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Red Sox Minor League Players of the Week: Hanging out in the South Atlantic

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All of our winners this week were in Greenville or Salem.

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Nicholas Northcut (2019)
Kelly O’Connor

Welcome to a new feature here at Over The Monster in which we will be looking at the best players on the farm from the past week. With the new minor-league schedule being implemented this year that has teams playing six-game series every week with Mondays off, there are no Minor Lines on Tuesdays. We figured rather than just leaving that timeslot blank every week, we’d hand out some fake, virtual hardware. Each week, we’ll pick players of the week for both position players and pitchers, as well as an honorable mention in each category. (See Previous Winners Here)

Position Player of the Week

Nicholas Northcut, Salem

After struggling for most of the early parts of this season, Northcut has been coming along of late and showed what made him an enticing prospect coming out of high school. The former 11th round pick was an overslot selection back in 2018, but he’d never really shown anything besides passing flashes prior to this season. The right-handed bat showed only some flashes early in the season as well, but more recently he’s been hitting consistently. This is his second time making this column, having won an honorable mention about a month ago. For this week, he was an extra-base hit machine, slashing .333/.391/.952 with three homers, a couple of doubles and a triple.

That power was able to translate into a high batting average for this week, but that has been a bit of a struggle for him this year even with his overall line still staying solid. If you only look at average, you’d see a .239 mark and not be very impressed. But he’s drawing a ton of walks — just under 13 percent on the year — while also tapping into prodigious power for a .239 Isolated Power. In this era of baseball, that kind of performance can be valuable, and he’s indeed 22 percent better than league-average in Low-A per FanGraphs’ minor-league wRC+.

As far as his scouting moving forward, Northcut is an interesting buy-low type prospect to re-familiarize yourself with, especially if you like low-average/high-power types. There’s not a great home defensively for him — he’s played mostly third base this year thought doesn’t really project to be great there — but this kind of offense he’s showing this year is why it cost Boston over a half million dollars to sign him away from Vanderbilt. His 24 percent strikeout rate this year isn’t terrible, but the 22-year-old (he just turned 22 in June) does need to prove he can make consistent contact against better pitching before I’m personally ready to buy in completely.

Honorable Mention: Tyler Dearden, Greenville

There have been a lot of breakouts in the Red Sox system this year, and it feels like Dearden is one that has flown a bit under the radar. He was incredibly hot back a couple of months ago and has actually gotten the top nod in this column twice this season, but hit a little bit of a cold streak since then. This past week he was on fire, though, smashing four homers in six games to finish with a line of .375/.444/.875. On the season he’s hitting .277/.402/.545.

Pitcher of the Week

Brandon Walter, Greenville

Walter is one of the better stories in this Red Sox system this season, and is starting to become a regular around these parts. Despite only becoming a starter about halfway through the season, and doing so down in Salem, the lefty has already has two top nods this season among pitchers after getting this one. And this was his most impressive start of the season. He only did make the one start this week, but he struck out 12 on the day over five innings of work, giving up just one hit and one walk. He did allow two runs, but both were unearned.

As I said, Walter started his season in Low-A and as a member the Salem bullpen. He made 11 solid multi-inning relief appearances there and eventually got his chance to start, immediately throwing two gems and quickly being bumped up to Greenville. Since the promotion, it hasn’t been totally smooth and he does have a 6.00 ERA through four starts even after this outing. That said, he’s also got 33 strikeouts to just three walks over 18 innings.

Given how dominant he’s been this year just in terms of strikeouts and walks — he’s at 79 strikeouts and nine walks over 49 innings across both levels this year — it’s easy to wonder why he’s not much more highly touted than he is. The retort would be that, A, his stock has risen pretty dramatically since being a 26th round pick in 2019. And on top of that, he’s a 24-year-old who has made four starts in High-A. He’s done what he can at the levels he’s assigned, which is all we can ask, but Walter does need to prove it against some higher levels before really becoming an impact prospect in this system. That said, he’s extremely intriguing to follow right now.

Honorable Mention: Shane Drohan, Salem

Coming into the season, Drohan was one of the players I was most intrigued by outside of the top 20 or so prospects. A 2020 draftee, he had more raw skills than you typically see from a fifth round college selection. He took some time to find consistent results, but he’s settled in of late and had two strong starts last week, tossing a combined 10 innings with just one run coming across, striking out nine without issuing a walk. Drohan could get a start or two at Greenville to close out this season in September if he continues to pitch well in August.