4/28 Cup of Coffee: Another day, another abbreviated schedule, as Portland had the day off, and it was Salem's turn to be postponed by rain. Pawtucket split its doubleheader after being rained out the last two days, as Bryce Brentz went deep in both contests. A quartet of Greenville hurlers surrendered only four hits as the Drive won their fifth straight.
In the makeup of Tuesday's rainout, Pawtucket rallied twice but fell in the eighth inning. Brian Johnson made his first start since getting a win for the major league squad on April 18. The lefty allowed three runs on eight hits in five innings, striking out two and walking four. Bryce Brentz evened the game at 3-3 with a solo home run off of old friend Pat Light in the sixth. Deven Marrero singled in the third to halt a 1-for-28 skid.
Some sad news to start off the notes. Last night pitcher Kevin Steen(pictured, right) was critically injured according to Fox4 while in extended spring training with the team in Fort Myers. Reportedly, another vehicle crossed the median and went airborne before crashing into the vehicle Steen was driving. The other car caught on fire and the driver was declared dead at the scene. Everyone's thoughts and prayers are with the young man. The 20-year-old was drafted in the 9th round in 2014 and spent all of 2016 with the Lowell Spinners, going 3-5 with a 5.37 ERA and 1.67 WHIP over 14 starts.
You needed some good reading with a slew of rainouts this past week across all levels. Good thing the SoxProspects.com System Restart series marched on this week. The upper-level pitching entry featured two recent graduates in lefties Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, and also included three top-20-ranked prospects - Trey Ball, Jake Cosart, and Ben Taylor. Taylor made the opening day major league roster this spring and made his debut on April 7th, a quick rise for the righty who signed for a mere $10,000 bonus as a senior after being taken in the 7th round in the 2015 draft. He has since moved between Boston and Pawtucket, but over the first 20 days of the season, he has performed quite well, allowing only one run over 5 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and three walks while in Boston. Johnson was also called up to the big-league club earlier this month for a spot start, though his trip was somewhat less successful, allowing four runs over five innings, but he did manage to strike out six and finished with the win.
Next up was the mid-level pitching, highlighted by two teammates at Salem, Roniel Raudes and Travis Lakins, and two teammates at Greenville, Mike Shawaryn and Shaun Anderson. One player at each level has gotten off to a hot start. In Salem, that pitcher is Travis Lakins who has rebounded after a down 2016 with a 3.38 ERA in his first 17 1/3 innings over four starts. Even more impressively, Anderson has been nearly untouchable for Greenville, only allowing two earned runs over his first 21 2/3 innings while taking home the SoxProspects.com pitcher of the week for April 10-16.
Dates Scouted: April 7-9 vs. Reading; April 22 vs. Trenton (Doubleheader)
Over the first few weeks of the season, I’ve had a chance to see five Portland games and get an extended look at most of the position players. Here is the first Scouting Scratch breaking down these players. Poised to take over the top spot in the SoxProspects rankings on May 1, Rafael Devers has looked the part both at the plate and in the field. Devers is bigger than his listed 6-feet, 195 pounds. Still just 20 years old for the entire season, he is still going to change physically, but at his current weight he showed plenty of agility at third base. Speed will never be a part of his game, but as long as he doesn’t let his body get away from him, his conditioning isn’t a major concern.
Devers’ calling card will always be his bat, and he showed off his offensive potential over the games scouted. Devers starts his stance slightly open with his hands high. He is very loose pre-load, but after a very short leg lift, he quickly cocks his bat and sets in a good hitting position. The swing is what separates Devers, as his hand and bat speed are elite. The best way to describe his swing, as we have described it here for years, is “controlled violence.” Devers gets his lower half into his swing and does an excellent job clearing his hips before whipping the bat through the zone. His swing path allows him to keep the barrel in the zone for a long time, and he has shown an all-fields approach. This all-fields approach was best illustrated in his second at-bat on April 8, when he got a 2-1 fastball away. Even though he was ahead in the count, he didn’t try to pull the ball but rather stayed on it, driving it off the left field wall for a double. The swing that produced the double is one that will serve him well when he eventually gets to Fenway Park, as with his strength and willingness to go the other way, he should have no problem using the Green Monster to his advantage (below).
The SoxProspects.com writing staff presents the System Restart, our season-opening, position-by-position preview of the Boston Red Sox farm system for 2017. This is the last of seven parts, featuring the system’s low-minors pitching.
Position at a Glance: While the Red Sox lack the depth they’ve had in arms on the long-term development track in past seasons, there are still some interesting arms in the lower parts of the system, led by left-hander Jay Groome, a consensus top-50 prospect in the game. After that, there is a pretty big drop off, but several promising Latin American pitching prospects slated for short-season ball have upside, if also a long way to go developmentally. – Ian Cundall
Groome, arguably the top prospect in the 2016 draft class, fell into Boston's lap at the 12th-overall pick because of off-field and signability concerns. In early looks during his pro debut and Fall Instructional League last year and Spring Training this year, the big lefty has shown why he’s so highly regarded with a fastball that can touch 97 and a curveball with plus-plus potential. With the trades of Anderson Espinoza and Michael Kopech, Groome is unquestionably the top pitching prospect in the system right now. At 18, they sky is the limit for the New Jersey native, with as much upside as any pitcher in all of the minor leagues. However, he comes with risk, not just from the aforementioned off-field question, but also from the inherent hazard of pitching a baseball: Groome left his 2017 debut with a lat injury after 1 1/3 ineffective innings and has now missed more than two weeks after initial reports had him missing 2-3 starts. – James Dunne
4/27 Cup of Coffee: It was another light slate on Wednesday as both Pawtucket and Portland were postponed. Greenville won behind a strong outing from Robby Sexton and a home run from Mitchell Gunsolus (pictured), while Salem had no answer for Lynchburg's offense.
Pawtucket Red Sox vs. Indianapolis Indians (PIT), PPD
The PawSox were rained out for a second straight night, and the game will be made up as part of a doubleheader during Pawtucket's trip to Indianapolis at the end of July. The two teams are already playing a doubleheader on Thursday to make up Tuesday night's rain out.
The SoxProspects.com writing staff presents the System Restart, our season-opening, position-by-position preview of the Boston Red Sox farm system for 2017. This is the sixth of seven parts, featuring the system’s mid-minors pitching.
Position at a Glance: Between Greenville and Salem, the Red Sox have several pitching prospects who could advance relatively quickly and have at least a chance of developing into starters at the big league level. That said, none of these prospects have top of the rotation potential. – Ian Cundall
Raudes (pictured, right), an international free agent signed out of Nicaragua in 2014, spent last season in Greenville as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League at 18 years old. Raudes put up impressive numbers with a 3.65 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 113 1/3 innings, striking out 104 batters and walking just 23. Raudes’ control and command are impressive for a pitcher his age, but he lacks dominating stuff, his fastball sitting around 88-90 mph. He mixes all four of his pitches, with his curve and change flashing average-to-better. Questions remain whether he simply possesses a profile that allows him to succeed at lower levels with better-than-typical command, pitchability, and funky mechanics, or whether he can truly succeed with his unique profile for an age-advanced arm at higher levels of the minors and the majors. Raudes begins the year as the youngest player in the Carolina League, but has been hit hard in two of his three outings, giving up 12 hits including three home runs in nine innings while striking out just six in those contests, with his lone positive start cut short due to a long rain delay. – Nick Rabasco
4/26 Cup of Coffee: With rain washing out both the Pawtucket and Portland games on Tuesday, it was the seventh day in a row there was not a full slate of games in the Red Sox system. Salem got right back to its winning ways with Austin Rei and Josh Ockimey leading a big inning. Greenville pounded out 13 hits, but Logan Boyd(pictured) was the most impressive Drive player with an excellent outing on the mound.
Pawtucket Red Sox vs. Indianapolis Indians (PIT), PPD.
The PawSox will make up Tuesday's rainout against Indianapolis on Thursday. Brian Johnson is slated to get the start in Wednesday's series opener.
The SoxProspects.com writing staff presents the System Restart, our season-opening, position-by-position preview of the Boston Red Sox farm system for 2017. This is the fifth of seven parts, featuring the system’s high-minors pitching.
Position at a Glance: In the high minors, the Red Sox lack potential starting pitching options but boast a bonanza of potential major league relief arms. The top options for spot starts in Boston are technically no longer prospects, and after that the drop off is steep, the departure of Michael Kopech in the Chris Sale trade leaving a hole on the depth chart. The current Portland rotation doesn’t boast any potential starting options unless Trey Ball can take a big step forward. Meanwhile, both levels feature pitchers in the rotation and bullpen who could contribute in a major league bullpen in the near future, the number perhaps approaching double digits. – Ian Cundall
Now in their sixth and fifth full seasons in the system, respectively, Owens and Johnson (pictured, above) need to prove that they can be relied upon to at least provide serviceable spot starts in order to provide value to the Red Sox, and they need to move forward from there if they want to have major league careers. Owens is overhauling his mechanics out of the wind-up, and so far, returns have been mixed: he has 20 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings over three starts, but has also walked 10 and given up a pair of home runs. Johnson got first crack at a spot start after two strong starts, getting through five innings that weren't great but could have been worse. With Spring Training darling Kyle Kendrick getting hit around in his first three starts—and, without options, in danger of being claimed by another team if called up for only a short-term fill-in role, the 2017 Red Sox probably need one of Owens or Johnson to figure things out in order to have success. – Chris Hatfield
4/25 Cup of Coffee: It was a quiet night on the farm, with two affiliates following the major league club with an off day. A trio of Greenville hurlers, led by Mike Shawaryn (pictured), combined on a 17-strikeout night, while Portland was shut out in their contest.
Despite an eight-hit effort, Portland could not string a rally together. Aneury Tavarez continues to patiently bide his time in Double-A, posting another two-hit night for the Sea Dogs and adding a stolen base. Tavarez has been so good for Portland that the 2-for-4 effort actually dropped his OPS by a point, to 1.023. Tzu-Wei Lin scuffled very early in the season, but he now is riding a seven-game hitting streak after Monday's 2-for-3 evening. Starter Jacob Dahlstrand took the loss, allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings. Jake Cosart pitched a scoreless ninth.
Assistant director of scouting Chaz Fiorino has attended some games in Portland in the first few weeks of the season and discussed starts by Teddy Stankiewiczand Jalen Beeksin his most recent two editions of The Write-Up.