February 22, 2017 at 7:00 AM
The Red Sox first full team workout was February 17th and that signals the return of the Fort Report. Next week we will have the second edition of the Fort Report on Monday, and the week following we will begin a new schedule for this season with twice-weekly editions of the Fort Report, with one coming out Monday and one on Thursday.
Here are this week's minor league notes:
- 20-year-old righty Christopher Acosta (pictured, right) was placed on the restricted list last year and did not pitch a single inning. His status coming into 2017 was very much up in the air, but sources have confirmed to SoxProspects.com's Executive Editor Chris Hatfield that Acosta has reported to the Red Sox camp in the Dominican Republic. Acosta was once a top 20 prospect, and his return is a welcome addition to the system after the departure of a huge number of prospects who have either graduated or been traded.
- It is rankings season again and the Red Sox prove to be a tough team to nail down. They have a clear top four prospects (Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Jason Groome, and Sam Travis) but after that, there is a steep drop and little consensus. MLB Pipeline released their Red Sox organization rankings in two parts: The list of their top 30 prospects as well as a breakdown of the system overall.
- One area where there seems to be some consensus is regarding the best overall prospect in baseball - Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi. He topped the MLB Pipeline Top 100, beating out former teammate Yoan Moncada, who came in second. Devers (17) and Groome (41) also made the list. A handful of ex-Red Sox prospects who made the list, including Moncada, Michael Kopech, Manuel Margot, and Anderson Espinoza, who all cracked the top 25.
- Comparing that list to Baseball America's Top 100 and you will see a lot of similarities. Benintendi also took their top overall prospect (Moncada also finished 2nd), with Devers coming in at 18 and Groome at 43.
- One list that differed slightly was Baseball Prospectus' annual Top 101. Benintendi fell all the way to third (gasp!) after getting beat out by St. Louis right-hander Alex Reyes (who now will miss 2017 with Tommy John surgery) and Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson. They did list Devers and Groome higher at 13 and 29 respectively.
- Overall, ESPN's Keith Law was the highest on the Red Sox 'big three' prospects on his Top 100 list. Benintendi topped his list where he said he had the potential for 25 home runs, an OBP close to .400, and has a chance to be a 6+ WAR player. Similarly, he was the highest on Devers (11) and Groome (20). His list was also the only one to include Sam Travis, placing him at 98th overall.
- Despite the high ranking of the Red Sox top four prospects, Law still only ranked the system overall as the 16th best in baseball, agreeing with the industry consensus that numerous trades and graduations, along with the team's inability to sign international amateurs last year, have left the system very top heavy.
- Finally, Law also listed a sleeper prospect for each organization. For the Red Sox, he listed right-hander Roniel Raudes. We have the 19-year-old listed as the 10th best prospect in the organization after a year at Greenville where he threw 113 1/3 innings with an impressive 3.65 ERA and 1.19 WHIP to go along with 104 strikeouts and only 23 walks.
- Lots of pressure comes with being the top prospect in baseball, and Benintendi is determined to continue to try and do everything he can to be the best major leaguer he can. This offseason included a workout regimen that saw him add 15-20 pounds to come into camp at 185 lbs, the heaviest he said he has ever been. ESPN Boston's Scott Lauber takes a deep dive into that offseason program and what it could mean for Benintendi and the 2017 Red Sox.
- February saw the SoxProspects.com team continue to crank out the last of the Fall/Winter League recaps which covered February 6 to 12.
- Former first-round pick Deven Marrero has been out of the spotlight for some time now after a down 2016 season where he only hit .198/.246/.242 for Pawtucket and went 1 for 12 with the big league club. His stock has plummeted and he now sits 38th on the SoxProspects.com rankings. Matt Collins at Over the Monster asks "In which direction will Deven Marrero’s career move this year?"
- The Red Sox continue to add minor league depth, signing outfielder and former All-Star Carlos Quentin and first/third basemen and former top prospect Mike Olt. Both project as minor league depth at the moment, as it has been quite some time since either has played in the majors (2014 for Quentin and 2015 for Olt).
- The Red Sox also announced that they have signed righty Hector Velazquez from the Mexican League. The 28-year-old Velazquez has pitched exclusively in Mexico over his 7-year career. In the Mexican league, he placed in the top 10 in ERA, WHIP, innings, BB/9, and strikeouts. He also saw success in the Mexican Pacific Winter League, compiling a 2.32 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with 87 strikeouts and 16 walks over 85 1/3 innings. He finished the winter season with the second best ERA, WHIP, and innings pitched and the most strikeouts.
- The Red Sox were forced to sit out the entire 2016-2017 international signing period after MLB penalized them for allegedly circumventing the bonus pool. Now that they are on the verge of being able to re-enter that pool, Baseball America's Ben Badler expects them to be very active. Among those Badler linked to the Red Sox are Venezuelan shortstops Danny Diaz and Antony Flores who were both absent from the MLB International Showcase event.
- There are several Red Sox players and prospects who will be on rosters for this year's World Baseball Classic. They are as follows: Australia: LHP Daniel McGrath; Dominican Republic: LHP Fernando Abad, 1B Hanley Ramirez; Israel: RHP Mike Meyers; Netherlands: SS Xander Bogaerts, LHP Ryan Oduber; Venezuela: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez.
- If you are thinking about making a trip down to spring training, visiting the minor league complex at Jet Blue should definitely be on your itinerary. I went for the first time last year, had a blast, and wrote up a little guide to help you if it is your first trip.
Photo Credit: Christopher Acosta and Roniel Raudes by Kelly O'Connor.
Will Woodward is a Senior Staff Writer for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPWill.