October 29, 2014 at 7:30 AM
Past entries in our Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
#16: Wendell Rijo, 2B
2014 Team: Greenville Drive
Final Stats: 473 PA, .254/.348/.416, 27 2B, 6 3B, 9 HR, 56 BB, 103 K, 16 SB
Season in Review: As an 18-year-old in the South Atlantic League, Rijo was about three-and-a-half years younger than the average player in the league and was the fourth-youngest in the circuit on opening day. He started the season hot, batting .341/.464/.516 in 117 plate appearances in his first 26 games, with almost as many walks as strikeouts, but he followed that with a 4 for 47 stretch that saw him strike out in 34 percent of his at-bats. His performance was similarly up-and-down most of the season—for example, following up a 12-game hitting streak in August, during which he hit .326/.442/.581, with a four-game 0 for 15 stretch—but Rijo remained healthy all year, avoiding the disabled list and logging as many at-bats as he could. After tearing his ACL in 2012 and playing last season with a large knee brace, durability was a question for Rijo, but he seems to have answered that with 111 games played this year, tied for 11th in the system. Rijo proved inconsistent on the defensive side, committing 21 errors on the year. - Jim Crowell
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Rijo held his own in the Sally League despite his age, showing some feel for hitting and passable secondary skills to profile as a potential second division starter. Rijo has an average build with limited future projection. He has shown some feel for hitting, quick hands and solid bat speed at the plate. He has an aggressive approach at present, and can too often get caught chasing secondary pitches. His swing mechanics are very unorthodox, starting very open with his hands high and then using an exaggerated leg kick and long stride. He does typically get his leg down in plenty of time and has solid weight transfer, which allows him to drive the ball with backspin when he squares it up, even though he is not overly physical. Rijo has a slight uppercut in his swing as well, and has shown the ability to pull his hands in and turn on fastballs on the inner half. Occasionally, he will get caught way out over his front foot on offspeed pitches, or can get behind the pitch if his leg kick gets too long, but in Low A, he showed the ability to compensate with quick hands. Power wise, Rijo has already started to show some game power and could eventually develop average to solid-average power. Defensively, Rijo is restricted to second base, where he could develop into a solid-average defender, but he needs to tighten things up there as his mechanics can get sloppy. Rijo used to be a better runner, but since tearing his ACL he has shown to be more of a fringe-average runner. However, the son of a scout, he can still steal bases due to his instincts and understanding of the game. Rijo will head to the Carolina League next season, where he is likely to be one of the youngest members of the Salem roster and, perhaps, in the league. This should provide a good test for him, especially at the plate, where more advanced arms could give him trouble if he does not make the necessary adjustments to his approach and tone down his aggressiveness. - Ian Cundall
#15: Edwin Escobar, SP
2014 Teams: Fresno Grizzlies (SF - AAA), Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 138 1/3 IP, 3-10, 4.94 ERA, 161 H, 84 R/76 ER, 45 BB, 116 K, 1.48 WHIP (minors)
2 IP, 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1 H, 1 R/1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 0.50 WHIP (majors)
Season in Review: Ranked as the 56th-best prospect in baseball coming into the season by Baseball America, Escobar started the year with the Giants' Triple-A affiliate in Fresno despite having made just 10 starts in Double-A. His initial adjustment to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League was a tough one, as the 22-year-old gave up 12 earned runs over 12 2/3 innings in his first three starts. He settled down over his next three starts, surrendering only four runs over 17 1/3 innings, but it was all downhill from there, as he was bit by the long ball for the rest of his tenure with the Giants, serving up 16 home runs in his final 14 starts in the San Francisco system while pitching to a 5.22 ERA. Still, based on his reputation and potential, Escobar was named to the Futures Game, where he gave up a run in one inning of work.
The Red Sox acquired Escobar on July 26 along with Heath Hembree in the Jake Peavy trade, and he was outstanding in his first two starts with the PawSox, allowing only two runs while striking out 10 over 12 innings. In need of bullpen help, the Red Sox recalled Escobar on August 10, but he was optioned to Pawtucket two days later without appearing in a game. He had two more strong starts for the PawSox before struggling mightily in what would be his last regular season start, as he allowed nine runs while only recording seven outs. Despite the disappointing final start, he was called up again, and he made his major league debut on August 27, tossing a scoreless inning against Toronto. He was optioned back down the next day, and took on the role as the PawSox number one starter in the International League playoffs. In his first start, he nearly notched a complete-game shutout against Syracuse, but gave up a home run in the ninth to tie the game before exiting. He later picked up the win in game one of the Governors' Cup Series, allowing two runs on six hits over seven innings, striking out five and walking none. His final start of the year came in the Triple-A Championship Game, in which he went five strong innings, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks, striking out six. He ended the season with a brief stint in Boston, striking out two and allowing one run while closing out a win over Tampa on August 24 in his lone appearance. - Jim Crowell
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Escobar will turn just 23 in April. The left-handed pitcher primarily displays a three-pitch mix, using a fastball/curveball/change-up combination. He will also flash a rare slider on occasion with cutter-like movement. The fastball grades as solid-average and ranges between 89-94 mph, with some sink when thrown down in the zone. The curveball ranges from 74-77 mph with slurvy break that can give left-handed hitters trouble. He will throw the pitch to both right- and left-handed hitters, and will double up on the offering. The change-up is also solid-average at 82-85, and will flash plus. He throws it with solid arm speed and is not afraid to double up on the offering or throw it in any count. Escobar has solid-average control of three solid-average-grade pitches, with the ability to pitch to both sides of the plate. He has a floor of a solid left-handed bullpen arm, with a chance to stick as a middle-to-back-end starter in the rotation. Given his relative youth for his progression through the minors, he should continue to develop as a starter but could fill a need out of the major league bullpen right now. Given the system's depth of left-handed pitching—Escobar is, at best, the fourth- or fifth-best such prospect in the system—Escobar may be an intriguing trade chip for another organization, albeit not as the headlining prospect in even a smaller deal. If he sticks around, Escobar could slot into the either the Pawtucket rotation or bullpen, depending on how trades shake out the organization's upper-minors pitching glut and how the club would prefer to use Escobar going forward. - Chaz Fiorino
Additional editorial support provided by Jonathan Singer.