Cold weather may have lingered throughout the opening month, but it hasn’t stopped several Red Sox prospects from getting off to hot starts. Here are three who were very strong in the first month of the season.
The biggest question for Mookie Betts coming into 2014 was whether he could continue to put up the breakout numbers he posted in 2013. Betts has answered in phenomenal fashion, taking his performance to another level and actually exceeding the terrific numbers of last season.
The stats are eye-popping: a .430/.481/.688 batting line with four home runs and ten steals in the month of April, and a streak of 52 straight games of reaching base and counting. He’s no slouch on defense either, as prospect guru Jason Parks wrote that “he has the defensive range to cover the right side of the infield by himself.”
In a little more than a year, he’s climbed from being ranked outside of the top 30 prospects in the system to the #1 prospect according to SoxProspects.com. The labels on his ceiling have gone from ones like “utility player” to “perennial all-star”. Betts now needs to hit .393 the rest of the way to reach the magic .400 batting average for the season.
Second on this list is Christian Vazquez, another player who now looks primed for a major role in Boston. His defense remains his strongest asset, but he’s had enough offensive success in the upper minors to push for more than a backup catcher role.
He’s off to a solid .292/.342/.417 batting line at Pawtucket so far this season, showing no real issues with the jump in level from Double A. Any injuries to the catching tandem in Boston could see Vazquez taking his marquee defense and improving offense to the majors.
Cody Kukuk has been dominant out of the gate so far this year, posting a 1.88 ERA and striking out 29 batters in 24 innings pitched. What has really changed for Kukuk this season has been his control. He’s dropped his walk rate from 6.81 batters per nine innings in 2013 to 4.5 through five April starts.
He missed bats throughout 2013, but often was his own worst enemy on the mound. The improved control has led to fewer base runners, and batters aren’t doing much with the pitches they are seeing, hitting only .217 against Kukuk. He has the size and stuff to profile as a solid lefty starter if he can continue to refine his control.
The Sox have rewarded Kukuk’s strong start, as SoxProspects announced today that he has been promoted a level to the High A Salem Red Sox. These prospects have stood out so far this season, and it looks like big things are on the way for all three.