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The Flyby - Hope for the Future

I’m so excited to talk about so many different and unique prospects.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
Rafael Devers wasn’t eligible for this FanPost Friday prompt, but he still wins our hearts, because he’s amazing.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

This past weekend plus Monday, we asked you, the readers one very simple question: “Who is your prospect binky (outside of our top 10 non-Benintendi prospects)?”

It wasn’t quite in those terms, but the meaning is more or less the same. Everybody has a guy in the system they love. This is especially true high in the system, where you have big bats like Rafael Devers and big arms like Jason Groome. But once you snake out of the top 10 prospects in the system and into the depth pieces it gets a little muddier.

Fortunately, Over the Monster is a veritable wealth of knowledge when it comes to prospects, as the people here love their prospects (in some cases, you would argue they take this to the extreme).

So who were the lucky players who have our eye?

Ricochet! believes that I should believe in Lorenzo Cedrola. And I can’t argue with him either. Cedrola is a promising talent who has all the ceiling you could want.

Named Boston’s Latin American program player of the year in 2015, following a rookie campaign where he would hit .321/.420/.415, at the young age of 17 (in the DSL, mind), Cedrola has quickly rocketed into many personal top 30s, and more than a few top 20s for Sox fans. And if you haven’t heard his name before, I get the feeling you’ll be hearing it a lot more often soon enough.

Cedrola started 2017 at the A ball level, for Greenville. While he has yet to really tear the cover off the ball like he has over the past couple years (he’s hitting .255/.309/.333 at the time of this writing), it’s worth noting just how young Cedrola is. He’s all of 19 years old. There are 4 players who have played for Greenville this year who are that young. There’s Cedrola, of course, as well as Yoan Aybar, Jason Groome, and Hildemaro Requena.

Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor;

Probably the most impressive thing about Cedrola’s game, to my eyes, is his ability to put wood on the ball, and not strike out. In 2016, he struck out 28 times in 238 plate appearances (11.8%). While I am not going to say he’s Mookie Betts, it is worth noting, that in Mookie’s first full season in the minors, he struck out 30 times in 292 plate appearances (10.3%). There are actually a few comparisons to Cedrola at 19 and Mookie at 19 that give you something to dream on. Both are great defenders, with more than a fair amount of speed, good contact skills, and awesome names. The odds Cedrola even makes the majors are pretty slim, all things considered, but that ceiling is fun to think about.

Meanwhile, trespada sticks in the outfield, and provides his own take, one in which he insists we should believe in Tyler Hill. I’ll be honest, when I made this prompt, I was expecting a lot of guys on the fringes of the top 10, not guys who were outside of top 20s, and in some cases, 30s. This is what I love about these FanPosts though, they provide some coverage that most people just wouldn’t see, otherwise.

Hill, now 21 years old, was drafted in the 19th round by the Red Sox, in 2014. The jury is still out on most of this class, as many of those prospects inch closer to potential debuts. Michael Chavis was the first pick that year, and he’s in high A. Michael Kopech was traded to the White Sox in the Chris Sale deal. Sam Travis is battling back after a lost 2016. Then you have personal favorites like Josh Ockimey, Danny Mars, and Jake Cosart rounding things up. Lost in the excitement of these players, however is Tyler Hill.

Photo Courtesy of Kelly O’Connor;

Hill put up one of those sneaky good campaigns that makes you wonder why less people aren’t aware of him. In 61 games at the low A level, Hill would hit .332/.400/.487, thereby being the second best hitter at Lowell for the 2016 campaign (the first, of course, is Bobby Dalbec).

He’s struggled to start the year, much like many prospects in the system, but these struggles have come with the discovery of a power stroke. Prior to 2017, Hill had 4 home runs in 108 games. He has 3 in 14 this year. If Hill can find his swing that has led to his career .290/.368/.408 minor league triple slash, then the Red Sox will have a legitimate triple threat prospect who can beat you with a base hit, base running, or a booming blast to centerfield.

The final non-staff take for the weekend comes courtesy of gosawks, as they discuss the merits of Jalen Beeks. Beeks is something of an anomaly. He’s undersized, roughly 5’11”, a lefty, and doesn’t seem to have anything I would rate as a truly above average pitch.

What he does, have however, are four pitches that seem to profile out as average ones, and some deception in his windup. While I’m not sure this will help him as a starter, it would certainly benefit him as a reliever, even if only one who comes in in low-leverage innings.

Maybe I am being unfair with Beeks. He’s had three starts in Portland this season, and through them, he’s looked solid, with surprisingly high strikeout numbers, and a low number of hits allowed. The one glaring flag on his record so far are the walk totals, which are higher than you’d like to see.

It remains to be seen whether Beeks is the type of pitcher who can throw 6 innings consistently (His three games this year have gone 5.0, 3.2, and 7.0 innings respectively), or if he’s the type of pitcher who is going to be relegated to the bullpen. It remains to be seen if his stuff will play out consistently over the full season. But he bears watching, and could be in play sooner than we think given how fungible relief pitching can be.

And as usual, thank you to the OTM staff writers who took some time to provide their own input!

Mike Carlucci

Trey Ball wasn't even born when The Offspring released their own version of "Something to Believe In" on Smash in April of 1994. When the Red Sox drafted him seventh overall in 2013, their highest pick since taking Trot Nixon at the same spot, the expectations were high. It was something of a break from the Epstein era philosophy by taking a high school pitcher, arguably the riskiest type of draft choice, with the team's highest pick in twenty years and it just hasn't worked out. Not at all.

Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor;

There was even a thought experiment about seeing if his bat still played. After several years in the minors Ball looked like a missed opportunity. But maybe not in 2017.

After two years in Salem at High-A the Red Sox pushed their prospect to Double-A Portland to sink or swim. What was left? A move to the bullpen? A return to the field and batter's box?

In the tiniest of samples, just 11.1 innings, there is a glimmer of hope: 12 Ks against four walks. That would be a 25% strikeout rate and 8.5% walk rate - both highs in Ball's career. Obviously that's not a sign of change in this short start to the season but it's the smallest shred of hope. If the walks can come down and the strikeouts rise, the wildness subsides...well, Trey Ball is only 23 and there's still hope that his career. Some players turn their lives around in a hurry. Maybe Ball is one of them.

Besides, doesn't baseball need a pitcher named Ball? Let's see that future.

Phil Neuffer

Chris Sale will not be around forever, as much as we’d like him to be based on his early Red Sox career. That means there will be a large hole to fill at some point. Actually, scratch that, there will be a lean, lanky, left-handed hole to fill. Who fits that bill? How about 2013 first round pick Trey Ball? Physical attributes aren’t all of it. I’d take a starting pitcher of Sale’s caliber even if he looked like one of the dinosaur machines in Horizon: Zero Dawn. But there’s something fun about watching a spindly master work. Ball is currently listed at 6’6” and 185 pounds, and I believe those numbers were recorded right after he housed an ice cream sundae and took a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. Those measurements line up with Sale (6”6”, 180 pounds), so Ball has the look to be the next Chris Sale. But does he have the stuff?

Thus far he does not. He has a 4.51 ERA in 369 1/3 minor league innings and is just cracking into Double-A this season. We’ve all seen how deceptive and dominant Sale can be and Ball hasn’t been like that in the low minors. In fact, he just got lit up in a start against Trenton on Sunday, allowing five runs on five hits and four walks across 4 ⅓ innings.

His lack of success at the pro level has made him run out his welcome with some Red Sox fans, but I’m not there yet. Sure, maybe taking Austin Meadows, Hunter Renfroe or Aaron Judge might look better right now, but with the swath of young, talented outfielders the Red Sox have, I’d like to shift the focus to developing arms, since we’ve all see how tough it is to keep a starting rotation healthy, even when you’ve got three aces.

Ball is still a first-round talent and at 22-years-old, is still far from a bust. He needs to improve on his ability to miss bats, as he has is striking out only 5.46 strikeouts per nine innings in his pro career, which is just a bit higher than his walk rate (5.44). If he can turn things around, that 2013 pick will look stronger and the Red Sox could have their first homegrown ace since Jon Lester and a Chris Sale clone at that. I’m not putting all my eggs in that basket, but one or two won’t hurt and could pay off big.

Matt Collins

This is, without a doubt, a big season for Travis Lakins. The former sixth round pick had some relatively high expectations on himself for the 2016 season after impressing in instructs the year following his being drafted. The Red Sox were aggressive with the Ohio State product, placing him in Salem for his full season, and that assignment surely didn’t help expectations. He had a rough season, posting a 5.93 ERA. Some of it was likely that he was a little bit over his head, but Lakins also had some injury issues he was dealing with that ended up cutting his season short.

Fast-forward to this year, he had a healthy camp and was ready to repeat High-A and prove that he still has the talent some were anticipating last season. It’s still extremely early, of course, but the 22-year-old is impressive thus far. He’s pitched to a 3.38 ERA through his first four starts with 25 strikeouts and just six walks in 21 ⅓ innings. If he continues the pitch like this, he’ll be in Portland for the second half of the season and could be the next potential rotation piece to come through the system.

As for me, I juggled a bunch of names in my head before settling on one I beat the drum for during the OTM Community Voting round after round, after round... Shaun Anderson.

Drafted by the Sox in the 3rd round of last year’s draft, I’d always been a pretty big fan of his, even going so far as to say that I believed the Sox could use him like Brandon Finnegan, when we first drafted him. And I still think you could do that, although I feel the need to do so has been mitigated by the acquisition of Tyler Thornburg, and the potential return of Carson Smith.

Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor;

This is even less of a need when you consider just what Shaun Anderson is capable of. He’s hit the ground running to start 2017, as he’s already posted 21.2 innings of a 0.83 ERA at Greenville. While he’s a little older than some of the prospects listed above, I suspect he could elevate through the system fairly quickly, if he can continue to showcase his stuff as he has been.

The thing that excites me the most about Anderson is probably his cutter. In every instance I’ve gotten to see it, it has looked nigh unhittable at times. We’ve seen what a good cutter can do at the major league level, and I don’t think it is hyperbole to say Anderson might have a very good cutter. With his pitch repertoire (in addition to his cutter, he can throw a fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider), he should be able to get to the majors, even if only as a reliever, but there is hope for being a mid rotation starter there as well.

The thing that was holding Anderson back as a prospect to begin his career was the lack of an out pitch. His cutter could be that pitch. And if I have to believe in something, I’m going to believe in a pitch that gave me nightmares for the first decade of my fandom.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees
Respect where respect is due. Shaun Anderson’s cutter isn’t on the same level as the greatest closer in the history of baseball’s cutter is. But we’ve seen from opposing lines how devastating such a simple pitch can be.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

That is all for this week’s FanPost Friday! See you all later this week, for another exciting prompt!