High-A Salem: Yoan Moncada, 2B
Yoan Moncada should probably be in Double-A right now. Instead, he's in High-A, terrorizing Carolina League pitching during a 14-game hit streak in which he's batted .358/.470/.509. This isn't an indictment of the Red Sox' beginning-of-season handling of Moncada, by the way: if not for the weather, Moncada just might be in Double-A already.
The Eastern League is notoriously chilly to start the season. This is anecdotal, but on the Portland Sea Dogs' Opening Day two years ago, the crowd was bundled up in winter coats and it was near-freezing out once the sun went down. Opening Day 2015 was snowed out. It was a bit warmer for 2016, but the first weekend at home still featured games in the low-40s. Keeping Moncada away from that is just fine.
For one, you don't want Moncada, who is not used to playing in colder weather, to potentially hurt himself somehow in New England's (and the northeast's) wet and sometimes slippery early spring. You also don't want him to scuffle due to the conditions, which hinder offensive output early in the season, at the same time he would already be dealing with jumping up two levels after playing for Low-A Greenville in 2015. You risk discouraging your top prospect this way, or having him start to tinker with his swing or approach, or any number of things that you'd rather avoid seeing from him.
So, Moncada should probably be in Double-A when we're talking about a readiness and talent perspective. If he's not there for a few weeks more, though, look no further than the 21-degree difference in temperature between Salem and Portland on Monday morning. Moncada will get Double-A at-bats this year, and the first of them could be coming pretty soon, but he'll have to wait for May's warmer conditions before that happens.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Marco Hernandez, IF
Marco Hernandez briefly joined the Red Sox to make his major-league debut earlier this month, but he's back in Pawtucket where he will likely spend most of his season. Hernandez was the player to be named later in the Felix Doubront trade in 2014, and the former Cubs' farmhand made an impression in his first season in the Sox organization last summer. Hernandez posted an 832 OPS with Double-A Portland as the team's primary shortstop before getting the call to Triple-A to finish out the season.
He's a future utility guy, as his glove can work at shortstop but isn't ideal for it -- as someone who gives Xander Bogaerts a day off, though, he'd fit in just fine. He's not going to draw a bunch of walks, but Hernandez can put the ball in play and often makes solid contact leading to hits, and had 30 doubles a year ago over 114 games. That's a useful player, even if he's not a starter, as Hernandez should be able to get on base with some regularity while providing depth for the infield. On a team where Brock Holt is a starting outfielder, that could prove useful as soon as 2016.
We'll see if the bat keeps at it, though, as he had a harder time after his promotion a year ago and is only 10 games into this season. Hernandez is all of 23 years old and began this year with fewer than 50 games of Triple-A experience, so at least his potentially getting it doesn't come with age or level-repeating concerns attached.
Double-A Portland: Wendell Rijo, 2B
When Yoan Moncada inevitably gets the call to Double-A, it will be Wendell Rijo who suffers for it. These things are bound to happen to non-elite prospects who cross the paths of elite prospects: Rijo is 20 years old and could be something someday, but if Moncada comes up it's a battle between a potential big-league regular in Rijo and a potential cornerstone player in Moncada. The latter would get the at-bats if they needed to be shared, especially when it's not unrealistic to think he could hit his way to Triple-A by the very end of the year.
However, maybe Rijo wouldn't get tossed to the side immediately. It's possible a promotion to Double-A, where Rijo resides, would mean the Sox figure out what Moncada's long-term position is going to be, since Dustin Pedroia's presence in Boston means second base isn't in Moncada's future anyway. Rijo might end up playing all the time, but as the team's designated hitter so that Moncada can get some more reps in at second. Rijo is still a prospect worth developing, so the Sox will find a way to make it work: you don't want to actively hamper his development even if he's not going to grow up to be as productive as Moncada.
Low-A Greenville: Roniel Raudes, RHP
The Red Sox signed Raudes back in 2014 as an international free agent out of Nicaragua. His pro debut went well in the Dominican Summer League, to the point that Baseball America rated Raudes one of the top-20 prospects from the DSL and Venezuelan Summer League:
When the Red Sox sign [sic] Raudes for $250,000 out of Nicaragua on July 2, 2014, he had a lean, athletic build and threw strikes but his fastball was just 84-87 mph. His velocity increased last year, ranging from 88-92 mph. He still isn’t overpowering anyone, but he works quickly, fills up the strike zone and can put hitters away with an above-average curveball. Raudes, whose uncle was a standout pitcher on the Nicaraguan national team, has advanced feel for pitching. He commands his fastball well for his age, hitting his spots at the knees and changing eye levels up in the zone when he needs to elevate.
Now, Raudes is in his first stint of full-season ball with the Low-A Drive, and things have started out promising. He's got 11 strikeouts against three walks without a homer allowed in his first 13-1/3 innings, and made it through five innings in his first two outings despite the limited pitch counts handed to teenage arms in the Sally League. His third start was a little more trouble, with Raudes throwing 50 pitches before he was lifted in the fourth, but you can see the promise here.
Raudes profiles as a starter, and while he has a long way to go before we can even think about whether he'll make it, that potential is still something to appreciate with an arm who was relatively ignored upon signing. That'll happen when you are in the same free agent class as Anderson Espinoza, Christopher Acosta, and eventually, Yoan Moncada.