We should be heading into the first weekend of the minor league season, with the season having been scheduled to get underway on Thursday. Unfortunately, we are heading into another weekend without baseball and by the looks of things, we will not be seeing much, if any, baseball this year. There have been some recent reports indicating Major League Baseball is working on a plan to bring baseball to Arizona and Florida sometime this summer but there has been no word on what will happen to the minor leagues. At this point, I would be pretty surprised if we see any legitimate minor league baseball this season.
With all that said, in the spirit of what should have been the start of the minor league season, I bring you a few of my breakouts and busts for 2020.
This is my favorite prospect to watch this year. Murphy struggled with command throughout college but seemed to right the ship in his first taste of professional ball. He has a pretty advanced four-pitch mix. The fastball sits in the low to nineties with a great changeup that has given batters fits. The curveball sits in the low seventies with a slow bend away from the batter. Scouts have been impressed with how well he has been able to tunnel his pitches and he should start in Salem whenever the minor leagues start up again. He is currently projected as a back-end starter/ bullpen type but the progression he made from college to professional ball, maybe there is more there.
You might not know him yet but whenever minor league baseball begins again you will. The Red Sox signed him out of Venezuela during the 2018 July 2 signing period. At the time, the big signing was outfielder Eduardo Lopez but Bonaci has quickly moved past him in many prospect rankings. He has added some good weight and is up about 25 pounds since signing. Bonaci was impressive in the Dominican Summer League hitting .279/.356/.397. He smacked three home runs, which might indicate a bit more power in his bat than expected. He was pretty aggressive on the base paths (18 SB/28 attempts) but a 64% success rate indicates he still has some things to learn.
Nick Decker is one of my favorite “sleeper” prospects in the system. He was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft but broke his hand two games into his professional debut so we did not know what we were going to get coming into the 2019 season. He was held back in extended spring training and spent the entire season at Lowell. Unfortunately, not everything came up roses. He struck out at a 30% clip and only hit .247, though he did smack ten doubles and six home runs in 53 games. He also has some of the easiest power in the system and reached a max exit velocity of 101 MPH. I’m still a believer in the power, loft to his swing, and overall physicality but he’ll need the reps to reach his potential.
It all depends on how the Red Sox use Houck whether he will be on the bust list or not. If it were up to me, I would leave him in the bullpen where I think he could be a pretty dominant reliever. However, based on reports and how he was used in the Arizona Fall League, I believe the Red Sox will try one more time to use Tanner Houck as a starter. The Red Sox had him change his delivery after being drafted but when that did not show positive results they had him go back to his original delivery. He throws a pretty good sinker/slider/cutter combo but with the major leagues moving away from sinkers, his overall pitch mix is not overly compatible with today’s game. I’m afraid he will bust as a starter in 2020 but then breakout in the bullpen later this year or 2021.
Arauz fits into the busts category not based on his talent level but more as where he will have to spend his 2020 season. In a surprising move during the Rule 5 draft, the Red Sox selected him out of the Houston Astros organization. The 21-year-old split his 2019 season between High-A and Double-A, so to go from Double-A to the majors will be a huge obstacle to overcome. Araúz has good bat-to-ball skills but lacks power needed to really stick at the majors. If he is able to hang with the big boys all year, it will be mainly due to his ability to play multiple infield spots, where the MLB roster is lacking for depth. I’m afraid he is going to have the bat knocked out of his hands and returned to the Astros sometime during the year.
The 2020 season was going to be a make it or break it year for Durbin Feltman. He was was drafted in the third round and was expected to move quickly through the system. He was performing well during his first professional year of baseball but really hit the skids this past year. All the metrics we typically look at (swinging strike, walk rate, velocity, etc) all moved in the wrong direction. Feltman, like most relievers, is a two-pitch pitcher. He pairs slider with his four-seam but last year the Red Sox development staff implemented changes in his pitch mix ratio to very little success. If he is able to harness a bit of the control he showed previously, he could be a very dominant, late inning reliever. While it might be a bit early to give up on the guy, he still has a long way to go in his development.