September 28, 2015 at 1:30 PM
Much like with the major league club, 2015 saw several individual players have standout performances that weren't reflected in the team win-loss records. Only one affiliate qualified for the playoffs--though the one that did, the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, won its league championship. The talent was spread throughout the organization, from the several players who began the season with Pawtucket making an impact on the major league team, to a pair of hot-shot rookies who take home the Offensive Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year awards. The award winners in the nine below categories were selected by the SoxProspects.com community.
Offensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year: Andrew Benintendi
The silver lining in Boston's hugely disappointing 2014 season was the opportunity to select the 2015 Golden Spikes Award winner with the seventh overall pick in the draft. After a standout campaign as a draft-eligible sophomore, Benintendi continued to dominate the baseball world once the Red Sox brought him into the fold. Initially assigned to Lowell, he saw little resistance from New York-Penn League pitching, hitting .290/.408/.540 with seven home runs in 153 plate appearances on his way to being named the top prospect in that circuit by Baseball America. Rewarded with a mid-August promotion to Greenville, facing the more advanced South Atlantic League competition seemed only to get more out of the 21-year-old. He hit an outstanding .351/.430/.581 in 19 games to close out the season.
The .313/.416/.556 line between two levels was dominant enough to get Benintendi recognized as the top offensive performer in the system despite totaling only 239 plate appearances. The former Arkansas Razorback was in a much closer competition in the Rookie of the Year balloting, narrowly topping Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada and 17-year-old right-hander Anderson Espinoza.
After signing to largest bonus ever for a Venezuelan amateur pitcher in July 2014, the expectations were high for Espinoza. Incredibly, the 17-year-old righty blew any reasonable 2015 projections away, dominating both the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League, posting a 0.81 ERA and 0.891 WHIP in 55 innings. In late August, the Red Sox skipped Espinoza a grade to with a promotion to the Greenville Drive, where he became the youngest player to appear in a game in the South Atlantic League by over 13 months. Like Benintendi, Espinoza also got recognition from the outside scouting community, as Baseball America named him the top prospect in the GCL.
On its own, rising from the 16th-ranked player in the system to the seventh over the course of the season might not seem so dramatic, but Guerra's rise was reflected not only in his rise in status but the way he did it. In the SoxProspects.com System Restart back in Spring Training, we wrote that "Much of his current value is tied to his advanced defense... (T)he quick hands and hand-eye coordination that make him a plus defender give some reason to believe he has a chance for real development offensively." Everyone knew about Guerra's defense at shortstop, and his ability to hit for average was projectable, but nobody saw the rise in power in his bat that 2015 brought. His 15 home runs placed him second in the organization, and his .449 slugging percentage was good for fifth among players with 200 plate appearances. That expectation-defying power surge earned Guerra recognition as 2015's breakout prospect.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
The 2014 season was a total loss for Bradley. After racing through the system in 2012 and making his major league debut only 21 months after originally signing, Bradley bottomed out last season. His .198/.265/.266 in the majors was concerning, but it was his .212/.246/.273 line with Pawtucket only a year after he posted a .842 OPS at that level that was so inexplicable. Whatever the cause for the prolonged slump, it proved correctable. Before his well-publicized hot streak at the major league level, Bradley was one of the most dominant players in the International League, hitting .305/.382/.472 in 71 games.
Like Espinoza, Raudes is another example of the success the Red Sox have had throughout Latin America under International Scouting Director Eddie Romero. The $250,000 bonus given to Raudes in 2014 was the largest given by Boston to a player from Nicaragua, and Raudes looked to be a worthwhile investment. The 17-year-old righty displayed outstanding control, walking only three batters against 63 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings with the DSL Sox. Raudes received a late-season promotion to the GCL where he continued to dominate, allowing only two runs on 13 hits in 20 innings.
The Red Sox organization entered the year with a boatload of talent at Pawtucket. While injuries and under-performance by those at the MLB level led to the team turning to those prospects more than they would've liked, the fine play from those graduating from prospect status has led to the late-season surge. Along with fellow Class of 2015 graduates Blake Swihart and Henry Owens, Rodirguez has done an excellent job turning potential into performance. The six-foot-two lefty was promoted after eight solid starts with the PawSox and was an immediate revelation. In his first three starts, Rodriguez allowed one run on eight hits in 20 2/3 innings, striking out 21 and walking seven. For the season, he has a 3.97 ERA in 20 starts with 93 strikeouts and 36 walks.
One of the most closely-contested votes came in this category, where Bogaerts (pictured with Portland in 2012) narrowly beat out outfielder Mookie Betts. Like Bradley, Bogaerts bounced back from an uneven 2014 with a breakout season. The 22-year old ranks second in the American League both with a .324 batting average, and with a 190 base hits. Only two other Red Sox players have reached that hit total in a season before their 23rd birthday: Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.
When the Red Sox made the blockbuster deal after the 2010 season to acquire first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, only one of the three players sent to the Padres did not have a first-round pedigree. Rizzo (pictured with Portland in 2010), however, has turned into not only the gem of that deal but also one of the top first basemen in the game. With a sterling .278/.388/.513 batting line, Rizzo has been instrumental in the Chicago Cubs revival, ranking in the National League's top 10 in home runs, doubles, runs scored, RBI, and walks.
Photo Credit: Anderson Espinoza by SoxProspects.com forum contributor "JohnSilver"; Roniel Raudes by La Presna via forum contributor brnichols19873; All other photos by Kelly O'Connor