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October 16, 2017 at 1:00 PM

SoxProspects.com 2017 season-end award winners

After having arguably the top farm system in baseball in 2016, a combination of trades and graduations has the Red Sox sitting more in the middle of the pack for 2017. With Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers contributing to Boston's American League East title, the top two prospects entering the season did their part, but a few of the other players who started the year in the top 10 saw their season get derailed by injuries. There were several bright spots on the farm this year, with none being brighter than Breakout Player of the Year Michael Chavis.

Player of the Year: Rafael Devers
Devers entered the year ranked second in the system behind Andrew Benintendi, and the 20-year-old phenom did nothing but impress as he worked his way up to the big leagues. Starting the year in Portland, where he was the youngest player in the Eastern League, Devers mashed to the tune of .300/.369/.575 over 77 games. He was called up to Pawtucket, and after going 14 for 35 with two home runs, he was called up to Boston to fix the big issues Boston was having at third base. Devers proved to be exactly what Boston needed, batting .268/.319/.449 in 52 games. His strikeout rate was a tad high and his walk rate was a bit low, but very few, if any, people his age can come up to the major leagues and provide above-average offense. The one area that remained a weak spot for Devers is his defense, as he committed 12 errors in only 58 games in Boston after committing 16 in 86 games in the minors.

Pitcher of the Year: Jalen Beeks
Beeks entered the year ranked as the 14th best pitcher in the system by SoxProspects.com, and he exceeded all expectations on his way to winning the Pitcher of the Year award. A 12th-round pick in the 2014 draft, Beeks was too much to handle in Portland, striking out 58 over 49 1/3 innings with a 2.19 ERA. An early-June promotion to Pawtucket did not slow Beeks down at all, as he still struck out 97 over 95 2/3 innings. His 3.86 ERA in Pawtucket is a bit misleading, as it was sitting at 3.00 after 81 innings, but he struggled over his final three starts. Beeks threw 114 2/3 innings in the 2016 season, so it is a bit expected that he tired at the 130 inning-mark in 2017. Beeks is a lock to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason, which puts him in position to make some starts in Boston in 2018.

Rookie of the Year: Hector Velazquez
Signed out of the Mexican League this past February, Velazquez was a bit of an afterthought due to the amount of pitching ahead of him on the depth chart. With a full major league rotation, and Brian Johnson, Kyle Kendrick, and Henry Owens all ahead of him, in theory, for major league spot starts, Velazquez quickly made a name for himself with Pawtucket, allowing only five runs over his first 29 innings. With nobody ahead of him stepping up, the Red Sox called Velazquez up for a spot start on May 18, but he was hit hard in a loss to the Athletics. The 28-year-old did not let that game get to him, as he pitched to a 2.14 ERA over his final 92 2/3 innings on the year, including a 0.93 ERA over 19 2/3 innings for Boston.

Breakout Player of the Year: Michael Chavis
Currently Boston’s top position prospect, Chavis finally showed why he was a 2014 first-round pick this year, hitting .282/.347/.563 in 126 games split between Salem and Portland. After entering the year with 25 home runs over his first 229 games as a professional, Chavis went deep 31 times in 2017, adding 35 doubles and two triples. With a 24-percent strikeout rate and a .308 batting average on balls in play, this season does not seem to be a fluke, and the 22-year-old will look to prove that in the upper minors again next season. Chavis played mostly third base when he played the field this year, but with Rafael Devers in Boston the Red Sox are getting Chavis repetitions at first base in the Arizona Fall League.

Comeback Player of the Year: Bryce Brentz
A down 2016 spent mostly in Pawtucket that saw him hit .248/.292/.386 with only six home runs caused most fans to write Brentz off as a potential major league contributor. He opened the season ranked 51st on the SoxProspects.com rankings and was assigned once again to Triple-A, but he did nothing but mash for the entire season, batting .271/.334/.529 with 31 home runs. Perhaps most importantly, he did not sacrifice contact for the extra power, as he cut his strikeout rate from 28 to 24 percent. Brentz was taken off the 40-man roster in March, and he will become a minor league free agent five days after the World Series if the Red Sox do not add him back to the 40-man roster first. Rumors have swirled that Brentz is drawing interest from Japan, and it is possible he ends up there if he does not receive any major league offers after his great season.

Graduate of the Year: Andrew Benintendi
In a normal year, a 20-home run and 20-steal season from a rookie would bring him into the conversation for winning Rookie of the Year, but Aaron Judge’s dominance means Benintendi will be battling for second place. It was an up-and-down year for the 23-year-old, and he finished with a .271/.352/.424 batting line over 151 games. After finishing April with a .333 batting average and an .870 OPS, it looked like he would be one of the better hitters in the American League, but he slumped in May, hitting only .204 with a .602 OPS. Despite the streakiness, his final offensive line represented that of an above-average offensive player, and Baseball Reference had him as the third most valuable position player on a team that won 93 games.

Homegrown Player of the Year: Mookie Betts
This is the second year in a row that Betts has won this award, as he put together another All-Star season for Boston. While his performance dipped from 2016, when he finished second in the American League MVP voting, Betts still hit 24 home runs, drove in 102 runs, and stole 26 bases in 29 attempts. His .264 batting average is the lowest he has had in his big league career, mostly due to a rough second-half where he hit .242 after the fourth of July. With his incredible defense, great baserunning, and surprising power, Betts has been one of the most valuable players in baseball since he became a full-time starter at the end of the 2014 season.

Co-Ex-Prospect of the Year – Anthony Rizzo
Fresh off a 2016 season where he was an All-Star, finished fourth in the National League MVP voting, won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger at first base, and helped the Cubs break a 108-year World Series drought, Rizzo had another tremendous season in Chicago. He hit .273/.392/.507 with 32 home runs and 109 RBI in 157 games, while drawing 91 walks and striking out only 90 times. The 28-year-old is one of the best hitters in baseball, and he is signed through the 2021 season on a very team-friendly deal.

Co-Ex-Prospect of the Year – Michael Kopech
Traded to the White Sox as part of the Chris Sale deal, Kopech continued his progression in a new organization this year, putting himself on the short list of the best pitching prospects in the game and forcing us to name co-winners of the award despite Rizzo's 4-WAR MLB season. He opened the year in Double-A, where the 21-year-old went 8-7 with an ERA of 2.87 over 119 1/3 innings. His tremendous fastball and slider combination was good enough to overpower the older hitters in the Southern League, as he struck out 155 batters, or 11.7 per nine innings. His control problems still showed, particularly early in the year, as he walked 60, or five batters per nine innings. The average batting line against Kopech in Double-A was .184/.293/.277 which shows his ability to both miss bats and avoid hard contact. He received a late-season promotion to Triple-A, where he allowed five runs and struck out 17 over 15 innings. A mid-July adjustment, in which he sacrificed some velocity for better command and control, may have been a tipping point for Kopech, as he walked just 10 batters in his next 50 innings across two levels while striking out 66 hitters.

Photo Credit: Rafael Devers, Jalen Beeks, Michael Chavis, Andrew Benintendi, and Anthony Rizzo by Kelly O'Connor