Not every Red Sox minor leaguer worth watching this season will start the year with a full-season club in 2017. Most of these guys are Latin American players getting ready for their first year in the States or draftees who didn’t impress enough in their first pro season to get promoted to Greenville. Then, there are suspended players and those who switch positions. Since these are all, by nature, raw players, I won’t designate these by stars and sleepers. Instead, let’s take a brief look at a bunch of interesting players who will stay in Fort Myers when the rest of the organization breaks for their regular season destinations.
In a system that lacks high-ceiling pitchers beyond Jason Groome, Mata is a welcome sight. He was an under-the-radar signing out of Venezuela, but he impressed in his first year in the Dominican Summer League as a 17-year-old. He struck out a batter per inning and kept his walks down to a manageable rate. He’ll have to put some muscle on his body as he gets older, but he has three pitches already including a fastball that reaches the low-to-mid-90’s. There’s a long way to go, but he’s among the most exciting low-level prospects in this system. The righty is likely to head the GCL team’s rotation to start his season this summer.
Without knowing how their draft will go, there’s a good chance that Lorenzo Cedrola will be the most interesting Lowell Spinner this year. The outfielder was signed for a mere $35,000 out of Venezuela in 2015, and has played well in both the DSL and the GCL. He’s never going to be a big power hitter, but if everything goes according to plan he can develop a solid hit tool to go along with his plus athleticism. By all accounts, he’s an extremely aesthetically pleasing player who is extremely raw but can fly on the bases and can use the speed in center field as well.
Unlike Mata and Cedrola, Romanski has plenty of experience in full-season ball. Last year, he spent the entire season in Portland as the team’s primary catcher. However, he was suspended for the first 50 games after testing positive for amphetamines. Romanski doesn’t have a big-time major-league future, but he’s a strong defensive catcher which should provide him a professional job for as long as he wants one.
Castellanos was signed right on July 2 of 2015 out of Venezuela as another under-the-radar signing. He made his professional debut in the DSL last summer and hit much better than anyone expected, putting up an .890 OPS at the level. As he moves through the system he’ll need to refine his approach at the plate, as his current swing will get eaten alive by advanced pitchers. On the other hand, he has monster power potential which will play at its ceiling even as a first base-only player. Castellanos can expect to make his stateside debut this season.
Coca is a Dominican Republic product who signed with the Red Sox for $250,000 on July 2, 2015. He put together a solid campaign in his first pro season at the DSL last summer. He’s not the sexiest prospect in a tier that is generally built of high-ceiling, low-floor players, but there is some intrigue here. The most important part of Coca’s game is his glove, as he shows the tools to be a very good defensive shortstop. He’s a good athlete with strong instincts at the position. There’s not really much power here, but if his hit tool can play up a bit there’s some real major-league potential here way down the road. He’ll likely start the year in the GCL.
Among all the names on this list, Acosta might be the most intriguing. He was signed in the same summer as Anderson Espinoza and was even more highly regarded in the eyes of some. However, he didn’t have a great pro debut back in 2015, and then missed all of last season after mysteriously not reporting to a team when the time came. He’s apparently still with the organization and is expected to play again in 2017. There should still be some talent here, and he’ll be just 19 this season. If he can play up to his potential, this is the most intriguing non-Groome arm in the system.
Acosta might be the most intriguing name on this list, but Weems might be the one I’m most looking forward to watching. If you’ve followed the system for the last few years, you likely recognize this name as he’s been a long-time catcher in the organization. However, the former third round pick converted to pitching last May and made some appearances in Lowell and in the GCL. Against New York Penn League competition he struck out 20 batters in 15 2⁄3 innings of work. He has a big fastball that can reach 96, but he’ll need to develop his curveball and/or his changeup if he wants to progress through the system. He’s in his age-24 season, so if he shows improvement he could be placed on the fast track.