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November 12, 2015 at 7:00 AM

2015 Top 40 Season in Review: Ex Top-40, Part 2

This marks part two of three of our look at players who were once in the top 40 but fell out for various reasons. Next week, we start our recap of the current top 40.

2015 Team: Lowell Spinners
Final Stats: 232 PA, .251/.307/.351, 1 HR, 12 BB, 42 K
2015 Peak Ranking: 40 (April, May)
Current Ranking: 42

With Acosta, his appearance here is less about falling out of the Top 40 than it is about his hovering right around the edges of its periphery all season, as he ranked between 40 and 47 at all points since Opening Day. The 19-year-old Venezuelan has shown the ability to hit for power in the past, slugging a more-impressive-than-it-sounds eight home runs in the Dominican Summer League in 2013. However, he had his lowest power output in his three professional seasons in 2015, hitting just one home run and slugging .351 while working through struggles against New York-Penn League pitching. Acosta started hot with 15 hits in his first nine games of the season, but he had just 38 more in his final 47 games, posting a .216/.278/.307 line over that stretch. His power also came in bunches, as eight of his 16 doubles came in a 10-game stretch from July 31 to August 13.

Acosta has around average hit and power tools, at best, at the plate. On defense, he is a man without a position. He does not field either second or third base particularly well, and he saw time in left field early in Lowell’s season, at first base during Fall Instructs last year, and even center field during the offseason in Venezuela. Although there are some things to like in his game, he is yet to distinguish himself stateside, and his performance in Greenville next season will say a lot about whether Acosta is the type of player who will rise in the rankings, stagnate on the fringes of the Top 40, or even fall off because he is unable to solve more advanced pitching.

2015 Team: Salem Red Sox
Final Stats: 60 2/3 IP, 6.08 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 48 K, 35 BB
2015 Peak Ranking: 37 (April)
Current Ranking: 55

Taveras really hit our radar during spring training 2014 when we first saw him dialing up mid-90s heat, touching 97, with an inconsistent slider. This season, the 22-year-old Dominican was consistently inconsistent, alternating between stretches of ineffectiveness (e.g., 7.02 ERA, 6 K/10 BB in 16 2/3 IP from April 12 to May 12) and dominance (e.g., 0.53 ERA, 22 K/5 BB in 17.0 IP from May 15 to June 19). He mixed in some strong appearances in the second half of the season, but continued to show control troubles, striking out as many as he walked after June 19. The flashes of success suggest a pitcher who at least has it in him to pitch at that level more often as he transitions from being a “thrower” to being a “pitcher.” This is a development step many fireballing relievers have gone through at this point of the minor leagues, consisting of honing consistent mechanics, command, and a secondary pitch. Whether Taveras can succeed in making that transition will determine whether he winds up on the radar for a major league call-up as soon as early 2017, or perhaps even late 2016 (consider Dave Dombrowski’s love for power arms), or a Double-A washout. He projects to get his first taste of the latter level to start 2016.

2015 Team: Lowell Spinners
Final Stats: 33 IP, 5.45 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 27 K, 20 BB
2015 Peak Ranking: 24 (April, May)
Current Ranking: 60
Top 40 in Review: 2014

Beyond the trio of Triple-A hitters who plummeted in the rankings in Garin Cecchini, Bryce Brentz, and Sean Coyle, Cosart may have had the most disappointing 2016 season in the system. After impressing at Fall Instructs last year, sitting 93-95 mph with plus sink with two offspeed pitches that flashed plus, he took a notable step back this season to the point he was shut down after his start on August 4 because he had so completely lost his ability to control the baseball, at times unable to even throw the ball to the catcher. His mechanics were very much a work in progress, perhaps the result of attempting to incorporate his lower body more into the all-arm delivery he had utilized previously. His velocity was also down, as he sat 91-94 in spring training and during the season, then fell even further to 89-92 in the Fall Instructional League this year.  In camp next year, Cosart will try to show that he is ready for full-season ball in Greenville, but if his mechanics continue to be an issue, a short stay in extended spring training may be in order first.

2015 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Final Stats: 124 IP, 5.15 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 95 K, 50 BB
2015 Peak Ranking: 35 (April)
Current Ranking: NR
Top 40 in Review: 2014

Haley was another pitcher who struggled with mechanics this season, in his case, failing to find consistency with a delivery he had newly honed in spring training. His command and control were always questionable, with improvements seen in 2014, but the regression in his delivery this season brought those woes back to the surface. His lack of a strong out pitch made it hard to get upper minors hitters out, and his inability to do so resulted in him allowing at least two runs in all but two of his first 12 starts, and one of those two starts lasted just two batters. Haley showed signs of pulling himself together later in the year, but in the end, his 5.16 ERA was indicative of his struggles, as a failed to ever get his footing for more than a couple starts. Currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League as a replacement for Aaron Wilkerson, Haley has done well, allowing just an unearned run over six innings in two starts, striking out five and walking one. 2016 will see Haley return to Portland, and one wonders if he might be better off in the bullpen, where he could gain some velocity on his low-90s sinker and be more effective in short stints.

Luis Diaz, RHP
2015 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Final Stats: 136 2/3 IP, 5.47 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 86 K, 59 BB
2015 Peak Ranking: 25 (May)
Current Ranking: NR
Top 40 in Review: 2014 | 2013
Dunne: System Restart, Upper Level Pitchers
SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Week, July 13-19 (no notes that week)

In his seventh season in the system, Diaz had an uninspiring campaign for the Sea Dogs, as the 23-year-old Venezuelan gave up runs in all but one of his 27 starts. Now hitting minor league free agency, it is tough to see the Red Sox re-signing Diaz as anything more than roster filler, a disappointing outcome for a pitcher who looked like he might break out as recently as 2013. However, a mediocre arsenal appears to have led to his topping out in Double-A. He does not possess any secondary pitches to consistently put hitters away and does not have the velocity, movement, or command on his fastball to make up for that. Interestingly, he is currently throwing quite well in his native country, sporting a 1.46 ERA with 21 strikeouts and eight walks in 24 2/3 innings in five starts. Some organization will likely give him a shot next season.

Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor