Despite technical difficulties (reasoning for the delay on the flyby), the show must go on. This past week, I’ve been collecting responses to a prompt, asking users to share their opinions on the minor-league system.
I just wanted to see what everyone thought of our current system, considering all the high level talent currently in the majors. That high-level talent hasn’t come without significant cost on the farm, though. If you travel back to before the Red Sox hired Dave Dombrowski (August of 2015), look at a prospect list and compare it to the one we currently have, you’ll notice a stark contrast.
Gone are Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Manuel Margot, and Javier Guerra. Those four names were all on the SoxProspects Top 10 list during their mid-season update. Those players (plus nice secondary/tertiary pieces) went for Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel. Deven Marrero was moved for relative peanuts. Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers have all graduated. Brian Johnson is about to finally do so officially. The last player of the aforementioned top 10 list to be unaccounted for is Henry Owens, and the less said there, the better.
Gone are Mauricio Dubon (Editor Note: *sad face*), Anderson Espinoza, and the Basabes. High-profile draftees have largely not worked out (Hello Trey Ball). Michael Chavis was just suspended 50 games for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone. The big chips, the ones you expect to succeed the most, save for Benintendi, have just not been productive. Or in Chavis’ case, have been productive, but are now serving a suspension.
Finding a diamond in the rough would go a long ways towards building a long-term future for this team. With Drew Pomeranz, Joe Kelly, and Craig Kimbrel all being impending free agents, and rising arbitration salaries for several players also on the horizon, finding value in system is becoming even more important with filling out the back end of the major league roster. Bobby Poyner is playing one of these roles at present, and before the year is out, a few more are likely to join him.
What does OTM think?
FanPost... Sunday? - Timothy.Smart
Timothy makes a handful of bold statements, chief among them being his belief that Bryan Mata is the best pitcher in the organization. Additionally, while not a 2018 statement, he stands by his belief that Josh Ockimey will be more productive as a future major leaguer than Sam Travis, Michael Chavis, and Bobby Dalbec. His final statement is one of continuity: He doesn’t think the Red Sox will pull much of a major trade this season. If one were to happen, he opines that Tanner Houck or Darwinzon Hernandez could be moved for a mid-rotation piece.
What I’m going to focus on, as I am most interested in seeing how these prospects will impact our club in 2018, is the trade discussion. I think the statement of Ockimey being more productive is plausible (although if I had to choose a name, I’d choose the boring one and go with Chavis), and potentially exciting. Ockimey doesn’t get a ton of credit as a prospect, but is one of my picks for most likely to make an impact in 2019. I don’t agree with the statement that Mata is the best pitcher in the organization, but that’s because I have fallen in love with two arms we’ve drafted recently.
When it comes to the trade discussion, the first thing that bears mentioning is team need. It’s hard to tell what our team’s needs will be in July, but we can infer a few statements about our team.
- We do not need any major additions in the outfield.
- We do not need another top tier starting pitcher.
- We do not need any more catchers.
- We probably do not need much in the way of reinforcements on the infield.
- We do not have enough prospect depth to reasonably swing a huge blockbuster.
This leaves a couple of options. We can either upgrade the back end of the rotation, or we can upgrade the bullpen. Theoretically, we can also upgrade the infield, but barring a tragically poor season from Rafael Devers I would not consider this very likely.
A mid-rotation upgrade, or more reasonably a back-end upgrade makes infinitely more sense if either of the following statements are true.
- One of our starting pitchers is seriously hurt and will miss significant time.
- We do not believe we will re-sign Drew Pomeranz, and the targeted pitcher has more than 1 year of control
I’m in the camp that believes Pomeranz is 100 percent gone, and while that makes me sad, I’ve accepted it. In the high minors (and on the big league club), our options to replace him are not the greatest. You can choose from Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, or Jalen Beeks. After that top 3, the depth drops off in a hurry. The odds of Justin Haley, William Cuevas, or Chandler Shepherd being quality enough to justify not making a trade are low. The odds that Mike Shawaryn, Teddy Stankiewicz, or any other pitcher at Double-A or lower can make the jump so quickly aren’t worth mentioning.
I’m of the belief that a trade for a mid-rotation or even a back-end arm would be wise to consider with Pomeranz’s impending free agency, but I’d make the argument that the bigger need for the 2018 club would be an improvement to the bullpen. At present, even the most optimistic of us have trouble feeling confident in our bullpen. While all bullpens have flaws to some degree, the Red Sox reliance on Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, and Carson Smith is not ideal. The addition of a significant piece for a 7th inning swing would be huge for taking the pressure off of these arms that look to be high use in 2018.
Minor League Predictions...et al - gosawks
As it turns out, gosawks is a huge Jalen Beeks fan. He expects good, but not spectacular things from Brian Johnson, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Hector Velazquez. Jason Groome’s off-season workouts with Chris Sale are noted, and gosawks sees the “wow” factor that the rest of the system appears to be missing.
I can’t argue with the general idea that Groome has that “wow” factor. Groome has the type of ace potential that could make the Red Sox super scary in a few years, if everything works out. The issue therein being that things rarely go according to plan. Groome, as noted, has suffered injuries each season, and though it’s still early, whispers of low durability have become more frequent since his draft day.
When healthy, make no mistake, his combination of stuff, athleticism, command, and mechanics represents the profile of a top 10 left handed starter. Even when he hasn’t been healthy, he’s showcased enough potential for a big league future as a mid-rotation arm. The question of health is one that is impossible for even experts to adequately pinpoint. Is Groome just injury prone? Or is it just a string of bad luck that will work itself out in the end?
While on the topic of high impact arms in the minor leagues, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention my personal favorite arms in the system. I have three names that you’ve all heard, and you probably know my reasons for all three: Alex Scherff, Tanner Houck, and Jake Thompson. If these names sound new to you, you wouldn’t be faulted. All three are 2017 draftees who were taken in the first ten rounds.
The main thing with the three of them is that phrase we do so love to repeat: “he’s got great stuff.”
All three were also names on my radar entering last year’s draft, especially Alex Scherff, a pitcher who I believe has the highest overall ceiling of any pitcher in our minor league system. However, of the three, he also has the most work to do before he gets to his lofty potential. He also has the biggest risk of the three of outright flaming out completely. While Thompson’s game should play fine in the pen (and there’s an argument to fast track him now since he has three pitches that are good enough to carry him at least to the high minors, quickly), and Tanner Houck is a more polished player (albeit with a slightly lower overall ceiling), Scherff is a total anomaly within the system and the type of player that the Red Sox don’t typically get to take a chance on.
To illustrate this fact, the Red Sox gave him a 700k dollar signing bonus. The last time the Sox gave a signing bonus that large to a player after the third round (for reference, Brett Netzer, the Sox third round draft pick, had a slot value of $532,800) was back in 2015, to 8th round pick Logan Allen (one of several players traded to the Padres for Craig Kimbrel). Before that, you have to go back to 2011, where the Red Sox took Mookie Betts in the 5th round, and Cody Kukuk in the 8th.
Of the names in that esteemed tier, the one that stands out is Cody Kukuk, who is out of baseball, and was sentenced to three years in prison, back in 2015.
The talent in the organization is no joke, even though the system ranking is lower than in years past (and by a large margin, we rank consistently in the bottom 10 farms of baseball right now). There are diamonds in the rough, though, with a chance to elevate the system back to relevancy in no time.