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.

Michael Kopech Throws Immaculate Inning

Boston Red Sox prospect Michael Kopech recently flashed the greatness that made him a #1 draft pick in 2014. People watch with curiosity and awe when Kopech throws. During a July 7th game against the Carolina Mudcats, Kopech struck out six in four innings. He also only gave up one hit. What was particularly impressive was how he threw an immaculate inning in the fourth. Such an accomplishment is no small task at all.

An immaculate inning in baseball is when the pitcher retires the side on nine pitches. That’sKopech throws three strikes per batter for three outs. Only 75 pitchers in Major League Baseball history have ever thrown an immaculate inning. Out of those 75, only three were rookies. In fact, none in Major League Baseball were thrown between 1929 and 1952. Clay Buchholz and Pedro Martinez are the only two Red Sox pitchers to have accomplished the feat in team history. So seeing Kopech throw an immaculate inning this soon in his career is immaculate in itself. What is perhaps just as impressive is that several of Kopech’s pitches topped 100 MPH, including a 103 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. When someone like Kopech throws 103 MPH, it’s not going to be taken lightly.

Kopeck has not played without controversy. He received a 50-game season-ending suspension last summer for testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug Oxilofreine. Kopech broke his right hand in a fistfight with his roommate the following year, further delaying his return to baseball. So despite his brilliance on the mound, Kopeck still has a ways to go before he can reach the majors.

Major League Baseball currently ranks Kopech the fifth-best prospect in the Red Sox organization behind Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi. Baseball Prospectus ranks him 98th overall. His high ranking is partly why the Red Sox continue to support him. Kopech himself is thankful. “I don’t want to be portrayed as a bad person by any means,” Kopech said in a June 16th Boston.com article. “I mean, the past is the past and I’m ready to just better myself.”

Manuel Margot Promoted to Portland

With a day off Monday the Red Sox made news by promoting young outfield prospect Manuel Margot to AA Portland. Margot still just 20 years old was with High-A Salem for the first two and a half months of the minor league season.

Signed as an international free agent, out of the Dominican Republic, nearly four summers ago, Margot has impressed the Red Sox brass this year with his ability to hit to all fields and make noise on the base paths. Manuel MargotWith Salem in 46 games Margot had a line of .282/3/17. A shoulder injury in late May sidelined him for nearly three weeks, but he came back strong. In his last ten games Margot is hitting .325 with 9 runs scored, and 6 steals. The eye grabber of his last ten games is that he has only struck out three times.

Margot nearly went the whole month of April without striking out, which is something the Red Sox really must like. The philosophy of the organization has lately been to work counts and get the starter out of the game with a high pitch count but not making outs is a part of that as well. Margot has also shown the ability to hit left handed pitching with an average of .391 against southpaws. The big league club has struggled against lefties all year but Margot could be part of the answer down the road.

Much has been asked of the Red Sox, in last place, will they begin to sell off spare parts or try and acquired an ace type pitcher looking for next year? My guess is it will be much like last year, the wait to sell off pieces will end after the All-Star break. This upcoming stretch of 13 straight games against division opponents will be make of break in determining if the Red Sox are buyers or sellers at the deadline.

Obviously Margot has not control over where he is playing except with his play, but do no be surprised if his name come up in a rumored deal for an ace pitcher if the Phillies price for Cole Hamels comes down. Margot I believe is the next tier of Red Sox prospects to make noise and with him dominating the lower levels, his value may not be any higher. The Red Sox have seen players struggle once they reached AAA like Bryce Brentz and Deven Marrero who could be packaged with Margot to acquire a front of the rotation starter.

For now Manuel Margot will be patrolling the outfield of Hadlock Field, but I would not be surprised if his name comes up in trade rumors come July.

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.

Manuel Margot Impressing Early On This Season

Manuel Margot

The Red Sox have had a problem developing outfielders, as of late, who will make an impact on their teams for years to come. In the last year we have seen the Sox move Mookie Betts, a lifelong infielder, to the outfield. Thankfully he looks to be sticking there and making a big impact on this team. Brock Holt, who is now playing right field in the interim, was also an infielder who the Sox moved to the outfield. Hanley Ramirez, a ten year big league veteran of shortstop and third base, was signed to play left field. Ramirez has been the best Sox Manuel Margotplayer so far this season, but could be out for a while after a shoulder injury during Monday’s game while running into the left field wall.

The Red Sox could have a hot outfield prospect on the cusp of the major leagues in a year or two. Manuel Margot, a 20 year old who started this season in High-A Salem, was signed as an international free agent in the summer of 2011.

Margot spent a majority of last season in Low-A Greenville, but did get a last season call-up to Salem. With Salem he impressed in 16 games with a stat line of .340/2/14. As players move up the ladder in the minor leagues, it is always good to see a player start off strong once they reach a new level.

This season Margot has been a player who has been on notice. Last week it was rumored the Phillies sent Charlie Manuel to scout Margot. The Phillies remain very interested in trading Cole Hamels, and may have gotten the picture that Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart are really off the table. Margot is the Red Sox 6th best prospect according to MLB.com, so the Phillies have gone down the line and are looking at what the Red Sox have in their arsenal.

The attention Margot has gotten has been well deserved. Margot did not strike out in a game until April 29th and throws in an element of speed with 11 steals in 13 tries as well as 3 triples. The power has not come for Margot as of yet, but sometimes power comes in the upper minors for most players—Bryce Brentz is an example of that. Don’t be surprised if Margot is in AA-Portland sooner rather than later.

Margot has grabbed the attention of the Red Sox and could continue to grab the attention of other major league teams in the match-up for a trade if the Red Sox continue to look towards improving their rotation. Obviously the Red Sox like what they have in Margot and developing an outfielder has been somewhat of a problem in years past. With a full outfield right now—and for years to come with Ramirez, Betts and Castillo likely penciled in—don’t be surprised if he is tossed around in trade rumors come July.

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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