We are roughly one month away from the start of the MLB amateur draft, which begins on June 12. With that in mind, it’s a good time to look through the current farm system and see where the team could use some re-tooling. Of course, teams should never and don’t really ever draft for need, but it’s good to know where the system stands before they add a whole bunch of new talent. Today, we’ll look at the starting pitchers.
There is only one stud in the Red Sox farm system in terms of starting pitchers, but by all accounts the talent is there. Unfortunately, Jason Groome hasn’t really gotten a chance to prove himself just yet. Last year’s first round pick threw only 6 2⁄3 innings in 2016 between the Gulf Coast League and the New York-Penn League and was...fine. It was far too small a sample to make any sweeping judgements, to say the least. This was supposed to be his first full season, but he left his first start early and hasn’t appeared in a game since. The good news is it’s a lat injury — and with pitchers it can be worse than a lat -- and while they’re being cautious it doesn’t seem to be anything to be too worried about. The 18-year-old southpaw still has plenty of development left, of course, but if you’re only going to have one elite pitching prospect this is the type of arm you’d like to have.
Travis Lakins easily leads the risers and is emerging as one of the best prospects in the system. Drafted in 2015, he had never really been able to find his footing as a pro heading into this 2017 season. The Red Sox were aggressive with the former Ohio State star, placing him in High-A Salem for his first full season. It did not go well, due to both underperformance and health, and he found himself there to start this season. He dominated that league for a month, and the team just recently promoted him to Double-A Portland. If he can continue pitching well against more advanced competition, expect him to keep climbing the team’s prospect rankings.
Darwinzon Hernandez is still something of an unknown in the Red Sox farm system, but don’t expect that to continue for too long. At just 20 years old, the lefty has been fantastic for Greenville this season. While the control has been spotty — almost five free passes per nine innings — his stuff has been dominant. He’s striking out over 12 batters per nine. The key for his development is more consistency with his curveball, but he could be the breakout pitcher on the farm this year.
Jalen Beeks is repeating Double-A this season, as he finished 2016 at the level. At this point, it doesn’t appear to be much of a challenge anymore. He’s pitched to a 1.38 ERA with over 11 strikeouts per nine this year. The big question for the lefty, with his small stature and violent delivery, is whether he can stick the rotation. Even if he can’t there’s enough talent to see him being a legitimate bullpen arm down the road.
Mike Shawaryn always had some upside, and last year’s fifth round pick has shown it in flashes this season. He’s giving up a few too many hits, possibly because of the minor-league defense behind him, but the former Maryland standout is striking out more than 13 batters per nine innings while walking just over two.
Shaun Anderson just rose today, which you can read more about here.
Roniel Raudes had some big expectations heading into the year. He spent most of 2016 being overshadowed in Greenville by Anderson Espinoza, but Raudes features a command profile well beyond his years. That helped mask a lack of elite stuff in the lowest full-season level, but he hasn’t had as much success in High-A. Of course, he is still just 19 and even though it’s been a rough start there is still plenty of time to right the ship.
Trey Ball continues to fall down prospect lists and remains one of the biggest draft busts in Red Sox history. The former seventh overall pick has just never clicked as a starting pitcher. He’s currently pitching to a 4.36 ERA with the Seadogs and has just over seven strikeouts per nine innings. On top of that, the lefty consistently gives up hard contact. At some point soon it might be time to consider a shift to the bullpen before giving the outfield another shot.
Brian Johnson had a lost year in 2016 and never looked like himself. Of course, a large part of that was his dealing with anxiety issues, which obviously has a great effect on one’s ability to do their job. He seems to be in a better place this year, and he’s pitched pretty well to boot. He did alright in his one major-league start this season, and one would imagine it won’t be his last of 2017.
Hector Velazquez is a hard guy to place, because he has a ton of professional experience but most of it is in the Mexican League. The early returns in Pawtucket have been strong, and while he doesn’t have putaway stuff his command/control profile gives him a relatively high floor. He should see the majors this season.
Henry Owens is still only 24. This is a fact that I keep reminding myself of, because the results over his professional career have certainly been frustrating. The southpaw still has stuff that can wow you at times, but he’s never been able to find even the minimum amount of control necessary to succeed at the highest levels. He’s tinkered with his delivery this season, but it just hasn’t clicked. If it does, there’s still a legitimate rotation arm in there, but at this point we have to see it before we can really believe in it.
Every organization could always use more high-end pitching talent, but the Red Sox have some interesting lottery tickets in their system. It’s asking too much for everyone to hit their ceiling, but it’s not hard to see multiple major-league starters in this group, with a couple having a chance to be above-average ones is everything breaks right. If the Red Sox do draft a pitcher, they’ll join a group of young ones that have some high hopes down the road.