Boston Red Sox Top Ten Prospects for 2017
The Boston Red Sox bounced back from a rough 2015 to a very good 2016 with some home-grown players leading the way. What else is on the way?
Our minor league top 10 series is coordinated by Benjamin Chase, one of our contributors at Call To The Pen.
He has poured over thousands of minor league games over the course of the year via milb.tv along with speaking with a number of team and independent scouts. These lists are based out of those conversations.
Each system will have prospects from 10 to 1, and then finish with one newcomer to the system that is worth keeping an eye on that is not in the top 10 at this time.
Conversations are certainly encouraged in the comments section on each system as we go along!
Red Sox System Review
Many Red Sox fans were worried last offseason when Dan Duquette came in that their system would be torn apart. Duquette has the reputation around the game of using his minor league system mainly to acquire major league talent, but that is over played, and he showed it in 2016. When there’s a guy that he wants to keep on the system, he will, and he has at previous stops.
This year, the Red Sox were able to see both ends of Duquette. Two guys that were important to the future of the team were given time with the big league club, even in the midst of a playoff run, though both still remain eligible for this list.
There were guys who were traded away as well, however. Craig Kimbrel, Aaron Hill, Brad Ziegler, Drew Pomeranz, Fernando Abad were acquired for Anderson Espinoza, Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje, Javier Guerra, Logan Allen, Aaron Hill, Wendell Rijo, Aaron Wilkerson, Jose Almonte, Luis Alejandro Basabe, and Pat Light.
Now the Red Sox are making waves in pursuit of a big-time pitcher, and that could cost them a number of prospects. The good news for Red Sox fans is that while they don’t have the 7-8 top 100 guys that they did coming into the last offseason, there are 2 top 5 guys, another that should be top 50 for sure, and 4 more that could make some lists at the back end of the list.
Let’s take a look at that top 10!
10. Josh Ockimey, 1B
Birthdate: 10/18/95 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: low-A
Stats in 2016: .226/.367/.425, 18 HR
If you’re only going to have one above-average tool, having power that is legit plus power is probably the best way to go. Ockimey fits that pure power swing to a T.
While the power is obvious, Ockimey does have a solid knowledge of the strike zone, as evidenced by his 141 OBP delta. Ockimey has had a reputation for being perhaps too muscle-bound in the past, at a point of inflexibility in his swing and movement.
Ockimey doesn’t have great hands at first nor the arm to handle the outfield, so he’s likely going to play at a DH spot going forward.
Playing in Fenway would be excellent with Ockimey’s pull side power as a lefty hitter, and having Yankee stadium in the division would not hurt, either. However, with Hanley Ramirez around for a while and Travis going to be coming up soon, Ockimey may have to leave the organization to get his chance.
As it sits, Ockimey will likely be playing at high-A as a 21 year-old in 2017, and if he can continue progress with his pitch recognition, he could really leap forward in the next year or two.
9. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
Birthdate: 8/26/96 (20 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: low-A, high-A
Stats in 2016: .264/.328/.452, 12 HR, 25 SB
If you want to see 5 tools in action, catch a glimpse of Basabe. Part of a set of twins that the Red Sox signed in 2012 out of Venezuela (before trading his brother to Arizona this summer), Basabe has jumped up the Boston system, all the way to high-A as a teen in 2016.
Basabe’s tools all rate as future plus tools, with only his hit tool really still not showing as above-average at least in game play already. Even then, the hit tool has been showing at fringe average to average now.
Basabe still needs work in his pitch recognition, and that is really the last step in his hit tool as well. Right now, the power and speed play extremely well in game.
Basabe has the speed and arm to handle any position in the outfield. His plus to plus-plus arm would rate well in right field, but he’s been playing center field at this point as he’s able to handle it for now.
Basabe will be an interesting one to watch in the next year as he could be a guy worthy of top-100 consideration or flame out fairly soon in his development.
8. Sam Travis, 1B
Birthdate: 8/27/93 (23 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: AAA
Stats in 2016: .272/.332/.434, 6 HR
Travis teamed up with Kyle Schwarber in college to lead Indiana to their first College World Series. While Travis didn’t get quite the notice of Schwarber, he’s certainly talented as a hitter in his own right.
Interesting as that connection with Schwarber is, Travis was having a solid offensive season before shredding his ACL in May and missing the rest of the year, much like Schwarber did at the major league level.
At his best, Travis is a guy who is led by an excellent hit tool. He squares up balls well at all velocities and does a solid job of using the whole field. Travis hits with solid velocity, and while that hasn’t translated the way he might like in the minor leagues due to the parks he’s been in, he has consistently shown excellent gap power that should translate very well to Fenway.
In many organizations, Travis would be preparing himself to take over a major league job in 2017, especially when there is an open 1B/DH job at the major league level like there is in Boston. However, the Red Sox have a significant issue of Pablo Sandoval still hanging around, and whether he claims 3B, 1B, or DH or ends up getting cut will be an offseason topic for sure.
If he isn’t up on opening day, Travis won’t be far behind with his excellent swing from the right side and solid contact skills. He also offers soft hands and good receiving at first base that would allow Hanley Ramirez to move to DH full-time.
7. Bobby Dalbec, 3B
Birthdate: 6/29/95 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: short-season A
Stats in 2016: .386/.427/.674, 7 HR
Dalbec drew a ton of attention when he led the Cape Cod league in home runs in 2015. To that point, many were considering him more of a prospect off the mound than as a hitter, but that performance put him in the consideration for the first round at this time last year.
Then he got into his college season and seemed to struggle to get going offensively all year long. He was dominant still as Arizona’s closer, leading them to the College World Series championship game. However, his bat was inconsistent at best throughout the year.
The Red Sox took a chance on Dalbec in the 4th round after he’d been passed up by every team multiple times. They were quickly rewarded.
Dalbec has legit big power with solid contact skills. His arm will allow him to play at third going forward, and he’s worked hard to get his body into the kind of shape that should allow him to stay at the position as well.
6. Mauricio Dubon, SS
Birthdate: 7/19/94 (22 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: high-A, AA
Stats in 2016: .323/.379/.461, 6 HR, 30 SB
While Honduras may not have a long history of producing major league ball players, Dubon is looking to put the country on the map. He came into the 2016 season with high marks for his defense, but his work with the bat is what really turned heads.
Dubon has been known to have quick hands at the plate, but his power in 2016 was a surprise as he hit 6 home runs, 9 triples, and 31 doubles. He also has plenty of speed, which allows him to have great speed on the basepaths and also have excellent range in the field.
Dubon had been playing 2B alongside other SS prospects before 2016, but after trades in the offseason, he was given the chance to play SS full-time, and he more than handled the position aptly. His arm showed at the fringe-plus that his ratings showed, and his range was a certain plus, something he didn’t get to show off in the same way at second base.
Dubon has maintained a pretty lean frame, and his overall frame wouldn’t really support a ton more weight, so it’s not likely he’ll “fill out” for significantly more power. However, the gap power and speed would be tremendous.
5. Jason Groome, LHP
Birthdate: 8/23/98 (18 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: rookie, short-season A
Stats in 2016: 6 2/3 IP, 2.70 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 13.79 BB%, 34.48 K%
Coming into the 2016 spring, Groome was regarded as the top left-handed high school arm, if not the top prospect in the entire draft. After a spring of some off-field concerns, his stock was a bit in the air coming into the draft in late-May. Groome ended up slipping all the way to the Red Sox at #12.
Groome has a plus-plus fastball that has upper 90s top-end velocity, but sits in the 90-94 range with very good armside run. He has a curve that breaks like a big looper, but it comes in about 5-7 MPH faster than most looping curves you see in the league, making it hard to pick up for hitters.
Groome’s change has flashed well, but his biggest attribute has een and will likely continue to be his ability to get the ball into the zone consistently.
He did struggle some with location in his one start in the New York-Penn League, but he did not get a ton of innings as the Red Sox just let him get his feet wet at this point. Some believe that he’ll be starting at high-A Salem in 2017, which would be incredibly impressive for a guy who will be 18 until late August of 2017.
Groome has a good build at 6’6 and 225ish pounds, and he has a very good delivery that should prove to be repeatable. The biggest issue will be some of the off field stuff that never did get resolved for many teams before the draft. He will be intriguing to see how he is placed on industry top 100 lists as he has a wide range of opinions from those I’ve talked with.
4. Michael Kopech, RHP
Birthdate: 4/30/96 (20 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: short-season A, high-A
Stats in 2016: 56 1/3 IP, 2.08 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 14.67 BB%, 38.22 K%
Here’s what you need to know about Kopech: 105.
This summer, one of Kopech’s Salem teammates was charting one of his starts with the radar gun. He wrote down that number. 105 would be a modern record velocity, and it set baseball Twitter ablaze for a number of days and still gets talked about.
I don’t believe Kopech actually did throw 105. He’s never had a single 104 charted in his career, though he has had a couple of 103s and often throws 101 in a start. The thing that is most impressive is that a teammate that sees Kopech day-in and day-out saw 105 on the gun and didn’t think “that’s a tad high”. He simply logged it as the actual velocity!
Kopech isn’t just a fastball, either. He has a slider that flashes plus and routinely works as an above-average pitch, and his change up is a consistent, if mostly average, offering.
Where Kopech does struggle is in his delivery. In order to generate the velocity that he does, he has a significant amount of hard lean and movement in his delivery, and it can throw him off-balance if he gets too far, and that will throw off his control.
Kopech got headlines in the spring for getting in a fight with his teammate and breaking his pitching hand, but from all accounts, his teammates love him, and the incident this spring was an isolated issue.
Kopech has eased up some of the “violence” in his delivery present before this season, and with the level of athleticism he has, he should be able to maintain his delivery better going forward. His Arizona Fall League performance has been one to watch for sure.
3. Rafael Devers, 3B
Birthdate: 10/24/96 (20 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: high-A
Stats in 2016: .282/.335/.443, 11 HR, 18 SB
When reviewing Devers from 2016, those who are just looking at him from the end of season stats will miss the season Devers truly had.
While his defense had been somewhat in question due to instincts at the position, he came a long ways at third base to the point of hearing some outside scouts call his defense plus.
However, the more impressive thing was the bat. He was hitting around .200 as of May 1st, yet he finished the year at .282, which or a guy who was a teenager in the Carolina League is extremely impressive.
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Devers has the sort of power to be a legit 30-HR hitter, but he also currently maintains a high level of athleticism, and his 8 triples in 2016 was a great example of this. He also had 18 stolen bases.
Devers has above-average contact skills to go along with his power, and frankly, his presence in the system along with Moncada’s move to third base gives the Red Sox two legit third base prospects who will likely be in the top 25ish of all prospects.
Devers is a guy who could be moved in a blockbuster this offseason if the Red Sox go hard after a big time starter, but regardless, he’ll be at AA at just 20 years old, making him someone to definitely keep an eye on!
2. Andrew Benintendi, OF
Birthdate: 7/6/94 (22 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: high-A, AA, MLB
Stats in 2016: .312/.378/.532, 9 HR, 16 SB
In Baseball America’s recently released top ten list of the Red Sox, they had Benintendi listed #1 over Moncada, and I certainly can’t argue that notion.
One of the striking things when you first see Benintendi just how small he is. He’s listed at 5’10 and 170 pounds, and both numbers may be generous. However, you’ll also notice upon closer examination that he has significant muscle build, including in his forearms and upper legs.
Benintendi is probably not a guy with 30+ home run power or 30+ stolen base type of speed, however, he is a heady ball player that could steal 30 with the right type of offense around him or knock out 30 in the right park (and Boston certainly qualifies there.
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What Benintendi will do that is incredibly impressive year in and year out will be hit. He’s got tremendous feel for the bat head in the zone and does an exceptional job at getting the bat in perfect position on the ball while also having his body in perfect explosive position to drive the ball.
Benintendi offers defense at a level to be an above-average center fielder, but playing left field as he will in Boston should allow Benintendi to be an elite defender.
While maybe not checking the elite HR or SB numbers off on a check list, Benintendi should be a guy who hits 30+ doubles, threatens double digits in triples, and puts up 20ish home runs each season while hitting .300 or better. That’s still incredibly high value, and while his ceiling value may not be that of Moncada’s, he may offer more of a high floor of production.
1. Yoan Moncada, IF
Birthdate: 5/27/95 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: high-A, AA, MLB
Stats in 2016: .294/.407/.511, 15 HR, 45 SB (minor leagues only)
Come a month from now when my overall top 100 list comes out, you’ll be seeing Moncada and Benintendi at the very top of that list as well, and it is quite possible they actually end up 1-2 in a list or two this offseason.
Moncada came to the US from Cuba, and he’s hit the ground running since he got to the states. The Red Sox started him at high-A this year, but it quickly became clear that he was ready for a move up in league.
Moncada is built like an NFL safety, listed at 6’2 and 205 pounds, but probably more accurately about 215-220 with strong musculature.
His athleticism is obvious on the field. He has incredible bat control and his strength allows for the bat to launch off of his bat. He also has incredible speed. That combination is obvious in the combination of his 52 extra base hits and 45 stolen bases.
Moncada is a natural up the middle defender, but the Red Sox are pretty locked in on those positions for right now, so he will be working at 3B. Moncada absolutely has the raw tools to play third, but he’s still raw at the position, as many who watched him in Boston this year saw.
Moncada may start 2017 at AAA to keep working at 3B unless he blows away the team in spring training. He is absolutely a legitimate top prospect in the entire game.
Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Shaun Anderson, RHP
Birthdate: 10/29/94 (22 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: short-season A
Stats in 2016: 2 2/3 IP, 30.38 ERA, 4.50 WHIP, 0 BB%, 19.05 K%
One of the downfalls of pitching a staff as deep as the one at Florida has been is that guys who have legit major league stuff may not get the exposure they really need.
Anderson is a good example. He would be the Friday starter for a lot of programs, but he was a bullpen guy for the Gators this year.
Anderson’s stuff as a starter sits 92-94, touching 96 with a hard slider and solid change. Anderson’s primary attraction was his excellent control.
Anderson has a sturdy 6’4, 225-pound frame, but some discomfort in his arm caused him to only make one appearance for the Red Sox after he was drafted.
Anderson would have a very fast path to the majors if he stayed in the bullpen, but if he moves back to starting, he will likely need a few years building back up his arm strength in innings.
Agree? Disagree? Someone you have a question about from the system? Leave a comment down below!