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August 18, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Scouting Scratch: Late-round 2017 draftees

LOWELL, Mass -- With Brett Netzer’s promotion earlier this month, the Lowell lineup is on the thin side. 2017 13th-round pick Garrett Benge out of Oklahoma State is one of the most intriguing of those who remain. Benge has minimal projection in his 6-foot, 205-pound frame and is already a below-average runner with a questionable defensive profile. What Benge does bring to the table is a nice left-handed swing and solid-average bat speed. Benge starts in an open stance and utilizes a leg lift timing device. He has a small hitch in his load, but has quick hands once he gets going forward. In recent looks, Benge has shown an all-fields approach and some feel for hit. His pitch recognition needs some work and he only has gap power at present, but he has some upside at the plate. 

There are more questions, however, about Benge’s defense, as pre-draft reports (including one from Jim Callis on the SoxProspects.com Podcast) predicted. His arm is fringy for third base and his footwork and glove are below-average. He already has nine errors in 32 games and could have had several more on throws in the dirt that were successfully scooped by his first baseman. With his frame and offensive profile, a move to second base could be beneficial, but he doesn’t have the athleticism you like to see up the middle. If Benge hits enough then the Red Sox can figure out a defensive home at a later date, but the below-average defensive profile puts a lot of pressure on his bat to produce. 


Frankie Rios, this year’s 17th-round pick out of USC, is another college player who has shown intriguing tools in Lowell, though his is more of a defense-first profile. Rios has settled in the club’s starting shortstop and been a steady presence there, providing solid play night in and night out. Rios doesn’t stand out physically, listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, but he is a solid athlete. He is really instinctual at the position, putting himself in the right position often and then showing fluid motions when making plays. He has solid footwork, soft hands, and a quick transfer and release. Rios has also shown above-average range to both sides and confidence charging balls and playing the angles. His arm is only average, making it the one question mark in his defensive profile, but the other facets of his game all will play at shortstop or other infield positions. 

Offensively, Rios will never be a standout performer, but he has a decent approach and contact skills and is a solid-average runner. He understands the strike zone and recognizes spin. He doesn’t have anything more than gap power, and that will never be a part of his game, but he has feel for hit and has shown an all-fields approach. Rios doesn’t have a high ceiling, but at worst he looks like a solid organizational player with the chance for more should he show enough potential at the plate. 


2017 21st-round pick Lukas Young out of the University of Mobile, an NAIA program, has an athletic frame with some projection remaining. He starts on the first base side of the rubber and throws from a three-quarters arm slot. He utilizes a high leg kick and has a long arm action behind before looping his arm forward. He has average arm speed and does a good job of repeating his delivery. 

Young’s fastball sat 90-92 mph in a recent outing with below-average command, and it was hit hard. He showed feel for his curveball, throwing it 74-78 mph with depth through the zone. The pitch was its best when he threw it with 12-to-6 shape, but he did also throw a few slurvy breaking balls with more tilt that were loose and rolled to the plate. Young also showed a firm changeup at 83-84 mph that lacked movement, and he used the pitch sparingly.


2017 32nd-round pick Taylor Ahearn out of Division II Cal State-San Marcos has an average frame and throws from a three-quarters arm slot. He has a controlled, low-effort delivery, utilizing a high leg kick and short stab behind. His fastball sat 89-92 mph in a recent outing and showed sink, but lacked life. His primary secondary offering was a short, vertical breaking ball at 79-81 mph and a changeup at 82 mph with late downward movement.


An undrafted free agent who signed after a strong performance in the NCAA Tournament this spring for Davidson, right-hander Durin O’Linger doesn’t have much upside, but has already proven to be a useful organizational arm. Already a great Cinderella story, as he had no plans to go pro and had planned to attend pharmacy school at the University of Florida following his graduation before his breakout in pitching his school into the Super Regionals, O’Linger is undersized and lacks projection, listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a simple, repeatable delivery. He has a short arm action and works quick, getting the ball back from the catcher and going right into his next pitch. 

O’Linger has strong pitchability and feel for all three of his pitches. His fastball sits 84-87 mph, topping out at 88 mph, but he throws strikes and he does a good job keeping the ball down in the zone. The pitch has sink and generates a lot of weak contact on the ground. O’Linger’s secondaries include a changeup and slider. His changeup is his primary secondary, thrown with deceptive arm speed at 79-81 mph. His slider works 80-82 mph with 10-to-4 shape. 

O’Linger won’t blow hitters away, but with his three-pitch mix and feel to pitch, he knows how to get hitters out. He has already made two spot starts in Salem and could stick around for several years in the organization, jumping around to various levels when necessary to fill a hole in the rotation. 

Photo credit: Garrett Benge, Frankie Rios and Durin O'Linger by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.