High-A Salem: Andrew Benintendi, CF
At some point, Andrew Benintendi's bat is going to slow down. The 21-year-old was drafted in June of 2015, and tore apart both short-season and Low-A level pitching after his professional debut. Now he's begun his stint at High-A Salem with the same sort of success, as he's hitting .368/.400/.737 over his first five games. Again, the bat will slow down eventually, but it might not be until he gets to the high minors.
Let's not get too ahead of ourselves, though. Benintendi could very well face the pitchers who adjust to him as soon as this month, and then his line will start to look a bit more like you would expect it to in the majors. This isn't meant to be a knock on Benintendi or anything -- you can find people to argue that he's the second-best prospect the Red Sox have behind Yoan Moncada, and depending on how I'm feeling that day, I might be one of them. It's just that you're going to want to keep in mind that he's not going to look just like this in the majors or maybe even the high minors.
Then again, who knows? He already jumped his stock up big time with his last season at Arkansas, and he's continued crushing the opposition to this point, so why don't we just enjoy the ride for a bit and try to figure out what he's going to become at a later date. For now, he's in something of an unofficial race to get promoted to Double-A Portland before Moncada, so let's have some fun with that.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Christian Vazquez, C
Christian Vazquez probably doesn't need to be in the minors. Well, performance-wise, he doesn't need to be in the minors. He does need to be in a place where he can play all the time and test his surgically repaired elbow, and since Blake Swihart and Ryan Hanigan are in Boston, Pawtucket was the next-best place for Vazquez.
He's been hitting well to begin the season, and that's a good sign -- Vazquez was never an offensive force or anything, but there is an expectation he'll slap enough singles and doubles around the field that pitchers will allow him some walks. The more he hits at Triple-A, the more convincing it is that his Tommy John surgery hasn't adversely changed his course.
It's hard to say when Vazquez could return to the majors. If there is an injury behind the plate, that's an obvious open. Otherwise, it might take a trade of Ryan Hanigan to clear a spot for Vazquez, and that's no guarantee, either, not when the pitching staff loves throwing to him and he has a clear spot in the lineup against lefties. Vazquez knows how to run a staff as well, though, and he might be the best defender in the bunch, so the Sox will make it work if or when they have to.
Double-A Portland: Kevin McAvoy, RHP
McAvoy is a fascinating arm, as he's just 22 years old and in Double-A despite being a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft. He doesn't strike out many batters, and he walks too many, but he also induces grounders at absurd rates. He had almost three times as many grounders as fly balls in 2015 thanks to a 62 percent ground ball rate, so you can forgive the rest of the package as he sorts out this ground attack.
Grounders did not play a significant part in his first start of the year, but he managed to strike out four batters over five innings while limiting the damage to just one run. "Limiting," because McAvoy also walked three batters during his outing. If he can get his strikeouts up over seven per nine again, lower his walks a little, and stick in the high-50s/low-60s for groundball rate, he could stick as a starter. If not, though, there is still room for an arm with his talents in the bullpen. His 2016 will likely have much to say about his ultimate role.
Low-A Greenville: Josh Ockimey, 1B
Josh Ockimey saw his stock rise a bit this winter in some circles, with MLB ranking him the number 16 prospect in the Boston system. Not everyone is as high on him, though, with Sox Prospects slotting him in way back at number 37. There's raw power here in his 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame, but it won't translate to games if he can't work through some issues with his swing mechanics.
Ockimey got leaner this winter, in the hopes of becoming more flexible instead of just heavily muscled. The defense at first could see improvement because of that, and it kind of has to, as his game is almost entirely reliant on his bat -- MLB only gave him one above-average tool, and it was his power.
Still, that raw power deserves our attention in this space, so we'll keep an eye on him to see if he does hit enough to justify the bump MLB has given him. He's still only 20 years old, too, so there's time.