You know the top prospect in baseball, Andrew Benintendi. You probably know power hitting third baseman, Rafael Devers, and the Red Sox 2017 1st round selection, Jason Groome. But to the average fan, the Red Sox farm system past the top 3 guys is seemingly devoid of much talent. That simply isn’t true. Undistinguished prospects Roniel Radues and Bobby Dalbec will make themselves known in 2017, and by this time next year, they will be another two extremely valuable prospects in the Red Sox system.
Ronny Raudes, RHP
Below is a comparison of two, young pitching prospects. Both will be 19 years old come March and both have spent most of the last two years as teammates. Both pitched very well at the Rookie level in the Gulf Coast League before they moved up to A ball, where, at 18 years old, they began the year as the two youngest pitchers in the South Atlantic League. Here is a side by side comp of the two over the course of their minor league careers thus far:
At a quick glance, given that these two pitchers are the same age and have pitched in the same league against the same opponents, the stats would imply that Player B has pitched better than player A over the past 2 years.
Player A is currently the #25 prospect in all of baseball, Anderson Espinoza.
Player B is Red Sox prospect Roniel Raudes.
Now, this isn’t going to be a comparison of the two; as far as pitching styles go, Espinoza and Raudes could not be more different. Espinoza has an upper 90s fastball and above average off-speed pitches. Raudes does not. Raudes’ fast ball tops out at about 92 mph, but usually sits at about 89-90. He has room in his skinny frame to add weight, but most scouts think his ability to add strength (and, thus, velocity to his fastball) is limited due to his atypical build, severely limiting his ceiling. He has a 12-6 curveball that could improve to an above average pitch and a changeup that could develop into an average third pitch. Where Raudes thrives, however, is his command, which already grades above average (see: 1.5 BB/9). “He just throws strikes,” Greenville manager Darren Fenster said. “He’s not a stuff guy, so to speak, like Anderson [Espinoza] is. Anderson’s going to stick out because of his arm. Roniel has some pitchability that’s beyond his years right now.”
Raudes finished 2016 at Greenville with a 3.65 ERA, which, for an 18 year old control pitcher at single A, is quite good, seeing as the fielding behind him was utter garbage, to put it lightly (14 unearned runs were allowed over Raudes’ 113 IP). His FIP was over a half run better at 3.12. Raudes was also the victim of some bad luck, as his LOB% was an extremely low 60.9%. Had Raudes not allowed a .312 average with runners on base, his ERA could have dropped as well. Raudes first real test will come in 2017, where more advanced hitters can sit on his off-speed pitches and wait for him to make a mistake with his fastball.
After Espinoza put up 40 strikeouts and a 0.68 ERA in 40 IP at the Rookie level in 2015, it’s no surprise Espinoza heavily overshadowed any other young arm in the club. However, stats show that over the past two seasons, Raudes, not Espinoza, has had better results at the same levels. Even though he may not add much velocity to his fastball and his third pitch currently grades below average, his floor his fairly high due to his command and the deception that his delivery causes (Raudes hides the ball for very long, making up for some velocity). If, however, Raudes does add a tick or two onto his fastball and continue to develop his secondary offerings in 2017, his stock could rise significantly.
Bobby Dalbec, 3B
Dalbec was the Red Sox 4th round pick in 2016. A two-way player at Arizona, Dalbec had a 2.65 ERA and 88 strikeouts over 95 IP his junior year, including 8.2 shutout innings with 10 strikeouts on the day he was drafted by the Sox. At the plate, he was far less impactful, hitting .260 with 7 home runs and a horrendous 31% strikeout rate.
But that didn’t stop the Sox from trying to develop Dalbec as a power bat third baseman, and he absolutely raked in his stint at short season Lowell. He hit .386 with 7 home runs and 22 extra base hits in just 132 AB. The average was admittedly supported by a very high BABIP, but the power is very real. His spray chart (via MLBfarm.com) is especially exciting, as 2 HR, 2 triples and 6 doubles went to opposite field. 2 HR went dead center.
So why the sudden turnaround from the former Wildcats pitcher? Comfort and rest, plain and simple. “I think the biggest thing is not having to pitch anymore,” Dalbec told MassLive.com. “It makes it a lot easier on my body. And we’re focusing just on hitting and playing defense rather than who I’m facing, or what their lineup has or how I’m going to pitch guys. I really think it’s helped me get more of a routine at the plate because when I did (pitch), I really didn’t have time in college.”
“Just from my body standpoint, not just being healthy but being strong. Obviously, you play every day, you throw 120 pitches, then playing third and trying to hit isn’t too easy,” he said. “I threw 108 innings this year. Trying to hit at the same time, it’s pretty tough from a mental standpoint. So now I can just focus on hitting and being the type of player I know I can be.”
Dalbec showed the ability to hit his sophomore year at Arizona, making a case for a mid-first round pick before his underwhelming junior year caused his stock to drop drastically. But Dalbec is focused, healthy and locked in with some tweaked hitting mechanics. “His approach right now, bar none, is probably the best I’ve seen in a while,” Lowell manager Iggy Suarez said. If Dalbec can continue to display his power to all fields and maintain or improve upon his 23% strikeout rate, don’t be too surprised for the Sox 4th rounder to creep close to some top 100 lists next offseason.