May 18, 2015 at 12:00 PM
Here are this week's minor league notes:
- The Greenville Drive announced on Sunday that Yoan Moncada is set to make his minor league debut with the team later today. The 19-year-old Cuban infielder who was signed to a record $31.5 million signing bonus will be appearing in his first game action since December 2013, with most of his playing time likely coming at second base.
- With questions swirling about the major league rotation, Brian Johnson (pictured, right) turned in one of his best starts of the season on Thursday for the PawSox, striking out eight batters over 6 2/3 innings without issuing a walk. SoxProspects.com Managing Editor Matt Huegel spoke with Johnson after the game, and Johnson said that his fastball command in this start was the best it had been all season. Johnson broke down the start in detail, and it is easy to see while reading the article why many consider him to be the smartest pitcher in the system.
- Mike Zunino, the catcher for the Seattle Mariners who was Johnson's roommate at the University of Flordia, talked to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe about what makes Johnson so successful. Zunino credits Johnson's feel for his off-speed pitches, as well as his even-keeled mentality for his success, and Zunino is hoping that Johnson is in Boston when the Mariners visit Fenway Park in August.
- Rusney Castillo had a volatile week, showing fans both why he was worth a $72.5 million contract, and why he is still in Pawtucket. On Tuesday, Castillo got a walk-off hit, but on Wednesday he had to leave the game early after sliding awkwardly into second base. He came back on Friday, slugging two home runs while also adding a 400-foot double and a walk. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe documented Boston's struggles in right field this year, and how Castillo is not the answer...yet.
- Castillo was joined in Pawtucket this week by Allen Craig, who told Tim Britton of the Providence Journal that he is looking forward to getting consistent at-bats, even though he is disappointed to be back in the minor leagues. Craig will be playing every day in Pawtucket, and he has already appeared in games at first base, right field, and designated hitter.
- After a scorching April in which he was named the SoxProspects.com Player of the Month, Manuel Margot was struggling in May, batting .121/.167/.121 over 9 games. He was placed on the disabled list with shoulder soreness, which the Red Sox believe was contributing to his poor numbers. Aaron McFarling of the Roanoke Times had an interesting note about Margot in an article last week, revealing that Margot did not play baseball competitively until he was 13. The Red Sox signed him only three years later for $800,000.
- A trio of top relievers were promoted last week, with Jonathan Aro, Joe Gunkel (pictured, right), and Chandler Shepherd all moving up a level. Gunkel is the highest rated prospect, coming in at number 33 in our rankings, as the right-hander is very effective against right-handed batters. Right-handers were hitting just .171 against him in Salem before his promotion, and they hit .161 against him in Greenville last year.
- Aro is ranked 43rd on our site, and he has now reached Pawtucket only four years after he debuted in 2011 in the Dominican Summer League. Now 24, Aro is just a step away from the major leagues after breezing through Salem and Portland, throwing a combined 42 1/3 innings between the two levels. He will be joined in the Pawtucket bullpen by Dayan Diaz, who was also promoted from Portland last week.
- According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, the Red Sox are close to finalizing a minor league deal with Cuban second baseman Yolian Cerse. Because he is 28, the amount of his signing bonus will not count against the team's international bonus pool. Cerse was one of the best players in Cuba from 2005-2010, with his best season coming in 2008 when he hit .375/.431/.567 with 14 home runs. His play fell off in 2011 and 2012, which are the last two years he has played professionally. He was teammates with Dalier Hinojosa for a few seasons with Guantanamo.
- An interesting development last week was Jamie Callahan's debut as a reliever. The second round pick in 2012 has struggled since he arrived in Greenville in 2014, and many have believed his ultimate future lies in the bullpen. The right-hander has good stuff, featuring a fastball that can touch 96 and a solid-average curveball, but his funky delivery has led to control issues which are exacerbated in the starting rotation.
- Two players who are having vastly different years hit the disabled list last week, with Daniel McGrath (undisclosed injury) and Sean Coyle (left elbow inflammation) both set to miss time. McGrath currently has over one strikeout per inning in Salem with an ERA of only 1.80, while Coyle has been in a season-long slump that has him hitting .159/.275/.348.
- The 2015 MLB Draft is approaching fast, and with the seventh overall pick, Blake Swihart is hoping the Red Sox take Alex Bregman, a shortstop from Louisiana State University. Speaking to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, Swihart discussed his relationship with Bregman, which goes back to their middle school days in New Mexico. Bregman was drafted by the Red Sox in 2012 out of high school but did not sign, and he is now a unanimous top-10 prospect in the draft.
- MacPherson had more draft coverage on Sunday, covering Boston's haul from the 2005 draft, which is considered one of the best drafts for any team in the last decade. Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Craig Hansen, Michael Bowden, and Luis Expositio all were drafted and signed by the Red Sox, while the Red Sox also drafted but were not able to sign Pedro Alvarez, Jason Castro, Charlie Blackmon, Allan Dykstra, Kirby Yates, and John Hester. While some had more impact than others, 12 major leaguers drafted in 50 rounds is a remarkable number.
Kevin McAvoy, SP, Salem Red Sox
1 G, 1-0, 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
McAvoy (pictured, right), Boston's fourth-round pick in the 2014 Draft, has had a great start to the season, and his seven innings of one-hit ball last week was his best start as a professional. A local kid out of Bryant University, McAvoy's heavy fastball has held batters to a .191 batting average this year, and the one walk in this start was a positive sign, as he entered the game walking over 5.5 batters per nine innings.
Season Stats: 7 G, 3-2, 39.2 IP, 2.04 ERA, 25 H, 9 ER, 21 BB, 25 K
Oscar Tejeda, IF/OF, Portland Sea Dogs
7 G, 30 AB, 14 H, 6 2B, 1 3B, 8 R, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K, 0 SB, .467/.485/.733
A true utility player who has played all over the diamond for the Sea Dogs, Tejeda demolished Eastern League pitching this week, highlighted by a three-game stretch that saw him go 10 for 14 with four doubles and a walk. Originally signed by the Red Sox back in 2006, Tejeda is still just 25, though he has nine seasons of experience and over 3,000 at-bats in the minors. Tejeda was also named Eastern League Player of the Week.
Season Stats (with Salem and Portland): 31 G, 126 AB, 44 H, 16 2B, 1 3B, 20 R, 23 RBI, 5 BB, 26 K, 0 SB, .349/.368/.492
Photo Credit: Brian Johnson, Joe Gunkel, and Kevin McAvoy by Kelly O'Connor