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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Chase Shugart rounds out our top 30

Our top 30 ends with a pitcher looking to make his mark.

Chase Shugart
Kelly O’Connor; https://sittingstill.smugmug.com/

People who read this site regularly and have done so for years know that we generally vote for the top 20 prospects in the system every year in a process that brings us right up to Opening Day. People who inhabit this planet know that things aren’t typical this year. With baseball on hold we extended the process out a little bit, but with participation dwindling with each subsequent round, we’re cutting it off here at number 30. Taking the final spot on this years list will be Chase Shugart, who ended things on a runaway with 44 percent of the vote.

Shugart was not really on the radar too much as a teenager, going undrafted out of Bridge City, Texas. He wasn’t a totally nobody, though, because he still managed to make his way onto the roster at University of Texas-Austin, one of the more prestigious baseball schools in the nation. He started his college career with a couple of seasons pitching out of the bullpen before switching over to the rotation for most of his junior year in 2018. He wasn’t great that year, but he was solid and a big part of Texas’s run to the College World Series. It was enough to get a look from the Red Sox, who swiped him in the 12th round of that summer’s draft and gave him the standard $125,000 signing bonus.

Having pitched so much more in usual that spring, both due to his switch into the rotation as well as his team’s run into NCAA’s postseason play, the Red Sox understandably did not push him too hard. The righty pitched a total of eight innings over four starts between the GCL and Lowell in that summer of 2018, allowing one run and showing off surprising stuff in the small sample with nine strikeouts. He also walked just one.

Shugart, entering 2019 looking for a full season at age-22, also had that year cut short, although this one wasn’t by the team’s decision-makers. Prior to the season, it was announced that the young pitchers had tested positive for a drug of abuse for a second time, which meant that he would have to sit out for 50 games to start the year. It’s not a devastating blow to a career, but considering he was a good-not-great prospect, missing time for this reason never helps, to say nothing of the legitimate human concern that comes with potential drug issues. Of course, we should note that we don’t know what drug the suspension was for.

He would eventually come back after those 50 games and spend the entire summer with Greenville, making 16 starts and tossing 89 23 innings. Shugart was quite solid in those outings too, pitching to an impressive 2.81 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 23 walks. The stuff didn’t stand out like it did in that first season, but of course the sample was much larger and the outings much longer, not to mention the hitters being much more advanced.

Shugart is still a starter for now, though there are legitimate concerns about whether that will continue to be the case as he moves up the ladder. His stature and his mechanics don’t present too much of an issue, but his repertoire good. Shugart has solid heat that sits in the 93-94 mph range as well as two breaking balls that can serve him well. However, he doesn’t really have much of a changeup and his future likely lies in the development of that offering. If he can get it to be an average pitch, he could stick as a back-end starter. If not, the fastball/slider combination could potentially lift him to a middle relief role.

Under normal circumstances, Shugart was to make his real full-season debut this season, likely starting in Salem with some chance at getting to Portland with a good showing in High-A, though that was far from set in stone. After missing a chunk of 2018 with the suspension and entering his age-23 season, Shugart is somewhat sneakily one of the prospects most affected by potentially missing the 2020 campaign.

Here is our full and final list:

1. Jeter Downs

2. Triston Casas

3. Bobby Dalbec

4. Bryan Mata

5. Noah Song

6. Gilberto Jimenez

7. Jay Groome

8. Jarren Duran

9. Thad Ward

10. Tanner Houck

11. Matthew Lugo

12. C.J. Chatham

13. Connor Wong

14. Nick Decker

15. Cameron Cannon

16. Marcus Wilson

17. Aldo Ramirez

18. Brayan Bello

19. Ryan Zeferjahn

20. Chris Murphy

21. Chih-Jung Liu

22. Bryan Gonzalez

23. Antoni Flores

24. Durbin Feltman

25. Brainer Bonaci

26. Pedro Castellanos

27. Brandon Howlett

28. Luis Perales

29. Ceddanne Rafaela

30. Chase Shugart