KATOH Projects: Boston Red Sox Prospects

Yesterday, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Boston Red Sox. In this companion piece, I look at that same Boston farm system through the lens of my KATOH projection system. There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their age-28 seasons, those who receive a projection of at between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their age-28 seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Rafael Devers, 3B (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 9.6 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 2.3 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

Devers destroyed two levels of Rookie Ball in 2014, which prompted the Red Sox to send him to the Sally league as an 18-year-old. He didn’t disappoint. While his numbers weren’t flashy, his power and strikeout rate were both better than the league’s average. That’s remarkable for a guy facing pitchers three or four years his senior. He could stand to walk a bit more, but that’s a minor concern considering how little walk rate tells us about players at Devers’ level. All in all, there’s a lot to be excited about with Devers.

2. Sam Travis, 1B (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 7.3 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 1.9 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Travis flat out raked this year while splitting time between High-A and Double-A. His 14% strikeout rate enabled him to hit over .300 at both stops, and he complimented that contact with ample walks and power. He even swiped 19 bases for good measure. KATOH dings him for his defensive position, but it’s hard to poke holes in his recent offensive acumen. The onus will be on him in 2016 to prove last season wasn’t a fluke.

3. Andrew Benintendi, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 7.0 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): N/A
Dan’s Grade: 60 FV

The Red Sox selected Benintendi seventh overall in last year’s amateur draft, and he promptly hit .313/.416/.556 across two levels of A-Ball. He demonstrated a remarkable combination of power and contact ability, while also kicking in a healthy dose of walks and speed. In other words, he did it all. Highly-touted college draftees are expected to dominate in the low minors, but Benintendi acquitted himself exceptionally well last year. We’re dealing with a smallish sample size here, and his performance in Double-A will give us a better sense of how good he’ll become. But the early indicators are all positive.

4. Anderson Espinoza, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 6.2 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): N/A
Dan’s Grade: 55+ FV

Espinoza has just 58 professional innings to his name, and he only threw a fraction of those after he came stateside. So take this forecast with a grain of salt. But it’s very hard to quibble with Espinoza’s statistical track record so far. He posted 26% strikeout rate, 6% walk rate after coming to the US and has yet to allow a professional home run. Most impressive of all, he doesn’t turn 18 until March. It will be exciting to see what he does in his first taste of full-season ball.

5. Michael Kopech, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 4.9 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): N/A
Dan’s Grade: 45+ FV

Kopech pitched exclusively in Low-A level last year, where he put up a healthy 26% strikeout rate as a 19-year-old. His season came to an end in July, however, when he tested positive for a banned substance. Kopech has pitched very well so far, but only has one half-season in full-season ball to his name. If he continues to succeed at the higher levels, though, he could rank much higher next year.

6. Mauricio Dubon, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 3.3 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 4.0 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45+ FV

Dubon spent his age-20 season hitting .288/.349/.376 with 30 steals between two levels of A-Ball. Dubon is a slap-hitting middle infielder, but he hit for enough pop last year to suggest he won’t embarrass himself against better pitching. Dubon may not have a ton of upside, but even if he’s a future backup, that would be an excellent return from a 26th-round pick.

7. Brian Johnson, LHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 3.2 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 2.4 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 50 FV

Save for one spot start with Boston, Johnson pitched exclusively in Triple-A last year. The southpaw turned in a strong 23% strikeout rate, and allowed just six homers in 100 innings of work. Those are solid numbers, but not knock-your-socks-off, especially coming from a 24-year-old. Still, Johnson’s mastered the Triple-A level, which gives a higher floor than most others on this list.

8. Marco Hernandez, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 2.9 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 0.3 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Hernandez opened last season in Double-A, where he hit an exciting .326/.349/.482. That performance earned him a mid-season promotion to Triple-A, where he hit a less exciting .271/.300/.409. Hernandez’s plate discipline leaves something to be desired as evidenced by his strikeout and walk numbers, but he has decent pop for a shortstop. A 22-year-old middle infielder who held his own in Triple-A makes for an interesting prospect.

9. Tzu-Wei Lin, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 2.8 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 0.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 35+ FV

Lin is a glove-first infielder, who showed glimpses of promise with the bat last year. He hit a respectable .281/.331/.367 in 307 High-A plate appearances last year, but looked completely lost following a July promotion to Double-A. Lin has very little power to speak of, but plays shortstop, runs well and makes a lot of contact. Double-A struggles aside, he might have a future as a part-time infielder. His bat is nowhere near big league ready right now, but considering he’s only 21, he has time to make adjustments.

*****

1-2 WAR Players

Red Sox Prospects Forecast for 1-2 WAR Through Age 28
Rank Name Position WAR thru 28 Dan’s FV
10 Nick Longhi OF/1B 1.7 40
11 Jose Almonte RHP 1.6 Unranked
12 Dedgar Jimenez LHP 1.5 Unranked
13 Wendell Rijo 2B 1.4 40
14 Aneury Tavarez OF 1.3 Unranked
15 Kevin Steen RHP 1.2 35
16 William Cuevas RHP 1.2 Unranked
17 Victor Acosta 3B/2B 1.1 35+
18 Yoan Moncada 2B 1.0 60
19 Daniel McGrath LHP 1.0 Unranked

Yoan Moncada started slow last year, but hit progressively better as the year went on. Slow start and all, he finished the year with an OPS over .800 and 49 steals in just 81 games. However, KATOH doesn’t like his 23% strikeout rate or that he plays second base rather than shortstop. Moncada sat out all of 2014, and played exclusively in Cuba before then, which explains some of his early season struggles. So KATOH is almost certainly selling him a bit short with this projection. Now that Moncada’s adjusted to life in the minors, his 2016 numbers should give KATOH a better sense of Moncada’s future.

The other players in this group aren’t nearly as interesting as Moncada. Nick Longhi hit fairly well as a 19-year-old in Low-A. Jose Almonte posted solid strikeout numbers in the New York-Penn League, but is still a ways away. Dedgar Jimenez is a 6-foot-3 lefty who had some success as a 19-year-old in Low-A, although he didn’t miss many bats. Aneury Tavarez flashed an interesting power/speed combination. Daniel McGrath is from Australia, which is cool.

*****

Others

Deven Marrero, SS
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 0.8 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 2.4 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45+ FV

Marrero split 2015 between Triple-A and the majors and didn’t hit particularly well at either stop. His elevated strikeout rate and weak power numbers are underwhelming, especially when you consider he’s already 25. In fairness, Marrero is the type of player KATOH is prone to underrate. KATOH accounts for defense strictly by looking at a player’s defensive position. So it treats him as an average defensive Triple-A shortstop rather than the 65 or 70 fielder he actually is. But even so, Marrero has done very little with the bat since the first half of 2014.

Michael Chavis, 3B
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 0.0 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 3.8 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Chavis popped 16 home runs as a 19-year-old in full-season ball last year, but everything else about his performance was atrociously bad. Most atrocious of all was his 31% strikeout rate, which was the seventh-highest among 147 qualified hitters in Low-A. Chavis’ tools are nice, but until he makes enough contact to parlay them into on-field performance, KATOH won’t be on board. Guys who strike out that much in the low minors almost never succeed in the majors.

Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 0.4 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): N/A
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Basabe’s another victim of the elevated strikeout rate. He put up a decent .243/.340/.401 as an 18-year-old in Short-season A-Ball, but struck out in more than one-quarter of his plate appearances. Basabe’s power and speed numbers have been decent, and still has youth on his side, but he could really benefit from making more contact. He’s all tools at this point.

Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 0.5 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 1.3 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Stankiewicz spent all of last year in High-A, where he hardly struck anyone out. Low walk and home run rates allowed him to post a 4.03 FIP, which isn’t terrible. But mediocre A-Ball pitchers are a dime a dozen. Stankiewicz has good stuff, but statistically speaking, he hasn’t done much to set himself apart.

Ben Taylor, RHP
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 0.5 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): N/A
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Taylor was Boston’s seventh-round pick in last year’s amateur draft. He closed out his draft year in Low-A, where he pitched to a 3.55 FIP over 10 starts. His performance itself wasn’t bad, but as a senior sign, Taylor’s already 23. That’s more than a little old to still be figuring out A-Ball.

Trey Ball, LHP
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 0.3 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 0.7 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Ball had a rough go of it in High-A last year. The former seventh-overall pick struck out just 14% of batters faced while walking 11%. Those numbers are way, way too close together. Ball still has the athleticism and stuff that made him an early draft selection, but his performance has been extremely underwhelming.

Luis Ysla, LHP
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2015 stats): 0.2 WAR
KATOH Projection Through Age 28 (2014 stats): 0.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Ysla spent all of 2015 pitching at the High-A level, where he split time between the rotation and the bullpen. Ysla’s numbers were poor: 5.85 ERA and 4.37 FIP, although he pitched much better when he worked out of the bullpen. Even so, there’s little room in KATOH’s heart for a 23-year-old A-ball reliever.

We hoped you liked reading KATOH Projects: Boston Red Sox Prospects by Chris Mitchell!

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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snoop god
Member
snoop god

interesting contrast between katoh’s and Dan’s projections for Sam Travis, almost night and day.

Kevin
Member
Kevin

Kiley also put a 45 on him last year, but seems like he was a little more optimistic than Dan.