Rusney Castillo may have been the recognizable name in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League championship game. But there may come a day when he’s the footnote rather than the headliner.
Shortstop Javier Guerra launched a homer in the GCL Red Sox‘ championship victory on Monday. (WEEI.com)
After all, Castillo — who went 0-for-3 with a walk, two groundouts and a flyout — batted in front of Javier Guerra, an attention-grabbing shortstop who looks the part of a big league defender and whose unusual pop for his position was evident in the homer he smoked to right, his lone hit in a 1-for-4 day that also included a walk. Batting behind Guerra was the Sox’ top pure hitting prospect in years, Rafael Devers, who went 1-for-5 as the final note of a year that saw him lead both his DSL and GCL teams in homers at the age of 17. Devers was hitting in front of first-rounder Michael Chavis, who launched a two-run homer to left, a final display of what became a regular display of precocious extra-base power that started in August as an 18-year-old making his pro debut.
Behind Chavis was second baseman Victor Acosta, a slight player whose strong wrists allow him to generate unlikely pop. Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, a 17-year-old with speed and athleticism as well as an approach that proved surprisingly advanced this year, permitting him to move from the DSL to the GCL, went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks. Left fielder Trenton Kemp, an 18-year-old who was taken in the 15th round for his intriguing power/speed combination, went 2-for-5 to wrap up an 8-for-17 postseason that included a homer. The lineup was rounded out by a huge player with huge power potential in Josh Ockimey and an 18-year-old catcher (Devon Fisher) who helped navigate through a number of wins.
It will be years before some clarity is achieved with that group of prospects, before it is known whether Devers and Chavis and Guerra emerge as potential stars or regulars or what-happened-to’¦ busts. But for now, between a DSL team that is competing for a championship and a GCL team that won one with an 8-1 victory over the GCL Yankees on Monday, there’s burgeoning strength in the lower levels of the Red Sox system, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in years. There is now a very distinctive wave behind the current upper levels wave, with potential high-impact players such as Devers (a potential middle-of-the-order masher at third base), Guerra (who draws uniform raves from team personnel) and Chavis (potential middle-of-the-order power at second, third or even in left) leading the charge, and some outfielders with big upside like Yoan Aybar in the DSL and Basabe and Kemp in the GCL.
Castillo will make his mark in the big leagues this year. But in five or 10 years, it’s possible that he will prove something other than the most important player to have taken the field in the GCL Sox’ championship victory on Monday.
Here’s the box score.
A brief look at the rest of the action in the Red Sox system:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 LOSS VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)
– Blake Swihart went 1-for-3, wrapping up the season on a 5-for-14 note that improved his Triple-A line to .261/.282/.377 in 18 games. There were flashes of offensive impact even as there were markers to suggest that the 22-year-old was very much amidst a rocky transition to a higher level. Foremost, his two walks and 15 punchouts suggested that advanced pitchers could get him to chase pitches out of the zone. Swihart’s at-bat management early next year, then, will become a key marker of his ability to sustain his reputation as perhaps the top two-way catching prospect in the game.
– Shortstop Deven Marrero went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, and in his final two games of the regular season, he was 0-for-7 with four punchouts. The 24-year-old hit .210/.260/.285 in 50 games with the PawSox after hitting .291/.371/.433 in Double-A. He had 12 walks and 37 punchouts with the PawSox, or more than three strikeouts per walk, nearly double his rate of 1.7 strikeouts per walk in Portland.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-0 LOSS VS. HARRISBURG (NATIONALS)
– Sean Coyle went 1-for-3 with a double and walk. While he matched his 2013 total of 13 homers, some in the Sox organization felt that the more significant stat was that Coyle nearly doubled his doubles total of a year ago, going from 12 (in 60 games) in 2013 to 23 in 97 contests in 2014. The doubles suggested a player who was looking to let his power play with a solid approach rather than selling out with a max-effort swing in order to try to clear the fences. After he hit .241/.321/.513 in High-A last year, Coyle hit .295/.371/.512 in Portland this season.
– Carson Blair went 2-for-3 with a double, closing out the year with a .266/.387/.481 line that included marks of .288/.394/.525 in 17 games following the 24-year-old’s promotion to Double-A. While those marks all represented career bests, perhaps the most significant milestone for Blair was playing in 84 games, nearly double his prior career high of 44 contests. For the first time since being drafted in 2008, he was on the field enough to show the ability to open up a potential path forward to the big leagues.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 7-6 LOSS AT WILMINGTON (ROYALS)
– Outfielder Manuel Margot went 2-for-5 with a double while driving in a pair of runs. The tools 19-year-old wrapped up his 16-game regular season stint with Salem with a .340/.364/.560 line with seven extra-base hits in 16 games. In 29 games from August 1 through the end of the year, Margot had 15 extra-base hits. He hadn’t exceeded eight extra-base hits in any prior month. The regularity with which Margot impacted the ball offered the first sustained glimpse of the teenager as a potential game-changer since he started playing in the States. Between Greenville and Salem from August 1 through the end of the season, Margot hit .396/.431/.632 with four homers and 10 steals (albeit with seven caught stealings also in the mix). Those kinds of offensive numbers — particularly when accounting for the dual attributes of power and speed — at a premium position underscore why Margot has asserted himself as one of the Sox’ top 10 prospects, and perhaps as a candidate for the top five.
– Carlos Asuaje went 1-for-4 with a double and a walk. The extra-base hit seemed a fitting conclusion to a season that saw the 22-year-old collect 65 extra-base knocks in 129 games — or roughly one in every two games he played this year. He hit .310/.393/.533 with 15 homers on the year while showing enough positional versatility — second, third, short, left — to give him a number of pathways to the big leagues. While his offensive performance in Greenville wasn’t sufficient to label him a prospect given his age (22), size (he’s 5-foot-9) and a home park that is a favorable offensive environment, his sustained excellence in Salem (.323/.398/.516) coupled with the fact that he hits left-handed — a rarity for the infield positions he plays — have forced evaluators to take notice.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-4 LOSS VS. LEXINGTON (ROYALS)
– Sam Travis went 2-for-5 with a double, closing out his first pro summer with an impressive .316/.351/.467 line that included seven homers and 25 extra-base hits in 67 games, including a .290/.330/.495 line in Greenville. Travis, who just turned 21 last week, has a chance to emerge quickly as the sort of corner infield bat with plus power that is ill-represented in the upper levels of the Red Sox system.
– Second baseman Wendell Rijo went 2-for-4 with a walk and a steal to close out a strong overall age 18 performance. Rijo showed a solid offensive approach in hitting .254/.348/.416 with nine homers and 42 extra-base hits along with 16 steals in 22 attempts. He has the skill set of an above-average offensive second baseman (though his glove lags behind his bat right now, with his 21 errors at second telling part of that story) with a chance to be a No. 2 or No. 6 hitter in the big leagues.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 9-8 LOSS AT CONNECTICUT (TIGERS)
– Third baseman Jordan Betts slammed his 10th homer of his debut summer, going 2-for-5. The 18th-rounder out of Duke hit .269/.333/.479 with 29 extra-base hits in 64 games. Though his strikeout rate (he fanned 76 times) raises questions about his ability to hit against advanced pitching, his raw power grades as clearly above-average should he define an approach that can permit him to get to it with regularity. He became the first Spinners player with 10 or more homers since Luis Sumoza in 2008.
– Right-hander Kevin McAvoy, the Sox’ fourth-round pick this year, fired three scoreless innings to run his scoreless innings streak to 18 to close out his first pro summer. The sinkerballer recorded six of his nine outs on the ground, struck out one and allowed three hits to close out his summer with a 1.91 ERA, 23 strikeouts and just three walks in 28 1/3 innings.
– Shortstop Mauricio Dubon went 1-for-4 with a single and sac fly. The 20-year-old finished second in the New York-Penn League with a .320 average, along with a .337 OBP and .395 slugging mark.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 8-1 DEFICIT (SUSPENDED, 8TH INNING) VS. DSL RANGERS (GAME 2, BEST-OF-FIVE DSL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES, UP 1-0)