Featured image courtesy of the Portland Press Herald (Photo credit: Ben McCanna)
It’s no secret that the Boston Red Sox farm system has seen better days. Thanks to several trades over the years by general manager Dave Dombrowski as well as the natural growth of some of their young stars, Boston’s farm system only has two top-100 prospects remaining. However, there are several underrated Portland Sea Dogs prospects who could easily make it to the big leagues.
While Michael Chavis will rejoin the Sea Dogs eventually, he doesn’t qualify as an under the radar guy. Instead, this article will focus on a handful of players that have gone overlooked by the major publications. Odds are that none of these guys will end up in the Hall of Fame, but all three have major league aspirations and major league talent.
The Best Underrated Portland Sea Dogs Prospects
By this writers eye, the second-best Sea Dogs prospect is none other than starting pitcher Matthew Kent. The 25-year old prospect first entered the Sox system as a 13th round pick in the 2015 MLB Draft and has steadily risen through the Sox minor league system.
Kent’s at his best when he’s working his offspeed offerings. The lefty possesses a fantastic changeup, dipping at the very last second and giving hitters almost no time to react. His slider, while not quite as good as his changeup, still has phenomenal movement and is more than capable of fooling an opposing hitter. In one start, Kent struck out an impressive eight batters in six innings of work. Each strikeout was a swing and miss, and each came on an offspeed offering.
The only reason Kent isn’t a higher prospect is due to his fastball. In today’s day of baseball, velocity matters more than ever. However, Kent doesn’t have an overpowering fastball my any means. His heater sits in the mid-80’s, which has caused scouts to overlook him. However, in spite of his subpar velocity, Kent has solid command and accuracy. In 77.1 innings, Kent has allowed just 21 walks compared to 77 strikeouts. Kent currently owns a 3.72 ERA, a respectable number which is ballooned due to one horrendous start in which he allowed ten runs in four innings. Quite frankly, he’s the real deal.
Kent’s fastest route to the majors probably comes through the bullpen. While his offspeed movement is good enough to fool minor league hitters, major leaguers would likely adjust after the third time through the order. Make no mistake, this is not a shot against Kent. He clearly has the tools to get batters out, and his elite offspeed offerings should be able to get out the best of the best.
Players like Koji Uehara have shown that velocity is not everything. While Kent’s ceiling isn’t as high as the former Sox closer, he can follow a similar career path. Don’t be surprised to see Kent in the Boston bullpen as early as 2019 or 2020.
At the young age of just 22 years old, Josh Ockimey has slowly begun to make a name for himself in the minor leagues. Along with Kent, he was just one of three players in Portland to earn a spot on the minor league All-Star roster.
Looking at his stats, it’s no surprise why Ockimey earned the honor. In his first full season in Portland, Ockimey owns a solid .258/.381/.472 slash line to go with 11 home runs and 14 doubles. He’s accomplished all this in just 229 at-bats, as the first baseman has shown a natural pop with the bat.
While his bat shows potential, he’s nothing special defensively. He’s not a liability on the field, but he’ll never be a defensive first baseman in the mold of Mitch Moreland. Essentially, if he’s going to make the majors, he’ll have to do it with his bat.
Right now, it looks like he has a decent shot to do that. While he may never be an All-Star, the 22-year old has increased his slugging percentage every year since he’s joined the Sox organization. He has legit power, especially when pulling the ball. This skill should come in handy playing in Fenway Park, as well as the other AL East ballparks with short right field fences.
Lakins is definitely the newest Sea Dog for fans to get excited about. For the grand majority of his professional career, Lakins looked like he didn’t have much of a future in baseball. In 2016, Lakins posted an ugly 5.93 ERA in High A Salem, while he posted a 6.23 ERA in a half-season in Portland.
However, the Red Sox switched him over to a reliever, and the move has done wonders. Per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Lakins hasn’t allowed an earned run since he became a reliever. He’s lowered his season ERA to 2.83 and has transformed into a completely different pitcher.
Red Sox prospect Travis Lakins still hasn't allow an earned run since Boston converted him to a reliever in late May. He has given up one unearned run, 3 hits and 6 walks while striking out 14 in 11 outings (11 2/3 innings).
— Christopher Smith (@SmittyOnMLB) July 5, 2018
During his stint as a starter, Lakins owned a fastball which peaked around 96 miles per hour. However, according to Soxprospects.com, Lakins is now reaching up to 98 coming out of the bullpen. This extra velocity has done wonders for him, and it makes his offspeed pitches all the harder to hit.
Lakins only moved to the bullpen in late May, so there’s certainly a chance this is nothing but a fluke run of success. However, it’s hard to hit a guy throwing 98 out of the bullpen, especially when batters only see him that one time. This is too small a sample size to get that excited about, but Lakins is certainly worth monitoring going forward.