It’s been a different sort of first half for the Red Sox. In recent years, many of the team’s top prospects have performed well in lockstep moving up through the system. That hasn’t been the case this year.
So far in 2015, Pawtucket has represented an interesting fork in the road – at least for now – with a couple of players delivering dazzling performances but several others hurting their prospect stock. Portland, which has for several years featured some of the top names in the farm system, has been thin, while the most dazzling assemblies of prospects have been in two levels of A-ball.
With the Red Sox’ four full-season affiliates arriving at roughly the halfway point of their seasons, here’s a position-by-position look at those who have delivered the most impressive performances and those who have encountered developmental bumps in the road.
The players listed below are mentioned based on how they’ve impacted their prospect status and/or player development, rather than purely on performance.
1B: Sam Travis (High A/AA) — .313 AVG/.378 OBP/.467 SLG, 5 HR
Travis, a 2014 second-rounder who was college teammates with Cubs prospect Kyle Schwarber, had an up-and-down first half, but ultimately showed an impressive ability to sustain hot streaks in the middle of a lineup. He consistently barrels the ball in a way that suggests there’s more power to come.
Travis, 21, was promoted to Portland Thursday.
2B: Mauricio Dubon (A/High A) — .301/.354/.428, 4 HR, 18 SB
The 2013 26th-rounder is putting himself on the prospect map as a potential starting middle infielder. Dubon, 20, has made strides in terms of his pitch selection while showing an increased ability to drive the ball to the gaps, a year after his ability to post the second-highest average in the New York-Penn League was predicated on using his speed and shooting liners over the infield.
SS: Javier Guerra (A) — .276/.335/.490, 8 HR
Guerra, 19, is one of the top defensive shortstops in the minors, but while the Sox expected to see him develop gap power, no one forecast the idea that he would lead the system in slugging through a half-season.
His high strikeout is a concern, but the potential of a standout defender with unusual pop from the left side suggests a huge ceiling.
Two other players merit mention: In Portland, Marco Hernandez has shown a shortstop’s defensive tools and unusual lefthanded pop for the position. His future may be as a utility player, but he’s shown big league tools since the Sox acquired him in December to complete the Felix Doubront trade.
And in Salem, Tzu-Wei Lin – after three years of struggle – has shown why the Sox signed him for $2 million out of Taiwan in 2012.
3B: Rafael Devers (A) — .305/.333/.451, 5 HR
At 18, he shows the ability to drive the ball to all fields in a way that suggests middle-of-the-order power potential. The ball tends to explode off his bat.
As he develops more strength, there’s a chance he could combine strong averages with 25 homers or more.
C: Jordan Procyshen (A/High A) — .285/.356/.363, 2 HR
The 22-year-old Calgary native has impressed with his good feel for the game along with the leadership and defensive skills to have a path forward as a potential big leaguer.
OF: Jackie Bradley Jr. (AAA/Majors) — .322/.398/.468, 4 HR
Bradley worked hard in the winter to redefine his swing, gearing it again for line drives and contact in place of the uppercut that led to swings and misses.
His defense, meanwhile, remains a showstopper. Evaluators from multiple organizations believe he’s done everything to show he’s ready for another shot as a big league regular.
OF: Manuel Margot (High A/AA) — .273/.311/.402, 3 HR, 20 SB
The preeminent five-tool prospect in the Red Sox system, Margot sandwiched excellence in April and June around a May wrecked by an intercostal injury. He has above-average attributes across the board (save for his plate discipline/patience), which has allowed him to arrive in Portland as a 20-year-old. He was named to the All-Star Futures Game on Thursday..
LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (AAA/Majors): 2.98 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 1.3 BB/9 before callup
By the time the Red Sox called him up, evaluators believed he was among the best, if not the best, Triple A starting pitching prospects in the game.
Thursday’s outing notwithstanding, he’s offered plenty of evidence to back the claim.
LHP Brian Johnson (AAA): 2.57 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
Few pitchers demonstrate a better understanding of who they are on the mound. Johnson doesn’t light up radar guns, but with plus command of a four-pitch mix that he can use to carve the strike zone, he’s ready whenever the phone rings.
He won’t be waiting too much longer.
RHP Michael Kopech (A): 2.98 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9
The 19-year-old has clocked triple digits from the rotation, overpowering opponents in his first full pro season. He’s still raw, but the upside for the 2014 first-rounder is immense.
RHP Ty Buttrey (A/Hi-A): 2.60 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
For the first time in his pro career, Buttrey, a 2012 fourth-rounder who received a first-round bonus, has looked like the pitcher the Sox scouted in high school, combining a mid-90s fastball with a power curve. and throwing everything for strikes. It remains to be seen if he’ll stay in the rotation, but regardless, he’s now on a big league path.
(AA/AAA): 2.97 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
With the ability to work at 95-100 with a fastball down in the zone and the reintroduction of his college split-change as a swing-and-miss pitch, Light has been a completely different animal since his move to the bullpen this year than he was in 2013-14 in the rotation. He has late-innings, perhaps even closer, potential.
LHP Trey Ball (Hi-A): 3.80 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9
He hasn’t been dominant, but the 2013 first-rounder has figured out how to compete while waiting for more physical development to yield more power stuff, and in flashes, he’s shown a three-pitch mix that, on a given night, can look average to above, with particularly intriguing gains with his curveball.
RHP Jonathan Aro (AA/AAA/Majors): 2.22 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9
Aro slipped through the international amateur cracks, permitting the Sox to sign the stocky righthander for just $10,000 in 2011. Until this year, he’d been old for his level, leading his consistently strong performances and a 91-94 mph fastball (with a change and slider) to get overlooked. No longer.
After never advancing past High A through 2014, the 24-year-old blitzed through the upper levels.
LHP Williams Jerez (A/High A/AA): 1.74 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
Converted from the outfield to the mound in 2014, Jerez – a 2011 second-rounder – has taken to the switch, dominating with a fastball/slider combo over which he’s shown surprising strike-throwing ability given his lack of pitching experience.
He’s Rule 5 eligible this winter, likely helping to explain why he got bumped to Portland on Thursday after just five Salem appearances.
1B/3B/OF Garin Cecchini (AAA): .203/.276/.309, 5 HR
When Cecchini struggled for most of 2014 in Triple A, it seemed like an aberration in an otherwise successful career. But in repeating those struggles, there are now questions about whether he’ll fulfill his projection as a No. 2 or No. 6 hole hitter who posts high averages and OBPs.
Moreover, his positional future is murkier than ever as he shuttles between spots. Team officials praise his tireless work ethic, and given that he turned around his 2014 season, there’s reason to believe he can repeat the feat, but his prospect stock has taken a clear hit.
OF Bryce Brentz (AAA): .233/.309/.384, 8 HR
At 26 and in his third year in Triple A, Brentz is at a point where he should be posting numbers to force his way to the big leagues. He hasn’t, and won’t get a chance to do so for some time, as he’ll miss time because of thumb surgery.
2B/3B/OF Sean Coyle (AAA): .157/.266/.296, 4 HR, 4 SB
A year after re-establishing his prospect credentials and earning a spot in the All-Star Futures Game, Coyle’s numbers have tanked, and the 23-year-old has once again missed considerable time because of injuries.
2B Yoan Moncada (A): .200/.287/.289
3B Michael Chavis (A): .207/.271/.358, 6 HR
Perception about Moncada will invariably be framed by the size of his record-setting bonus, but that doesn’t mean that he’s immune from a transition period to pro ball. There have been flashes of the tools that led the Sox to sign him, but they’ve been inconsistent.
However, the Sox have been more focused on the importance of introducing him to the development of a routine and process that will allow him to succeed down the road; they’re greater concern relates to the work he’s doing from 3-7 p.m., for which he receives high marks, rather than during the game.
The same can be said for 2014 first-rounder Chavis, though with the caveat that his 34 percent strikeout rate could represent a more lasting issue.
LHP Henry Owens (AAA): 3.40 ERA, 6.9 K/9, 5.3 BB/9
Has struggled with control and his walks through two months, and his killer changeup hasn’t been present consistently. All of that said, he’s still on a fast track.
Scouts of other organizations have felt that Owens’ projection as a solid future No. 4 starter with a No. 3 ceiling hasn’t changed; he’s just going to require – as many pitchers do – time to progress in Triple A to get there. The ability to attack with his fastball will prove the critical determinant of his big league ETA.