The minor-league season is wrapping up, but that doesn’t mean most of the players are done playing baseball until next spring. The fall and winter is filled with different leagues where young players (and some veterans, particularly in Latin America) play to stay fresh and work on things. Probably the most prestigious of these leagues — at least for prospects — is the Arizona Fall League. There, teams from all over baseball send some of their best prospects to form a six-team league. Generally speaking, this is for prospects an organization wants to get more work after missing time due to injury or after a disappointing season. It also is home to some of the best prospects in the game so organizations can see them in a more competitive environment against more high-end talent. It’s a strange combination of players, but it’s always fascinating to watch. The Red Sox are sending seven prospects to play for the Peoria Javelinas. Let’s take a look at each.
Michael Chavis, 3B/1B/IF, Portland
This was a bit of an interesting name to see on this list, as like I said on the top I generally associate the AFL with players who missed some time due to injury. Chavis has been healthy all year and destroying the baseball. After a few more seconds of thought, it made sense. For one, he could be a high-end trade candidate this winter as a breakout prospect and the AFL is a huge haven for scouts from all teams in baseball. Additionally, the team is trying to get him more work at different positions with Rafael Devers manning third base, so this is just an extension of the season to get that work. Finally, it simply gives them a chance to see Chavis against some more consistently talented competition.
Brian Johnson, LHP, Pawtucket
Johnson is one of those prospects who will be sent to Arizona simply to get more work in. He’s generally performed well in 2017, but he’s also missed a bunch of time. As of this writing, he’s tossed only 113 innings, and they’d probably like him more ready for a full workload next year. If, for some unforeseen reason, he ends up getting a lot of work as a September call-up the Red Sox probably would send someone else in his place, but for now they just want to get him a full season’s worth of look and a few outings in Arizona will help that happen.
Henry Owens, LHP, Portland
Owens could probably use a little bit more work this year, but this assignment is more about working on his mechanics than just building up his arm. Obviously, this has been an awful year for the lefty and things haven’t gone as well as many hoped when he was demoted to Double-A. They are working on mechanical changes to improve his control, but that hasn’t taken just yet. He’ll continue working on this in Arizona as he tries some last-ditch efforts to make good on his potential.
Ty Buttrey, RHP, Portland
Buttrey is an interesting pitcher, and I’m not really sure the motivation behind sending him to the AFL. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a bad decision, it just seems strange. I suppose the best explanation is to try and get him to end his year on a positive note. The former starting pitching prospect has, at times, looked unbeatable out of the bullpen this year, but has also looked awful at times. He’s split time between Double- and Triple-A, with his performance in Pawtucket being particularly distressing. If he can put together a few strong outings at this level, that should help his confidence heading into next year. Additionally, he’s set to join a muddled group of right-handed relievers in the upper minors, so the Red Sox could be showcasing him in front of a large group of scouts.
Bobby Poyner, LHP, Portland
Poyner has had something of a breakout season between Salem and Portland, and he’s been particularly impressive since being promoted to Double-A. In 37 innings with the Seadogs, the lefty has a 0.97 ERA with over 12 strikeouts per nine innings and fewer than 2.5 walks per nine. This has been a welcomed breakout for an organization that hasn’t developed a lot of left-handed talent for the bullpen, and this is likely just a chance to end his season on an even higher note as he prepares for an important 2018 campaign.
Josh Tobias, 2B/IF, Portland
Tobias, of course, was the prospect the Red Sox received in return for Clay Buchholz this past weekend. After he got off to a strong start in Salem, things haven’t gone so well after spending most of the year in Portland. This is likely just a hope that he can get things back on track, but at this point Tobias isn’t really a major prospect moving forward.
Chad De La Guerra, IF, Portland
De La Guerra isn’t a big-time prospect, but he’s put up solid numbers throughout his minor-league career. In my eyes, this is a chance for the Red Sox to showcase De La Guerra and give scouts a chance to match the production to talent. It’s possible he could be included as a secondary piece in a trade this winter. It’s also, of course a nice reward for a strong season.