Early in the winter, I received the following question at the OTM Mailbag (OTMMailbag@gmail.com hit me up) from Mark Herman.
We all know that there are sure-fire prospect and others who's rise comes largely as a surprise. Leaving out anyone who's already a top 20 prospect, who do you think might be this years" out-of-left-field" surprise performer?
I immediately found this to be a fascinating question, as there’s nothing I like more than under-the-radar players. Mookie Betts was one of these guys once upon a time. Mauricio Dubon was, too, before he was ripped from arms. I got this question in January, but I wanted to wait until our top-20 was complete before delving into it. Now that we’re done with our community top-20 list, let’s look at some of the more interesting names in the depths of the Red Sox farm system. For reference, I’m looking at players that didn’t make either of our or Sox Prospects’ top-20 lists.
Of all the names that qualify for this list, Washington is probably my favorite. It’s strange, because I usually skew towards preferring infielders and relievers, but the outfielder is someone I’ll be keeping a close eye on this season. The former 23rd round pick is entering his age-22 season and his third professional season. Last season was his coming out party, as he slugged to a .225 Isolated Power in Greenville with 16 home runs, 20 doubles and nine triples in 425 plate appearances. He’s a corner outfield-only player with decent but not great athleticism, and he has legitimate strikeout problems. However, there is also legitimate power potential here. It remains to be seen whether he can take his power to the next level, but he’s shown the ability in batting practice. If it shows up this year, he won’t be left off the top-20 in 2018.
So, we’re sticking with outfielders I guess. Aybar, however, is a closer fit to my normal jam. ranking all the way down at the bottom of the top-50 on Sox Prospects’ list, he’s a very raw player. The international signee is best known for his athleticism. He’s a plus-plus runner who uses that speed both on the base paths and in the outfield. Oh, and he has a legitimate arm, too. The questions come up with his bat. He hasn’t played in full-season ball yet, and has two seasons in the States without an OPS over .635. Aybar is still only 19, though, and there is potential for the hit tool. If he can even get it to average, he has a major-league future with the rest of his tools.
Note: I know we have a lot of Lorenzo Cedrola fans here. I like him too, although he’s extremely similar to Aybar. I prefer Aybar mostly because he’s played a little more at a higher level and I have seen him with my own eyes. If I’ve seen a player, I’m naturally biased towards him. Either way, Cedrola and Aybar are mostly interchangeable in my eyes.
I think I’m the only one that is this high on Tobias, and it’s starting to cloud my judgement of him. I’ve discussed this before, but he is my favorite type of player. He can man multiple positions. He’s a switch hitter. By all accounts, his makeup is a major positive. And, most importantly, his best tool is the hit tool. Now, he is also a 24-year-old who hasn’t played above High-A, and he was a throw-in for Clay Buchholz. There’s a reason he ranks even lower than Aybar on Sox Prospects lists. Still, I’ll be watching him closely this season even if I’m the only one.
You didn’t think I was going to go through this whole list without a reliever, did you? Callahan wasn’t always a reliever, of course. The number 37 prospect on Sox Prospects’ list was drafted in the second round as a starter before converting to the bullpen midway through 2015. His first full season as a reliever in 2016 wasn’t great, particularly because he walked more than five batters per nine innings. However, he had a great showing in the Arizona Fall League and made a good first impression in spring training this year. Converting to the bullpen from the rotation can be more difficult than many believe, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him take a big step forward in 2017.
Finally, we have the guy I just can’t quit. Acosta was signed as an international amateur free agent around the same time as Anderson Espinoza was came with almost as much hype. Things haven’t gone quite the same way, of course. He was far from dominant in the Dominican Summer League back in 2015, his first taste of pro ball. Then, last season, he left the team’s facility in Fort Myers without permission and was held on the restricted list for the entire season. He was back in camp this year and is looking to make up for lost time. It’s easy to write him off at this point, and I definitely understand it. The potential is still there, though, and at just 19 years old it’s too early to dismiss him entirely.