March 25, 2016 at 8:00 AM
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When the SoxProspects.com staff got together in Fort Myers over the past week, one of the goals was to take an in-depth look at the rankings and overhaul them as necessary. It turned out to be a much more detailed and lengthy process than expected.
The complete SoxProspects.com rankings can be found split between the top 20 and the prospects ranked 21-60. Below is a notebook of some of the debates, discussions, tiers, and insight into the rankings process that occurred over the course of the afternoon of Saturday, March 19 in Room 321.
- The plan was to start at the top of the rankings and work our way down. Right out of the gate, we all agreed that there is a clear top 4 prospects and that Yoan Moncada still deserves to top the rankings. The only other discussion on the top four was whether 18-year-old Anderson Espinoza (pictured, right) deserved to jump third baseman Rafael Devers, who currently ranks second. Espinoza looked extremely impressive in his first spring outing, as Chaz and Ian noted in their Notes from the Field. Ultimately, the fact that he spent almost the entire season in the GCL meant that he was so far away that he was best kept in the third spot for the time being.
- The next debate was whether anyone had passed righty Michael Kopech for the fifth spot in the rankings. Despite being a level below the top four, he still has impressive talent and upside that tops anyone else in the system at this time.
- When asked who was a player ready to move up in the rankings, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe was the first name mentioned. It was pointed out that he started playing baseball later in life than most prospects, adding to his upside, and all seemed to agree that his impressive five-tool potential merited a higher ranking. He jumped from 10 to eight based on this, but not above Brian Johnson or Sam Travis, who have a combination of upside and floor that keeps them at sixth and seventh respectively. Michael Chavis was in the mix as well, but his offensive improvements were overshadowed by his continuing defensive inconsistency.
- After the top 10, there was a noticeable dropoff. While the top of the system may be as strong as ever, the depth in the system is not what it has been of late, only exacerbated by the Craig Kimbrel trade. The discussion at this point turned away from tweaking the existing rankings and more into a game of "who goes next?" in which any player could rise or fall. Using the site's scouting scale (which differs slightly from the traditional scouting scale), the system's lack of depth comes into focus. There are only 18 players with grades of 3 or better and only 11 graded 4 or better. Compare to last year at this time, when there were 16 players in that latter group, and in 2013, when there were 18.
- Right-hander Travis Lakins only threw three innings last season after an inconsistent sophomore season at Ohio State that caused him to fall to the sixth round in the 2015 draft, and with just one, two-inning look in Lowell on which to judge him, the staff felt comfortable placing him in the last quarter of the top 40. Ian and Chaz saw him again this spring (along with the aforementioned Basabe), noting his impressive three-pitch mix and coming around on his chances of sticking as a starter. And because his stuff would work well out of the bullpen if starting does not pan out, he also has a higher floor than other arms in the system. For these reasons, he jumped all the way to 12 from 23.
- One would think a guy taken seventh overall in a recent draft would be ranked higher than 15th, but lefty Trey Ball has struggled during his early professional career. He is one of the only pitchers left who has a legitimate chance to be a starter, but his poor performance thus far limits the likelihood of reaching his upside. Held back by a knee injury, Ball has yet to pitch this spring. After rising as high as 11th after the Kimbrel deal, Ball slid back to #15.
- It became obvious that there was a clear top tier of relief pitching prospects next that included right-hander Pat Light and left-handers Williams Jerez and Luis Ysla. They separated themselves by possessing three traits: being close to the majors, having recent statistical success, and the raw stuff needed to be successful in a major league bullpen. Light has the most upside, possessing closer stuff if he can learn to harness it, and that has him ranked atop the group. Jerez is raw after converting to pitching in 2014, but that means he still could have even more upside remaining. Ysla has looked good, but our limited looks at him resulted in him slotting in third in this group.
- Christopher Acosta impressed Chaz in his look at him this spring, and, despite his youth, he has shown an advanced feel for his age. He already stands 6-foot-4 with a projectable frame, 89-92 mph fastball, and advanced changeup. Chaz said that if he can improve his breaking ball and add some strength and a tick of velocity he could rocket up the rankings. He jumped into the top 20 for the first time at #19
- Still only 20-years-old, Wendell Rijo (pictured, left) was the youngest player in the Carolina League last season. His offensive numbers do not jump off the page, but he still has potential on both sides of the ball if he can stay focused and improve his consistency. He is a high-risk prospect, but still does have some upside and time to figure it out.
- Also generating a lot of conversation was catcher Austin Rei. He did not look good during his first professional season in Lowell in 2015, but a college injury may have continued to affect him. This spring, he has looked shorter to the ball offensively, and defensively he threw out a runner with an above-average 1.97 pop time. Those changes have his stock rising a bit.
- He may be a step behind the top tier of relief pitching prospects, but Austin Glorius' placement at 26 in the system is still pretty amazing for a guy who went undrafted just last year. For more detail on Glorius' wild journey to this point, check out Matt Huegel's must-read feature on him from Wednesday.
- The player who generated the most discussion may have been right-handed reliever Yankory Pimentel. His stuff is among the best of the relief pitchers in the system, but the fact that he has repeated both the DSL and then the GCL over his first four seasons confounded us. Neither the stuff nor the results indicate that should have been the case, but until we learn his 2016 opening day placement—and, then, perhaps, some more about what the organization thinks of him—we thought it best to put him at 31.
- Several staff members were in attendance for Ty Buttrey's start on Saturday during which he sat 91-93 mph and touched 95, but he did not have great control and his secondary pitches were inconsistent at best. The SoxProspects.com scouts also did not believe his stuff would play up if he were converted to relief, leading to a drop from 20 to 29.
- Marc Brakeman was taken in the 15th round of the 2015 draft, and several staff members thought he would not sign and return to Stanford. Instead, he took a slightly over-slot bonus and reported to the GCL, but he has yet to appear in a game this spring and is working out with the Rookie team, meaning he is not likely to begin the year in Greenville as previously projected. No one on the staff has seen him pitch in person, so it was hard to push him any higher than his spot at 33, but he dominated in the Cape Cod League one summer and national scouts have given good reports on him.
- Another 18-year-old pitcher, Roniel Raudes, did not look good in his first spring outing, but Ian and Chaz noted that he looked better at Instructs last fall. If you really dream on him he could be a starter, so although he is almost entirely projection at this time and his control is his most impressive current tool, he jumped nine slots to #34.
- Ranked right behind him, outfielder Bryce Brentz had one of the biggest falls. Already 27 years old, it is hard to see much upside left for Brentz at this point, who clearly is not in the picture for the major league roster at this point. After climbing back up to 24, he fell back down to 35.
- The position players at this point of the rankings tended to have one or two things they did well, but significant work to do in other areas. Josh Ockimey (pictured, right) has plenty of power, but that is really his only average or better tool. First base-only prospects generally get downgraded a bit to begin with, and he is not currently a great defender there either. Jordan Procyshen is a solid defensive catcher, but there was not enough belief in his bat to push him higher than 37. Finally, Jeremy Rivera has plus running and defensive tools, but he lacks the strength presently to make an impact at the plate.
- Debuting at #40 despite having been in the system since July 2012, Luis Alejandro Basabe, twin brother of eighth-ranked Luis Alexander, only hit .260/.387/.310 in the GCL last year, but is still only 19, is athletic, and will almost certainly stick as a middle infielder. Just as was mentioned with his brother, he started baseball later than most so he is even more raw that a typical 19-year-old. Bothered by injuries in his first couple years in the system, 2016 could be a key year for him to prove he is not just "the other" Basabe along the lines of previous Red Sox "other brothers" Jair Bogaerts or Josh Papelbon.
- Two prospects ranked in the 40-to-60 range have both shown improvement during limited looks during spring training. Jake Cosart struggled at times last year, but has regained a bit of his previous form including his 95-97 mph velocity, and a potential move to the bullpen could help him continue to right the ship. Likewise, Imeldo Diaz looked bigger than most international free agent shortstops signed by the Sox in recent years, yet still has projection remaining and is strong defensively. Both of them got bumps in the rankings as a result.
Photo Credit: Anderson Espinoza, Wendell Rijo, and Josh Ockimey by Kelly O'Connor.
Will Woodward is a Senior Staff Writer for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPWill.
Will Woodward is a Senior Staff Writer for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPWill.