Low-A Greenville: Rafael Devers, 3B
Rafael Devers is 18 years old. He was signed during the 2013-2014 international free agent period, and didn't officially pick up a bat or glove for the Red Sox organization until the 2014 season, which he spent in the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League. In spite of his youth and in spite of his inexperience, Devers is absolutely tearing up the opposition during his first run of full-season ball, and it's come to the attention of prospect analysts such as Keith Law, who ranked Devers the number 14 prospect in the minors in his first in-season update of 2015.
Devers started a little slow in his first week, but in the 28 games and 118 plate appearances since, the third baseman is batting .355/.393/.527 with 14 extra-base hits. While he's not walking much, he hasn't had any real reason to, and he's also managed to avoid striking out often. Devers knows what pitches he wants -- those pitches are fastballs, by the way -- and he crushes them when he sees them. It's been a good system so far, and it's all even more impressive when you realize that he has yet to face a pitcher who is younger than he is -- even in rookie ball, Devers had just 15 plate appearances against younger pitchers, and if he keeps hitting like he has, he won't see anyone younger for some time yet.
There is still work to be done, as there are questions about Devers' future position on the diamond -- if he grows too big or slows down, third will be tough, but he should have the bat for first base or an outfield corner. Plus, Devers is wrecking every fastball he can get his bat on, but he'll eventually be exposed to secondaries far more often than he is in Low-A, and the adjustment to those will test him and his progression. Devers has the bat speed and impressive discipline for his youth, and the ability to answer the challenges that will come at him as he moves up the developmental ladder, but we won't know just how he'll react to said challenges until he faces them.
All that can wait, though. Devers is looking like a success in international scouting, and while he's a ways off, what he's been able to do so far can be appreciated.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Noe Ramirez, RHP
Ramirez is on the minor-league disabled list at the moment, and hasn't pitched since May 10. He was doing well enough prior to being made inactive, so there is that, but he wasn't doing so great that this injury isn't bothersome from an analysis and developmental standpoint: Ramirez needs innings against Triple-A hitters so the Sox can get a sense of how many bats he'll miss and how many walks he can avoid. His command has been good enough to help him keep the ball down to this point -- a Ramirez necessity, as he's homer-prone when he leaves his fastball up -- but that's just a start.
If Ramirez is to be a big-league reliever at some point, he needs a bit more separation between his strikeouts and walks, as he had last summer at Double-A. Right now, he's still in that stage of development where the Sox are trying to get him as many innings as possible, so he has 16 frames in just eight appearances, but you have to think that at some point, his overall numbers will improve once he becomes more of a one-inning type.
Ramirez isn't set for a career as a back-end bullpen arm or anything: he's probably an emergency long man or a sixth-inning type who can maybe get some situational work thrown in as well. It might not happen with the Red Sox, depending on how desperately another team wants a relief arm in their pen through the Rule 5 draft this coming December, but it's also hard to justify protecting this type of pitcher with a 40-man spot unless there are an abundance of them to fill this winter.
Double-A Portland: Luis Diaz, RHP
Luis Diaz has returned from the minor-league DL, and pitched far more effectively than he did in his previous outing. Diaz went six innings allowing just two earned runs while walking two, with the only real ding on the appearance coming from his three strikeouts -- especially noticeable in a start with more fly balls than grounders. Still, it's much closer to where Diaz needs to be, so maybe the time off to rest and recover did him the good he needed.
Red Sox slugger Mike Napoli is back
After a woeful stretch to begin the season, Mike Napoli is crushing opposing pitchers' mistakes and driving the ball once again.
Diaz's strength comes from knowing how to use what he has effectively by throwing strikes, so when he doesn't throw enough of them -- or the strikes aren't high-quality enough -- then bad things happen. He's probably not a starter in the majors -- if he is, it's as a reliever who can give you the occasional spot start in a pinch -- but he'll need to be more consistent against higher-level competition in order to be convincing as a reliever, too. More starts like this last one will help with that, and there is no real rush for the 23-year-old to figure things out all at once, so it's not necessarily a daunting task for the righty.
High-A Salem: German Taveras, RHP
When we last wrote about German Taveras, he was wrapping up a difficult April. You haven't seen him in this space since, because May went just about as poorly for the 22-year-old right-hander. On the bright side, he started to miss far more bats of late, and it's helped him be less reliant on the inexperienced low-minors defense behind him. Opponents are still getting on base far too often overall, though, thanks to an overabundance of free passes from Taveras, and it's minimizing the positive effects that fewer hits -- and fewer long hits -- could bring.
It was expected that Taveras would have his issues, though. He threw a combined 44 innings between short-season Lowell and Low-A Greenville in 2014, and then was dropped into High-A. He hasn't quite figured out how to pitch effectively at this level yet, but he's showing some flashes, and when it all comes together it'll be easier to forget about this ugly start to the season.