Listed as 28th on Bleacher Report’s final rankings for MLB farm systems, it’s become well-known that the Red Sox have depleted their farm system in exchange for MLB talent.
That being said, it isn’t as if they have zero intriguing names. Boston has done a good job in the past few drafts in order to gain a small surplus of young talent throughout the organization. But when players get drafted, it seems as if every single first or second round pick gets compared to a superstar-caliber player.
While some players do pan out as a top-tier player in the league, it’s not necessarily fair to compare a player like Triston Casas to a first-ballot Hall of Famer like Joey Votto, when Casas hasn’t played a professional ballgame yet.
Casas won’t be one of the players drawing an MLB comparison in this brief list, as he ranks higher than the 11th prospect in the organization. So without further ado, we dive in at the No. 15 prospect in the Red Sox organization.
15. Travis Lakins – Right-Handed Pitcher
Highest Level: AAA – 2018 stats: 2.32 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 1.03 WHIP in 54.1 IP between AA and AAA.
Travis Lakins saw his name appear in Red Sox Twitter buzz towards the end of the season as a potential reliever to garner a September call-up. Being a starter by nature when he was drafted out of Ohio State in 2015, it didn’t look too promising that Lakins could make his way through the organization and up to the major leagues. But an injury in 2018 turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the 24-year-old. His ailment moved him from the rotation into the bullpen, where he was electric. His ERA sat at 4.76 in six starts but was 1.21 in 30 appearances out of the bullpen.
MLB Comparison: Daniel Bard
This may be a scary comparison for some when looking at how it all ended for Daniel Bard in a Red Sox uniform. But when it comes to Travis Lakins, it seems as if the Red Sox moved him to the bullpen at the right time, and it looks as if he’s going to be there again in 2019. Soxprospects.com said that he topped out at 96 as a starter which went up to 98 coming out of the bullpen. He’s also shown promise in all of his secondary pitches, particularly in his slider/cutter—cutter at higher velocities, slider when the speed drops. Lakins looks like a much more refined product and could be what Red Sox fans and the organization thought they were getting with Daniel Bard.
14. Antoni Flores – Shortstop
Highest Level: Rookie Ball (Gulf Coast League)- .340/.435/.528 with six XBH in 15 games between Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast Red Sox.
Even with small sample size, Flores places as the No. 14 prospect in the Red Sox organization. He’s just 18 years old, but he does showcase a handful of tools that indicate he could be a productive big-league player. He’s by no means close to the show, but scouts say he possesses a pretty strong arm, and the ability to be a plus defender. The bat, as shown last year, is pretty solid. But anybody can have a hot fifteen game stretch. He needs to show it for a full minor league season before people can be sold on his offense, but he still has a clean stroke, with the ability to hit 10-12 home runs per season.
MLB Comparison: Tim Beckham
When looking at tools, you see a lot of “plus potential” when it comes to the 18-year-old infielder. There’s a handful of middle-infielders in the MLB who have plus-defense in their repertoire, but only some can jolt 10-12, maybe 15 home runs in a good season. Which is where the name Tim Beckham comes to mind. It’s still far too early to compare Flores to any real superstar-level players. Now that’s not to say he can’t get there in the next few years, but right now his tools aren’t polished enough to say he’s anything more than a role player at the MLB level.
13. Nick Decker – Outfielder
Highest Level: Rookie Ball- 1-4 with a double and a walk in two games for the Gulf Coast Red Sox.
Many say the Red Sox got a steal in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft. A player who profiles with advanced raw power for a high school draft selection and an above-average arm from the outfield isn’t something to scoff at. However, scouts question his future as a center fielder and say his bat lags behind his swing at times. But he could be an above-average offensive outfielder that doesn’t have a promising future as an MLB center fielder.
MLB Comparison: Joc Pederson
Pederson does have some success as an MLB center fielder, but it isn’t as if he is above-average out there. In fact, he’s a minus 16 defensive runs saved defender in 3,144 innings in center for his career. His numbers in left field are considerably better; plus four defensive runs saved in 693.2 innings. The offense has always been there for Pederson, but the defense improved in left field. Decker, at least considering what scouts say, looks like he could pan out to be Joc Pederson-like.
12. Durbin Feltman – Right-Handed Pitcher
Highest Level: High A ball- 1.93 ERA, 13.9 K/9, and a 0.986 WHIP in 23.1 IP between Lowell, Greenville, and Salem.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect was the closer the Red Sox took out of TCU in the third round of last year’s draft, Durbin Feltman. In fact, many expected him to potentially join the Red Sox late in the season, despite starting in low-A ball with the Lowell Spinners. However, the Red Sox decided not to and let Feltman build off of his successes with Salem as he progresses in the next couple of seasons. He has plus-velocity on his fastball, as well as advanced movement on his secondary pitches –– leaving some to wonder if he could potentially be with the Red Sox in later in the 2019 season.
MLB Comparison: Dellin Betances
A lot of buzz around the ability of Feltman is to not just succeed, but dominate the later stages of the game as a reliever. While he was drafted as a reliever, unlike Betances who was signed to start, Feltman can really ramp up the strikeouts. However, to this point, Feltman hasn’t shown the high walk rate that sometimes gets Betances into trouble throughout his career. That being said, when factoring in how good he is on the back-end, and how promising his secondary pitches are after just one year of professional ball, it looks as if Feltman could blossom as a superstar-caliber reliever.
11. Danny Diaz – Third Base
Highest Level: Dominican Summer League- .238/.283/.476, six home runs, and seven doubles in 26 games.
Diaz is even younger than Flores, having turned 18 on Jan. 2. But despite having a worse season than Flores last year, Diaz ranks higher on MLB.com’s ranking of Red Sox prospects. Scouts do say his offensive approach is advanced for his age, but it didn’t really appear to translate in the games he played. His strikeout rate was almost 26% last season, and his walk rate was pitifully low. However, guys can get hot for fifteen games (like Flores), and some can get cold for 26 games. Scouts like him, so time will tell.
MLB Comparison: Matt Davidson
Davidson is a guy who has struck out a lot in his MLB career, with a so-so walk rate. However, his power numbers leave him a slightly above-average OPS hitter. Based off of the 26 games for Diaz in 2018, it looks like he could become that kind of guy. Which is fins –– not everyone has to become a superstar. Looking at this past season for the Red Sox, it wasn’t Betts, or Martinez, or Bogaerts who shouldered the load in terms of clutch hitting in the postseason. It was Devers, Nuñez, Holt, and even Christian Vazquez who came up with timely hits throughout. But for Diaz, his OPS was still .759 despite the low average and OBP, so there’s definitely some promise there if his bat can develop.
The Red Sox do have some intriguing names in the farm system, who just don’t have the experience of minor league ball to really showcase that they are worthy of high praise from the national media. But while not everyone can become a superstar in the MLB that is in the farm system, that doesn’t mean they’re any less likely to turn into productive MLB players than a current top-100 prospect.