The Red Sox’ seven-player contingent of participants in the Arizona Fall League will include a pair of intriguing experiments in roles. The organization will send four pitchers — lefthanders Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Bobby Poyner, along with righthander Ty Buttrey — to join the Peoria Javelinas.
Owens — 3-6 with a 5.01 ERA for Portland with more walks (51) than strikeouts (43) in 50⅓ innings since being sent down to Double A — will continue to work as a starter to solidify his new, low three-quarters arm slot.
Johnson will work out of the bullpen in the AFL to give him exposure to relief work. The Red Sox still plan to stretch him out as a starter next spring, but given that Johnson (3-3 with a 2.79 ERA for the PawSox, and 2-0 with a 4.33 ERA in five big league starts) will be out of minor league options, opening the door to both relief and starting roles seem to make sense.
Poyner, a 2015 14th-round pick out of Florida, lacks wipeout stuff but creates deception to elicit swings and misses. He has a 0.97 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 10 walks in 37 Double A innings.
Buttrey, a 2012 fourth-rounder, has shown flashes of dominance out of the bullpen this year, particularly early in the season, though he’s also struggled at times while shuttling between Portland and Pawtucket. Still, the righthander has shown a high-90s fastball with a changeup that has been a swing-and-miss pitch at times, with 70 strikeouts in 60⅓ innings (along with a 5.07 ERA) this year.
Michael Chavis, 22, has hit .287/.353/.565 with 29 homers in a breakout season split between High A Salem and Double A Portland. After playing third base for all three of his full minor league seasons, Chavis will play both first base and third base in the AFL, cultivating the sort of versatility that will provide an increased number of pathways to the big leagues.
Chad De La Guerra, 24, has been one of the biggest surprises in the Sox system this year, hitting .291/.369/.450 between Salem and Portland while showing the ability to play solid infield defense at multiple positions. Although second is his strongest position, the fact that he’s looked solid at short suggests a potential utility profile.
Josh Tobias, 24, was acquired from the Phillies last December for Clay Buchholz. The switch-hitting second baseman has hit .290/.346/.385 between Salem and Portland, with a particularly strong offensive profile against lefthanders (.364/.413/.556).
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