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 look at my hometown Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.
For a couple of years now, there has been a group of starting pitchers that have moved up the ladder together, and in 2019 they reach the high minors in Portland. This is the point where some will likely begin to convert to relief, but that won’t happen until later this year. Right now, Sox Prospects projects the top three in Portland’s rotation will be Darwinzon Hernandez, Tanner Houck and Denyi Reyes, and I’d suspect Bryan Mata isn’t too far away from getting promoted to the level himself. For a team with such a bad farm system, that’s a fairly intriguing rotation at one of the upper levels. Now, Hernandez is almost certainly going to head to the bullpen at some point in 2019 and Houck may not be all that far behind. But as someone who has watched the likes of Teddy Stankiewicz and Kyle Hart seemingly hundreds of times the last few years, I’m excited about this group. Reyes in particular may be the guy I’m most excited to see in person given the large gap between the scouting reports and the numbers.
The top dog
There are a few guys who Red Sox fans should be keeping an eye on on this roster, but I think Hernandez is the best player here. I am a bit lower on the other top contender than a lot of others are so there will be disagreement here, but Hernandez’ talent is undeniable. We saw the good and the bad in his time with the big-league club this spring, with his stuff being tantalizing and the control being a legitimate concern. I’m very interested to see how he performs as a starter despite the feeling that he is certain to convert to relief at some point. That’s the most likely path for him to contribute in the majors in 2019, but I wonder if we are discounting his ability to start just a bit. Either way, I’m excited to see the big lefty in action against advanced Double-A hitters.
We have a tendency to look so hard at ceiling when we talk about prospects that we can sort of ignore guys that have the potential to project into very solid bench pieces. We know that building depth at the highest level is hugely important for a championship team, but the guys who actually fill those roles have a tendency to sneak up on us. I think the Red Sox may have one of those guys in Tate Matheny. The son of former Cardinals manager Mike seemed like a nepotism pick at the time but he’s turned himself into a very solid player. There’s not enough power here for him to be a regular nor is his hit tool great enough to make up for that. That being said, he is a very smart player who can hit a bit and more importantly play in all three outfield spots. There’s an issue if he’s a starter, but as a fourth or fifth outfielder I think he can carve out a role in this league.
- Bobby Dalbec was the other big contender as the top prospect on this roster. I am a bit overwhelmed by the question marks and it hurts my view of him, but the power is of course very, very real. If he can make some adjustments and get his strikeout rate down to a more respectable level his value will sky rocket.
- Durbin Feltman may not be long for this level, but it seems he’ll at least start the year in the late innings for Portland. The 2018 draft pick is the guy to watch in terms of potential late-inning righties in this system and he should certainly see the majors at some point in 2019. The journey will start in Maine.
- C.J. Chatham has had a really weird career as he battled injuries early on and was finally healthy in 2018. He showed off some of the skills that had people excited when he was drafted and should be able to stick at shortstop. However, the big park in Salem really sapped his power and it will be interesting to see how he plays in a more neutral park like Portland.