December 7, 2015 at 7:00 AM
This week, we recap the next six players in the season-end Top 40, going from 22 to 17. All entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
#22 Luis Ysla, LHP
2015 Teams: San Jose Giants (SFG), Salem Red Sox
Final Stats: 84 2/3 IP, 5.85 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 101 K, 43 BB
2015 Peak Ranking: 19 (current)
Acquired from San Francisco on Aug. 31 for Alejandro De Aza and cash
Season in Review: After being signed by the Giants out of Venezuela in September 2012 as an older international free agent at age 21, Ysla had shown promise at the lower levels of the minors. As an older pitcher in the Gulf Coast League, he struck out 52 hitters in 51 innings with a 1.00 WHIP. He continued that success in 2014 at a more age-appropriate level, posting a 2.45 ERA and striking out 115 hitters in 121 1/3 innings, although his 45 walks were a bit high. But Ysla struggled when he was promoted to High-A San Jose and the hitter-friendly California League to start 2015. The 23-year-old allowed 22 earned runs in 14 innings on 31 hits and 14 walks in his first five starts and was summarily moved to the bullpen until mid-July. After a brief return to the rotation began with four solid starts and unraveled with 10 more earned runs in 6 2/3 innings in his final two starts, he again returned to the bullpen, again finding improved success. In all, Ysla fared better in relief, posting a 4.69 ERA in 48 innings as opposed to an 8.18 ERA in nine total starts for San Jose.
After being traded at the waiver trade deadline on the final day of August, Ysla impressed in a short, two-appearance debut with the Red Sox organization. He did not allow a hit in five innings and struck out six, facing the minimum 15 hitters. Ysla is currently playing winter ball at home in Venezuela for Bravos de Margarita. Working as a left-handed specialist, he has thrown just 3 1/3 innings in seven appearances, allowing his first runs in his most recent appearance when three of his four batters faced reached and all scored. Reports have the Red Sox planning on using Ysla in relief going forward. - Eric Gendron
Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: Ysla is listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, but looks much heavier than that. He has a large lower half and soft body with little-to-no projection remaining and throws from a three-quarters arm slot, slinging the ball with a live, loose arm. Ysla has effort in his delivery and a high leg kick, limiting him to a bullpen profile. His stuff is impressive, with the potential for three pitches grading at least average. Ysla’s fastball sits in the mid-90s with late life. Because of his arm slot and the deception he gets in his delivery, the ball jumps on hitters and shows bat-missing potential. His best secondary pitch is his slider, which he throws in the low-80s. The pitch has two-plane movement, and he has shown the ability to command the pitch both in and out of the zone. The pitch is a potential plus offering with continued development. Ysla also throws a changeup, but it is slightly behind his slider. He has solid feel for the pitch and has the confidence in it to throw it early in the count. Ysla has the makings of a very intriguing bullpen arm, and if he continues to develop he could fit into a 7th or 8th inning role. Ysla will start next year in Portland with an outside chance at getting a cup of coffee at the big league level later in the season if he impresses. - Ian Cundall
#21 Williams Jerez, LHP
2015 Teams: Greenville Drive, Salem Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs
Final Stats: 88 2/3 IP, 2.54 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 86 K, 31 BB
2015 Peak Ranking: 18 (current)
Season in Review: Jerez has turned into one of the more remarkable stories in the Red Sox minor league system. Jerez raced up the SoxProspects.com rankings late this season after being placed as low as 51st as recently as June as quickly as it became apparent that his conversion to the mound was turning into a success. Drafted in the second round in 2011 out of a Brooklyn, N.Y., high school as an outfielder—just a year after leaving his family behind in the Dominican Republic—Jerez struggled in three seasons as a hitter, hitting .221 in 353 plate appearances and hitting just .176 in Lowell as a 23-year-old in his final season hitting.
In 2014, the Red Sox made the call to move Jerez to the bullpen, and the left-hander has leapfrogged through the system—he made his pitching debut in June 2014, and had already earned four promotions by the time he made his Portland debut barely more than a year later. He began this season by posting a 2.06 ERA over 39 1/3 IP for Greenville, striking out 43 hitters before moving on to Salem. His stint in High A was brief, as he struck out 12 and allowed one earned run in 12 1/3 innings over five appearances. With the Sea Dogs in Double-A, aside from one rough outing on Aug. 9, Jerez posted a 3.65 ERA and allowed just three earned runs in his final 14 innings pitched of the season. Although he had finally found a level that brought him some challenges—he walked 17 and allowed 34 hits in 37 innings—he struck out 31 hitters and held his own. The 23-year-old Jerez was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year at season's end, and was added to the club's 40-man roster on November 20 to protect him from selection in this week's Rule 5 draft. - Eric Gendron
Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: The contrast between what Jerez was as an outfield prospect to what he is now as a relief prospect is really impressive. As an outfield prospect, Jerez was extremely raw and could not make contact, and it looked like he may be on his way out of baseball after only three years in the system as a result. He has always shown a strong arm, however, and now as a reliever Jerez is a relatively polished prospect with the potential to impact the big league team as soon as this year. Jerez has a solid pitcher's frame, listed at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds. He has little remaining projection in his frame and still is a solid athlete, carrying that over from his days as a position player.
Jerez throws from a three-quarters arm slot with solid mechanics and some deception in his delivery. His fastball sits in low-to-mid-90s and has shown bat-missing potential with sink and late life. His command of the offering will come and go, but for the most part, he is around the strike zone. His best secondary offering is a slider in the low-80s with short, two-plane break. He has confidence in the offering and surprising feel for the pitch given the time off he took from pitching. The pitch is a potential plus offering. Jerez's changeup lags behind and is inconsistent at present. He throws it in the mid-80s, with some flashing average while others grade well below. Because he profiles as a reliever, development of the pitch is not that important to his projection long-term, though it has the potential to develop into an offering he can use to steal a strike and keep right-handed hitters honest with continued development. Jerez will most likely start 2016 in Pawtucket. If he impresses, he could make his big league debut sometime this summer. - Ian Cundall