#10-#6: The Second Tier
This group of players are more likely than not bound for careers in the MLB, but the quality of their play is still largely to be determined. Most of these guys are relatively high-ceiling prospects, but may have flaws in their profiles that make them low-floor players, especially when compared to the top 5 in the system.
#10 – Michael Chavis, 3B
Height/Weight: 5’10”, 190 LB
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox
When Chavis was taken 26th overall in 2014, some scouts were skeptical of his athleticism and size as a first-round pick. In his pro debut, Chavis impressed with the GCL Red Sox, batting .269/.347/.425 in 150 plate appearances at the Rookie level, hitting just one home run but adding 12 doubles and three triples. In 2015, Chavis made the jump to full-season baseball, spending the whole season with Single-A Greenville.
In 109 games and 471 trips to the plate, Chavis struggled to the tune of .223/.277/.405, good for just a 91 wRC+ despite knocking 16 homers and 29 doubles. Chavis did show good ability to make adjustments, however, hitting .246/.295/.467 over 211 plate appearances in July and August. He’d hit just .208/.265/.354 through 230 PAs to start the season.
Chavis possesses a short, compact swing along with quick hands and above-average bat speed. He gets long at times, leaving him susceptible to inner-half fastballs. Chavis’s approach and pitch recognition are a work-in-progress, but he displays the work ethic to improve those areas and more. Chavis has good raw power, but has had trouble converting that into home runs so far. However, he’s been filling the gaps for doubles well, and has the swing to hit home runs as he matures.
In the field, Chavis is a solid player with good instincts, range, and fundamentals at third base after coming up as a shortstop out of high school. Chavis’ arm is a plus tool, which also makes him a viable corner outfielder in the future, giving him positional versatility. While he’s not the fastest, he runs the bases well and can steal a few bags a year when the defense is sleeping. Chavis will begin 2016 with High-A Salem in the Carolina league. He could move up to Portland sometime during the summer if he hits well enough.
#9 – Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
Height/Weight: 6’0″, 170 LB
Acquired: Signed as an international free agent in August 2012
Not to be confused with his twin brother Luis Alejandro Basabe. The Venezuelan native has impressed in limited professional action since his debut in the Domincan Summer League in 2013. Basabe hit .225/.385/.321 in 268 plate appearances, knocking 13 doubles and stealing 18 of 23 bases with a 49:58 BB:K ratio. In 2014 he returned to the DSL, hitting .284/.408/.480 with a 30:36 BB:K, seven doubles, and 11 triples in 184 plate appearances.
After moving to the Gulf Coast League, he hit well again with a .248/.328/.324 line. In 2015, Basabe was promoted to Low-A Lowell of the New York-Penn League, making 256 trips to the plate, hitting eight doubles and seven home runs with a 32:67 BB:K ratio and a .243/.340/.401 slash line in just his age-18 season.
Basabe’s excellent performance since debuting in professional baseball has earned him recognition as one of the top outfielders in the Red Sox’ system. While his contact isn’t great, Basabe’s good approach and ability to get on base are positive tools. In addition, Basabe’s ability to hit from both sides of the plate is a great asset. While he has just nine professional home runs, Basabe projects to have good power in the future as he matures and fills out his six-foot frame.
In the outfield, he possesses good range and route-taking abilities, performing well in center field last season. Basabe also has above-average speed, swiping 48 bases in 63 attempts thus far as a professional. Basabe will likely not begin 2016 in full-season baseball, but could make the jump to Greenville or Salem towards the end of the season should he continue his strong play with Lowell in the new season.
#8 – Deven Marrero, SS
Height/Weight: 6’1″, 195 LB
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox
After spurning a 17th-round offer from the Cincinnati Reds out of high school in 2009, Deven Marrero played three seasons of NCAA Division 1 baseball at Arizona State. Marrero made an immediate name for himself with Lowell after being drafted by Boston, batting .268/.358/.374 with 24 steals in 284 PAs. In just his second pro season, Marrero made it from High-A Salem to Double-A Portland, hitting .252/.338/.317 with 20 doubles, 27 stolen bases, and 52:76 BB:K ratio in 461 trips to the plate
In 2014, Marerro advanced again to Triple-A after beginning the season with Portland. He hit for a .258/.327/.372 line in 509 plate appearances, totaling 30 doubles and 16 steals. In 2015, Marrero began Triple-A, posting a .256/.316/.344 line with 13 doubles and 12 steals. Marrero made his MLB debut in 2015, playing in 25 games and getting 56 plate appearances, even hitting his first major league home run.
Marrero has a compact swing and quick hands, but he can tend to pull off pitches at times and has trouble handling the inside fastball. Marrero isn’t projected to produce many extra-base hits, but he’s shown some ability to capitalize on mistake pitches in the past. Defensively, he is more than MLB-ready, as he is an extremely athletic and fundamental shortstop who makes the position look naturally easy. There aren’t many, if any, holes in Marrero’s defense, and he’s been described as a future Gold Glove candidate by many.
On the bases, Marrero has good instincts, but currently lacks the speed he used to swipe 50+ bags in the minors. Overall, Marrero is good enough defensively that he might even be the Red Sox starting shortstop in 2016 if not for the meteoric rise of Xander Bogaerts in 2015. Look for Marrero to play every day for Pawtucket in 2016 with an MLB stint at some point almost guaranteed.
#7 – Sam Travis, 1B
Height/Weight: 6’0″, 210 LB
Acquired: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox
Travis is also a guy who passed on a low draft pick by Cincinnati out of high school, continuing his career at Indiana University in 2012. Travis made a name for himself in his first pro campaign with Lowell, batting .330/.364/.448 for a wRC+ of 140 in 174 plate appearances, adding five doubles and four home runs. After a late-season promotion to Greenville, Travis’ extra-base numbers jumped, adding 11 doubles and three homers in 115 plate appearances en route to a .290/.330/.495 slash line.
Beginning 2015 with Salem in High-A, Travis continued to hit well, batting .313/.378/.467 with 15 doubles, four triples, five homers, and a wRC+ of 146 in 278 plate appearances. Travis continued hitting after moving up to Portland, batting .300/.384/.436 with 17 doubles, two triples and four homers for a wRC+ of 140 in 281 plate appearances. Adding to his already exceptional minor league track record, Travis hit .344/.394/.505 with 10 doubles in 93 PAs in the Arizona Fall League to end 2015.
Clearly, Travis has proven at every stop thus far that his bat is a legitimate weapon. Physically, Travis possesses a good all-fields, compact swing that has no problem finding the baseball. He can get a little long and has shown vulnerability to inside fastballs, so he may need to adjust to higher velocities as he moves up the professional ranks. While Travis will never hit many home runs, he sprays line drives into the gaps for extra bases consistently.
Travis has a good approach, with good ability to track pitches and judge the strike zone at bat. Travis is average at first base, displaying good hands but likely lacking the athleticism or quickness to play anywhere besides first base. He’s a smart baserunner, but lacks the speed to make any impact with his legs. While he may lack the pop to excite many as a future first baseman or designated hitter, Travis has been a consistently potent offensive force thus far in his career. Look for Travis to continue punishing pitchers in the Triple-A ranks this season, and maybe even earn a call to the big leagues come September.
#6 – Brian Johnson, SP
Height/Weight: 6’3″, 235 LB
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox
Johnson was drafted twice, once out of high school and once after his junior year at Florida. His professional career began on a high note, logging 10.2 scoreless innings in six starts between Lowell and the GCL Red Sox between 2012 and 2013. He was assigned to Single-A Greenville when he returned from an injury, posting an impressive 2.87 ERA and 1.13 WHIP along with a 9.0 K/9 in 69.0 innings pitched.
Johnson pitched in two games with High-A Salem to close 2013, logging 11.0 innings and allowing nine hits, two runs (both earned), five walks and eight strikeouts. Johnson began 2014 back in Salem, posting an ERA of 3.86 in 25.2 innings. After five games he was promoted to Portland, starting 20 games and finishing with a 1.75 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 118.0 innings with 99 strikeouts and 32 walks. With Triple-A Pawtucket in 2015, Johnson recorded a 2.53 ERA in 96.0 innings with 90 strikeouts and 32 walks. In his lone MLB start in 2015, he pitched 4.1 innings, allowing three hits, four runs (all earned), walking four and striking out three.
Johnson possesses a large frame and solid mechanics from the left side, with a very repeatable delivery. His fastball clocks in the high-80s and low-90s, topping out around 95 mph. He generates downward movement due to his height, but the pitch sometimes tends to straighten out. His fastball command is average, but he works the pitch well inside and out. His curveball is his go-to off-speed pitch, working in the mid-70s with good downward action to both sides of the plate.
His changeup is average, lacking great differential from his fastball in velocity. Johnson commands the pitch well enough and it has just enough fade to keep batters off-balance. His slider is essentially a “show-me” pitch, possessing a little bit of early break and not much else. If Johnson was 22, he might have cracked the top 5 on this list, but his age and lackluster fastball keep him out. Nevertheless, Johnson has a clear future as a back-end MLB starter, and could see time in the Boston rotation this season after beginning the campaign back in Pawtucket.