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TRACK RECORD: After reclassifying to enter the draft a year earlier than his peers, Casas emerged as one of the top high school position prospects in the 2018 draft by displaying standout all-fields power both with aluminum and, while playing in international competition for Team USA, wood bats. In 2019, he cemented his status as a standout player for his age and experience level, primarily at low Class A Greenville. He ranked in the top three of all 2018 high school draftees in OPS and homers while also joining Xander Bogaerts as the only Red Sox teenager in the last 50 years to hit at least 20 homers in one year at any level. SCOUTING REPORT: Casas is gigantic, with size and strength in his lefthanded swing to generate easy power from left-center field to right. However, he sometimes fights his frame. In an effort to limit strikeouts, he opened the year employing a spread-out stance with a pronounced crouch, but the effort backfired and instead created extra movement in his swing that resulted in a high April strikeout rate. Casas showed aptitude and adaptability, employing a more natural, upright stance starting in May. The move showed not only standout power but also a versatile approach that suggested a solid overall hitting foundation that could help to control his strikeout rate. The lefthanded masher also chokes up with two strikes, and his willingness to use the whole field helps control his swings and misses. Casas played third base in high school (and a little bit in the minors), and his range at first base projects as above-average to plus, and his wingspan will be an asset. His arm is solid to above-average at first. He's a below-average runner, but his ceiling isn't predicated on speed. Team officials rave about his makeup, describing Casas as unusually mature in his routines, work ethic and preparation. He is a student of the game. Scouts see similarities to Freddie Freeman in his all-around game. THE FUTURE: Casas is likely to open 2020 in high Class A Salem, and while it wouldn't be a shock to see him struggle at some point, it likewise wouldn't be surprising to see him remain on an aggressive development track. He projects as a player who could see the big leagues by early 2022 or even late 2021, with the potential to serve as a middle-of-the-order force and the organization's clear top prospect.
TRACK RECORD: Dalbec shows elite power, with his 59 homers over the last two seasons ranking as the sixth-most in the minors. Though high strikeout rates created caution about his floor, he has sustained the ability to slug and get on base while moving up the ladder, and he's also managed to cut his strikeout rate without compromising power. SCOUTING REPORT: Dalbec is incredibly strong, allowing him to drive the ball out to all fields, sometimes even when not fully squaring up. His plate discipline is a strength that gives him solid on-base numbers regardless of his average. Still, his frame both creates holes in his swing and magnifies mechanical inefficiencies. Most of his struggles occur due to issues in the direction and timing of the weight transfer in his lower half, staying back for too long and then spinning off the ball while rushing forward. But when locked in, his homers come in bunches. Despite below-average speed on the bases and his size, Dalbec shows quickness, anticipation, and range in the field, with the hands and footwork to play solid defense at third. While he's still acclimating to first base and reads of the ball off the bat on the right side of the infield, he made considerable strides at the position with increased exposure to it in 2019. THE FUTURE: With Rafael Devers anchoring third base for years to come, Dalbec—who is expected to open 2020 back in Triple-A—could find his way to the big leagues at first base or perhaps in left field if the Red Sox need righthanded thump.
TRACK RECORD: Downs was one of the top high school players in the 2018 draft class and signed with the Reds for just over $1.8 million after they made him the 32nd overall pick. The Dodgers acquired him after the season in the trade that sent Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to Cincinnati. Downs started slow in his first season in the Dodgers' system, but he caught fire during the summer and finished as one of only 10 minor leaguers with 20 home runs (24) and 20 stolen bases (24). Downs was traded to Boston in February in the Mookie Betts trade.SCOUTING REPORT: Downs is a bat-first player with a pretty swing. His hands work, he stays on time and he turns around velocity with a quick, efficient path. Downs can be overly at passive and take at-bats off, limiting him to an average hitter, but he's a dynamic extra-base threat when he's focused. He drives the ball from gap-to-gap and projects for above-average power as he gets stronger. Downs is an intelligent baserunner whose average speed plays up on the bases. His reliable hands and above-average arm fit anywhere on the infield, but range is suboptimal for an everyday shortstop. THE FUTURE: Evaluators see Downs as a multi-positional, everyday infielder in the mold of Josh Harrison. He finished last season at Double-A and will open back there in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Signed for $25,000 in 2016, Mata quickly emerged as one of the organization's best starting pitching prospects. After he endured significant control issues in 2018—attributed in no small part to continued physical growth and an effort to harness a two-seamer he started to incorporate—he nearly slashed his walk rate in half in 2019 while generating a high groundball rate. Though Mata struggled at times following a promotion as one of the youngest pitchers in Double-A, he took a major step forward in 2019. SCOUTING REPORT: Mata has overhauled his arsenal considerably as a pro. He once relied on a four-seamer, curve and changeup, but the Red Sox determined that his arm slot was better suited to a two-seamer as a primary offering. He can also employ a four-seamer at the top of the zone while selectively mixing in his curve and changeup (a pitch with good action but inconsistent command). Mata's fastball sits in the mid-90s, topped out at 98 mph as a starter and hit triple-digits out of the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League. His slider typically comes in at 88-90 mph. While Mata's pitches don't generate tons of swings and misses, he throws hard enough to force early swing decisions. THE FUTURE: Mata likely will open 2020 back in Double-A and is the team's most promising upper-level rotation prospect in recent years. He has No. 3 starter potential.
TRACK RECORD: While Duran had a modest college statistical profile, thenarea scout Justin Horowitz recognized a combination of impressive bat life with the ability to keep the barrel in the zone and game-changing speed that seemed wasted at second base. Now a full-time outfielder, Duran followed an outstanding 2018 pro debut with an even better performance in high Class A Salem in the first two months of 2019, flirting with .400 while showing excellent bat-to-ball skills, speed and occasional thump. While his numbers suffered after a promotion to Double-A, the quality of his at-bats improved. SCOUTING REPORT: Duran has an extra gear when he senses opportunity, whether beating out routine grounders or taking an extra base. He takes advantage of that trait with a contact-heavy approach, albeit one in which he sometimes cuts off his swing. While he can make contact when expanding the strike zone, his tendency to do so results in weak contact. Still, his natural strength shows up at times with hard line drives to all fields and occasional long home runs. His bat-to-ball skills allow him to get to a variety of pitch types and locations from righties and lefties. Duran is still adjusting to center field, but his speed allows him to outrun route mistakes to represent at least an average future defender. THE FUTURE: There's still some debate as to whether Duran's offensive profile is that of an everyday or fourth outfielder. Even with his speed, he must either hit for a high average or show more power to emerge as an everyday player. Still, he has the potential to be a catalyst.
TRACK RECORD: Signed for just $7,500 in 2013 after an injury sidelined him early in the 2013 international signing period, Hernandez emerged as a standout power pitcher. Significant control issues clouded his potential as a starter, but he showed dominant stuff once unleashed as a bullpen weapon in the big leagues in mid-July. SCOUTING REPORT: Hernandez comes at hitters with an aggressive delivery, combining a low three-quarters slot with elite extension to create deception layered upon tremendous pure power. His 94-98 mph four-seam fastball features unpredictable movement based on fingers that sit on the side of the ball rather than behind it. Some compare his fastball to that of Josh Hader. Hernandez's low-80s slider has sharp, late, two-plane bite, generating ground balls and swings and misses. He employed a changeup and curveball as a starter but left those pitches on the shelf in the bullpen. The lefthander will go through multi-batter stretches when he loses the strike zone, but out of the bullpen he limited the harm of his free passes by striking out bunches of batters. THE FUTURE: The Red Sox have committed to Hernandez as a bullpen option. So long as he can throw enough strikes and stay healthy, he looks like a potential late-inning reliever.
TRACK RECORD: Largely overlooked as a college swingman, Ward impressed the Red Sox with the movement and command of a low-90s sinker and a potential swing-and-miss slider. They committed to drafting him in the fifth round in 2018, figuring he had a solid reliever floor. But while working as a starter in his first full pro season, Ward rapidly surpassed the team's expectations with one of the best performances of any starter in the minors, posting the ninth-best ERA (2.13) and 20th-best strikeout rate (11.2 per nine innings) among those who threw at least 100 innings. SCOUTING REPORT: Ward showed unexpected velocity in 2019, working at 93-96 mph with his sinker and topping out at 97. Yet it was the development of a cutter that tunneled off his two-seamer and mid-80s slider that allowed Ward to induce weak contact in the strike zone as well as chases outside of it. He also occasionally features a changeup and curveball. The rangy righty has an easy delivery without a ton of effort, creating the basis for command and hope for health, and he also shows an understanding of his mix that could keep him on an aggressive development track. THE FUTURE: Ward is likely to begin 2020 at Double-A, where he'll hope to continue to build his case as a potential No. 4 starter.
TRACK RECORD: One of the best prep pitchers in the 2016 draft, Groome has thrown just 66 pro innings due to injuries, including a torn ulnar collateral ligament that required Tommy John surgery and cost him all of 2018 and most of 2019. Still, he returned to games by the end of 2019, showed flashes of swing-and-miss stuff, and continues to feature a ceiling that arguably surpasses that of any other pitcher in the Red Sox farm system. SCOUTING REPORT: Groome received strong marks for the strength and conditioning work he did over his rehab from Tommy John surgery. He has a prototypical starter's build, generating power stuff with an easy delivery. In his return, Groome sat at 92-94 mph and topped out at 96. His signature offering, however, is a hammer curveball—a pitch for which he was still looking to regain his feel in his return from Tommy John. Groome's changeup improved from fringy to average during his rehab, and his natural ability to manipulate the ball makes it easy to imagine the development of a cutter. THE FUTURE: Groome likely will start 2020 in low Class A Greenville. If healthy, he could move quickly to high Class A Salem. At age 21, he's young enough to believe that his top-of-the-rotation upside remains intact, even if his poor health track record raises questions about whether he'll realize it.
TRACK RECORD: A raw athlete who fell through the scouting cracks in the 2017 signing period before joining the Red Sox for $10,000, Jimenez represents a moldable ball of clay whose athleticism, hand-eye coordination and incredible speed have allowed him to emerge as a standout performer while learning on the fly. After a strong Dominican Summer League debut in 2018, he excelled at short-season Lowell in 2019, leading the New York-Penn League in batting (.359) while finishing fourth in OPS (.863) and ninth in steals (14). SCOUTING REPORT: Jimenez started switch-hitting after turning pro, and while his lefthanded swing remains inelegant and sometimes choppy, he has good enough feel for the barrel. Despite a very high groundball rate, his elite speed (sub-4.0 times from home to first) allowed him to garner loads of infield hits. It's possible that he'll be limited to a slap-and-run profile whose production decreases as defenses improve, but Jimenez also has flashed the bat speed to drive the ball, even if his current swing is geared for contact. Jimenez struggles with pitch recognition and plate discipline, but if experience yields refinement, he has the potential for average or better across-the-board tools. His speed and arm give him a big league outfielder's floor and his athleticism and strength make it easy to dream big. THE FUTURE: Jimenez should open 2020 as a 19-year-old at low Class A Greenville. He's raw and thus unlikely to fast track, but if everything clicks, he could sit near the top of Red Sox prospect lists in the coming years.
TRACK RECORD: When Song enrolled at Navy in possession of a mid-80s fastball and little else, he was convinced he'd pitch for four years in college and then never again. But his velocity soared and he went 11-1, 1.44 with 15.4 strikeouts per nine innings as a senior. Teams stayed away from Song in the draft due to questions about whether he'd be able to pursue a pro career given his two-year active military service commitment. The Red Sox decided Song's talent was worth the risk even if the start of his career was delayed and drafted him in the fourth round. He signed for $100,000 and dominated at shortseason Lowell and for Team USA during the Olympic qualifying tournament. SCOUTING REPORT: Song features a four-pitch mix from a powerful starter's build, anchored by a fastball that ranges from 94-98 mph. After working at the bottom of the zone in college, his fastball is likely to be more effective at the top of the zone in pro ball. While Song leaned chiefly on his slider as a secondary weapon at Navy, his changeup stood out as a potential plus offering in his pro debut. He still needs to define the velocities and shapes to his pitches that will generate the greatest effectiveness, but there's plenty with which to work. He is long, athletic and throws strikes THE FUTURE: The Navy announced in December that Song, a commissioned Naval flight officer, will have to serve his military commitment immediately. He will spend the next two years as an active service member and can petition to serve his final three years in the reserves, which would allow him to resume his baseball career in 2022 at the earliest. He has the stuff, poise and mentality to project a mid-rotation starter, but it will be at least two years before he gets the chance to show he can rise to that level.
TRACK RECORD: Houck's development has traveled a crooked line since being taken in the first round in 2017. He tried to overhaul his pitch mix in early 2018 with initially disastrous results at high Class A Salem but found considerable success down the stretch with a balanced repertoire. In 2019, he alternated dominant performances—often against righty-heavy lineups—with struggles as a starter in Double-A and did the same out of the bullpen at Triple-A. He went back to starting in the Arizona Fall League. SCOUTING REPORT: Houck's combination of a 92-97 mph two-seamer and four-seamer with a sweeping slider from a low three-quarters arm slot creates nightmares for righties, but he's struggled to show similar command against lefties, who have hit .283/.383/.363 against him. On days where he flashes a solid changeup and locates his slider to both righties and lefties, Houck looks like a potential starter, but his difficulty in repeating a crossfire delivery with a lot of moving parts has convinced many that his future is in the bullpen. THE FUTURE: Houck likely will open 2020 back at Triple-A, offering the Red Sox a spot-starting option or bullpen depth, with a potential future as a setup man. The Red Sox have resisted giving up on him as a starter, but his proximity to the big leagues suggests a decision about his role looms.
TRACK RECORD: Chatham's career has been plagued with a long list of injuries, dating back to a hip fracture in high school and recurring right shoulder and left hamstring injuries as a pro. He has been relatively injury-free since joining Salem in mid-May 2018 and has performed well across two levels in back-to-back years. He competed for a batting title into the final days of the season in the high Class A Carolina League in 2018 and then won the Eastern League's batting title in 2019. SCOUTING REPORT: While Chatham gets the bat to the ball, he does so by spraying the ball to all fields rather than slugging. His aggressive approach caps his on-base ability and limits his power, a notion reflected in his .105 isolated slugging percentage in 2019. His lack of strength and physicality also raises durability questions. Chatham does not wow with range and quickness but makes up for it with instincts, body control and solid hands. Consistent arm strength for the position has been an issue, tied to the nagging right shoulder injuries. Chatham moved around the dirt and saw time in left field during the AFL. THE FUTURE: Chatham is likely at least a big league reserve. Some feel he could offer a credible everyday option, most likely at second base, if he adds offensive impact.
TRACK RECORD: Lugo, the nephew of Carlos Beltran and a graduate of his star uncle's academy in Puerto Rico, distinguished himself prior to the 2019 draft with his size, athleticism, and lively bat. He got off to a tremendous start in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before wearing out down the stretch. Lugo made some spot appearances in the Puerto Rican Winter League as well. SCOUTING REPORT: When scout Edgar Perez saw Lugo, he recognized the potential for plus power. Perhaps more intriguing, he also saw the ability to manipulate the barrel in a way that suggested Lugo could make the adjustments to advance through the minors. Lugo has advanced size and strength through his lower half, although he's still physically immature through his chest and shoulders. He has a solid base at the plate with a relatively simple swing with natural lift. Like most young hitters, Lugo is aggressive early in the count and will need to learn better selectivity. Lugo's physical lower half creates some questions defensively. The Sox hope to play Lugo at shortstop, although second base may be a more likely outcome. Lugo has enough arm for the left side but needs to improve his footwork and finish. THE FUTURE: Lugo's power and middle-infield profile suggest a potential above-average regular.
TRACK RECORD: Though he posted one of the top strikeout rates in Division I (12.2 per 9 innings) as a junior, Murphy's performance was obscured by unusually high walk rates (4.8) coming out of San Diego. The Red Sox took a chance on him and were pleasantly surprised with a strong pro debut. In 10 starts spanning 33.1 innings with Lowell, Murphy forged a 1.08 ERA with 34 strikeouts, just seven walks, and only one home run allowed. SCOUTING REPORT: While in Lowell, Murphy made some small tweaks to his delivery, including enhanced rhythm to his lower half, which in turn resulted in throwing from a slightly higher slot and generating better plane and more direct finish to the plate. The results were striking, allowing his 92-93 mph fastball to play much better than it did in college. Not only did Murphy elicit his share of swings and misses, he commanded his pitches in the zone more effectively and got ahead of hitters more frequently. Murphy also features a solid three-quarters slurve and changeup. He profiles as a starter during the development process. THE FUTURE: While the 2019 debut was encouraging, Murphy will have to prove it was not a fluke, in contrast to his career log in college and the Cape Cod League. He should start the season at low Class A Greenville.
TRACK RECORD: Wong saw time at shortstop, third base and the outfield in college before becoming Houston's primary catcher as a sophomore. The Dodgers, with their affinity for infielders-turned-catchers, drafted Wong in the third round in 2017 and signed him for $547,500. Wong led high Class A Rancho Cucamonga to the California League championship in his first full season, but was sent back to the level due to the Dodgers organizational catching logjam. He struggled to stay motivated but exploded after a July promotion to Double-A Tulsa with a .997 OPS in 40 games. SCOUTING REPORT: Wong's slight build is deceptive. He's twitchy in the box and can drive the ball, and when he stays in the middle of the field he's an advanced hitter with average power. Wong is an aggressive hitter who jumps on fastballs and drives them gap-to-gap, but he has career 31 percent strikeout rate and projects as a fringe-average hitter because he struggles against soft stuff. Wong is an athletic defender behind the plate who receives well and has an average arm, although his blocking needs work. He has played above-average defense in stints at second and third base, as well. THE FUTURE: Wong could stick as a backup catcher, but he projects to be most valuable moving around the diamond and playing 2-3 positions a week. He'll see Triple-A in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Unlike most Latin players, Bello was already 18 years old when he signed. He has moved quickly due in part to his age, building on a dominant pro debut in the DSL in 2018 with a strong spring that convinced the Sox to push him to low Class A Greenville in his age-20 season. SCOUTING REPORT: Bello has a medium build with a live, wiry body with room to fill out. He has a loose, whippy arm. Lacking present core strength, Bello does not always repeat his direction and finish though he only needs minor adjustments. Bello's biggest challenge in 2019 came after a solid April, when he was getting hit hard and making too many mistakes in the zone. After a rough two months, Bello adjusted his approach both in and out of the zone, resulting in better command of at-bats. Bello's fastball sits at 94-95 mph, mixed with a solid mid-80s slider and a mid-80s changeup with depth which each project as plus. The length of Bello's delivery will make creating deception an issue moving forward. THE FUTURE: Bello will likely start next year at high Class A Salem, and if he cements his second-half improvements of 2019 he could reach the upper levels as a pitcher with a backend starter's ceiling.
TRACK RECORD: Wilson moved deliberately over five years in the Arizona system—finally reaching Double-A to open 2019—before being traded to the Red Sox in April for Blake Swihart and international pool money. SCOUTING REPORT: Wilson has long been the athletic toolsy type, but he actually became more aggressive at the plate as his career progressed. That change enabled better control of counts and resulted in improved pitch selection and plate discipline. Wilson also adjusted his swing to add more life, which led to more fly balls and amplified power. Wilson split time both in center field and right field and profiles as an above-average defender with above-average range. Wilson's arm is fringy at best. THE FUTURE: Wilson's righthanded power and defensive prowess are valuable. He will need to continue to refine his approach to make more consistent contact.
TRACK RECORD: Signed as a small but physical 16-year-old with strong bat-to-ball skills and good baseball instincts, Bonaci had a strong pro debut in the Dominican Republic. SCOUTING REPORT: In the DSL, Bonaci showed signs of plate discipline (8.8 percent walk rate), contact skills (15.3 percent strikeout rate), raw but impactful speed, and pop (.118 ISO). Defensively, he showed the standout arm strength to play on the left side of the infield, and the Red Sox will develop him primarily at short, though he did play some third this year. Some evaluators believe that his future is most likely as a versatile player who can move around the field while having a solid ability to play shortstop. THE FUTURE: At an early stage of his pro career, Bonaci has shown the potential to have solid across-theboard tools with a chance at worst to be an offensive utility player.
TRACK RECORD: Zeferjahn has been a high-profile arm since his high school days, though he preferred to attend Kansas. Zeferjahn spent the last three years in the Jayhawks' rotation, punching out over 11 hitters per nine innings over his last two seasons. A blister on his nail limited his ability to throw his breaking ball once he arrived in short-season Lowell, yet he still struck out 12.7 batters per nine innings. SCOUTING REPORT: Despite quality stuff, Zeferjahn was still viewed as relatively raw for a college pitcher coming out of the draft due to command and consistency issues. His arm action created some concern due to depth in back, which impacted his timing. Primarily featuring a two-seamer, scouts believed Zeferjahn would be a better fit if he utilized his mid-to-high-90s four-seamer. Zeferjahn also has the makings of a potentially plus slider, but had a harder time getting to it due to erratic command and high pitch counts. Zeferjahn has had a harder time developing a usable changeup. His ability to spin the ball gives the Sox confidence that he'll have at least one solid secondary offering. THE FUTURE: Zeferjahn will likely open 2020 in low Class A Greenville, with the need for pitch development resulting in a more deliberate development track than some college starters.
TRACK RECORD: The Red Sox lured Howlett away as a later-round pick and a Florida State commitment, signing for $185,000 in 2018. Howlett dazzled in his pro debut in 2018, showing not only a surprisingly advanced offensive approach but also solid power in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. That performance, coupled with a strong spring, convinced the Sox to send Howlett to low Class A Greenville. SCOUTING REPORT: Howlett has solid strength tools with a physically mature build for his age. Possessing plus raw power and an advanced approach, Howlett needs to be more efficient with contact. He is still quick to his front side with some effort that hinders consistent contact. While Howlett can generate hard contact now, staying on his backside will help him tap into his raw power. A third baseman now, evaluators are still not sold on his ability to stay on the dirt. Athletic with solid effort, Howlett needs work on ground ball reads as well as footwork. He has the arm for the left side but raises his slot on throws, which gives doubt to his ability to vary angles and make throws needed for the position. THE FUTURE: Howlett had a hard time self-correcting after a precipitous second-half slide during his first year in full season ball. A return to Greenville appears most likely in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: After selecting him in the second round in 2018, Decker's initial pro season was cut short after one game with a small fracture in his left wrist. Decker used the time away to understand nuances of the professional game, becoming the talk of the instructional league later that fall. After starting 2019 in extended spring training, Decker was pushed to short-season Lowell. Of the 31 teenagers who had at least 100 plate appearances in the New York-Penn League, Decker ranked second in isolated power (.224) and third in slugging (.471) while posting a .247/328/.471 line. SCOUTING REPORT: Decker has offset the lack of high school game experience because of the typically colder northeast spring climates by adopting a physically and mentally mature approach. Decker has a compact stroke with strength through the zone that helps him generate hard contact while staying inside the ball. He has the ability to use all fields but also has natural lift in his swing built for power. Decker is solid runner underway though not a basestealer. Decker has played right field since signing and presents a solid defensive profile, including range, reactions and arm strength. THE FUTURE: Decker showed enough flashes of offensive explosiveness—in tandem with a strong arm and solid defense in right field—to suggest a player with the upside of an everyday contributor. He should be in Greenville to start 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Vaughn Williams, the Red Sox area scout covering the Four Corners region, started following Cannon as a high school junior in Arizona. Over five seasons in high school and college, Williams watched Cannon evolve from someone with strong bat-to-ball skills to a player who began using his legs more as a junior to drive the ball en route to 40 extra-base hits, positioning himself as the top Red Sox draft pick in 2019. Cannon left Arizona with a career slash line of (.347/.443/.561). SCOUTING REPORT: Cannon has an above-average-to-plus hit tool combined with the potential for average power. Though Cannon is viewed as capable at shortstop, he's a better fit at second due to arm strength concerns. Though his final line in Lowell was not overly impressive, the Red Sox were encouraged because he made approach adjustments in August allowing for better contact. The Red Sox trust that a consistent amateur track record of hitting with a modest strikeout rate will show up in pro ball. THE FUTURE: Cannon could open 2020 in high Class A Salem, although low Class A Greenville appears more likely.
TRACK RECORD: The Red Sox plucked Politi on day three of the draft following a redshirt junior season in which the righthander posted a 5.44 ERA but struck out 12.6 batters per nine innings, punctuated by a dominant performance in the Big East Conference tournament. SCOUTING REPORT: Politi's stuff has not been an issue. In addition to his four-seam fastball, which features elite spin and movement as well as a low-to-mid-80s curveball, the Red Sox worked with the righty to add a high-80s cutter-slider hybrid. Politi's approach has been mostly hard, with limited usage and conviction with his changeup. Command, durability and ideal usages remain in question. Politi features a max-effort delivery with lots of moving parts, which creates a lot of stress not only physically but also on repeating pitches. Although never pitch-efficient, Politi did a better job throwing strikes with a refined mix and approach, most notably vs. lefthanders in the second half, when he posted a 1.42 ERA with a 33.2-percent strikeout rate while holding hitters to a .146 average and .443 OPS over his final 50 innings of the year, including five late-season starts. THE FUTURE: While Politi had success in the rotation late in 2019, pitch efficiency and getting deep in games are still a challenge. Despite spot starts since college, Politi appears best suited as a bulk reliever if he can continue to refine his command. He should begin 2020 in Double-A Portland.
TRACK RECORD: Rafaela has been no stranger to the international scene, having played for Curacao in the 2012 Little World Series. Still, Rafaela was easy to overlook as a diminutive second baseman in Curacao. The Red Sox saw a player who had above-average speed, impressive bat speed and excellent makeup. SCOUTING REPORT: Although listed at just 5-foot-8, Rafaela still intrigues, possessing longer limbs with a live, wiry build with room to fill. Over two years in pro ball, Rafaela has made strong impressions on evaluators who have been drawn to his high-energy style of play, hand-eye coordination and surprising pop. Rafaela shows good presence in the box with a loose, inside-out stroke and good balance. As an undersized aggressive hitter, he will need to be more selective to take advantage of contact potential with experience and maturity. He appears best suited as an athletic utility type. THE FUTURE: After participating in the Red Sox's instructional league the past two years, Rafaela appears headed to Lowell in 2020.
TRACK RECORD: Aybar spent his four seasons in the Red Sox system as an outfielder, progressing as high as Lowell in 2017. While Aybar possessed raw power, it never translated into games due in part to a 4 percent walk rate. Aybar has been pushed quickly over his two years on the mound, ending the season in the Arizona Fall League. Working out of the pen with a fastball-slider combination, Aybar has stood out early in his transition and has struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings over his career. SCOUTING REPORT: Aybar works from the stretch only but has to fight to stay in sync. Aybar has a loose arm but the arm stroke is lengthy, which limits his deception. His fastball averaged 95 mph in 2019 and topped out at 99. Lack of deception, tendency to pitch armside only and a below-average strike percentage limits his impact now. He occasionally flashes a hard, high-80s cutter-slider hybrid. The pitch is still a work in progress but gets its share of swing and misses. THE FUTURE: Aybar stands out simply by being a lefthander with top-end velocity. His delivery and pitch development are crucial. He likely will move level-to-level unless he can improve his command.
TRACK RECORD: A two-way player in high school, Liu went to college as a shortstop before returning to the mound in 2019. He dominated and won MVP honors in the Asian Baseball Championship before signing with the Red Sox for $750,000 in October. SCOUTING REPORT: Liu's delivery is already more westernized that most, lacking any noticeable pauses. He repeats it well though he tends to fall off at times, especially on his breaking stuff, which minimizes its velocity. His arm action has good finish. Working in short stints this year, Liu showed explosive stuff, including a 93-96 mph fastball that topped out at 98 during the Asian Games, an 82-83 mph slider, a curveball and a low-80s splitter. The splitter appears to be the most advanced of his secondary pitches with solid depth off his fastball. Size and durability could be an issue moving forward. THE FUTURE: Liu has tremendous upside based on athleticism and stuff, but his role remains in doubt moving forward. Extended spring training and short-season Lowell appear in the offing next year.
TRACK RECORD: When Ramirez was just 17, he showed impressive maturity and poise while pitching in the Mexican League against much older veterans. Those traits, in tandem with a good delivery, convinced the Sox to move aggressively to sign him. He was one of the younger pitchers in the short-season New York- Penn League in 2019, where he forged a 3.94 ERA with 9.2 strikeouts and just 2.3 walks per nine innings. SCOUTING REPORT: Ramirez still is on the smallish side, raising questions about whether he has the size and physicality to handle a starter's workload. Despite makings of a solid delivery, Ramirez has a deep arm path which could create issues down the road. Ramirez features a fastball in the low 90s that topped out at 95-96 mph. He also has good feel for a 12-to-6 curveball in the 75-80 mph range. The late fade of his changeup adds to a vertical mix, although command is still a work in progress. THE FUTURE: Ramirez shows back-of-the-rotation potential but may slide into a long reliever's role should durability become an issue. He should open 2020 as a teenager at low Class A Greenville.
TRACK RECORD: Esplin grew up in the midwest but went to IMG Academy (Fla.) to further his baseball development as a high school senior. At JetBlue Park, the lefthanded hitter commanded notice by clearing the 40-foot wall in left, part of an intriguing show of both power and balance. SCOUTING REPORT: While Esplin's performances to date have been relatively modest, he signed as a 17-year-old and just completed his first year of full-season ball at age 19. His youth, impressive size, and increasing strength have convinced the Sox that there's considerable untapped potential in his game. Esplin had significantly better numbers against righties than lefties. Esplin's exit velocity has increased each season, topping out at 88.5 in 2019. While Esplin's launch angle has gotten better each year, he still hits more balls on the ground than in the air. Esplin has enough arm to stay in right field. THE FUTURE: Team officials considered Esplin's 2019 season a huge developmental success and believe he has enough run production potential with the ability to offer average outfield defense, a formula that gives him a solid chance at a platoon future.
TRACK RECORD: A promising college career got derailed by Tommy John surgery in Hart's junior year, after which the lefty decided to stick around to finish his degree. Scout Blair Henry, who'd seen him shortly before the surgery, remained convinced that the lefthander's pitchability made him a solid gamble. Hart signed for $5,000 and an opportunity, and he's done nothing but take advantage. SCOUTING REPORT: Hart's feel for pitching and command are his best traits, as his mix—a high-80s fastball that scrapes the low 90s, slider, curveball, and changeup helps keep hitters off-balance and generates soft contact. Hart, though, has a narrow margin for error and is prone to hard-hit mistakes in the zone. THE FUTURE: Already 27 years old, the Sox thought enough of Hart's approach as well as performance in Pawtucket to add him to the 40-man roster in November, seeing him as a potential depth starter or potentially a bulk innings pitcher behind an opener in the near future.
TRACK RECORD: After spending his first two years at Texas and on the Cape working as a part-time closer, Shugart's four-pitch mix convinced the Longhorns to convert him to the rotation. While the results were mixed, Shugart still showed an occasional big fastball, topping out at 97 mph. Shugart's season started late, after serving a 50-game suspension for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. SCOUTING REPORT: Shugart has a simple, athletic, repeatable delivery with clean arm path. Listed at just 5-foot-10, deception is an issue, which is reflected in his 7.3 percent strikeout rate. Shugart's strengths are his command, ability to use both sides of the plate while working in the strike zone (2.3 walks per nine) and limiting hard contact (.101 ISO). While his fastball has topped out at 96 mph, Shugart works in the 91-93 range. Shugart's curveball is his most effective pitch now with good shape, spin and command. Shugart also has a solid changeup and a developing slider. THE FUTURE: Shugart shows traits of a potential back-end starter or long reliever. He will need to continue to refine command and his pitchability as well as remaining comfortable with contact.
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