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May 26, 2020 at 7:30 AM

State of the System '20: Noteworthy extras

We’ve highlighted a number of key and noteworthy players at each position throughout the State of the System series. However, some write-ups wound up on the cutting room floor, while other players who we did not discuss probably merit mention, in hindsight. In that spirit, we present our Extra Notes edition, highlighting other Players of Note at each position. Be sure to check out all entries in the series!

Low-Minors Pitchers 

  • The Red Sox drafted Chase Shugart in the 12th round of the 2018 draft and signed him for $125,000 following a late run through the College World Series with Texas. After a truncated pro debut, Shugart was impressive in the Fall Instructional League, but his 2019 season started late due to a 50-game suspension for a second failed test for a drug of abuse. Returning from his suspension, Shugart reeled off a string of excellent starts with Greenville before coming back down to earth a bit, finishing with a 2.81 ERA and 1.25 WHIP with 73 strikeouts in 89.2 innings. When on, Shugart will show a four-pitch mix featuring a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup, although he is still learning how to sequence them. A starter for now, he likely will end up in the bullpen because of his height (5-foot-10) and delivery. Out of the bullpen, he could focus on his best two pitches, his fastball and slider, which both show at least above-average potential. It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox get more aggressive with Shugart this year starting him in Salem with the eye towards a promotion to Portland if he excels. 
  • The Red Sox selected Chris Machamer as a draft-eligible sophomore a few rounds after Shugart and gave him an over-slot bonus of $213,000. He really struggled through his full-season debut with Greenville in 2019 before being shut down in early August, putting up a 6.10 ERA and 1.73 WHIP in 93 innings. He only struck out 55 and walked 43 in the process. A reliever for two years for Kentucky before being drafted, Machamer’s stuff just did not seem to take to starting, so it seems likely that the Red Sox will return him to the bullpen. Given his past success in that role and the possibility his stuff would play up, that could be a good thing for him in the long run. 
  • Yusniel Padron-Artiles was the Red Sox' 22nd-round pick in 2018 out of Miami Dade Community College-South. He struggled last year in a handful of starts in Greenville in late May and early June, but after moving down to Lowell, he was the most consistent pitcher as a starter and piggyback reliever on a talented Spinners staff, putting up a 2.67 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 64 innings with 84 strikeouts compared to only 14 walks. His stuff ticked up as the season went on, and by the end of the year he was sitting 89-92 mph and touching 94 mph. Hitters really struggled to pick up the ball from him as he hides the ball well and throws directly over the top. Padron-Artiles’ secondary pitches need work, however, and he was old for the level, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts when he heads back to Greenville. 
Mid-Minors Pitchers

  • Brendan Nail went undrafted after his junior year out at Western Carolina in 2017, but excelled enough in the Cape Cod League over the summer that the Red Sox gave him a $125,000 bonus to sign as an undrafted free agent. His development has been slow, and he struggled with an initial assignment to Greenville to start 2019, but the left-hander was (appropriately) dominant after moving down to Lowell and was much improved in his mid-July return to the South Atlantic League, striking out 26 in 16 2/3 innings, allowing just 4 runs and posting a 1.08 WHIP. Walks remain an issue for Nail, for whom inconsistent control leads to bouts of wildness, but in the low minors, at least, he has given up few hits and collected strikeouts in bunches. Sitting 89-92 mph with some deception his delivery, Nail now needs to prove he can succeed against more advanced hitters given his age--he turns 25 in October--but he will be an interesting follow during the next minor league season. 
  • Nicaraguan left-hander Nixson Munoz signed for $30,000 in July 2017, but did not make his debut until 2019 in the DSL. There, he was one of the best pitchers on the organization’s two DSL clubs, striking out 62 hitters and walking only 5 in 60 innings. Munoz is very small, listed at 5-10, 150 pounds, and has touched 90 mph. He is a long-term, projection play, but he is someone worth keeping an eye on when he makes the jump stateside.
High-Minors Pitchers

  • 27-year-old right-hander Robinson Leyer was signed as a minor league free agent in 2019 after spending time with three other organizations since he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. After being released in June 2019 by the Mariners, he signed with Boston and had a strong 23 2/3-inning stint in Portland, striking out 30 hitters with a 2.66 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. After re-signing him in December, the Red Sox invited him to the rookie development program in January and gave him a non-roster invitation to major league spring training, where he still was when camp shut down. Leyer has one of the strongest arms in the system, sitting 97-99 mph and touching 100 while flashing a plus slider when he’s on. However, Leyer’s command and control are well below average, and his delivery is very rough, a combination leading to a lot of inconsistency from outing to outing. Leyer isn’t on the 40-man roster yet, but if the Red Sox follow the Rays model of cycling through relievers, especially with the prospect of an expanded MLB roster this season, then he could be a candidate to make his big league debut at some point in 2020. 
Corner Infielders

  • After just over two years in the Reds system, having been traded for international signing bonus cap money in 2017, Nick Longhi returned to the system as a minor league free agent this past offseason. Still just 24, Longhi struggled through his time with the Reds, first undergoing Tommy John surgery a month after being traded, then struggling at the plate in his 2018 return. One positive from his time with Cincinnati is that he was given more time in the outfield, splitting his time evenly between there and first base. He can handle the outfield corners well enough, and has plenty of arm, so the added versatility makes him a better fit on a Major League bench. His key development point remains the development of more power, and while he did show more pop with Louisville last year, he needs to show that it was not just the adoption of the Major League baseball in Triple-A that led to the additional pop, and that the power will play in the majors. With expanded rosters in 2020 if baseball returns, he may get his chance to finally make his MLB debut (and become the 15th member of the now-legendary 2015 Greenville Drive team to do so).
  • Devlin Granberg and Stephen Scott are a pair of college seniors who received under-slot bonuses in the first ten rounds but have shown some hitting ability. Both have a little pop and on-base skills, but will need to show defensive versatility and improved offensive games to project as anything more than organizational players. Granberg spent most of 2019 as Greenville’s designated hitter, mostly in deference to Casas, and getting more time in left field would help boost his stock. Scott split his time between first base and left field in Lowell in his pro debut, but he was working behind the scenes with the catchers and will potentially see time at the position in Greenville. If he can show adequate defense behind the plate, Scott’s prospect stock would be much higher.
  • 17-year-old Lyonell James signed for $440,000, the third-highest bonus the Red Sox have given out in the 2019-20 International Signing Period. James is the younger brother of outfielder Axel James, who signed the year before and spent 2019 in the DSL, but Lyonell is significantly more physical than his older brother with a projectable 6-foot-3, 160-pound frame. Lyonell has power upside that will likely translate in-game more as he matures, but he also uses his hands well and has bat speed. He has some speed right now and probably ends up at third base long-term.
Middle Infielders

  • After CJ Chatham, Brett Netzer was the only other middle infielder drafted by the Red Sox between 2014 and 2018 to receive a bonus of any significant size, drafted in the third round in 2017 out of UNC-Charlotte and signing for an under-slot $450,000. He has shown some feel at the plate and an average hit tool, but lacks power and isn’t a standout defender. He has started working in the outfield to increase his defensive versatility, but given that he is likely limited to second base and left field because of his arm and range. His hopes of carving out a bench role in the majors are likely tied to whether adjustments to his swing he was working on in the Fall Instructional League help him to generate more power than the minimal amount he has shown as a pro so far.
  • Since signing out of the independent leagues in May 2018, Ryan Fitzgerald has surprised, turning in a solid, if unspectacular campaign with Salem last year. He hit .271/.345/.375 during that campaign, showing an average hit tool, but he lacks power and also likely profiles best in a utility role. Although he was named the organization’s defensive player of the year for his work at shortstop, he too began taking fly balls in the outfield during the Fall Instructional League, but the pressure on his bat will be significantly less than on Netzer’s given that Fitzgerald lacks his defensive limitations, able to handle the left side of the infield and, perhaps, other outfield spots. Already 25, Fitzgerald will need to continue showing improvement when he reports to Portland when baseball resumes.
  • Jeremy Rivera and Chad De La Guerra were both drafted in the 17th round (2014 and 2015, respectively) and both have stuck around the system, carving out organizational roles. Rivera can really pick it at shortstop, but his bat lags behind, capping his ceiling and leading to his stalling out in Portland for the past couple seasons. De La Guerra can hit and second, third, and short, but is a fringy defender at all three spots and is already 26. He turned in a solid season at the plate last year but was limited by injuries. He has a much better chance of the two at getting a cup of coffee in the majors in a bench role, although he has a number of players he would need to pass to get a shot, even with expanded rosters in 2020.
  • The Red Sox gave a pair of middle infielders $125,000 after the 10th round in the 2019 draft. Alex Erro, drafted in the 17th round, played all over the infield for Lowell and looks like a solid organizational player capable of providing depth at all infield positions. He has feel for hit and a good approach, but no power potential. In his pro debut, he hit .277/.320/.312 in 154 plate appearances. In the 25th round, the Red Sox selected California high schooler Karson Simas. Simas only got 44 plate appearances in the GCL to get his feet wet in pro ball, hitting .211/.318/.211. Simas looked athletic with a projectable frame in the Fall Instructional League. He has a long way to go developmentally and needs to add strength. 
  • The Red Sox signed three middle infielders, Johnfrank Salazar, Jose Mendez, and Allan Castro, for over $100,000 last summer. All are intriguing and will look to put themselves on the radar during their debut seasons in the Dominican Summer League. Salazar, who received the highest bonus of the group at $400,000, showed off a plus arm and some hitting tools at the Dominican complex, but he really needs to add strength to his 6-foot-2 frame. Mendez, who signed for $200,000, has a projectable 6-foot-1. 155-pound frame, showed a glove-first profile, and needs to develop physically. Castro, who signed for $100,000, has advanced feel for hit, but his defensive home is still to be decided and he ultimately might move away from the middle infield. 

  • Part of the high school-heavy outfield draft class of 2017, 29th-round pick Tyler Dearden has had his injury issues throughout his career, but still is an intriguing prospect who will show power to the pull side and a very projectable frame. He has way too much swing-and-miss in his game at present and has a left field-only defensive profile. It remains to be seen whether he will ever make enough contact to project as more than an organizational outfielder, but he still has some upside.   
  • Among the interesting signees from the 2019 draft are a trio of outfielders. Eighth-round pick Wil Dalton debuted with Lowell after signing out of Florida, hitting .203/.312/.331 with a pair of home runs. He showed off raw power but a poor approach in his debut. 23rd-round pick Leon Paulino, who signed for $125,000, looked the part in the Fall Instructional League with a projectable athletic frame, but he has a ways to go to translate that to on the field performance. 24th-round pick Dean Miller only signed for $5,000 as a college senior and was only assigned to the GCL, but he had a strong showing, hitting .289/.370/.508, albeit with a 27-percent strikeout rate. He was much older than the majority of his competition, but it will be interesting to see what he does when he makes the jump to full-season ball. 
  • The switch-hitting Angel Maita signed for only $17,500 in 2017 out of Venezuela (along with his twin brother, Jesus), but had a very strong debut season in the DSL the following year, hitting .320/.3778/.409, followed by a strong performance during the Fall Instructional League. He really struggled in 2019 as an 18-year-old making his stateside debut, hitting .207/.331/.267 in 162 plate appearances. He still has some intriguing tools with the potential for plus speed, an above-average arm, and plus defense. However, major questions remain about whether he will hit, and how he develops at the plate will ultimately determine his upside. 
  • Giancarlos Santana signed for $460,000 on July 2, 2018, the fourth-highest bonus the Red Sox gave out that year. While the three players ahead of him all had very strong debuts, Santana struggled in the DSL, hitting .192/.322/.216. Santana, who is cousins with Manuel Margot, still has some projection in his frame and will stick in center field for now. Given how young he still is, it is premature to write him off, but 2020 will be a big year for his development as he heads back to the DSL for a second go-around. 
  • Jhostynxon Garcia was a shortstop as an amateur but moved to the outfield after he signed for $350,000 last July. He is a high-upside athlete who should be able to stick in center and has offensive upside with more hit tool projection than power projection at this point. 
  • Kelvin Diaz, who signed for $300,000 last July, is the best pure athlete the Red Sox signed in last year’s international class and has a very loose, projectable frame, but he has a long way to go developmentally.
Photo credit: Chase Shugart, Brendan Nail, Robinson Leyer, Nick Longhi, Brett Netzer, Tyler Dearden 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.