With the minor-league regular season over, it's time to look back at what the farm has accomplished in 2012. The plan is go to team-by-team, as we did for our daily prospect updates, but this time around, we'll review by position, so you get a sense of where the Red Sox are strong and where they are lacking depth.
Previous entries: Lowell Spinners Starting Pitchers
Henry Owens, SP
Owens is the jewel of Greenville's staff, despite what his 4.87 ERA might suggest. He spent most of the season as a teenage pitcher in his first year in the pros, enough of it that it was his age-19 season. While he began the year poorly, giving up far too many hits despite loads of strikeouts, things eventually settled down. If you cut his first three starts out -- nearly 11 innings of work -- Owens' ERA drops to to 4.10. That's still not perfect, but again -- 19-year-old pitcher, first year as a professional.
He'll likely spend 2013 with High-A Salem, a heady assignment for a 20-year-old, but he handled Greenville well, and there's no real rush. He's far from a finished product, as he needs to improve his control, and, as with all young pitchers, learn to use his secondary stuff more often against tougher competition. He can't learn that until he has to, though, which is why Salem will be a good step towards that.
Mickey Pena, SP
Pena had a rougher go of things at the end of the year, specifically after coming back from injury. Over his last five appearances, Pena gave up 12 runs over his last 28 innings, for a 3.86 ERA, and walked seven batters in those frames. That might not sound like a lot, but Pena handed out just 14 free passes in over 70 innings before that. It was a departure for him, and it damaged his overall season line.
Pena isn't a big pitching prospect for a specific reason: control pitchers like this, ones with good fastballs, can overstate their importance while pitching in the lower levels. Tougher competition tests pitchers like this, forcing them to throw more quality strikes, and lean on their secondary stuff more. Pena's stock will rise depending on how he does at higher levels, so, like with everyone else, Salem will be more of a test, but even that's not enough.
Noe Ramirez, SP
Ramirez was drafted in 2011, but injury kept him from pitching until 2012 was already going. Ramirez pitched very well to start, but things started to unravel in mid-July. Ramirez started to give up homers then, and allowed 10 homers over his last nine starts -- at least one in every start. The kind of struggles that Pena has begun to go through -- and will likely continue to go through post-promotion -- have already hit Ramirez. He's a control-centric arm as well, and the homers suggest that his strikes were not all of the quality variety during the latter half of his season.
Ramirez was selected in the fourth round last year, and while he's not a top prospect, there's a potentially useful arm here. Sox Prospects rates him as the #37 prospect in the system, right ahead of Pena, and around the same neighborhood as Kolbrin Vitek, Che-Hsuan Lin, and Sean Coyle. All of these players have plenty of reasons to like them, but possibly even more to be worried about them as future big-league contributors.
Yeiper Castillo, SP
Of course, that is ahead of Yeiper Castillo, who isn't in Boston's top 40. Castillo lost time due to surgery, and had to redo things at Greenville at age 23. He started off slowly, but picked up over time, and the Red Sox felt it was time to bump him to High-A Salem. While there, his K/BB improved somewhat, but not in any meaningful way, while his strikeout rate dropped a bit. Like Pena and Ramirez, he's no sure thing -- less of one, even. But maybe there's a useful relief arm here, or, at the least, some organizational depth.