The Salem Red Sox will open the 2017 Carolina League baseball season tonight with a strong stable of talent.
The Sox have multiple top-10 prospects in the Boston Red Sox system on the initial roster as they prepare to host the Down East Wood Ducks at 7:05 pm at Haley Toyota Field.
Slugging first baseman Josh Ockimey starred for the Greenville Drive in 2016, hammering 18 homers (second-most among Sox farmhands) and leading the South Atlantic League in walks (88). In his All-Star campaign, he led the Drive in homers, walks, games played (117) and doubles (25). Baseball America tabbed him as the 10th-best prospect in the Boston system entering 2017.
Roniel Raudes, a 19-year-old Nicaraguan, is a name to know in the pitching pipeline for Boston. The righty was named Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2016, going 11-6 over 24 starts for Greenville with a 3.65 ERA and 104 strikeouts against just 23 walks. Also a Sally League All-Star, Raudes was named Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Month for June, August and September, and closed the season strong with a 1.04 ERA across five starts in August. He won’t turn 20 until January 2018, andBaseball America rates him as the sixth-best prospect in Boston’s organization.
Outfielder Kyri Washington will have some very friendly crowds at home. The native of Farmville attended nearby Longwood University, and began to blossom in 2016 with 16 homers in 103 games for Greenville. Washington paced the Drive with 73 RBI and finished third in the SAL with a .487 slugging percentage and nine triples. His electrifying June (.318 AVG, 21-for-66, 9 R, 6 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 24 RBI) earned him Red Sox Minor League Hitter of the Month honors.
On the dirt, Michael Chavis will hope to build on a 2016 season that took him up to Salem for a seven-game stint at the end of the year. The 2014 first-round pick for the Sox was electrifying at the start of the year, with a .356 batting average in 15 April games to go with three homers and 14 RBI. A thumb injury shelved him for much of the season, but he’s healthy and ready to go for 2017. The third baseman is ranked 11th in the Sox system by Baseball America.
The roster returns 14 players who saw time for Salem in 2016, including left-handed hurler Matt Kent. The southpaw set the Red Sox record for innings pitched (156.0) in 2016, leading the Carolina League as well. His 3.69 ERA was third in the circuit, and he showed outstanding stamina, pitching at least 6.0 innings in 18 of the 28 starts he made. Fellow rotation returner Travis Lakins will look to bounce back from an injury-tinged season in 2016, and get off to a strong start like his last April (5 GS, 3-1, 2.13 ERA).
Southpaws Daniel McGrath and Dedgar Jimenez both make their own returns to the Salem rotation, providing a decidedly sinister slant (in the Latin sense) to the pitching staff. Jimenez just turned 21 in March, and showed strong control in Greenville in 2016, with 81 whiffs against 15 walks in 97.0 innings. The Aussie McGrath begins his third year with Salem, and will try to build on his 8-6 record in the 2016 season.
The bullpen is full of strong arms, with hard-throwing Dominican righty Gerson Bautista bringing the heat with what Baseball America calls the best fastball in the system. He fanned 36 batters in just 35.1 innings in 2016, and recorded saves in his first five appearances for the Lowell Spinners. The 21-year-old will be joined in the pen byAustin Glorius, who can run his fastball to 98 MPH and could be a great undrafted find for Boston.
Submarining righty Trevor Kelley held right-handed batters to a .170 batting average in 2016. Adam Lau was similarly tough on lefties, holding them to just a .152 batting average. Mitchell Osnowitz makes his return to affiliated baseball; he’s a converted college third baseman who’d never pitched before he did so in pro ball, but possesses a 95 MPH heater. Yankory Pimentel had a great performance out of the Salem pen in 2016, posting nine wins and a 3.12 ERA across 32 appearances.
Lefty Bobby Poyner rounds out the bullpen, having led Red Sox farmhands with 15 saves between Greenville and Salem. Poyner’s college teammate on the Florida Gators, Josh Tobias, came over from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Clay Buchholz trade. He earned SAL All-Star honors in 2016, batting .304 in 93 games for the Lakewood Blue Claws before earning a promotion to the Clearwater Threshers. The second baseman posted a strong line on the year, batting .291 with nine homers, 31 doubles and 10 steals.
In the outfield, Salem will feature big-league bloodlines with Tate Matheny on the roster. The son of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike, Tate batted .277 in 105 games for Greenville last season, earning SAL All-Star honors and showing off a strong arm in the outfield. Bryan Hudson returns to the Salem outfield after rolling up 26 steals in 2016. Mike Meyerswill also show off his speed for Salem, having pilfered 26 bags of his own in addition to cracking nine triples. He also scored the winning run in Team Israel’s instant-classic victory over South Korea in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Derek Miller is all the way back from a big injury suffered in July of 2015, and will look to regain the form he showed before it.
Behind the dish, Austin Rei will lead the way for Salem. The former Washington Husky is considered the best defensive catching prospect in the system, and threw out nearly 40% of would-be base-stealers for Greenville in 2016. He punctuated his SAL All-Star Game appearance by cracking a solo homer, the only run the South Division scored in the game. Jhon Nunez will make his Salem debut, as he eyes a similar year at the dish to what he put up in only 18 games in 2016 (.305 AVG).
Jordan Betts returns to the Red Sox infield, marking his third campaign for Salem. He’ll be joined on the dirt by Chavis and Ockimey, as well as switch-hitting utilityman Jose Sermo (who blasted three homers at Potomac on July 26), Salem newcomer Chad de la Guerra, and returning switch-hitter Deiner Lopez.
The Red Sox are managed by second-year skipper Joe Oliver, with the coaching staff including pitching coach Paul Abbott, hitting coach Nelson Paulino, and coaching assistant (and former Sox and Virginia Cavaliers star) Reed Gragnani.