After a year without it, having minor-league baseball back in 2021 was an incredible joy. But now, seasons are coming to a close, with four Red Sox affiliates having their season end over the weekend. We will spend the next four days looking at the years that were for those levels, looking at a bunch of different categories. Each level will have top position players, starters, and relievers selected, along with some other miscellaneous categories to make sure we hit on the players that feel deserving. Keep in mind that for those three mentioned above, it is about production rather than scouting or prospect ranking. Along those same lines, playing time and time spent at the level does matter to us.
Top Position Player
Eddinson Paulino, INF
Paulino is not a big name in this system, though he did get a six-figure bonus out of the Dominican Republic as part of the 2018 signing class. Spending most of his time at third base this year, while also getting time at second and a little at shortstop, he was a monster at the plate. Paulino finished his season hitting .336/.436/.549, showing total control of the strike zone while also making consistently hard contact. The power was a surprise after he relied on his on-base ability in 2019 at the DSL. There’s not a huge ceiling here, but we know he can take a pitch and put the ball in play, which gives him at least an interesting floor.
Top Starting Pitcher
Juan Daniel Encarnacion, RHP
There was a pitcher whose numbers stood out a bit more in a smaller sample who we’ll get to in a minute, but the innings edge put Encarnacion over the top for me. And make no mistake, it was a really impressive summer for Encarnacion. He was signed a little bit later than Paulino and for much less, but the righty was also part of the 2018 international signing class. Encarnacion had a solid enough pro debut in the DSL, but he took things to another level at the complex this year. He finished his season with a 2.96 ERA with a 30 percent strikeout rate and a six percent walk rate. The long ball proved to be a bit of an issue, but his ability to miss bats was surprising and catapulted him to an impressive run.
Top Relief Pitcher
Cole Milam, RHP
Milam actually only spent half of his season on the complex, but that was still enough to stand out here. The righty was part of the team’s undrafted free agent class last summer, and his first taste of pro ball was a success. With the FCL squad, he pitched to a 2.14 ERA over 21 innings, carrying a 31.5 percent strikeout rate and a 15 percent walk rate. The control was clearly an issue, and his stuff did not play up as much when he got to Salem, but just for his performance at the FCL he gets the recognition.
Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP
Gonzalez was the man to whom I was referring at the top of the Encarnacion blurb, and he moved his way up the rankings as much as anyone in the second half. That ascent started on the complex, where he pitched 35 innings with a 3.60 ERA, a 33 percent strikeout rate, and a six percent walk rate. That he continued to shove in Salem only heightened the excitement, but the bulk of the work was done in the FCL. Gonzalez was a six-figure signing out of Venezuela in that aforementioned 2018 class, and the scouting reports are matching these numbers. There is still a long way to go, of course, but he could easily be a top 10 name in this system to start next season and will be a popular 2022 breakout pick. And it will be deserved.
We have to mention
Marcelo Mayer, SS
Mayer was, of course, the big name everyone was looking for when looking at FCL box scores this summer, and for good reason. He is, by most accounts at least, one of the two best prospects in the system after being selected fourth overall in this year’s draft. For many evaluators, the shortstop was the top prospect in the entire class (though, it should be made clear, he wasn’t viewed as a clear-cut top prospect like Spencer Torkelson and some others have been in recent classes), and he showed a lot of why that was. Mayer didn’t destroy the level or anything, but he was very good while walking 14 percent of the time after just graduating high school. He finished the year hitting .275/.377/.440. The sky is the limit here.
We wish there was more playing time
Blaze Jordan, CIF
This really refers to Jordan’s whole season rather than just his time on the complex, though he missed time in Florida as well. For the first portion of the FCL schedule, Jordan was the draw. Boston’s third round pick in 2020 and the player they drafted and signed with the money saved from the Nick Yorke selection, he came into the season with questions but did his best to answer them. It was only 76 plate appearances, but he hit .362/.408/.667 with a strikeout rate below 20 percent. I was certainly among those skeptical of his ability to make contact coming into this season, and while I still need to see it over a more sustained run, I’m certainly feeling better than I was at this point last year when he had yet to play a pro game.
One more to highlight
Phillip Sikes, OF
It was hard to find a proper place to recognize Sikes, but he definitely felt like he needed mention. The team’s 18th round pick out of TCU, it was clear he was just far too advanced for FCL competition, but there just wasn’t room for him to play at Salem. And so he was left on the complex, and he just destroyed the league. He finished his season hitting .393/.462/.622. There’s plenty of doubt as to whether or not he can carry this performance to full-season ball, but at the very least he’s certainly earned the chance to prove he can with significant playing time in 2022.
Most Minor Lines Players of the Day
Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP (2)