Hey guys, welcome to the 2018 Sally team preview series, I’m excited to get these going again. This is my 3rd year of doing the previews, they make for a great off-season project and I learn a ton from them.
Today I’ll be looking at the 2018 Greenville Drive, the Single-A full season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Fluor Field is one of my favorite stadiums in all of the minor leagues to visit. The dimensions match Fenway Park, they even have there own monster seats. It’s a beautiful park, with a great atmosphere and friendly staff. The Drive will be trying for back to back league championships in 2018.
For those not familiar with the series: I scour the rookie levels of each organization and speculate on who might be coming to the Sally in 2018 and whenever possible I try to include a scouting report. New for this year, I’ll also be interviewing some of my favorite prospectors to find out who they’re most excited about coming out of rookie ball. Both the high end players and some sleepers to watch for. I’m looking forward to collaborating with some talented people. Some that I know fairly well and others that I’m just a fan of there work.
Joining me to talk Red Sox prospects is Ralph Lifshitz (on Twitter @ProspectJesus) he’s a talented prospect writer for “Razzball” (on Twitter @Razzball). He sees a lot of live games around the North East and I can tell by his writing he’s got a good eye. All of his work comes with a fantasy slant and his specially is deep dynasty (same as yours truly). You can also find Ralph on multiple podcasts: He co-hosts “Razzball prospect pod” with Lance Brozdowski (on Twitter @LanceBrozdowski) they’re currently going team by team and diving deep into the minor league systems. One of the my favorite prospect pods on the net. You can find that here: https://razzball.com/category/prospect-podcast/. He also co-hosts a dynasty fantasy baseball podcast with Andy Singleton (on Twitter @PeoplezPen) and hosted by “Fantrax” called “the Baseball Show” and you can find that here: Fantrax Video Channel. It’s an excellent show with terrific guests. Both of these shows are in my rotation every week. I’ve gotten to know Ralph a little bit in recent months. He’s a good dude, he’s hilarious and he’s one of the hardest working guys in the industry. He’s also a life long Sox fan and knows this system very well. It’s an honor to have him here. He’ll be giving us a bunch of names to watch for coming out of short season ball.
At Notes from the Sally it’s all about live look scouting. Once I see the Greenville Drive, you can expect write up’s on many of the players listed. The Drive are one of my home teams as are Asheville and Hickory. I’ll see them a dozen or more times in 2018.
Lets meet the notables: I’ll be posting links to scouting reports for many of these players. Ralph has seen many of them live and will give his own takes below.
LHP) Jay Groome- Age 19, 6’6″ 235 lbs, bats and throws left. He was drafted 12th overall in the 2016 draft out of High School in Barnegat, NJ (Jersey shore, 55 miles east of Philly.
I watched Groome throw a couple of times last Summer, very impressive. I rated him as the top arm I saw in 2017. Here’s my piece on Groome: Scouting Jay Groome, LHP, Greenville
RHP) Tanner Houck- Age 21, listed 6’5″ 220 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted 24th overall in the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Missouri.
soxprospects.com is one of the best team oriented prospect sites on the net, I’m a frequent visitor of there forums. Here’s there scouting report on Tanner Houck. http://soxprospects.com/players/houck-tanner.htm
On that page, there’s additional links to resident scout Ian Cundall’s (on Twitter @IanCundall) live look scouting scratches.
CF) Cole Brannen- Age 19, listed 6′ 170 lbs, bats left and throws right. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft out of High School in Perry, GA (Macon metro).
Rich Wilson of “Prospect 361” recently released his top 10 Red Sox Prospects and said this of Brannen.
“In the second round last June, the Red Sox selected Cole Brannen in the second round and paid him a $1.3 million signing bonus. After signing, the Red Sox assigned him to the GCL where he had mixed results.”
“In 39 games he hit .231 but walked nearly as much as struck out. The problem is he struck out 22% of the time. While you can argue that he demonstrated an understanding of the strike zone, his high walk rate was more about being tentative at the plate. This can lead to bad consequences including getting put into poor hitting counts and you guessed it, striking out a lot.”
“Scouting Report: Brannen is pretty tooled up. He’s a plus runner, a plus defender and evaluators like his swing. The swing is more geared to contact but he does have good bat speed so he might eventually develop a little bit of pop down the road.”
“While he has a long way to go, the Red Sox believe that he will develop into a classic top-of-the-order table setter with the ability to stay in center field.”
For the rest of Rich’s top 10 Red Sox prospects. Click here: Boston Red Sox
RHP) Alex Scherff- Turns 20 in February, listed 6’3″ 205 lbs, bats both and throws right. He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 draft out of High School in Colleyville, TX (Dallas Metro).
Scherff was chosen as the 2017 Player of the year in the Texas. The “Prep Baseball Report” has the write up as well as a scouting report. You can read that here:
SS) CJ Chatham- Age 23, listed 6’4″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of Florida Atlantic Univ.
He had a lost year in 2017, appearing in just 7 games. I’m intrigued by a player that’s 6’4″ with the potential to stick at SS. But I haven’t read anything glowing about the bat. I think it’s 50/50 he could skip up to Salem.
RHP) Jake Thompson- Age 23, listed 6’1″ 200 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft out of Oregon State Univ.
John Sickels of “Minor League Ball”, recently released his top 20 Red Sox prospects. And had this to say about Thompson.
“Age 23, fourth round pick in 2017 from Oregon State University; terrific college spring, 14-0, 1.52 with 113/36 K/BB in 118 innings, just 76 hits; on short pitch count in NY-P League but posted 3.18 ERA with 11/6 K/BB in 11 innings; heavy fastball up to 95-96 mixed with a plus slider; change-up and command need some work; if command holds up he could be a number three starter although many view him more as a reliever; personally I am among the optimists. ETA: 2020.”
RF-LF) Tyler Esplin- Age 18, listed 6’4″ 225 lbs, bats left and throws right. He was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 draft out of IMG Acadamy in Bradenton, FL (45 miles south of Tampa)
Christopher Smith of “Mass Live” quoted some industry sources in regards to Esplin: http://www.masslive.com/redsox/index.ssf/2017/06/mlb_draft_2017_results_boston_5.html
Now here’s Ralph Lifshitz talking about these players and a whole lot more.
Question #1) Tanner Houck, Jake Thompson and Zach Schellenger were the top 3 college arms selected in the 2017 draft. What are their repertoires? Do you see any potential impact starters or relievers in the group?
“Tanner Houck has the big plus (maybe plus plus) fastball we’ve seen, as well as a slider and a changeup. I’ve heard he has a four seamer and a two seam variation of the fastball, which might be the case, but my non-superhero eyes failed me in my looks. What I saw live was a heater that sat 93-95 with the ability to touch 98, with some nasty sink. His slider is more the sweeping variety, and should induce swing and misses, particularly if he learns to shape it. His changeup is fringe at the moment, but the Red Sox intend to add to his arsenal with a cutter, and perhaps a confirmed two seamer. He creates a lot of deception from his delivery, he throws from a 3/4 arm slot, but his motions goes across his body. This of course leads to questions about his long term health, and viability as a starter. If he doesn’t end up a solid mid-rotation type with moments of brilliance, I think he can be an elite pen arm.”
“Jake Thompson and first round pick Tanner Houck share some similarities. They both were college starters with some notoriety, they both feature plus fastballs that sit 92-96, and both of their arsenals are rounded out with a slider and changeup. There’s also a bit of relief risk mentioned when you chat with scouts. He might be the first player from this draft on a major league roster, as his simple delivery and ability to pound the zone should help him matriculate quickly. More of a backend rotation profile, with a middle relief floor. Looks like a big leaguer to me.”
“Zach Schellenger I did not get any first hand looks at, he was assigned to the GCL out of the draft. The 6th rounder out of Seaton Hall was a success his Sophomore season as the Pirates closer, but missed most of his junior year with a biceps injury. This led to a tick down in his stuff, but I’ve heard when he’s right, he features a big mid-90’s fastball and a slider with nasty break. Those that I’ve spoken with that saw him on the Cape in 2016 had overwhelmingly positive things to report. So there is some upside, despite the fact that Schellenger lacks much of track record of sustained success. He’s big at 6’6, and there’s a lot of effort in the delivery, so there’s always going to be durability questions. With a repertoire that really only consists of two usable pitches (he throws a changeup but it’s fringe), some health risk, and the successful bullpen stint in college leads me to believe we’re looking at a no doubt career reliever.”
“In closing, it wouldn’t shock me if we’re looking at three pen pieces come 2021.”
Question #2) 5th round pick Prep RHP) Alex Scherff has gotten some positive buzz post draft, how good is his stuff?
“Damn good! I mean he went 8-0 his senior season of high school with 0.44 ERA and a 16.6 K/9 in route to Texas Gatorade Player of the Year honors. He features a big fastball that sits 92-95, and can touch 97. Scouts love his changeup, while his curveball is a work in progress. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, and he combines prototypical size, strength, athleticism, and stuff. There’s some kinks to workout in his delivery, but he looks like a starter to me, and perhaps the 2017 Sox pick with the highest upside. I see big things from Scherff.”
Question #3) The Red Sox also drafted a couple of prep outfielders in the first two days of the draft. With CF) Cole Brannen going in the 2nd round and RF-LF) Tyler Esplin in round 7. How loud are there tools? Can Brannen stick up the middle?
“I love Cole Brannen! The tools are loud but not in the Top 100 sense, at least for the time being. I think it’s important to keep in mind he had first round buzz entering last spring, but saw his season go sideways following a pre-season surgery to fix a broken hamate. He’s a centerfield type all the way with speed and athleticism that should keep him up the middle of the field. At the plate he has a ways to go, he does flash a quick lefty swing and discerning eye. He needs to build strength and add power, but his ability to go the other way and get on base could be his ticket to a top of the lineup job one day. The ceiling here is another Jacoby Ellsbury.”
“Tyler Esplin is a big boy! Tall and sort of beefy. Yes, beefy is the best way to describe Esplin. He’s not fat, he’s just beefy. A righthanded starter and left-handed hitting outfielder at the famed IMG Academy down in Bradenton, Florida, he hit .432 his senior year per Max Preps. His lefthanded swing is geared toward power, with an open stance, and a bit of a hitch in his final load. It’s not the most athletic cut, but he makes loud contact. He runs better than you’d expect, but overall he has a Baby Huey element to him. At times you’re amused at the goofiness of his movements, then he does something athletic and sort of catches you off guard. I’m going to be like a cyclops with a monocle when it comes to watching Esplin.”
Question #4) Any 2017 draftees not previously mentioned, stand out post draft?
“Brett Netzer deserves a mention. There’s no power in the profile but there’s bat to ball skills. His ceiling is probably MLB utility player, but there’s some hitting ability there maybe he finds some power. This is what makes baseball great, development is beyond just physical attributes. In the end, preparation, smarts, and the ability to adjust has turned a lot of Netzer types into MLB players. Netzer underestimate a guy who puts the bat on the ball.”
Question #5) Are there any Latin players on your radar that are getting close to graduating short season?
“Yoan Aybar comes to mind, but he sort of already did. This is the time where the signing restrictions of a few years ago will show. Lot of this kids would have been Lowell players this year.”
“The other guy is righthanded starter Denyi Reyes. He pitched entirely out of the bullpen for Lowell last year, but was more fireman style going anywhere from 3 to even 5 innings at a time. In fact from July 27th until August 30th, Reyes walked one batter while striking out 37, over a 38.2 inning stretch that saw him win 7 straight games. Mixes a fastball, curveball, change, more a control than stuff guy. Should add some fastball velocity as he matures.”
Question #6) I know you saw a lot of Lowell this past year. Any sleepers we should be watching for? Maybe a player or two that excels at one particular tool ( + Raw Power or + speed)?
“I think Nick Hamilton is one to watch. Late to baseball, didn’t start playing until he was 15 or 16. He’s a plus plus runner, super athletic, but he does lack some instincts. The swing isn’t bad, and he connected for a pair of homers this year. He’s VERY raw, but he’s the athletic type with tantalizing offensive potential, just how I likes‘em.”
Around the diamond
I’m highlighting who I think will be the starters.
Sox prospects has a top 60 prospect list that’s updated monthly. You can find the top 20 here: http://www.soxprospects.com/index.html
And 21-60 here: http://www.soxprospects.com/index.html
Beside each player I’m going to list there current ranking.
C) Samuel Miranda- Age 20, listed 6’1″ 175 lbs, bats left and throws right. He was signed out Venezuela in 2013.
C) Charlie Madden- Age 22, listed 6’3″ 205 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 24th round of the 2017 draft out of Mercer Univ (Macon, GA)
C) Isaias Lucena- Age 23, listed 5’11” 180 lbs, bats both and throws right. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2012.
C) Nick Sciortino- Age 22, listed 5’9″ 197 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 17th round of the 2016 draft out of Boston College.
C) Eddy Reynoso- Age 23, listed 6′ 195 lbs, bats and throws right. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.
Not much impact on the horizon at catcher, none of these guys are currently in the top 60. But maybe someone will put themselves on the map.
1B) Pedro Castellanos- Age 20, listed 6’3″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2015. (33)
He wasn’t really on anyone’s radar coming into 2017. But I was reading some positive reports on him coming out of the GCL. I did get to see him in Greenville for one game late. A big man, my main take away that day was he’s probably not an OF. I’m expecting to get plenty of looks this yr.
3B) Garrett Benge- Age 22, listed 6′ 205 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in 13th round of the 2017 draft out of Oklahoma State Univ.
“The Baseball Draft Report” is one of my go to spots for draft prep and recaps. Rob Ozga does a terrific job with draft coverage. Benge made Ozga’s “all big 12 draft team” and he wrote about him here: https://baseballdraftreport.com/2017/05/16/2017-big-12-all-draft-team-hitters/
1B) Raiwinson Lameda- Age 22, listed 5’11” 175 lbs, bats left and throws right. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2012
1B) Zach Sterry- Age 23, listed 5’11” 226 lbs, bats left and throws right. He was drafted in the 8th round of the 2017 draft out of the Oakland Univ (Rochester, MI) (Detroit metro).
1B) Trey Ganns- Age 22, listed 6’2″ 225 lbs, bats and throws left. He was drafted in the 35th round of the 2017 draft out of Northern Kentucky Univ (Highland Heights, KY) (Cincinnati Metro).
3B) Everlouis Lozada- Age 19, listed 5’7″ 150 lbs, bats both and throws right. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2015. (41)
3B) Michael Osinski- Age 22, listed 6’2″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 31st round of the 2017 draft out of Longwood Univ (Farmville, VA. (60 miles west of Richmond).
2B) Kervin Suarez- Age 19, listed 5’11” 165 lbs, bats both and throws right. He was signed out Venezuela in 2015.
SS) CJ Chatham (12)
2B) Tanner Nishioka- Age 23, listed 5’11” 180 lbs, he was drafted in the 9th round of the 2017 draft out of Pomona college (Claremont, CA) (LA metro).
2B-SS-3B) Carlos Tovar- Age 22, listed 5’11” 170 lbs, bats and throws right. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2013.
2B-CF) Jagger Rusconi- Age 21, listed 5’11” 165 lbs, bats both and throws right. He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 draft out of High School in Stevenson Ranch, CA (LA Metro)
SS) Frankie Rios- Age 22, listed 5’10” 185 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 17th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Southern California.
LF-RF) Tyler Esplin (48)
CF) Cole Brannen (7)
RF-CF) Yoan Aybar- Age 20, 6’2″ 180 lbs, bats and throws left. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.
CF) Nicholos Hamilton- Age 20, listed 5’11” 170 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 11th round of the 2015 draft out of High School in Lockport, NY (Buffalo Metro)
LF-RF) Marino Capana- Age 20, listed 6’4″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.
RF-LF) Granger Studdard- Turns 23 in February, listed 6’1″ 200, bats left and throws right. He was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2016 draft out of Texas State Univ (Austin Metro).
\RF-LF) Alexander Martinez- Age 21, listed 6′ 170 lbs, bats and throws right. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016 out of Des Moines area Community College in Des Moines, IA.
RF) Juan Barriento- Age 21, listed 6’2″ 201 lbs, bats and throws right. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.
CF-RF) Ramfis Berroa- Age 22, listed 6’2″ 190 lbs, bats and throws right. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.
Some potential returnees
LHP) Jay Groome (1)
LHP) Jhonathan Diaz
RHP) Tanner Houck- Could skip and go to Salem (4)
RHP) Jake Thompson- Could skip and go to Salem (16)
RHP) Alex Scherff- Could go to Lowell (9)
LHP) Yorvin Pantoja- Age 20, listed 5’11” 175 lbs, bats and throws left. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2014.
LHP) Enmanuel Dejesus- Age 21, listed 6’3″ 190 lbs, bats and throws left. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2013.
RHP) Nick Duron- Turns 22 in January, listed 6’4″ 190 lbs, bats an throws right. he was drafted in the 31st round of the 2015 draft out of Clark College (Vancouver, WA) (40)
LHP) Angel Padron- Age 20, listed 5’11” 175 lbs, bats and throws left. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2014.
I enjoyed the deep dive into the Red Sox system. Big thanks to Ralph Lifshitz (on Twitter @ProspectJesus) for jumping on. Terrific interview. The Sox system has taken a beating in recent years due to promotions and trades. But there was a nice influx of talent in 2017 both through the draft and Internationally (rest in peace Daniel Flores).
Greenville looks to be about average in terms of talent in vs the rest of the Sally. SP looks to be a strength and OF could be interesting as well. I’m really looking forward to watching Scherff and Brannen.
Up next at Notes is a look at the 2018 Columbia Fireflies (Mets).
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