September 18, 2015 at 4:17 PM
The 2015 season was one of both great growth and some growing pains. Four different players held the title of the top prospect in the organization during the year, and the major league lineup has shown a decidedly home-grown inclination. System All-Stars from years past, such as Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Dustin Pedroia and 2015 graduates Eduardo Rodriguez and Blake Swihart have all played key roles in the Red Sox late-season resurgence. With that in mind, we present the annual year-end All-Stars as voted by the SoxProspects.com community for the 2015 season.
This was the closest contest among position players in the community voting, as Procyshen narrowly beat out Tim Roberson of the Portland Sea Dogs. Procyshen, a product of Okotoks, Alberta via Northern Kentucky University, was a 2014 14th-round pick. Procyshen impressed with his defense all season, showing the tools behind the plate to control a running game and become a reliable backstop. His advanced plate approach helped carry him to a solid .285/.356/.363 in the first half with Greenville en route to being named a starter in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. The 22-year-old met some resistance at the plate after a promotion to Salem, hitting just .209/.309/248 but showing solid walk and strikeout numbers. The Red Sox hope the power Procyshen flashed in college returns: after hitting 25 home runs in his final two years in college, he hit only two in 2015.
Another member of the 2014 draft class, the former Indiana Hoosier lived up to his reputation as a polished college hitter. Assigned to High A Salem out of spring training, Travis hit .313/.378/.467 in 66 games. He was in the midst of a monster June with a .406/.474/.638 line when he was promoted to Portland on June 25. He did not miss a beat in Double-A, hitting .300/.384/.436 for the Sea Dogs. The .384 on-base percentage ranked sixth in the Eastern League, and Travis did not turn 22 until the season's final week.
Second Base: Yoan Moncada
It was a whirlwind 2015 for the Cuban phenom. It began when the Red Sox signed him to a contract with a $31.5 million signing bonus in March, the largest minor league deal in baseball history even without including the 100 percent tax Boston paid after having surpassed its international signing bonus cap allotment in July 2014. It finished with Moncada taking his place atop the SoxProspects.com rankings and him garnering attention as one of the best young talents in the game. His professional career got off to something of a rocky start when he hit .200/.287/.289 in his first 25 games after a layoff of over a year. From June 25 to the end of the year, though, he asserted himself with a .310/.415/.500 line. Overall, Moncada had 30 extra-base hits in 306 at-bats and stole 49 bases while getting caught only three times.
The 2014 SoxProspects.com Rookie of the Year continued to rise in 2015. Despite skipping the Short Season-A level entirely, the 18-year-old Devers was the youngest participant in the Futures Game during the All-Star festivities in Cincinnati. He excelled against South Atlantic League pitchers who were routinely three to four years his senior on his way to leading the Red Sox organization with 38 doubles and 50 extra-base hits. His solid .288/.329/.443 overall line was brought down some as he tired to a slow finish to his first full season - understandable, as he appeared in 45 more games than in 2014. Also notable were his improvements on defense and his improved physique as the season went on, signs that any predictions of his moving across the diamond as his body fills out may still be well premature. His season was capped last week when he was taken first overall by Escogido in the Dominican Winter League draft. This marks Devers' second consecutive selection as a SoxProspects.com All-Star.
Like Devers, Guerra was challenged with a placement in Greenville out of Spring Training, skipping Lowell. And just like Devers, the 19-year-old responded with a fantastic season. His .279/.329/.449 slash line was almost identical to that of Devers, and Guerra improbably out-homered his partner on the left side of the Greenville infield, 15 to 11. The power was a revelation, as Guerra had hit only two home runs in 460 professional at-bats entering 2015 and had built his prospect reputation more on defense and contact tools. With his defense, which showed to be among the best in the minors, continuing to impress, Guerra rose to the number seven prospect in the Boston system.
The silver lining to the Red Sox 2014 season was that it put the organization in a position to grab the multi-talented Benintendi out of the University of Arkansas with the seventh pick in the draft. The Golden Spikes Award winner as the top player in college baseball did not miss a beat in his transition to pro ball. In an initial assignment to Lowell, Benintendi hit .290/.408/.540 with seven home runs in 153 plate appearances. That production paled in comparison to the havoc he wreaked on the South Atlantic League after an August 17 promotion. Benintendi delivered a monster .351/.430/.581 line, driving in 16 runs to go with nine extra-base hits in only 19 games.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
After a disastrous 2014 season split between Boston and Pawtucket, Bradley rebuilt both his swing and his value with a superb return to form in 2015. His sensational performance since a late-July recall has gotten significant press, but before that Bradley was the class of the International League. Among players with 300 plate appearances, he ranked third in the circuit in on-base percentage (.382) and second in slugging (.472). After hitting only two home runs in all of 2014, he has three multi-homer games this season: two in July with Pawtucket only four days apart and another with Boston in mid-August. This is the third time Bradley has been named to the SoxProspects.com All-Star team, being previously honored in 2012 and 2013.
As a 20-year old who flashes five tools and held his own at Double-A, Margot would get consideration as the top prospect in many systems. He got off to a hot start in 2015, abusing Carolina League pitching to the tune of .324/.377/.515 in April and going 69 plate appearances before striking out for the first time. His numbers took a hit in May when he stayed in the lineup while fighting a shoulder injury, but he was back up to speed by early June. The Red Sox have been aggressive in pushing Margot up the ladder, and that continued when he was promoted to Portland on June 21, at the time making him the second-youngest player in the Eastern League (and that only because Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford had been promoted days before). He held his own at the level and finished on a hot streak, going 14 for 25 with three doubles and two homers in his last six games. For the year, Margot hit .276/.324/.419 line with 39 steals, and he earns recognition as a SoxProspects.com All-Star for the second straight year.
In recent years, the Red Sox have made a strong commitment to scouting in Venezuela, and Espinoza's rise to prominence highlights that focus. After signing a $1.8-million deal in July 2014, his debut in the Dominican Summer League reached near folk-tale status. As he rolled through the competition, reports came in from his agent of him throwing a fastball in the high 90s matched with a devastating curveball. A promotion to the Gulf Coast League showed that Espinoza was no fairy tale. At 17--the age of the usual high school Junior--he dominated the circuit, allowing only three earned runs on 24 hits in 40 innings, striking out 40 and walking nine. He made his final start of the year at Low A Greenville, making him the youngest player to appear at that level all season and the youngest in the league by a staggering 13 months.
Johnson continued his rise through both the system and prospect lists with another strong showing in 2015. In 18 starts, the former Florida Gator posted a 2.53 ERA and 1.10 WHIP while striking out 90 and walking 32. He has posted a sub-3.00 ERA in each of his seasons in the minor leagues. The 2014 SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Year made his Major League debut on July 21, allowing four runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Houston Astros. Johnson seemed primed for a late-season return to the majors, but he left his August 2 start in Pawtucket after four innings with elbow tightness later diagnosed as ulnar nerve irritation and was placed on the disabled list. He is not expected to need surgery, and should be ready to compete for a spot in the Red Sox rotation in 2016 or at least a third straight SoxProspects.com All-Star selection.
The 17-year-old right-hander out of Nicaragua is the least known quantity on the 2015 All-Star team. Raudes was signed last summer to a $250,000 contract, but little was known about him other than a description in a Nicaraguan newspaper of the right-hander's "una curva obediente"--translated literally as an obedient curve. As mysterious as he was to those following the Red Sox system, he was downright bewildering to Dominican Summer League hitters. Raudes' 3.52 ERA was considerably higher than his dominant 0.91 WHIP and 63 strikeouts against only three walks in 53 2/3 would have suggested. His performance continued to impress after a late-season promotion to the GCL. In 20 innings, he allowed two runs on 13 hits, striking out 16 and walking six.
Owens has become an institution on this list. The 2015 season marks his fourth--and one would think, final--appearance as a SoxProspects.com All-Star. A 2011 supplemental first-round pick, Owens has been selected in each season of his career. Early in the season, another selection seemed in doubt. He had deemphasized his signature changeup in order to focus on working on his fastball and curve and introducing a slider while also adjusting to Triple-A pitching. Through 12 starts, he had a middling 3.64 ERA and nearly as many walks as strikeouts. However, after ramping use of the change back up, Owens became the dominant force Sox fans were used to. In his final nine starts with Pawtucket, he had a 2.64 ERA in 58 innings, striking out 52 and walking only 14.
The vaunted Red Sox draft of 2011 has now produced nine different players who have received recognition as SoxProspects.com All-Stars, and the road Jerez has taken has been by far the most circuitous. Jerez was a highly touted prospect when the Red Sox took him in the second round out of high school... as an outfielder. While his physical tools were impressive, Jerez simply never hit as a pro. In an effort to revive his career, he moved to the pitcher's mound after the 2013 season, and the results have been sensational. After an intriguing 2014 season between the GCL Red Sox and Lowell, the 23-year-old lefty broke out in 2015. Jerez dominated in an initial placement at Greenville, then had a quick pit stop in Salem before reaching Double-A Portland. Overall, Jerez had a 3.35 ERA in 88 2/3 innings across 41 outings, striking out 83 and walking 31 while showing stuff and unusual for a converted position player, attributable to his experience pitching before being drafted.
Of the 15 selected All-Stars, Hembree is the only one who got his professional start outside of the Red Sox organization. The 26-year-old righty came aboard as part of the return in the 2014 deal for pitcher Jake Peavy, and he asserted himself as a reliable late-inning option for the PawSox this year. He posted a 2.27 ERA in 29 appearances, with a 1.04 WHIP and more than three times as many strikeouts as walks. He was also one of the go-to calls when the major league club needed an extra arm in the bullpen, making the trip up I-95 four times during the season.
After climbing at a level per season in his first three years in the system, Aro has blown through five levels in the last two, making his major league debut in June despite having started the 2014 season with the Greenville Drive. The right-hander, selected for the third time as an All-Star, needed only eight appearances at Portland to start the year for the club to give him a promotion to Triple-A. After allowing three runs in his Pawtucket debut, the 24-year-old quickly adjusted, giving up only 15 in 49 2/3 innings over the next 25. Aro also gave his clubs flexibility, getting two saves and finishing 10 other games while also notching nine appearances of at least three innings.
Photo Credit: Anderson Espinoza by SoxProspects forum contributor "JohnSilver"; Roniel Raudes by La Presna via forum contributor brnichols19873; All other photos by Kelly O'Connor