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Spring Training Notebook 3/5: Cuts, Darwinzon Hernandez and top prospects

A couple of quick-hitters for this Thursday morning

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

After learning last night that Chris Sale is going to avoid Tommy John Surgery for now, we are a bit relieved but mostly just waiting for some more information. That is occupying the minds of Red Sox fans right now for, well, obvious reasons. As we wait, though, there were a few other bits that I want to expand on a bit but not for a full-length post. Indulge me. Or don’t. But I’d prefer you did.

The first round of cuts

The Red Sox made their first round of cuts from a crowded camp, re-assigning five players down to minor-league camp. It’s still early so there aren’t any real surprises here, but just a quick word on each of the cuts.

  • Bryan Mata is arguably the top pitcher in the system, but he’s still a little bit away from the majors. He got as high as Double-A last year, but needs to work on his control before he’s considered for the majors. He’s likely a 2021 debut, but if everything goes exactly right he could be a late-season bullpen option.
  • Bobby Poyner has the most major-league experience with the Red Sox of this group, but he fell off the map in a big way last year. There’s a chance he can pitch himself back to the majors if he looks good in Pawtucket, but it was never really realistic for the lefty to make the Opening Day roster.
  • I hedged Poyner’s first sentence with “with the Red Sox” because Tommy Joseph has a good amount of major-league experience, just with the Phillies. Joseph is a depth power bat and will need multiple injuries in front of him on the depth chart to see the majors.
  • Daniel McGrath had an exciting scoreless streak last year and is one of those guys that doesn’t impress in the scouting world but has put up numbers at times. The ceiling isn’t huge, but don’t sleep on him as a surprise rotation depth option as the year goes on.
  • Denyi Reyes was on the 40-man roster at this time last year and looking for a big 2019 to get to the doorstep of the majors. Instead he was inconsistent and taken off the 40-man this past winter. He’ll need to do a lot to get back in the depth picture for 2020.

Darwinzon Hernandez: Starter?

The Red Sox are hurting for starting pitching right now, in case you were somehow blissfully unaware. They are scrounging their roster for any and all possible depth options, and that could include possible bringing a converted reliever back into the rotation fold. Jason Mastrodonato says the Red Sox have discussed the option of putting Darwinzon Hernandez back into a starting role. There’s no doubt that Hernandez has exciting upside, but I hate this idea. I just don’t think the control is there to make it in this role and he is much better when he can just stick to two pitches. There’s a small chance this works and maybe that’s worth the risk, but to me the chances are small enough of this working and the upside is high enough in the bullpen that I’d rather see him develop as a potential late-inning arm. Starters are more valuable than relievers in a vacuum, but baseball isn’t played in a vacuum.

Two Red Sox prospects on ESPN’s Top 100

The prospect writer realm has shifted a bit, with Keith Law moving to The Athletic, which left a void open at ESPN. Kiley McDaniel has taken that gig, moving on from FanGraphs. McDaniel released his top 100 list on Wednesday, and the Red Sox had two prospects on the list. This is behind a paywall so I’ll let you click the link and read the scouting reports, but I will say that Jeter Downs came in at number 50 between Ian Anderson of the Braves and Riley Greene of the Tigers while Triston Casas was number 57 between JJ Bleday of the Marlins and Trevor Larnach of the Twins. This is around the spot we’ve seen Downs the most the year, though McDaniel seems a little higher on Casas than many others. That shouldn’t be a surprise, though, as FanGraphs has been high on Casas since their pre-draft rankings. McDaniel did those rankings with Eric Longenghagen so it wasn’t all him, but it’s still worth noting the history there.