SoxProspects News

April 9, 2020 at 7:30 AM

State of the System '20: High-Minors Pitchers


Part three of our State of the System series will focus on pitchers signed in the 2014 and 2015 drafts, as well as international free agents signed between July 2, 2013 and July 1, 2016. Be sure to check out the rest of the entries in the series.

The Lineup
Notable Draftees, 2014 and 2015
Michael Kopech – 2014 draft, 1st rd. (supp.), $1,500,000 bonus; Dec. 2016: Traded to CWS for Chris Sale
Jake Cosart – 2014 draft, 3rd rd., $450,000 bonus; Nov. 2019: Released
Kevin McAvoy – 2014 draft, 4th rd., $300,000 bonus; March 2019: Released
Kevin Steen – 2014 draft, 9th rd., $255,000 bonus; 2019: Injured
Jalen Beeks – 2014 draft, 12th rd., $150,000 bonus; July 2018: Traded to TB for Nathan Eovaldi
Chandler Shepherd – 2014 draft, 13th rd., $90,000 bonus; May 2019: Designated for assignment
Travis Lakins – 2015 draft, 6th rd., $320,000 bonus; Jan. 2020: Traded to CHC for Jhonny Pereda
Ben Taylor – 2015 draft, 7th rd., $10,000 bonus; Feb. 2017: Designated for assignment
Logan Allen – 2015 draft, 8th rd., $725,000 bonus; Nov. 2015: Traded to SD for Craig Kimbrel
Matt Kent – 2015 draft, 13th rd., $75,000 bonus; 2019: AA, AAA
Bobby Poyner – 2015 draft, 14th rd., $10,000 bonus; 2019: AAA, MLB
Marc Brakeman – 2015 draft, 16th rd., $225,000 bonus; March 2018: Released

Notable International Signees, 2013-16
Enmanuel De Jesus – July 2, 2013, $787,500 bonus; 2019: A+
Jhonathan Diaz – July 2, 2013, $600,000 bonus; 2019: A+
Yoan Aybar – July 3, 2013, $450,000 bonus (Signed as an OF); 2019: A, A+
Darwinzon Hernandez – Aug. 26, 2013, $7,500 bonus; 2019: AA, AAA, MLB
Dalier Hinojosa – Oct. 18, 2013, $4,000,000 bonus; July 2015: Claimed off waivers by PHI
Anderson Espinoza – July 2, 2014, $1,800,000 bonus; July 2016: Traded to SD for Drew Pomeranz
Christopher Acosta – July 2, 2014, $1,500,000 bonus; 2019: Restricted list
Junior Espinoza – July 2, 2014, $400,000 bonus; Nov. 2018: Released
Roniel Raudes – July 2, 2014, $250,000 bonus; 2019: Injured
Eduard Bazardo – July 2, 2014, $8,000 bonus; 2019: A+, AA
Denyi Reyes – July 2, 2014, bonus unknown; 2019: AA
Victor Diaz – Dec. 9, 2014, bonus unknown; Dec. 2016: Traded to CWS for Chris Sale
Cesar Gonzalez – July 2, 2015, $300,000 bonus; July 2016: Contract voided
Ronald Gutierrez – July 2, 2015, $200,000 bonus; July 2018: Released
Oddainier Mosqueda – July 9, 2015, bonus unknown; 2019: A
Junior Figueroa – Aug. 17, 2015; $300,000 bonus; July 2017: Released
Gregory Santos – Aug. 28, 2015; $275,000 bonus; July 2017: Traded to SF for Eduardo Nunez
Joan Martinez – Jan. 23. 2016, $5,000 bonus; 2019: A+
Bryan Mata – Jan. 27, 2016, $25,000 bonus; 2019: A+, AA

Position Status: During the least recent time period we will cover, the Red Sox deployed some early picks and large bonuses on pitching prospects. Domestically, the organization hit on three picks who turned out to be potential MLB starters in two drafts. However, all three were later traded—from the 2014 draft, first-round pick Michael Kopech (pictured, above) and 12th-round pick Jalen Beeks were traded for key contributors to the 2018 World Series win in Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi, and from the 2015 draft, over-slot 8th-round pick Logan Allen was traded as part of the Craig Kimbrel deal. While only Beeks pitched for Boston—and only 6 1/3 innings at that—that they were all used to acquire players who directly impacted the 2018 World Series Champion team can be judged a scouting and player development win. But because that positive outcome involved trading those players, those moves and other attrition have left only a pair of organizational depth left-handers, neither on the 40-man roster, still in the system from these two drafts.

Internationally, the team had success in acquiring and developing players that were both traded like the above draft picks and kept in the system. Darwinzon Hernandez (pictured, left), signed in 2013 for a miniscule bonus, looks primed to be a staple on the Red Sox pitching staff going forward, most likely in a bullpen role. Behind him, several other prospects are still coming who have major league potential. The 2014 and 2015 July 2 classes also bore fruit in prospects included in trades for Sale, Eduardo Nunez and Drew Pomeranz, the latter deal being for $1.8-million bonus baby Anderson Espinoza, whose career has been derailed by injuries. The other seven-figure amateur arm from this time (not including Cuban 27-year-old Dalier Hinojosa, who signed for $4 million in 2013), right-hander Christopher Acosta, showed some brief promise in his first season and in spring training the following year before mysteriously being sent home and never really surfacing again. Even the 2015-16 class, in which the Red Sox were limited to $300,000 bonuses per player and had five contracts voided for alleged use of package deals to circumvent that limit, included arguably the system’s current top pitching prospect in Bryan Mata. At this point, however, while six members of the SoxProspects Top 60 are pitchers from those three classes, only Mata is in the top 25, with the remaining players all likely bullpen arms and none of the players traded likely to become MLB starters either.

Verdict: The Red Sox won a World Series in no small part thanks to a willingness to move pitchers acquired during this time period, but that process depleted the most promising prospects from this group, save essentially for a few low-bonus signees from the international market. Because of that mortgaging of the future for the then-present, the Red Sox now have a severe lack of high minors starting pitching prospects, making this one of the weaker groups in the system.

Top Prospect – Bryan Mata
Having always been very young for his level, Mata broke out in a big way in 2019 in Salem as a 20-year-old, putting up a 1.75 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 51 1/3 innings. Mata’s strong start in Salem, where he was still one of the youngest players in the league despite repeating the level, led to a promotion to Portland, where he had some struggles. Although he struck out more than a batter per inning, he put up a 5.03 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 53 2/3 innings. Part of that could be chalked up to fatigue, as he threw 105 regular-season innings (then another 10 1/3 in the Arizona Fall League out of the bullpen, walking more than a batter an inning) after having previously topped out at 77 innings in a season in his career. His stuff still looked good, however, and he held his own even though he was one of the youngest players at the level.

Mata’s long-term future is up in the air, but he appears to have a much better chance to start now than it looked like he might in years past. That can be attributed to two 2019 developments. First, he cleaned up his delivery, although it still has effort and an arm action that some scouts worry limits his command and control. Second, he added a cutter (that some call a slider) to his arsenal that has quickly developed into a potential above-average-to-plus offering. That pitch gives him something to get left-handed hitters out, which he sorely needed given his low arm slot, which gives hitters on that side of the plate a good look. Now armed with a four-pitch mix featuring a 94-96 mph fastball that he is still learning to control, a potential average curve, and a potential fringe-average changeup, Mata has more of the traits you look for in a starter. Ultimately, his ability to stick in the rotation will come down to refining his command and control, improving consistency with his secondary pitches, maintaining his conditioning, and showing he can hold his stuff over longer outings and over the course of the year. There is mid-rotation upside, but he could have significant value in the bullpen as well, either as a swingman or in a late-inning role where his velocity would likely play up. Mata will return to Portland with an outside chance of a big league call up at some point in 2021, the delay to the 2020 season likely having cost him an outside shot at making his debut this year.

Next in Line – Eduard Bazardo
After Mata, our third-ranked prospect, there is a significant drop off to next-ranked player, Bazardo at number 30. Like Mata, Bazardo started the 2019 season in Salem and dominated, in his case shining in his first taste of a true bullpen role by striking out 53 hitters and walking only 9 in 41 innings with a 1.76 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. Bazardo was then promoted to Portland, where he continued to succeed, recording 35 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings with a 2.78 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Somewhat surprisingly, the Red Sox did not add the 24-year-old Bazardo to the 40-man roster this offseason, thus exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft, but the gamble paid off when he was not selected. At his best, Bazardo projects as a middle reliever with a fastball that he can run up to 95 mph and a potential plus breaking ball with an elite spin rate. Bazardo figures to return to Portland, but if he excels there, he could find himself in Pawtucket in short order. Further success on Bazardo’s part will give the Red Sox will have an interesting decision to make next offseason given the glut of right-handed reliever types already on the 40-man roster.

Players whose stock could rise in 2020 – Yoan Aybar
Slotting in right behind Bazardo in the rankings at 31st is Aybar, a converted outfielder who has a much higher ceiling than his fellow reliever. Aybar converted to pitching in 2018 after having shown a plus arm in the outfield and a well-below-average bat, and he has taken to the move remarkably well in that short time. He is very athletic, with a great frame and live arm, but predictably very raw, especially with his secondaries and command and control. Aybar can run his fastball up to 100 mph, but his velocity varies from outing to outing, sometimes falling as low as 91 mph while other times sitting in the high-90s. His command and control need a lot of work, evident by his 40 walks in 51 2/3 innings with Greenville last year. He did, however, strike out 67 hitters there and limited contact to only 34 hits. He did show improvement as the season went on, recovering from a rough first 6-8 weeks with a much better summer that led to a promotion to Salem to end the year and an assignment to the Arizona Fall League. He was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, as the Red Sox were clearly concerned a team would take a chance on a left-hander with his arm strength. Aybar’s breaking ball is still developing, but with improvements there and his command, you can dream on his becoming a reliever with legitimate bat-missing ability. Aybar will likely head back to Salem, where he had already been optioned before baseball was put on hold, but the Red Sox will hope he gets off to a strong start so he can move quickly, putting him on track to make his major league debut at some point in 2021.

Sleeper – Roniel Raudes
At the beginning of the 2017 season, Raudes found himself as the 8th-ranked prospect in a very weak system, and despite a poor season that year that saw him nearly fall out of the top 20, he was back up to number 11 entering the following year. But now, the Nicaraguan is unranked, having not pitched since mid-2018 having undergone Tommy John surgery in January 2019. Raudes, who has gained some notoriety for his unique, twisting, pre-pitch setup, never showed a potential plus pitch, but he would show a mix of four average pitches consisting of a fastball, curveball, changeup, and slider. Combined with advanced control for his age that led to success at the lower levels of the system, you could dream on him as a potential starting pitching prospect, albeit as a low-ceiling, potential number five starter at the very best. However, in a year and a half at Salem before his injury, Raudes seemed to have potentially plateaued, posting a 4.24 ERA and allowing 192 hits in 170 innings, his deception and pitchability seemingly no longer allowing his pedestrian stuff to play up. Raudes was reportedly back on the mound in camp, facing hitters in early March for the first time since his surgery, and was likely headed for extended spring training to continue his rehab. However, with the delayed season, it is more likely he will be ready to immediately head to an affiliate whenever baseball returns. If he comes back with similar stuff and control as he had prior to his surgery, he could quickly jump back into the 40-60 range of the rankings.

Others of note:

  • 23-year-old Joan Martinez (pictured, right) signed late as a 19-year-old, but has steadily progressed through the system while gaining, and then starting to learn how to pitch with, improving velocity. Martinez started out throwing 91-93 in 2016, but eventually worked his way up to the high 90s, reportedly touching 100 mph in Greenville in 2018. Now, however, he sits in the mid-90s, pitching backwards off of his slider and splitter before mixing in the fastball. Because of he has below-average command and control of the pitch and it is pretty straight, it does not miss as many bats as you might expect. He still has the potential to figure things out enough to become a middle reliever, but time is running out, as he is Rule 5-eligible this offseason.
  • Denyi Reyes is one of the more unique pitching prospects in the system as he has a large starter’s build but only sits around 90 mph. He had an excellent 2018 that led to his addition to the 40-man roster, but he cleared waivers this offseason after a down 2019 in Portland. Reyes mixes his fastball, changeup, slider, and curve, but none of his four pitches showed an inability to miss bats, as he recorded only 116 strikeouts in 151 1/3 innings. He has among the best control in the system, as his 37 walks were somehow by far a career high, but he got hit around and gave up 14 home runs. Reyes’ lack of a plus pitch with his pedestrian velocity seems to have caught up with him, and at best he looks like emergency major league depth in the future.
  • Left-hander Jhonathan Diaz signed for a fairly large bonus in 2013, and has never had a particularly bad season, but he still has yet to make it into the high minors. Missing all of 2015 with a knee injury did not help, but his progress has still been slow, as he repeated Greenville in 2018. He threw fairly well in 2019 with Salem, putting up a 3.86 ERA and 1.36 WHIP with 118 strikeouts in 128 1/3 innings. He then went to the Arizona Fall League and impressed in a relief role there, recording 16 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings, although he allowed 11 hits and walked 6. Diaz lacks a plus pitch, but is around the zone with all four of his pitches. He’s most likely an organizational arm, but there’s a chance he could become an emergency up-and-down type.
  • 20-year-old left-hander Oddainer Mosqueda is another level-at-a-time type and has bullpen potential if things break right. He has deception in his delivery and a live arm, running his fastball up into the low-to-mid 90s. His secondaries need work, but he struck out 69 hitters in 52 innings in Greenville last year.
  • As mentioned, only two draftees from this era remain in the system: 2015 13th-round pick Matt Kent and 14th-round pick Bobby Poyner. Poyner is a fungible lefty reliever who already has big league experience, having burst suddenly on the scene when he was a surprise addition to the 2018 Opening Day roster thanks in large part to a deceptive four-seam fastball that sits just 88-91 but can sneak up on hitters. However, despite a solid line in the majors that year, he has fallen down the depth chart and was one of the earliest cuts from big league camp this year. Kent is an organizational depth arm, having eaten innings for two years in Salem and two years in Portland. He was likely fighting for a spot on the Portland roster again this spring.

Photo Credit: Michael Kopech, Darwinzon Hernandez, Bryan Mata, Eduard Bazardo, Yoan Aybar, Roniel Raudes, and Joan Martinez by Kelly O'Connor

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


Chris Hatfield is Executive Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield.



 
Copyright © 2003-2020 SoxProspects, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Email: info@soxprospects.com