Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.
If you were perusing the series in 2016 you would have read this:
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.
Now on to the new stuff:
First Taste of The Show: Bobby Poyner, LHP: The Red Sox didn’t get a lot of help from its minor league system in 2018 with Poyner getting his first call-up. The 26-year-old hurler struck out almost 10 batters per inning despite having a fastball that sits right around 90 mph. A solid changeup and above-average control helped him survive the dangerous American League East. He’ll want to focus on keeping the ball down and inducing more ground balls going forward after posting a ground-ball rate of just 30% in his first taste of The Show. .
The Draft Pick: Triston Casas, 1B: A big kid, Casas has all the makings of a powerful, middle-of-the-order hitter. He has a quick bat and absolutely crushes balls when he makes contact. It’s not hard to envision pro pitchers pounding Casas in on the hands to try and tie up his long arms. The young infielder moves well for his size now but he’s at risk for slowing down with some weight already settling in around his thighs and hips. I can see him handling third base for a few years but will no doubt slide over to first once he starts to lose the battle with his conditioning.
The Riser: C.J. Chatham, SS: A former second round pick, Chatham turned 24 late last year and has yet to reach double-A because of injury issues since turning pro. Healthy in 2018, he made up for some lost time and hit more than .300 by utilizing an all-field approach. Chatham lacks much upside, though, and is probably a fringe-starter on a weaker club or a solid utility player on a good club. He’s too aggressive with the bat and is pretty much a singles hitter. Defensively, he’s athletic enough to pretty much play anywhere.
The 2019 Contributor: Mike Shawaryn, RHP: A burly, side-arming right-hander, Shawaryn is already losing the battle with his conditioning (including a noticeable increase in the past year). He has a low-maintenance delivery, which is good because of his below-average athleticism. He throws a good number of strikes but his control is still dodgy. I’d expect extreme righty/lefty splits given his low arm slot but he battles well against lefties although gives up a significant number of his walks to them. With his conditioning slipping, so has the impact of his stuff — including fastball delivery. I can see him serving as a sixth or seventh starter for the Sox in 2019 but his future role at the MLB level will probably be as a reliever.
The 2019 Sleeper: Brandon Howlett, 3B: A potential late-round steal in the 2018 draft, Howlett had an up-and-down senior showing as an amateur which hurt his draft stock. He had an outstanding pro debut, though, and showed a solid approach at the plate despite some swing-and-miss to his game. It’s a low-maintenance swing so once he gains some experience, the strikeouts should lower. Howlett looks like a player that can hit for power while also getting on base at a strong clip. He appears athletic enough with the actions needed to stick at third base.
The 2019 Lottery Ticket: Yoan Aybar, LHP: A really big lottery ticker, Aybar is a converted outfielder who started pitching in 2018 and showed a mid-to-upper 90s fastball from the left side. He also did a decent job of finding the strike zone given his limited experience, with 14 walks in 28.1 innings — thanks to strong athleticism. Aybar, 21, also did a nice job of keeping balls on the ground and didn’t give up a homer. His aggressive nature — a weakness as a hitter with just 38 walks in 241 pro games — may be a strength as a quick-working reliever with power stuff.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.