Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Boston in 2016
1 – Jay Groome
76 – CJ Chatham
90 – Shaun Anderson
98 – Mike Shawaryn
213 – Bobby Dalbec
324 – Stephen Nogosek
416 – Santiago Espinal
Complete List of 2016 Boston Red Sox Draftees
1.12 – LHP Jay Groome
That link takes care of a lot of my thoughts on Groome, the draft’s best long-term prospect for my money. For those less inclined to click a link, the most relevant excerpt…
Groome came out firing in the first with a string of low-90s fastballs (93, 94, 92, 93) before dropping a picture perfect 78 MPH curveball that made the Gloucester Catholic’s leadoff man’s knees buckle and the crowd of scouts and execs behind home plate (as well as a few thousand of their closest friends) audibly “oooh.” Incredibly, that was just the first of five different “oooh” curves he’d throw all night: there were two more in the fifth inning and two more after that in his sixth and final frame. I had that pitch ranging from 74-78 on the evening. Everything about the pitch is plus to plus-plus, though I think you could quibble some with a slightly slowed arm speed on the offering that tips it just enough for HS hitters to notice, but not nearly enough for them to react. The pitch is so good that there’s a chance he can get away with the slight pause in pro ball for a while; obvious point is obvious, but that’s really high praise. Groome’s curve is special and that alone makes him a top ten prospect in this class.
After going 93, 94, 92, 93, and 78 on the first batter, Groome went 93, 77, 92, 94, and 93 to the second hitter. That basic pattern — work off the fastball, mix in one curve per plate appearance — was followed by Groome for much of the game. I won’t say my notes were perfect — my focus on the fast-paced, well-pitched (though admittedly not particularly crisply played otherwise) game was a solid 98% throughout, but taking in the atmosphere occasionally led to a missed radar reading or two — but I only had Groome dropping two curves to the same batter on four occasions. This strategy obviously worked (14 strikeouts is 14 strikeouts) with the threat of a bigger fastball than he wound up showing, average fastball command that flashed better in certain at bats, and that devastating curve ranking as the reasons why in ascending order of importance.
Everything you’ve already seen, read, or heard about Groome’s mechanics held up. They are close to picture perfect. I’ve long been on the record of only caring about mechanical extremes, and I’d say with great confidence that Groome’s arm action and delivery are on that happy tail of the bell curve. With his frame, bulked up from a boy late last summer to a rock solid man by now (though I’d argue with some loss of athleticism), his age, and those textbook mechanics, it’s easy to imagine a day in the not so distant future where Groome is a consistent mid-90s arm if he wants to be. Of course, that’s all projection at this point: Groome’s velocity on this day fluctuated from those early game low-90s peaks to a strange middle inning dip to the mid- to upper-80s. I was almost positive while watching live that he wasn’t working in his changeup — some around me thought otherwise, for what it’s worth* — but I had him with an 85, 86, 87, and four 89’s between innings three and five. After thinking about it some more I could buy the mid-80s pitches being his attempt at the change to give the scouts a little taste of his third pitch; if so, I’ve seen it look better, but the arm action sure looked like the fastball, so at least there was that. Still, the 89’s for a well-rested teenage arm on a nice night weren’t exactly typical of what we’ve come to expect out of a potential first overall pick. He rebounded some in his final inning, sitting 90-91 with his fastball while relying more on the curve than in any other part of the game to that point. His final pitch of the night was a 92 MPH fastball that was swung through for eighth strikeout in a row to end the game and fourteenth overall.
(* Groome himself identified the pitch as a change: “As far as my command goes, I think that’s pretty good, but I need to show a little more depth to my changeup. I’m not really getting out in front of it and left a couple up high today. They fouled it off, they didn’t really make me pay. Later on down the road, I have to get that good depth on it.”)
This is the point in the report where I’m supposed to make a grand conclusion about what I saw out of Groome on the night. Well, I’ve got nothing. I selfishly wanted to see Groome at his very best — again, it’s worth pointing out that the man had fourteen strikeouts in six innings and that’s not his best — so that I could walk away ready to declare the race for 1-1 and top spot on my board over. The obvious good news is the confirmation that his curve and mechanics are both 1-1 caliber. His fastball has been in the past, but wasn’t on this night. I’m not terribly concerned about one good but not great velocity night — the fastball was still commanded fairly well (average to above-average), had such obvious late life that even my old eyes could see it, and came out of a deceptive enough slot that it had hitters taking bad swings all evening long — but I think the summer showcase version of Groome’s heater is (unsurprisingly) less the real thing than what we’ve seen out of him this spring. His changeup remains an open question, but that’s not atypical for a big-time high school arm with Groome’s brand of one-two punch locked and loaded for bear most starts. The development of his physique continues to surprise me — it’s as if he finds a way to pack on a pound or three of good weight every time I see him — but I do worry some that he’s getting close to the danger zone of sacrificing some looseness and athleticism, both facets of his game that excited me so much about him last summer, for strength. Add it all up (above-average fastball with plus upside, clear plus curve, changeup with a chance to be average, elegant mechanics, and a pro-ready body) and it’s clear that Jay Groome is a really, really good pitching prospect. What isn’t clear, however, is whether or not he’s the best amateur prospect in the country. For some, not yet knowing is knowing; when the risk of taking a teenage arm gets factored in, Groome not being a slam dunk pick above the rest means the risk is too great to pass on similarly valued peers (Puk, Lewis, Moniak, Rutherford, Perez, Ray, whomever) with more certainty. I think that’s where the Phillies are currently at in their evaluation. Between Groome’s staggering perfect world ceiling and moderate (for a HS arm) floor (less projection in his body than most, plus his mechanics portend good things to come) and the less than thrilling options that surround him at the top of the class, I’d have a hard time removing his name from 1-1 consideration if I was in charge of such a pick.
I’m not saying that’s the definitive Jay Groome take. Everything written above came from a game report from one Groome start. That outing was only one of five different times (once last summer, once in the winter, three times in the spring) that I saw Groome pitch in person. I’m not a scout so take all of the above with the usual grain of salt that comes with a fan’s observations of the game — though I’ll rudely point out for the millionth time here that watching baseball isn’t exactly rocket science no matter what those with a vested interest in creating that precise mythology within the industry would like for us all to believe — but I generally feel confident in my overall evaluation of Groome based on the combination of having seen him at multiple stages of his teenage development, having traded firsthand accounts for games and showcases that I’ve missed with others in the game, and absorbing all possible public published information on him.
In short, Groome is the truth. Sky high expectations caused some draft fans (and evaluators) to turn on him as the spring dragged on, but even at his “worst” he was still flashing easy first round stuff. There was some grumbling in the stands during a game where he struck out fourteen batters in six innings. I know scouting isn’t a performance-based thing, but, come on, that should at least tell you something about the guy.
I can’t get behind the Clayton Kershaw comparisons for Groome because Kershaw is in a different stratosphere altogether from the rest of the big leagues right now, but I’ll still throw out a very lofty comparison for Groome that I don’t think I’ve shared on the site before. Watching the young lefthander from Jersey’s evolution over the past eighteen months reminds me a lot of a young Andy Pettitte. We can’t help but think of Pettitte now and go right to his dominant cutter, but he didn’t start to throw the cutter consistently until the 2004 season (when he was 32-years-old) and he didn’t technically swap it out for his slider until 2008 (when he was 36-years-old). The 18-year-old Groome has plenty of time to reinvent himself a half-dozen times or so before he gets to the late-career portion of his big league run. Groome reminds me more of the early-career version of Pettitte, the one with a consistently above-average heater that could hit the mid-90s, plus curve, and above-average change. That’s the Pettitte that was written up as a soon-to-be 23-year-old back in 1995 courtesy of the always excellent Diamond Minds scouting database…
So much about Groome reminded me of Pettitte after his last start against Gloucester Catholic that I was kicking myself (not literally, I’m not that flexible) on the whole ride home for not putting it together sooner. Their mechanics, the use of a knuckle-curve, the body types…watching Groome was like going back in time and seeing a young Pettitte for the first time. The scary part here is that I think Groome has a chance to be a better version of Pettitte. Call him Pettitte 2.0. That’s Hall of Fame upside. That’s what I think Jay Groome can accomplish.
(Self-indulgent post-script to the Groome/Pettitte comparison. I, like many others I’d imagine, have a hard time remembering what young versions of established stars looked like. The days before MLB.TV made watching the over-the-top amount of baseball we all do today a lot harder back then. I do, however, remember what a young Andy Pettitte looked like. Of course, entirely selfish reasons brought me to him in my own early teenage years. Pettitte, having just turned 27-years-old, was very much on the trade block in 1999. The Yankees had a deal in place with my hometown Philadelphia Phillies contingent on a few other dominoes falling that same deadline. The return for Pettitte would have been rather bleak in hindsight: Reggie Taylor, Adam Eaton, and Anthony Shumaker. New York didn’t get the reliever they wanted elsewhere, so they pulled out of the deal at the last minute.
2.51 – SS CJ Chatham
On CJ Chatham (76) from March 2016…
CJ Chatham is an intriguing modern shortstop who has opened eyes throughout the game with his huge start to 2016. In no means is it a direct comparison, but what he’s doing so far is similar to what Kyle Lewis has done at Mercer. Chatham, like Lewis, has done everything possible to turn a perceived weakness (approach) into a strength. Going from a 8 BB/39 K as a freshman and 10 BB/28 K as a sophomore to his draft year 10 BB/7 K ratio is something worth getting excited about. With Chatham’s seemingly improved approach, scouts can now freely focus on the other positives in his game (above-average range, above-average to plus arm, a 6-4, 185 pound frame to dream on) and begin forecasting a big league regular out of the overall package. In a class with a serious talent void at the top of the college shortstop rankings, Chatham has emerged as a legit contender to be the very first off the board and a top hundred pick. He’s that good.
Chatham’s patient start at the plate didn’t quite foreshadow a true shift in approach — he walked 13 times with 27 strikeouts from the time of that original writing forward to bring his totals on the season to 23 BB/34 K — but that didn’t stop the Red Sox (and many other teams) from being hot on his trail on draft day. I’m sure part of that had to do with the scarcity of true shortstops in this class, but plenty also had to do with Chatham’s dreamy 6-4, 185 pound frame, above-average to plus raw power, and outstanding defensive tools that could make him an above-average glove at short or a true plus defender at the hot corner.
It’s probably silly to make too much out of any player’s professional debut, but something about Chatham’s .259/.319/.426 line at Lowell to begin his career stands out to me. Call it an attempt at informed prospect projection or a wild ass hunch, but Chatham’s most realistic upside with the bat falling around .260/.320/.425 just feels right to me. Those marks would put him 13th (BA), 13th (OBP), and 14th (SLG) among qualified shortstops in 2016. Slap some above-average defense on him and that’s a top ten player at the position. For what it’s worth, that .260/.320/.425 ballpark projection gets us pretty close to what Troy Tulowitzki (.254/.318/.443) did this past year on his way to a just ahead of league average (102 wRC+) offensive showing. That line would also put him close to the career averages of guys like Jimmy Rollins (career .264/.324/.418 hitter), Jhonny Peralta, and Rich Aurilia. I highlighted the Rollins career stat line not only because it’s as close as you can find to that hypothetical .260/.320/.425 shortstop we’ve created, but also to reiterate the limits of performance-based expectation comparisons. Chatham and Rollins are too very different players from a scouting perspective; ten seconds of watching them makes that obvious to even the most casual of baseball fan. Thankfully, that’s not the intent of a performance comp. Different types of players can still bring about similar long-term value. A career like what Rollins, Peralta, or Aurilia did (or are in the process of doing) seems within reach for the Red Sox second round selection.
3.88 – RHP Shaun Anderson
I’m really excited to see what direction the career of Shaun Anderson (90) goes in pro ball. It’s really easy to see Anderson remaining in the bullpen and being one of this year’s quickest moving draftees. He’s got the plus to plus-plus fastball that is a good enough pitch for him to use it an entire inning at time. There’s velocity (88-94, 96 peak), movement (tons), and the ability to command it (all the more impressive when you factor in that crazy movement); in short, his heater checks off everything you’d want in the pitch. Anderson also throws an above-average to plus cut-slider that can also turn into a truer slider with a bit more bend when it takes a little off of it. In the bullpen, that fastball/cutter mix could be enough to mow down batters at a similar clip that he did at Florida.
As a starter, all bets are off. One of the easiest and most difficult things to do is to project a college reliever with all the attributes of a starting pitcher to a pro rotation spot. It’s easy because it just makes sense. If a guy has the body, delivery, temperament, and stuff to start, but circumstances as a college athlete forced him in the bullpen then dreaming on him in his “natural” role makes sense. Easy, right? What’s difficult about the whole thing is how challenging the actual transition really is. A plus fastball in short outings may just be above-average (if that) as a starter. A lesser fastball then allows hitters to more easily prepare for the premium offspeed stuff, and even that assumes said offspeed stuff remains as good as it was in fewer innings. There’s also the simple issue that some bodies, no matter how they look, are better equipped for one role over the other. Conventional wisdom be damned, there are big guys who tire more easily as starters and little guys who seem to get better the more innings they throw. I’m not saying there’s no way of telling how a player will react until actually put into the new role, but…actually, I guess that is what I’m saying. Projecting is what we do, but to call it an inexact science is an insult to actual science.
I’d like to think Anderson can maintain all of the stuff he’s shown in his three years (worth noting here he pitched 43.0 innings his junior year after just 39.0 IP his first two seasons) at Florida, but I really have no idea. If he can, then he’s a potential mid-rotation starter with the chance for a little more than that. If he’s destined to the bullpen (my personal hunch), then he could become a major relief weapon for the Red Sox sooner rather than later. With a legit four-pitch mix (emphasizing fastballs and cutters), above-average command, ample deception in his delivery, and plus control, Anderson could potentially be deployed in any number of ways out of the pen. A bullpen with both him and Stephen Nogosek capable of putting out fires and going multiple innings at a time could be a ton of fun.
4.118 – 3B Bobby Dalbec
Where to begin with Bobby Dalbec (213)? Let’s start with a flashback to March 2016…
Dalbec deserves a lot of credit for battling back from a slow start to now have a more than respectable 2016 overall batting line. He also deserves respect for being one of the realest 2016 MLB Draft prospects out there. What you see is what you get with Dalbec: massive power, lots of whiffs, and a fair amount of walks. His arm and athleticism help make up for a lack of easy lateral quickness at the hot corner, so sticking at third should remain an option for the foreseeable future. The older, popular, and common comp for him has been Troy Glaus; on the flip side, I’ve heard Chris Dominguez as a possible outcome. The Glaus ship appears to have sailed, so something in between that and Dominguez would be a fine professional result.
And then again from April 2016…
Bobby Dalbec continues to confound. More and more people I’ve spoken to are becoming open to the idea of sending him out as a pitcher in pro ball. As frustrating as he can be at the plate, I don’t think I could throw his kind of power away that easily, even if only on a temporary basis. I also don’t think I’d touch him in the first five rounds. The comparison shared with me before the season to Chris Dominguez feels more and more prescient by the day.
I had Dominguez ranked 41st on my final board back in 2009 before he was drafted 86th overall by the Giants. I’m not sure what it says (if anything) about my own evolving view on prospecting or how the industry itself has changed or how the game has shifted, but I can say with 100% certainty that Dalbec won’t rank anywhere close to where Dominguez once landed on my personal ranks. I can also say with about 95% certainty that he won’t be drafted as high as Dominguez was in 2009. Of course, a player’s draft ranking ultimately is not about where he falls on the average of all teams’ boards but rather where he eventually falls on the board of the one team that drafts him. That’s where that 5% uncertainty comes in: all it takes is one team to look at Dalbec’s two clear plus tools (raw power, arm strength) and believe they can tweak his swing to make enough contact to allow his natural ability to shine through. His upside is very real, as is the possibility he tops out as an all-or-nothing AA power hitter. I’m out on him for now, but I understand the appeal. Chicks dig the long ball.
There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Dalbec, a prospect who has been in the spotlight since his senior year at Legend HS. Any conversation about Dalbec tends to center around four different things, two positive and two negative. Working for the big slugger from Arizona has always been and will always be his prodigious raw power and cannon for a right arm. If you like Dalbec, you like his power upside and enormous arm enough to override any of the negatives to come. If you’re not as into Dalbec, then the power isn’t enough to distract from the massive amount of swing-and-miss in his game (career 81 BB/179 K as a Wildcat) and the arm strength isn’t enough to look past the defensive questions (many of which have been answered positively, to be fair) that have followed him for years. Best case scenario you’re getting a power-hitting third baseman. Worst case scenario you’re left with a first baseman with a long Swiss cheese swing unable to make enough contact to allow the power to play.
If we go back to my pre-draft comparisons, I’d say his future will probably result in a player not nearly as good as Glaus yet not quite as disappointing as Dominguez. I think that outcome would be fine value for a fourth round pick like Dalbec. Upside to be a lineup fixture and home run champion threat, downside that sees him flaming out in AA (and potentially making a return to the mound…), and most realistic middle ground as a four-corners power bat that will always rack up strikeouts but can be a positive value player for years if deployed properly. The approach scares me off enough that the downside makes this a slight reach, but, as mentioned earlier, it’s not so crazy a reach that it can’t also be considered fine value. All depends on how you weigh the possibilities of his potential outcomes.
(We’re about to get a little weird here based on a curiosity I had about Dalbec’s pro start. Feel free to skip this if you’re not about small sample size outputs and whether or not they can tell us anything.)
To Dalbec’s credit, the big righthanded bat went out after a long college two-way season and hit bomb after bomb in his pro debut. Dalbec’s awesome start to his pro career got me wondering just how many players have slugged .674 (as he did) in short-season rookie ball and failed to reach the big leagues. Small sample noise and misleading levels of competition often point towards early career success not being particularly predictive. I get that. But this isn’t run-of-the-mill early career success. This is leading the league in slugging (if he had qualified) by over 150 points over the top qualifier. That’s destroying the league. Does that mean anything? Let’s find out…
As mentioned, Dalbec signed too late to get a full season in and therefore didn’t qualify for the league leaderboard — Darick Hall and his .518 SLG led the league in his stead — but that slugging percentage would have been out all but one qualified hitter in the past dozen years. Dalbec’s .674 SLG is second only to Roman Wick and his silly .378/.475/.815 line in 141 PA for State College in 2014. If you can tell me anything about Roman Wick beyond the fact I just shared, then you’re probably related to him. For the sake of science, I went back and found every player in the New York-Penn League to slug .550 or better. These guys managed to do it over the past twelve seasons: Stone Garrett (.581), Roman Wick (.815), Travis Taijeron (.557), Cory Vaughn (.557), Marcell Ozuna (.556), Neil Medchill (.551), Miguel Fermin (.628), Ryan Patterson (.595), Michael Hollimon (.557). Cory Patton (.555), and Nolan Reimold (.550). That’s not a particularly encouraging list. If we expand the search for guys over .500 SLG, then we have the following…
Darick Hall, Garrett, Wick, Chris Breen, Conor Bierfeldt, Jesus Solorzano, David Washington, Taijeron, Dean Green, Danny Muno, Vaughn, Ozuna, Rylan Sandoval, Ryan Fisher, David Anderson, Darrell Cecillani, Jonathan Rodriguez, Medchill, JD Martinez, Sebastian Valle, Sean Ochinko, Deangelo Mack, Leandro Castro, Fermin, Luis Sumoa, Phil Disher, Ben Lasater, Todd Martin, Damon Sublett, Casper Wells, Patterson, Hollimon, Patton, Reimold, Neil Sellers, Francisco Plasencia
Some of those guys are too early in their careers to label and others were at least good enough to hang in the big leagues for a bit, but I don’t think it’s all that controversial a take to say that the track record of .500+ SLG players in the NYPL ain’t great. Of the 36 players listed above, there are only two (Ozuna and Martinez) that I would consider to be developmental success stories. Two out of thirty-six. This quick look back doesn’t mean that Bobby Dalbec will join the failed prospect crew or that he’s any more likely to struggle than his lesser-slugging peers (though you could probably float a theory about hitters who show big power early in their career as being free-swinging outliers and that such an approach leads to early power success but no long-term sustainability); it only means that early power success in the NYPL does not guarantee anything beyond that.
5.148 – RHP Mike Shawaryn
On Mike Shawaryn (98) from April 2016…
Shawaryn’s big 2015 (10.71 K/9 and 1.71 ERA in 116.0 IP) set him up as a potential first round pick coming into the year, but a slight dip in production and stuff has many cooler on him now than before. He’s always been in that ten to fifteen range for him as a 2016 college arm, so the recent downtick in stuff isn’t something I’m too worked up about. At his best, he’s got enough fastball (87-94, 95 peak), a changeup with big upside, and a breaking ball that seemingly improves every time out (even as he’s had some rocky starts this year). Breaking down his individual pitches is obviously important, but the main selling point with Shawaryn was always going to be his above-average to plus command, standout control, and deceptive motion. Assuming his decline is more fatigue – he’s approaching almost 250 college innings in his career; for context’s sake, that’s about a hundred more than AJ Puk and over twice as many as Alec Hansen – than injury (though separating the two can be tricky without proper pre-draft medical screening), Shawaryn might be the perfect candidate for a team in round two (or three if they are lucky) willing to draft a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher with the intent not to pitch him competitively the summer after signing. Draft him, sign him, get him working with your top player development staffers, and focus more about 2017 rather than getting onto the field immediately. If it turns out he’s feeling good and looking good sooner rather than later, so be it. But he’s the type of smart young pitcher that could begin his first professional season at High-A without much concern. That’s the path I’d consider taking with him, but maybe I’m making more out of a few good rather than great starts than I really ought to.
I think that holds up really well today. If you want the short version, we could go back to this from October 2015…
A long draft season could change this, but Shawaryn looks all the world to be a rock solid bet to wind up a mid-rotation big league starting pitcher. Never a star, but consistently useful for years going forward.
I think that’s on target as well: “never a star, but consistently useful.” Shawaryn is going to have a long career as a mid-rotation starting pitching in the big leagues. That’s excellent value in round five. Love this pick.
6.178 – RHP Stephen Nogosek
On Stephen Nogosek (324) from March 2016…
Another college reliever! Stephen Nogosek is one of the most interesting of his kind in this year’s class. He’s not the two-pitch fire-balling righthander with the plus breaking ball that teams view as a classic late-inning type. Nogosek commands four pitches for strikes, relying more on the overall depth of his repertoire than any one singular go-to offering. Many speculate that his delivery lends itself to shorter outings, but I’m not convinced that a pro team won’t at least consider using him in the rotation at some point.
And again from April 2016…
If it’s a true college reliever you want, then Stephen Nogosek out of Oregon is your best bet. He’s a little bit like [Ian] Hamilton in that he’s got the raw stuff to start – an honest four-pitch mix seems wasted some in relief – but his command would make longer outings untenable at this time. As a reliever, however, he’s effectively wild. Pitching out of the pen also puts him on the short list of fastest potential movers.
The sixth round feels like a great spot to land a high-probability/reasonable-ceiling potential quick-mover in Nogosek. The funky, undersized righthander can use any one of his three offspeed offerings — upper-70s SL that flashes plus, solid mid-80s CU, average or better upper-70s CB — while also commanding a quality 88-94 MPH (up to 95) fastball. I don’t think there’s closer upside here, but it shouldn’t take much for Nogosek to have a long career as a dependable seventh inning reliever.
7.208 – OF Ryan Scott
Hitting .435/.516/.713 at the D-I level should get you drafted in the top ten rounds, right? Tuns out that’s exactly what it does. I didn’t have anything on Scott besides the easy to Google knowledge of his awesome senior year performance, so let’s just go ahead and repeat that: .435/.516/.713. That’s ridiculous. The stat-inclined portion of my brain is really rooting for Scott to have a long, successful pro career.
8.238 – C Alan Marrero
Alan Marrero walked or struck out in 62.9% of his 70 plate appearances in his debut with the Red Sox. That’s nuts. I have a feeling that number will go just a touch in his first full pro season next year. I’m sure the Red Sox are counting on it even though they likely are more excited about Marrero’s athleticism, arm strength, and standout defense behind the plate than anything he’ll do as a hitter. Like a few other catchers in the 2016 MLB Draft class — both Jake Rogers and Cooper Johnson spring to mind — Marrero’s defense could very well be so good that the baseline offensive standard for his bat will be almost so low he can’t help but reach it. In other words, Marrero’s defense is just about big league quality already. Expecting anything special at the plate is just getting greedy.
9.268 – OF Matt McLean
Here’s a little bit on Matt McLean from March 2016 with a bonus Granger Studdard (twenty-second round pick) reference thrown in for good measure…
On (kind of) the other end of the spectrum is Matt McLean of Texas-Arlington. McLean is a good runner and savvy all-around ballplayer who (to my knowledge) isn’t being talked up by anybody as a serious draft prospect. I’m not sure whether he is or isn’t, but the way he commands the strike zone has my respect. McLean is off to a similar start as Studdard (12 BB/4 K), but differs in that it’s part of a longer track record of doing so (40 BB/19 K last year). When looking to fill out rosters late during the draft, I’d recommend McLean to my scouting director every time. I’m high on the McLean’s on the world not only for what they could become in their own right – solid org guys can occasionally turn into useful pieces over time – but also because of the unseen positives that bringing players like this into an organization can provide. I don’t think McLean possesses any magic plate discipline dust that would rub off on his teammates, but having my young guys exposed to his consistent professional approach to the game, calculated plan of attack as a hitter, aggressive yet smart style of play in all phases, and determination to succeed no matter what couldn’t hurt.
Everything written about McLean there holds up today, I think. He went earlier than I had anticipated back in March, but did so as a $10,000 bonus senior-sign. McLean’s last two seasons at Texas-Arlington produced a cumulative mark of 76 BB/41 K. He’s still only a fifth outfielder if literally everything breaks right for him developmentally, but damn if I don’t think there’s a larger value to bringing players like this into the system. Maybe I’m nuts.
Also, I’m probably just a touch too young to get this in a more meaningful way but I’m up enough on nostalgic pop culture references to think of this every single time I read McLean’s name.
10.298 – SS Santiago Espinal
I’m buying Santiago Espinal (416) as a potential big league utility player even with his glaring lack of pop. He makes a ton of quality contact, works deep counts, defends his spot well at both second and short, and can put up above-average run times. One thing worth noting with Espinal is his age: despite playing only one college season, the former Miami-Dade shortstop is already 22-years-old. It puts his outstanding freshman season (.432/.492/.562 with 20 BB/11 K and 15/20 SB) at the junior college level in a different light. Liking Espinal, however, is liking what you’ve got already with him. His brand of on-base ability and reliable defense up the middle isn’t something that needs much projecting past what he can already do.
12.358 – RHP Matthew Gorst
Matthew Gorst had a good year. He did this at Georgia Tech as a junior: 10.10 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 and 0.55 ERA in 49.0 IP. He then followed that up with this pro debut: 9.00 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9 and 2.67 ERA in 27.0 IP. I’m still personally wary of a college reliever without premium stuff (88-93 FB, 84-87 cutter, 77-81 SL) with a limited track record of success, but Boston clearly must believe Gorst turned a corner in 2016. Pro results are certainly backing that up for now.
14.418 – LHP Robby Sexton
The Red Sox signed only three lefthanded pitchers in this draft class. You know about Jay Groome. You might not know quite as much about the two college lefties Boston scooped up from the Midwest. We’ll cover Kyle Hart from Indiana shortly, so let’s take a closer look at Robby Sexton from Wright State now. In brief, I like Robby Sexton more than I do most mid-round college pitchers with good but not great track records at non-power conference universities. Lefthanders who can pull off the sinker/slider combo are some of my favorite relief prospects to follow. That’s what you’re getting with the athletic Sexton.
16.478 – C Alberto Schmidt
My public notes on Alberto Schmidt were sparse — “good athlete; strong arm; older for class” — but I heard lots of nice things about him (both as a person and prospect) behind the scenes leading up to the draft. If you heard such nice things then you probably should have ranked him higher then, you might be thinking. Not a bad point, I’d counter. Maybe I should have ranked him higher (or, you know, at all). Yeah, you’d repeat, maybe you should have. Yeah, I’d say. Yeah, you’d say.
17.508 – C Nick Sciortino
The seventeenth round feels just a little too early for me to take a local product org player, but the Red Sox went out and took Boston College catcher Nick Sciortino anyway. His defense is good and his arm is solid, but I’m not sure he’ll ever do enough offensively to be anything but a handy catcher to shuffle around affiliates as needed.
19.568 – LHP Kyle Hart
A buddy of mine was insistent this spring that Kyle Hart could get big league lefthanders out right now. I’m not sure if that’s was said in part because of Hart’s present old man game — mid-80s fastball, advanced change, lots of slow curves, impeccable control — rather than a literal ability to get big league hitters out. Sometimes players with such limited physical projection wind up being a touch overrated because of a general assumption that they are better than they really are since they’re already likely as good as they’ll get. I just read that back and I have no idea if it’ll make sense to anybody but myself. Confusing attempt at a larger point aside, I still like the crafty, athletic Hart. Him getting big league lefties out at some point next year wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
20.598 – SS Nick Lovullo
On Nick Lovullo from February 2016…
Lovullo has the bloodlines, athleticism, and steadying infield presence to be a really solid org guy with the chance for more. His bat has improved each year at Holy Cross, so a big senior season is well within range. Nobody is asking for my seal of approval, but having seen Lovullo play on a few different occasions, I can certainly vouch for him as a player that does all the little things beautifully.
And then again right before the draft…
Nick Lovullo had an odd season. He only hit .225, but bolstered his OBP with a whopping 40 walks. I’ve always liked his approach, athleticism, and reliable defense up the middle, so I’ll overlook that .225 (and the dismal 6/15 SB success rate) and keep him on my draft board. He’ll make a fine future Red Sox minor leaguer.
I’m not going to go too crazy patting on my back for connecting the obvious dots here, but, hey, it is nice to win one every now and then. I think “solid org guy with the chance for more” remains a fair assessment of Lovullo’s upside. Like the Sciortino pick in the seventeenth round, this felt a bit early to me — I predicted Lovullo to Boston in the fortieth round, a spot more commensurate to his prospect value for me — but what do I know. Fair to wonder now if we see a quiet “Lovullo to Arizona for future considerations” type deal in the not too distant future…
22.658 – OF Granger Studdard
On Granger Studdard from March 2016…
Granger Studdard is another personal favorite of mine out of the Sun Belt due to his power upside, athleticism, arm strength, and speed. The last three facets of his game are far stronger than you see out of a typical first base prospect, so it’s not shock that the majority of those I spoke to who like him as well prefer him as a corner outfielder. That defensive versatility only boosts his stock. The most interesting thing about Studdard to me is how scouts have raved about his approach since his first year at Texas State. Much like what has been said about Kyle Lewis at Mercer, the buzz surrounding Studdard has been about how he really knows how to hit and approaches every plate appearance like a seasoned veteran. Like Mercer, however, the results didn’t seem to back it up: Studdard hit well in both of his college seasons, but did so while putting up BB/K ratios of 19/42 and 20/62. The disconnect between the scouting take and the on-field indicators figured to come to a head in his draft season, and, so far, the scouts look like they know a thing or two about the game. SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, but Studdard has walked twelve times in 2016 with only five strikeouts to his name. If that’s real, then you can put his standing as one of the best under-the-radar mid-major bats in the county in ink.
So was it real? Technically, yes. Studdard finished his junior year with 37 walks to 26 strikeouts. The more patient approach seemingly came at a cost of some power, however: his .285/.389/.380 line more closely resembled his freshman season (.270/.364/.385) than his sophomore year (.281/.345/.485). It’s how to deduce why that is without having seen Studdard multiple times throughout his final season at Texas State. Was he being pitched around? Is this just a small sample aberration? Was his sophomore year power spike the real outlier? Is there something in Studdard’s scouting dossier (swing, approach, pitch recognition, etc.) that explains it better? Anything I’d offer would just be a guess at this point. In any event, the reasons for liking Studdard are still reasons that explain why I currently like Studdard. He struggled in his debut at the plate, but 38 of his innings in the field came in either left or right. That’s a good sign for his prospect stock going forward.
23.688 – OF Juan Carlos Abreu
As an older high school talent (he’ll be 20 next May) with a game built on speed and a strong arm — two nice tools, to be sure, but arguably fourth and fifth in terms of importance if you were to rank them — Juan Carlos Abreu was more of a peripheral prospect on the radar for me this spring. Worth a shot as a twenty-third round pick, I guess.
24.718 – RHP Hunter Smith
Maybe some teams were turned off by Hunter Smith’s ugly 6.19 ERA in his draft year at North Carolina Greensboro. That’s about all I’ve got by way of explanation for Smith’s drop to the twenty-fourth round in this year’s draft. He’s got the size (6-3, 200), fastball (87-93, 95 peak), and offspeed stuff (above-average slider that flashes plus and an average or better change) to get stretched back out as a starter next year if that’s something Boston is willing to try. If not, I think he’s got a bright future in relief. Big fan of Hunter Smith.
25.748 – RHP Francisco Soto
Now I’m no Nancy Drew, but I consider my internet sleuthing abilities to be at least above-average. Francisco Soto is the first player drafted this year that I’m not sure actually exists. I mean, fine, he exists: he pitched twelve innings for the GCL Red Sox after signing after all. But my quick research on Soto’s time at Allen CC in Kansas has yielded nothing meaningful to date. He’s listed at 6-5, 220 pounds, so he’s got good size. That’s literally all I’ve got.
26.778 – RHP Jared Oliver
Mid-90s velocity (up to 97) is never a bad thing, so I get where the Red Sox are coming from when taking a chance on Jared Oliver. It’s just that he’s got a lot of work to do (7.12 BB/9 at Truett-McConnell) and not a whole of time to do it (24-years-old to start next season).
33.988 – OF Chad Hardy
Underwhelming junior college numbers? How does .297/.358/.513 with 13 BB/29 K sound? Brutal first 90 PA of pro ball? A hard to look at .163/.191/.233 with 3 BB/32 K. A 60-game suspension for testing positive for Tamoxifen? Why not add it to the pile at this point, right? I’m not here to bust on Chad Hardy’s disastrous first year with the Red Sox; if anything, I can empathize with a young man’s desperation when faced with a pressure-packed situation filled with “do-or-die” feelings of urgency. Hardy making it to AA — let alone the big leagues — would be a success I’m not prepared to see with this pick. Hope it works out all the same.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Carter Henry (Houston), Jake Wilson (Bowling Green), Austin Bergner (North Carolina), Carter Aldrete (Arizona State), Jordan Wren (Georgia Southern), John Rave (Illinois State), Aaron McGarity (Virginia Tech), Jeff Belge (St. John’s), Christian Jones (Washington), Tyler Fitzgerald (Louisville), Cam Shepherd (Georgia), Jordan Scheftz (Central Florida), Vince Arobio (Pacific), Beau Capanna (New Mexico), Trevor Stephan (Arkansas), Michael Wilson (Stony Brook), Nick Quintana (Arizona)
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