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Minor League Players of the Week: Eduardo Lopez’ big birthday week

And another Brandon Walter appearance.

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Shane Drohan
Kelly O’Connor

With the new minor-league schedule started in 2021 being implemented 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 time slot 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.

Boston Red Sox Top Prospects

Eduardo Lopez, OF, Salem

In the middle to late years of the last decade, the Red Sox had a relative lull on the international market after leaning heavily on it for the previous decade or so. A lot of that was due to circumstances out of their control, whether it be rule changes or a tragic death in the system, and also things in their control that they’d do again, like spending a lot and being penalized in subsequent years. One of their top signings during that late-2010s period was Lopez, who received a $1.15 million bonus during the 2018 international signing period, the highest the team handed out that year. To this point in his career, though, he has not yet shown the kind of upside one would hope from someone receiving a six-figure bonus, and has watched his prospect status wane with each passing year.

This season he is making his true full-season debut — he ended last season at Salem — though it got off to a late start due to an undisclosed injury. His debut didn’t come until April 23, but he’s made his mark since joining the A-Ball lineup, and especially over the last week. Lopez finished this last stretch hitting .476/.538/.952, smashing three homers and adding a double, while walking as much as he struck out. He put an exclamation point on the week on Sunday, his 20th birthday, by collecting three hits in a doubleheader including his third homer of the week.

This one stretch alone certainly isn’t going to put him in the conversation among the best prospects in the system, but at the very least it puts his name back in people’s minds and gives him some runway to be something of a breakout. Lopez isn’t the same kind of high upside outfielder as someone like Miguel Bleis, who was a more recent top international signing, but he’s a high makeup, high IQ kind of player who can play a solid outfield, though it’s not clear whether or not he’ll stick in center. Right now he’s probably on a bench trajectory if he is to make it to the bigs, but the 20-year-old is making strides now that he’s on the field.

Honorable Mention: Devlin Granberg, OF, Portland

Every year teams draft and sign college seniors somewhere in the back half of the top 10 rounds to give themselves more runway to sign bigger bonus players. Most of the time those players don’t turn into much, but they aren’t just totally wasted picks. They’re targeted for a reason. Granberg was a recent one of these for Boston, a sixth rounder in 2018. He’s already 26, but he’s done nothing but hit since joining the Red Sox system, including this past week when he finished with a .444/.583/.611 line. There’s probably not a major-league future here given the age and the fact that he’s still at Double-A, but you never know. If he just keeps hitting, eventually they or some other team will have no choice but to give him a look.

Pitcher of the Week

Shane Drohan, LHP, Greenville

You know it was a big week for pitchers in the Red Sox farm system because there were two (Brayan Bello and Kyle Hart) who completed at least six no-hit innings, and neither of them get even an honorable mention in this space. Instead, the top spot goes to a guy who made two starts in the last week and pitched extremely well in each of them with Drohan. Overall, the southpaw tossed 11 innings between his two starts, allowing just one run on a solo homer, striking out 13 and issuing only two walks.

Drohan was one of the four players the Red Sox selected in the shortened 2020 draft, having been selected out of the University of Florida. It’s been an interesting career for him thus far, as he came into the system a bit more raw than you’d expect from a college player. Drohan spent his high school years splitting time between baseball and football, which is something of a rarity in today’s sports landscape. He didn’t put his full effort into pitching until college. It’s been apparent in his pro career, and even this season as he’s oscillate between good and bad outings. Last season he finished with a lackluster 3.96 ERA, but there were some really impressive flashes throughout the season. It’s been the case this year as well, with two really terrible outings, but a few outstanding ones including the two this past week.

At 23 years old, this is a big season for the lefty, who needs to start showing some growth and consistency as the year goes along having now had a couple of years as a pro and working with top coaches. He’s got a solid three-pitch mix with a fastball, curveball, and changeup, but none of the offerings are a true out pitch, and the changeup still needs some work to develop. It’s an uphill battle for him to get to the majors at this point, especially if he’s going to stick as a starter, but it’s also not completely out the window. In a system that suddenly has plenty of intriguing arms, Drohan is a sleeper to remember as this season goes along.

Honorable Mention: Brandon Walter, LHP, Portland

It just wouldn’t be a players of the week post without Walter, who has now been an honorable mention in each of the last three weeks after getting the top spot in week one. He didn’t throw a no-hitter like some of his counterparts in the system, but he allowed only one fewer baserunner than each of Bello and Hart, and struck out 10 while only walking one across six shutout innings. It’s still too early to be pushing for promotions, but at the same time, he doesn’t seem particularly challenged at this Double-A level.

Player of the Week Tracker