Triple-A Pawtucket: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
With the Red Sox rotation not in the greatest shape to begin the year, it's only natural to look at what is going on with the PawSox at Triple-A to see if any solutions exist there. While it seems unlikely the Sox would be aggressive with Eduardo Rodriguez and bring him up after just a handful of starts at the level, the option is there should they have need of it eventually.
Rodriguez has been phenomenal since the Red Sox acquired from the Orioles before last summer's July trade deadline, but that's just over the course of nine starts, and only three of those against Triple-A hitters. He's still just 22 years old, and isn't all that far removed from what was a disappointing half-season with the Orioles' Double-A affiliate. For those reasons, pushing him to the majors so soon into 2015 is probably a bad idea, but there are also plenty of things to be optimistic about.
Rodriguez has walked one batter in 18-1/2 innings, and has been keeping the ball in the park. His change-up has been far more effective as a secondary offering than it was while with the Orioles, in part due to an improved performance from his fastball, but also thanks to coaching from his new organization. He's been inducing one grounder for every fly ball, and while this is just over three starts, it's something to look at going forward: Rodriguez has had trouble with keeping the ball down and hitting his spots in the past, so if he's going to begin inducing more grounders all of a sudden, that's one more problem area taken care of in development.
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What kind of starter Rodriguez ultimately becomes is still up in the air, especially since he hasn't been pitching at this high of a level for long, both in terms of results and the competition he's facing. There is definite promise here, however, so look for the Red Sox to be careful about how they factor Rodriguez into their 2015 plans.
Double-A Portland: Luis Diaz, RHP
Luis Diaz has been missing bats in the early going, which you think would mean encouraging results for the 23-year-old. That's not the case, however, as the strikeouts seem to mostly be coming from Diaz living in the strike zone a little too often. Throwing strikes is good, but throwing quality strikes is better, and as Diaz is allowing over 12 hits per nine, there is the chance that he's not getting enough of the latter mixed in.
Of course, we're talking about 14 innings of work, so let's not get too concerned, especially since almost all of the damage came in one game and he's had some success pitching against Eastern League opponents before. It is a reminder, though, that for a guy like Diaz with okay stuff and no true out pitch, that things can go awry in a hurry when he's off his game. There is no reliable offering to turn to when his command isn't right, so even if he can still throw strikes, good things aren't guaranteed.
The main reason why it's worth mentioning early is because Diaz is now going through the league for the second time. He made 13 starts for the Sea Dogs in 2014, so it's also possible his opponents have a better idea of how they should handle him. He's only had one good start so far -- his first was a short, inefficient mess that he was lucky to only give up two runs in -- so the idea could have something to it.
High-A Salem: Sam Travis, 1B
Sam Travis is having a weird start to the year. He received what could be deemed an aggressive promotion to High-A following just 27 games at Low-A Greenville last summer after he was drafted, and now he's batting .182/.270/.291 to begin the year. Of note, though, is that Travis is only striking out 22 percent of the time, he's drawn walks in 10 percent of his plate appearances, and most of the problems seem to stem from a .220 batting average on balls in play to begin the year.
Is that a result of bad luck, or is Travis just swinging at the wrong pitches, ones he can't do much of anything with? Given how well his 2014 went, the second-round pick is probably just dealing with some poor batted ball luck that could even itself out when we have more than 63 plate appearances over 15 games to look at, but it is admittedly difficult to know for sure. For now, the fact Travis isn't striking out at an alarming rate and doesn't seem to be rushing his plate appearances is a good sign: if this were like the Travis Shaw passivity situation, circa 2013, we'd expect to see a few more strikeouts.
Low-A Greenville: Michael Chavis, 3B
Michael Chavis isn't really walking and he is striking out 30 percent of the time to begin 2015, but he's all of 19 and in his first year of full-season ball. There are going to be bumps along the way, and while those whiffs aren't good news, his three homers and pair of doubles are. He's got a whole lot to learn here, and like with many high school players drafted and dropped into Low-A in the last few years for the Red Sox -- pitchers Henry Owens and Trey Ball come to mind -- there are going to be struggles helping to teach him.
Hey, even Mookie Betts didn't get to Greenville until he was 20. Chavis has got time on his side.
Defensively, Chavis has had a bit of trouble, making four errors in his first nine games at third base, giving him six in 19 career games at the position. He's spent four games as the designated hitter as well, but that has more to do with the presence of Rafael Devers than Chavis' own glove work. Don't get too worked up over Chavis' glove, anyway: if it doesn't improve, a future at second base or in the outfield could await. That was a known possibility even before the Sox used their first pick in 2014 on the teenager, and there is a whole lot of time left in his development to prove he does or does not belong at the hot corner, anyway.