The Red Sox once boasted the most prized collection of minor leaguers in baseball. They were so good, someone just finished writing a book about it.
Many of those players helped the Red Sox win a World Series last year, from MVP Mookie Betts to left fielder Andrew Benintendi to third baseman Rafael Devers.
But trades and promotions have decimated the farm under president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who cashed in on the system that former GM Ben Cherington used to jokingly note his successor would enjoy. Turns out he was right.
After dealing away everyone from Yoan Moncada to Michael Kopech to Travis Shaw to even Ty Buttrey, Dombrowski found himself with a barren system, at least according to the industry leaders in prospect evaluation.
Baseball America rated the Red Sox system 30th out of 30 entering the season. "We're dead last," left-hander David Price told the Boston Globe in New York last month while bemoaning the team's slow start.
Bleacher Report followed suit with another last-place ranking. Fangraphs placed the Red Sox 29th. ESPN's Keith Law was comparatively bullish, rating them 24th.
A funny thing happened on the way to a barren pipeline, however, as colleague Lou Merloni of WEEI noted the other night during a break in Early Edition. When the Red Sox needed an arm to round out the bullpen a week into the season, they tabbed veteran Marcus Walden, who spent most of last year at Triple-A Pawtucket. It has taken him only six weeks to emerge as one of Alex Cora's most trusted arms, and his six wins are tied for third in the American League. The 30-year-old career minor-leaguer might not be a traditional prospect — he was drafted in the ninth round of the same 2007 draft that saw teammate David Price go first overall — but he and his wipeout slider are a product of the system.
On the offensive side, the impact has been even more evident. It was only a little over a month ago that the Red Sox needed a body in Tampa, so they summoned slugging infielder Michael Chavis. There was no guarantee he'd even see any action, but he debuted in the ninth inning of a tie game on April 20 against flame-throwing closer Jose Alvarado and ripped a 99-mph fastball 401 feet to center for a double that spurred a 6-5 comeback.
Since then, all Chavis has done is hit .279 while smashing nine mostly tape-measure home runs with a .959 OPS. He has provided adequate defense at second base, brightened the clubhouse with some youthful enthusiasm, and helped transform a middling Red Sox offense into what is once again one of baseball's best.
Add a solid emergency relief appearance from Double-A left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez during a doubleheader vs. the Tigers (2.1 IP, 0 R, 4 Ks), and the miserable Red Sox farm system has actually provided a decent lift.
There could even be more help on the way. Third baseman Bobby Dalbec has caught fire at Double-A Portland while getting some reps at first base. He's hitting .304 with six homers and a 1.089 OPS in May, and could be an option for right-handed thump down the line if the Red Sox continue to get nothing from Steve Pearce.
So to recap: an increasingly valuable reliever, a Rookie of the Year favorite with an outside shot at making the All-Star team, a promising left-hander, and an intriguing power prospect, to name four.
The Red Sox farm system may lack name recognition, but it surely hasn't been short on results so far in 2019.
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