Red Sox in the Arizona Fall League: the pitchers
In the first part of this series, we looked at the Red Sox hitters playing in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) on the Surprise Saguaros. In this second part, we will take a look at the four pitchers in the Red Sox farm system who are going to the AFL, all of whom are eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December. These are arms the Red Sox may potentially add to the 40-man roster, which would exempt them from the draft. Keith Couch, Aaron Kurcz, Madison Younginer, and Robby Scott may not be the elite prospects some teams are sending to the AFL (like the Twins’ Byron Buxton or Mariners’ Taijuan Walker – who started the Saguaros season opener – to name a couple), but the AFL gives them a great opportunity to showcase their skills for the Red Sox and potential trade partners.
Let’s take a closer look at these prospects that should be on your radar for how they might help the Red Sox in 2015 and beyond.
Keith Couch is not typically mentioned with the elite prospects of the Red Sox organization. He’s not Owens or Ranaudo or Johnson. Couch is changing that mindset with his performance. A 13th round pick in the 2010 draft, Couch was 8-2 with a 2.96 ERA at AA Portland. In 2013, he also pitched for the Saguaros, posting a 4.05 ERA in 13.1 innings, all in relief. The organization thought enough of him to give him the start in AAA Pawtucket’s decisive fifth game of the International League series. Couch confounded the Durham Bulls hitters, allowing only one hit and two walks in a masterful 6.2 inning performance that led to the PawSox victory and their second IL title in three years. It was his first start in 17 days, which made it even more remarkable. The Red Sox will see if he can build on this performance and start the year at AAA next season.
Aaron Kurcz is a name some Red Sox fans may remember. He was one of the prospects the Cubs sent to the Red Sox as compensation for letting Theo Epstein go in 2012. The Cubs picked Kurcz in the tenth round of the 2010 draft . Kurcz missed the second half of 2012 and the entire 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He came back in 2014 to post a 3-2 record with three saves and a 2.14 ERA. He has had a history of success in the minors, striking out 265 batters in 209 innings with a 2.81 career ERA and .209 batting average allowed. As a reliever, Kurcz doesn’t draw the attention of a front-line starter, but his history of success indicates the Red Sox will seriously consider adding him to the 40-man roster if he can continue his success in the AFL.
Madison Younginer just completed his fourth year in the Red Sox system and he has not reached AA as of yet. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. Scouts like his six foot four projectable frame, but he may be running out of chances for the Red Sox. Younginer could end up as organization depth with someone if he does not reach his potential. His 2014 season was one of inconsistency at high A Salem, his ERA fluctuating wildly from month to month. His final line was 3-3, with a 4.08 ERA and two saves. On the positive side, half of his earned runs for the year came in two appearances, he struck out 55 in 57.1 innings, had a 0.82 ERA in August, and allowed zero home runs for the season. In the AFL, the Red Sox might be showcasing Younginer for other deals, or to see if he can continue his success of the second half going into 2015.
Robby Scott was signed out of the North American League (independent) Yuma Scorpions in 2011 after not being drafted out of Florida State. Scott is a left-hander with a high 80s fastball, curveball and changeup. He finished the year at AA Portland with an 8-2 record, 1.96 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Though he has been projected as a situational lefty, his splits from 2014 show more success vs. right handed hitters. Scott allowed a .417 average to lefties vs. a .186 average to righties last season. Each season he has progressed a level, boasting a 2.07 ERA over 160.2 minor league innings with only a .219 batting average allowed overall. The Red Sox would like to see more success from Scott if they are going to protect him on the 40-man roster, perhaps stepping ahead of lefty Drake Britton who had a 5.86 ERA at AAA Pawtucket in 2014.
Come back to BoSoxInjection.com for weekly updates on these pitchers and the hitters the Red Sox are sending to the Arizona Fall League in 2014.