Red Sox AFL Wrap-Up: Kopech Dazzles and Ball Falls

It’s been a while since the Red Sox season ended, but that doesn’t mean all of the members of the organization have stopped playing. Fall and Winter ball makes this sport one that goes all year long, and arguably the most prestigious of these leagues just wrapped up last week. The Arizona Fall League is among the best time of year for prospect junkies, and it’s a time of the year in which prospects can dramatically change their stock heading into their offseasons. Many of the best young players around the league all come to one place and participate. Boston sent six minor leaguers to the AFL this year, so let’s take a look at how they performed and how their stocks have fluctuated, if at all. I should note that top prospect Yoan Moncada was slated to play, but was injured just six games in and his short time there doesn’t really merit a write up.

Michael Kopech

With Moncada getting sent home early, Kopech became the top Red Sox player in the league, and he took the baseball world by storm. He flashed his famous high-velocity fastball, consistently touching the high-90s and sometimes hitting triple digits. He made six starts in Arizona, totaling 22 innings and pitching to an impressive 2.01 ERA. Unsurprisingly, he racked up the strikeouts, setting down 10.5 batters per nine innings thanks to his aforementioned fastball along with an impressive slider. The command continued to be something of an issue, though not one that handcuffed him much in this league. He allowed two home runs in those six starts while walking 3.2 batters per nine innings.

Stock: It’s impossible to say Kopech’s stock has done anything but rise after his performance in Arizona. He was already one of the more exciting pitching prospects in all of baseball, and the fact that he pitched so well and pitched to his strengths in front of a plethora of scouts from across the league is a positive. There is still some question as to whether he’ll be able to harness his command enough to make it as a top-line starter, but it seems more are starting to come around to that idea. His performance in the All-Star Game (two perfect innings with three strikeouts) certainly helped matters. He’s not the best pitching prospect in baseball, but he continued to move up the ranks this fall.

Mauricio Dubon

If you know me at all, you know how much I like Dubon as a prospect. His combination of bat-to-ball ability, speed and defense around the infield gives him a chance to be a good regular in this league and should lead him to at least a long career as a utility man. The former 26th-round pick took a huge step forward in 2016, impressing in both Salem and Portland. While he was hoping to take another step in Arizona, it didn’t go his way. In 18 games, he hit just .211/.273/.408 with three home runs and three stolen bases in five attempts. It was a disappointing offensive performance after such a great year, and one that could indicate a bit of fatigue after a long season. The power is intriguing, and something that he showed off in Portland as well, but Arizona lends itself to inflated power numbers.

Stock: While the overall performance was disappointing, I don’t think it’s fair to say his stock has dropped. Dubon struggled over a small sample, but as I said fatigue could also be an issue. Additionally, he started getting some time in the outfield and didn’t look completely overmatched by the change. Versatility is always going to be the name of the game for Dubon, and getting his outfield career started was an important step for him. That’s true even if it was accompanied by a lackluster offensive performance.

Trey Ball

Ugh. The Red Sox have done a lot of good things in the draft over the years, but their first top-10 pick in what seemed like forever could not have gone worse. Ball was always going to be a project, but he continued to slip over the course of 2016. The hope was that a trip to Arizona would kickstart his career. That…well that didn’t happen. He threw 13 innings across 11 relief appearances, and pitched to a 6.08 ERA in that time. He also walked 13 batters (one per inning, for those who struggle in math) while striking out just nine.

Stock: Down. The same direction it’s been going since Ball has entered the organization. There was certainly criticism of this pick at the time it was made, but we’re seeing the darkest timeline. With the lefty projected to hit Portland in 2017, it’s hard to see things getting any better. Ball was a two-way player when he was drafted, and perhaps the Red Sox are approaching the time to try him in the field.

Jamie Callahan

A former second-round pick, Callahan made his way through the first half of his trip in the minors as a starter before converting to the bullpen in the middle of the 2015 season. He spent the entire 2016 campaign in that role, and showed off decent strikeout stuff with iffy command. In Arizona, however, he looked much better. It was only 12 innings of work, but he allowed just one run on 12 strikeouts and three walks.

Stock: Up. Callahan’s stock was never all that high to begin with, and this strong performance isn’t one to get carried away with. On the other hand, he’s still relatively new to his relief role and did this against a lot of very good competition. He wouldn’t be anything more than the third or fourth piece in a good trade, but he’ll look to take another step towards a real major-league career in a Double-A bullpen next season.

Jalen Beeks

Beeks is a lefty who split the season evenly between High-A and Double-A, impressing in the former and disappointing in the latter. He threw out of the bullpen in Arizona, managing 12 innings of work in ten appearances. Although he struck out 13 batters in those 12 innings, he also gave up plenty of hard contact en route to a 6.57 ERA.

Stock: Even. The performance was bad, but Beeks doesn’t have much stock to begin with. The strikeout stuff was nice to see, and as I said in Dubon’s section home runs are an issue for everyone here. He’s still the same guy with a ceiling of a back-end starter and more likely future as either a back-and-forth arm or a middle reliever.

Danny Mars

We won’t spend too much time here, as Mars is the least exciting name in this bunch. A former sixth-round pick, he spent the season hitting reasonably well in Salem. In Arizona, though, he hit .259/.290/.293 in 17 games.

Stock: Down. Only a little, though. As I said, Mars was never all that exciting to begin with. However, even if the scouts didn’t love him he always put up solid numbers in the minors. Not doing so in Arizona is clearly not a good sign.

 Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports Images

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