We are one day away from September and four days away from the end of the minor-league season. Obviously, most of our focus right now is on the major-league squad. Part of that is because the farm system is weakened right now, but it’s mostly because the major-league team is pretty dang good. Playoff contention deserves our attention. After the MLB season ends, however, the minor-league system can take a bigger spotlight, and specifically a group of seven players. The Arizona Fall League is one of the more exciting parts of the year for minor-league aficionados. If you’re unfamiliar, this is when a group of seven or so prospects from each team go down and play for about a month. It’s not exclusively top prospects and some of the game’s best don’t play at all. For example, if someone plays in winter leagues somewhere in Latin America they won’t play in Arizona. There are always exciting players, however, and it’s nice to see how these guys play up against that kind of competition. On Thursday, the Red Sox announced the list of eight prospects who will head down to the Southwest for this event. Some of the best prospects in the organization are among the group.
The top prospect in the Red Sox system will be heading to Arizona. On the one hand, it is a little unusual for a player like him to be going considering how close he is to the majors. There’s an argument to be made he should be up in September, even, though I don’t expect that to happen. Chavis went last year as well, for what it’s worth. However, one of the most common reasons a player is sent to Arizona is if they missed time in the regular season and the team wants them to get some reps before turning in for the offseason. That obviously describes Chavis, with the former first round pick missing the first 80 games of the year due to a positive PED test. He has done nothing but rake since coming back, though, and a promotion to Pawtucket didn’t stop him. There’s no doubt he’s the top prospect in the system, and I’d be surprised if he isn’t a consensus top-100 prospect as we head into next spring.
Chavis had his big breakout in 2017, and joining him on the 2018 AFL roster will be this year’s breakout in the system. It may not be as accurate to call Dalbec’s season a breakout since he exploded in the summer of 2016 immediately after being drafted, but his stock had fallen considerably after a rough 2017. The slugger has turned it on this year, though, and set a new record for home runs as a member of the Salem Red Sox. That’s doubly impressive given how hard it is to hit for power in that park. Dalbec got off to a scorching start in Portland before scuffling a bit lately. The potential here is exciting, and he’s certainly a better bet than Chavis to stick at third base long term, but he does have some swing and miss to work out of his game. This will be a chance for him to get more practice against more advanced pitching.
The highest-level pitcher going to Arizona will be Shawaryn, and there’s an argument to be made he should be the highest ranked as well. I’m not sure I’d make that argument, but the righty has done nothing but impress in 2018. A 2016 draftee, he didn’t show as much swing-and-miss stuff in Double-A as he had in the lower-levels, but he improved his control and command which made him much more consistent. He showed an ability to go deep into games against more advanced competition, and he hasn’t really slowed down after being promoted to Pawtucket. Most scouts don’t see a huge ceiling for Shawaryn, and there are some who still believe he’s destined for the bullpen. He hasn’t given the team a reason to convert him to that role just yet, though, and I would expect him to start next season as rotation depth down in Triple-A. That being said, given a full season’s workload you can expect him to provide short stints in Arizona.
Hernandez is not as advanced as Shawaryn and has just had a cup of coffee in Double-A this year, but the lefty has immense potential. He possesses big-time stuff and has shown flashes of being able to harness it enough in longer stints that point to a potentially solid starter from the left side. It’s highly unlikely he’s a future ace or anything like that, but he could certainly fill in a back-end role. Opinions are split on Hernandez, however. I haven’t seen him in person so I can’t provide a hard opinion on the matter, but I’ve talked to some who see a definite starter and some who see a definite back-end reliever. Given the changing trends in baseball ending up as a reliever isn’t as disappointing as it once was, though we still hope he can start long-term. He has been in relief in Portland for what that’s worth, and he’s expected to continue that in Arizona. As of now, though, the plan is for him to go back to starting in 2019.
Ockimey is the last high-profile name going to Arizona, and he’s kind of been overshadowed in this second half by Chavis’ return and Dalbec’s surge. The first baseman has taken a real step forward in 2018, though, and is another name that should be in the running for a role in 2019. His biggest issue is his defense, as he is strictly limited to first base and isn’t really a plus asset there either. If the bat plays up to its potential it won’t matter, though. We’re not talking about an All-Star here, and there are some strikeout issues, but Ockimey draws a ton of walks and has a tremendous amount of power potential. He’s been inconsistent at displaying that power in games over his pro career, though it has been coming more this year.
File Quiroz as a guy who will be heading to Arizona to get some work in. The infielder was signed out of Mexico last winter and was expected to fill as infield depth for the minor-league roster. Given the injuries this team suffered on the infield in the middle of the year, his presence would have been a big help. Unfortunately, Quiroz got hurt and missed a big chunk of the season, only recently being activated from the disabled list. He’ll get some more action in Arizona and should be back on track to serve as depth in 2019.
STANK. Stankiewicz was the team’s second-round pick after they selected Trey Ball in the first round, and the righty has stalled out in a big way at Double-A. He never had a huge ceiling, but he’s shown that he can’t really start at the upper levels. I’m not sure there’s a major-league future in any role at this point, but he should start to see some work as a reliever.
Taylor was acquired by the Red Sox in May as the player to be named later in the Deven Marrero deal and the righty made 32 appearances for Portland this year. He put up solid numbers — 3.89 ERA, a little over a strikeout per inning — but his control isn’t great and he never really stood out to me. He’s likely just an organizational piece.