The minor-league season starts for all levels on Thursday. Depending on the weather, I’ll be in Portland for their first game. It’s an exciting time of year, and while the majors will always be the main focus for the vast majority of the fan base, keeping a keen eye on the minors is a fun pastime for most of us. On Tuesday, we learned most of the rosters from the four full-season affiliates. As of this writing, Pawtucket hasn’t officially announced their roster, but since we know the rest of the rosters it’s not hard to deduce theirs. So, let’s take a look at some of the notables on each of the four rosters, starting at the bottom and moving our way up.
Greenville Drive (Low-A)
As the Drive’s official Twitter account notes, the highlight of this roster is all of the talent that was selected in last year’s draft. Leading that group, of course, is Jason Groome. This will be the first time we’ll really get a good look at last year’s first round pick, and I think it goes without saying that we hope he has a better time than Trey Ball before him. There’s also Bobby Dalbec in what is a slightly surprising placement. After his incredible performance in Lowell last year, some (myself included) thought the Red Sox may be aggressive and place the former Arizona Wildcat in High-A Salem. Given his strikeout issues, though, starting him in Greenville with a chance of a midseason promotion to Salem isn’t the worst idea. The Drive’s pitching staff as a whole is interesting, with Shaun Anderson and Mike Shawaryn following Groome in the rotation and Stephen Nogosek closing games. Those three were all top-six selections for the Red Sox in last year’s draft. While the infield isn’t all that interesting outside of Dalbec, the outfield should be fun to watch. That group includes both Yoan Aybar and Lorenzo Cedrola, a couple of raw, athletic international signings who have a ways to go offensively but are exciting to watch. There’s also Tyler Hill, who doesn’t blow you away on the scouting report but put together a huge season in Lowell last year. If he repeats that, it’ll be time for a second look at Hill. It should also be noted that C.J. Chatham is currently rehabbing from injury, but I’d expect him to join the Drive when he’s healthy.
Salem Red Sox (High-A)
There’s an argument to be made that Salem is the least exciting roster in the farm system right now, as it lacks that one standout talent. However, despite the lack of high-end prospects it has a good amount of depth in terms of mid-range guys in the organization. The pitching staff is highlighted by Roniel Raudes, who lit up Low-A in 2016 thanks to a command profile that is well beyond his years. Travis Lakins is also repeating the level and will be in the rotation, while Austin Glorius and Gerson Bautista are a couple of interesting names to watch in the bullpen. The infield is also fairly exciting, with Austin Rei looking for a breakout year behind the plate, Josh Ockimey looking for a consistent full season at first base, Josh Tobias looking to make a good first impression in the organization at second base and Michael Chavis looking to make good on his first-round potential at third base. Jeremy Rivera likely would’ve been the everyday shortstop to start the year had he not been suspended 50 games for a drug violation. Kyri Washington and his power potential highlight the outfield where he’ll be joined by Tate Matheny and Team Israel hero Mike Meyers.
Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A)
Official Release of the 2017 Rosterhttps://t.co/fRRmnB6AAx— Portland Sea Dogs (@PortlandSeaDogs) April 4, 2017
The Sea Dogs had the most boring twitter announcement, which is fitting because in my opinion this is the most boring roster. Of course, there is one big reason why this roster is exciting and why I’m psyched to be able to go to so many of their games this year. That reason can be found at third base in the form of Rafael Devers. When Andrew Benintendi graduates from prospect status, Devers will be the top player in Boston’s system, and he’s already one of the best in baseball. There’s not too much around him, though. Nick Longhi is a guy who can make a big jump this year, but he’ll need to show some more power to do so. Aneury Tavarez just spent all spring with the Orioles, and he’ll probably be in Pawtucket’s outfield, if not on Boston’s bench, at some point this year. Besides them, the lineup includes defensive specialists like Jordan Procyshen and Tzu-Wei Lin and washed up former prospects like Mike Olt. The rotation doesn’t have a ton of upside, with Teddy Stankiewicz and Jalen Beeks leading the way as probable future relievers. Trey Ball is also there, but it’s hard to be at all confident in him at this point. The one exciting part of this roster is the bullpen, which isn’t the highest praise for a minor-league squad. Still, it features the highest-ceiling relief arm in the system in Jake Cosart, one of my favorites in Jamie Callahan, and a couple of potential 2017 big-league players in Austin Maddox and Luis Ysla.
Pawtucket Red Sox (Triple-A)
Like I said at the top, they haven’t officially released their roster. Still, we know what it’s going to look like. In fact, we know that it is going to be the most expensive Triple-A roster of all time.
That’ll happen when both Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig are minor-league players. Despite those two, there is some excitement at Triple-A. Spring training stars Sam Travis and Marco Hernandez will share the right side of the infield, with former first round pick and defensive whiz Deven Marrero at shortstop. There is also Blake Swihart, who is arguably the most talented catcher on the 40-man roster and will see major-league playing time at some point in 2017. The rotation has some interesting names, too, albeit not many we want to see in the majors right now. That group will consist of Kyle Kendrick, Brian Johnson, Henry Owens, Hector Velazquez and Shawn Haviland (per Sox Prospects). The bullpen features a number of players who figure to be riding the bus between Pawtucket and Boston including Noe Ramirez, Brandon Workman, Kyle Martin, Chandler Shepherd and Edgar Olmos.