Red Sox Prospects opened some eyes with scorching June production
As Spring turns to summer and the weather warms throughout the country, bats get hotter, arms get looser, and production starts to ramp up in the sport of baseball. With Spring, and its lingering elements firmly in the rear view mirror, several Boston Red Sox prospects caught the attention of the organization, its fans, and personnel around the industry.
Today, we look at those prospects that had the most impressive showings in June.
Red Sox first base prospect Niko Kavadas (Salem/Greenville)
There was no hotter hitter on the planet at any level of professional baseball in June than Niko Kavadas. An 11th Round Pick out of Notre Dame in the 2021 Draft, Kavadas has always been known for his plus power.
He opened the 2022 season at Low-A Salem, where at age 23, he was one of the older prospects in the league. After a slow start to the season that saw him finish May with just 4 home runs for the year, Niko flipped a switch when the calendar turned to June. His first 18 games at Salem produced a .377 batting average and an eye popping 1.475 OPS on the strength of 10 home runs to that point in the month.
That production earned him a promotion to High-A Greenville, where he would hit 4 more home runs over the final 6 games of the month, batting .474 with a 1.211 OPS for the Drive. Kavadas showed to be more than just a power hitter, and walked nearly as many times as he struck out (21K/20BB).
If he continues to obliterate High-A pitching, another in-season promotion is likely, where he’ll face more age appropriate pitching.
Red Sox outfield prospect Eduardo Lopez (Salem)
The 20 year old Dominican prospect stands out for his final two weeks of the month, coming back from an injury that sidelined him from June 3rd through the 15th. Upon his return, Lopez did everything he could to get noticed on a team with offensive machines in Blaze Jordan and Niko Cavadas.
The results were a .351 batting average and an .883 OPS for the month of June, finishing the month on a 7 game hitting streak, highlighted by a 4-for-4 performance on June 25th.
The organizational depth chart is starting to get crowded in the outfield, but at only 20 in Low-A, Lopez may force his way into Boston’s future plans as he progresses through the minor leagues.
Red Sox first/third base prospect Blaze Jordan (Salem)
Perhaps there was something in the water in Salem last month, as Jordan is the third player from the Salem lineup to be recognized for his feats in June. Simply put, there was no more accurate adjective to describe Jordan’s month than his first name: Blaze.
He took the momentum that he was gaining in May to a whole new level in June, hitting a scorching .404 with a 1.142 OPS for the month. While Jordan has always been known for his light tower 70 grade power, his evolution into a complete hitter has been a delightful development for the Red Sox organization.
Jordan put together a 16 game hitting streak, with 8 multi-hit games inside that streak, from June 8th to the 26th.
More impressive than Jordan’s ability to hit the ball to all fields, is his patience and pitch recognition. Jordan walked more than he struck out in June (11k/14BB), a rare feat for any teenage prospect, especially one entering the season labeled as a power only hitter with a steep developmental curve ahead.
Jordan hit 5 home runs in June, including a 2-homer game on the 23rd. After a dismal first month of the season (.162 BA/.480 OPS, 1HR), Jordan has brought his season slash line to a .307 batting average with an .861 OPS and 8 home runs. A promotion looms for the 19 year old.
Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata (Salem/Greenville/Portland)
In a depleted farm system heavy on bats, but no standout pitching prospects, Mata emerged as the top prospect in Boston’s system on the heels of a standout performance at (then) High-A Salem in 2019. The 20 year old starter put together a 3-1 record with a 1.75 ERA and a 52/18 K/BB ratio over 10 starts before earning a promotion to AA Portland.
With a fastball in the high 90’s with late life, and plus slider and changeup, Mata had the age and arsenal that was creating buzz inside the organization. The COVID Pandemic wiped away the minor league season in 2020, and an elbow injury that would require Tommy John surgery in Spring Training 2021, have kept Mata off the mound since that breakout 2019, but he returned to game action last month and is quickly reminding everyone of why he was so highly regarded.
Mata started 5 games in June across three levels, striking out 20 batters against 9 walks while posting a 3.14 ERA in just over 14 innings of work. While his command and confidence aren’t at the pre-injury levels, the stuff remains intact, and he’s getting sharper with each start.
Now settled in at AA Portland, look for Mata to regain his previous status at one of the sport’s top pitching prospects, and join Brayan Bello as a viable big league rotation option as early as Opening Day 2023.
Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez (Worcester)
The 24 year old catcher, acquired from Tampa in a February 2021 trade, showed us all in June that his bat is ready for a promotion from the AAA WooSox to the big league club should the need for a catcher arise.
Hernandez hit .348 with a .919 OPS for the month, raising his season lines to .288 and .787, after entering June with a .223 batting average and a .620 OPS. With Christian Vazquez having a fine season in Boston, but Kevin Plawecki representing a noticeable drop off in offensive production when in the lineup, the bat of Hernandez looms largely as the Red Sox evaluate their roster while fighting for a playoff spot.
WooSox teammate and fellow catcher, Connor Wong, acquired from Los Angeles in the Mookie Betts trade, has been the organization’s option in the minor leagues when the need for catching help has surfaced in recent seasons, but the offensive production from Hernandez in 2022 has him knocking on the door in Fenway Park.
While Red Sox prospects Brayan Bello and Ceddene Rafaela have put together breakout seasons that have grabbed the attention of the fans and industry insiders alike, and continue to impress in 2022, these five Red Sox prospects filled the box scores and grabbed the headlines in June. The Red Sox farm system continues to rise in the rankings on the strength of organizational depth, and top tier premium talent.