There’s no question that there’s been a major culture change in Boston since hiring Ben Cherington as general manager. Rather than pursuing the high-priced free agents and blockbuster trades of the Theo Epstein era, the Red Sox have generally adopted a development-centric approach, signing free agents to plug holes on the roster but not necessarily build it.
One element of this approach has been increased activity in the foreign market, as the Red Sox have signed a number of high-profile international free agents, both in and out of the international signings period. Outside of that period, they’ve raised eyebrows in blowing other teams out of the water with players like Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada. Even in the international signings period, where teams sign amateurs in their mid-teens to major signing bonuses in the hopes that they’re able to amount to anything in baseball, the Red Sox have been quite active in recent years. In 2013, they acquired the top bat on the market in Rafael Devers, who is currently in Low-A Greenville after succeeding throughout the low minors. Last season, they took home arguably the top pitcher on the market in Anderson Espinoza, who is now about to come stateside for the first time in his professional career.
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The Red Sox signed Espinoza to a $1.8M signing bonus last season, nearly doubling the record for a Venezuelan amateur. In fact, the Red Sox spent so much money in last year’s international class on Espinoza and Christopher Acosta, another promising right-hander, (not to mention Moncada) that they’ve effectively eliminated themselves from making any international moves this season. Still, Espinoza has huge upside and, at 17 years old, will find himself pitching for the GCL Red Sox shortly.
Espinoza has been dominant in the Dominican Summer League, pitching to a 1.20 ERA with 21 strikeouts and 3 walks in 15 innings pitched this season. Despite his undersized frame, Espinoza has an elite ceiling due to his smooth mechanics and dominant stuff, and SoxProspects has nothing but kind words to say about the youngster.
"In addition to a strong statistical performance, Espinoza has generated a great deal of buzz in the scouting community. His fastball has been reported to touch 99 mph with a smooth, easy delivery, and he complements that with a curveball and changeup, both of which have potential to become plus pitches."
At just 17 years old, Espinoza isn’t even considered an adult in the United States, but there are few (if any) in the Red Sox organization that possess his upside. That being said, he’s still a long way from the majors. The Red Sox appear to be following the Devers route with Espinoza, giving him a midseason promotion from the DSL to the GCL in his first full season and perhaps they’ll be aggressive enough to start him in Greenville next season. Even if Espinoza moves exceptionally quickly through the organization, he’s three or four years away, and it will likely take him even longer than that. Still, he’s an arm to be excited about and it will be interesting to follow him in his path through the Red Sox organization.