January 6, 2016 at 7:00 AM
This week, we recap the players ranked 4, 3, and 2 in the SoxProspects.com season-end Top 40. All entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
Anderson Espinoza, RHP
2015 Teams: DSL Red Sox, GCL Red Sox, Greenville Drive
Final Stats: 58 1/3 IP, 1.23 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 65 K, 14 BB.
2015 Peak Ranking: 3 (Current)
Dunne: System Restart, Low Minors Pitchers
Anderson Espinoza promoted to GCL
June Pitcher of the Month
Espinoza promoted to Greenville
August Pitcher of the Month
2015 SoxProspects.com All-Stars
SoxProspects.com 2015 season-end award winners
Cundall: Scouting Scratch, October 16
Season in Review: Espinoza has been garnering attention since he was very young, and that led to him being signed out of Venezuela last year as an international amateur free agent for a bonus of $1.8 million, more than double the signing bonus of any Venezuelan pitcher ever. His high profile and advanced stuff led to the then 16-year-old being ranked 30th on the SoxProspects.com rankings entering the year. That may seem low at first glance considering his meteoric rise this season but was actually very impressive for someone of his age and inexperience.
Such lofty expectations can often lead to disappointment, especially in the first couple seasons as young teenagers adjust to professional baseball. For Espinoza though, it was quite the opposite. He began the year in the Dominican Summer League where he threw four impressive starts, allowing only two earned runs in total. Having quickly proven himself too advanced for the DSL, he was promoted to the Gulf Coast League and debuted on June 26. Over 10 superb starts in the league, he allowed a total of three earned runs while throwing exactly four innings in each start, striking out 40 and walking only nine. His worst start in the GCL was one most players would take: two earned runs, two hits, three walks, and two strikeouts over four innings on July 13. His best run of the season came immediately following that start when he threw 24 innings over six starts while only allowing one earned run with four walks and 28 strikeouts.
Once again proving too advanced for the level, he was promoted on September 3 to Greenville where he was five years younger than the average pitcher. The late season promotion allowed him to get his feet wet at the level, but he only made one more start, his worst of the season. He went 3 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Accolades kept piling up throughout the season after his eye-popping performances, winning two SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Month honors along the way. He capped it by being named a SoxProspects.com All-Star as well as the SoxProspcts.com Pitcher of the Year. - Will Woodward
Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: Though only 17 years old, Espinoza has the best raw stuff of any pitcher in the Red Sox organization. Espinoza does not have a prototypical pitcher's frame—listed at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds—but he is not small either. His frame has filled out some already, but also still has room to get stronger as he matures without losing some of his present athleticism. Espinoza has clean mechanics with a free-and-easy, repeatable delivery. He has a loose, live arm that allows him to generate easy velocity. He is also prodigiously polished for someone his age, showing the maturity and demeanor of someone many years his senior on the mound with exceptional feel for pitching.
Espinoza’s fastball generally sits in the mid-90s but has topped out at 100+ mph according to multiple sources. The pitch is explosive with above-average life and hard, late movement down and in on righties. He generates a lot of weak contact when he keeps it down in the zone, but has also shown the ability to elevate the pitch and miss bats depending on the situation. Espinoza has surprisingly good command for someone his age with so little professional experience and is very difficult to square up. The young righty complements his fastball with a curveball and changeup. Espinoza’s curveball is the better of his two secondary pitches, already flashing plus. He has advanced feel for the offering and snaps it off well with the pitch showing long 12-6 break and depth through the zone. His changeup is not far behind, showing at least above-average potential. It generates late fade in the low-80s, which gives it nice velocity differential from his fastball.
Overall, Espinoza is one of the best pitching prospects to come through the system this decade. His ceiling is that of a frontline starter, but pitchers who throw as hard as he does at such a young age sometimes have a difficult time staying healthy. Health has not been a problem thus far and there are no concerns about his delivery, but he has yet to pitch a full season and his relatively small frame makes it something to watch. Espinoza will most likely start in Greenville, and given his polish and present arsenal, he could succeed relatively quickly at that level even though he will be facing hitters sometimes five or more years his senior. - Ian Cundall
Photo Credit: Anderson Espinoza by SoxProspects.com forum contributor JohnSilver (upper); @9StarsAgent via ultimasnoticias.com (lower).