April 17, 2015 at 4:48 PM
Who coming stateside from the Latin program bears watching?
The two most intriguing arms are Dominican right-hander Gerson Bautista and Venezuelan lefty Enmanuel De Jesus. Both are tall with the lanky, projectable frames the Red Sox favor. Bautista was dominant in the DSL last year after being suspended for nearly all of the 2013 season. De Jesus showed advanced command considering his understandable lack of polish against older hitters at Fall Instructs. Both are likely to be assigned to the Gulf Coast League.
Who to Watch:
Top prospect: Jake Cosart, Projection: Lowell
The Red Sox nabbed Cosart (pictured, above right) in the third round of the 2014 draft, and he fits the mold of the projectable arm with superior athleticism who the team has targeted the last two drafts. After redshirting his freshman season at Duke as an outfielder, Cosart transferred to Seminole State (FL) Junior College, where he transitioned to pitcher. On the mound, he sat in the 93-95 range and touched 98 with elite arm speed, although he does so with nearly no help from his lower half. Both his changeup and curve have real potential. If both develop, and perhaps if he is able to incorporate his legs into his mechanics better, Cosart could have a future as a mid-rotation starter. Even if he only can only develop one of the two secondaries, his excellent velocity could make him a late-inning reliever. Like Michael Kopech and Trey Ball, Cosart is something of a project, but he is the sort of top athlete that is easy to dream on.
Bautista (pictured, left) signed for a $250,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic, but things did not look good for the righty when he was suspended 50 games for testing positive for the steroid Stanozolol before throwing his first professional pitch. Bautista turned things around with an impressive showing in the Dominican Summer League last season, posting a 1.03 ERA in 61 innings. Of the seven earned runs he allowed, four came in one start. In his other twelve outings, he allowed one or fewer. He impressed in Fort Myers with a fastball that touched 95 and a potentially above-average slider.
The Red Sox went over their international bonus allotment in order to sign this pair of right-handers. Espinoza got a bonus of $1.8 million, double the highest bonus ever signed by a Venezuelan pitcher. He has exceptional, smooth mechanics for a pitcher of his age, generating easy low-90s velocity on his fastball. Acosta, considered the top pitching prospect in the class out of the Dominican Republic, also shows plus polish for an international free agent. It will likely not be until the Fall Instructional League, at the earliest, that we see them stateside. Although the bonuses would portend big things down the road for these two, they will still need to prove it on the field – a look at the seven-digit signees of the Red Sox over the last few years makes clear that signing bonus size is not a surefire indicator that a prospect can’t miss.
On the radar:
Jose Almonte, Projection: Lowell – At $610,000, Almonte received the largest bonus of any Red Sox signee in the 2012 international class. He posted a solid 3.02 ERA in his stateside debut in the GCL last summer, but struggled to miss bats, with only 33 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. His fastball touches 90 with cutter-like movement, and his curveball has potential.
Dedgar Jimenez, Projection: Lowell – Already a big body at over 250 pounds, Jimenez uses his lower body well but conditioning will be important to his development. He supplements a 91-mph fastball with a changeup and curveball.
Javier Rodriguez, Projection: Lowell – The unheralded left-hander out of Mexico posted a 1.44 for the GCL Sox last summer. He’s a potential sleeper candidate who has gotten a little buzz.
Taylor Nunez, Projection: Lowell – A highly-touted pitcher out of high school, Nunez missed all of the 2013 season at Southern Miss after a major arm injury. Healthy again, his fastball sits 92-94 mph, but his command is currently below average.
Yankory Pimentel, Projection: Lowell – A 6-foot-2 righty, Pimentel flashed a fastball that touched 94 in Fort Myers, along with a complementary slider.
Luis Ramos, Projection: Lowell – Ramos is a smaller left-hander who creates deception with a jerky delivery and uses a four-pitch arsenal.
Algenis Martinez, Projection: GCL – A skinny right-hander coming stateside at 21. Martinez has a fastball sits 92-93 with a slider that shows some potential.
Enmanuel De Jesus, Projection: GCL – Lanky and athletic, De Jesus (pictured, right) only turned 18 in December. He walked only 18 and struck out 55 for the DSL Red Sox last season.
Daniel Gonzalez, Projection: GCL – Gonzalez has allowed only 23 earned runs in 118 1/3 DSL innings, walking 17 and striking out 98. Long a player who intrigued DSL box score watchers, he lacks plus athleticism and elite stuff, sitting just 83-85 mph with his fastball despite his listed 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame. Still, he will get a look as long as the production continues.
Kevin Steen, Projection: GCL –Steen received a $255,000 bonus after Boston grabbed him in the ninth round last June. At 6-foot-1, he does not have the height the Red Sox have normally targeted, but he is extremely athletic. His fastball can touch 90 and his curveball flashes plus potential, but Steen is very much a project at this point.
Jhonathan Diaz (DL) – Diaz had come stateside and was projected for the GCL rotation. Unfortunately, he tore his knee in pitcher fielding practice in Fort Myers, and will miss the 2015 season.
Dioscar Romero (DL) – The burly right-hander signed a $600,000 bonus in 2011, but pitched only 3 2/3 innings last year before tearing his UCL in June.
Josh Pennington (DL) – Drafted out of Lower Cape May (N.J.) High School, Pennington underwent Tommy John surgery last summer.
Photo Credit: Jake Cosart, Gerson Bautista, Enmanuel De Jesus by Kelly O'Connor
James Dunne is a Senior Staff Writer at SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesMDunne.