Five Red Sox Stories from 2015: Minor Leagues

by Mark Gallant | Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2015
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(Ft. Myers, FL, 03/13/15) Boston Red Sox's Yoan Moncada participates during a minor league baseball workout at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, Florida on Friday, March 13, 2015. Staff photo by Christopher Evans

As we’ve seen over these past two months, the Red Sox have a very strong group of young players that can contribute at a major league level. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are 9th and 11th, respectively, in fWAR and both turn just 23 this month. Jackie Bradley‘s bat finally came to life, Blake Swihart has shown great production for a young catcher, and Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens have flashed some serious talent on the hill.

While the major league club didn’t produce the wanted results in 2015, Boston’s farm system has been nothing but good news. Well, not every prospect is excelling, but Dave Dombrowski certainly has heaps of talent to work with.

Let’s take a look at what went down in the minors in 2015.

1. All Aboard the Espinoza Express

In 2014, Anderson Espinoza was just a name. The Red Sox signed both him and fellow right-hander Christopher Acosta to big deals on the international free agent market last summer. As 16-year-olds, neither were expected to make headlines anytime soon.

Fast forward a year, and Espinoza has already advanced four levels in the system. He dominated the Dominican Summer League, was even better in the Gulf Coast League, skipped the New York-Penn League altogether, and winded up finishing his season in the South Atlantic League with Greenville.

Baseball America pegged him as the top prospect in the Gulf Coast League. The Red Sox haven’t had an elite pitching prospect since Clay Buchholz, but Espinoza surely looks like he is the next one.

2. Seventh Overall Picks Can Come In Handy

Just a few years back, the Red Sox drafted a southpaw out of an Indiana high school with the seventh overall pick. Trey Ball was a risky pick at the time, and while he has struggled in the minors statistically, he still has time to mature.

This year, with another number seven pick, the Red Sox went with a proven player and drafted the college player of the year, Andrew Benintendi. Though small in stature, Benintendi hit a combined 11 home runs in 54 games between Lowell and Greenville. His advanced plate approach, plus speed, and plus defense should allow him to advance through the minors quickly. And, just like Espinoza, Benintendi was listed as the top prospect in his league by Baseball America.

3. Moncada’s Worth the Money

Yoan Moncada was the second big splurge the Red Sox made on a Cuban player in just a few months, following the Rusney Castillo signing last summer. Moncada, 20, was a bit rusty at the beginning of the season after not playing organized baseball in 2014. He slashed .200/.287/.289 in 25 games before the all-star break with just one home run and four stolen bases. You can’t always trust the stats though, especially after just 25 games.

In the second half, Moncada hit .310/.415/.500 with with seven home runs and a ridiculous 45 stolen bases in 48 attempts. His 49 steals in 52 attempts earned him the base runner of the year award in the Red Sox farm system. The switch hitting second baseman is well built and can barrel up the ball from both sides of the plate, but is still a little shaky defensively. There has already been plenty of talk about moving him to another position, as his 6-foot-2 205 pound frame will eventually grow out of second base, but the Red Sox haven’t begun any such transition. And yes, Moncada was also named the top prospect in his league by Baseball America.

4. Busted

One of the only pieces of bad news down on the farm was 2014 first rounder Michael Kopech being suspended 50 games for failing a drug test. He was using a stimulant called Olixofrone, not steroids, but it still creates a bit of concern.

Kopech had posted a 2.63 ERA through 15 starts with Greenville with 70 strikeouts in 65 innings before the suspension ended his season early. The 19-year-old has a fastball in the mid to upper 90s and has one of the best ceilings of all pitchers in the system, but he needs to focus on commanding his pitches when he returns in 2016.

5. Developmental Gap

There’s no doubt that the Red Sox have a boatload of talent in the minors. I haven’t even mentioned the likes of Rafael Devers, Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, or Sam Travis. However, the group of young players that has already started making an impact in the majors is much farther ahead than the next crop of prospects. Margot and Travis should be ready for Triple-A next season, but many of the other top prospects are still teenagers that won’t be ready for a few more years. There can be a player who flies through the system like Mookie Betts did last year, but that doesn’t happen too often.

But hey, this might be a good thing. If all their top prospects were knocking at the door next season, they wouldn’t have roster spots for them in the majors, anyway. The Red Sox have great organizational depth with excellent young prospects at essentially every position. There’s a reason they’ve been named the best farm system in the majors.

The Red Sox should have a very bright future and these homegrown players will be the reason why. As we saw this season, big free agent signings don’t always work out. Successful clubs usually are developed from within. Even the money-strapped Yankees dynasty of the late-90s and early 2000s had plenty of stars that they developed themselves. Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams…some guy named Jeter. You get the idea.

Though there were some ugly seasons with a World Series title tossed in between for good measure, the Red Sox should be on the verge of playing October baseball for a number of years to come.

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Mark Gallant
About the Author

Mark has contributed to isportsweb, the Yawkey Way Report, Fansided's Chowder and Champions, and The Hockey Writers. He is also the host of the weekly radio show Top Shelf Sports on Bryant University's WJMF radio. Follow him on Twitter @TopShelfSports5

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