Thursday is a great day to be a Red Sox fan. Obviously, it is the home opener, and despite the cold weather the first game at Fenway is always a special day in Boston. In addition to the festivities for the big-league club, though, we have the start of the minor-league season tonight. We’ve already previewed three of the four full-season teams by this point, and the Pawtucket preview will be coming shortly (or has already been published, depending on when you’re reading this). As such, we’ve gone over pretty much everyone of interest that will be starting the year in full-season ball. That said, I’m going to go over five players that I’m most looking forward to watching in the coming season that were not included in our community top-twenty list. Most of these players weren’t included prominently in any list, though there is one exception here. Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a list of prospects I think will break out or that we were too high on. Some of them are that, some are wildcards in make-or-break years, and some are just the kind of players that I personally like. You can find pretty much whatever you want in any minor-league systems, and this is the time of year to identify what you like the most.
This pick fits under the category of player-types that I just really like. Most of my favorite Red Sox prospects over recent years — Mauricio Dubon (duh), Carlos Asuaje, Marco Hernandez — have been middle infielders, but Cedrola fits the mold too. Essentially, I like defense-first, speedy and athletic players whose offense revolves around line drives rather than power. I realize this isn’t always the most valuable type of player, particularly as the game continues to evolve towards launch angle, but whatever. I think baseball is most fun when players are putting the ball in play rather than skewing towards the three-true-outcomes, even if the latter strategy is probably a more valuable one. Anyway, Cedrola fits all of these criteria, though his bat is the final piece of the puzzle. The outfielder did hit .285 in his full-season debut last year — with 19 stolen bases, too — and has a .298 average in three years as a pro, so there’s been success with the bat. It’s just not clear if it will carry over to the higher levels. He’ll get another test in 2018 with a presumed assignment in Salem at some point, though according to Sox Prospects he’s staying Fort Myers for the start of the year.
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise if you’ve been reading me over the last year or so, as I’ve often wondered why Baldwin hasn’t gotten a little more hype in what is a relatively weak farm system. Of course, I acknowledge that I have never seen him play, so it’s not really something I’m up in arms about. The defense is a question, and scouting reports on this aspect of his game is what I’m most interested in seeing. His performance at the plate will be intriguing too, though. Baldwin showed off legitimate power and contact skills in Greenville last year, though his patience leaves plenty to be desired. If the scouting reports pick up on his defense, though, and he can be someone that can stick at catcher even if he’s still below-average there, the bat is intriguing enough that there could be a legitimate prospect here somewhere.
Castellanos falls under the potential breakout category for me, though I think this is probably more of a longshot than something likely to happen. The first baseman was one of the standouts among those in short-season ball last year. He spent most of the year in the Gulf Coast League, his first time playing ball in the States, and the now-20-year-old hit .339/.385/.457. He’s a first base-only profile on defense, so he’ll need the bat to continue to develop if he’s going to get his name on the map for this time next spring, but he has the talent to do it. The bat-to-ball skills have already shown themselves off, and now it’s about developing power. He has the frame and swing to do it, but we’ve seen Red Sox first base prospects (Sam Travis and Josh Ockimey) fail to live up to their power potential before. Hopefully Castellanos doesn’t follow that path as well. He’ll start 2018 with Greenville.
The Red Sox drafted a bunch of pitchers in the early rounds of 2017’s draft, and all of them have at least some question about whether they can stick as starters or will eventually head to the bullpen. Schellenger doesn’t have that question, but that’s because he’s already a full-time reliever. Relief prospects who haven’t really had a chance to pitch as a professional aren’t usually guys to get excited about, but there is some intrigue here. Schellenger has shown an ability to hit triple-digits in college, but an injury held that back last spring. If he can get back to full strength and show off the potential he showed in college, we could be looking at a late-inning arm here, which is becoming a more and more valuable piece in today’s game. Schellenger, like Cedrola, is starting the year in extended spring training.
Yeah, I’m going here. To be clear off the bat, this is not me saying this is the year Ball shows off the talent that got him drafted in the top ten five years ago. (Time flies when you’re having fun, huh?) What I am saying is that I am really interested in how the lefty throws in his new role out of the bullpen. After years of failing in the rotation, the Red Sox have finally made a change and will see if his stuff and command will play up in shorter stints. I certainly have my doubts as to whether it will work, but it’s worth a shot. Some have been calling for him to transition to the outfield as some evaluators felt he was a better outfield prospect than pitching prospect when he was drafted. However, that’s asking a lot five years later. If he fails in the bullpen, maybe you can take that kind of Hail Mary chance, but I’d say he has a better shot of succeeding as a reliever than as a hitter after not playing the field or swinging a bat since high school in 2013. Not that I think he has a great shot at succeeding in either role. He’ll be in Portland’s bullpen to start the year.