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Handing out some minor-league awards

The best of what the farm had to offer in 2018

Bobby Dalbec
Kelly O’Connor;

Obviously, we are all focused on the major-league team, and for good reason. This is a historically great Red Sox team and they are a delight to watch night-in and night-out. Of course, all of us are invested in the long-term health of the Red Sox as well, which means we have at least one eye glancing over at the minor-league system as well. It goes without saying that the farm system could be better than it is now, and I will not sit here and tell you it’s anything but one of the worst in baseball. That being said, there are reasons to be excited and there were some strong showings through this past season. With that in mind, I’m going to hand out some awards for the last year.

Best Position Player: Bobby Dalbec

This one is pretty easy, as there weren’t a ton of standouts in terms of position players last year. That’s not to take anything away from Dalbec, however, because he earned this nod and then some. The third baseman was coming into the year off of a somewhat disappointing 2017 in which he failed to live up to his red-hot professional debut in 2016. The former University of Arizona star got right back to that swing this past year, though, hitting .254/.357/.545 with 31 homers. There is still some swing-and-miss in his game, and he scuffled to end the year, but Dalbec showed off his true potential and is going to be one of the top prospects in the organization when 2019 gets underway.

Honorable Mention: Tanner Nishioka hit .322/.398/.511 on the year, and while his prospect status isn’t huge he had a big year and deserves some recognition.

Best Pitcher: Denyi Reyes

The Red Sox had a lot of relatively high-profile pitchers heading into the year, but Denyi Reyes managed to outshine them all for an absolutely incredible season. The 21-year-old righty started the year with a few relief appearances, but he eventually made his way into Greenville’s rotation. Over the course of the year he made 27 appearances with 24 coming in the rotation totaling 155 23 innings and he pitched to a 1.97 ERA with 145 strikeouts and amazingly only 19 walks. Most of the year was spent in Greenville, where he won the South Atlantic League’s Pitcher of the Year award, but he did make six starts at High-A Salem at the end of the season where he didn’t miss a beat. The scouting reports have never been great on Reyes, but something tells me that could change as we head into the 2019 season.

Honorable Mention: Mike Shawaryn didn’t miss as many bats between Double-A and Triple-A as he had in the low-minors, but he made up for it with better command and put himself in position to serve as midseason major-league depth in 2019.

Best Reliever: Travis Lakins

Reliever prospects certainly don’t have a lot of cachet in this business, and it makes sense. Most of the top relievers in the game are failed starters, and relievers in general throw fewer innings and thus are less valuable. However, the game is changing and moving towards expanding bullpens and shorter outings for starters, Thus, it seems logical that relief prospects will only become more valuable in the coming years. The Red Sox have a few intriguing ones, but Travis Lakins has perhaps emerged as the most exciting. He just converted to relief this year, but he was great between Portland and Pawtucket pitching to a 1.21 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 37 13 innings. We’re dealing with a small sample, of course, but it’s hard not to be excited about Lakins and he should be competing for a major-league bullpen spot as early as next spring.

Honorable Mention: Durbin Feltman came into the pros this summer with a ton of hype and he lived up to it, totally dominating the low minors and setting himself up for a 2019 MLB debut.

Kutter Crawford
Kelly O’Connor;

Biggest Surprise (Positive): Kutter Crawford

So, the real answer would be Reyes here, but I am trying to avoid duplicates in this exercise. These awards aren’t real, so I think Denyi will forgive me. Anyway, nobody saw the season Kutter Crawford just had coming. The 2017 draftee was selected in the 16th round out of Florida Gulf Coast (mostly known for their improbable run through the NCAA basketball tournament a few years ago) and only threw an inning last year. To put it simply, we didn’t have much of any information about him. Well, the righty made 21 starts with Greenville this year and pitched to a 2.96 ERA with 120 strikeouts and 34 walks in 112 13 innings. He did go up to Salem at the end of the year and was less impressive with a 4.31 ERA in six starts at High-A, but he certainly opened some eyes in 2018.

Honorable Mention: William Cuevas is in his second stint with the Red Sox but he shocked everyone with a strong performance in Pawtucket and earned himself a spot on the major-league September roster.

Biggest Disappointment: Cole Brannen

Cole Brannen was Boston’s second selection in the 2017 draft, and he struggled in his first taste of pro ball that year. The outfielder got on base plenty and showed off his athleticism, but his bat-to-ball skills just didn’t come through. It wasn’t great, but draftees struggle immediately after being drafted all the time. Unfortunately, he didn’t rebound at all in his first full season. The Red Sox pushed him to Greenville to start the year, and he couldn’t handle the league. In 32 games he hit just .157/.246/.205, and he was sent down to the complex for instructional ball. Once short-season play got started, Brannen headed up to Lowell hoping to turn things around, but he hit just .181/.276/.205 there. We can’t close the book on a 20-year-old — Michael Chavis showed us how long it can take to click for a high school draftee — but Brannen’s stock dropped dramatically in 2018.

Honorable Mention: Bryan Mata is still well-liked by scouts and he flashed the potential that made him so enticing, but he ultimately walked over seven batters per nine innings in 2018, and that’s just not going to cut it.

Best Newcomer: Jarren Duran

The Red Sox didn’t really get to see their top two draft picks in 2018 due to injury, but they made up for it with some big performances from guys lower in the class. To me, none stood out more than Jarren Duran. The seventh round pick played in 67 games between Lowell and Greenville and he hit .357/.394/.516. The outfielder (who also plays some second base) has tremendous athleticism and stole 24 bases. He also amazingly had ten triples in 37 games with the Spinners. A lot of that had to do with bad defense, but he’s exciting and he’ll be fun to follow in 2019.

Honorable Mention: Devlin Granberg was a senior draftee in the sixth round and he hit .300/.383/.435 in 61 games in Lowell.