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November 10, 2015 at 7:00 AM

2015 Top 40 Season in Review: Ex-Top 40, Part 1

Today marks the start of our annual Top 40 Season in Review series. Over the coming weeks, we’ll recap the seasons of the top 40 prospects in our end-of-season rankings, as well as those of this season’s seven graduates from the top 40, and preview what’s ahead for them in 2016. This week, as a primer, we’ll take brief looks at the prospects who were in the top 40 at some point this year but are no longer. Our first entry looks at four players who dealt with significant injuries in 2015.

Sean Coyle, 2B/3B
2015 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox; GCL Red Sox/Lowell Spinners (rehab)
Final Stats: 203 PA, .193/.294/.341, 6 HR, 66 K, 24 BB
2015 Peak Ranking: 15 (April, May)
Current Ranking: 46
Top 40 in Review: 2014 | 2013 | 2012

Coyle began the season as the 15th-ranked prospect in the system, but by the end of August, he’d fallen out of the top 40, and he now sits at 46 on the list. His fall can be attributed to the two bugaboos that have plagued him since he entered the system as a 2010 third-round pick: strikeouts and injuries. On the former, he struck out in nearly a third of his trips to the plate this season, and that 32.5-percent strikeout rate ranked second-highest in the system among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances. On the latter, the injury bug hit him early and often in 2015: He missed a week in April, then about a month from May 12 to June 8 with elbow inflammation, before his Pawtucket season came to an abrupt end on June 30 when he was placed on the DL with a lower back strain. Coyle attempted one last comeback, playing nine games in the Gulf Coast League and three in Lowell on a rehab assignment in early August before he was again shut down, this time for the rest of the season.

Coyle’s inability to stay healthy or to make a sufficient amount of contact nullify his solid-average-to-plus power. On defense, the organization was attempting, as it was with many of his PawSox teammates, to make him more versatile. In addition to playing him at second and third, he had begun playing a little bit of outfield right before succumbing to the back injury. At this point, Coyle’s inability to make contact limits his ceiling to that of a major league utility player, and if he is unable to stay on the field, he will not even become that. Coyle may even be a candidate to be designated for assignment this offseason if the Red Sox need a spot on the 40-man roster, although there are likely still candidates ahead of him. If he remains with the organization in 2016, he will again begin the year in Pawtucket, in the hopes of proving he can stay healthy and hit enough to bring his average back above the Mendoza line.

2015 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs; GCL Red Sox/Lowell Spinners (rehab)
Final Stats: 191 PA, .257/.335/.347, 0 HR, 19 BB, 33 K
2015 Peak Ranking: 21 (April)
Current Ranking: 47
Top 40 in Review: 2014 | 2013
Ramos is another player who plummeted in the rankings due to injury, his inability to stay on the field proving to be the main determining factor in that fall. After peaking at number 17 last season, he began the year ranked 21st, but has dropped all the way to his current spot of 47 after suffering his second major injury in as many seasons, requiring surgery on his right knee after just six games in April. Unlike last season, he did eventually return to the Sea Dogs, hitting .248/.331/.372 in 32 games before again going on the DL to end his season in mid-August.

Ramos has transformed himself from a lanky, raw soccer player to now resembling a linebacker physically. Although he also began to show that he was transforming his raw physical ability into more polished baseball skills, the progress has been interrupted over the last two seasons, playing in just 85 non-rehab games. Ramos projects to return to Portland yet again next year to try and put the injury bug of the last two seasons behind him, and stay healthy enough—and perform well enough—to justify a promotion to Pawtucket.

2015 Team: Salem Red Sox
Final Stats: 23 IP, 1.96 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 14 K, 6 BB
2015 Peak Ranking: 34 (May)
Current Ranking: NR

Continuing the injury theme, the 23-year-old Dahlstrand looked poised for a breakout season after following up some scouting buzz coming out of the end of the 2014 season and spring training in 2015 with a dynamite three-start stretch to start the year. He came out firing for Salem with six no-hit innings in his season debut that became a 6 1/3-inning no-hitter, thanks to rain, with Joe Gunkel getting the final out. That early performance was enough to jump him to 34 in the rankings at the end of April, with his stock rising. However, he left his fourth start with an injury and SoxProspects.com sources say he eventually had Tommy John surgery, missing the rest of the season.

After a slow progression through the system that saw him spend three seasons in short-season ball, then another season-and-a-half in Greenville, time is not on Dahlstrand’s side. With a 90-96 mph fastball, which he complements with a slider and changeup, the team may want to give him another chance to start when healthy. But in order to get back on a normal development track, he would have to get to Portland by the end of the season, and it is fair to wonder if he would be better served seeing if he can dial the fastball up another notch in the bullpen next season to reaccelerate his progression to Boston.

2015: Did Not Play
2015 Peak Ranking: 39 (April, May)
Current Ranking: NR

Our final injury victim entered the season at the number 39 slot, but after missing the entire year to injury, the 24-year-old has slid off the board entirely. After being drafted ninth overall out of high school in 2010 and declining to sign with the Padres, he dealt with shoulder issues in college at Florida. But Whitson looked like he might be an 11th-round steal in the 2014 draft for the Red Sox, and scouting buzz grew after a stellar showing at the Fall Instructional League in 2014, sitting 92-94 mph and touching 96 with an inconsistent, hard slider and firm changeup. However, after losing another entire season to an undisclosed injury, Whitson will enter 2016 with seven professional innings to his name. Already featuring a profile that projects best to the bullpen, and probably limited in how many innings he will realistically be able to throw in the coming season, it may be most pragmatic to move him right into a relief role in 2016 to give him a chance to rise to an age-appropriate level more quickly.

Photo Credit: Kelly O'Connor