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April 10, 2014 at 8:30 AM

System Restart 2014, Pt. 7: Low Minors Pitchers

Position in a Nutshell: Led by the earliest pick the organization has had since 1993, there are plenty of arms to dream on in the low minors after a pair of pitcher-heavy drafts.

Burning question
Where are Ball, Buttrey, and McGrath? This was the question, in some form, that many had when the opening day rosters came out, perhaps in declining order of frequency. Trey Ball (pictured), the number seven pick overall in June’s draft, was assumed by many to be a lock for Greenville, but as you will read below, the club may have felt him too unrefined to assign to full-season ball right out of the gate. Ty Buttrey’s progression was behind this spring—we saw his first live batting practice in Fort Myers in late March—so he likely needs another few weeks to get ready for the season. As for Daniel McGrath, although he was successful in the Gulf Coast League and a brief cameo with the Spinners in 2013, he likely needs one more go-round through short-season ball before he will be ready to start next year in the South Atlantic League.

Who to watch
Top Prospect: Trey Ball, Projection: Mid-season assignment to Greenville – After seeing Ball in Spring Training, the thing that stood out was how raw he was. The potential was clear: He has the tools that comprise a starter’s kit for what a top pitching prospect should look like, but he has a long way to go to actualize those tools. (We recently profiled Ball in the Scouting Scratch, and won’t repeat that info here, so be sure to check that out.) Ball begins the season in extended spring training, but depending on when a roster spot opens up and how he pitches down at the Fort, he could join the Greenville rotation at some point in the first few months of the season. But if he has not received that promotion by June, it would not be out of the question for Ball to head to Lowell, where he could refine his tools in a more structured environment and focus on working on what he needs to in order to improve, rather than focusing on the results.

Stock Rising: Teddy Stankiewicz, Assignment: Greenville – Stankiewicz might not have the highest ceiling on this list, but what differentiates him from the other arms at this level is his polish. Stankiewicz already has a decent four-pitch arsenal, featuring a low-90s fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. Stankiewicz has a low-effort delivery, and his arm works well. He also has a projectable frame that should be able to handle the rigors of a starter’s workload once he matures. The main things Stankiewicz needs to work on this year are improving his fastball command and refining his secondary pitches, as they lack consistency at present. If his progression stays on track, these tools give him clear potential to pitch in a major league rotation. If things fall together right, Stankiewicz could be someone who moves relatively quickly and challenges for an in-season promotion to Salem.

Sleeper: Jamie Callahan, Assignment: Greenville –Callahan has made a steady progression since entering the system as a young, 17-year-old draftee, and he has positioned himself as a potential breakout candidate in 2014. Back the Fall Instructional League in 2012, Callahan sat 90-92 mph, and his mechanics were very rough. Last season in Lowell, Callahan had a strong year and showed improved mechanics. His velocity improved to where he was able to touch 95 mph, although still sitting in the same range. Fast-forward to this spring, and we saw Callahan sit 93-94 mph and touch 96. With what is now potential plus-to-better fastball velocity, an improving curveball and changeup, and youth still on his side, Callahan could establish himself as one of the top arms in the system’s low minors while pitching in his home state of South Carolina.

At a crossroads: Ty Buttrey, Early-season addition to Greenville – Only entering his second full season, this label comes not so much from what Buttrey has done, but more from what others around him have done in comparison. Since Buttrey joined the system, the Red Sox have emphasized pitching in the draft—intentional or not—and other arms taken in those drafts have simply passed him. Last year in Lowell, Buttrey showed flashes, but was inconsistent with his command and struggled to miss bats. Buttrey’s fastball velocity fluctuated, topping out at 93 mph in some starts while barely scraping 90 mph in others. Buttrey also struggled with his mechanics, losing his line to the plate and struggling to repeat his delivery. After getting a late start to the season, Buttrey could receive a promotion to Greenville once he is fully ramped up, but it is not completely out of the question that he heads back to Lowell for a second season if a rotation spot does not open up. Regardless of where he ends up, Buttrey will need to show he has taken a step forward, or he will continue to fall down the prospect rankings.

On the Radar
Myles Smith, Assignment: Greenville – 2013 fourth-round draft pick (pictured) has a live, quick arm and good athleticism, but has work to do on his delivery in order to improve his command. Working in a piggyback role for now, and outings may be shorter as he works on his new mechanics.
Joe Gunkel, Assignment: Greenville – Nearly unhittable with Lowell last season, Gunkel has great size, a deceptive delivery and a fastball/slider combination that is especially effective against right-handed hitters.
Jonathan Aro, Assignment: Greenville – Filled-out right-hander showed off a low-90s fastball with arm-side run and a decent changeup that missed bats in Lowell last season. Worked in a piggyback role last season, but stuff could play up pitching in short bursts this year.
Sergio Gomez, Assignment: Greenville – Colombian (pictured, below) put together an impressive statistical season across Lowell and Greenville, but the raw stuff is not as impressive. Piggybacking in Greenville to begin the season.
German Taveras, Projection: Lowell – Pop-up arm during spring training, showed a mid-90s fastball that topped out at 97 as well as a solid slider out of the bullpen.
Daniel McGrath, Projection: Lowell – Australian left-handed pitcher dominated the GCL before earning a promotion to Lowell. Fastball velocity does not stand out, working in the high-80s, but throws two polished secondary pitches for someone his age.
Dedgar Jimenez, Projection: GCL – Big bodied left-hander impressed for the DSL Red Sox last year on his way to earning Latin Program Pitcher of the Year. The stuff is less-than-impressive though.
Jose Almonte, Projection: GCL – Lean, projectable right-hander received $610,000 bonus during the July 2012 signing period. Command has a ways to go, but has shown flashes of a potential three-pitch mix with strong natural cut on his fastball.
Enmanuel DeJesus, Projection: DSL – Venezuelan left-hander received the largest bonus of any international pitcher that counted against the Red Sox’ cap during the July 2013 signing period. Long ways away, but has a projectable frame and potential three-pitch mix.
Jhonathan Diaz, Projection: DSL – Venezuelan left-hander received the second-largest bonus of any international pitcher that counted against the cap during the July 2013 signing period. Does not have ideal pitcher’s size, but is a good athlete with a smooth delivery and already sits in the high-80s with his fastball.
Daniel Gonzalez, Projection: DSL – Not much info out there on the Venezuelan right-hander. Put together an excellent statistical season in the DSL as a piggyback starter, only walking three batters in 46.3 innings with 42 strikeouts. Apparently will return to DSL for age 18 season, and may get the chance to start.

Assignments/Projections (updated for Craig Breslow activation)
SP (and piggyback starters) Boston: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy, Clay Buchholz
Pawtucket: Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby De La Rosa, Jeremy Kehrt, Matt Barnes (DL), John Ely (DL)
Portland: Henry Owens, Keith Couch, Mickey Pena, Mike Augliera, Mike McCarthy
Salem: Brian Johnson, William Cuevas, Luis Diaz, Corey Littrell, Simon Mercedes, Justin Haley, Kyle Kraus
Greenville: Cody Kukuk, Jamie Callahan, Pat Light, Teddy Stankiewicz, Sergio Gomez, Mario Alcantara, Myles Smith, Jason Garcia (DL)
Greenville Taxi Squad: Ty Buttrey, Trey Ball (these players aren’t with Greenville yet, but we project them to join the team eventually.)
Lowell: Daniel McGrath, Randy Perez, Jake Drehoff, Edwar Garcia, Dioscar Romero, Keivin Heras, Willie Ethington
GCL: Jose Almonte, Jalen Williams, Dedgar Jimenez, Carlos Garcia, Yankory Pimentel, Luis Ramos, Javier Rodriguez
DSL: Daniel Gonzalez, Jhonathan Diaz, Enmanuel DeJesus, Carlos Caceres, Gerson Bautista, Algenis Martinez
60-day DL: Steven Wright
Long-term DL: Gabe Speier
Extended Spring Training: Wilfredo Boscan

RP (and spot starters)
Boston: Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Edward Mujica, Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Chris Capuano
Pawtucket: Drake Britton, Tommy Layne, Brayan Villarreal, Rich Hill, Alex Wilson, Dalier Hinojosa, Chris Resop
Portland: Noe Ramirez, Miguel Celestino, Michael Olmsted, Robby Scott, Matty Ott, Nate Reed, Jose Valdez, Pete Ruiz (DL), Aaron Kurcz (DL)
Salem: Madison Younginer, Kyle Martin, Kyle Stroup, Austin Maddox, Dayan Diaz, Matt Price (DL), Heri Quevedo (DL)
Greenville: Joe Gunkel, Jonathan Aro, Mike Adams, Jacob Dahlstrand, Raynel Velette
Lowell: German Taveras, Ellis Jimenez, Taylor Grover, Carlos Pinales, Rob Smorol, Oscar Perez
GCL: KJ Trader, Enfember Martinez, Pat Goetze, Victor Ramirez, Christian Perdomo, Jeffry Fernandez
DSL: Yeferson Ardiles, Samir El Halaby, Jose Espitia, Ritzi Mendoza, Ender Machuca, Hildernaro Requena, Darwinzon Hernandez, Shair Lacrus
Suspended: Francisco Tena

Photo Credit: Trey Ball, Teddy Stankiewicz, Jamie Callahan, Ty Buttrey, Myles Smith, and Sergio Gomez by Kelly O'Connor.

Follow Director of Scouting Ian Cundall on Twitter @IanCundall
Follow Executive Editor Chris Hatfield on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield