October 16, 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.
2013 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Final Stats: .268/.328/.432, 16 HR, 81 RBI, 42 BB, 100 K
Season in Review: Six years after signing a $1.5 million contract, Almanzar reached Double-A following a strong 2012 with Salem. He responded with a fast start, logging eight hits in the Sea Dogs’ first four games, including five for extra bases. By mid-May, Almanzar was hitting .302/.370/.525 and had forced his way into the SoxProspects.com Top 20 for the first time since May 2009, and later earning Eastern League All-Star honors. Unfortunately, he sputtered after his hot start, hitting just .255/.312/.397 from May 18 forward. Almanzar still finished in the top ten in the Eastern League in several offensive categories, including hits (tenth), doubles (ninth), RBI (fifth) and total bases (sixth). Almanzar’s 16 home runs tied him for third in the Red Sox organization, and his 13 stolen bases were a new career high. However, of the 16 home runs, just five came after June 5.
First-hand Report/2014 Outlook: Since he entered the organization, Almanzar has had raw tools but struggled to translate those tools into on-field performance. His approach to the game has been immature, with a noticeable lack of effort at times. As he has progressed through the system, he has improved in these areas, but they still show up from time to time. This season, Almanzar made strides with his swing mechanics, staying more controlled and within himself at the plate. He still has a relatively raw approach and struggles to recognize even average off-speed pitches. Almanzar’s raw power is evident, especially in batting practice, and it started to translate to game action this year. His arms are very long and he likes the ball out over the plate where he gets good extension, but he struggles with velocity, especially on the inner-half and up in the zone. Defensively, Almanzar really struggles at third base, and in the future will likely be relegated to first base, where he already is below-average as well, or DH. At third, his actions are rough and he lacks athleticism. His arm is strong, but his footwork is poor and his accuracy suffers as a result. Almanzar is Rule 5 eligible this offseason and isn’t likely to be protected by the Red Sox, as he would be hard-pressed to stick on a major league roster. If he is still is in the organization next spring, he will probably start off again in Portland with the eye towards a mid-season promotion to Pawtucket. - Ian Cundall
2013 Team: Yet to Debut
Final Stats: N/A
Season in Review: Echoing Almanzar—albeit in a much different international free agent market, thanks to the new cap on bonuses—Devers signed for a $1.5 million bonus based on his projection as a heavy-hitting corner infielder. Already standing 6-foot-0, 190 pounds as listed by the Sox (Baseball America had him at 6-1, 215) despite not yet reaching his 17th birthday, Devers’ impressive tools led him to be ranked third among international free agents by Baseball America. While the 16-year-old has yet to make his professional debut, the tremendous upside forces the baby-faced Devers into the top 25.
First-hand Report/2014 Outlook: While Devers may be baby-faced, he certainly doesn’t look like a kid. At the Fall Instructional League, Devers looked like he belonged physically, unlike some international signees who show up in the Gulf Coast League or Lowell and look like they could put on some weight. This could work against Devers—if he continues to grow and gets too big for third, he may need to move across the diamond to first—but he showed fine defensive instincts and ability for his age in my short look at him this year. At the plate, he looked to be pretty much all projection at this point, as he struggled mightily, but I saw him against Twins stud prospect Alex Meyer one day, and against two Lowell pitchers the next, so he would be expected to struggle in such an environment. - Chris Hatfield
Photo Credit: Michael Almanzar by Kelly O'Connor; Rafael Devers by Perfect Game