Top 20 Prospects: Boston Red Sox

Gail Oskin/Getty Images North America

Trey Ball talks to the media at Fenway Park before a game in June of 2013 (Gail Oskin/Getty Images North America)

#20-#11: The Third Tier

Ranking prospects past the top ten in any system is largely a guessing game – most of these guys are low-level players who are still a while out from the major leagues. Usually, they don’t grade out as potential future stars. However, from the guys in this portion of the list, most teams should expect to be able to develop some average major league players and potentially even one or two impact assets.

#20: Luis Ysla, RP
DOB: 4/27/1992
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 185 LB
Bats/Throws: Left/Left
Acquired: From San Francisco for Alejandro De Aza in August 2015

Acquired from the Giants on August 31 of last season, Ysla is an interesting case to consider going into 2016. As a 23-year-old at High-A in 2015, Ysla struggled to the tune of a 5.85 ERA and 1.80 WHIP. Normally, guys at that age and level of the minors with stats like that don’t get a second look. However, the Red Sox plan to make Ysla exclusively a bullpen arm in 2016, after he bounced between the rotation and the bullpen while a member of the Giants’ organization. In 2015, Ysla was awful as a starter, racking up an 8.81 ERA in nine starts for the High-A San Jose Giants of the California League. However, Ysla was significantly better as a reliever, posting a 4.08 ERA in 53.0 relief innings.

Ysla’s stuff is nothing if not exciting, as the Venezuelan product features a fastball in the low-to-mid-90s that can reach up to 97 mph. In the bullpen, Ysla’s velocity should play up a bit, and he should be able to work mostly in the higher end of that range going forward. Ysla also boasts a changeup and slider, both of which currently grade out as average, but show potential to be plus-pitches for the southpaw in the future. Ysla is little more than a potential average middle relief arm, barring any huge spike in performance in his first full season out of the bullpen. While he has yet to surpass High-A in his career, Ysla’s age does lend itself to fast progression through the minors, and it’s realistic to expect him to see significant time in Double-A Portland and even Triple-A Pawtucket this season.

#19: Ty Buttrey, SP
6’6″, 230 LB
Drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox

Drafted out of Providence (NC) High School as a 19-year-old in 2012, Buttrey got off to a hot start in his professional career. He posted a 2.29 ERA in his first 82.2 innings between the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League Red Sox and Low-A Lowell Spinners from 2012 to mid-2014. Buttrey struggled at Single-A Greenville in 2014, racking up a 6.85 ERA. He improved upon that mark in 2015 with a 2.45 ERA in 22.0 innings with the Drive before matriculating to High-A Salem. With Salem, Buttrey posted a 4.2o ERA in 21 starts and 115.2 innings, striking out 81 batters and walking 45.

Buttrey’s size make him a highly projectable pitcher, with the potential to develop into a legitimate power pitcher. Currently, his fastball sits in the low-90s, touching 94 mph occasionally. On the downside, Buttrey’s fastball elicits more contact than is desirable. Many scouts believe he would be suited to work the pitch on the downhill plane more consistently. His secondary offerings are developing, but show good potential. After switching from a knuckle-curve to a traditional curveball during 2015, Buttrey’s breaking ball could be a good asset in the future.

His changeup flashes plus potential, registering in the low-80s on the radar gun with good sink and a consistent arm action. Buttrey’s composure and maturity may be his biggest question mark. He often shows visible frustration on the mound, and missed time in 2014 due to punching a sprinkler after he failed to make a defensive play. Buttrey should get a chance to work out of the Double-A rotation in 2016. Hopefully he will continue to progress and succeed at new levels with the Sea Dogs.

#18: Teddy Stankiewicz, SP
Height/Weight: 6’4″, 215 LB
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox

After declining to sign with the Mets after being taken in the 2012 draft, Stankiewicz played a season of junior college baseball with Seminole State College in Oklahoma before being chosen by the Red Sox in the 2013 draft. Stankiewicz made an excellent impression with Lowell in his first pro campaign. Starting nine games and pitching 19.2 innings, the Keller, Texas product pitched to a 2.29 ERA, striking out 15 and walking two.

Upon moving to full-season ball in 2014, Stankiewicz pitched well again with Greenville in the South Atlantic League. Racking up 140.1 innings in 25 starts, Stankiewicz’s ERA was a modest 3.72, and his K:BB ratio was impressive at 102:29. In 2015 with the High-A Salem Red Sox, Stankiewicz was again solid, racking up a 4.01 ERA and a 77:32 K:BB ratio in 141.1 innings and 25 starts.

While not as big as Buttrey, Stankiewicz has a good frame with the potential to add weight without sacrificing athleticism. Stankiewicz’s fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s, reaching as high as 96 mph. Stankiewicz features a trio of offspeed pitches, the best of which is his slider. Working in the high-7os to low-80s with tight 10-to-4 movement. Buttrey  shows good feel for the pitch and can throw it in any count.

His changeup is an average offering at present, working in the low-80s but lacking consistent movement — sometimes it runs, sometimes it sinks. His curveball is the least effective of his offspeed pitches, registering in the mid-70s but lacking consistency. Regardless, a four-pitch mix is a great asset for a 22-year-old hurler to have. Stankiewicz will get the chance to see how his stuff fares against Eastern League competitors with Double-A Portland to begin 2016.

#17 – Pat Light, RP
Height/Weight: 6’6″, 200 LB
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox

Playing three years of NCAA Division I baseball with Monmouth after turning down an offer from Minnesota Twins in 2009, New Jersey native Pat Light joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after being drafted 37th overall. Originally a starter, Light pitched well in his professional debut with Lowell, posting a 2.40 ERA in 30.1 innings, walking five and striking out 30. However, 2013 and 2014 were a bit less successful for Light, posting a 7.34 and 4.83 ERA pitching in the South Atlantic and Carolina Leagues, respectively.

However, the Red Sox made the decision to move Light up to Double-A in 2015, this time working as a reliever. The move paid immediate dividends, as Light’s ERA was 2.43 in 29.2 innings in the Sea Dogs ‘pen. He struck out 32 and walked 11. Light moved up to Triple-A mid-season but struggled in Pawtucket, posting a 5.18 ERA and 1.727 WHIP in 33.0 innings. However, Light continued to keep the ball in the park (3 home runs allowed with Portland versus 2 with Pawtucket) and strike out batters, posting a 9.5 K/9.

Light’s fastball is his best offering, a heavy four-seamer with late life working in the mid-to-high-90s and even reportedly touching triple-digits. Light’s command and control of the fastball is inconsistent, but if improved it could be a true plus-plus weapon for him in the future. Right behind Light’s fastball is his splitter, which he threw in college but hadn’t featured as a pro until 2015 when he swapped it for his changeup. His splitter runs in the mid- to high-80s, featuring deceptive arm speed and good, late sink.

Light did also offer a slider in 2015, which he shelved the pitch in order to focus on his “bread-and-butter” fastball/splitter combination. Light’s slider was average, also working mid-to-high-80s, with average depth and break. Should Light feel confident enough to reintroduce the pitch, he could boast an above-average three-pitch mix.  For now, Light offers two above-average pitches, and with improved command in 2016 could be one of the best relievers in Triple-A with real potential to break into the major leagues.

#16 – Williams Jerez, RP
Height/Weight: 6’4″, 190 LB
Bats/Throws: Left/Left
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jerez was a highly regarded outfield prospect out of Grand Street Campus High School when he graduated in 2011. Jerez struggled as a hitter in his first three professional seasons, accumulating a .221/.254/.275 slash line in 353 professional plate appearances. However, due to the fact that he was a) a second-round pick, b) six-foot-four, and c) left handed, Jerez was given a second shot at a professional baseball career when the Red Sox converted him to pitching before the 2014 season.

Working strictly out of the bullpen, Jerez’s pitching career started on a great note, pitching to the tune of a 2.88 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 11 walks in 34.1 innings between Rookie-League and Low-A. In 2015, Jerez began with Single-A Greenville, throwing 39.1 innings in 14 games with the Drive, again with an impressive a 43:10 K:BB ratio. After a successful five-game stint with High-A Salem, Jerez was promoted once again to Double-A Portland. In 37.0 innings over 22 appearances, Jerez recorded a 3.65 ERA and a 1.378 WHIP with 31 strikeouts.

Jerez’s fastball is his best offering, working in the low-90s and occasionally reaching the mid-90s. With good late movement, the pitch has shown the potential to miss bats, but Jerez’s command stands to improve a bit. Jerez’s slider is his primary offspeed pitch, working in the low-80s with tight two-plane break. He’s shown an above-average feel for the pitch, especially for a 23-year-old in his second season as a professional pitcher.

Jerez’s changeup is an average pitch at best, but stands to work as a tertiary offering to keep hitters off balance. Jerez’s advanced feel for pitching and success on the mound thus far, combined with potential plus offerings from the left side, makes the future look bright for the young Dominican hurler. Jerez looks to build upon a solid introduction to the Double-A ranks in 2016, as he’ll likely begin the season in a prominent role out of the Sea Dogs’ bullpen.

#15 – Trey Ball, SP
Height/Weight: 6’6″, 190 LB
Bats/Throws: Left/Left
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox

Coming out of New Castle Chrystler High School in New Castle, Indiana, Ball was a highly-regarded high school pitcher when he was taken 7th overall by Boston in 2013. After a shaky start to his professional career in 2013 in which he pitched 7.0 innings in five starts, the lanky southpaw struggled again in 2014. Ball posted a 4.68 ERA in 100.0 innings and 22 starts with Greenville, striking out 68 and walking 39 while allowing 111 hits. Boston saw enough to promote him again in 2015, as he spent the whole season with Salem in High-A, where he posted similar numbers as in 2014. In 129.1 innings and 25 starts, Ball’s ERA was a mediocre 4.73, and his K:BB ratio was a miserable 77:60.

Ball’s fastball shows promise, working in the high-80s and low-90s with a top end of 95 mph, but he lacks good command of the pitch. The pitch struggles to miss bats and lacks life at times, but as Ball matures and puts on weight, the pitch should develop into an average or better offering. Ball’s changeup is good, as he throws it in the low-80s with the same arm action as his fastball and shows late life down in the zone.

Ball’s breaking pitches are more of a project, as his curveball and slider are inconsistent at best. Ball’s past results and his current makeup are not as good as some of the other names on this list, but he has good potential and his top 10 draft pedigree will earn him plenty of chances to make it as a professional. In all likelihood, Ball will join Stankiewicz and Buttrey in the Portland rotation for 2016, giving the Maine-based members of Red Sox Nation plenty of reason to visit Hadlock Field this summer.

#14 – Mauricio Dubon, 2B/SS
Height/Weight: 6’0″, 160 LB
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: Drafted in the 26th round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox

Born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Mauricio Dubon came to the United States at age 15 with hopes of becoming the first Honduran-born player to make the major leagues. After being taken in the 2013 draft out of Capital Christian High School in Sacramento, CA, Dubon’s career got off to a mediocre start, batting .245/.298/.302 in 58 plate appearances in Rookie ball. In 2014, Dubon improved, slashing .320/.337/.395 with a 114 wRC+ with Lowell of the short-season New York-Penn League. In 2015, Dubon improved again, adapting well to full-season baseball with Greenville and Salem. In 120 games and 531 plate appearances, Dubon batted .288/.349/.376 with a 107 wRC+, stealing 30 bases in 37 tries and posting an impressive 72:41 K:BB ratio.

Dubon’s contact skills are solid, but his approach at the plate leaves a bit to be desired. Despite his good strikeout/walk numbers, Dubon’s inability to wait back on offspeed pitches and lay off bad ones is a concern. Should Dubon’s approach improve, he could develop into an average contact hitter. In the field, Dubon impresses more than at the plate, flashing a powerful arm from the middle infield as well as solid range and smooth mechanics.

As one of many top infield prospects in the Red Sox system, Dubon isn’t the most exciting, but he has some great tools and lots of room to improve at just 21 years old. Dubon should begin the season with Salem, where he ended last season, but don’t be surprised if you see the young Honduran infielder at an Eastern League park near you early in 2016.

#13 – Nick Longhi, 1B/OF
Height/Weight: 6’2″, 215 LB
Bats/Throws: Right/Left
Acquired: Drafted in the 3oth round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox

At the age of 17, Longhi began his professional career on the wrong foot, struggling in 50 plate appearances in the Gulf Coast League, batting just .178/.245/.356 for a 78 wRC+. Longhi had much more success in 2014, impressing with Lowell, batting .330/.388/.440 in 121 plate appearances, decreasing his strikeout rate by 25 percent and increasing his walk rate by 50 percent while boosting his BABIP by a whopping 190 points from .219 to .409 for a wRC+ of 144.

Longhi built on that success in his first taste of full-season baseball with Greenville in 2015, slashing .281/.338/.403 for a wRC+ of 112 in 488 plate appearances. His walk rate dropped a few points to 7.0 percent, but his strikeout rate remained at a modest 18.0 percent, and his BABIP came back down to earth at a more realistic .334.

Longhi’s feel for hitting is great, but his mechanics sometimes hold him back. He can get a little long to the ball at times and struggles with hard fastballs, which will pose a challenge as he advances through the minors. However, Longhi has a knack for creating hard contact, which will serve him well going forward. The power numbers haven’t shown up yet in games, but he possesses good raw power that could translate to games as he matures.

Longhi looks comfortable in both corner outfield spots and first base, wielding a strong arm and good instincts. At first base, his soft hands and quality footwork make him an above average defender at the position. While he doesn’t possess great speed, Longhi is a smart baserunner. Likely beginning the season with High-A Salem, Longhi’s ability to progress through the minors will lie in his ability to hit for more power and maintain a respectable K:BB ratio.

#12 – Marco Hernandez, SS
DOB: 9/6/1992
Height/Weight: 6’0″, 170 LB
Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Acquired: From Chicago (NL) as the PTBNL for Felix Doubront in December 2014

After signing his first contract with the Cubs in July of 2009, Hernandez made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2010. There, he batted a respectable .286/.348/.388  with 21 doubles in 283 plate appearances. In Rookie ball in 2011, Hernandez was successful again, batting .333/.375/.486 and posting a K:BB rate below 2.00 with a wRC+ of 121. In 2012, Hernandez batted well again, hitting .286/.310/.416 for a wRC+ of 104 with Low-A Boise.

After Boise Hernandez struggled in a short stint with Single-A Peoria and then posted a subpar season in 2013 at the same level. However, he did well enough to be promoted to High-A in the Cubs’ system in 2014, batting .270/.315/.351 in 486 plate appearances for an uninspiring 89 wRC+. After moving to the Red Sox in the winter of 2014-2015, Hernandez started 2015 in Double-A, hitting to the tune of a .326/.349/.482 slash line with a 139 wRC+ on 294 trips to the plate. Called up to Triple-A mid-season, Hernandez hit .271/.300/.409 in the International League, good for a 100 wRC+.

At the plate, Hernandez displays quick hands and good bat-to-ball abilities, hitting to all fields consistently. Hernandez’s downfall is his aggressiveness, as he can often be beaten by quality breaking balls and doesn’t take many strikes. Hernandez’s power isn’t great, but he has the potential to hit 20-plus doubles and double-digit home runs in the majors. In the field, Hernandez has a solid arm, but his mechanics aren’t as refined as some of his contemporaries.

While he has the potential to fill in a backup shortstop role, he will likely fit best as an everyday player at second base. Hernandez has decent speed, but he only stole five bases with the Red Sox affiliates in 2015. Hernandez will start the season with Triple-A Pawtucket, and may push to see some time in the big leagues in September.

#11 – Wendell Rijo, 2B
DOB: 9/4/1995
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 170 LB
Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent in July 2012

After signing as a free agent out of La Romana, Domincan Republic, Rijo made his professional debut with the GCL Red Sox in 2013. After batting .271/.368/.359 in 203 plate appearances, he was promoted to Low-A Lowell for three games at the end of the season. Rijo spent all of 2014 at Single-A Greenville, batting a respectable .254/.348/.416 in 473 at-bats, striking out 103 times but walking 56 and posting a 115 wRC+. In 2015, Rijo made the jump to High-A Salem, hitting .260/.324/.381 with a 94:34 K:BB ratio and a 107 wRC+. Rijo has just 15 home runs in his pro career, all coming between 2014 and 2015, but he hit 27 doubles in each of those seasons, as well as stealing 31 bases in 44 chances.

While Rijo’s strikeout numbers are high, he possesses a quick bat and recognizes pitches well. While he walked less at Salem than he did at Greenville, he shows good patience at the plate. As noted, he lacks consistent home run power, but has no trouble driving the gaps for extra bases. In the field, Rijo is a passable second baseman, possessing a slightly below-average arm and poor fundamentals. However, he’s still just 20 years old, and has time to mature and improve into an average second baseman defensively. His speed makes him a solid weapon on the basepaths who can take the extra base as a runner and can steal bases on occasion. Rijo should get a shot as Portland’s everyday second baseman in 2016, adding to an already impressive Sea Dogs’ roster.

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