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SoxProspects News

September 10, 2018 at 2:00 PM

2018 SoxProspects.com All-Stars: Position Players

This year, we are presenting our SoxProspects.com Awards and All-Star teams a bit differently. Instead of one All-Star post and one awards post, we will be rolling everything out over the course of the week. Here is the schedule:

Monday: All-Star position players
Tuesday: All-Star pitchers
Wednesday: Graduate of the Year; Homegrown Player of the Year; Ex-Prospect of the Year
Thursday: Rookie of the Year; Breakout Player of the Year; Comeback Player of the Yer
Friday: Player of the Year; Postion Player of the Year

The 2018 All-Star lineup includes a June draftee who burst onto the scene with an outstanding first pro campaign, a pair of 2016 draftees who re-established themselves among the top ten prospects in the system. It is also a new-look roster of stars, as only two of the nine position players have been honored previously.

Catcher: Austin Rei
Rei's inclusion on this list seemed pretty unlikely in late April, when the 2015 third-round pick was mired in a season opening 2-for-34 slump that included 21 strikeouts. He turned things around soon after, with a very solid .277/.374/.433 from April 25 onward, including an outstanding July when he reached safely in 16 of 17 games and hit .339/.439/.500. Rei set career highs in all three slash stats, as well as with his seven home runs. He also provided stability behind the plate as Portland shuffled through 28 pitchers on the year: his 81 games caught led the organization.

First Base: Josh Ockimey
It may come as a surprise that 2018 represents Ockimey's first time as a SoxProspects.com All-Star. A consistently strong performer throughout his minor league career, he was selected as a New York-Penn League All-Star in 2015, a South Atlantic League All-Star in 2016, and a Carolina League All-Star in 2017 before getting picked for Eastern League honors this spring. The 2014 fifth-round pick blasted 15 home runs with Portland and five more after an August 3rd promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket. The 20 home runs were a career high for Ockimey, whose hallmark has been his steady performance: his extra-base hit totals in his three seasons of full-season baseball have been 44, 43, and 43.

Second Base: Tony Renda
Without question, Renda is the most unlikely member of this squad. The veteran infielder who got a cup of coffee with Cincinnati in 2016 was released in spring training by Arizona, his fourth professional organization. He was unemployed for six weeks before the injury-ravaged Red Sox called in late April, assigning Renda to Double-A Portland. He tore through Eastern League competition with a .371/.435/.577 line in 26 games, followed by .288/.337/.382 during his time with the PawSox. He also got a call to the major league club, and found himself in one of the most memorable moments of the season. After pinch running for Sandy Leon with two outs of the tenth inning, he scored the game-winning run on an Andrew Benintendi base hit as the Red Sox completed their four-game sweep of the Yankees.

Third Base: Bobby Dalbec
Now a two-time honoree as a SoxProspects.com All-Star, Dalbec sandwiched an otherwise solid season with an otherworldly July. The 2016 fourth-round pick blasted 10 home runs, as well as seven doubles and a triple, on his way to a .319/.414/.747 that month. He finished the year with an organization leading 35 home runs, 35 doubles, .545 slugging percentage, 108 RBI, and 71 runs scored. A broken hamate bone limited both Dalbec's playing time and his effectiveness in 2017, but by all accounts his prolific power tool was back to full strength. The number six prospect in the organization, the former Arizona Wildcat was the highest ranked prospect in the system to earn All-Star recognition this year.

Shortstop: CJ Chatham
Injuries had cut deeply into the development of the 2016 second-round pick, and the early parts of the 2018 season brought worries that it could be more of the same, but Chatham shook off the rust and turned in a strong season. Appearing in only seven games in 2017 due to a hamstring injury that recurred with each comeback attempt, an apparent arm injury limited Chatham's ability to throw in spring training, and then another hamstring problem sidelined him for a week in April and limited him to designated hitter duties well into May. However, Chatham quickly hit his way out of Greenville, moving up to the Carolina League after only 19 games, and was getting regular action at shortstop one the calendar turned to June. His 136 hits placed him second in the organization on his way to a .314/.350/.389 slash line.

Outfield: Jarren Duran
The early part of the minor league season was beset with injuries, but a much needed boost came in June with the arrival of a strong crop of draftees, highlighted by the sensational play of their seventh-round pick. Duran's professional career immediately got off to the races with a two-triple game in his professional debut. He compiled 10 three-baggers in just 37 games with Lowell when his .348/.393/.548 line demanded a promotion to Greenville. The former Long Beach State star wasn't any easier for South Atlantic League pitching to handle, as he marched on to a .367/.396/.477 line. He finished with 28 extra-base hits in 67 games across the two levels, adding 24 stolen bases, and 52 runs. Despite spending the first 10 weeks of the season in college, Duran finished 15th in the organization with 101 hits.

Outfield: Rusney Castillo
The 2018 International League batting champion makes this list for the second consecutive year, in large part because of a contract preventing him from moving up to the next level. Castillo ripped an organization-leading 151 hits on his way to a .319/.360/.416 line, following up on 2017's .314/.350/.507 performance. His 31 doubles were a career high, placing him third in the IL. Unlike the other players on this list who are in the minors for purely developmental reasons, Castillo has been stuck in Pawtucket purgatory because of the massive $72 million contract he received in August 2014: his addition to the major league club would add about $12 million annually to the competitive balance tax threshold through 2020, and a change in the last collective bargaining agreement means that total would count against the tax even if he were again outrighted off of the 40-man roster.

A 23rd-round pick in 2016, Abreu found himself back in the Gulf Coast League despite coming off a solid 2017 campaign that included a .371 on-base percentage. The 23-year-old left fielder placed near the top of the GCL leaderboard in several categories, pacing the circuit with his eight triples and placing second in batting average (.351), hits (60), runs scored (38), and eighth in OBP (.423). Abreu had multiple hits in 19 of his 45 games before his promotion to Lowell, highlighted by a five-hit game on July 17 when he drove in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning. 

Utiltyman: Tanner Nishioka
A second baseman by trade, Nishioka stepped in largely at third base as Greenville made a second-half run that fell just short of a playoff berth. A ninth-round pick in 2017 after a standout career for Division III Pomona-Pitzer (CA), the Hawaii native provided consistent production with a .322/.401/.512 line. That .512 slugging percentage led the Greenville squad, as did his 20 doubles, and he placed second on the team with 11 home runs and 52 RBI. He won SoxProspects.com Player of the Month recognition in June when he ripped 12 extra-base hits in 24 games, including a two game cameo in Double-A Portland when he went 3 for 10 with a pair of doubles.

Photo Credit: Juan Carlos Abreu by John Silver; All other photos by Kelly O'Connor