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
Tyreque Reed, 1B/OF
Greenville was a weird team this year, with their season really being defined by players who either had big first halves at Salem, or who spent the second half in Portland. So it’s fitting to have the top position player fall into one of those categories. For Reed, he ended his season in Portland, but was excellent with Greenville to start the season. A minor-league Rule 5 draft pick, Reed was blocked by both Triston Casas and Pedro Castellanos in Portland to start the season, so he just beat up on High-A pitching by hitting .296/.405/.587. He had more trouble up in Double-A, and hit tool concerns along with defensive value hinder his likelihood of making the majors, but the power and patience are there.
Top Starting Pitcher
Brandon Walter, LHP
Walter was, to me, the best story in the Red Sox farm system this year. I still have no idea how good he can really be in terms of long-term value, but he came out of nowhere to become fascinating this year. Starting the year in Salem’s bullpen, he made one start there before getting promoted to Greenville, where he pitched to a 3.70 ERA with a 36 percent strikeout rate and a walk rate under six percent. Walter, a 26th rounder in 2019, is 25 years old and was at High-A, so we’re still waiting for him to face more age-appropriate competition. But he’ll be in the upper minors next year, and if he gets off to a hot start he’s the type of player whose stock is going to rise ridiculously quickly.
Top Relief Pitcher
Brendan Nail, LHP
Nail actually did spend the whole season with Greenville, and he’s been in the system for a long time. An undrafted signing in the summer of 2017, he had some injury issues early in his career and made his full season-debut this summer. Like Walter, there are some age/level concerns — Nail turns 26 next month — but the performance was, well, nails. The southpaw pitched to a 3.69 ERA with a 38 percent strikeout rate and an eight percent walk rate. There’s a repertoire here for him to maybe get a cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but he’s likely more of an organizational piece.
The Sigh of Relief Award
Jay Groome, LHP
Coming into the year, it was hard to gauge what we were looking for from Groome. On the one hand, he’d never really had a chance to pitch consistently as a pro, and at a certain point you just have to get innings under the belt and we can worry about performance later. On the other hand, he’s on the 40-man roster, and they need to see progression. As it turned out, a late-season promotion to Portland showed the upside was still there, but the bulk of the season was spent in Greenville. The numbers don’t look super impressive — he finished his time at High-A with a 5.29 ERA — but the peripherals were solid, we saw real flashes of potential, and most importantly he didn’t suffer a major injury.
Thanks for stopping by
Stephen Scott, C/UTIL; Devlin Granberg, OF/1B
I’m cheating here by including two players, but they are similar in pedigree and expectations, and they both spent most of their season at another level. For Scott, he started the year in Salem before finishing strong with Greenville. For Granberg, he started out red-hot in Salem before finishing the year in Portland. But both players were senior signs with good makeup and good bats, lacking defensive value and standout tools. The ceiling for both is probably that of a bench bat, but Granberg is getting close enough to the majors that we can really think about that outcome while Scott’s added ability to play catcher gives him a greater chance of getting a call-up some day.
Thanks for sticking around
Tyler Dearden, OF
While this season at High-A was defined by players coming and going, Dearden stuck around the whole way and had some majorly hot stretches that helped lead to a strong overall season. The former 29th rounder showed off his power potential and finished the year with 24 homers while hitting .261/.368/.523. He doesn’t have a very large margin of error here, as he’s probably a left field-only player in the field and he has some trouble making contact. But we saw the power play up this year as well as an ability to draw a walk. (He finished the season with a 13 percent walk rate.) There’s plenty of risk, but also a real path to maybe even the short end of a platoon at some point down the road if things break right.
Buy low on him
Jacob Wallace, RHP
Wallace came into the year as arguably the farm’s best reliever, and if not — Eduard Bazardo was up there as well — he was close. Having been acquired over the winter, the local kid from Methuen High had a chance to dominate in Greenville early and make his way up the ladder. Instead, he struggled almost all year and finished with a 5.92 ERA and a walk rate over 11 percent. It’s a convenient comparison, but in a lot of ways it really felt like Durbin Feltman’s 2019. As Feltman built that value back up this year, I think Wallace has a solid chance of doing just that next year, especially since he finished the season strong.