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Minor League Season in Review: Lowell Spinners

A look back at the year that was for the highest level of short-season ball.

Gilberto Jimenez
Kelly O’Connor; https://sittingstill.smugmug.com

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 the end of the season 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 Lowell.

Best Position Player

Gilberto Jimenez, OF

I said in the Greenville review post that sometimes these can be really easy, and this is another instance here. Anyone who even moderately follows the Red Sox minor-league system would be able to tell you that Jimenez is the easy choice here without thinking about it at all. The 2018 Latin American Program Position Player of the Year, Jimenez was a bit of a sleeper as last winter went on who kept getting more and more helium as the season approached. The skills and athleticism were there in his DSL performance, but even more than that anyone who talked about him absolutely raves about his makeup. All of that was again on display in Lowell as he dominated in his Stateside debut, hitting .359/.393/.470 with the Spinners. He’s still very raw, which shouldn’t be a surprise for a 19-year-old (2019 was actually his age-18 season, though) who is just learning switch-hitting. He’s easily going to be the highlight for Greenville’s roster to start next year.

Honorable Mentions: Nick Decker, Joe Davis

Yusniel Padron-Artilles
Kelly O’Connor; https://sittingstill.smugmug.com

Best Pitcher

Yusniel Padron-Artilles, RHP

Unlike with the position players, this one could surprise some people who didn’t follow the system super closely given how hyped (justifiably so) a couple of the recently drafted players were. Padron-Artilles threw a lot more innings than those guys as a 2018 draftee, though, and he was very effective in those innings. Over 64 innings with the Spinners the righty pitched to a 2.67 ERA with 84 strikeouts and only 14 walks. He then really made a name for himself in the postseason when he struck out an absurd twelve consecutive batters. It should be mentioned that Padron-Artilles also made six appearances in Greenville earlier in the year and struggled mightily. The jury is still out on what he can be in the future, but he’ll have earned a full season in Greenville next year.

Honorable Mentions: Chris Murphy, Noah Song

Most Improved Stock

Chris Murphy, LHP

It’s hard to really talk about the stock of a guy who was just drafted, because basically no one has any stock beyond the very top of the draft. But, well, we’re going to do it anyway. Sue me! Anyway, Murphy was a sixth round pick out this past summer and there really wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare around the pick even in prospect circles. He was the number 155 prospect on Baseball America’s draft list, to be fair, but there was major questions about whether or not he’d stick as a starter. We can’t definitively answer that just yet, but he certainly dominated the New York Penn League as a starter. It was only 33 13 innings of work, to be fair, but he pitched to a 1.08 ERa with 34 strikeouts and only seven walks in that time. If nothing else, he’s a name to watch as he tackles full-season ball in 2019.

Honorable Mentions: Stephen Scott, Jonathan Diaz

Most Hindered Stock

Antoni Flores, SS

As with the best position player award, this one took very little thinking at all to come up with. Except, of course, this is not so positive. Flores was one of the top prospects in the organization coming into the year, as a former top July 2 signing who many (myself included) saw as a potential breakout prospect in 2019. Instead, he serves as a reminder on how hard it can be to project such young players. Now, I want to say right away that we in no way should be burying Flores. This was his first full season in the United States, a tough adjustment for anyone, and he is still a few weeks away from even turning 19. The potential that was there at the start of the season is still mostly there. That being said, this year was a major struggle. Flores hit just .193/.293/.227 in 55 games with the Spinners and also made 11 errors. It’s always important to remember that development is not linear, and how the young infielder comes back from a tough year can be as telling as anything.

Honorable Mention: Nicholas Northcut

Antoni Flores
Kelly O’Connor; https://sittingstill.smugmug.com

Others of Note

  • Nicholas Northcut was the team’s 11th round pick in 2018, which might not sound like much but is actually often a well-regarded prospect who falls due to possible signability issues. The Red Sox did have enough money to sign him (obviously), but now two seasons into his career he’s yet to really put it together. The third baseman came out firing this year but quickly cooled off and finished with an OPS of just .586. The power is there in his bat, but he just hasn’t shown the plate discipline necessary to succeed as a professional. He’ll turn 21 next June.
  • Nick Decker was another well-regarded high school pick in 2018 being taken in the second round. He missed basically all of 2018 after being drafted due to injury, so there was a shroud of mystery around the outfielder heading into 2019. Decker didn’t exactly blow the doors off the NYPL, but he was very good with a .799 OPS that was carried mostly by big-time power. He has some work to do to find consistency with his hit tool, but his power is enough that if he can get said hit tool to average levels he’ll be a major-league starter.
  • Noah Song was the most interesting prospect in Lowell this year and is probably the most interesting prospect in the system. A lot of that is due to him simply being very good, as he dominate over 17 innings with a 1.06 ERA, 19 strikeouts and five walks. Of course, that’s not all there is to it. Song graduated from the Naval Academy and, as of now, is obligated to serve for the next two years. There’s still a chance that can be changed depending on some decisions made by the federal government, the specifics of which we won’t get into here, but as of now it looks like he’ll be spending the next two years away from the Red Sox. He’s incredibly talented, and also someone I have no idea how to value.
  • Cameron Cannon was the first selection from the Red Sox this year. Now, since the team dropped ten spots in the draft after exceeding the highest luxury tax threshold in 2018, he was sort of a second round pick. However you want to look at him, he was viewed as a solid, if not super exciting, player. A middle infielder who will likely see time at second and third base moving forward, Cannon struggled to find consistency in Lowell but showed flashes of the solid player he can be. He’ll almost certainly be in Greenville to start next season.
  • Jonathan Diaz is probably the most underrated player that was with the Spinners this year, so much so that I never really even talked about him this year. The catcher is not a standout prospect in any way, but he’s the kind of guy that projects to be solid at just about everything. His defense isn’t going to win him accolades, but it’s good enough to stick behind the plate and he finished this year with a solid .718 OPS. He’s not the kind of guy to get wildly excited about, but he’s someone to remember when next April rolls around.