When Baseball America released its top 100 list on Monday, the Red Sox only had two farmhands make the list. In recent years, the farm system has produced more than just two players on the list, and usually several much higher on the list. Jason Groome was the highest ranked Red Sox prospect at number 83. This was the lowest a Red Sox top prospect has shown up on this list since Dernell Stenson in 2001. This isn’t to say all hope is lost down on the farm. The other day I wrote about the two players who made the list, and the Red Sox have plenty of other intriguing names for the future. They may not be Yoan Moncada or Michael Kopech, but they have a few guys who could threaten to crack the top 100 list in 2019.
The Most Likely
Mata is an 18 year old who was signed out of Venezuela in 2016. He is very refined for such a young kid, being rated as having the best control in the Red Sox farm system by Baseball America. Oftentimes control is something that gets better with age, so for someone so young to be graded so highly is rare.
Mata is more than just a control pitcher, throwing in the low to mid-90’s as a teenager. One would assume he will add some velocity as he reaches his 20’s and fills out more. Currently he is very skinny and will need to bulk up to withstand a full season, but there is plenty of time to do that. Once he does fill out more it would not be surprising to see him sit in the mid-90’s with his fastball. Mata also throws a curveball and a changeup. These offerings show potential but both have some work to do. He more than held his own last year at Greenville, a level not usually reached by someone his age. At just 18, Mata is far advanced for his age and could make the top 100 next year with continued improvement.
Houck was the Red Sox 1st round pick this past season, so it would be nice to see a strong year from him to elevate him into Baseball America’s top 100. Coming out of Missouri, Houck has a great pitcher’s frame, standing at 6’5″ 220. His fastball velocity has a wide range, but can reach as high as 98 MPH. The pitch has good sink to it and no doubt can play at the Major League level. How far he gets will rely on his secondary pitches and his refinement. He has the body to be a workhorse, but if he fizzles out as a starter he has the stuff to be a late innings reliever.
Houck has the best slider in the Red Sox system according to Baseball America; a third pitch will be key in his development. Throwing from a 3/4 arm slot, Houck reminds me some of Justin Masterson. Masterson was a high pick by the Red Sox who had a heavy sink on his pitches and a good slider. It was up in the air whether he would be a starter or a reliever in the majors; he ultimately did some of both. Masterson never really developed another reliable pitch to maintain his successes, so hopefully Houck can add a reliable third pitch.
Ockimey is a big first baseman with excellent raw power. Ockimey can put on displays of power in batting practice, but the home runs haven’t come in abundance yet in games. Often, that comes later with development. A lot of guys hit for more power once they reach the majors than they ever did in the minors. Take a look at Aaron Judge, who never hit more than 20 home runs in any season despite having a huge projection of power. At present, it’s more important that Ockimey keeps his batting eye and shows the ability to hit well enough to keep advancing.
Ockimey hit 18 home runs two years ago, but after a fast start his bat went ice cold and he finished the season with a .226 batting average. Despite such a low average, he got on base at a very respectable .364 clip thanks to his 88 walks. This is what I believe can help him become a regular at the big league level if he shows he can hit enough. With power and a great batting eye he could be a valuable player even if he batted .240. Last season he was able to bat .274 with a .385 on base percentage between two levels. Starting in AA Portland this year, if Ockimey can keep his average and walks in line with that he could crack the top 100 next season. There is still a wide range of possible scenarios for him, but he seems to have a good head on his shoulders.
If Things Fall Right
Shawaryn was a potential first round pick after his sophomore season at Maryland. That season he went 13-2 with a 1.71 ERA. After battling some injuries his junior season, Shawaryn fell to the 5th round. He had still performed well though, posting a 3.18 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. Shawaryn has continued to produce in the Minor Leagues, posting an ERA below 4.00 at all three levels. Last year was his first full season and he struck out 169 batters over 135 innings between two levels. If he can show similar results this year he should have a chance to make the list in 2019.
Dalbec took a step back this year after looking like one of the Red Sox top hitting prospects the year before. Dalbec both pitched and hit well in college, and could always give pitching a shot if hitting fails him. Before that though, he will see if he can rebound. Dalbec has big power, so if he can hit the ball more consistently he could develop into a Major Leaguer down the road. He batted .386 with 7 home runs in Lowell two years ago after being drafted in the 4th round. Last year he fell off to .246, although he did post a .345 on base percentage.
Right now, there is too much swing and miss to his game, if he can cut back on the strike outs his power might be able to play up more. If that happens, maybe Dalbec has a Michael Chavis type breakout this season. If that happened, along with his strong arm from third base Dalbec would certainly join the top 100 next year. The range of outcomes on him is large.
Dark Horse Candidates
Brannen was the Red Sox second round draft pick last season out of high school. He would likely need to have a strong showing this season to gain consideration from Baseball America since he is so young and not yet in full season ball. Brannen doesn’t have much power but projects to hit for good averages and is a speedy outfielder.
Another draft pick of the Red Sox last season, Scherff was a 5th round pick out of high school. He could have been a higher pick, but fell due to concerns over whether he would sign or go to college. Scherff already throws in the mid-90’s, occasionally reaching the upper 90’s. He will have to dominate low-A hitters this season to have a shot at the Baseball America top 100 next year.
Hernandez’ fastball was rated as the best in the system by Baseball America. Hernandez was 20 years old last season pitching in full season Greenville. He struck out over a batter per inning while showing off good stuff. If he can gain more consistency with his secondary offerings he could make a huge leap this coming season.
Baldwin is a lesser known Red Sox prospect who comes in all the way down at number 32 on sox prospects. Signed out of the Dominican back in 2014, Baldwin is still only 21 years old. Last season at Greenville he batted .274 with an impressive .489 slugging percentage. He shows good pop, hitting 14 home runs and 35 doubles in 368 at-bats last year. Oh, did I mention he was a catcher? Converted back to the position for last year, Baldwin threw out one-third of potential base stealers while showing the ability to play backstop. He might be a longshot to make the top 100 next year, but he is an intriguing dark horse to watch behind the plate moving forward.
Featured picture from Over the Monster.