Welcome to the Red Sox minor-league season in review. The minor-league season has wrapped up, and while there are still prospects playing in the majors for the final couple weeks of the year the year in prospects is essentially over. With that, we’re going to use this week to review the year that was for each minor-league affiliate for the Red Sox. Obviously there are some players who split time between different levels, so if you don’t see someone who you think should be mentioned keep an eye on them for the lower level. I’m not going to write players up twice. For each level we’ll look at the best position player, best pitcher, the player whose stock was most improved (not including the winners of the previous two awards), the player whose stock was most damaged as well as other notables at the level. I’m limiting myself to five others so I don’t write 3000 words. Today, we look at High-A Salem.
Best Position Player
Ryan Fitzgerald, IF
The Salem roster was more of a stopping point for prospects this year. They had appearances from three of the top four guys on Sox Prospects’ list and four of the top eight, but none qualified for this list. So, we’re left with second- and third-tier guys for these awards, including Fitzgerald. That’s not a shot at him, though, as he’s one of the easiest players to root for in the organization. An Indy Ball signee, he has hit well both in Greenville last year as well as Salem this year. Granted, he did cool off as the year went on but he finished with a .271/.345/.375 line for a 110 wRC+ while also winning defensive player of the year in the Red Sox system. He should be in Portland next year.
Honorable Mentions: Keith Curcio, Edgar Corcina
Enmnauel De Jesus, LHP
As with the position players, the best pitchers in the system didn’t stay here long enough to qualify for this. The two best starters in the system had significant stops in Salem, but not quite as long as their other stops. So, we have De Jesus, who quietly had a very solid year in the Salem rotation. The southpaw doesn’t have big stuff and the scouting reports don’t portend future greatness, but he did the job in 2019. As a 22-year-old he finished with a 3.58 ERA along with a 3.20 FIP. The latter of which was largely due to his low home run rate, which likely was due to Salem’s pitcher-friendly dimensions. Still, he struck out just under a batter per inning with solid control as well.
Honorable Mentions: Jhonathan Diaz, Eduard Bazardo
Most Improved Stock
Pedro Castellanos, 1B
This one was tough to pick, because I think there were a bunch of decent choices depending on how you want to look at things, but no great, slam dunk choice. Castellanos, though, had a really interesting season that sort of played into the narrative of his career to this point. The first baseman started the year being disappointing and confounding again. He had always been a guy who just couldn’t show power in games, which is not what you want from a corner-only profile. He did, however, show huge power in batting practice, only to make matters more confusing. Then, in the second half, he made a tweak or two and finally started to show the in-game power we’d been waiting for. There’s as much reason for excitement with Castellanos now as there has been in a few years.
Honorable Mentions: Bazardo, Fitzgerald
Most Hindered Stock
Zach Schellenger, RHP
This is one that I didn’t really have to think too hard about, and he sort of fits the same mold as Durbin Feltman, who got this recognition in Portland’s review. Schellenger came into the year with less hype than Feltman, but he was a sleeper to make an impact in the major-league bullpen at some point this year. Injuries had plagued him throughout his professional career, but when healthy there were flashes of some really impressive stuff in short stints. Despite the lack of professional experience, he started the year in Portland and got rocked. After just ten innings he went down to Salem, but never really improved. There were some flashes here and there, but his control was a mess all year and he just never hit his stride.
Others of Note
- Jhonathan Diaz was a very close second to De Jesus in the Pitcher of the Year category, as the two had very similar seasons. Diaz threw two fewer innings with four fewer strikeouts and finished with an ERA about 30 points lower. All of that said, Diaz likely has a somewhat more optimistic future and is down in Arizona for the Arizona Fall League.
- Eduard Bazardo is the sleeper reliever to be watching for in 2020. He seemingly snuck up on some people in 2019 after pitching well as a starter previously in his career. The Red Sox moved him to the bullpen based largely on his smaller stature and his lack of a true third pitch. He did extremely well in this role between Salem and Portland, though, and could start next season in Pawtucket.
- Joan Martinez is another interesting reliever with more prototypical stuff, but also some command issues. He got off to a great start this year where he looked dominant before missing a chunk of time with injury. That really hindered his year and even after returning he never got that consistency back.
- Kutter Crawford was trying to build off a big breakout 2018, and pitched solidly in Salem to start the year. He ended his time in High-A with a 3.39 ERA in 69 innings with Salem along with over a strikeout per inning. He was quickly promoted to Portland, but he struggled early there before injuries cut his season well short.
- Keith Curcio is an older player at 26 and was signed this winter after spending the previous portions of his career in the Atlanta organization. Curcio doesn’t have a big ceiling, but he showed solid bat-to-ball skills in Salem and his makeup has been complimented by those who know him.