Over the couple of weeks before the annual holiday slow-down, the free agent market had been picking up a bit around the league. There are top relievers and bats already off the board, and after re-signing Nathan Eovaldi, the Red Sox have mostly stayed quiet. Following a 108-win season, Dave Dombrowski rightfully has faith in his current team and to this point has not shown a willingness to overspend on new pieces. Although the 2019 roster currently looks a whole lot like the roster of 2018, there is a new wrinkle for the year ahead. Specifically, there are a handful of a minor leaguers that have a real chance of making their major-league debuts and staying up. Here are a few who could have a significant impact in 2019:
1. Michael Chavis
Chavis, a 2014 first round pick from Georgia, was suspended 80 games for PED use this past year, but was stellar upon returning. Over 171 at bats he slashed .298/.381/.538 with nine home runs, about 26 over a 500-at bat pace. He is the Red Sox’ (almost) unanimous top prospect, and has performed incredibly well in the high minors after a somewhat slow start to his professional career. He plays third base primarily, but since he is presumably blocked at that position by Rafael Devers the prospect has been getting some work at first base, as well as other spots. I was of the belief that him and Moreland would be platooned at first base at some point in 2019, but after Steve Pearce’s heroics in the World Series, Pearce was brought back on a one-year deal. Despite having options at both positions next year, I expect the Red Sox will bring Chavis up at some point around midseason in 2019, and will then transition him into a full-time starter at first base in 2020 when both Pearce and Moreland are no longer under contract.
2. Durbin Feltman
Durbin was selected in the third round of last summer’s draft and some experts thought he had a shot to reach the bigs in his first year of professional ball to help Boston’s bullpen down the stretch. While this didn’t happen — and it never seemed like the Red Sox front office treated it as a real possibility — Feltman did dominate the minors and finished the year at High-A Salem. Although he only pitched 23 1⁄3 total innings, he struck out 36 batters in that time and allowed just 5 total runs. Feltman has the potential to be a dominant closer in the future, but if he reaches the majors in 2019, he’ll provide solid relief help at a minimum. I expect him to fly through the AA and AAA clubs, and join the Red Sox later in the 2019 season as a helpful bullpen piece in another playoff run.
3. Travis Lakins
Lakins spent most of 2018 in Double-A Portland, but finished the season in Triple-A Pawtucket while dominating to the tune of a 1.65 ERA. He began the year as a starter, but was quickly shifted into a bullpen role and showed clear improvement as a reliever. With a history of elbow issues, the move to the bullpen allowed his arm to be conserved, as well as his fastball to play up in limited innings. He should provide relief help for the Sox at some point in 2019.
4. Mike Shawaryn
Although he is a lesser-known prospect compared to the other names on this list, over the course of his minor league career, Shawaryn has been quietly consistent. From A-ball all the way to AAA, his ERA has stuck in the low-to-mid 3’s. He’s a very plain starter, throwing a fastball in the low 90’s, as well as a cutter, slider, and changeup that are all solid pitches, but not over-powering or big swing-and-miss type stuff. For 2019, Shawaryn could make a spot start or two (like Jalen Beeks in 2018) earlier in the year, and potentially be a relief option for the Red Sox down the stretch if that need arises.