October 21, 2014 at 7:30 AM
Past entries in our Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
#28: Anderson Espinoza, RHP
Yet to debut
Season in Review: Inked alongside Christopher Acosta at the opening of the international free agent signing period on July 2, the 16-year-old right-hander signed for $1.8 million plus $200,000 in scholarship money. Espinoza, who hails from Venezuela, was Baseball America’s fourth-ranked international amateur prospect and top-ranked pitcher, while grabbing the number 10 spot on MLB.com’s list. The Red Sox's decision to splurge beyond their allocated international bonus pool and face a 100-percent tax on the overages while making them unable to sign any international amateurs for above $300,000 the next two seasons, makes evident the high regard and expectations the team has for both Espinoza and Acosta. - Matt Picard
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Espinoza literally doubled the record for a signing bonus given to a Venezuelan, set by Francisco Rodriguez in 1992. Espinoza is slight of frame, listed as six-feet even, 170 pounds by Baseball America and 5-foot-10, 150 pounds by MLB.com, but he still sits in the low-90s with his fastball, topping out at 94. He reaches that velocity with clean mechanics and a repeatable delivery, generating plus arm speed with loose arm action. He may even continue to gain velocity as he fills out some. He is not just a raw arm either, as he shows great pitchability for his age and features two good offspeed pitches. His curveball is a potential plus pitch, with tight spin and sharp bite at 71-73 mph. He also throws a changeup with some sink and shows good feel for the pitch. Like Acosta, Espinoza could head to either the DSL or GCL, but is unlikely to earn an assignment beyond the complexes until 2016. (Once again, thanks goes to Baseball America and MLB.com for their scouting reports on Espinoza.) - Chris Hatfield
#27: Alex Hassan, OF/1B
2014 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 474 PA, .287/.378/.426, 31 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 60 BB, 109 K, 2 SB
Season in Review: It was a tale of two seasons for the Quincy-native. After a breakout 2013 campaign with Triple-A Pawtucket, Hassan returned to the club in 2014 only to suffer through a miserable start. By the beginning of June, over the course of his first 176 plate appearances, he had mustered only a .217/.318/.303 line despite a healthy .323 batting average on balls in play. While his excellent on-base skills were present as usual, he struggled mightily with making contact, striking out in 30 percent of his plate appearances, a significant spike above his previous rates. But after receiving a brief cup of coffee in Boston during which he collected his first major league hit, Hassan’s season transformed dramatically. In Boston, Hassan realized that, due to pressure from being a corner outfielder, he was trying too hard to hit for power, causing his swing to develop some imperfections. Ditching this ineffective approach, the 26-year-old rediscovered both his contact and power stroke upon his return to Pawtucket, slashing .327/.411/.498 with a strikeout percentage back down at a more familiar 18.8 percent, along with 29 extra-base hits in 298 plate appearances after hitting just 11 in his first 176 plate appearances. Hassan was hit by a pitch in game one of the PawSox International League semifinal series against Syracuse, and was in-and-out of the lineup the rest of the postseason, struggling to a 3 for 21 mark with four walks, which all came in the same game. The injury and ineffectiveness may also have cost Hassan a September call-up, as he was the only player on the 40-man other than Jonathan Herrera, who was on the DL, to not get the call to Boston. - Matt Picard
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Hassan will be entering his age 27 season and sixth year in the organization. Offensively, his overall hit tool grades about fringe-average. Hassan displays lots of pre-pitch movement, flaring his hands up and down, and has a high leg kick. However, he harnesses this movement to create rhythm and timing in his swing and maintain his balance at the plate. Hassan will grind out at-bats and shows a solid knowledge of the strike zone. He works deep into counts and will generate high walk and strikeout totals. He can struggle with inside fastballs and will chase breaking balls off the plate with two strikes. The bat speed is average at best, generating fringe-grade power; he is more of a line drive hitter with power to the gaps. Defensively, Hassan gets solid reads off the bat in the outfield, but displays fringe-average range with his lack of speed. He has the ability to handle both corner outfield spots with his natural instincts, and shows average-to-plus arm strength. Hassan profiles best as a utility corner outfielder with the ability to play a serviceable first base defensively. Hassan is destined to begin 2015 back with Pawtucket. Entering his final option year, he will be closely watched by other teams with needs in the outfield and the roster flexibility to carry Hassan at the major league level, which the Red Sox do not have. - Chaz Fiorino
Additional editorial support provided by Jonathan Singer.