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 outfielders.
None, again. For the second straight edition of this piece, the Red Sox lack an elite outfielder. It’s not much of a secret that this is a position of weakness for the organization, as they had to make a claim on Steve Selsky this winter just to have someone who could conceivably serve as a fifth/sixth outfielder, depending on how you feel about/are using Brock Holt. The good news is they have a pretty decent young outfield in the majors at the moment.
For a while this spring, it looked like Aneury Tavarez wouldn’t even be part of the Red Sox organization in 2017. The outfielder was selected by the Orioles in this past winter’s Rule 5 draft and impressed the Baltimore organization with his performance in camp. According to reports, they made a real effort to keep him on the roster and/or work out a trade with the Red Sox to keep him in the organization, but it didn’t work out. Tavarez came back to Boston and quickly showed he was too good to repeat Double-A, dominating poor Eastern League pitchers. He was quickly promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket and got off to a good start there before hitting the disabled list a few days ago. Tavarez has joined Selsky as legitimate major-league depth in the organization.
Tate Matheny is still best known for being Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s son, but he’s starting to make a name for himself as a player. The team’s fifth round pick in 2015, he’s off to his best start as a professional with Salem, hitting .308/.410/.442 in his first 124 plate appearances. The good news is that he’s been showing off his athleticism in a big way all season long and he’s showing a little more pop than he has in the past. The bad news is the offensive performance is being boosted by a .435 batting average on balls in play. He’s undoubtedly improved his stock this year, but don’t get too caught up in his line.
Yoan Aybar was one of the prospects I was most looking forward to following in 2017. He had never really put up big numbers at any professional level, particularly since coming stateside. Still only 19 years old, he’s making his full-season debut with Greenville this year and the hope was that he’d start to make some good on his very raw potential in 2017. Instead, he’s hit .165/.212/.206 in his first 107 plate appearances. He’s striking out a ton, barely ever walking and not going anything with pitches he makes contact with. There is still a ton of projection here, and the athleticism is legit, but at a certain point you have to show it. Until Aybar shows it, he’ll keep falling down the organizational prospect list.
This was kind of a hard category to figure out, but I’m putting Danny Mars here. He’s never really been a high-end prospect, but he’s someone that I’ve come to like. The former sixth round pick doesn’t have a huge ceiling, but he’s holding his own in his first try at Double-A and looks like he might have a future on a major-league bench. There’s not the potential for the high-end talent this positional group currently lacks, but Mars provides solid contact skills, a good enough glove to play all three outfield spots (although his arm limits his ceiling in right field) and athleticism that really shines on the bases.
As was the case with the middle infielders/catchers, this is the biggest group for this position. There is actually a decent amount of outfield talent in the Red Sox organization, but many of the best players haven’t yet decided if they are going to make good on their potential.
We’ll start with Lorenzo Cedrola, who was in a very similar position as Aybar coming into the season. In fact, you could argue the expectations were even lower given that he had never really played in Lowell. However, unlike Aybar, Cedrola has shown some real flashes this year, particularly lately. Greenville’s center fielder is making a good amount of contact and using his athleticism to turn that contact into hits. The only reason that he’s not among the risers is because he hasn’t hit consistently enough this year. If his current hot streak keeps up, though, he’ll be among the risers.
Along with Aybar and Cedrola, Tyler Hill completes the Drive’s outfield in Greenville. He made a name for himself by putting up huge numbers in Lowell last season despite not getting much love from scouts. This was a big year for him to prove the talent was real, and while he’s been inconsistent he’s still showing some flashes. What’s been most impressive has been his work on the bases, as Hill has five stolen bases in 30 games.
Kyri Washington was probably the Red Sox outfielder I was most interested in heading into the season, as he has a really interesting corner outfielder profile. His arm is the best part of his defense, and at the plate the key for him is to translate his batting practice power into games. It looked like he was doing that last year with a .225 Isolated Power in Greenville, but the ISO is a paltry .105 this season. Of course, he missed a good chunk of time this year with injury so this is only a sample of a few weeks worth of plate appearances. He’s always going to strike out plenty, but if the power comes back it will be okay.
Heading into the draft, this is another area that I would expect the Red Sox to covet. As I said above, they don’t need immediate help, but there isn’t a real stud here after Andrew Benintendi’s graduation from prospect status and their lower-level talent is mostly raw. Adding more lottery tickets to guys like Aybar, Cedrola, Washington and Hill just gives them more of a chance to hit big on someone.