It's been a whirlwind season for 17-year-old right-hander Anderson Espinoza, and it's not over yet. Fresh off of helping to pitch the Gulf Coast League Red Sox to the GCL championship, Espinoza has now been promoted to Low-A Greenville with five games left in their season. WEEI's Ryan Hannable had the news first.
Espinoza, signed last July 2 by the Sox, is the youngest pitcher in the Sally League, and it isn't close: he's more than a full year younger than the next-youngest player, and is 19 months younger than teammate Rafael Devers, who hasn't faced a pitcher younger than he is all season long. He also has nothing left to learn in the GCL, as he posted a 0.68 ERA there over 40 innings while striking out over 4.4 times as many batters as he walked. A jump to Low-A gets him a head start on next year's assignment while also serving as tangible recognition of his success.
It also might help Greenville reach the Sally League playoffs, as they are currently vying for a spot in the postseason. If they do, maybe Espinoza will end up with more than just the one start for them this Saturday.
New president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski also has a history of pushing younger arms when he feels it's time. Historically, you might recall Justin Verlander was drafted in 2004 and made his big-league debut in 2005. Current Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, while under Dombrowski, was drafted in 2007 out of high school and debuted in MLB in 2009 at age 20. Old friend Andrew Miller was drafted in 2006, and debuted in the majors later that summer. There are other, more recent examples -- Buck Farmer was drafted in 2013 and reached the majors this year, Jeremony Bonderman debuted at 20 back in 2003 -- and maybe Espinoza will get a similar-ish push through the system.
That is, so long as he keeps on succeeding. He is all of 17, even if he's well ahead of his peers in terms of having a well-rounded repertoire and approach. There's still plenty for him to learn, plenty of opportunities to fail that he can take lessons away from, but there is a good chance that if he continues to shut down the opposition, he won't be held back too much by having X number of innings at a level. The mid-90s (and higher) will probably help him take down Low-A opponents, but after that, maybe he'll start to see a real challenge.
Just don't start penciling him in to future rotations just yet. We cannot stress the "He is all of 17" part of the Anderson Espinoza equation enough, no matter how good he's looked so far. Still, you can dream on him plenty.