Red Sox: Three Portland pitching prospects to watch in 2017

Oct 18, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Surprise Saguaros pitcher Trey Ball of the Boston Red Sox during an Arizona Fall League game against the Scottsdale Scorpions at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 18, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Surprise Saguaros pitcher Trey Ball of the Boston Red Sox during an Arizona Fall League game against the Scottsdale Scorpions at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox minor league pitching cup is not overflowing, but at Portland, three prospects are in various stages of development. What are their chances?

The Portland Sea Dogs are the Red Sox Double-A farm club and this season will have three starting pitching prospects that are listed on the top 30 Red Sox prospects on MLB Prospect Watch. A fourth prospect who is highly ranked (19th) is right-hander Ben Taylor, who showed enough in Spring Training to earn a spot in the Boston bullpen. Taylor was projected to begin 2017 with Portland in their bullpen.

Taylor is an example of how a pitcher can suddenly mature to where their value and projection escalates. An issue to keep in mind when discussing the next three prospects, especially a former number one pick who has stalled.

Teddy Stankiewicz was a 2013 second round selection from Seminole State in Oklahoma. Last season the now 23-year-old right-hander made 25 starts for the Portland Sea Dogs going 5-9 with a 4.71 earned run Average. Stankiewicz is now ranked 25th among Red Sox prospects on MLB Prospect Watch.

"Stankiewicz has spent most of his pro career relying heavily on a fastball that sat at 91-93 mph and peaked at 95, commanding it well in part because it lacked life. His velocity ticked up in the second half of last season, and he kept hitters off his heater with a harder, sharper slider in the mid-80s. He also has a curveball and changeup, but both are fringy offerings. – MLB Prospect Watch"

Stankiewicz does not overpower hitters with a 6.43 K/9 at Portland, but also exhibits reasonable control with a BB/9 of 2.59 in the 135.2 innings he worked in the Eastern League in 2016. What is noted is that Stankiewicz does have a high degree of pitching intelligence, but his secondary pitches may limit his progress.

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Stankiewicz has steadily moved up the farm system ladder and with a bonus investment of $925,000 the Red Sox will allow him every opportunity to succeed, but projections are rather low that Stankiewicz will be a regular in the Boston rotation.

Jalen Beeks has the one item that often has scouts turn around and look elsewhere – size matters and Beeks is listed at 5’11” which explains why he was drafted in the 12th round in 2014. The 23-year-old lefty prospect – who is ranked 28th Red Sox on MLB Prospect Watch – started 13 games for Portland in 2016.

Beeks started in Salem in 2016 with 13 starts and earned a promotion to Portland-based on his performance with the A+ team. The Eastern League was not as friendly as his earned run average jumped from 3.07 to 4.68.

"Beeks lacks a plus pitch, relying instead on mixing four offerings and deception to succeed. His fastball sits in the low 90s and peaks at 95 with some run on it. His changeup regressed a bit in 2016 but is still an average pitch, as is his improved slider. He also uses a slow curveball to give batters a different look. – MLB Prospect Watch"

The skinny on Beeks is the potential to be a relief specialist at the MLB level. Nothing in his pitching toolkit leaps out, but his delivery is deceptive with a slow curve ball that is capable of giving a reasonable change of pace look to hitters.

Will Trey Ball ever arrive in Boston or MLB? The former number one draft selection has never quite stepped up to the promise one would expect from such a lofty selection. Ball is now ranked 29th on the Red Sox prospect list

Last season the 22-year-old lefty made 23 starts for Salem while posting an 8-6 record and 3.84 ERA – an improvement – however slight – from 2015 with Salem. What has not improved is Ball’s ability to locate the plate with reasonable consistency. In 2916 it was a staggering 68 walks in just 117.1 innings. In 2015 it was 60 walks in 129.1 innings. Ball may seem like Chris Sale at 6’6”, but has the same control nightmares as Henry Owens.

"Ball’s changeup remains impressive for both its fade and deception, but it seems unlikely that he’s going to reach his once-lofty ceiling. Though he’s still athletic, he doesn’t deliver consistent strikes and often gets hit hard when he finds the zone. He got pounded as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League after the 2016 season, and his average fastball and mediocre breaking stuff don’t make him a great matchup option out of the bullpen. – MLB Prospect Watch"

Next: Red Sox bullpen hierarchy remains in question

Being the seventh overall pick in 2013 Ball will get a long leash to prove himself and reward the Red Sox $2.75 Million investment. If Ball was an undrafted or low round pick he may have been gone by now. Sometimes pitchers suddenly put it all together, but time is running out on Ball.