December 21, 2015 at 7:00 AM
This week, we recap the next three players in the season-end Top 40, going from 10 to 8. All entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
#10: Deven Marrero, SS
2015 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 419 PA, .256/.316/.344, 6 HR, 33 BB, 87 K (minors); 56 PA, .226/.268/.283, 1 HR, 3 BB, 19 K (majors)
2015 Peak Ranking: 8 (Current)
Season In Review: Marrero has always been lauded for his defensive talents at shortstop, and that was enough to get him into 25 games for the major league club, making his debut in the bigs in his fourth year in the Red Sox system. He was used as a defensive replacement 13 times over two stints, one due to Dustin Pedroia’s injury in late June and early July and the other when the rosters expanded in September. With Xander Bogaerts playing his best shortstop of his career, Boston primarily used Marrero at third base for his time with the big league club. Marrero had never played more than three games at third base before this season, but handled his time on the hot corner well—he committed just one error in 22 chances at third and also played errorless defense at second for 20 innings.
Marrero showed some promise with his bat in the first half of 2014 with a .291 average with Portland, but he has struggled against pitchers at higher levels. He did have a career-high seven home runs between the minors and big leagues this year, but returned to right around his minors career average by batting .256 for Pawtucket. Marrero struck out a lot when he got more consistent playing time in the final two weeks of the season, finishing with 19 strikeouts and just three walks in 56 plate appearances. - Eric Gendron
Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: Coming off the most successful offensive stretch of his professional career in the Arizona Fall League, Marrero's 2015 season was a bit of a disappointment. Not only did the progress not continue offensively for him, he also made the most errors in the field that he has ever in a season, an area where he is normally outstanding. As Director of Scouting Ian Cundall wrote on June 23, Marrero seemed to lack focus in the field at times and made errors on some easy plays as a result. Perhaps this can be attributed to moving quickly up the minor league ladder in his career, and for the first time he was spending extended time at one level without a clear path to a promotion. By season's end, he had played in 152 games with Pawtucket after spending no more than 87 games at any other level in the system, possibly leading to some complacency.
Marrero's rapid ascent through the minors can be largely attributed to his work with the glove. At his best, he can do it all and pick it with some of the best shortstops in the game. He is extremely athletic with soft hands and good instincts that allow him to cover a lot of ground in a hurry. He has plenty of arm for the position and can make all the throws, grading as above-average. His best assets with the glove throughout most of his career have been the ease with which he makes difficult plays and his overall reliability in the field. That is what makes his play in the field this season more alarming, as he needs to make the routine plays every time to be a viable major league player. For now, this can be seen as a one-season anomaly caused by a couple stretches during which he lost focus. For instance, 12 of his 17 errors on the season came in a month-plus stretch from May 13 to June 22 (coinciding with the dates of Cundall's earlier referenced report). Odds are on the side of him returning to the plus-to-better defensive form that he has displayed throughout the rest of his career.
The bigger question mark surrounds Marrero's offensive potential, or perhaps this season actually began to clarify that question once and for all, and not in a positive way. Not that he cannot be a major league player who can put up competent at-bats and provide most of his value in the field, but it looks like dreams of him being more than a defense-first shortstop are fading. The very successful (but very short) offensive campaign he mounted against some of the best prospects in the game last fall gave hope to some that his bat would heat up this season, particularly the .443 on-base percentage that hinted at an improving approach. However, he struggled with pitch recognition at times this season, looking off-balance at the plate. At his best, he has a short swing and works the gaps, as he projects to have just single-digit home run totals. He has also shown a good knowledge of the strike zone. Line drives in the gaps and a selective approach represent the best path to success for him at the plate, since he does not possess great speed or power tools.
Marrero will likely be Pawtucket's starting shortstop when the season opens, but will continue to mix in some time at second and third in order to prepare for a potential bench role in the majors. He will be among the first options that the club calls upon when additional infielders are needed in Boston. At the same time, given the presence of Bogaerts at short and both Brock Holt and potentially Travis Shaw as bench infielders in Boston, Marrero represents an asset that may be worth more to another team in a trade than he would be to the Red Sox in Pawtucket with everyone healthy. - Matt Huegel
Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor