October 22, 2014 at 7:30 AM
Past entries in our Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
#26: Simon Mercedes, SP
2014 Teams: Salem Red Sox (Rehab: Lowell Spinners)
Final Stats: 96 IP, 5-10, 1 SV, 4.41 ERA, 98 H, 52 R/47 ER, 41 BB, 79 K, 1.45 WHIP
Season in Review: It was a bit of a tale of two halves for Mercedes this season. Coming off of a very successful 2013 at Lowell, Mercedes began the season with the Salem Red Sox. It seemed as though his 2013 success would carry over into 2014, as the 22 year-old was able to put up a 3.76 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over his first 40 2/3 innings to start the year. However, he hit the DL after a 3 2/3-inning start on June 4, and missed about a month before starting a rehab assignment with Lowell on July 3. That assignment lasted three games, and upon his return to Salem he struggled mightily over his final eight games. Four times in those eight starts he gave up five earned runs, including three starts in a row between July 24 and August 5. Over the final 40 2/3 innings of the season, he had a 5.53 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and 31 strikeouts to 17 walks. - Will Woodward
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Reports coming out of Spring Training were very encouraging and had Mercedes hitting 100 mph with his fastball, but as the season progressed, Mercedes struggled with consistency and holding his velocity. Mercedes's fastball generally sits in the low-to-mid 90s with sink, but later in the season, he sat at the bottom of that range at 90-91. His secondary pitches looked much improved during a brief outing in the Fall Instructional League, but throughout his career those have also been inconsistent. His curveball has been his primary out pitch, although during Instructs he seemed to be using a slider at 84-87 mph with sharp two-plane movement and curveball depth. The pitch flashed plus and showed bat-missing potential. His changeup was also improved at Instructs, showing splitter-like dive and similar arm speed to his fastball at 84-87 mph. In general, this pitch has lagged behind his breaking ball, and was more of a work in progress. If Mercedes can continue to show these improved secondary offerings and a crisp fastball with his starter's build, he has a chance to start, but long-term I think he is best suited for the bullpen. Mercedes struggles to repeat his mechanics and has some rigidity in his delivery. He also is very inconsistent with his command and seemed to tire as the season went on, to the point where his fastball was dipping down into the 80s in some outings. Heading into next year, he will likely be kept in the rotation or in a piggyback role, probably repeating Salem to start the year. If he was moved to the bullpen full-time, he could move relatively quickly. - Ian Cundall
#25: Carlos Asuaje, Util
2014 Teams: Greenville Drive, Salem Red Sox
Final Stats: 559 PA, .310/.393/.533, 38 2B, 12 3B, 15 HR, 59 BB, 90 SO, 8 SB
Season in Review: Asuaje was drafted in the 11th round in 2013, and after signing was able to play 52 games for Lowell, showing his defensive versatility and putting up decent offensive numbers with a good approach. He started this year in Greenville and raked from the very start. By the end of April, he had put up a ridiculous .365/.489/.608 line with more walks than strikeouts, including five triples, a mark that on its own was topped by only seven Red Sox minor leaguers over the entire season. That opening month proved to not be an aberration, and from May through his promotion in mid-July he hit .287/.360/.522 with 11 home runs, trading a little average for power. He was named to the South Atlantic League All-Star Team, led the league in slugging and OPS, and finished in the top 10 in the league in average and on-base percentage. He did this while filling a true super-utility role for the Drive, splitting his time among third base, second base, left field, and peppering in a bit of time at shortstop and designated hitter. The 22 year-old continued his impressive season after he was promoted to Salem on July 18. Over 39 games, he hit .323/.398/.516, adding four home runs and 14 doubles. He continued to show his versatility in Salem, splitting his time about equally between left field and second base. At the end of the year, he was named a South Atlantic League Season-End All-Star, a SoxProspcets.com All-Star, and the Greenville Drive Player of the Year. - Will Woodward
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Asuaje was a bit of a rarity in 2014, at least in the Red Sox system—a legitimate "prospect" being used in a true utility role. That likely will be his best-case future in the major leagues, should his development go according to plan, so the club was likely smart to start his transition now, getting the Nova Southeastern product his first experience in the outfield. He acquitted himself well out there too, making a number of solid plays—one showing some range and making a diving catch, another showing a solid arm—in my short two-game stint catching Salem in August. He showed surprising pop this year, even after moving up to the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Asuaje does not really have any tools that stand out as above-average, but he has a great feel for the game that allows him to out-play his stature and physical tools. He could return to Salem to start 2015, but he will fight for a spot in Portland coming out of camp, and could potentially earn it. He will get there by the end of the season anyway, barring injury. - Chris Hatfield
Additional editorial support provided by Norm Cimon.