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October 23, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Fall/Winter Roundup: Chavis and Swihart start off strong

This is the first in our series of weekly roundups of the Fall/Winter Leagues. Coverage will continue every Monday into January. For the full list of Red Sox prospects participating in these leagues, check out our Fall & Winter Leagues page, which will be updated continuously through January. This week's roundup covers the period of October 9-22.

Arizona Fall League

With 10 games in the books, the Peoria Javelinas are in first place in the Arizona Fall League West division with a 6-4 record. Michael Chavis (pictured) is the highest ranked player of the seven Red Sox prospects that are on the team, and he has impressed over the first two weeks. Chavis is currently batting .314/.351/.429 over 35 at-bats, with two walks and six strikeouts. Daren Willman, the Director of Baseball Research & Development for MLB, tweeted that Chavis has recorded two of the four highest exit velocities so far in Arizona, with his hardest hit coming in at 113.5 mph. 
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October 16, 2017 at 2:00 PM

2017 All-Stars

As the Red Sox look back on clinching a playoff berth for the second consecutive season, the roster is a clear indication of the value the franchise has gotten from its farm system in recent years. Eight of the nine regular starters in the lineup made their major league debuts with Boston, and its top two starters were both acquired in 2016 in deals included a trio of top prospects. Highlighted by current major league third baseman and graduated top prospect Rafael Devers, we present the 2017 All-Star selections:

Catcher: Roldani Baldwin
A year after struggling with an aggressive placement at Greenville in 2017, the 21-year-old returned to the South Atlantic League to have a breakthrough season. Baldwin tied for the organization lead with 35 doubles, and he blasted 14 homers after totaling only 11 in his first three pro seasons. The Dominican product also spent the season as a full-time backstop after previously splitting times between catcher and third base, throwing out 33% of potential base stealers. Baldwin also earned recognition as South Atlantic League All-Star for his .274/.310/.489 campaign.
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at 1:00 PM 2017 season-end award winners

After having arguably the top farm system in baseball in 2016, a combination of trades and graduations has the Red Sox sitting more in the middle of the pack for 2017. With Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers contributing to Boston's American League East title, the top two prospects entering the season did their part, but a few of the other players who started the year in the top 10 saw their season get derailed by injuries. There were several bright spots on the farm this year, with none being brighter than Breakout Player of the Year Michael Chavis.

Player of the Year: Rafael Devers
Devers entered the year ranked second in the system behind Andrew Benintendi, and the 20-year-old phenom did nothing but impress as he worked his way up to the big leagues. Starting the year in Portland, where he was the youngest player in the Eastern League, Devers mashed to the tune of .300/.369/.575 over 77 games. He was called up to Pawtucket, and after going 14 for 35 with two home runs, he was called up to Boston to fix the big issues Boston was having at third base. Devers proved to be exactly what Boston needed, batting .268/.319/.449 in 52 games. His strikeout rate was a tad high and his walk rate was a bit low, but very few, if any, people his age can come up to the major leagues and provide above-average offense. The one area that remained a weak spot for Devers is his defense, as he committed 12 errors in only 58 games in Boston after committing 16 in 86 games in the minors.
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October 2, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Minor Notes: Chavis, Beeks, others nab year-end honors

Here are this week's minor league notes:
  • The Red Sox announced their year-end minor league award winners. Michael Chavis (pictured) was named the system's minor league offensive player of the year, backed by his 31 home runs on the season. Between Salem and Portland, Chavis bounced back in a big way from last season, finishing with a .282/.347/.563 slash line. Jalen Beeks was named Red Sox minor league pitcher of the year, finishing with a record of 11-8 with a 3.29 ERA between Portland and Pawtucket. In 145 IP, Beeks struck out 155 and walked 55.
  • In other categories, Austin Rei was named the defensive player of the year. Tate Matheny was named the system's baserunner of the year. Keibert Petit was named the Latin Program offensive player of the year, while Luis Rivero was named that program's pitcher of the year.
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September 18, 2017 at 12:30 PM

Minor Notes: Greenville wins SAL championship

Here are Monday's minor league notes:
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September 15, 2017 at 11:57 PM

Cup of Coffee: Drive capture South Atlantic League title

9/16 Cup of Coffee: Brett Netzer and a lights-out effort from the bullpen guided Greenville to a South Atlantic League Championship. They took the series from Kannapolis three games to one to win their first SAL title.


The Drive capitalized on a key error in the first inning to put up a crooked number right away. After consecutive singles from Brett Netzer and Roldani Baldwin, Bobby Dalbec roped an RBI double to right. With two down, Tyler Hill reached on an error that cost Kannapolis two more runs. The Intimidators chipped away at Greenville starter Hildemaro Requena, who allowed three runs on nine hits, including two solo shots, in 4 2/3 innings. In the sixth, Greenville pulled away and never looked back. Netzer delivered the nail in the coffin with a two-out, three-run double to make the score 8-3. Jagger Rusconi also had an RBI knock in the frame.
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at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Mata starts strong before dropping game three

9/15 Cup of Coffee: Things were looking up early in Greenville's attempt to sweep its way to its first ever South Atlantic League Title. Unfortunately, a tough fifth inning helped knock off the Drive, whose series lead was cut to two games to one.


It was a disappointing result for the Drive, who had the sweep and the South Atlantic League title clearly in their sights after right fielder Ryan Scott blasted a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth, giving them a 2-1 lead. Bryan Mata, the 18-year-old phenom had been very strong up to that point, allowing only one run in four innings, striking out four against one walk. However, things turned on Mata and the Drive in the fifth. After the first batter was retired, three hits and an ill-advised throw on a fielder's choice gave the Intimidators a lead they would not relinquish, knocking Mata out of the game.
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September 14, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Minor Notes: Playoffs, Otani, and winter leagues

Here are Thursday's minor league notes:
  • The minor league seasons are winding down, but's coverage is not. Director of Scouting Ian Cundall was busy with two new editions of Scouting Scratch. The first covered some quick hitters from Lowell. His write-up featured four 2017 draft picks including two hitters in third baseman Michael Osinski and outfielder Marino Campana and two pitchers with lefty Dominic LoBrutto and righty Taylor Ahearn.
  • Continuing the trend of 2017 picks, Ian's second Scouting Scratch covered the Red Sox's first round pick, Lowell right hander Tanner Houck (pictured, right). Ian has now had the chance to see Houck three times, and his update after his penultimate start of the season was promising.
  • The podcast team took to the air earlier this week to discuss the minor league playoff teams, September rankings, and major and minor league call-ups. Within the episode, Chris gets fired up about outfielder Bryce Brentz. Listen to find out why.
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at 8:00 AM

Scouting Scratch: Tanner Houck

First-round pick Tanner Houck had an up and down first pro season with Lowell. He threw 22 1/3 innings, allowing 21 hits and walking eight while striking out 25, good for a 3.63 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. I had the chance to see Houck three times earlier in the season and wrote about it in an earlier Scouting Scratch. Recently, I caught his penultimate start. In that two-inning outing, in the first inning he showed the potential premium stuff that led the Red Sox to take him 24th overall before running into trouble in his second inning, albeit as a result of some poor defense. 

Houck hasn’t altered his delivery since he entered the organization, starting on the first base side before stepping towards the third base dugout and coming across his body. While the delivery isn’t what you look for in a starter, he repeats it well and more importantly is comfortable with it. It is off-putting, especially for right-handed hitters. When he’s keeping the ball down, he will generate a lot of weak contact on the ground. 

In the first inning of this start, he showed all three of his pitches and showed a much-improved changeup compared to earlier in the season to compliment his fastball and slider. His low arm slot does give left-handers a good look at the ball, making development of his changeup a key for him to stick as a starter long term.

In the first inning, Houck sat 93-94 mph with his fastball. The pitch showed life and sink and elicited two swinging strikes, one against a righty and one against a lefty. He threw seven of his eight fastballs for strikes and commanded the offering down in the zone, overwhelming the Staten Island hitters. 

Houck mixed in both his secondary pitches as well, both to great effect. His threw his slider 80-82 mph, slower than earlier in the year, but it had more depth and tilt. The pitch was still sweepy and at times later in the outing he got on the side of it, but it flashed above-average potential. 

The improvement on his changeup was most encouraging, as he showed more feel than earlier in the season. He had rarely mixed the pitch in early in the year, but on this occasion he showed confidence in the pitch and threw it with deceptive arm speed. It was especially effective against left-handed hitters, eliciting a pair of swinging strikes on changeups that showed late fade, falling off the table down and out of the zone, away from the hitter’s swing path. 

While Houck dominated in the first inning, flashing three above-average pitches and the ability to control all of them and locate down in the zone, he ran into trouble in the second and his stuff wasn’t as crisp. The inning was lengthened by two defensive misplays, most notably an error by the third baseman on a potential double play ball that could have ended the inning, but Houck’s fastball velocity took a slight tick down to 91-93 mph, and it lacked the finish it had in the first inning. He struggled to locate the pitch and left a few up in the zone, where the pitch flattened out. 

Houck’s secondary pitches also came and went more in the second inning. He threw a few average-to-better ones, but also some below-average ones, including getting on the side of his slider. 

Even though the second inning wasn’t as good as the first, this was still the best Houck’s stuff had looked overall. In other outings, his velocity was higher, but on this day he showed the ability to locate his fastball at 93-94 mph with sink, and if he can comfortably pitch at that velocity it will give hitters a lot of trouble. Similarly, if he can continue to refine his changeup and improve his consistency with both his secondary offerings, it will go a long way to alleviating concerns that he is a potential bullpen arm long-term.

Photo credit: Tanner Houck by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.

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at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Diaz and Smith combine on a three-hit shutout

9/14 Cup of Coffee: Another tremendous pitching performance, this time led by Jhonathan Diaz, moved the Drive to within one win of their first South Atlantic League title in team history. 


Jhonathan Diaz pitched the Drive to a 2-0 series lead with 6 1/3 scoreless innings. He allowed only two hits, both singles, and walked one while striking out seven. Hunter Smith came on in relief and allowed one hit over 2 2/3 shutout innings.

Greenville managed only six hits, with a solo home run from Roldani Baldwin (pictured) being the biggest. Brett Netzer went 2 for 4 with an RBI single, and Jerry Downs went 2 for 4 as the designated hitter. 
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