Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Pipeline report: Red Sox camp

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check in on the Red Sox.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When a farm system is used to making trades to help the big league team out, it can take time to rebuild it to what it once was. That's the challenge facing the Red Sox right now.

Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check in on the Red Sox.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When a farm system is used to making trades to help the big league team out, it can take time to rebuild it to what it once was. That's the challenge facing the Red Sox right now.

Red Sox Top 30 Prospects list | Q&A with C.J. Chatham

:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::

To be fair, it hasn't all been trades that have thinned a system that was ranked in the Top 10 not long ago. There is a core of younger homegrown players up in Boston, with Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers joining guys like Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., and those graduations impacted the farm system as a whole.

The trades for Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale obviously did the rest of the system-weakening work, as president of baseball operations David Dombrowski often likes using prospects in deals to bring in big league talent. The result has been back-to-back American League East titles, and with a stacked big league roster, the organization has some time to restock the prospect shelves.

"We like where we are right now," vice president of player development Ben Crockett said. "We have a really good and young group of players in the big leagues who came up through the system. Some of them moved very quickly to get there, guys like Devers and Benintendi. We'll have a nice layer of depth with guys like Sam Travis and Tzu-Wei Lin and Marco Hernandez eventually in Triple-A, along with some of the pitching, guys like Jalen Beeks."

They might not be sexy, upper-echelon prospect names, but given that young group of homegrown guys in Boston (don't forget Xander Bogaerts is only 24 years old), that might be OK. Having role players ready at the upper levels when there's a need is crucial for any team hoping to compete for the postseason again.

"There will be a group of guys who will be involved in going up and down during the course of the year who will be very important to the success we have on the field at the Major League level," Crockett said.

There is one impact bat approaching the highest level in top prospect Michael Chavis, who reached Double-A in 2017 and banged out 31 home runs in the process. A third baseman, Chavis started seeing time at first in the Arizona Fall League, but any chance to make an impression with the big league staff ended with an oblique injury that now clouds his availability for the start of the regular season.

"He's begun some baseball activities at this point, but we're still a ways away from figuring out when he'll get into games," Crockett said. "Opening Day is in question at this point. The deeper we go in Spring Training without playing games, the more challenging it becomes to be ready on Opening Day. But we're encouraged if he's ready Opening Day or not that long after. He's progressing well and we don't expect it to be a long-term injury."

Video: Chavis discusses his time in Red Sox spring camp

Past two Drafts helping to restock
Picking lower down in each round of the Draft doesn't make it easy to load up on talent, but the Red Sox have been able to add some interesting prospects in the past two. Unfortunately for Boston, the injury bug hit its 2016 Draft class, so the club is hoping to really see what it has from first-round selection Jay Groome (left lat strain and left forearm soreness), second-rounder C.J. Chatham (hamstring) and fourth-rounder Bobby Dalbec (broken hamate in left hand) in '18.

"Jay put in a great offseason of work," Crockett said. "He's in really good shape. He worked out some with Sale and was down here in Fort Myers working with the strength and conditioning staff for most of the offseason and it's shown. He had his first outing here on Monday and he was [sitting at 93-to-95 mph] and punched out six in two innings, so not a bad start. You're not expecting that every time out, but I think it did speak to how he's feeling physically to come out and have that kind of velocity and carry on his pitches."

"C.J. came in here early, he's in good shape," Crockett said. "He was ready to go at instructs last year from an injury standpoint and he was able to fully participate, which I think gave him a leg up on starting this season. We're expecting a positive year from him."

The Red Sox are also bullish on their top two picks from this past June. Second-rounder Cole Brannen is an advanced high school bat the organization is working with to start driving the ball more and first-rounder Tanner Houck comes with a strong track record from Missouri; Houck could be the arm in the system ready to join Groome as a top-flight pitching prospect.

"He's had a great camp so far," Crockett said. "He's faced some of the big leaguers in inter-squads and had a two-inning outing the other day where he was very impressive.

"One of the things we talked about with him last year once he got to Lowell was the ability to use the four-seam fastball at the top of the strike zone. He has such good carry from his slot and great velocity, so being able to use that and not just a sinker or two-seam [helps]. He's also continuing to work on more of a power curveball, as his slider is sometimes an in-between pitch. We're really challenging him to define that as one or the other and then go. It's been a pretty impressive pitch so far."

Camp standout
Mike Shawaryn had an up-and-down junior season at Maryland; now it seems like those struggles have worked to Boston's advantage. The right-hander fell to the fifth round in 2016, then he went out and pitched across two levels of Class A ball and was among the Minor League leaders in strikeouts in his first full season.

Shawaryn's picked up where he left off this spring. Some of that has to do with just feeling more comfortable in his surroundings and his routine as a professional.

"Last year, in his first Spring Training, he was kind of feeling his way through it, trying to figure out expectations and all of that," Crockett said. "He's hit the ground running this camp. He's impressed so far in how he's gone about it."

Shawaryn's done it while being challenged to use all of his pitches more consistently. His three-pitch mix, led by his slider, has really played well early in camp, and he's showing a deeper understanding of the need to use all of them in concert with one another.

"He's dominated with his fastball, slider and changeup," Crockett said. "He's really elevating well, he's working really hard on elevating and using his changeup down, knowing that his slider has been a plus pitch for him and has been his bread and butter. He's working on expanding his comfort with his entire repertoire and it's gone really well."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.