The bountiful Boston Red Sox minor league system has produced much lately, providing the major league club with young, sustainable talent.
What’s coming up?
A mixed bag.
There is one player who has already proven himself, others on the threshold – and then a lot of guesswork.
With that we present our annual list of the top 30 Red Sox prospects.
Last year our No. 1 prospect missed out, as Henry Owens missed the strike zone often, with 20 walks in 22 major league innings.
As for our No. 2 prospect, we said Yoan Moncada “could go far next season.” And he zoomed from Class A to the majors.
But Andrew Benintendi (No. 7 last year) made the biggest burst. He also surged from Class A to the majors – starting in left field for the Red Sox.
Benintendi played only 34 games last season so we’re still calling him a prospect – and making him No. 1 on this year’s list.
Compiling a prospect list is a popular pastime, and you will find credible ones on mlb.com, soxprospects.com and at the originator – baseballamerica.com.
We all use different criteria. I favor players closer to the majors but will include promising players at the lower levels. I also have a few wild-card picks.
This year’s list includes 13 new additions, replacing players no longer in the Red Sox minor league system as well as two we dropped from the list – shortstop Deven Marrero, who batted .198 in Pawtucket and was 1 for 12 in the majors, and outfielder Bryce Brentz, who is out of minor league options.
So here are our rankings in order (with last year’s ranking in parenthesis), and age on opening day of 2017:
1. Andrew Benintendi (7), 22, outfield.
After batting .341 with a .976 OPS in advanced Class A Salem, Benintendi hit .295/.872 in Portland, then .295/.835 with Boston while playing solid defense. A polished hitter, Benintendi makes needed adjustments at the plate. He should be starting in left field for the Red Sox this April.
2. Yoan Moncada (2), 21, third base.
In 45 games with Portland, Moncada batted .277/.910 with 11 home runs. But there were flaws, including a .167 average against left-handed pitching, while he adjusted to playing third base. In eight major league games, he showed signs of his massive potential, but also was 4 for 19 with 12 strikeouts. He needs substantial time in Triple-A Pawtucket to get his game in sync for the long haul.
3. Michael Kopech (11), 20, starter
With a fastball in the high 90s and a plus slider, Kopech is the closest thing to an impact starter in the Red Sox system. Slowed by a broken hand last season, he started 11 games for Salem (82 strikeouts/29 walks in 52 innings, 2.25 ERA). He made six more starts in the Arizona Fall League (26 strikeouts/eight walks in 22 innings, 2.01 ERA). Kopech should begin 2017 in Portland. If he develops a consistent third pitch (curve or change-up), he could keep moving.
4. Mauricio Dubon (22), 22, shortstop
Despite the risk of overrating Dubon, he is a gifted ballplayer – a solid shortstop who can play other positions (a right-handed Brock Holt?). And he can hit (.339/.909 in 62 games in Portland). He is one reason why Deven Marrero is expendable.
5. Robby Scott (23), 26, pitcher
If Scott was able to prove himself with a bigger sample in the major leagues, he might have been put on the postseason roster. In seven outings (six innings), he held teams to six hits, two walks and no runs, while striking out five (following a 0.91 WHIP in Pawtucket). A lefty who gets out batters on both sides of the plate, he’s an intriguing option for Boston.
6. Rafael Devers (9), 20, third base
After slumping early in the season, Devers batted .326/.906 with 24 doubles and seven home runs in the second half. Even though he just turned 20 last month, he is destined for Portland next season. Considered a potential power bat, his production in Double-A will give some hint of that promise.
7. Sam Travis (6), 23, first base
After batting .300/.821 in Portland in 2015, Travis was impressive in major league spring training camp and off to a solid start in Pawtucket when he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on May 29. He will be back in Triple-A, waiting for his chance.
8. Jason Groome (NR), 18, starter
We normally hold off rating a draft pick out of high school so high because he is a ways from the majors. But Groome could be that special pitching prospect the Red Sox have been waiting for. Already polished with a mid-90s fastball and solid secondary stuff, Groome is likely headed to Greenville. Maybe Portland by 2018.
9. Marco Hernandez (18), 24, infield
He went from no-name to prospect in 2015, and then to the major leagues in 2016 (.294/.730 in 40 games), making the postseason roster as a utility player and left-handed bat off the bench. He will likely be on the Pawtucket-Boston shuttle often this year.
10. Henry Owens (1), 24, starter
Rated No. 1 for two straight years, we kept waiting for Owens to break through. He got five major league starts but his command problems drove up his pitch count. He averaged just over four innings a start, going 0-2 with a 6.95 ERA. It’s far too early to give up on the tall lefty, and he does have two years of minor league options left.
11. Brian Johnson (4), 26, starter
After a 2.53 ERA in Pawtucket in 2015, Johnson got one major league start that year. Anxiety issues sidelined him much of 2016 (5-6, 4.09 ERA in 15 Triple-A starts). A fresh start in 2017 could get Johnson back in the grove.
12. Noe Ramirez (14), 27, reliever
It seemed Ramirez was called up every other week as insurance and then sent back to Triple-A. He appeared in only 14 games (6.23 ERA/1.85 WHIP), but shined in Pawtucket (1.85/1.15). This is Ramirez’s last chance to get his sinkerball consistent. He is out of minor league options after 2017.
13. Kyle Martin (NR), 25, reliever
The Red Sox just promoted Martin to the 40-man roster after pitching in relief in 36 games in Pawtucket last year (3.38/1.19). He commanded a 93 mph fastball for 78 strikeouts in 662/3 innings.
14. Justin Haley (25), 25, starter
Haley enjoyed a needed rebound season, zipping through Portland (2.20 ERA) and reaching Pawtucket in June. He looked dominant at times (three straight scoreless starts totaling 21 innings). One hiccup (nine runs in two innings) shot his ERA up to 3.59. When he commands his low-90s fastball, hitters make poor contact.
15. Chandler Shepherd (NR), 24, reliever
Shepherd dominated in Portland (1.80/0.80) and moved on to Triple-A where his ERA was 3.71, but the WHIP still low (1.06). He mixes the fastball, slider and change-up with control (eight walks in 34 Triple-A innings).
16. Aneury Tavarez (NR), 24, outfielder
A darkhorse, Tavarez made adjustments to his swing and hand-positioning to break out in Portland (.335/.886), 80 points higher than his career average. He needs to improve his defense while proving 2016 was no fluke.
17. Luis Alexander Basabe (NR), 20, outfielder
Considered a five-tool player, Basabe got off to a slow start in Greenville, hitting .222/.690 in the first half. That improved to .292/.848 in the second half. He was rewarded with five games in Salem (.364/.937). He could see Portland next summer.
18. Bobby Dalbec (NR), 21, third base
Dalbec pitched well in the College World Series for Arizona, but the Red Sox liked his bat when they drafted him in the fourth round. They still like it after he put up silly numbers in 34 games with Lowell (.386/1.101, seven home runs). He could skip a step and begin next year in Salem.
19. Roniel Raudes (NR), 19, starter
When Anderson Espinoza was traded, Raudes became the Greenville ace (3.65 ERA, 104 strikeouts/23 walks in 1131/3 innings). Only 160 pounds, with a 90-mph fastball, he will go as far as his command and mix (curve and change-up) take him.
20. Bobby Poyner (NR), 24, reliever
A darkhorse, even though he is a lefty who can throw strikes. A 14th-round draft pick last year, Poyner overwhelmed in Greenville (0.35 ERA/0.42), then stumbled in Salem (4.99/1.39). He settled down in August (2.51/0.77) and could surprise next year.
21. Jake Cosart (NR), 23, reliever
Moved to the bullpen last year where he had a combined 1.78 ERA/1.12 WHIP, with 104 strikeouts/36 walks in 702/3 innings in Greenville and Salem. Needs to complement his high 90s fastball to succeed at the higher levels.
22. Yankory Pimentel (NR), 23, reliever
Skipped from Lowell in 2015 to Salem last year (3.12/1.37, 70 strikeouts/36 walks in 78 innings). Looked dominant at times and seemed to fade in his first full pro season. Could begin the year in Portland.
23. Mike Shawaryn (NR), 22, starter
Once considered a first- or second-round draft pick out of Maryland, but a mysterious (and temporary) drop in velocity had him slide to the fifth round last June. His fastball is back to 92-93 mph, and he features a slider and change-up. Four of his six outings in Lowell were scoreless (22 strikeouts/seven walks in 152/3 innings). Might skip to Salem.
24. Trey Ball (17), 22, starter
Ball has been stalled in Salem for two years (3.84/1.61 last season). Disappointing, but he is young (would have been a college junior in 2016). Doubts about his future are understandable.
25. Luis Ysla (30), 24, reliever
Recently added to 40-man roster based on potential, Ysla’s numbers in Portland were not impressive (4.07/1.46) with 60 strikeouts/27 walks in 551/3 innings. But the Red Sox hope the lefty with a high-90s fastball will develop.
26. Williams Jerez (15), 24, reliever
Speaking of left-handers with potential, Jerez was put on the 40-man roster but remained in Portland all season (4.71/1.54, 65 strikeouts/30 walks in 65 strikeouts). He has a low-90s fastball and developing slider, but nothing stands out.
27. Teddy Stankiewicz (21), 23, starter
Durable and fairly consistent, with occasional hiccups and some stellar starts (a one-hit shutout in August), Stankiewicz keeps moving through the system. He made 25 starts for the third straight year, last season in Portland (4.71/1.33). He will return to Portland, and could either stall or force a promotion to Triple-A.
28. Nick Longhi (29), 21, first base/outfield
Longhi is always one of the youngest players in each level he plays in, a trend that will continue in Portland. He batted .282/.742 in Salem, hitting only two home runs, but 40 with doubles.
29. Jake Romanski (NR), 26, catcher
For a guy who batted .308/.748 and threw out nearly 50 percent of base-stealers, Romanski gets little respect. It might be his lack of power (four home runs) or the reported need to improve his receiving, but Romanski is not high on prospect lists, if he appears at all. After a good year in Portland, he gets to prove himself again in Pawtucket.
30. Ryan Court (NR), 28, utility
This is my wildest of wild-card picks, with no objective basis. Court can play all infield positions and left field, while contributing offensively (.277/.752 in Portland last year). He will help any team he is on and could begin 2017 in Portland or Pawtucket.
From last year’s list, we consider three of them major leaguers – Travis Shaw (3), Matt Barnes (5) and Heath Hembree (13). Five prospects were traded – Pat Light (8), Anderson Espinoza (10), Jonathan Aro (16), Aaron Wilkerson (19) and Wendell Rijo (20). Two were waived – Garin Cecchini (24) and Sean Coyle (28). One was not re-signed – Henry Ramos (26). Two were dropped from the list – Deven Marrero (12) and Bryce Brentz (27).
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: