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 corner infielders.
Rafael Devers. I know, shocking. The best prospect in the system and one of the best in all of baseball, Devers swings a dynamic bat that includes a solid hit tool and plus power to all fields. He’s taken the jump to Double-A — as a 20-year-old, no less — in stride. The only negative about his game was his lack of plate discipline early in the season, as he was showing off a very aggressive approach at the plate in April. Since the calendar has turned to May, he’s walked more than he’s struck out. Ho hum. Devers is a wildly talented kid who has also notably changed everyone’s mind about his long-term defense at the position. He’s not the answer at third base any time soon, but by the second half there’s a chance we could see him in the majors.
Michael Chavis is a former first round pick who came into this season looking like something of a bust. That perception has changed in 2017. In his first full season at Salem, the third baseman is hitting .330/.427/.649 in 110 plate appearances. He’s finally starting to consistently show off the raw power that made him so appealing when he was drafted back in 2014, and while he was frustrating the last couple of years he’s still only 21 years old. The defense still may be a work in progress, but as long as he continues to hit like this Chavis is going to serve as a reminder to stay patient with young prospects.
It might be unfair to put Bobby Dalbec in this category, but based purely on early-season performance this is where he belongs. After tearing up the New York-Penn League, the expectations were high for the former University of Arizona star. The hope was that, after an offseason of focusing solely on hitting after splitting hitting and pitching duties in college, the third baseman would be able to carry that success into full season ball. The warning signs from scouts were mainly concerned with his long swing, and those have come to fruition this year. He’s striking out about 36 percent of the time to start the season, and his inability to make contact is limiting his ability to hit for power. The hope is that this is just a slump and he can get back on track when he gets back in the lineup, but right now things are trending downward early in the year for Dalbec.
There is an argument to be made that Sam Travis deserves to be put in the Studs category, and for those that are mad he’s not there know that I did consider it. In the end, I’m just not as high on him as many. I’ve come around on him being a legitimate starter, at least, but I’m still not convinced enough that the power is real for him to be a high-end first baseman at the highest level. Either way, the hit tool is fantastic and that will carry him to a major-league career, at least.
I’m putting Josh Ockimey here despite not really being steady since the start of last season. The first baseman had a red-hot first half in 2016 before turning into one of the worst hitters in his league in the second half. To start this year, he’s more on the hot side once again. Despite the consistent inconsistency, we kind of know what Ockimey is. It’s just a matter of whether or not he can come close to his ceiling. The 21-year-old is going to strike out some, but he’s also going to provide big power and the ability to draw walks at a high rate. The key is whether or not he can keep his strikeout rate at a manageable level, but if he can then the Red Sox should have a legitimate major-league bat on their hands, even if it doesn’t have a star’s ceiling.
Nick Longhi is one of the most confusing prospects in the system. He plays both first base and outfield, but it seems like he’s settled in more as a first baseman of late. At the plate, he looks like he should hit for power. He’s on the bigger side, and when you see him swing you see a guy who should hit it a long way. By all accounts, he’s shown that ability in batting practice. It just hasn’t come out in game to this point. His Isolated Power is just .106 in Portland this year and he hasn’t had a mark over .122 since his 50-plate appearance sample in the Gulf Coast League right after being drafted. At a certain point, you are who you are, and this may be Longhi’s last chance to prove he’s not a guy who just can’t find in-game power.
All-in-all, this might be my favorite position grouping in the organization, although there is a long way to go for many on the list. They have a superstar talent in Devers, a high-floor player close to the majors in Travis and some lower-level players with big ceilings in Chavis and Dalbec. The Red Sox have been good at identifying infielders over the years, so don’t be surprised if they dip their toes back into this position pool.