January 15, 2016 at 7:30 AM
As an extension of our Top 40 in Review series, over the next two weeks we will feature the seven players who were ranked in the SoxProspects.com Top 40 during the 2015 season and graduated from prospect status. All entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
Matt Barnes, RHP
2015 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 37 2/3 IP, 4.06 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 41 K, 22 BB (minors); 43 IP, 5.44 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 39 K, 15 BB (majors)
Peak System Ranking: 1 (July 13, 2012)
Graduated: July 2015 (#9)
Season in Review: Barnes ended 2014 by transitioning to the bullpen after spending his entire professional career as a starter. Entering spring training 2015, the Red Sox intended to stretch him out as a starter, but midway through camp, the club decided to look at him in a relief role to potentially keep him on the major league roster to start the year, rather than in Pawtucket as rotation depth. That indecision on the team's part marked Barnes's 2015 season, as he bounced back and forth between the two roles all season, failing to get comfortable in either.
Barnes was one of the last cuts from camp, losing the battle for the final bullpen spot to Robbie Ross. Despite his longest spring training outing being 2 1/3 innings long, Barnes was placed into the Pawtucket rotation, rather than the bullpen. But after making starts of 3 and 5 innings (52 and 84 pitches, respectively), Barnes was needed in the major league bullpen before the first month of the season had even ended, and he threw two scoreless innings in a one-game call-up on April 25 against Baltimore. Back in Pawtucket, he made one start then moved back to the bullpen, a role in which he would stay between Pawtucket and Boston until the end of July. Over his next 37 innings between the two levels, he struggled and allowed 20 earned runs (4.86 ERA) on 44 hits and 18 walks.
At that point, with Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, and Steven Wright comprising 60% of the Boston rotation and Brian Johnson on the disabled list, the team recognized its lack of Triple-A depth and moved the Connecticut native back into the Pawtucket rotation. After Barnes made two starts in the minors, that decision looked prescient, as a freak accident sent Wright to the DL and Barnes was recalled, making two major league starts. Those four starts left a lot to be desired, as he allowed 16 earned runs and a .893 OPS against over 18 1/3 innings. After being sent back to Pawtucket and having his elbow examined, Barnes returned to the bullpen after a 16-day layoff in September, making one Triple-A appearance before rejoining the major league club. In those 11.1 innings, he had his most sustained run of success of the year, allowing only one earned run and .211 batting average against while striking out 10. - Will Woodward
Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: Listed at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Barnes has an athletic, strong, high-waist build and is most likely matured physically at this point as he enters the year at age 25. Mechanically, Barnes gets great balance on his back leg over the rubber, with a high leg lift as he generates momentum towards the plate and generally stays online. He has some long arm action in back and lacks any sort of deception, so hitters generally get a good look at the ball out of Barnes' hand. While his delivery is fairly clean and easy from his three-quarters arm slot, Barnes will often struggle with his release point, more particularly with his secondary pitches.
Barnes' fastball generally sits between 93-96 mph, more often in the higher end of that range when he works out of the bullpen. The fastball is above-average overall when he is able to effectively locate it to all quadrants, and it seems to get on hitters quickly. However, the pitch is pretty straight, and because hitters get such a good look at it, it minimizes his margin for error. Additionally, the inconsistency of his curveball and changeup essentially allow hitters to just sit on the fastball. The curveball is 81-83 mph and will be the biggest factor in whether Barnes is able to find success at the major league level, in my opinion. The curveball flashes plus on occasion, with tight, hard, late snap towards the plate on the same plane as the fastball. However, he generally fails to command the pitch and has a hard time throwing it for strikes, often burying it down and out of the zone. This makes the curveball a great put-away offering, but it is too inconsistent at present to rely on early in counts. Hitters will begin to realize they can just spit on the curveball until he shows he can command the pitch for strikes. The changeup is a fringe-average offering and has not made any real strides forward developmentally from what I have personally seen in the last year. He throws the pitch at 83-86 mph and generally up in the zone, as he struggles to maintain his release point with it.
Barnes' best chance at success in the big leagues will be out of the bullpen, where Dombrowski has already made clear that he will begin the year, perhaps recognizing that yo-yo-ing between the rotation and bullpen did Barnes no favors last season. That success will largely come if Barnes is able to effectively locate the fastball, make some alteration in his delivery to create some deception, and improve the consistency of his potential plus breaking ball. With Boston's moves to fortify the relief corps this offseason, Barnes will again compete for one of the final spots in the major league bullpen this spring, and should he instead return to Pawtucket, he will be among the first in line for a call-up if needed. - Chaz Fiorino
Travis Shaw, 1B/3B
2015 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 322 PA, .249/.318/.356, 5 HR, 26 BB, 54 K (minors); 248 PA, .270/.327/.487, 13 HR, 18 BB, 57 K (majors)
Peak System Ranking: #12 (September 2015)
Graduated: October 2015 (#12)
Season in Review: 2014
Season in Review: Shaw was a busy man in 2015, and his season exemplified why it is so important to have the Triple-A affiliate located close to the major league team: When all was said and done, he was called up to Boston on five separate occasions. He began the season as the Pawtucket Red Sox starting first baseman, coming off a year in whcih he dominated at Portland before slowing down upon a promotion to Pawtucket to end the season. He played his first 24 games at Triple-A and continued his struggles at the level, hitting only .189/.245/.311 over his first 98 plate appearances. Despite his unattractive line, he was called up to make his major league debut on May 8 with David Ortiz suspended for a game for making contact with an umpire. He went 0-2 on with a walk, but the one-game taste of the bigs seemed to re-invigorate the lefty-swinging Shaw. Upon his return to Triple-A he hit .304/.389/.432 over 33 games, reaching safely in all but two.
Over a month and a half between June 14 and July 31, Shaw bounced between Pawtucket and Boston with three short major-league call-ups, and to no surprise, he struggled to find consistency. He managed to hit only .230 with 22 strikeouts in 93 plate appearances with only four walks and just four extra-base hits, all doubles. On August 1, he made his final move of the season when he was recalled to Boston, where he remained for the rest of the year. Finding a permanent home allowed Shaw to go on his best run of the season, one that opened many eyes. Over his final 56 games, he hit .275/.332/.507 with all 13 of his major league home runs as well as 10 doubles. Over the first three weeks of the call-up, he hit .421/.460/.807 with six home runs in 16 games, which was enough to move him to the heart of the Red Sox order on some nights. - Will Woodward
Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: Listed at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Shaw has a strong and physically mature build. At the plate, he has an advanced approach with solid plate discipline from the left side. He shows the ability to recognize spin and stay back on pitches, allowing the ball to travel deep in the zone, and to effectively drive the ball with a middle-to-opposite field approach. Shaw's batspeed is average, and his swing will get long at times, resulting in his getting beat on above-average velocity. Overall, Shaw projects as a future fringe-average hit tool at the plate. Despite a power surge in Shaw's small major league sample in 2015, Shaw does not project for that type of power moving forward. The raw power is certainly there, but Shaw's best success at the plate comes when he focuses on the middle-to-opposite field and sacrifices the over-the-fence power to do so. Otherwise, when Shaw has gotten into pull mode previously during his minor league career, he has shown susceptibility to get into bad habits and go through long droughts.
Much of Shaw's value comes defensively, where he has the ability to play both first and third base, offering average-to-above average defense with a strong arm, as well, potentially, as left field. Shaw's future value fits best as a first base/third base/left field utility option off the bench who can fill in for longer stints if needed on the corner infield should a need arise. He has shown he is ready for a spot on the major league roster, and he should break camp as a key part of the Boston bench. - Chaz Fiorino
Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor