6 Red Sox prospects to watch in 2019

Corner infielder Michael Chavis and relief pitcher Durbin Feltman could see playing time at Fenway this season.

Michael Chavis Bobby Dalbec Red Sox
Michael Chavis (right) and Bobby Dalbec are two of the Red Sox' top prospects entering the 2019 season. –The Associated Press

Minor League Baseball’s Opening Day took place Thursday, where the Red Sox’ top prospects saw their first regular-season action of the year.

The Red Sox did not place on MLB.com’s top 10 MLB farm systems ranking on March 1, and Bleacher Report named their farm system dead last among MLB teams in February.

Here are six intriguing Red Sox prospects to watch in 2019:

Michael Chavis

Chavis, 23, is listed as the Red Sox’ top prospect by MLB.com’s MLB Pipeline. He was the team’s first-round draft pick in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft. According to the Boston Globe‘s Peter Abraham, Chavis was drafted as a shortstop but has since converted to play third and first base. He even played four innings at second base this spring.

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Chavis was suspended for 80 games in April 2018 for violating MLB and Minor League Baseball’s Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. When he made it on to the field in 2018, he split time between Single-A Lowell, Double-A Portland, and Pawtucket, with the majority of his games played coming with the Portland Sea Dogs. Chavis batted .273/.294/.545 over 34 plate appearances with Pawtucket. Across all leagues last season he hit nine home runs and 27 RBIs with a .298 batting average.

Chavis played in 11 spring training games with the Red Sox this year. He hit four home runs, 10 RBIs, and slashed .273/.333/.818 at the plate. He starts 2019 with Triple-A Pawtucket.

Durbin Feltman

Feltman, a righthanded pitcher, is listed as the Sox’ 12th-best prospect on MLB Pipeline. He signed with the Red Sox last season after the team drafted him in the third round of last June’s amateur draft.

Fresh off three dominant seasons (2.03 ERA, 32 saves in 88.2 innings pitched) as a closer with Texas Christian University, Feltman quickly worked his way up the Red Sox’ farm system in 2018 and reached High Single-A Salem by the end of 2018. His adjustment period to professional baseball was small; across all leagues, Feltman posted a 1.93 ERA, .986 WHIP, and 36 strikeouts over 22 appearances. MLB Pipeline describes his fastball as averaging between 95-97 mph and topping out at 99, along with a mid-80s slider and a “decent changeup.”

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Feltman, who turns 22 on April 18, made four appearances for the Red Sox during spring training, throwing 3.2 innings and allowing two earned runs. He begins the season with Double-A Portland. According to The Athletic‘s Jen McCaffrey profile of Feltman in March, the door may open for him to rise all the way to the major league club in 2019.

Bobby Dalbec

Dalbec, a 23-year-old third baseman, enters 2019 listed as the Red Sox’ third-best prospect on MLB Pipeline. The Red Sox drafted Dalbec in the fourth round of 2016’s amateur draft as a pitcher and home-run hitter out of the University of Arizona.

Dalbec’s pitching days have ended in favor of third base. He played most of the 2018 season with High-Single A Salem and was promoted to Double-A Portland in August. Across all leagues in 2018, Dalbec hit 32 home runs and 109 RBIs with a .257 batting average.

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His potential as a power hitter makes him a notable prospect, but with Chavis in Pawtucket and 22-year-old Rafael Devers at third base in Boston, Dalbec spent time at first base in spring training too. He hit .188/.333/.219 in 22 games during spring training. Dalbec starts the season with the Sea Dogs.

Darwinzon Hernandez

Hernandez, a 22-year-old lefthanded pitcher, signed with the Red Sox in 2013. He is listed as the team’s fourth-best prospect on MLB Pipeline and the Red Sox’ top pitching prospect.

Hernandez advanced from High Single-A Salem to Double-A Portland in 2018. He pitched 107 innings with a 3.53 ERA and averaged 11.3 strikeouts across the minor leagues last season. He largely started games for Salem in 2018 and pitched out of the bullpen for six innings when he reached Double-A.

According to MLB Pipeline, the Red Sox “hope to groom [Hernandez] for their rotation,” but are waiting for him to develop better command of his pitches.

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Hernandez made six appearances for the Red Sox in spring training – two starts and four relief appearances. He allowed only one run over 11 innings this spring and recorded 12 strikeouts along the way. He starts the 2019 season with Double-A Portland.

Triston Casas

Casas, another third base prospect, was the Red Sox’ first-round draft pick in 2018 out of high school in Florida. He is listed as the Red Sox’ second-best prospect by MLB Pipeline.

Casas is only 19 and remains a raw prospect with the potential to be a solid power hitter, according to MLB Pipeline. His MLB.com draft profile says he hit .416/.555/.791 with 11 home runs and RBIs in high school from 2016-18, but he did not get a long chance to show what he could do as a professional in 2018. Casas played just two games for the rookie Gulf Coast League Red Sox in 2018 before tearing a ligament in his right thumb.

MLB Pipeline described Casas’s “feel for hitting” and plate discipline as “very advanced for a teenager.” He made only two plate appearances for the Red Sox in spring training.

Casas starts the 2019 season with Single-A Greenville.

Jay Groome

Red Sox fans may remember Jay Groome as the team’s top pick in the 2016 MLB amateur draft, a 6-foot-6-inch left-handed starting pitcher with ace potential.

Groome, now 20, was MLB Pipeline’s top pitching prospect in that draft pool, yet he fell all the way to the Red Sox with the No. 12 overall pick due to a series of rumors about his personality, makeup, and how he would handle negotiations over a signing bonus.

Groome’s path through the Red Sox’ minor league system has not been smooth sailing. He struggled in stints with both Single-A Greenville and Lowell in 2017, recording a 5.69 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 55.1 innings pitched. His strikeouts per nine innings (11.7) were high, but so were his walks per nine innings (4.9). In May 2018, Groome underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow after spending the offseason working out with Chris Sale. Groome did not pitch in 2018.

“He’s done a really good job. It’s fun to see,” Sale said of working with Groome in 2018. “He’s young and this is his first go at it. I’m just trying to get him prepared and show him, ‘Hey, this is what it takes to get through a big league season.’ He’s got all the tools you can possibly ask for. That guy is an animal. Just trying to give him some ins and outs and try to get him here sooner rather than later.”

Groome still does not turn 21 until August. MLB Pipeline reports “he still has the upside of a frontline starter, but he has done little thus far to demonstrate he can reach that ceiling.”

Groome is still in recovery from Tommy John surgery as the 2019 minor league season opens.