Scouting Report: Travis Lakins

After the Red Sox traded away Michael Kopech and Anderson Espinoza, Travis Lakins and Jay Groome became the top pitching prospects. Due to Groome’s notoriety as a number one draft pick, Lakins is the seemingly unknown one among Red Sox nation.

Travis Lakins

Lakins was drafted in the 6th round in 2015 after attending Ohio State University. He finished college with a 3.10 ERA and 40 games. His first pro appearance came in 2015, but he only had 2 IP with Lowell.

In 2016 he spent the whole season with Salem, however, his ERA was 5.93 and he only had 91 IP in 19 starts, an average of 4 2/3 innings per start. Despite that, Lakins was still highly regarded in the system and among scouts because of his pitch repertoire and potential. I had even suggested that he be packaged in a trade last July due to his value.

Scouting Report

His curveball is arguably his best pitch. It goes at about 75-76 MPH with tight rotation and a two-plane break. As he develops, it has the potential to be a plus offering that misses hitters.

Lakins also throws a changeup and a fastball. His four-seamer tops out at 95 and could rise as he matures. His changeup lives at 83-86 mph with a late dive away from lefties. He locates it well down and away and can miss hitters like his curveball.

At 6’1”, 180 lbs, he has room for added strength as he develops. He’s also only 22 after joining the Double-A Sea Dogs on May 17. In his last outing with Portland, Lakins went 5.0 IP with 6 K’s and only one hit allowed. The only problem being his high pitch count due to 4 walks. The Sea Dogs eventually won the game on a walk-off single by Denier Lopez.

Overall, I think he profiles best as a reliever – desirably in a seventh/eighth inning role. Mostly because he has the potential stuff to get guys out late in the game. His command consistency, especially for his fastball, will be keys going forward. If he cuts down on the walks and keeps the strikeout numbers where they are, he may stay in the rotation as he progresses to Pawtucket. Should he remain in the system, I expect to see Travis Lakins regularly in Boston by mid-2019.

Jalen Beeks Continues Eastern League Dominance

In a farm system notorious for developing young players, southpaw Jalen Beeks now finds himself as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects. At age 23, the 5’11” hurler has done nothing but produce since joining the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.jalen beeks

Like Andrew Benintendi, Beeks attended Arkansas. While a Razorback, Beeks also excelled, boasting a 1.07 WHIP and a 1.98 ERA in 81.2 IP his senior year. This impressive performance followed an elbow injury his junior year.

He was drafted in the 12th round in 2014. He played two-and-a-half seasons of rookie ball and A-ball. Beeks was called up to Portland in July 2016 and finished the season 5-4 with a 4.68 ERA in 65.1 innings pitched. This was after going 4-4 in 13 starts with a 3.07 ERA for High-A Salem.

But this season, he has been nothing but dominant. In seven starts, Beeks is 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 39.1 innings pitched. He’s averaging almost six innings per start and 1.2 strikeouts per inning. And if it wasn’t for one start against Trenton back in April, Beeks would be 5-0 with an ERA of 0.51.

Baseball Mechanics and Jalen Beeks

Scouts look to his mechanics as a way to marginalize hitters. SoxProspects.com’s scouting report says Beeks “throws from the first-base side of the rubber. High three-quarters arm slot and stiff delivery with a lot of moving parts. Utilizes a high leg kick, then trunk twist and pause as he rocks back before coming forward. He also has an arm hook behind and lands stiff on his front side.”

When combined with Trey Ball and Teddy Stankiewicz, Beeks solidifies Portland’s rotation as one of the best in the Eastern League. The three starters have combined for a 2.91 ERA this season, and have led Portland in an already tight division race.

As for Beeks, however, his performance thus far is nothing short of spectacular. And while the Red Sox may call on Triple-A journeyman for rotation help, the young lefty could soon be called up to Pawtucket.

The pride of Prairie Grove, AR will strive to continue his dominance of the Eastern League.

Ty Buttrey Back on Track This Season

The prospect game is like battleship— filled with hits and misses.

Last year, it looked like the Boston Red Sox were ready to give up on 2012 MLB draft fourth round pick Ty Buttrey but now, they are glad they stuck with him. His numbers last year compared to his performance now are truly a tale of two cities.

ty buttreyIn his first full season of professional ball, Buttrey got knocked around on a consistent basis. Marred by injury and command issues, he went 0-5 for the Greenville Drive (Red Sox low-A affiliate), posting a 6.85 ERA in 11 starts.

On the contrary, this season he is one of the top pitchers in the system. Already promoted to high-A Salem thanks to four strong outings, he is keeping the ball rolling at the next level. To start the 2015 season, he is 4-0 in seven starts with a 2.31 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 39 innings.

His only flaw is command issues, but even those are inconsistent. Sometimes he can go out there and throw nearly 70% strikes, while other times he might walk six batters.

Of course if the occasional control issue is the 22-year-old’s only problem in the low minors, that is not the worst thing in the world. He strikes guys out at a high rate which is something that scouts look for in the lower levels, even more so than wins or ERA.

As a righty, Buttrey could go in a number of directions in his pro career but for now, the Red Sox will keep him as a starter. If all else fails, he could relieve, but his splits are not dominant one way or the other.

Buttrey might not be as dominant as Layne one way or the other which of course is an advantage as a starter. He still has a long ways to go but this season at least, he is putting himself back on track with the Ty Buttrey whom Boston gave a $1.3 million signing bonus to three years prior.

Former 1st Round Pick Pat Light Working in Relief

Pat LIght
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The switch to relief can either be viewed as a blessing for some pitchers or as a slap to the face for others. Sometimes it means a team does not believe in a starting pitcher, while other times they simply believe that a guy will perform better out of the bullpen. For Portland Sea Dogs pitcher Pat Light, it appears as though Boston likes him better in a relief role.

pat lightRoughed up a bit in his first outing in relief, Light had a better showing on Tuesday for the AA club when he allowed just one hit in two innings of work while striking out four.
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Hopes were high for the 24-year-old Light when the Boston Red Sox shelled out one million dollars as his signing bonus. A standout at Monmouth College, Light pitched well for the Lowell Spinners in his first professional season— in a limited innings role.

When the Red Sox drafted him that high, it was clear that they loved his stuff because there were bigger names still available at that time (Joey Gallo comes to mind). He throws in the 92-95 MPH range comfortably so perhaps the Red Sox expect an uptick in velocity out of the bullpen.
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After posting an 8.89 ERA in ten appearances for the Greenville Drive two years back, Light had a much better year last year for the high-A Salem Red Sox. He posted a 4.93 ERA in 22 starts but his strikeouts were down— way down. It got to the point where he struck out a batter once in every more than two innings.

Obviously the Red Sox do not want to see a guy they invested so heavily in tank which is why they took no chances, sending him to the bullpen this year. AA is a make-or-break level so if Light wants to make it as a professional baseball player, it will have to be as a relief pitcher and it will have to be this year.
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PawSox Closer Heath Hembree Seeks Opportunity

Heath Hembree

When the Boston Red Sox dealt Jake Peavy, the front office felt as though they made out like bandits scoring Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree. Since Peavy was not a fit for Boston, the San Francisco Giants coughed up a young starting pitching prospect in AAA and a reliever who scouts liken to a potential set up man— possibly even a closer.
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heath hembreeRelief prospects are always an interesting breed, especially when they have not started a game since sophomore year in college. That is what the Red Sox have in Heath Hembree, although stamina is not really an issue for him.

Headed into his fourth year in AAA, Hembree looks to take on the closers role for the PawSox after notching the save in their first game of the season.
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“For us in the bullpen, it’s about going out there to compete and getting our work in,” he told Yawkey Way Report.

For a lot of guys, the ninth inning poses a bit of a threat. Some guys just can’t handle the pressure and blow save after save even if they are lights out in other innings. It’s a different mentality and a delicate mindset. Hembree tries to keep a consistent approach.

“I take every inning with the same mentality,” he said. “I try to put the same amount of importance on it each time out and when it is a tight situation, it seems pretty normal—just like any other outing.”
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In 2012, the Red Sox found out the hard way that a team cannot simply take a pitcher and expect him to be a good closer. Last time they tried that, they destroyed Alfredo Aceves’ career. After going 24-3 in his first four big league seasons with a 2.93 ERA, he is 7-13 with an ERA well above 5.00 since the Red Sox tried him out in the ninth inning role.

At that same time, Hembree was in AAA looking for an opportunity. This year, he hopes to earn a spot in the Red Sox bullpen if anything happens to any of the regulars.

“Just to continue developing,” Hembree said when speaking of his goals. “I want to become the pitcher I want to be, just working on my stuff and hopefully I can get out of here.”

Even though closers tend to take things one inning at a time, Hembree made his Red Sox debut by stretching out his arm in a 19 inning thriller. Boston fell in the contest 5-4, but Hembree gave the Red Sox four scoreless frames.
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“That was the first time I had pitched more than two innings in my whole career and I guess in that situation, since it was my first time with Boston, it was about making a good impression on the big league club,” he said. “They just kept sending me back out there and I gave them whatever I had in me which turned out to be four innings. For that, I was just trying to help the team, but making a good first impression was important too.”

Hembree owns a 2.55 ERA in 15 career big league games and when the Red Sox need an extra arm in the bullpen, the righty is on the short list of guys who could possibly get the call. After all, his 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in his Minor League career are convincing—not to mention much higher than Pedro Martinez’ career mark of 10 K’s per nine frames.
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Posting a 6.27 ERA his junior year at the College of Charleston, the Giants still took him in the fifth round in the 2010 MLB draft because of his raw talent. He stated his fastball flirted with 100 MPH back then, although he sits comfortably now at around 93-94 MPH, usually topping around at 95 MPH. The fastball is still an important part of his game, but he also utilizes his slider in what can be best described as a two-pitch mix.

“I’ve learned how to pitch these past few years so if the fastball is there that day that’s good, but I feel comfortable with the stuff I have,” he said.