Top 100 Baseball Blog

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Do The Boston Red Sox Have Anything Left In their Minor League System?

The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a historic season, having won a franchise-record 108 games and still battling in the 2018 MLB playoffs with high hopes. While their roster is stocked with star players, both offensively and with pitching, the hallmark of a successful franchise built for prolonged success is one that has a strong farm system. Not even the most optimistic observer could say Boston currently ranks among the top collection of minor league talent, but that also doesn’t mean that their cupboard is completely bare. Now that the minor league season is over, let’s look at some of the top jewels for the Sox.

Pitcher Travis Lakins: The 2015 sixth-round draft choice was once viewed as a good starter prospect. However, the right-hander has experienced injuries that led to his transition to the bullpen in 2018. It was a successful one, as he went a combined 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 36 games (6 starts) between Double and Triple-A. He also notched three saves and struck out 57 batters in 54.1 innings, while yielding just 38 hits. Now 24, his mid-90s fastball and assortment of breaking balls suggest a pitcher similar to that of current Boston righty Matt Barnes. While that may not be as sexy as some prospects, a solid reliever is a valuable piece nonetheless.

Shortstop C.J. Chatham: After missing all but seven games in 2017 due to injury, the 2016 second-rounder came back strong this season. In 114 combined games between Single-A and High-A he hit a combined .314 with three home runs and 52 RBIs. Although he is 6’4”, the 23-year-old is a strong defender with little power. He has hit everywhere he has played, as evidenced by his .298 career professional batting average. However, his nine home runs in 156 games offers at his decided lack of pop. He appears to be close to ready for a job in the majors. While he likely won’t be a star, and Boston has him blocked with Xander Bogaerts, he could be a trade chip down the line for a team looking for a solid option.

Third Baseman Bobby Dalbec: The 23-year-old has his value primarily tied up in his impressive power potential. A right-handed hitter, he bashed 32 home runs and 109 RBIs in 129 games between High-A and Double-A this season. However, he hit a pedestrian .257 and struck out an alarming 176 times in 453 at-bats. It’s that swing and miss that is the biggest hurdle for Dalbec. There is no doubt about his power, but that won’t matter if he can’t put bat to ball at the big league level.

Reliever Durbin Feltman: The former Texas Christian University closer was drafted in the third round this year by Boston. Possessing a power fastball and wipeout slider, the 21-year-old right-hander was seen as being so polished that he could be the first player from the 2018 draft to break into the majors. The Red Sox proceeded cautiously with him this summer, as he pitched in just 22 games across three levels (culminating with High-A), but he showed why the team is so invested in him, by posting a combined 1.93 ERA with 36 strikeouts and just five walks in 23.1 innings. It would be quite the load to place on the shoulders of someone so young, but with current Boston closer Craig Kimbrel about to become a free agent, the ninth inning could be an open position with the team for the upcoming year.

Outfielder Jarren Duran: An intriguing player, the 2018 seventh-rounder has game-changing speed and a potentially very good glove, but not much in the way of power. The 22-year-old left-handed batter (he throws from the right) debuted in strong fashion, hitting .357 with 14 doubles, 11 triples,  three home runs and 35 RBIs in 67 games between Short-Season and Single-A. He also stole 24 bases, but was caught 10 times, reflecting a need to refine his decision making on the base paths. He also struck out 48 times against 16 walks. Since his game is all about his legs, becoming more selective at the plate—no small task—will be a must if he is to progress as a prospect. Duran is the true definition of a lottery ticket, who could become very valuable if he is able to come anywhere near his ceiling as a player.

Third Baseman Michael Chavis: After hitting 31 home runs in 2017, expectations were soaring for the 2014 first-round draft choice. Unfortunately, an 80-game suspension for testing positive for PEDs derailed what may well have been his major league coming out party this year. Upon his return, the 23-year-old performed in a manner one would expect of the team’s top prospect, as he hit a combined .298 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs in 46 games across three levels, culminating in Triple-A. However, with Rafael Devers unlikely to relinquish the hot corner in Boston any time soon, and with the suspension tarnishing his reputation, can Chavis still become a contributor for the team? If not, he may well be yet another trade chip down the line if a need arises.

Starting Pitcher Bryan Mata: Although a stuff wind could likely knock the impossibly slender 19-year-old right hander over, he pitches with surprising strength. Spending the year at High-A, he was 6-3 in 17 starts with a 3.50 ERA. He struck out 61 batters in 72 innings, but did walk an alarming 58. This is all perfectly fine at this stage, as the way he held his own at such a tender age portends of even better things to come. He pitches with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a changeup that have scouts thinking it could be an above average pitch as well. Mata could be the next Red Sox starting pitching prospect of consequence, which will be revealed in the coming season, as he continues to make his climb through the minor league system.

*Note: Prospects like Tristan Casas (2 games in 2018 after being drafted in the first round) and Jay Groome (missed entire 2018 season due to injury) were not included because of the lack of a body of work this season.

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