2020 Prospect Opportunities — Red Sox by Mike Podhorzer May 27, 2020 Today, our 2020 Prospect Opportunities series moves on to the Red Sox. Naturally, a strong team means fewer at risk players. 1B At Risk: Mitch Moreland Replacement: Bobby Dalbec & Josh Ockimey It feels like every year, we expect Mitch Moreland to lose his starting job. And every season, he hits just enough to hold onto it. At age 34 and coming off three straight sub-1.0 WAR seasons, he’s once again at serious risk. While Bobby Dalbec rose through the minors as a third baseman, he’s clearly blocked there now. He’s gotten some time in at first base and now seems like a potential replacement there. Dalbec is the team’s fourth best prospect with elite 70 grade Raw Power. He posted low BABIP marks in the minors in 2019, while his walk rate tumbled during his first taste of Triple-A action. So in the near-term, he might be a power only guy. Josh Ockimey is the real sleeper, and considering he failed to make the Red Sox top prospect list, it’s likely he’ll continuing sleeping. But you can’t ignore double digit walk rates at every minor league stop and a HR/FB rate that has risen each season since Double-A in 2017. That mark has now reached a peak of 26.6% to go along with a .255 ISO. Not surprisingly, there’s a wart here — with all that power comes lots of strikeouts. He has generally posted marks in the high 20% range, but has gotten as high as 35.2%. With excellent power and all those walks, that might be acceptable (like Joey Gallo), but it’s a right rope to walk. 2B At Risk: Michael Chavis & Jose Peraza Replacement: Chad De La Guerra Michael Chavis wasn’t terrible during his first taste of big league action, posting a .323 wOBA, but he struck out 33.2% of the time, with an 18.6% SwStk%. Sure, the power was solid, but that was about it. That .347 BABIP is unlikely to be repeated, so he’ll have to cut down on the strikeouts to come close to that wOBA again. That makes him a big risk. The Sox brought in Jose Peraza over the offseason, and we’re still not sure if the intent was to be the every day second baseman or a super utility guy. Either way, with a career .297 wOBA, he’s obviously not going to run away with a job. Another prospect who failed to make the team’s top 36, Chad De La Guerra actually made the “Thumpers” category. That’s because he just posted a 21% HR/FB rate and .252 ISO, representing a nice step forward from his Double-A performance in 2018. Strikeouts could be a problem, but a 25.3% mark at Triple-A during a power breakout is perfectly acceptable, and he’s happy to take a walk. He’s already 27, but a nice super speculative play. SP At Risk: Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, whoever serves as 4th and 5th starters Replacement: Bryan Mata & Raynel Espinal Yeesh, that’s one terrible starting rotation! It’s too bad the Red Sox aren’t loaded with top pitching prospects, otherwise it would have been fun to discuss replacement options. Bryan Mata is the team’s third best prospect, but has yet to pitch at Triple-A. Despite none of his pitches grading out as better than 55, he managed to post mid-20% strikeout rates at High-A and Double-A in 2019, along with low double digit SwStk% marks. Control has been troublesome at times, including an insane 17.7% walk rate back at High-A in 2018. To go along with the solid strikeout rate, he has generated a ground ball rate over 50% every year since 2017. I’m a huge fan of ground ball pitchers who can also strike out opposing batters. A Rule 5 selection from the Yankees, Raynel Espinal is the sleeper selection as a long-time minor league who has bounced between the bullpen and starting rotation. However, since 2017, his strikeout and SwStk% marks have been fantastic. His strikeout rates have been over 30% in four of five stops, while his SwStk% has never dropped below 14.4%. I’ll speculate on that strikeout potential.