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Trades and graduations hurt standing.
In a system thinned by trades and graduations, the Red Sox still have an interesting mix of pitching prospects, led by No. 1 Jay Groome and 2017 first-rounder Tanner Houck, though most are either far away or could wind up in the bullpen. Corner infield bats such as Michael Chavis, Josh Ockimey, Sam Travis and Danny Diaz provide some power potential.
The Red Sox lack for up-the-middle positions players. Boston might not have a future regular at catcher, second base, shortstop or center field in the system. Graduating Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers and trading premium prospects like Manuel Margot, Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech and Anderson Espinoza—as well as trades of lesser prospects—has thinned what was one of the deepest system in baseball a few years ago.
Notable Graduations: OF Andrew Benintendi (1) and 3B Rafael Devers (2) produced like the blue-chippers they are.
Track Record:: 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 that made him a heralded high school pitcher. Scouting Report: 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. The Future: 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.
Track Record: 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 his pregame routine and pitch-by-pitch sequences. That approach set the stage for a breakout season in which he blasted 31 homers to rank fifth in the minors. Scouting Report: 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 in previous years, he showed a greater commitment to stay back and drive the ball to all fields in 2017. That approach led to both a career-low 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. The Future: Chavis has middle-of-the-order power, though his relatively low walk rates suggest more of a future No. 6 hitter. With Rafael Devers at third base, the Red Sox exposed Chavis to first base in the Arizona Fall League. His spring training will dictate whether he opens 2018 at Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket.
Track Record: 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. Scouting Report: 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. The Future: Houck's fastball and slider offer a solid floor of a late-inning reliever, but if he can broaden his mix, he has mid-rotation potential. He will open his first full pro season in 2018 at one of the Class A affiliates.
Track Record: 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. Scouting Report: 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. Projected command will allow his pitch mix to play up. The Future: 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 he 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.
Track Record: Brannen stood out in the showcases following his junior year of high school, offering glimpses of a potential five-tool talent. Surgery to repair a broken hamate prior to the start of his senior year contributed to a slow start. He fell to the second round of the 2017 draft, where 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 physical wall in August. Scouting Report: Brannen possesses elite speed and athleticism that serve as the cornerstone of his projections, giving him a chance to be a true center fielder 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. 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. The Future: 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.
Track Record: 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. Scouting Report: 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). The Future: Hernandez's fastball and slider give him the look of a pitcher with at least late-innings potential, and if he can improve his control, he has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter.
Track Record: 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 call-up. Scouting Report: Despite his 2017 inconsistencies, Travis still has the foundation of a strong offensive approach, 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. The Future: 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.
Track Record: After a dominant sophomore year at Maryland (1.71 ERA, 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings), Shawaryn's draft stock slipped as he pitched more to contact as a junior. 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. Scouting Report: 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. The Future: 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.
Track Record: 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. 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. Scouting Report: 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. The Future: Scherff will have an opportunity to open at low Class A Greenville in 2018. If he solidifies a three-pitch mix he has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter, with a fallback option of two-pitch, late-game reliever.
Track Record: 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. He dealt with ongoing left shoulder subluxations that required season-ending surgery. Scouting Report: 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. Defensively, he's shown the potential for average to above-average defense at second base and playable defense at shortstop, though he has yet to look comfortable at third base. His recovery from shoulder surgery serves as a wild card for 2018. The Future: 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.
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