The Red Sox system has fallen on hard times but the good news is that the big league club is littered with young, impact talent. The pitching depth is pretty sparse.
The Graduate: Andrew Benintendi, OF: After watching mutants like Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger perform as rookies in 2017, it would be easy to consider Benintendi’s season pretty modest. However, he was a 20-20 (HR-SB) threat and got on base at a regular clip thanks to a walk rate of more than 10%. His struggles against southpaws pulled down his overall numbers but he needs to continue to face them to round out his game. I’d also like him to show a little more sting in his bat as he might be more of a 12-15 homer guy without the juiced ball.
The Stud: Michael Chavis, 3B: As mentioned above, the system is thin and it lacks true impact players. Chavis had a breakout 2017 season and hit 31 home runs but it remains to be seen just how good of a hitter he really is. He needs to improve his approach at the plate and show better pitch selection and patience. Chavis, 22, has a very strong arm, which gives him a shot to stick at third base, but the presence of Rafael Devers could push the double-A infielder to the outfield (not that there’s an opening there, either). From an offensive profile, he might be the next Adam Duvall.
The Draft Pick: Tanner Houck, RHP: The Blue Jays tried to nab Houck out of high school but he was considered all but unsignable. After three years in college, the big right-hander received some early first round consideration but he ultimately slid to the Sox at the 24th slot. There are concerns that his overall package is not polished enough to stick as a starter but I don’t share those concerns. His heater has a chance to work in the upper 90s and should produce a good number of ground-ball outs. Because it’s so good, he only needs the slider and changeup to be average. If they improve from there, he moves from a potential No. 3 guy to a No. 1 or 2.
The Riser: Mike Shawaryn, RHP: This 2016 fifth round draft pick has moved quickly through the system and could open 2018 in double-A. He has three slightly-above-average offerings and above-average control, which could allow him to develop into an innings-eating No. 3 or 4 starter. Shawaryn is not flashy but he’s the type of arm that champion teams need to help chew up innings.
The Sleeper: Lorenzo Cedrola, OF: Cedrola catches my eye as a player that can really, really hit but he may never be strong enough to be more than a fourth or fifth outfielder. He has enough speed to be a nuisance on the bases and a strong fielder in center. His slight frame makes projecting increased strength difficult and he could end up being similar to Carlos Tocci (who was recently nabbed in the Rule 5 draft). If Cedrola can get stronger and can learn to take more free passes to utilize his speed, he becomes an intriguing future bench option for Boston.
Another Sleeper: Chad De La Guerra, IF: I’m tacking on De La Guerra because I wanted to write a few words about him. He reminds me of Darwin Barney (without the plus glove) — a guy with some offensive potential that’s not quite good enough to be an everyday guy… although he could probably handle it as an injury fill-in for a few months. He has good line-drive pop geared for the gaps and should produce a solid on-base average due to his willingness to take a walk. He also keeps the strikeouts at a modest level so he could hit for a decent average.