Teddy Stankiewicz seemed poised for a big year.
The Red Sox' second-round pick from 2013 entered 2014 largely untested. He'd thrown just 20 innings in Lowell the season before, receiving the same light workload that most draftees are given in their introduction to professional ball. But he'd done nicely in what time he had, and Greenville did not prove a huge challenge for him. An ERA of 3.72 at the level wasn't ideal, but with a 102:29 K:BB, Stankiewicz acquitted himself just fine. He ranked 18th on this list last year in a deeper Red Sox system with a lot of room for upward mobility given how nice those peripherals looked.
It didn't happen. In his writeup for last year, I speculated that Portland would be the real challenge for Stankiewicz. That's where just throwing strikes tends to stop being an effective strategy when it's not backed up with any great finesse. That's where Stankiewicz should have had to prove he can make his four-pitch mix carry the weight. But Salem proved as problematic as I'd expected Portland to be. Stankiewicz' ERA spiked to 4.01, his walk rate stayed reasonably low, but his strikeout rate plummeted down below 4.6 K/9.
Now, don't get me wrong, Stankiewicz was never going to be a guy who blows people away. He throws in the low 90s with his fastball and lacks an obvious out pitch. He's supposed to induce contact by throwing in the zone, but keep it weak enough to avoid too much damage. But a 4.6 K/9 isn't just low. It's one of those extremes that don't pop up all that often in baseball. To the point where it's hard to find many examples of pitchers succeeding with numbers like that. Last season, only Mark Buehrle pulled it off in the majors.
Reports say that Stankiewicz has done a good job working on the small things that might threaten to derail a career if left unchecked. And his 2015 struggles were not so pronounced as to delay a promotion to Portland, only enough to disappoint those who expected him to take a bigger step forward towards his likely future as a swingman or fifth starter in the majors. There is progress here, but looking at his season and the system as a whole, it's easy to see that Stankiewicz hasn't moved up the charts by virtue of his own success, but through the departure or graduation of those ahead of him. He fell forwards in the process of stepping backwards, which is obviously not quite what you're hoping for.
Still, if Stankiewicz didn't prove himself in 2015, this coming season in Portland was always going to be the real moment of truth for him. Stankiewicz will sink or swim in Double-A against hitters who won't allow themselves to be beaten by strike after strike. If Stankiewicz can survive 2016, he can probably make it to the majors. But if things go badly, it probably won't be like in Salem. By the end of 2016, Stankiewicz should either have managed to pick himself up and rise through the ranks on his own abilities, or have fallen out of the top-20 altogether. We'll hope for the former.
- Yoan Moncada
- Andrew Benintendi
- Rafael Devers
- Anderson Espinoza
- Michael Kopech
- Brian Johnson
- Sam Travis
- Luis Alexander Basabe
- Deven Marrero
- Michael Chavis
- Pat Light
- Nick Longhi
- Marco Hernandez
- Teddy Stankiewicz
Y'all know what to do if you're sticking with this thing this late. Vote away!