Did you miss out on the introduction of our revamped minor-league coverage late last week? If so, you can catch up with Thursday's and Friday's entries, or just get the quick version of things here: rather than the format of years past, where we would cover one level per day and three players per level, this time around we'll have five days of coverage, with one player from each level analyzed each day. That's more opportunities to read up on Boston's prospects, and more prospects in general.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
Eduardo Rodriguez just might be the best pitching prospect in the Red Sox system. He has the highest ceiling of any of them, as he's the arm with the greatest chance of any of them to be at the top of a rotation someday, but that doesn't mean his chances for that future are very good, or that they are his most likely outcome. Rodriguez needs a consistently excellent season in order to help alleviate some of the concerns surrounding him, such as whether or not he has the command and repertoire to stymie big-league bats with ease.
He struggled -- or, maybe more accurately, did not impress -- before coming to the Red Sox in a July 31st trade for reliever Andrew Miller, but some subtle tweaks to his mechanics saw him dominate Eastern League lineups once he joined Boston's Double-A affiliate. Rodriguez posted a 0.96 ERA over six starts and 37 innings with the Sea Dogs, striking out almost five times as many batters as he walked while keeping his pitches consistently down in the zone. He also began to utilize his secondary offerings more effectively than in the past -- the success with his heater helped this change in strategy -- and showed the promise that had been missing from his time with the O's earlier in the summer.
Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Rodriguez's floor as a prospect is likely lower than that of teammate and fellow lefty Henry Owens, but that ceiling, as said, is loftier. He still might end up in relief, or as an inconsistent but occasionally brilliant back-end arm, but starts like those he made for the Sox at Double-A and his season opener this year suggest there could be more here. Now the Sox have a whole season to find out if he actually is the best their farm has to offer, and it'll take at least that long to know for sure.
Double-A Portland: Luis Diaz, RHP
Luis Diaz returned to Portland after a solid second-half there, following a mid-season promotion from High-A Salem. While he's still starting, his future, if there is to be one in the majors, is likely as a reliever. Diaz's stuff isn't overpowering, as he lacks that plus pitch that would be an obvious out-inducer, and his command isn't so refined that he can make up for it, as former teammate Brian Johnson might. Diaz could have a career in front of him, though, especially if his low-90s fastball ticks up a bit in a move to the pen.
He looked shaky in his first start of the season -- consider this your reminder that I see a whole lot of Portland baseball during the year -- but it had also been delayed by first snow and then rain on consecutive days, and early April starts are rarely without their inconsistencies, anyway. As the game went on, Diaz's velocity climbed from the high-80s to 93 miles per hour, and while the effectiveness of his breaking ball against big-league hitters is still in question, the slow, looping curve did a number on Double-A opponents who couldn't get the timing down. His change-up remains his top offering, but with his command spotty, it could only do so much damage. If he could rely on his two best pitches on a given day out of the pen, there might be something here.
High-A Salem: Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP
Stankiewicz is something of the forgotten pitcher in the system. He wasn't as highly touted as Trey Ball among 2013 draft picks, and when people think of the future of Red Sox pitching in Boston, they're thinking of the guys at Triple-A, like Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, and even Brian Johnson. Don't sleep on Stanky, though, as he just might be a mid-rotation arm working his way through the system unnoticed.
While his strikeout totals aren't going to floor you, it's worth remembering that Stankiewicz is 21 -- and won't turn 22 until well after the minor-league season ends -- and is already in High-A ball. He's two years younger than your average Carolina League pitcher, and while he could use a little more swing-and-miss in his game, his control and ability to keep the ball in the park helped him thrive in Low-A. The 6-foot-4 right-hander still has plenty of room to grow, and seems to know how to pitch despite his youth, but his repertoire and command do need to improve in order for him to fully realize his potential. A summer at High-A will help him, and if he breezes through that challenge, maybe a late-season call-up to Double-A is in his future.
Low-A Greenville: Michael Chavis, 3B
Chavis was Boston's first-overall pick in the 2014 draft, selected at 26th overall. He signed quickly after he was drafted, allowing him to get 39 games and 150 plate appearances in for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, and now the 19-year-old finds himself in full-season ball. While he has only played in a few games and you can't read into his numbers at all, last summer was promising, as he produced an OPS 88 points higher than the league average (while two years younger than its average hitter), and his future is considered bright.
He'll be splitting time between third base and designated hitter for Greenville, as another teenager with real promise is also at the hot corner. Rafael Devers is just 18 and might end up hitting his way to Salem if 2015 is anything like 2014, so it might not be a permanent setup for Chavis, but it's one that he'll have to work within for at least a portion of the season. His future could end up being in the outfield, but that's not something the Red Sox are going to concern themselves with at this point: who knows when the talented but still raw Chavis will even be ready for the majors, or if the Sox will still have third base blocked off by an established player at that point. For now, he'll play third, because it's what the Sox think he can handle, and that probably won't change until Chavis is either a couple years or levels away from where he is now.