The minor-league season opens up on Thursday, so we’ll spend the next few days here taking a look at the full-season minor-league teams in the Red Sox system and what we can expect from them in 2018. The official rosters for these teams have not been announced yet, so I’ll use the projected rosters from the Sox Prospects team for this exercise.
Low-A; This is generally the level at which most players make their full-season debut and it is the first big test for most prospects around the league.
Where they play
Fluor Field; Greenville, South Carolina
What to Expect in 2018
The Drive are going to be a fun team to follow in the coming season as we (hopefully) start to see some results from last summer’s draft class. The rotation in particular is going to be fun to follow with three of the team’s top twenty prospects in the Low-A rotation to start the year.
There are a few players to watch in the Greenville lineup, even if it isn’t quite as deep as the team’s rotation.
- Cole Brannen is the top prospect projected to be on the roster, and the center fielder was the team’s second round pick last summer. Brannen has a chance to be a well-rounded player who can play a strong center field, provide plenty of value on the bases and do some work with the bat in his hands. As a high school pick he will need to be allowed time to develop and we shouldn’t expect it to be a smooth ride for all of 2017, but if he can show modest power and strong bat-to-ball skills to go with the good plate discipline he showed in short-season ball last season, we could be looking at Brannen as one of the organization’s top prospects heading into next season.
- C.J. Chatham is certainly going to be old for the level heading into 2018, but that’s because the 2016 draftee had what was supposed to be his full-season debut last year marred by injuries. Chatham is still quietly one of the more exciting position player prospects in the system even if there’s not quite star potential here. Despite being bigger than what you expect from a shortstop, he profiles as potentially above-average at the position and gives himself a relatively high floor with that skillset. The big questions come at the plate, as he has the raw skills to be an average-ish hitter but after a missed year of development we’ll have to see where he stands. If he gets off to a hot start he could get an early promotion to High-A.
- Pedro Castellanos isn’t a top-twenty guy, but he’ll be someone to watch in 2018. He’s a first-base only player so he’ll have to hit, but he’s done exactly that in the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League. He’ll have an entirely new test this coming season, but the 20-year-old could get some more attention than ever before in 2018.
- The rotation is the headliner in Greenville, and Groome is the headliner of this group. The organization’s top prospect — in most evaluators’ eyes, at least — Groome is coming off an up-and-down full-season debut last year and is looking for more consistency in 2018. He had the chance to work out with Chris Sale over the offseason and is repeating the level, so I think it’s fair to expect a strong start even if it won’t be time to panic if there’s more inconsistency. Still, in an ideal world he’ll find himself in Salem at some point in the coming year.
- Alex Scherff is arguably the most exciting non-first-rounder from last summer’s draft and the high school draft pick will be making his professional debut whenever he takes the mound for the first time in 2018. He’s a massive unknown but scouts loved him coming out of high school, though he fell because it wasn’t clear if he’d forgo his college commitment. Scherff has a big fastball and an impressive changeup, though he’ll need to develop a breaking ball if he’s to make good on his immense potential.
- Jake Thompson isn’t quite as intriguing as the other big starters in this rotation, but the college righty has some real sleeper potential in this system. Though he’s in the back-half of the team’s top twenty to start the year, he could be a relatively fast riser with a big fastball and a sick slider. Command is an issue to watch, but look for his stock to rise fairly quickly.
- Minor-league rosters, particularly those in the lower levels, generally don’t have super exciting relievers but Greenville has a couple of names to watch coming in relief. Joan Martinez is perhaps the most highly-regarded minor-league reliever in the system and he broke out in 2017 with Lowell. The 21-year-old has a fastball that can get up there and a slider with potential but inconsistency. He’s far from a sure thing, but if he takes a step forward with his stuff’s consistency he could be a fast riser in the bullpen.
- Zach Schellenger was Boston’s sixth round pick last summer out of Seton Hall and someone I suspect could be the fastest rister on this Greenville roster. The righty has a huge fastball around which the rest of his repertoire revolves, and if he can improve his fastball there’s legitimate late-inning potential in this arm.