Welcome to the annual series that provides both a review of your favorite teams’ 2016 season, as well as a early look toward 2017. It also serves as a helpful guide for keeper and dynasty leagues.
The Graduate: Heath Hembree (RHP): The Red Sox leaned heavily on a veteran roster in 2016. Freshman Andrew Benintendi didn’t play enough to graduate from his rookie status so that leaves us with Hembree. The right-handed reliever didn’t pitch a lot of important innings but he gained some valuable experience, produced respectable numbers and soaked up innings — 51 in 38 games — despite being more of a one-inning guy in the minors. Hembree, 27, can hit 94-95 mph with his heater and the slider showed potential so his role could continue to expand in ’17. For that to happen, though, the fastball command will need to improve and he’ll also be at the mercy of future offseason moves as the club looks to improve its bullpen.
The Riser: Luis Alexander Basabe (OF): Trades and graduations have started to thin out the Red Sox’s once-elite system (It’s still very good) but the organization continues to see players step up their games. Basabe, 20, started his breakout in low-A ball in 2016 where he slugged 12 home runs and added 25 steals — displaying future potential as a 20-20 (HR-SB) player in the Majors. He strikes out too much (112 in 403 at-bats) and could stand to be more patient but he’s young and showed improvements as the year progressed. Basabe earned a late-season promotion to high-A ball and he’ll return to that level in 2017 with an eye towards reaching double-A in the second half.
The Tumbler: Trey Ball (LHP): Selected seventh overall in the 2013 draft, Ball has yet to break out despite four years of pro experience — including three in A-ball. His lack of development with his secondary stuff is especially worrisome — as is the continued regression with his control (Walk rates over last 3 years: 3.51 to 4.18 to 5.22 BB/9). Ball, 22, has a decent fastball for a southpaw so perhaps a move to the bullpen would benefit him; it would allow him to scrap the breaking ball and focus on his changeup. As very good two-way player in high school, the young athlete may also want to think about sharpening his skills in batter’s box.
The ’16 Draft Pick: Jason Groome (LHP): A beast of a man-child on the mound at 6-6, 220 pounds, the 18-year-old hurler has the makings of a top-of-the-rotation arm if he can continue to develop. Groome’s maturity, though, has been called into question. He had an abbreviated debut in 2016, pitching in just three games, but he should open 2017 in low-A ball nonetheless (unless Boston wants to work on his off-the-field approach a little more in extended spring training). Groome has the makings of three potentially-plus offerings if his changeup can catch up to his fastball and curveball.
The Lottery Ticket: Josh Pennington (RHP): Pennington has a missile for a fastball and can reach the upper 90s but he has a few things working against him. An undersized right-handed starter, he suffered through Tommy John surgery, he struggles with his command and control, and he lacks a reliable third pitch. HIs curveball gives him a second potentially-plus offering so the hurler has the recipe for success in the ‘pen. Pennington, a 29th round pick in 2014, will likely continue to develop as a starter for now as he moves up to full-season ball for the first time in 2017.
For reference sake, here is the 2015 Review.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.