Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Every minor league system has its share of high-ceiling impact prospects who flame out despite their remarkable tools. Similarly, every system has a few players who are never highly-regarded as prospects but manage to make a Major League impact nonetheless. The impact prospects get enough attention throughout baseball, but today let’s take a look at some of the guys that don’t get much attention but still have a legitimate shot to be Major League ballplayers.
Brandon Workman: Honestly, who could lead this list other than Brandon Workman? Ever since he was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, he has been described as a future reliever or maybe, just maybe a back-end starter. However, he has exceeded expectations at every level and has had remarkable success in his quick ascent through the minor league ranks. He has not posted an ERA above 4.00 at any level and has maintained excellent peripherals all the while. Even after gaining some recognition following an impressive debut last season, Workman still ranks just ninth in the Red Sox’ farm system according to SoxProspects (though that’s admittedly more a testament to the strength of the system than it is a knock on Workman). Workman may not be an ace or even a front line starter at the Major League level but he has as good a chance as any pitcher in the system right now to be a productive major leaguer.
Alex Hassan: Alex Hassan fits in with the Red Sox hitting philosophy as well as possibly anybody in the minor league system right now. Ever since the Red Sox drafted him in 2009, he has drawn a ton of walks and hit the ball relatively well. Already a productive player through his earlier minor league seasons, Hassan made strides in 2013 as he added versatility (getting some experience at first base aside from his usual outfield) as well as adding some major power to his resume– scouts note that he has incorporated his legs into his swing more than he once did. That development helped Hassan post a very respectable .321/.431/.460 slash line in Triple-A Pawtucket, his highest OPS of any minor league season. The Red Sox have plenty of depth at corner outfield, but his experience at first base could make Hassan a valuable player in coming seasons.
Dan Butler: Overshadowed by Ryan Lavarnway at nearly every stop throughout his minor league career, Butler finally got a chance to serve as the starting catcher after Lavarnway was called up to the majors over the summer. He impressed at Pawtucket by slashing .262/.350/.479 with 14 home runs in 323 plate appearances. Like Hassan, Butler fits well into the team’s philosophy. He draws plenty of walks and rarely strikes out along with supplying some power and above-average defense behind the plate. The Red Sox have a pair of high-ceiling prospects at catcher right now, so Butler may never get his chance to shine in Boston but he could absolutely be a solid player in the right situation.
Noe Ramirez: After being drafted as a starting pitcher in 2011, Ramirez posted solid numbers in his first full minor league season in 2012. However, he really began to shine after being converted to relief before the 2013 season. Ramirez was excellent in High-A Salem, posting a 2.11 ERA and 4.89 K/BB in 21 games before being promoted to Double-A Portland. He was similarly good after being promoted, posting a 2.83 ERA and 3.88 K/BB in 15 games after the promotion. Ramirez does not have great stuff and he thrives on good control and movement, giving him a likely ceiling of a middle relief pitcher. However, a solid middle reliever is what helps make a good bullpen a great one and he could be a valuable piece in a few years.