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SoxProspects News

April 27, 2017 at 8:00 AM

System Restart '17: Low-level pitching

The SoxProspects.com writing staff presents the System Restart, our season-opening, position-by-position preview of the Boston Red Sox farm system for 2017. This is the last of seven parts, featuring the system’s low-minors pitching. 

Position at a Glance: While the Red Sox lack the depth they’ve had in arms on the long-term development track in past seasons, there are still some interesting arms in the lower parts of the system, led by left-hander Jay Groome, a consensus top-50 prospect in the game. After that, there is a pretty big drop off, but several promising Latin American pitching prospects slated for short-season ball have upside, if also a long way to go developmentally. – Ian Cundall 

Jay Groome, Greenville (#3)
Groome, arguably the top prospect in the 2016 draft class, fell into Boston's lap at the 12th-overall pick because of off-field and signability concerns. In early looks during his pro debut and Fall Instructional League last year and Spring Training this year, the big lefty has shown why he’s so highly regarded with a fastball that can touch 97 and a curveball with plus-plus potential. With the trades of Anderson Espinoza and Michael Kopech, Groome is unquestionably the top pitching prospect in the system right now. At 18, they sky is the limit for the New Jersey native, with as much upside as any pitcher in all of the minor leagues. However, he comes with risk, not just from the aforementioned off-field question, but also from the inherent hazard of pitching a baseball: Groome left his 2017 debut with a lat injury after 1 1/3 ineffective innings and has now missed more than two weeks after initial reports had him missing 2-3 starts. – James Dunne

Bryan Mata, Extended Spring Training (Projection: Lowell) (#16)
Although he is just 17 years old and has yet to throw a pitch in an official game stateside, Mata sits at 16th in our rankings. Mata is a tall, lanky, right-handed pitcher who stands at 6-foot-3, 160 pounds and was signed out of Venezuela in January 2016. He has already touched 93 mph on the radar gun and works with a fastball, curveball, and changeup. After our most recent look at the youngster, SoxProspects Director of Scouting Ian Cundall wrote about his three-pitch mix and projectability. Mata is currently in extended spring training but looks to be an interesting arm to watch for moving forward. – Nick Rabasco

Darwinzon Hernandez, Greenville (#21)
Like many young pitchers, the 20-year-old Hernandez (pictured, above), who signed out of Venezuela in 2013, needs to work on his command and control in order to show he can get hitters out at the higher levels. The sturdy left-hander has shown increased velocity as he has matured and the ability to miss bats, with an intriguing fastball/curveball combination, but he will need to improve his ability to throw strikes as well as his changeup in order to stick as a starter. His 2016 statistics encapsulate his promise and struggles, as he posted a 10.80 K/9 with a 1.55 WHIP in an aggressive promotion past the GCL to Lowell for his stateside debut last year. Early returns in 2017 have him making the hoped-for steps forward, as hs has continued whiffing hitters (25 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings) while cutting his walk rate (8 walks) in his first four starts. – Ian Dalley

Christopher Acosta, XST (#60)
It has been a tumultuous year for the 19-year-old Acosta was one of the top pitchers on the international free agent market back in 2014 and signed for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic as part of a class that included Espinoza and Yoan Moncada. Acosta had a solid professional debut in the Dominican Summer League, making nine starts with a 4.28 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, five walks, and 22 strikeouts. He saw noticeable improvement in the second half with an encouragingly low walk total, and after an impressive performance in spring training last year, was ranked 18th in the SoxProspects.com rankings to open the season. However, Acosta reportedly got in trouble during extended spring training and left Florida for the Dominican without the team’s permission. As a result, the Red Sox placed him on the restricted list, effectively suspending him for a period that lasted for the entire 2016 season, leaving his future in doubt. As SoxProspects.com reported first earlier this spring, Acosta reported to the Dominican Academy in February, and he has since reported to extended spring training in Florida. After a lost season of development, it will be interesting to watch how Acosta rebounds in 2017. – Will Woodward

System Depth Chart (number in parentheses = SoxProspects.com ranking; italics = LHP)

Greenville: The rotation is the deepest in the system, and Anderson and Hernandez have already started to take big steps forward. Getting Groome back on the mound after a lat injury in his first start sooner than later would be preferable. Nogosek, interestingly, is being used as a true closer, rare for a Red Sox prospect, as the organization tends to favor more predictable schedules for their pitchers, even the relievers.

Starters: Mike Shawaryn (#14), Shaun Anderson (#19), Darwinzon Hernandez (#21), Logan Boyd

Piggyback Starters/Swingmen: Robby Sexton, Hildemaro Requena, Daniel Gonzalez
Bullpen: Stephen Nogosek (#26), Matthew Gorst, Hunter Smith, Jordan Weems (pictured, left), Pat Goetze
Injured: Jay Groome (#3)

Extended Spring TrainingMata and Acosta give the organization a couple of high ceiling arms in short-season ball even before the draft and opening of the international signing period on July 2. Don't be surprised if the organization focuses some on identifying players to acquire in those markets who can project as starters down the line.

Taxi Squad: Jorge Hernandez, Kevin Steen, Enmanuel De Jesus, Dakota Smith

Projected Lowell

Starters: Bryan Mata (#16), Jhonathan Diaz, Victor Garcia, Yorvin Pantoja
Relievers: Joan Martinez (#39), Jared Oliver, Algenis Martinez, Angel PadronKyle Hart, Denyi Reyes, Nick Duron, Devon Fisher

Projected GCL
Starters: Christopher Acosta (#60), Juan Perez, Jose Gonzalez
Relievers: Rayniel Adames (pictured, right), Edilson Batista, Francisco Lopez-Soto, Marcos Lantigua, Juan Florentino, Oddanier MosquedaRyan Oduber

Projected DSL
Starters: Ritzi Mendoza, Junior Espinoza, Rayniel Moreno, Gregory Santos, Alejandro Rodriguez
Relievers: Gary Calvo, Andres Jimenez, Jose Zacarias, Eduard Bastardo, Warlyn Guzman, Luis Rivero, Shair Lacrus, Victor Familia, Jhosmar Cortez, Manuel Ramirez, Carlos Cortes, Rafael Gomez, Luis Colmenares, Geraldo Perez, Antonio Police, Junior Figueroa, William Caraballo, Ronald Gutierrez, Roberto Medina, Francisco Tena

Photo Credit: Darwinzon Hernandez, Bryan Mata, Christopher Acosta, Jordan Weems, and Rayniel Adames by Kelly O'Connor