Triple-A Pawtucket: Sam Travis, 1B
Just last week, we wrote about Sam Travis' recent breakout at Triple-A, and how he was starting to look like an answer for the Red Sox at first base in 2017. David Ortiz will be retired then, which opens up one of either the designated hitter or first, and given Hanley Ramirez's history of health issues, taking him off the field -- like the Sox did with Ortiz in the first place well over a decade ago -- would make the most sense. Travis was in a position to keep on hitting at Triple-A and maybe take over at first in Boston next spring, but instead, all he'll have is less than two months of development at the level behind him, and a rebuilt ACL.
Now, Travis could still be the solution if he has a great spring training, but the whole situation is more clouded than it was. Will the Sox have to go out and sign a free agent, like Mike Napoli, to tide them over for a year? Napoli's power has returned to him with the Indians, and if he falters by mid-season, then maybe Travis will be ready to take over, anyway. Or, will Boston push Travis Shaw back over to first base, leaving third base open for Yoan Moncada or maybe even Blake Swihart, with Andrew Benintendi taking over in left? There is also Pablo Sandoval, but he's coming off major surgery, too, and if Travis is deemed too much of a risk as the Opening Day first baseman next year, then Sandoval isn't even in the discussion.
The Sox have plenty of options, but that's kind of the issue -- granted, "issue" is a strong word for a scenario in which multiple viable solutions exist. Things were simpler when Travis was healthy and developing on schedule. Maybe they'll still be simple by next April, but we'll have to wait to find out instead of watching him continue to progress in the meantime.
Double-A Portland: Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP
Stankiewicz is still pitching well against Double-A opponents minus the one disaster start he posted to open May. He's given up just 11 runs in his other 49 innings and eight starts, for an ERA of 2.02, but there are still some missing components here. The big right-hander is only striking out 5.3 batters per nine thanks to a recent downswing in his punch outs: he has just 15 in his last 34 innings, despite starting the season with 16 in his first 18.
His walks have also increased in this time, as the normally stingy Stankiewicz has given up 3.6 per nine over those 34-plus frames. His strikeout-to-walk ratio in that stretch is just a hair over one, so something is going to have to change. Double-A hitters haven't punished him for it yet, but they very well might. And if they don't, Triple-A opponents will.
Maybe Stankiewicz is aiming a little too much following his one terrible outing, and it's throwing off his command. This is just an assumption, though, based on how his numbers are looking: I haven't seen him pitch in person during this stretch, but apparently I should get on that.
High-A Salem: Yankory Pimentel, RHP
Yankory Pimentel, besides having a wonderful name, possesses a 1.38 ERA for High-A Salem. He's 22 and in High-A for the first time, and his season isn't going quite as well as that ERA suggests, but still, there's some promise here. Pimentel will need to cut down on the walks (5.2 per nine), but he's either been incredibly lucky or incredibly unhittable at the same time, as he's allowed just 3.8 hits per nine this year.
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It's probably a little of Column A and Column B -- High-A defenses aren't exactly known for their ability to consistently steal hits, and it's not like all of Salem's staff is benefiting from some magical defensive prowess, so this is some combination of luck and Pimentel doing things well. Let's be real, though: It's safer to bet on the majority of this being luck, given he has a .154 batting average on balls in play and a lowered opponent slugging than on-base percentage.
Higher levels have smarter hitters, though, and they'll punish him for his control issues, forcing him to throw strikes they can mash. So, he'll have to start throwing better pitchers soon, regardless of how shiny his ERA and hit rate might be.
Low-A Greenville: Tate Matheny, OF
Tate Matheny, son of Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny, was drafted by the Red Sox nearly a year ago in the fourth round. He joined up with Low-A Greenville in mid-April, and in the 35 games since, is batting .284/.314/.397. He's had some intriguing days so far, even slugging .440 in the month of May, but his approach and discipline could use some real work.
Matheny hasn't been walking much all season, but even less of late. As in, he literally could not have walked less often in May, since he went the entire month without doing so. He did have three triples and two homers, at least, but like with Pimentel, moving up the organizational ladder means opponents better-suited to exploiting deficiencies in your game. Matheny needs to figure out how to draw a walk at least some of the time before he can be trusted with a promotion. That, or he could use a late-summer bump to High-A Salem so the reality of the struggles brought on by said promotion can make him realize a change is needed. Either will get that ball rolling.