While the return of established MLB players grabbed the headlines during the Red Sox trade deadline activity, the club also added two new left-handed pitching prospects. Edwin Escobar and Eduardo Rodriguez join a Sox system suddenly stacked with lefty starting prospects in the upper minors. They join with Henry Owens and Brian Johnson to give the Sox a quartet of lefty arms almost ready to help the major league club. Here’s a breakdown of these top prospects.
Owens’ 2014 season has cemented his claim as the top Red Sox pitching prospect. In 20 starts for Double A Portland he went 14-4 with a 2.60 ERA, and struck out 126 batters in 121 innings pitched. In his first start after promotion to Triple A, he struck out four of the first five batters he faced, and ended up with six and two thirds of scoreless work with 9 strikeouts.
He’s improved his control this season, going from 4.5 walks per nine innings last year to 3.5 this year. As good as he’s been, he still has room for improvement. His fastball registers in the low 90’s, but it’s possible he could add velocity as he fills out his lanky frame. His curveball has also progressed this season, but it still lags behind his plus changeup and fastball. Any further improvement to the curveball would give him three legitimate weapons against opponents.
Check out a recent scouting report on Owens here.
As well as Owens pitched for Portland, Brian Johnson has been even better. He started his breakout season in High A Salem, but quickly earned a promotion, and he’s been dominating hitters in the Eastern League ever since. Johnson doesn’t have one true plus pitch, but his four average to above average offerings keep hitters off balance. His line in Portland: 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 100 innings pitched.
Johnson doesn’t have top of the rotation potential like Owens, but young back of the rotation starters are still extremely valuable. He entered the system as a more advanced prospect after going to college at the University of Florida, so could be ready soon to make the major league club.
Check out a recent scouting report on Johnson here.
Keith Law had Rodriguez as his #43 prospect in baseball before the season, slotting in one spot behind Henry Owens. He’s struggled at Double A this season, which puts him a tad behind Owens developmentally as well. He’s got the hardest fastball among this group of lefties, topping out around 96 mph.
His other similarity to Owens is a plus changeup to go with his hard fastball. He needs to improve his slider to complement those two pitches. He impressed in his first start in the Sox system, only allowing two hits and one walk while striking out seven.
Here’s the link to Keith Law’s breakdown of Rodriguez (ESPN Insider).
Escobar entered the season as the #3 prospect in the Giants system according to Baseball Prospectus and ESPN’s Keith Law. He features a fastball that tops out in the lower 90’s and an excellent slider. The Sox acquired Escobar as one of the prospects in the Jake Peavy trade. In his writeup for the trade, Law noted that right-handed hitters have done the most damage against Escobar this season, with his changeup needing development to combat this.
Here’s the link to Keith Law’s breakdown of Escobar (ESPN Insider).