The top prospects coming out of the Dominican Republic turn pro when they’re 16 and receive signing bonuses in the six- or seven-figure range.

Aneury Tavarez, from Barrio Obrero in the Dominican Republic, did not sign with the Red Sox until he was 18, in October 2010. He received a nice bonus ($80,000), but nothing close to the big-name prospects.

His first five seasons in the minors were unremarkable – a combined .254 average with 432 strikeouts and just 85 walks. Much of Tavarez’s fifth season, last year, was spent in Portland, where he hit .226 with a .616 OPS.

None of this explains what Tavarez is doing in 2016. He leads the Eastern League in batting (.330). His OPS is up to .873. He is no longer striking out 27 percent of the time, but rather just 16 percent.

You won’t find him on any top prospect list but Tavarez, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound outfielder, is putting up some of the best numbers in the Red Sox minor league system.

“I just go out and try to enjoy the game,” Tavarez said through interpreter and teammate Mauricio Dubon. “I made just a little adjustment with my hands. I raised them a little bit, and that helps me get the bat quicker to the ball.


“Thank God everything is working out so far.”

As late as May 5 this year it was not working out. Tavarez was hitting .219 with a .534 OPS and was fighting for playing time.

He got hot in June, with a .413 average. He hit .341 in July, and he’s 12 for 25 in August.

“Just a consistent approach and discipline,” Portland batting coach Jon Nunnally said of Tavarez’s improvement. “He makes good, consistent contact and makes the most of his speed. He can blast one into the gap, and runs into a homer here and there.”

Tavarez homered twice Sunday, giving him a total of five. He also beat out an infield single. But even with Andrew Benintendi promoted to Boston and Yoan Moncada out of the lineup with a sprained ankle, Tavarez is still flying under the radar.

“He is quietly having an unbelievable year,” Manager Carlos Febles said. “Something he is doing more often is putting the ball in play. He doesn’t swing and miss as he did early on.”


Tavarez is eligible for the Rule 5 draft after this season. He will become a minor league free agent after 2017.

If Tavarez has a 2017 season like 2016, the Red Sox will not let him get away.

IN PAWTUCKET, left-hander Brian Johnson continues his comeback. Johnson struggled early this year and then took time off to deal with anxiety issues. He began rehab games last month in the rookie leagues. Now back in Triple-A, he has shined in his last two starts (12 innings, seven hits, one earned run, three walks, 11 strikeouts). It will be interesting to see if he gets a shot with Boston this year.

Do you know which Pawtucket starter leads the team in ERA (3.18) and WHIP (1.15)? Answer: Justin Haley, the right-hander who slumped last year in Portland before rebounding this season. Haley posted a 2.20 ERA in 12 starts for the Sea Dogs, then was promoted to Triple-A on June 18 and is 6-3 in 10 games for Pawtucket. Now 25, he’s Rule 5 eligible after this season.

Left-handed reliever Robby Scott is also Rule 5 eligible. He should be inviting for some team if Boston does not put him on the 40-man roster. Scott, 27, has a 2.57 ERA and 0.93 WHIP, with 63 strikeouts and 12 walks in 66 innings. Lefties are hitting .165 against him, right-handers are hitting .227.

IN PORTLAND, Dubon continues to excel with a .305 average and a career-high .803 OPS. Dubon, 6-foot and up to 170 pounds, is showing more power to the gaps – and the left-field wall – with 13 doubles, four triples and a homer in 38 games.


Right-hander Ben Taylor, who was moved to the bullpen early this season in Class A Salem, is looking fine as a Double-A reliever: 0.85 WHIP with 33 strikeouts and just seven walks in 24 innings.

IN SALEM, third baseman Rafael Devers may earn a late-season promotion to Portland if he keeps up his pace. Devers, 19, had a slow start this year, but he’s batting .341 with a .920 OPS since May. In his last two games, he’s 6 for 11 with two doubles and a triple.

Outfielder Danny Mars, 22, is coming on in the second half. Since June, he’s batting .367 with a .933 OPS.

Right-hander Michael Kopech, Boston’s top pitching prospect, has made seven starts for Salem: 1.08 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 53 strikeouts and 24 walks in 372/3 innings. Pencil him into the Sea Dogs’ rotation next April.

IN GREENVILLE, infielder Michael Chavis, a first-round pick in 2014, has not been the same since his torrid 15 games in April (.356, four doubles and three homers). Chavis, 20, strained a ligament in his thumb, spent time on the DL and has struggled since returning in June. In his 47 games since coming back, Chavis is batting .229 with five doubles, one triple and four homer.

IN LOWELL, third baseman Bobby Dalbec, a fourth-round pick out of Arizona two months ago, is batting .317 with a .952 OPS in 11 games.

NOTES: Former Red Sox pitching prospect and Sea Dogs reliever Madison Younginer signed a minor league deal with Atlanta after last year. He was called up Sunday and made his ML debut against St. Louis, giving up three hits and two runs in two-thirds of an inning. … Chris Smith, 35, who pitched parts of four seasons with the Sea Dogs (2004-07), made it back to the big leagues Sunday for the first time since 2010. He relieved for one inning with Oakland (one hit, one strikeout). He made 12 appearances with Boston in 2008, then pitched the next two seasons for Milwaukee. Then he was in three organizations as well as the independent leagues.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.