The Red Sox minor league season wrapped up this week, with five affiliates making the playoffs and two teams (The Pawtucket Red Sox and the Gulf Coast League Red Sox) winning championships. It was another tremendous year of development in the Red Sox minor league system. Even with many talented prospects reaching the majors, there are still a bevy of players with exciting potential remaining. Here are my minor league awards for the Red Sox system in 2014.
Player of the Year: Mookie Betts
Betts played only 51 games at High A Salem in 2013, so his assignment to Double A Portland out of Spring Training seemed aggressive. He responded by hitting .430 in April, and didn’t stop hitting until he had earned promotion all the way to the major leagues. His final minor league numbers for 2014: .346/.431/.529 with 11 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 99 games. He once again finished the season walking more than he struck out, with 61 walks to 50 strike outs. The 21 year old seems primed to be a player the Red Sox rely on going forward, although with his best position (2nd base) already filled he could be used this offseason to headline a trade package for an established star.
Honorable mention: Blake Swihart
Pitcher of the Year: Henry Owens
Owens dominated Portland to the tune of a 14-4 record with a 2.60 ERA and 126 strike outs in 121 innings pitched. He refined his control as well, lowering his walk rate from 4.5 last season to 3.5 per nine innings this year. He features a low 90’s fastball that hitters have a hard time picking up, and a devastating changeup. The hope is that he’ll continue to improve by adding strength to his lanky frame and improving his curveball. If he can do this, he has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter for the Red Sox for years to come.
Honorable Mention: Brian Johnson
Breakout Player of the Year: Manuel Margot
This was Margot’s first year in full season baseball, and he showed off his power and speed in impressive fashion. The 19 year old Dominican impressed throughout the year in Low A Greenville, hitting .286 with 10 home runs and 39 stolen bases, earning a promotion to High A Salem at the end of the season. If he can maximize his potential, he profiles as an above average defender in centerfield with good power and excellent speed.
Breakout Pitcher of the Year: Brian Johnson
In his first two seasons in the Red Sox system, Johnson struggled to stay healthy. A line drive ended his first season, and he dealt with nagging injuries throughout last year. Fully healthy this season, he showed why he was the Red Sox first selection in the 2012 draft. He dominated hitters across three levels, going a combined 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and striking out 132 batters in 143 innings pitched. He has four average to above average pitches, and shows an advanced feel for how to use them to get batters out.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Ranaudo
#1 on Next Year’s Red Sox Prospect List: Blake Swihart
Swihart continued to improve in 2014, showing more power to go along with excellent defensive skills behind the plate. He should enter 2015 as the top catching prospect in all of baseball on the industry prospect lists. He was an Eastern League all-star at Double A Portland, and earned promotion to Pawtucket along with Henry Owens at the end of the season. His overall batting line was .293/.341/.469 with 13 home runs. The most likely scenario would be starting next year back at Pawtucket, but there’s always a chance he could join Christian Vazquez on the major league roster out of Spring Training.