The Boston Red Sox have enough top prospects to keep fan publications and websites interminably churning out content singing their praises. Despite the blue chippers that dot the team’s farm system there is also an extraordinary amount of secondary talent. These are players who may not be as well known as some of their counterparts but could wind up matching or surpassing them when it is all said and done.
With the minor league season now in its second month, let’s take a look at a player from each active level of the minor leagues for the Red Sox who is producing at a level high enough to earn them entry into the conversation of the team’s most coveted prospects, despite the lack of fanfare.
First Baseman Josh Ockimey, Single-A Greenville: The 20-year-old left-handed batter had a slow start to his career. After being taken in the fifth round of the 2014 draft, he went on to hit just .188 in his inaugural season, and followed that up with 78 strikeouts in just 229 at-bats last year.
Playing in his first year of full-season ball in 2016, Ockimey has taken his game to a new level in the early going. Appearing in 41 games, he is hitting .288 with eight home runs and 23 RBIS. While he has whiffed 41 times, the 37 walks he has drawn are an encouraging sign pointing to increased patience at the plate. If he continues to improve this dramatically, the Red Sox may have a bonafide slugging prospect on their hands.
First Baseman Nick Longhi, High Single-A Salem: A 30th-round selection of the team in 2013, he only lasted that long in the draft because his commitment to LSU had raised questions about his signability. Still just 20, he is now in his third professional season and has shown himself to be quite the promising hitter. After batting .330 in 2014 and .281 last year, he is off to a strong start in 2016, posting a .296 average with 12 doubles and 33 RBIs in 42 games.
The right-handed hitter has a solid build (6’2” and 205 pounds) but has not seen his power develop yet. He is without a home run this season and has just eight in over 800 professional plate appearances. However, there’s no reason to think this won’t come as he matures, and his barrage of doubles this year is a promising step in that direction.
Starting Pitcher Justin Haley, Double-A Portland: There are some factors working against the right-handed pitcher. Chief among them is that he is already 25 and is working in his third season at this level. However, there is also plenty to like. The 2012 sixth rounder was solid in his first three seasons before bombing last year with Portland, to the tune of a 5-16 record with a 5.15 ERA in 27 starts.
Despite repeating the level this year, you can’t stay Haley’s start hasn’t been impressive. In nine starts, he is 3-3 with a 2.68 ERA and has struck out 44 batters in 43.2 innings while yielding a solitary home run. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff but there’s enough there where he could be a real major league contributor as he continues to learn how to pitch effectively with what he does have in his arsenal.
Relief Pitcher Kyle Martin, Triple-A Pawtucket: These days, Triple-A is where most teams stash their organizational depth but not a lot of true prospects. Of course, that’s not a hard and fast rule. The 6’7” 25-year-old right-handed Martin has steadily progressed through the team’s farm system since being a ninth-round selection in 2013.
Although his low-90s fastball is nothing special in this day and age of gas throwers, he has a changeup that SoxProspects.com describes as a “potential plus offering, true out pitch at the big league level.” He has used that throughout his professional career to average a strikeout an inning.
Although he had problems with the long ball earlier in his career, he permitted just three in 46 innings last year, and has yet to allow one in 23 innings in 2016. However, he has struck out 30 batters and issued just three walks (with a 3.52 ERA). If the Red Sox need another hand in their bullpen in the near future, Martin may very well get the call to see if his success will translate on a big league level.
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