Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy!
The Red Sox farm system has been emptied out over the last year-plus, but there are still some interesting prospects in the organization. Josh Ockimey isn’t going to headline any top-100 lists, but he’s shown some serious potential with the stick. The team’s fifth-round pick in 2014, he’s made steady progression since being drafted. He was disappointing in his first taste of pro ball the year he was drafted, but he hit much better in 2015 at Lowell. Then, in 2016, he put up good numbers in his first full season of pro ball. He’ll need everything to break right to become a big prospect, since he’s first base-only, but he’s on his way.
What Went Right in 2016
Ockimey’s best tool is his power, and that was on full display over the last season. As a 20-year-old in A-ball, he his 18 home runs and 25 doubles, good for a .199 ISO on the season. Obviously, minor-league numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s at least worth noting that Greenville’s home park plays neutral compared to the rest of the league. Additionally, according to Baseball America, the pitcher’s parks in the South Atlantic League tend to play more extreme than the hitters parks. All scouts agree Ockimey has plus-potential on his power tool, and he started showing that in 2016.
In addition to the power, the first baseman also showed off tremendous patience. Clearly, the Red Sox have always been an organization that values players who are willing to take a walk, and Ockimey fits that profile. After walking right around 11 percent in each of his first two pro seasons, he upped that already-impressive rate to a whopping 17.6 percent last year. It goes without saying that minor-league pitchers have worse than their major-league counterparts, but I should note exactly zero hitters in the bigs had a rate this high last year. Ockimey won’t keep this kind of rate up as he climbs through the ranks, but he has a ton of wiggle room between his current rate and an unacceptable one.
Finally, we have the success Ockimey showed off in his first month of the season. At the end of May, he had accrued exactly 200 plate appearances, and was hitting .308/.450/.566. Good things don’t last forever, but even having it in him to go on this kind of extended run is encouraging.
What Went Wrong in 2017
Well, the other side of the coin regarding his hot start is how he finished. After that May 31 cutoff, Ockimey fell way off, all the way to a .173/.311/.335 line. To make matters even worse, he got progressively worse in each month. The good thing is, it’s easily explained. We’re talking about a kid who came straight from high school and had never had a full workload of games. In his first full season, it’s not unreasonable to expect this kind of fatigue. If it happens again this year, then it’s reasonable to worry.
There’s also the matter of platoon splits. As a left-handed bat, Ockimey had a huge issue with southpaws on the mound. While he posted an impressive .831 OPS against righties, he whimpered to a dismal .600 OPS against lefties. To make matters worse, he had similar splits in 2015 with the Spinners, so he’ll need to make some major adjustments to kick this issue.
Finally, there is the strikeout rate. While Ockimey has tremendous patience and can work a lot of walks, he also works a lot of deep counts. That’s mostly a good thing, but when you combine that with a large amount of swing and miss it equals a ton of strikeouts. Last season, he struck out over 25 percent of the time, which to be fair is a huge improvement from his 34 percent rate in Lowell. Pitchers are only going to get harder moving up the ladder, so like the platoon splits, this is an issue that may not go away.
What To Expect in 2017
Ockimey heads into this season as the tenth-rated prospect in the organization by Baseball Prospectus, and has a chance to move up even higher. As a first base-only prospect, he needs to rely heavily on the bat, but there’s no reason he can’t. The power is legitimate, as is the patience, which is a great base on which to build. One should expect him to spend the entire season in Salem as he continues a steady but forceful progression through the system.
[Editor’s note: This was Matt Collins’ final piece for BP Boston. Matt leaves us to take over managing editor duties at our buddy site, Over The Monster. Thanks for everything, Matt. I can’t believe it, but we’ll miss you.]
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