October 15, 2013 at 8:00 AM
SoxProspects.com is counting down its season-end top 40 prospects, recapping their seasons and previewing what's ahead in 2014. You can find all of the entries in this year's series here.
#28: Cody Kukuk, LHP
2013 Team: Greenville Drive
Final Stats: 107 IP, 4-13, 4.63 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 113 K, 81 BB
Season in Review: After a lost 2012, Kukuk spent 2013 getting his first taste of full-season ball with the Drive. He was able to log 107 innings after getting just 10 innings in the GCL last year, and he was also able to strike out more than a batter an inning. He hit a particularly rough patch in a two-start stretch in May, failing to get out of the first inning in either appearance. Although he gave up just a single hit in each start, he walked eight and hit another batter in just 1 1/3 combined, throwing 38 strikes in 91 pitches. Two games pitching out of the bullpen to follow that, however, seemed to straighten him out some, and he followed with his best start on June 10, when he went 5 1/3 innings, striking out nine, while allowing only two hits and three walks. As impressive as his strikeout totals were, he finished with an unimpressive walk total of 81, due in part to nine starts in which he walked at least a batter an inning.
First-Hand Report and 2014 Outlook: Kukuk’s live arm was one of the bright spots in a disappointing Greenville season, though his command issues continue to overshadow his exciting stuff. Kukuk featured a low-90s fastball, a tight low-80s slider, and a developing changeup in his full-season debut. He’ll look to improve on that in Salem next year. – Jon Meoli
#27: Sean Coyle, 2B
2013 Teams: GCL Red Sox/Greenville Drive/Salem Red Sox
Final Stats: 276 PA, .242/.326/.500, 16 HR, 30 BB, 80 K, 12 SB
Season in Review: Coyle began 2013 with a return assignment to Salem, with many believing that it would be a short stint if all went well. Things were going according to plan when he started the season red hot, hitting .324/.372/.789 with nine home runs over 78 plate appearances through May 4, showing impressive power for a 5-foot-8 player. The home run total was more impressive considering that Coyle missed a week in April after being hit on the hand with a pitch, but that turned out to be a harbinger of things to come in what became a season lost to injury. He slumped a bit for the rest of May, hitting just .178 with one home run and 27 strikeouts over 84 plate appearances before being placed on the DL on June 6 with a knee injury. He spent two months rehabbing in Fort Myers before his return to action came on July 26, making short stops in the GCL and Greenville before rejoining Salem on August 13. After returning to Salem, an elbow injury limited him to DH in all but one game for the rest of August, although he began hit for above-average power again, hitting .247/.369/.518 with six home runs over 103 plate appearances. The elbow injury forced him back to the DL for the season’s final week and for the first round of the Carolina League playoffs. He recovered in time for the Mills Cup Championship, and over Salem’s three-game sweep, he hit an amazing .417/.500/.833 with three doubles, again out of the DH spot. He was named Playoff MVP after leading the team with seven playoff RBI, despite missing the team’s first-round, two-game sweep.
First-Hand Report and 2014 Outlook: Before injuries derailed his season, Coyle was swinging arguably the hottest stick in the system. But like his Team USA friend and roommate Garin Cecchini, Coyle has a unique profile at his position, and his value is tied to his bat. Coyle has an aggressive approach at the plate, and looks to turn on fastballs regardless of their location. As such, he can struggle with breaking balls, and has a lot of swing-and-miss potential—he had the fourth-highest strikeout percentage among Sox minor leaguers with 250 plate appearances at 29 percent, certainly the highest among the prospects you will read about in this series. In addition, while Coyle rehabbed his knee injury, Mookie Betts supplanted him in Salem as the club’s starting second baseman. With both Coyle and Betts seemingly in line for a promotion to Portland, the Red Sox will need to figure out how to get both players at-bats and reps in the field come 2014. – Jon Meoli
Photo Credit: Cody Kukuk and Sean Coyle by Kelly O'Connor