potential at the position.
Dalbec swings and misses a ton, but when he connects, he features 65- to 70-grade power that gives him the ability to drive the ball out of the park to all fields (he’s been leading the Carolina League in homers for most of the year), and he also produces high walk rates. The offensive tools and impressive defense at third base suggest a player with at least a chance to be a three-true outcomes third baseman in the big leagues (a sort of Matt Chapman Lite), though his high strikeout rates give him a problematic floor.
At times, Hernandez features dazzling stuff, combining mid- to upper-90s fastballs with both a slider and a curveball that can get swings and misses along with a changeup that has shown potential as a fourth pitch. Yet his strike-throwing has regressed in 2018, resulting in considerable outing-to-outing consistency and amplifying questions about whether he can start. If not, however, it’s not hard to imagine a reliever with late-innings potential.
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