Red Sox 2015 Minor League Awards: Who’s Needed Now?


Christopher Smith of reported on the Boston Red Sox naming their organization’s minor league award winners. These players showed why they were brought into Boston’s affiliate system, begging the question of when we are to see them in the majors. Some sooner rather than later; some maybe never. Yet, is there one player in particular who needs to be seen as a candidate to take the reins in 2016?

Here is the aforementioned list of award winners:

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, the Lou Gorman Award “is given to a Red Sox minor league player who has demonstrated dedication and perseverance in overcoming obstacles while working his way to the Major League team.” Smith wrote why Aro was picked this year: “The Red Sox signed Aro, who is on the Boston Red Sox active roster, as an international free agent prospect at 17. He battled through two separate hospitalizations with Dengue fever before turning 20.” As a relief pitcher, Aro played in 26 games for Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 0-1 record and a 3.14 ERA. He gave up 43 hits, 18 earned runs, and 10 walks in 51.2 innings. Aro’s success comes from his 53 strikeouts and keeping opposing batters to an average of .225 and a 1.03 WHIP.

While the award is a good story for Aro, the fact is that he allowed seven runs and a .400 batting average in 7.2 innings for Boston, this season. There’s potential in the 24-year-old righty, but his arm isn’t blowing anyone away at present.

Jerez went 1-2 with a 3.65 ERA in 37 innings for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, making it another year before he will prove that he could do much against MLB hitters.

Both Cedrola and Reyes had very successful performances in the Dominican Summer League, but they will need to see if their skills transfer over in the U.S. minor system. Even Rusney Castillo, the Cuban native who signed for a ton of money with Boston needed much of this year in Pawtucket to prove that he belonged in the majors. The Red Sox will not want to rush the two young men too quickly.

The dynamic duo of this year’s Greenville Drive infield is something else entirely. The two 20-year-olds, Guerra from Panama at shortstop and Moncada from Cuba at second base, combined as a latin tango that meant the end to many an opposition’s inning, as the pair worked the double play beautifully. Guerra, known for his defense, was a part of 78 double plays in 112 games, while Moncada was involved in 62 in 71 games. Guerra had a range factor of 4.95 and a fielding percentage of .954. Moncada’s range was posted at 5.23 and he had a .942 fielding percentage.

One could argue that defense is great only when the player also swings the stick effectively. For a time, Guerra had been thought of as just another defensive specialist, hitting decently but not very note-worthy. Then, in 2015, his bat suddenly woke up. Guerra’s slash line of .279/.329/.449 helped him earn 15 home runs and 68 RBIs. Compared to previous years, never surpassing 30 RBIs, this mark was much improved. Yet, consistency will be the key to Guerra moving up the minor-league food chain, next year. He needs to feast at the plate as well or better than he did this year.

Moncada’s bat and reputation as an offensive threat will, undoubtedly, see him travel up the ranks sooner than Guerra. He had a slash line of .278/.380/.438 that helped him earn eight home runs, 38 RBIs, 42 walks, and 49 stolen bases in 81 games. His speed on the base paths gave him the award, but it is the fact that he did it in less than a full season that makes everyone take notice, including Red Sox executives. That and his incredible effort to end his year. According to Smith, Moncada “batted .310/.415/.500/.915 during the second half of the season and he was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Outstanding MLB Prospect.” The kid is a 6’2″, 205-pound beast of a switch hitter, looking more like a Triple-A prospect with a man’s fully-formed body.

Moncada still has room to grow, but he doesn’t have anyone else to move past in the minors. Moncada is considered Boston’s best prospect, and he only has to prove that he can have the same results in Pawtucket before he will set his sights on the majors. It’s highly doubtful that Moncada would leapfrog the minors next season, but don’t expect him to play much in Salem or Portland, if at all.

However, even if Moncada plays well enough, he still has Red Sox hero Dustin Pedroia in front of him playing second base. Pedroia is still playing expertly on defense and at the plate. Combine that with his long-term contract and it makes it near impossible for Moncada to see any place other than third base as a possible destination. Pablo Sandoval‘s disappointing performance and subsequent shut down aside, his big contract will need a forklift to move to another team. That’s even if Moncada would be willing or thought of as moving to third, which is suspect dreaming at best.

The one player who may influence a number of moves in 2016 could be Travis. He’s a first baseman. Yes, he’s only 11th on Boston’s prospect list. Yes, Hanley Ramirez is set to learn how to play first base next season. Yes, Travis Shaw, a prospect-turned-starter, has been playing well at first base to end the regular season. Yet, Travis’ award-winning season for offense is a big factor in the Red Sox plans.

Travis hit a slash line of .300/.384/.436 with four home runs and 38 RBIs in 65 games for Double-A Portland. That effort was after moving up from the Advanced-A Salem Red Sox, hitting .313/.378/.467 with five homers and 40 RBIs in 66 games.

Even Travis’ fielding percentage was .995 at first base, making him both an offensive threat and defensively reliable. Ramirez has already gone through a defensive learning experiment in left field, with failing results. Shaw’s hitting .275 in his 57 games with Boston, which makes things at the position pretty interesting. Having just below .300 in the majors is still worth more than just above .300 in the minors, especially when it’s not even Triple-A. Having potential for above .300 in the majors, however, is not to be overlooked, either.

Two young players, not as prone to injuries, may make Ramirez feel a bit of heat to make a comeback, even if he can heal quickly enough to be 100% for spring training. With his track record, that could be very doubtful. A big, expensive bat on the bench doesn’t exactly feel good for anyone, especially not Dave Dombrowski, the new Red Sox president of baseball operations. He was brought in to fix the debacle that was 2015. How comfortable must he be in thinking that an injury-prone man making $88 million, who only earned 53 RBIs this season, is learning yet another new position at the age of 32 next April? Not too much, you’d think.

If Travis can stay consistent early next season, or Dombrowski believes in the young man’s potential, it’s possible that Boston could find a need to call him up to the majors quicker than any other minor league player in the Red Sox system. If not, then maybe Moncada. Either way, these young prospects will be making the winter meetings and spring training very curious situations.

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