This is a great week in baseball, as the major leagues get rolling and then the minor leagues start to do so themselves this weekend. On Thursday, Opening Day will be celebrated across all four full-season levels and we’ll have all sorts of baseball to follow. It is just fantastic. With that in mind, we’ll spend this week looking at what to watch and what we can expect from the minor-league levels in the Red Sox system. Obviously, the farm system is not in a great place right now, but there are still plenty of reasons to follow this system. Today, we’ll start with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.
The closest thing Boston has to a consensus number one prospect is going to start the year in Pawtucket, but he’s not the headline here. No, if you are following this Pawtucket team you’ll want to pay closest attention to the bullpen. We all know the Red Sox relievers have some major question marks and we all expect some shuffling to take place throughout the season as the team tries to find the best seven-man combination in the bullpen. The bullpen in Pawtucket is going to be filled with players we could, and likely will, see in the majors. Travis Lakins highlights the group to start the year, and he’ll likely be joined by Darwinzon Hernandez and Durbin Feltman at some point in the year. Along with that trio, guys like Bobby Poyner, Marcus Walden, Jenrry Mejia and Josh Taylor will be eating up some innings late in games. Basically, focus on the relievers in every box score from Pawtucket all season long.
The top dog
The bullpen will be the group to watch on this team, but if you are focusing on just one player it should be Michael Chavis. He is the top prospect alluded to above and his bat is definitely no joke. We saw it on display in spring training and we’ve seen it against minor-league pitching in each of the last two years. Chavis is on the 40-man roster now so there’s a decent chance we see him in in the majors filling some role at some point over the course of the 2019 season. In terms of what to watch in 2019, it’s hard to gleam too much from a box score but pay attention to how he’s used defensively. At this point the biggest question for Chavis’ future is where he’ll fit in defensively, and I’m interested to see if they shuffle him around a bunch or if they try to get him acclimated at just one spot.
The PawSox don’t really have a true sleeper here, as all of their players are either veterans or prospects who are at least in consideration as top-20 names in the system. So, I’m going to take Mike Shawaryn here even if he doesn’t really qualify as a sleeper. He is the top pitcher in Pawtucket’s rotation, and though he’s not on the 40-man quite yet I suspect he’ll see the majors at some point this year. The former University of Maryland ace has an interesting arsenal that can play in the back of a rotation and also in a multi-inning role out of the bullpen, both of which Boston is likely to need at different points in 2019. It’s been a while since the Red Sox have developed a usable major-league starter (I suppose that could be argued based on your feelings about Brian Johnson and Jalen Beeks) but Shawaryn could be that guy.
- Josh Ockimey became something of a forgotten man after not being protected from the Rule 5 Draft, but even with his shortcomings (defense, strikeouts and platoon issues) the first baseman has very real power and could take a real step forward this year.
- Sandy León is, of course, sticking with the organization in a minor-league role. I’ll be interested to see how he hits against minor-league pitching, but his most important role could be in helping the PawSox staff on their way to the majors.
- Bryce Brentz and Gorkys Hernández are going to be guys to watch as the Red Sox don’t have a ton of outfield depth. Neither are prospects at this point but they’ll serve as important members of the organization.
- Tzu-Wei Lin should be starting his final year in the minors. He’s earned an extended major-league role at this point but has been held back by the roster in front of him.
- Chandler Shepherd is sort of a forgotten man, but he was added to the 40-man last winter and has a sort of swingman quality in the mold of Johnson and Hector Velázquez. He was disappointing in 2018, but if he recovers he’ll get a chance in the majors at some point this year.
Courtesy of Sox Prospects, here is the entire projected roster.